Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bulimia: My Story (Part One)

This is a post that I have had in my head and in my editing menu for quite some time.  There are some bloggers, who I know feel that you should not share this kind of personal topic.  There are some who I know will judge me.  But, my hope is, that there is one person who needs to read this and who will find comfort or understanding in it.

Me, as a baby

When I was twelve years old, in seventh grade, I tried really, really hard to stop eating.  I can't say why.  There are a lot of reasons and all of them will sound like the blame game: the nun I had in sixth grade was dying (she died the day after we got out of school) and was miserable, in pain and sad and took that out on us in mean, cruel and horrible ways that at 12 years old we could not understand; I was going through puberty, my hormones were crazy; everyone in my family was always on a diet; alcoholism runs in my family and it may have manifested itself in me in this way.  Maybe it was a way of exercising control over my developing body or my life in general at a time when I was struggling with independence.  I don't really know why, but I tried to stop eating.

 I was not successful at completely not eating.  So, then I started what would become a lifelong obsession with limitations on food.  At twelve, I ate: sugarfree gum, iceberg lettuce, Walden Farms Italian dressing (4 calories per teaspoon, lowest I could find) and Carfield's Diet chocolate soda.  In the morning, I would listen for my dad to leave for work and my mom to go into the bathroom, then I would dash down to the kitchen and pour milk into a bowl and add three pieces of cereal.  I would play with those three pieces in the milk until my mom came out, making sure to make the clinking sound of spoon on porcelain so she would think I was eating.  As soon as my mother came back into the kitchen, I would put my bowl into the sink and say I was full.  I threw my lunch away at school.  I pushed my food around on my plate at dinner and spit bites into my napkin when no one was looking.

I could not keep it up.  I lacked the discipline.

To this day, I view anorexics as the ultimate in self-discipline.  That is how I know I am still sick.  I see the television shows, the women and girls with their bones protruding, hair growing on their skin in their body's attempt to keep them warm, too weak to stand, and I think, "Damn, girl, you did it! You had so much self-discipline that you got yourself to this point!"  I envy them.
I tried to exercise that level of self-discipline, but I would crave Twinkies, ice cream, M & Ms and Doritos.  Obsess about them.  Not be able to stop thinking about them.

Bulimia Parties
The day we got our school pictures taken in seventh grade, we were sitting around waiting for our turn and one of the girls in my class said something to another girl about making herself throw up.  My ears pricked up and I listened to the conversation.  This girl was telling her friends how easy it was to make yourself throw up.  I felt that little giddy boost in your stomach you feel when you are really happy.  I remember it so well!  I could not wait to get out of school, eat a box of Twinkies and throw up!  yay!  I found a way to have my cake and not eat it too!

what is on the outside is so different from what is on the inside
no one knew of my struggles at this point
By the end of the week, the other girl and I were devising plans to hang out, walking to Krauszer's together and spending all of our money on junk food.  We traded secrets: Reach toothbrushes, angled in just such a way; ice cream -- cool and soothing; water helped get more up, etc.  We had sleepovers every weekend that were marathon "pig out and throw up" fests.

Now here is where it gets really bad.  By the end of seventh grade, we were bullying other girls to "pig out and make themselves throw up"!  Seriously.  I can not even believe I did that.  We were obsessed with being thin.  We picked on anyone who wasn't.  We coached people on making themselves throw up.  We convinced people to hang out with us and try it.

At first I felt more in control of my body...
I loved binging and purging.  I also loved the high feeling I would get from NOT eating.  If you don't eat for a while, you go beyond the physical feelings of hunger and begin to feel dizzy and lightheaded and lighter--I loved that.  I felt completely EMPTY inside and I loved it (I still love it).  I also LOVED how my throat felt after I had vomited, I loved the raw pain, it made me feel powerful and in control.

For the next nine years, my life revolved around my obsession with food: binging and purging.  I understand eating as an emotional response, eating to try to fill a void or a what feels like a "hole", an emotional hole in your heart or soul.  I understand eating to avoid something.  I understand eating to make yourself fat so you are unattractive to the opposite sex, because there is unwanted pressure from the opposite sex and you are not sure how to deal with it.  I did that for a while too.  I understand just feeling completely, totally, 100% out of control.  I used to make deals with myself.  I used to be superstitious and tell myself if I binged and purged, it would erase something that had happened or change the future or change the course of things.

Then I felt completely out of control as it became an addiction, an obsession...
I kept to myself for most of high school because I wasn't going to let myself have friends until I got my eating disorder under control.  Although I enjoyed some aspects of my eating disorder, I also was disgusted with myself for not having more self-control and for not being able to NOT binge.  I was addicted to food, to binging.  It was all I could think about.  It consumed me.  I would promise myself "just one more time" and that "this is the LAST time".
trying to keep a facade

Over the years, I used diet pills, laxatives and diuretics.  I kept careful track of calories at times, which I considered my good times, when I would challenge myself to eat only 900 calories, or 800 or 600 or 500 or 400 a day, if I was successful with keeping it to 400 calories, the next day I would call myself a heifer if I ate more than 300 calories....  I worked out every single day.  In the early days, I did Jane Fonda's workout with a cassette tape, both sides three times a day, plus an hour of walking.  Later, I joined a gym and spent a minimum of 90 minutes there a day, plus more time running, walking or biking each day.

When I was 20, my parents sent me for counseling because they thought I was depressed, which I was.  I remember it being such a huge relief that I was going to go to counseling.  I remember feeling like, FINALLY, finally I could get past this.  FINALLY.  It took three years of intensive therapy.  I have been hypnotized, done trance work and had acupuncture.  I have been in group therapy and one on one therapy.  I have learned that by starving myself, I will make my cravings for sugar higher.  I have learned that I need to eat a certain amount of healthy foods every day.

I have been a vegan in an attempt to control my eating disorder.  I have also read extensively on food, eating, diet and nutrition and at times completely eliminated anything non-organic from my diet, ate only grass-fed, free range meat and organic produce...the thing is, if I went out to eat or ate something someone made that was non-GMO I considered it a "binge" and once I start...I can't stop...I go down a path of self-loathing, self-mocking and self-ridicule that leads to more binging.

There is a point that all bulimics know when eating turns into a binge.  You know it before you take that bite.  All bulimics have "good" foods: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat, etc.  and "bad" foods: high fat, cakes, pies, cookies, chips, etc.  They know that one bite from the "bad" foods will start a binge and there is no going back, you need a certain amount in your stomach to be able to vomit OR, once started you are going to sit and berate yourself, so you might as well keep eating.  Sometimes even one bite of your "good" foods can trigger a binge...every bulimic knows that feeling.

Tomorrow, I will write about how I have gotten healthier.  I am not completely free of these issues, but I am a lot healthier now and I will write about that journey tomorrow.