Bulimia goes much further than the grossly oversimplified notion most people have of, “I want to look good in my bikini! Let’s vomit up dinner!” In fact, the behaviors associated with bulimia are triggered by mental compulsions that the person generally has trouble resisting, if they can resist at all. Weight is actually, in general, only a minor motivation to the behaviors associated with bulimia. And of course, other insecurities can manifest themselves into a feeling of physical inadequacy, because it is much easier to deal with an identifiable physical, visible problem than an invisible emotional one.
My eating disorder started earlier than I can remember, taking all sorts of various shapes throughout my life until finally reaching its apex of full-blown bulimia a few years ago. Almost all of my memories (especially the later ones) have something to do with food, guilt, weight, and anxiety. My eating disorder evolved in my early teenage years from a twisted relationship with food and a last-resort coping mechanism to a life-altering obsession that governs almost everything in my world. I feel like so many terrible things have happened to me, and that my life is so far out of my control that I need to seize the only thing I really can control: Myself.
Every day, I wake up and try on clothes, evaluating the way they look before I’ll decide what to wear. Some days, I’ll feel so disgusting that I’ll refuse to leave the house for any reason because I’ll fear that people are looking at me and judging me. That somehow, they know what I know, and see me as something as hideous as the way I see myself.
My daily life is impacted by my bulimia because it starts with a desire to shut out food entirely. I get some kind of sinking feeling that I am either not entitled to my own share, or that I will definitely be happier if I lose a few more pounds. This turns into either pure fasting or very, very low calorie restriction. Eventually (sometimes hours later, sometimes days later, even a few times – weeks later), I am triggered by either extreme hunger, or intense emotional upset, and wind up binging and purging. Binging and purging happens for me in four stages:
In the first stage, I am extremely agitated or saddened by something. I am either very hungry or very emotional.
The second stage is the almost blind and mindless consumption of as much as I can get into my body as possible, the feeling of, “I’m so hungry, I could just die, what is wrong with me, why can’t I stop eating?”
In the third stage, the physical feeling of fullness to the point of nausea and pain is overwhelming. The guilt of having consumed so much, and the worry of weight gain is completely unbearable, and so I purge.
The final stage is the rush of endorphins, the feeling of comfort, safety from the relief that I have (at least partially) undid the damage during my earlier “weakness.”
This disorder can seriously put a damper on my social life. For instance, if friends want to go out to eat, I am instantly full of anxiety. What will I eat? Where will I purge? Will I be able to avoid purging? If I do, how can I hide it from them to keep from disgusting or worrying them? What was supposed to be a fun evening turns into terror and worry, and sometimes, I just opt to not go at all to avoid it.
My body suffers some serious issues because of this disorder as well: My metabolism and immune system are in a state of disrepair from years of yo-yo dieting. Even during times when I have tried to ‘get better’ and eat healthy, and exercise ‘properly’, all that came of it was weight gain. I’m always sick, and I catch everything I come into contact with. My teeth are eroding from all the stomach acid, and I am in pain from it every day. My hair falls out in clumps, and my fingernail beds have a bluish tint to them – a sign that there isn’t enough oxygen in my blood. I am aware that I could potentiallly die at any time from a dire electrolyte imbalance or acute dehydration.
Somehow, no matter what I do, nothing calms or soothes me like the feelings I have post-purge. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from this disorder, but there is one thing I do know for certain: Eating disorders are so deeply embedded in the people they affect, that they can never truly be cured; they can only be reduced to a manageable level.
In the end, the joke’s on me. I tried to gain some kind of control over my life, and all I gave myself was an addiction that controls me.