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How Bulimia Snuck Up On Me

As a kid, I always knew that there was something wrong with the way my sister ate. Mainly, that she didn't. At least not around me, her kid sister, seven years her junior. She was impossibly thin, but all the while my mother would complain about my sister "sucking down all the food in the house". My sister constantly complained of bloating and stomach aches, spent long periods of time in the bathroom, and still, I barely saw her even take a nibble of anything.

When she first told me about her bulimia, I was very young, maybe 9 years old. And I didn't get it. I didn't understand how she could be so selfish, why she couldn't just stop, how she could feel so disgusting when she was obviously so thin and pretty.

My sister had anorexia and bulimia for ten years, and has been fully recovered for two years. I know now that her bulimia stemmed from a few things, mainly her denial of her homosexuality, her early perception of herself as ugly, and the pressures of being first-born child to a pair of imperfect parents. She is now happy, healthy, and grateful for having escaped.

My own bulimia story starts almost a year ago.

I was always normal sized, even thin, as a child, but I always loved to eat. We didn't have TV in my house, so I read to keep myself entertained. I've always enjoyed and treasured my solitude, and as a kid I would take my favorite book (usually one I had already read several times) along with a box of crackers, a bowl of soup, or a bag of grapes, and sit hidden behind the couch, reading silently for as long as I could get away with it. It began to be the case that every time I wanted a snack, I would bring a book with me. Soon, the opposite also became true, and for much of my childhood, though I did not know it, food became inextricably linked with pleasure, safety, solitude, and blissful escapism.

Fast forward to high school. I gained about X pounds slowly over my four years there, mainly because I didn't, and had never, paid any real attention to what and how much I was eating. I fell in love as only a high schooler can, and moved onto college, planning to carry out a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend.

Well, that failed. He broke my heart into a million pieces, and over the next five months I gained weight. I was still a normal size, and managed to catch another boyfriend. However, he was a rebound, for some reason I was not attracted to him and this caused a lot of strain in our relationship. I really never should have dated him in the first place. I gained another X pounds during the first year that we were together, out of stress and low self-esteem.

At that point, I had had enough. Nothing was going right. I was sick of school, felt that I was in a dead end, was frustrated with my relationship, but most of all unhappy with the way I looked. I started recording my calorie intake and weighing myself everyday. I lost X pounds over the timeframe of six months. Looking back, I know that I lost the weight healthily and at a healthy rate, but I also know that I restricted too much.

Because over spring break of last year, something snapped in me. I had hit my goal weight, and was on vacation, visiting my friend at college. Everyone was so impressed by my accomplishment. We were sitting around drinking beers and eating. I had tortillas and hummus leftover from the car trip, and I said to myself, you know what? I'm hungry. I deserve some snacking after all the hard work I put in. What's the worst that could happen?

And I ate the whole bag of tortillas and the whole carton of hummus.

Since then, it's been a battle, the likes of which you probably are all familiar with. At first, it was just bingeing. I would eat and eat and eat, and then just go to sleep, too depressed and disgusted with myself to do anything else. Then, one day, I ate so much that I actually felt sick. I knelt before the toilet, the way bulimics are portrayed on TV, and stuck my finger down my throat. I don't have much of a gag reflex, so not much came up. However, the small amount that I was able to purge made me feel better.

After that, I became a purging pro, and things have been a horrible, messy, painful, and dehumanizing roller coaster ever since. I've purged at family gatherings, at airports, at friends' houses. When I was living with my ex-boyfriend, we were estranged, and he would spend hours at a time upstairs on the computer with headphones on while I sat downstairs, binging and throwing up in a garbage bag.

I grew to love the feeling of ordering delivery food (aka literally throwing money into the toilet), bringing it back to the apartment where it was my little secret, and eating the entire order without stopping. I grew to hate the feeling of toilet water splashing up in my face, how hollow I felt after the purge, the constant fear that I was gaining weight. I remember stepping on the scale for the first time in weeks after I started my bulimia, and being shocked to see that I had only strayed X pounds from my goal weight, and that taking into consideration that I hadn't purged everything I had binged. That weigh-in was like a blessing from the scale that I should continue.

Since then, a lot of positive changes have happened in my life. I ended my dead-end relationship, and started a new one with someone that I am over the moon about. We love each other, and I can see myself marrying him. I found a job that could very well be my calling. I am one year closer to graduating college, something that I want desperately to happen more quickly.

But I am still dealing with bulimia. It is the monkey on my back, the devil on my shoulder, and, because I am not naive, I know that it could mean death at my door.

I now binge and purge several (average: 5) times a month, usually all-day sessions on each of those occasions. I realize that for many of you, it doesn't seem like much. What you have to realize is that because of my sister, I've been aware of the dangers of bulimia my whole life. From the moment it first happened, I knew what it was and wanted it to stop. I told my sister I was worried about it even before it happened. Since then I've been consistently reaching out for help. And it'

I know I have to stop restricting calories, categorizing things as "good" and "bad", but it's just so damn hard. I don't know whether to tell my new boyfriend, as I'm so afraid of what he might think of me. I told my mom just today and she did not react very well, mostly was very nonchalant, almost harsh.

I will be going on antidepressants soon, I will be moving in with friends, I will be taking a vacation, and I will be working full time instead of going to school. Everything is in place. I just need to stop.

I refuse to continue standing in the way of my own happiness. I refuse to continue feeling to a husk of a human being. I refuse to let this control me for more than one year.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program