The Last To Go
by Isabelle Strong
My eating disorder started in high school, when I decided that the solution to all my problems- my crippling loneliness, my depression, the instability in my life due to living in six different houses in a year- was to lose weight. I'm not sure why I decided to go on that first diet; I had always had a normal, even slim body, but all of a sudden I developed the belief that I was just not thin enough, Just not good enough. There had to be something wrong with me, why else would I be friendless and alone? So I decided to fix the one thing under my control- my external appearance, my body, the size of my thighs. Behind my desire to shape my body was a desire to shape, to remake myself. Underneath the belief that 125 pounds was just too fat was the belief that I was just too much- too loud, too emotional, too angry, too something that kept other people away.
I soon found that I was remarkably good at losing weight, I could keep my calories down to X a day and force myself to work out for over an hour every single day. But soon it became an obsession, the defining characteristic of my personality. I was thin, obsessed with "healthy eating" and working out. Everything else was lost in my disorder. My confidence, my interests, my emotions, my thoughts. Everything became concentrated on food, on weight, and on working out.
It only got worse in college, because after a while, I'm not sure when, the binging started. The terrible, exciting thoughts of food, all the food I never ate, all the food I avoided, came unbidden, and then the ensuing binges that followed a sickening pattern. At first the liberation- to be able to eat pizza, ice cream, cookies- then the anxiety, the fear, and the numbness. And the emptiness- the utter emptiness that would not, could not, be filled- no matter how much food I crammed down.
At first I worked out to "get rid" of the calories I'd consumed- long, punishing workouts during which I pushed my body past its limits, past exhaustion. Then I started getting rid of the food more directly, by purging it all up.
I spent several miserable months in full blown bulimic hell. At first I only purged the binges that came later in the day, after mornings and afternoons concentrated on restricting, but soon I purged everything. It was a terrible, soul sucking disease that left me with nothing but guilt, regret, obsession and sadness.
I went to my first therapy session after a summer spent binging and starving. I was desperate, felt completely alone and insane. As I worked to get rid of my eating disorder, a long, exhausting and wonderful process that continues to this day, I had to face everything underneath the obsession. Without food and weight on my mind I had to deal with emotions, with my insecurity, my loneliness and my scars from childhood. It was hard, it still is hard. At first when I said goodbye to my eating disorder I felt as though I had nothing. My life felt so empty and all the sadness I'd been covering up with my eating disorder came bursting into my life. Slowly I started filling in that emptiness and feeling the sadness.
But I still have those urges- to starve, to lose weight, and to eat. What am I trying to fill, what am I trying to fix, to cope with, when that urge to eat takes over? I'm still trying to figure it out.