I think back to when I was 12 and I had just discovered what I thought was the best kept secret and how excited I felt, as if I had just stumbled upon a secret stash of gold that was all mine.
I do not remember how I made this discovery, was it something I read or did my childlike brain really think of this on its own? I was so young, so naive and so desperate for perfection that anything that was shown to me at the time I would have grabbed onto with all I had and never let go.
Thus my descent into madness began; a very long dark tumultuous struggle with life, love and the longing for perfection.
Tears stream down my face, I can barely see, my throat burns, my hands shake and my face is a nice shade of blood red. I wipe my hands clean and slide onto the floor, rest my head against the wall and hate myself.
I am 12. I am bulimic. I am broken.
I start to collect images from magazines, newspapers, anything I can find that shows thin women, I cut out these images and create a box full of these with any exercise and diet information I can find. “Lose ten kilos in two weeks!” and “how to have the body your man wants”, articles like this never cease to appear and soon enough I need to find a new box and then another. This holy grail is my saviour, whenever I feel weak I look into this box and find strength, I can be that girl, I can be skinny.
No one ever talks about bulimia. Anorexia gets more air time so to speak. The magazines that line each newsagent always have a headline practically promoting anorexia and shaming those who are not thin. Anorexia is almost made to seem normal; something to strive for, after all to be anorexic means self-control and conformity. Now bulimia? Who wants to think about standing over a toilet bowl dry retching and coughing? It isn’t glamourous.
I never had the self-control for Ana; I didn’t even have the self-control for normalcy. How I envied those who could say no to food, I envied those who legs seemed to have an ocean of space between them. I envied pretty much everyone, as to me I was the whale of the world, lost in a sea of dazzling dolphins. I often wonder if people spoke more openly about how they felt then maybe I wouldn’t have gone down that path, maybe I would have been able to seek help at the beginning and avoid a lifetime of anguish. If my parents had been better equipped to deal with Mia, hell if they even knew the severity of what Mia could do then maybe I would have been OK.
I ate too much today. I had an apple and a piece of bread with peanut butter on it. I feel sick. I feel sick when I don’t eat. On Friday’s I can’t throw up as mum is home. I just have to not eat. Maybe I am not healthy. I am healthy. I eat an apple every day and exercise every day. I will eat slower, maybe throw up my apple. Is there a word for anorexic and bulimic? That’s what I am. I don’t believe either is an eating disorder, maybe when you are stick thin and need to go to hospital but I am not thin so I can’t have one. I am fine.
No one understand me, I feel lost inside, I don’t know, I feel so angry but so upset. I want to cry and scream at the same time.
Throughout school my diary is my confidant, it saddens me to read what my poor, 13, 14, 15.. year old self would say. You can feel the self-hate and desire for love dripping off each page. It’s not only the weigh in’s, measurements and calorie counting that sadden me, it’s the confusion I felt, the darkness that clouded my brain and stemmed onto each page that is most concerning. I remember not wanting to live, feeling like I was suffocating and without a doubt believing that I was worth nothing but time has played its role and these memories are less intense. I wonder how I could have ever felt that way but then I feel their dull ache deep within my heart and remember that I still carry remnants of these feelings and perhaps I always will.
I become a master of my illness, purging is no longer an effort; I know what to eat and how to eat it in order for it to be purged successfully. I know how to make it look like I am eating so my parents do not suspect anything and I know exactly how long I have to ensure I bring back up every miniscule piece of food consumed. I became an expert in my chosen field, people didn’t notice what I was doing, the damage was internal, no bruises to hide here. I drifted through life, not really forming close relationships and I distance myself from my family. I was alone, so awfully alone but I had Mia who was the one that I could rely on to always be there. I was slowly killing myself but I held onto Mia with all I had.
Recovery is a funny thing, for me I am not sure when it began. I tried and failed many times to be normal, over a few years I went back and forth between my learned behaviours and my desire to no longer be sick. I am not proud of some of the things I did out of pure fear of fat. It sounds so ridiculous to write that, fear of fat but that fear is what made me destroy my stomach, stop my period, faint an inordinate number of times and consider simply cutting my fat off with scissors. Bulimia is the ugly cousin of eating disorders, unless you have been there you will never know just how truly self-degrading and unhygienic it is.
There were times during my recovery that I wished I could tell everyone what I was going through so that I could be understood but the fear of being judged kept me silent. An important step to recovery was gaining weight, this was an incredibly enlightening experience for me as I learnt to accept the body I was given. I admired my breasts and the curve of my hips. I was proud of the muscle in my legs and battled my way to accepting my soft belly. I was the biggest I had ever been but I I didn’t resort to purging or hating myself for eating. Instead I enjoyed seeing my body change and soften. A difficult part of this was everyone else. It seems that you are shamed if you do and shamed if you don’t. The worlds obsession with weight is grotesque, I had to fight off comments on my weight and act like I was simply being lazy instead of flourishing. Then further on in recovery I lost the weight, the healthy way and now I receive such positive comments as if I could not have looked good before. We are so engrossed with weight that we forget we are people.
Bulimia formed a large part of my life and perhaps I will never be fully recovered but I will hold my scars with pride and not cower down out of fear or shame. I had bulimia. I had an eating disorder and that’s OK.