I read this Go Ask Aunt Becky post a week or so ago and it really struck a nerve with me.
As I left my comment for that struggling reader who wrote to Aunt Becky, I realized you know I could maybe make a difference to someone. Help someone who is struggling with things I’m ashamed to talk about. Maybe if I took a moment to break down that defensive wall I could share something I learned and it could have value.
I’ve talked briefly about it before, but when I was in high school I had an eating disorder. I never went to a clinic or rehab. I never saw a therapist. I never acknowledged or told anyone about it. As far as I’m aware no one actually noticed.
That was the hardest part. As much as I kept it a secret, I prayed and hoped and wished and begged that someone would notice. I was secretly pleading inside every time I spit out my insides that someone would notice. That they would hear me. That they would stop me. That they would reassure me that I did not need to do that. That they would love me and care for me as I was not as I wanted to be. But they didn’t. With every additional finger I had to add down my throat because my gag reflex slowly disappeared I hoped someone would help me. And they didn’t.
As much as I did it because I wanted to be thin and wanted and lusted after I did it just simply to be loved. To feel like someone cared enough to want better for me. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I was acutely aware of the fact that the acid I spit up was rotting my teeth and destroying my intestines. I knew that the teeth marks on my knuckles were just the beginning of the physical changes that would come. I was educated, I knew what I was doing. I also knew I wasn’t really losing weight this way.
I scoured the internet for better ways to do it. There are lots of websites of girls willing to tell you how to be better at being bulimic. There are forums and chats about weighing your vomit, things to drink, laxatives to take. Girls bragging about their latest binge and purge. When it comes down to it bulimia is much more psychological than it is about successfully losing weight.
What it took for me to stop was not achieving an ideal weight because I didn’t do that until many years later — the healthy way by exercising and modifying my diet. I stopped because I found someone who loved me, who wanted to be with me and who made me feel better about myself, albeit briefly. But not everyone can be that lucky. I wish that I had sought actual help instead of silently hoping that help would find me. I wish I had known the things I know now.
There is no Prince Charming. There is no Knight on a White Horse. You are your own savior. You can pray to God between every gasp and tear as you grip against the toilet, but he’s not going to come down and rescue you. You are the only one who can rescue yourself. As hard as it is to give in to an eating disorder it is so much harder to come out of it. I will not deny that many days go by when I still think about it. Especially if I was sick and felt that flutter of control that I once had. When I wonder if it would be easier if after I ate this burrito I just threw it up again. Maybe that would negate the calories? Negate the feelings of ordinariness. It doesn’t. It won’t. Not this time. Not one more time. Not this last time. Never.
You can’t do it alone either. You have to reach out whether to family, a friend, a co-worker, anyone you trust. There are so many hotlines and organizations out there who exist to help people. They don’t care what race, religion or checkbook balance you are. You just need to take that one step. That one awful step that you don’t want to take. It doesn’t 100% go away just because you called someone or told someone, but it puts you on the right path. The path to recovery.
The ANAD Helpline 630-577-1330 is open Monday through Friday 9 AM Through 5 PM Central Time.
ANAD also has a special email address, firstname.lastname@example.org which may be used by those who prefer email instead of phoning.