This is how I wake myself up:
We went out for sushi last night. I had eaten some grapes and nothing else all day. By the time we got to the restaurant I was ready to cry from hunger and agitation.
My boyfriend’s food came first; all four plates of it. I kept waiting for my tofu and rice to materialize. All I kept thinking was how f**king tired of being hungry I was. I am always hungry. Always. I can never fill the void. I don’t know what it is like to not be hungry. I am hungry as I write this…starving, empty.
After we stuffed ourselves my boyfriend complained about how much he had eaten.
“Are you going to throw up?” I asked.
“No. Why? Is that your plan?” He raised his eyebrows at me.
I laughed and continued shoveling rice down my throat, “we don’t talk about that. I’m old and ugly enough to do what I want.”
“You’re not allowed to do that,” he said in all seriousness.
I laughed some more. Nothing on earth would come between me and purging this meal.
When we got home I shut the bathroom door, turned the water on and threw up. It felt right and good and I was relieved afterwards. During the day I had accidentally caught sight of my reflection when I was taking a ballet class. It made my skin crawl. I am aware of how fat I am, but sometimes it still shocks me.
When I came out of the bathroom my boyfriend looked at me:
“You look guilty…”
I didn’t make eye contact, “of what?”
“That’s what I am wondering.”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t sleep for hours because of the pain I was in. My kidneys still hurt.
The next morning I mentioned how awful I was feeling which is normal after purging.
“It must have been all the food we ate,” my boyfriend replied.
I shook my head, “it’s not the food.”
“Why would you say that?” He asked suspiciously.
I am not sure if he was asking me if I purged or is just hinting at it. Did he want actual confirmation? I don’t care to talk about it. I don’t need him to know and to ask questions and to fight me on this. I prefer to stay disordered. I don’t need help – I am beyond that. I don’t need saving – there is nothing worth saving. He can love me as much as he wants. I will never love myself.
I went to Olive Garden for the first time this weekend with my boyfriend, his kids and his parents. They have bottomless pasta bowls. Danger Alert. It’s like taking a bulimic to a buffet. They don’t know my issues and have only seen me eat veggies and hummus so they don’t know that it was a bad idea. I was so excited it was awful.
First came the endless salad and bread sticks. I munched my way through as much as I could even though Heath’s dad warned me against filling up on bread. I informed him casually that I have no problem eating seven bowls of pasta at a time. He didn’t believe me. I asked the waiter what the record was as I ordered my second bowl. He wasn’t sure but he was amazed when I ordered my third bowl and then impressed when I was on my fourth one.
“Usually we can tell the people that are going to eat seven bowls because they have a certain body type,” the waiter mimed a fat person. “They are not usually your size.”
I laughed as he went to get my fifth bowl.
“We won’t judge,” he said
“I will,” Heath’s dad said. He kept shaking his head as I out ate everyone at the table. My boyfriend is 220lbs and couldn’t finish a second bowl. It was embarrassing for me that I was so out of control.
Eventually the waiter asked if he should bring another bowl. I explained that even though I could eat more, we had to leave because the children wanted to go. He brought another one anyway.
“To be fair you didn’t say you were full, ” Heath observed. “You just said we had to leave.”
Some people don’t understand that when you are eating your feelings you are never full.
The whole family was incredulous that I had managed to eat that much. I’m always surprised especially as I had warned them. I forget that although binges are normal to me, they are not to others. I wasn’t particularly proud of my behaviour, but sometimes I am out of control in front of people which is scary. I usually save that kind of eating for when I am alone. No one needs to see that. I felt distressed and repulsive. I wish my boyfriend hadn’t witnessed it.
We took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese and as soon as we got there I went to purge. The family looked for games and I looked for a toilet. No one even noticed I was gone. Later on my boyfriend found me while I was looking for water “Too much pasta?” he asked with a smile, not noticing the post-purge signs.
I shook my head, “no, I feel great.”
I couldn’t explain to him that the pasta was never going to stay down. Nothing freaks people out more than purging does. Anorexia is acceptable if horrifying; bulimia is downright disgusting. Sometimes I wish he just knew. He showed up unexpectedly at my house on the weekend and there was an empty box of ex-lax on my nightstand. He knows enough is wrong, but I like that he doesn’t ask any more.
You can get away with a lot when you label things. I met my boyfriend’s family at Thanksgiving and was nervous about the food situation. When you say you are vegan or vegetarian you can hide a lot of disordered behaviour. On top of that, I always explain about my hypothyroidism and the need to watch my calorie intake. It works like a charm. No one questions my obviously bizarre attitude to food.
On the first morning Heath’s mom suggested that we take the kids to McDonalds for breakfast. My heart started pounding and I could feel the anxiety rising. When we got there he looked at me and asked if I would eat anything. I shook my head and shot him a pleading look not call attention to it. He is so good that he just goes along with everything and doesn’t make a big deal of it.
Later in the day when I was doubled over from starvation, I told him I had to have celery.
“I love celery.” I said without even thinking about the stupidity of the statement.
He laughed, “No you do not!”
We went to the farmers’ market and were given a free muffin each to sample. Without even batting an eyelid, Heath held his hand out for the muffin he knew I did not want. I gave it to him and he pocketed it. No one even saw it happen.
At dinner he tried to help me navigate the vegetables that had been cross contaminated with meat or drowned in butter and sugar. There was nothing safe to eat. I wonder if my panic was obvious.
For the actual Thanksgiving meal, they decided on Raclette and not turkey which was not good for me. I am dangerous around melted cheese on anything. I ate with abandon. I knew after two bites that I would be purging the meal immediately. I drank most of a bottle of wine to help the process. I made an excuse to my boyfriend and went downstairs to throw up. The house was so busy and loud that I am sure no one even noticed.
At one point Heath’s dad talked about my “healthy” eating of fruits and veggies and I went into a detailed explanation of my vegetarianism and hypothyroidism. He marveled at my ability to eat so little then said that all I was waiting for is to get married and then I would eat everything I can see and weigh 400lbs. It has become the running family joke. It is funny because it will never happen and they don’t know why.
I am sick again. Every other month I come down with something. It is as though my immune system is so overwhelmed that it barely functions. Two weeks ago after days of purging, I ended up with a sore throat. Cue swollen tonsils, purple streaks down the back of my throat and the inability to swallow without pain. I tried to be good and keep purging to a minimum where I couldn’t avoid it. I hate being sick. It means I cannot go to gym or hot yoga because exercising seems to prolong the illness. Most days I am battling chronic fatigue or migraines as it is. I do not need this, but I know it is my fault. For my birthday we went out for dinner and I was unknowingly served meat in the bread. Who puts meat in bread? Without making a scene, I left the table and went to purge.
The next day the sore throat was back worse than ever. Today I woke up with a full blown cold: coughing, snotty and spaced out. I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed never mind hit the gym or even go to work. I called in sick which gave me debilitating anxiety. I spent the day in bed alternating between hot and cold, awake and asleep. Not sick enough to be in bed; not well enough to be at work. The worst kind of sick where you can’t justify either. Sadly my cold hasn’t made me sick enough to lose my appetite. I wonder why I can’t get the kind of sick that makes me not want to eat. A few days of that would surely do me some good. More good than purging up what I do eat. I am so tired of being hungry.
I had a birthday this weekend which means I have now had this eating disorder for 22 years officially. I have been sick for more than 2/3s of my life. I had an EKG today and blood work as part of a referral to outpatient treatment. I have no intention of going to the treatment centre. That would mean missing three months of work and confessing to my boyfriend that my ED is out of control. If only I was thin enough to justify all of this; to make it worth while.
I restrict all day to counter the bingeing of yesterday. I am determined not to eat until tomorrow. Somewhere around mid-evening my resolve snaps. I decide that I can eat cauliflower and hummus rather than go on another binge. Once I have made the decision to allow myself to eat, I cannot wait. It is urgent, serious, life threatening. I drive to the grocery store. I am frantic. I hit every red light. It is the longest drive in the history of driving. I grip the steering wheel. I want to bang my head against it out of hunger and rage. I am on edge knowing that I could lose control and buy anything, everything except that cauliflower. It is my sole focus.
In the grocery store I run crazily looking for the damn cauliflower. An old man is shuffling in front of me and I am shaking. He blocks the aisle and I want to shout from frustration. There has to be a faster way to get food than this. “Don’t binge. Don’t Binge. Please, don’t binge.” I mutter like a mantra as I start to panic. There is no cauliflower anywhere. I must be delirious. How can there not be the one food that I am allowed to eat? I ask the store clerk for cauliflower. He says he will check in the back. I stand amongst the vegetables ready to weep. I will lie down by the lettuces and sob if there is no cauliflower. I am so terrified of going on a binge if I cannot find the one safe food I crave. I must eat a cauliflower. My existence has been narrowed down to this.
Eventually he returns with one and I am beside myself with relief. I take it, ecstatic. I know I am sick. I am so excited about this cauliflower that I want to cry. I try to rush out the store. The line ups to pay are agonizingly long. Another old person is strolling in front of me. I will not make it. I will not survive this. It will finish me. I will die of this starvation holding a f**king, miserable cauliflower in my hands like it was the holy grail.
Coffee, thyroid medication.
More coffee, an hour at the gym with my foot in a cast.
Celery and hummus.
More celery, more hummus, more coffee.
My coworker sits in my office and lectures me on eating (while he eats). He informs me that I will never have to wear a tutu and pink tights on stage again and therefore I should enjoy food. He mentions that I should get over my issues and I disagree telling him my demons keep me company.
“What do you want me to eat?” I ask as I shove celery down my throat and try not to gag.
“Bread,” he gestures with all of his Russian passion in the direction of my collar bones which seem to upset him. “It is so light; there is nothing in it.”
“I love bread so much. I dream about toast,” I confess like my soul depends upon it. It seems wrong to admit this; like I am betraying the wilting celery that is trying to nourish me.
“You need to eat some bread,” he is pleading with me now. “Good, grainy, dense bread.”
He is the devil. I shake my head as if to remove the picture of bread from my mind. He is always trying to get me to eat.
Dinner at a friend’s house: 4 plates of food, wine, cake. I sit at the table and start to sweat. Panic.
I will die of this feeling. I am out of control after restricting all day.
While they make coffee and dessert in the kitchen, I purge. The relief is instantaneous.
Fast food drive through on the way home from dinner:
2 veggie burgers, onion rings, 2 family size fries (to fill the hole in my heart where there should be a family). I sit in a parking lot as the rain pours down and I shake. I have found love on a Wednesday night. There is ketchup and comfort at the bottom of the brown, paper bag.
Purge, purge, purge.
Bubble bath and a conversation with my boyfriend on the phone: “I’m taking you out for your favourite Italian on Sunday night. Do you want to go on a picnic on Saturday? Maybe we could go to the mountains…I have some wine for Friday.”
I can hear the calories we are going to consume. I just want to lie in his arms and close my eyes and never eat again.
“What kind of crazy are you?” he asks only half-jokingly as we sit around a fire under a late, summer moon.
“The regular kind of crazy,” I say without looking at him. “I’m just really weird about food.”
It isn’t the whole truth; it isn’t an outright lie.
My girlfriend asks me why I don’t just come out and tell him about my eating disorder. I guess that moment would have been my chance. We have been dating for 2 weeks and it is getting serious really fast, almost too fast. I am triggered by the overwhelming emotions that I cannot comprehend to keep starving. It gives me an illusion of control as I struggle not to fall head over heels for him.
I have told him about my eating disordered past without flinching and I have demonstrated that it is still alive and well. We spent the whole weekend together and he saw me eat twice in 48 hours. Both times I ate celery and hummus. At one point I asked him to drive me to the store so that I could buy celery. He didn’t say anything and I didn’t want him too. In fact, when he asked me if he could lecture me about eating, I told him that it was off limits. He asked me if he could make me dinner and I said that I was full. He asked if I was really full or if I was just saying it. I know he sees it – I wonder when it will start to bother him. Last night we were talking about women’s bodies and I said that I wanted to lose more weight. He asked if I would tell him what I weighed and I said I couldn’t because it would make me cry.
I am alarmed when he tells me I am sexy and beautiful. I feel disgusted by myself. I don’t understand how he can like me.
I don’t want to tell him the whole truth because I want to continue to be disordered. I don’t want to be fixed. I don’t want to be questioned once he knows the whole truth. In time he will figure it out. I am just waiting for the day he does. When he walks away, I will not blame him. I would too.
I am a vegan with an eating disorder.
5lbs down in 6 days. I have a stomach full of pills and coffee and emptiness. Finally…