“I show my scars so that others know they can heal.”
― Rhachelle Nicol’, Sunday Mourning
The toilet bowl is shiny and cold. It’s especially cold, when you lift the lid, and rest your forehead against the rim. I’m kneeling now. The bathrobe is folded carefully under my knees.
As I come out of the bathroom few minutes later, Italian looks concerned: “Feel better?”
I indeed feel better, now that the unidentified breakfast item that did not agree with me is gone.
Making yourself throw up is difficult. And I’m out of practice.
I make a cup of tea, and realize that I can no longer remember the details of my last purge – where it took place, and what the circumstances were. But I remember what it felt like. Because they all feel the same. Suffocating darkness. And then hollow emptiness.
Overeaters Anonymous (OA) was the first organization I called. I stumbled on the phone. “You see”, I tried to explain. “I don’t really know if I have enough of a problem. I don’t really do it that often”.
“So, once in a while, you eat until it hurts, and then throw up the food you just ate”, a calm female voice summarizes on the other side of the phone.
“Yeah, but I don’t do it that often!”, I now sound defensive.
“And that doesn’t sound like enough of a problem for you?”, she asks. I can hear compassion in her voice.
Few months later, I hurriedly drive home after a party, desperate to replace the heavy burden in my stomach with emptiness. To substitute one pain for another.
Before going to bed, I pull off my trusty DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) off the shelf, and open the section on Eating Disorders. There is dull pain in my throat.
Skimming down the page, I realize that I now meet the diagnostic criteria for Bulimia Nervosa. Falling asleep, with streaks of tears still on my cheeks, and the DSM-IV lying on a pillow next to me, I am still not convinced if I am broken enough to seek help.
Gee. I can’t even do an eating disorder right.
Although some things I’m good at. Oh, you get to be really good. In fact, I think I should put an eating disorder on my resume. The highlights section would include planning, strategy and excellent communication skills.
You learn to identify the most secluded bathrooms. You come up with the most ornate of stories, trying to weave together a narrative that makes sense. A narrative that is perfectly logical.
You also get good at recognizing others with the same “not-enough-of-a-problem”. You know who you are. And I know you are struggling, even though you may not know that I know.
It’s the things you say about food. It’s the way you look at food. It’s where you position yourself in the room.
Today a jar of peanut butter and a bar of chocolate in my house are eaten at a fairly normal rate of consumption.
But I am still not a big fan of all-you-can-eat buffets and all-inclusive resorts.
And I know what it’s like to throw out a box of perfectly good cookies, because that’s the only way you wouldn’t eat the whole box. I still have trouble not eating the whole bag of chips. So I don’t buy chips.
Today I’m coming out. Not just for my sake, but also for yours.
You see, any disordered eating requires that you do not tell.
It requires keeping a secret. It practically demands it. It’s one of the fundamental rules – straight out of the box.
Thankfully, transparency to disordered eating is like garlic to vampires. It does not compute.
And I no longer have bulimia. I no longer have a secret.
I am free.