aka So was that it? For a few months you binged and purged, travelled around Europe, and was good to go?
Oh dear me no. That was just the beginning.
For April, May and June of that year I was OK. I didn’t purge and I’m pretty sure the binging was under control. The guy I had said goodbye to in Miami was coming out to see me. We had kept the long-distance thing going and I suppose part of what kept me from binging was wanting to look good for him ie not put on any weight.
That summer though, it started up again. I was working as a camp counselor at my university. I don’t remember how I was with food overall, but I do remember one incident where I had plans to run with my track coach one afternoon. I had been staying in the dorms to monitor the camp kids but this day I must have had off, so I went to the house where I lived when school was in session.
I don’t remember what came over me, but I do remember going through at least a pint of ice cream along with whatever else I found in the cupboards, within hours of meeting up for a run. I had to get rid of the food because, as any runner will know, going for a run on a full belly is a recipe for disaster. It will come out one end or the other.
So I tried to pre-empt the situation, made myself sick before going for the run, and still felt miserable during the run.
The next vivid memory I have was that fall. It was two nights before our division’s championship meet. I had had a decent season so far. My best one yet and good thing considering it was my last.
My time in the season’s kick-off workout made it into the all-time top 10 list, which was supposed to be an indicator for the rest of my season. I ran an 18:30 5K, my goal time, although it was on the flattest course ever so I didn’t really think it counted.
I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to close the season strong.
One thing I have noticed, and I probably knew then… I am not a good closer. I pick people off in the middle of a race, but I would always peter out at the end. The last three-quarters to half-mile of a race, my legs would get heavy, I’d feel like I was in slow-motion, and in my head it was a combination of ‘go faster, c’mon you got this’ and beating myself and my body up. Shame would show up with ‘Should’ve done more miles, eaten less, more squats etc.’
It was never pretty, as you can tell.
I used to have nightmares where I looked and felt exactly like I did in the picture.
I recently read Gay Hendrick’s book, ‘The Big Leap‘, and I can see now that what I was doing was a form of upper limiting. I inherently didn’t believe that I had what it took to win, place, beat the other girl, and so I subconsciously self-sabotaged, even though consciously I wanted to perform.
Talk about an internal tug of war.
And so that night, two nights before the championship meet, I binged on God-knows-what and had my head over the toilet bowl. For the record, that is NOT the best way to prepare your body for a peak performance. I don’t remember my time for that meet, but I don’t think it was even my best for that course.
The rest of my senior year I don’t remember specifics. But I know by the time I graduated and started my first job, I was at it again. The night before the interview, the night before the first day at work.
My mom had bought me my first suit that spring, and I was so afraid that after I graduated college and stopped running 60 miles a week and training so hard, I’d put on weight and wouldn’t fit into it.
Guess what, that fear came true because the only way I knew how to regulate my weight was through running. I grew out of it quickly. It became my benchmark though. On a good day I could fit into the skirt without it being too tight around the waist. On a bad day, I couldn’t even bear to try it on.
This is when I started having two wardrobes. The set of clothes that were between a size 4 and a size 6 for when I was ‘at my best’ and another set between size 6-8 for all the other days.
It was this first year out of college that the binges and purges became more frequent. A pattern started to form too. I was officially living at home at my parents on Staten Island but my boyfriend had an apartment in the city that was a 20 minute walk from my office.
Let me see, a daily 90min-2hour commute twice a day, or a 20 minute walk in the morning and a jog through Central Park in the evening?
I think I’ll go with Option B.
When I was at my boyfriend’s place, I wouldn’t make myself sick. It was only when I was home. So my bulimia developed a bulimic pattern.
I’d be ‘fine’ for days at a time, while staying with him, but I had to control my urges to binge. We’d get pizza for dinner and I’d always get the veg one even though the pepperoni one looked really good. We’d go to Gristedes and get ice cream or Pringles to snack on and I’d be terrified of eating what we bought and at the same time craving it. I’d try to subdue that internal battle and just act ‘normal’, whatever that meant.
But then when I was home, I could binge eat in secret. I could finally satisfy that craving and release all of the tension that had been building up from trying to control and hide my urge to binge. I’d binge on binging. It was the epitome of the deprive/indulge model that I had learned oh so well.
These were dark times and it’s hard to find a silver lining.
The message that I’d like to highlight today is that while it’s not easy to hide in broad daylight, people around you are.
I’ll quote an amazing kindred spirit that I just met, Angela Barnett, who summed it up perfectly in a blog post; ‘Bulimics are cagier than Her Majesty’s Secret Service.‘ #truthbomb
We’re not the only cagy ones though. Anyone who has a vested interested in hiding shameful behaviours will go out of their way to keep their secrets safe and try on an act that makes everything look hunky-dory.
And this trying and hiding will make you a basket case. The dis-integrity of looking like you got it all together on the outside, meanwhile WWIII is going on inside.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a run with a promising athlete, or interviewing someone with a great CV for a job, or welcoming a new employee wearing a beautiful suite on their first day of work, or filming someone for a prime time TV program (sneak preview for tomorrow). That person could be suffering inside.
They could be caught in a destructive cycle that is ripping them apart and you’d have no idea.
Except now you do have an idea.
I ask myself, was there anything that people around me could’ve done to help or to stop me at the time?
My honest answer: I don’t know.
I don’t know what would’ve gotten my attention then because I wasn’t at a point where I recognized that I had a problem. And as we’ve all heard, the first part of any recovery to so stop floating down the river Denial.
For sure one option is NOT to bash them over the head with a stick until they give up and say, ‘OK, OK, I’ve got a problem!’
And the other option of ignoring that there’s potentially a problem? Not really helpful either.
For all of us to come out of denial.
Come out of denial that people you know and love could be struggling. And this isn’t just limited to eating disorders. We all have our struggles.
Accept that this is the case, and then raise your Awareness.
And then from Awareness, show up with Love.
Create a non-judgemental space for someone to just be in. Someone who is in denial and is doing their best to cover their tracks, needs to know that there is somewhere safe to turn when they are ready to get out of the river.
The presence of judgement and an expectation-oriented environment makes this difficult. It’s as if the alligators are on shore instead of in the water.
But creating a space for vulnerable honesty (which means you might have to show some of your mud first), and of acceptance, regardless of the mud the other person brings…. that is the best option.
We can each make a decision to practice living from a place of love. Consciously look to prevent and negate the impact of shame, courageously face our own fears, and start to dance with vulnerability.
Then we’re doing our part in helping someone who is still in Denial, come ashore.
Something to think about: Are you floating down da’Nile in some area of your life? What would help you come ashore?
Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like yours shared there.
Feb Food Fun giveaway! Want more tools to overcome judgement and shame, and be your quintessential self? Join the True You Project community and you’ll receive Your True You Journey, an 8 week self-coaching e-guide that will give you the tools to navigate through the mud and peel back the layers covering up your True You.
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