A bulimic giving up binging is a big deal.
I can’t speak for every bulimic out there, but for me this is a REALLY big deal.
This is like alcoholics giving up the booze. Or drug addicts giving up their favorite way to turn off the world. This is like hoarders emptying out of their house all their things and sending them to the dump, a religious extremist giving up their Bible, a doomsday prepper giving away the keys to their bunker, a social-hermit-agoraphobic throwing open all their doors and windows and walking out to join the circus.
This is like a child giving away their very favorite, passionately loved, had-it-since-in-the-womb blanket.
Giving up the binge for me is like all of that put together.
I’ve been a binge eater since very young. “Feeling full” to me wasn’t just a goal, it was a mile-marker only halfway up a hill that you pushed past. Feeling full means you don’t feel other things. It means that you aren’t sad, or upset, or angry. Feeling full, the RIGHT kind of full, means that you don’t feel anything but the pain of your stomach all the way through to your back and the pleasure of having to lay down to keep from heaving. Feeling the right kind of full makes your eyes roll back in your head, your muscles relax, and your brain let go of the urgency to fill a space inside your heart and guts that can’t be filled any other way. “Le siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.”
My favorite time to binge was in the evenings after everyone else was asleep. THIS I know is a common behavior for bulimics.
Kids down for the night? Check.
Work done, house clean, pajamas on? Check.
Bag of potato chips? Package of crackers? Salt shaker? Box of candy? Glass of milk?
Check, check, check, check, check.
During a really bad binge there were upwards of five trips to the kitchen to get more. MORE MORE MORE.
As a bulimic you get really good at hiding things. You don’t mean to be tricksy or deceptive, really, because in your head you don’t think it’s that big of a problem. In your head you think you’ve got it all under control. And I always did TRY to tell the love connections in my life “HEY, I don’t know that this is normal, I think I might have a problem, I think I need help.” No one ever really heard.
And honestly, no one ever SAW. Not the binges themselves, per say, because those were hidden. I’d like to think that if I sat down at the table with a whole grocery cart worth of food and ate it in one sitting it would cock at least ONE eyebrow of those present. “WOAH. Hungry?” Bulimic actions are easy to see but are never made visible. Bulimic results are almost always invisible or VERY well disguised. During my stints of anorexia (which I’ll have to say goodbye to another day) it is quite clear by looking at me that “hm, she’s a walking skeleton, maybe she has a problem.” Bulimia is really hard to see. If you don’t pair a binge with strong food restriction as a purge, bulimics don’t generally get Skinny.
(Insert totally inappropriate joke about “If you purge right you can get Skinny.” Dark humor is my friend.)
The morning after a binge I always felt gross. Not just physically gross from all the food I hogged down hours before, but “everything about my everything is gross.” The level of self-disgust, shame, self-hatred, worthlessness, and hopelessness is off the charts after a binge. I hated myself for giving in, I hated my lack of will. I hated my body because it didn’t look the way I’d like “and honestly why should it after what you just did,” I hated my heart for liking the binge so much while it was happening. My mornings were filled with dread and self-loathing and I would be desperate to do SOMETHING to feel better, to make up for the dumb thing I did.
And that’s where the purge comes in.
Barfing immediately after a binge is one way to do it, but I’m just not a fan of throwing up. I did it a few times and it was too much work. Excessive exercise is another way; been-there-done-that too, but it’s quite time consuming and harder now that I’ve got kids. My favorite, favorite, mostest-bestest-favie kind of purge is to just stop eating. And I would. And I still WANT TO. Ana and I are great, great friends. (I’m still not quite ready to talk about her, though. For sure another day.) The purge is our punishment, our retribution. If you purge hard enough the binge is paid for.
The last binge I had was just over a week ago. I won’t go into the gory details of what I crammed into myself, and honestly I don’t know that I remember. I DO remember how it made me feel during and after. I do remember what it did to me the next day, and how crappy I felt, and how much I wanted to just STOP… stop eating, stop hurting, stop hating myself.
That morning I started my subscription to Weight Loss Rebels.
That last binge will be the last binge I ever have.
The other night I was headed home after book club and stopped at the pharmacy for a couple things. There at the register was a bucket of chewy, sour, cherry candies, one of my all time favorite kind of binge foods. It was only $1. I was by myself, no kids to share with and no one to even know the purchase had been made. I casually picked up the container and put it on the counter next to my other items.
I 100% intended to eat every single piece of that candy when I got home and was ready for bed. I was looking forward to it. Like a crack addict shaking before their next hit I was tingling with excitement all the way home, even planning which salty snack I’d eat with the sweet treat. I went through my routine for the evening, settled down with my remote control and that bucket of candy, cracked it open and took a bite. They were exactly what I had hoped they’d be. I ate about five pieces, then I stopped.
“Why are you doing this? Like, REALLY why.”
I think it’s fairly common among most addicts to never ask that question. I’d even speculate that for an addict the addiction is SO THAT they never ask that question.
The answer to the question was sobering.
“Because this is what I deserve.”
I can see in my mind’s eye the people that care about me shaking their heads. It’s a hard, ugly fact that self-destructive behavior stems from lack of self-worth. I DO BELIEVE I deserve horrible things. I do believe I deserve every bad thing that has ever happened to me. I feel as though I’m worthless and gross and disgusting and so I do things to myself that I would never, ever, ever put on anyone, even a stranger on the street.
In that moment, though, with that answer, I closed the container of candy.
“Maybe I deserve this, but I don’t want to do deserve it anymore.”
I stood up and put the bucket on top of my dresser where anyone that walked in my room could see it. I did not hide the candy in a drawer or stash it away for later. I did not throw the container away to erase the experience. I did not pretend that it didn’t happen. I WILL NOT pretend that it didn’t happen. I will own it. I will say that I am bent and crooked and warped, but I AM NOT BROKEN.
Time to say goodbye to Mia, goodbye to the bingies, and start eating like a healthy, whole, WORTHY person.
Time to say goodbye to shame and guilt and disgust.
Time to wake up in the mornings with an empty and (what I can only assume but I have to guess because I haven’t felt it in years) HUNGRY stomach, ready for healthy food and a healthy cycle.
Time to earn some self-respect.
It’s 7 am, I did not binge last night, my stomach is empty. Time to head to the kitchen and make some eggs.