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My Struggle with Bulimia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Being supervised by my 13-year-old sister is weird. It’s even weirder that she’s watching me go to the bathroom. Well, okay, she’s actually just waiting outside the stall. But I knew she would follow me, I knew she would wash her hands, and I knew she would linger. When I open the door, she’s just standing there casually. “What are you doing?” I ask, even though I know.

“Just waiting for you.”

“Oh, okay.” And I’m not supposed to be mad, even though the situation is awkward and I can’t get any privacy when I’m using the bathroom. Of course, this only happens when I go after lunch.

Rewind to late May: I’m so near death that I can brush it with my eyelashes. My boyfriend, Jon, and I are competing to lose weight and I can’t shake off his saying, “It’s okay if you don’t lose as much weight as me, Lindsay. After all, I’m a guy.” I don’t like losing anything except weight, 20 pounds of which disappears in a month and a half. But 10 pounds is all it took for me to forget about beating Jon and winning the $200 bet.

Hey, I look good; I look damn good. I should keep this up. I’m convinced, though, that it isn’t enough to just keep exercising and scraping by on water, hard-boiled egg whites, and salad (which is actually just lettuce and tomatoes – no dressing, croutons, or even corn because of the carbs). If I want to be tinier with every glance in the mirror, I’ll need a better strategy. So I become a double-barreled bulimic; I’m the purging type and the non-purging type. Purging is just a nicer way of saying “self-induced vomiting.” It isn’t pleasant but people are convinced that I eat. Non-purging, also called exercise bulimia, is when I sweat off what little I’ve eaten and more. One website calls it “secretly vomiting,” but I think of it as added insurance.

I recommend bulimia for anyone self-deluded enough to ignore feeling terrible all the time: “This bottle of aspirin must be full of placebos because my headaches won’t go away. The doctor is insane; I’m not running too much, and my knee and hip pains can’t be early signs of arthritis. My esophagus isn’t corroded. My voice isn’t raspy. I can keep getting away with this. It’ll be worth it. I feel fine. I’m not bulimic.”

Then I’m wailing my confession to Jon about having bulimia and how much work it is to hide and how scared I am about not getting my period this month, and I hate myself for developing bulimia in the first place, and I’m sorry but I need to back out of our competition. He says that’s fine. We’ll fix it together. Plus, he misses pizza.

For the next month, I eat only with Jon so he can be sure I relearn to eat healthfully. At first I feel like a criminal exercising only once a day and eating food I can taste, but my complaints are short-lived.

It’s the end of July and I’m driving with my friend Kelli. She knows I helped stuff that guy’s mailbox with defective donuts from the Krispy Kreme dumpster. I’m the only person she told when she backed into a car. Secrets are only fun if you have a best friend to share them with.

There’s a lull in the conversation before she says, “You never told me who won that thing between you and Jon.”

The saltiness of my fingertips floods my tongue and tickles my throat. “I called it off.”

“Really? Why?”

Lie, don’t lie, lie, don’t lie, lie, don’t lie, lie, don’t lie, don’t lie. Why would you lie to your best friend? “Because I became bulimic.”

“Oh, Lindsay.” She turns her head from the road and looks at me. I’ve never heard Kelli say my name in that disappointed tone before.

“I’m okay now. Really. Jon and I worked through it and I’m fine.”

“Do you mean that?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. I believe you.” Good. There are times when you should be honest. This wasn’t one of them.

Kelli comes by the next afternoon. She starts sobbing when she sees me. She says that she cried all day yesterday while researching bulimia and calling eating disorder hotlines. She doesn’t understand why I have a negative body image. She insists that I don’t need to lose weight. She is scared for me.

Didn’t I tell her that I was fine? Why didn’t she believe me?

“Lindsay, you have to tell your parents.”

WHAT? “What? Why?! It isn’t a problem anymore. I don’t want them to worry over something that’s in the past.”

“I know, but they need to know.”

“No. No, they don’t, actually.”

“Lindsay, if you don’t tell them, I will. If something happens to you and they find out I knew, I won’t be able to live with that.” Since when is this about you, Kelli? “I’ll give you time to tell them. If you don’t do it within that time frame, I’ll tell them. But, I’ll warn you before I do it.”

You’ll warn me? Are you trying to strike a deal with me? I knew I should have lied.

“I’m doing this for your own good, Lindsay. You’re my best friend and I care about you.” I don’t feel myself hug her back. If you really cared, you’d let it go.

Kelli never brings up the subject again. I forget about this incident and figure she has too. The “your time is up so I’m telling on you” ultimatum disintegrates into an empty threat. I go back to school in September and don’t come home until October ends. I lost a few pounds by eating healthier and my family is happy for me. On the way to the airport, my dad says, “You look great, honey, really, you do. This probably isn’t the best time to bring it up … but you didn’t lose weight by being bulimic, did you?”

Oh my God. “She TOLD you?!”

“Lindsay, don’t be mad. She was really scared to tell.”

I’m not mad at Kelli, I’m furious. “When?”

“Right before you guys left for school. She called and said she had something important to tell us. Your mom and I went to her house. She was sitting in the living room with her parents and crying because she wasn’t sure if she was doing the right thing. She didn’t want to lose your friendship.”

I’m thankful when they let me walk through security with sunglasses on. I’m not looking forward to Thanksgiving anymore.

*
*
*


My parents have argued in the garage for years because they don’t think my sister and I can hear them in there. They forget that my bedroom is directly above the garage.

“It’s your fault Lindsay turned bulimic! You always pushed her too hard! It didn’t matter if she was valedictorian or tennis team captain or a concert pianist, she was never good enough for you.” “At least I wasn’t babying her all the time! I just wanted my daughter to grow up strong. It was your coddling that made her cave in like that!”

*
*
*


Even though I’m finished with bulimia, it isn’t finished with me. A common side effect is gastroesophageal reflux, where my gag reflex fires involuntarily and my stomach contents come up. This looks incredibly suspicious to people who know I have a history with bulimia.

I’m looking at Christmas ornaments with my dad and sister a few days later. I can’t decide if this one is a gingerbread man or a really tan starfish when my stomach tightens. This is the worst, because my stomach is empty of anything except acid. I imagine this is what it would be like to iron the inside of my throat with a pair of flaming soccer cleats.

I’m bent over like I’m trying to cough my throat out onto the floor (which I wouldn’t have minded) as the scorching gets worse. I’m pretty sure everyone in the store is staring so I scramble outside. I’m trying to calm down by taking deep breaths but the frozen air ironically makes the burning worse, so I attempt to casually stroll into a nearby restaurant and ask in a horribly raw voice for a glass of water. The girl smiles because she thinks I’m a chain smoker and fills a cup and I thank her while trying to control myself because I’d gladly drink all 32 ounces in one gulp. My throat cools but is still itchy.

My dad and sister are asking what happened and I say I coughed up acid, so we get ice cream to neutralize it. I claw maniacally at a frozen cylinder of Phish Food with a flimsy plastic spork the whole way home, where I finally microwave the block into submission. I’m halfway done when my stomach protests the unexpected influx of food by sending the ice cream back up (at least it doesn’t burn) and I’m running again, this time to the nearest toilet.

Winter break becomes a laborious game of avoiding anything that could make me look like I’m still bulimic. I don’t eat too much because I’ll vomit. I don’t eat too little because I’ll seem anorexic. I’m afraid of soda because burping can trigger refluxes. I snack on Tums between meals. My workouts are light so I won’t lose weight. You’d think even if my parents didn’t know I used to be bulimic, they would still be suspicious.

Kelli and I exchange Christmas gifts one night. I haven’t told her I know she snitched on me, but she probably has figured it out since I’ve barely spoken to her for the past two months. As she turns to leave, she asks, “Are we okay?”

No. “Yeah.” I want to tell her I’ve lost my parents’ trust, that she’s lost mine. That I will never believe anything she says again.

*
*
*


I’m more frustrated than grateful that everyone is too concerned to trust me. I ask my dad why no one believes me when I say I’m not bulimic. He says they do – they’re just making sure I’m okay. So no one believes me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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LOVEEXPERT said...
Sep. 10 at 1:24 pm
wow that is scary
 
VivekPokala said...
Jul. 28 at 3:26 pm
I really loved this article!
 
mereCatThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 9 at 2:38 am
This is a brilliant piece of writing and I want to congratulate you one for writing something so beautiful and two for fighting through your eating disorder. However, I think it's sad that you can't forgive your friend. I know she lied to you and made everyone not trust you and that must be absolutely RUBBISH but you kind of need to consider what she and your family have gone through. My brother almost killed himself through annorexia and he gets really annoyed, now that he i... (more »)
 
luvmeforme said...
Feb. 24 at 4:12 pm
i understand what your going through in this story i went thru a similar situation although iw as anorexic. all the time i didnt want to eat and if i did id just go and throw it back up or make my self so i guess you could say i was both thats what my parents said to me. im no longer that way anymore, im the total opposite now, i love food and im glad im getting better cause i hated putting people through that. WELL GOOD JOB im glad you wrote about that, i know sounds w... (more »)
 
Simi99 said...
Aug. 27, 2013 at 11:31 pm
This was a nice story.  I went through a similar situation and i understand the whole deal with Kelli.  When something like this happens friends often jump to conclusions and tell adults.  For me I got suspended for throwing up in the school bathroom.  Anyway thanks for shedding light on the subject,
 
bookmouse said...
May 14, 2013 at 5:14 pm
The beginning was really good, it made me want to keep reading! You're lucky to have a good friend like Kelli. One of my friends thought I was suicidal. She didn't trust me by just me saying not to worry and wanted to tell, I was able to explain to her, but it hurt that she didn't just trust me. It took me a whole essay to explain myself sufficently (it's on TeenInk as Trying To Stay Evergreen) and even now she still worries about me (even though she knows I'm fine and I ... (more »)
 
bookmouse said...
May 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm
Kelli was just trying to help you --  but I know it's hard! A friend thought I was suicidal & was going to tell. (TeenInk.com/hot_topics/bullying/article/532756/Trying-to-stay-Evergreen/) I was able to explain to her that I wasn't, but she stil worries about me a little. I was kind of hurt that she didn't just trust me, but it meant she cared. You're lucky to have good friends; some secrets just aren't safe to be kept.
 
HisPurePrincess This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm
I listened to a talk by a woman who was bulimic when she was younger.  She said that even if you don't purge yourself anymore, you're still bulimic.  She eats right, and her husband is by her side and she's okay with the way she is, but she says that there's always a lingering struggle within herself and an eating disorder never really goes away.   This was an incredibly riveting piece and thank you for writing it.
 
BakerGirl said...
Sept. 27, 2012 at 11:39 am
I don't think she needs to break up with her boyfriend for having a bet. My boyfriend and I make bets all the time, as we use the friendly competition as extra motivation to reach our goals. It's nothing cruel or judgemental, we just use bets to motivate us to exercise more, eat healthier, get chores done, etc. You just need to know when to stop or what's a healthy amount of food and exercise for your body, which of course can be difficult for some people.
 
Paige T. said...
Jun. 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm
This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!
 
kenziegirl9 said...
Mar. 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm
I Honestly hope that everything with you is going well. I suffered from and eating disorder. It is hell. It becomes natural you don't know what your doing or why you just do it. I actually still struggle. I have anorexia nervosa. I live in a really small town and no one really understands how serious it really is. I've almost died twice I actually just got out of the hospital 2 weeks ago I was there for 2 months. It's really terrible. So I hope that you can continue to look forward.
 
MaxRide said...
Mar. 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I'm sorry your boyfriend made that bet with you.  That doesn't seem like a nice thing to do.  Not to be rude, but I would break up with him.  Just trying to give you advice. 

 

Second, Kelli is just trying to help you.  I have a friend who died from anorexia, and I wish I told sooner.  Trust me, she was so scared and was trying to help you.

 

You have to let all the trust issues go.  Your parents only want what's best fo... (more »)

 
Lilly100 said...
Mar. 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm
Wow. This is a really powerful peice. I just don't understand why you consider yourself in a struggle with bulimia. You don't mention having binged at all during this peice, which is what seperates bulimics from purging anorexics. In order to be classified as bulimic, you must essentially binge (as in eat an extremely large amount of food in a short time), and then purge it through one way or another. However in your story you mention subsisting largely on egg whites and low calorie foods which ... (more »)
 
LittleFlutiePie said...
Mar. 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm
I went through a phasecwhere I was depressed and stressed about school, and stress makes me sick to my stomache, so I didn't have much of an apetite. My mom thought I had an eating disorder and became unbearable for a while, so I can relate to this a little. It was very well written, and your personality really shined through. Great job, and sorry about the unwanted attention fircsomethhing that's being blown out of proportion in your case
 
dancegirl13 replied...
Apr. 17, 2012 at 8:17 pm
It's very possible that the author's friends and family are blowing her eating disorder out of proportion. But, as a recovering anorexic, I can say that victims of eating disorders often keep it all inside, tell their parents that they are fine, and go on living with an awful disease while their family has no idea. Even if the extra attention is annoying, it is better to be safe then sorry when it comes to helping a loved one overcome an eating disorder.
 
perpetuallydancing This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm
This piece really touched me... your voice came out and this is beautiful.
 
AlyssOfWonderBread said...
Dec. 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm
I found this article to really hit home, [I am in treatment for an eating disorder], and it really sucks when you have days where YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY and your parents make you eat beyond bloating... Plus, it really sucks about your friend. I had an overdose once, and my friend had to make a choice between taking me to the hospital or potentially having me die. It was one of the hardest things for her to do, so I can be sympathetic with your friend, but with you as well... because, well, recovery... (more »)
 
Kyioko said...
Dec. 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm
I really like this piece! I can really understand how you felt when you had/have the eating disorder! I got really annoyed with the friend who snitched on you though, she knew you had dealt with it she should have left you alone. Your boyfriend seems really nice to help you through that though.
 
PaperIdeas said...
Dec. 29, 2011 at 9:44 am
Do you go to a boarding school? It mentioned that you left for school in September and returned in October...just wondering. But otherwise, great piece! Your voice has a lot of emotion in it.
 
Shmelmo said...
Dec. 29, 2011 at 8:38 am
This really made me realize all the negative things that come out of bulimia. It has honestly gave me a new out look on eating disorders. Thank you so much for sharing.
 
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