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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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This article has 182 comments. Post your own!

avarose101 said...
Oct. 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm:
The writer did an amazing job capturing her experience with bulimia, and making me feel like I was there with her. 
 
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Duckie430This 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...
Oct. 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm:
I'm not sure if I've already commented on this yet or not, but this is truly an amazingly well-written piece that is extremely personal and brings the reader into the author's experience. I can relate alot because I have dealt with eating disorders since I was 11 & I'm 19 now & still struggling; been in & out of hospitals & treatment for a long time. Alot of things written about eating disorders don't always seem real or genuine. Yours did. Thank you for sharing.
 
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MarchL said...
Oct. 2, 2011 at 1:40 pm:
One of the most honest pieces of work I've read so far. I'm proud of you for staying strong and being able to escape bulimia. Stay strong and never forget that communication with family is very important. Silence is destruction's best friend.
 
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Fausto said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 10:49 am:
Heartbreaking, brave, to the point, I Love It.
 
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Harebelle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 19, 2011 at 11:57 am:
Wow, you are so brave to write this! The writing is wonderful and the story is one that needs to be told. Well done!
 
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PennyM.L said...
Aug. 4, 2011 at 7:24 am:
really glad you changed your mind, bulimia is horrible. :(
 
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Sunset_on_tomorrow said...
Jul. 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm:
I love this piece... the writing is wonderful! But I would just like to say that I think Kelli was being a  great friend. She told your parents because she was worried about you, and she wanted them to know what had happened so they could deal with it again. Plus, these things have a tendency to come back, like cancer. It's not always the person's fault; the reflux, for example, is the bulimia make a reappearance. They just want to make sure you're okay. Thank you for sharing this piece!
 
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palalandrea said...
Jul. 28, 2011 at 10:02 am:
This was incredibly well written. Your emotions seep through it. I loved this so much :)
 
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inkers said...
Jul. 28, 2011 at 12:33 am:
Very good work. I'm so glad someone shed more light on the subject. <3
 
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NinjaHummingbird said...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm:
Your friend Kelli is actually a very good friend, you may have died without her. I hope you get better soon. :)
 
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birdcage2 said...
Jul. 7, 2011 at 7:53 pm:
Good job!! I could really like feel what you were feeling!! Great job and I. Hope you get better soon!!
 
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SwallowedByInsanity This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 8:05 pm:
i was actually considering bulimia because i'm getting frustrated that i keep excercising and eating healthy but not getting results... this story has sincerely changed my mind. so thank u <3
 
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garthgirl8888 said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm:
I think that you should forgive your friend. She was only
 
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Pure-Enchanted said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm:
That was incredibly emotional. I dn't mean to be rude, but are you bulimic? Anyway I think you touched the topic in a very realistic way.
 
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Brittany=) said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm:
This is amazing, your story is so touching ! :|
 
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annexgrey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 6:38 am:

Thank you so much for sharing your account of your story. And not only is your story powerful, but your words are also beautiful. 

You're an amazing person. You've gone through so much and you will no doubt go through the other end, unimaginably more powerful. 

I'm actually doing a film on bulimia, so I'm personally very grateful for being able to hear your story.

Thank you from everyone, really, for being willing to be so honest and open. 

Best of l... (more »)

 
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WishfulDoerThis 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. said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 3:11 am:
The thing about not being trusted by your family really hit a nerve in me...I can totally relate. I wish you all the luck in the world. P.S.: Keep writing, you're really good! c:
 
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fignewton527 said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 12:45 am:
I'm crying. This story hits really close with me. Except when I told my parents.. they didn't believe me. They still don't. I've stopped... for th emost part.. I cracked the other day. But I'm doing so much better now. I love love love this story. added to favorites. Thank you so much for posting this :') It's nice to know you're not alone
 
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Gymnastgirl26 said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 12:12 am:
This story hits really close to home, and it's well written. Good job :)
 
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Hermione700This 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. said...
Jun. 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm:
This was so awesome!!!! :P B) i really liked how your writers voice made it so much cooler.
 
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