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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!

WingardiumLeviosa said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 7:14 am:
I'm not bullimic but I'm kind of anorexic.... I eat dinner but not breakfast and lunch only sometimes
 
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outsidethebox said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 1:23 pm:
YOu are absolutely talented and i likehow you turned this life changing experience into something we can all read and sympathize with. GREAT job this is going on as one of my favorites!
 
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hopehaswings said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 5:16 am:
wow you really got it right. i'm struggling a lot with bulimia... and the worst part isn't the bulimia! its the way people treat you when they find out. so thanks for sharing.
 
Ahbreejerae replied...
May 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm :
I know how you feel
 
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ellie315 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm:
Your friend did the right thing. I feel your pain, but your family needed to know.
 
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ArabQuest said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 10:01 am:
I love how you wrote this story! I hope that you fell better! 
 
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Griffinwing said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 8:25 am:
This is one the of best things I have ever read on TeenInk. I used to be a cutter and was sucidial. After a year of hiding it with my boyfriend, he couldn't take it anymore and he told. The time afterward was the worst five months I have ever experienced. We broke up. He doesn't talk to me anymore, never sees me. I lost the person I loved the most, but that's what it took to make it better. Don't let it get like that. Don't lose Kelli because she did the right thing. She's looking out for you an... (more »)
 
Dragondust replied...
Jan. 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm :
Griffinwing is right. Don't lose your best friend because of that. She loved you too much to let you do that to yourself and you shouldn't repay her by ignoring her. It takes realy strong powerful friendship and love to go against someone's wishes to protect them.
 
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MarissaLaGrange said...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 7:19 am:

Every person has a different body shape. Some are meant to be skinny, some are meant to be curvy.

Though I've also struggled with my self image, I used to starve myself, I got anorexic, but the punishment I got was when I gained everything I had lost back, plus more. Now I struggle more to lose weight and still can't do it no matter what I do.

So the point is to accept who you are, take what is given to you and work your way to believeing that your, you and nobo... (more »)

 
MarissaLaGrange replied...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 7:20 am :
Uhh, I don't know why it repeated my comment.. So I'm sorry about that.
 
MrsLadySlimShady replied...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm :

This was such an amazing piece.

MarissaLaGrange is right. The same thing happened to me. You're a very talented writer-Keep it up!

I know everyone looks the way they do for a certain reason, but I hate my body, myself, and everything about me. But for some reason, this piece got me thinking. Great job!

 
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KathrynWilks8492 said...
Jan. 8, 2011 at 10:53 pm:
This was an amazing story and I felt like i really connected with you. I have stuggles with my body image and although I've never purged, Ive forced myself to not eat for days at a time untill I see something I can't resist. Your friend only told your parents because she cared but at the same time you lost your parents trust. My mother knows how i am when I'm upset and forces me to eat and everyday will ask me what I have eaten, and most of the time I have to lie just to get her off my case. Eat... (more »)
 
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Eielen A. said...
Dec. 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm:
hey i know exactly what your going through ive recently overcome bulimia and i get all that your saying but please try to work things out with your friend because i know that she cares soo much bc that takes guts to tell and she had a right to worrry b/c one of the symptoms is lying about it
 
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Inkfan said...
Dec. 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm:
Hey Lindsay, I just wanted to tell you that things are going to be better soon :)  Have a Merry Christmas!  
 
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SecretSasha said...
Dec. 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm:
Great article! If this is true, sorry you had/have to go through this, it's very challanging to deal with.
 
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abimuffykitty said...
Dec. 10, 2010 at 1:55 pm:
i know many people that are anorexic or bulemic. it isnt worth it. i see what it does to their lives and it kills me! i have always been a normal weight, and being a girl, it never seems good enough. i have thought several times of making myself throw up or just stop eating all together, but i remind myself of stories i've heard, people i've met/or seen, and all the terrible health problems that come with it. trust me its not worth starting! those of you who are, get help! people love you and wa... (more »)
 
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reenay_95 said...
Nov. 28, 2010 at 8:32 pm:
to think i tried to make myself vomit earlier today...
 
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blogger887 said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 9:20 pm:
that is a similiar story to mine, i started cutting myself then my two bestestfriends ever told the guidance councelor and she told my mom and i had to lie to my mom, and i also am going anorexia i wanted to be bulimic but too many people it would be impossible
 
Inkfan replied...
Dec. 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm :
Come on, girl, you're better then that.  Chin up!  :) 
 
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Medina D. said...
Nov. 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm:
i never knew you could become bulimic. i thought you were born with it
 
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