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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!

-DreamForever- said...
Jun. 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm:
The way everyone reacted to you reminds me of the way everyone reacted to me when they found out I cut myself.  No one believes me when I say I'm okay, even when I am.  I'm glad you had your boyfriend to help you when things got bad. 
 
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ShadowriderThis 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 2:17 pm:
This is really good and really well written
 
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Cerberus said...
May 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm:
i like it!!
 
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Alexa19 said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm:
This article is really good, and inspirational! I'm glad you shared it, so others will understand how hard it is to control eating disorders. My best friend was anorexic and I know all of the struggles that she had. Please stay strong!
 
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123mikey rules said...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm:
this trit is crazy if you bilimic thn just except that bu tyou should realze that people are gonna care 
 
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3moh3art11639 said...
Apr. 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm:
WOW! im very shocked you wrote something so persoanl but its needed becuase than maybe it can help other people in the long run its truly beautiful i loved it, and i never knew what purging really did to you intel after i read this thanks
 
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Hammi said...
Apr. 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm:

Good Article. :)

 

 
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buzzedbysmh said...
Apr. 7, 2011 at 6:32 pm:
Thank you so much for this. Many women in my family struggle with eating disorders and we all struggle with different things. Mine personally is binging and wanting to throw up. I usually sit and think maybe no one will catch me but i sit and try hard not to think about it. This really opened my eyes to the damage i could cause myself in the long run.
 
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Aderes18This 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...
Apr. 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm:
This sounds like the ravings of a crazy person. 
 
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kahlua319 said...
Mar. 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm:
I understand why a lot of people are defending Kelli but I agree with your stance more. I struggled with eating disorders for years, but only mentioned it to my best friend towards the end. It's not just feeling betrayed though- She never told anybody else and never brought it up again, yet everytime I'm with her I feel like she doesn't view me the same. Part feels like she'll never see me as being better and another part feels as though .... idk she has to tiptoe around me and is uncomfortable.... (more »)
 
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Hart said...
Mar. 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm:
I have OCD.  I try to avoid showing symptoms over holidays.  I still haven't told my Granny.  I don't want the disorder stigma around me.  It makes me feel tainted.  I get this.
 
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Kimalima said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm:
I know its not exactly the same thing, but my friend used to cut herself. A mutual friend of our told her older sister, my math teacher, who told the principal. Now my friend is really mad at her. The thing is, we DO care, because with any disorder u hurt your body. And you're amazing, so you don't need to do this. Basically i think kelli did the right thing.
 
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ArcaneGhost said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 6:37 pm:

I really think you're missing the point. You think you know what you're talking about, but you don't. Heck, I don't know a thing when it comes to stuff like this, but I know that this reply trying to give advice just really bothers me. The whole story was screaming that she didn't need help, or need advice. I just know that I would be absoulutely alienated from that friend who betrayed trust like that, and here you are, chastizing her for God knows what reason. Wake up, Bell.

Thanks fo... (more »)

 
ArcaneGhost replied...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm :

Ugh, I was trying to reply to a comment, this is going towards _Bell_.

Eh, I feel stupid.

Anyways, the first part is toward anyone who makes the case that it's not the friend's fault. I'd be mad.

 
soccergoalie6 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm :
you can be mad. go right ahead for all i care but what would you do if you were her friend and you did research like she did? most caring and sensible people would let someone know so they could end the problem right there! i personally think it's just dumb when people criticise others when they dont even TRY to see where they are coming from
 
ArcaneGhost replied...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm :
I have been trying to look at it from all points of view. I understand the point about telling others about the situation to help the person. But I really think that the person who's hurting point of view trumps the person who think's they need to help somehow. Sometimes people don't NEED to be helped. You aren't helping by blabbing to a parent or whatever, especially when in this case, she told Kelly that she had gotten better. All it did was make her resent the trust she had put in that... (more »)
 
ArcaneGhost replied...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm :

Eh, I need to make one more post to clear things up.

The only reason that I am totally exasperated with Kelli is because she wouldn't listen or give Lindsay a chance to prove that she had gotten better. I would do the same thing and tell, but only if I was for freakin sure that they still were hurting themselves.

And I've seen a pattern. Once the concerned friend decides to tell somone else about a disorder, the person they tell thinks it's everyone's business. It sounds fro... (more »)

 
soccergoalie6 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm :
i"m not trying to be rude or anything by this conversation just so that's clear. But when someone has an eating disorder it comes back in most cases because noone is really better i know this from family experience and a ton of nonfiction books so its good to have at least a parent know to watch for it if it comes back again even if the disorder isnt "active"(that was the only word i could come up with) sorry if the way im talking seems snooty im not trying to be maybe well talk again und... (more »)
 
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messed_chick said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 3:54 pm:
I would seriously leave my house if my parents didn't trust me. Must've sucked.
 
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cuppid said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm:
this article is outstanding.keep the good work up
 
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