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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.




Join the Discussion

This article has 184 comments. Post your own now!

emmacxoxoThis 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...
Aug. 10, 2010 at 12:18 am
i felt the exact same way with my sis, and actually had a similar situation with my friend...its so hardd, i had anorexia not bullimia tho...both r terrible
 
Coop123 said...
Aug. 1, 2010 at 8:20 am
Sad. I'll say that. And your frend was hust trying to help. But its okay.
 
Madison22 said...
Jul. 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm
I'm sorry but I have to ask...why would you be so mad at your friend? All she was doing was trying to protect you, she cared so much that she was crying, that she was scared? And you got mad? Not thankful? Sooooo...I get that your annoyed because no one believes you, but your not still mad at your friend are you? I like the story!! Real good stuff!!
 
SilverSnowflakes said...
Jul. 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm

That's depressing :( I hope you get better soon. I haven't thrown up in like 5 years, even when I get the stomach flu.

I don't have an eating disorder, but my mom keeps asking me if I'm anorexic. I'm not losing weight and I don't appear to be getting taller but I'm going down sizes in pants and I have no idea how that is happening...

 
Shay. said...
Jul. 2, 2010 at 10:44 am
You are a beautiful writer and i understand how you feel, i am currently struggling with an eating disorder. Its sad that you lost the trust of your best friend...i hope things will get better for you.
 
A_Dreamer said...
Jun. 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

That was so sad, it made me want to cry.

You are a very talented writer, it must be hard to share this with so many people like this.

I hope that you feel better and get better!

 
xAllegria said...
Jun. 27, 2010 at 2:41 am
The first time I read this I felt disgust at being caught up in such a situation, the second time frustration for the trust you lost. Hope it gets better for you.
 
selenaluv15 said...
Jun. 16, 2010 at 6:13 am
i understand what this feels like im not sure i had an eating disorder but i did eat so few at one point for about three months and my emotions just went out of control and my period stopped and i still havent got it back after recovering
 
MeganCahill This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Hi. I have an eating disorder too, and I know how difficult it is. I have been to inpatient treatment several times and am still working towards recovery. I hope for you that you are too, because you're very talented.

 

You should read my poem, "I have been dead before."

 

It is about eating disorders and how tough they are, but it's also about how much better it feels to be without it.

Good luck.

 
icanonlyimaginthewayshedreams said...
Jun. 8, 2010 at 10:30 am
This was such a powerful story. i dont thank i could be a string as you.
 
DanceAwayThis 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...
May 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm
This is really intense. Good job.
 
charzard said...
May 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm
wow. this is a great essay. i'm so sorry you had to struggle with that. i've lost my best friend twice over something little. this isn't little, but i know how losing your best friend feels. good luck!
 
MessyJessie said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm

wow. you must be soo brave to be able to share this with the world. (:

this is a great essay.

 
Leahler said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm
Thank you so much for sharing your story, you wrote it out so well and it was really brave. I was so glad I came upon this for more reasons than one.
 
HeronHero said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 12:31 am
I just want to say that it was really brave of you to write this, you did it so well. That I'm truelly sorry for what you've had to go through and that I know how it feels when someone breaks your trust and how hard it can be to finally tell someone something so personal. I'm sure your friend had her reasons but she should'nt have told on you, that was'nt fair. So I'm sorry for that and everything else, and I hope you're better now!
 
Demetra said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 8:13 pm
Thankyou so much for sharing this. It must be hard, but its an amzing story..I hope your okay now.
 
LostAngel said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm
Great yet sad story. Thank you so much for sharing your story :)
 
ClaireMarie said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm
I've been thinking lately about becoming bulimic. I'm scared slightly about it. Even after reading this I'm slightly partial. I hate the way I look. I always complain about it. But I was in Bible class today, and my teacher was saying that when we criticize our bodies, we criticize God's beautiful and perfect creation. Oh, I believe you.
 
Emmy13329 said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 3:40 pm
I love your article but you really scared me because my friend is really thin and stuff and she thinks she's fat and she might turn bulimic,I"M REALLY SCARED :(
 
letchworthlover:] replied...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm
not all people will turn bulimic if they think they are fat. although she might think she is fat... help her self confidence buy reminding her every day that she is beautiful every day and that she doesnt need to do that to her self to believe that she is. It is a very scary thing and if you REAlLY believe she will hurt her self in ANY way. TELL some one. a parent. a teacher. another friend. SOMEONE. 
 
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