Edibles: the Sweet, the Sour, and the Regurgitated

April 15, 2008
Turning eleven meant I had more responsibilities to uphold and more choices to make. I changed a lot; emotionally and mentally. By this time, I could describe myself as a candy bar. Outside was the chocolate coating, where there were no bumps or ridges, where I appeared to be a happy, normal little girl, and inside were the almonds and peanuts and nougat and caramel, where I had so many mixed emotions I could be ecstatic one minute and tear tracks could be glistening down my face the next. No one had the faintest suspicion that I was eating away at myself. Internally, a war was raging. But the enemy was not even of human nature. The assailant had no substance and was imperceptible. The assailant, although insubstantial, put a large amount of pressure upon my shoulders. My rival was none other than body image. How I perceived my body influenced all of my actions from here on out. I thought I just had to have the “look” or my peers would ostracize me. I was terrified I would become a pariah in a body of students who were perfectly happy in their little cliques. And I hated my body. I didn’t think my waist was slender enough, and I had the impression that I was just too big. These were the triggers that would cause my life to take a dramatic turn for the worst.

Gradually, my body turned from its natural form, into its mechanical form: a time bomb. The summer before my eleventh birthday I deprived myself of food in an urgent effort to lose a large amount of weight. Then it became worse. On the occasion I did eat, I ate a lot and forced myself to rid of the food by making myself throw it up. Time was running out. My hair grew bristly, thin and began to break and split severely. My skin became dry, scaly and cracked. I induced vomiting so frequently that I lost consciousness due to dehydration and I acquired scars on my knuckles. I began to force myself to vomit so violently that the blood vessels around my eyes began to pop, and I had to look away from people to hide the cherry red spots around my eyes. When my knuckles became a dark purple color and I felt cold all the time because I wasn’t taking in enough calories to regulate my body temperature, I knew something had to be done.

About nine months after I started showing signs of bulimia, one of my acquaintances found out what I had been doing in the bathroom after lunch and she told the counselor. I am full of gratitude toward her; for she is the angel who saved my being from its would-be horrific fate. After an elongated and uninteresting tryst with the counselor, she called home, and shortly after I had arrived home from school that day, I had to inform my mom of everything that had happened at my confrontation with the school shrink.

During a two-and-a-half hour lecture my mother gave me, she informed me that everybody has a different body and everybody is supposed to have a different body type. I discovered that not everyone is naturally skinny. I believe that God created us as who we are for a reason. She enlightened me to the fact that starving yourself or forcing yourself to vomit after eating is like digging yourself a grave.

I now know better than to fall into the trap of bulimia; I was digging myself a grave. Drilled into my head is the fact that I am perfect the way I am, and I believe there are so many women and girls who need to know the same thing. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing myself with too many bodily defects, I now see myself as a blissful, healthy, normal fourteen-year-old girl. When I was ill, in an effort to improve the way I perceived myself in the mirror, my friends would say I looked fine, that they loved me just the way I was. My skepticism of their words only made my eating behaviors worse; I vomited more frequently and I compared myself to the celebrities who seemingly had no visible defects on their bodies. My weight was constantly on my mind, and whenever I lost a colossal amount of weight I just had to lose more. Being placed on this earth is a privilege that does not deserve to be taken for granted. After all, we are not the ones who gave us life.
Sharing my story is the only way I know how to discourage unhealthy eating habits. It’s also the only way I know how to cease all these clichés made that say black people can’t have eating disorders. I’m living verification that it’s not true. Anybody can have an eating disorder; nobody is immune, which includes boys as well as girls. When people say your condition can improve should you find yourself indisposed with an illness such as mine, you better believe it! But it’s not mandatory to go to a therapy group. My obligation was to first try and get better on my own. I didn’t need some weirdo with a soft, sympathetic voice asking me ‘and how does that make you feel?’ telling me what to do. I wanted to be my own dictator. I recovered with this motivational thought: that I would perish if I did not discover the erroneous pattern in my ways. I set goals for myself. I went a week without purging. Then two weeks. Then a month. I wrote to express my feelings; jumped and screamed and ran a mile to express anger or frustration. I started eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoiding the junk food aisle in the grocery store. And most importantly: threw away all those negative thoughts to make room for the positive ones.

I am a strong individual and I am a fighter. I am better than bulimia and I will not let it take control of my life. I will not let traumatic events from my past keep me from reaching my future. I will only permit them to make me physically and emotionally stronger. I know that I am perfectly capable of controlling and expressing my emotions in ways that will not harm me or anybody else. I realize that there is only one of me, and once I am gone no one will take my place. The wires were disconnected from the bomb; victory is mine; I saved me from me.

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