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My head starts to spin and my eyes begin to hurt as I stand up. Looking briefly at what I ate for dinner in the toilet before I flush it gives me a sense of satisfaction and control. I have been doing this for more than a year now and I have never felt better – or worse.
I feel better because I feel more in control of my body; like I’m controlling what food does to me, not the other way around. I know my trigger foods, and I know what I can eat without feeling guilty. But there are few of these. I eat breakfast so I don’t get migraines and at lunch, if I eat anything, it’s a plate of tomatoes with salt and pepper or macaroni and cheese , but it doesn’t stay in my stomach long. Cake at dinner is a staple, as is bread and rice and whatever else I feel like eating, mixed with a lot of milk, which helps it come up. One of the stalls in the “Faculty, Staff, and Guest” bathroom has a thick door that locks and a window so that during the day I can see without having to turn on the light and the fan and not hear someone coming in. It’s harder to do it at night, but I have learned which times are easiest.
I know that there are others, but we don’t talk. Especially not about food. We are not friends. Whoever said “It takes one to know one” wasn’t kidding. You can recognize the white spots on their teeth and the redness in their eyes and you know right away that you’re looking at your reflection. Often these girls are the best – at school, sports, music, dance, whatever – and always appear very strong, a useful facade for keeping a secret.
Before I quit, I had only told one person, a best friend, and that was only because she asked how I stayed so skinny and I didn’t want to say something obnoxious like “I can eat whatever I want and not gain an ounce.” So I told her. She didn’t judge me. She wasn’t eating much either, so she understood.
I had a few close calls. A roommate who had a sister like me confronted me after noticing my body wither during swim practice, but I told her that swimming for two hours a day would make anyone thin. She knew I was lying but we left it at that. A different roommate walked in on me once and I just told her I was sick. She didn’t think twice. Once we were at Denny’s and I guess I had been gone for a long time because, when I got back to the table, everyone was joking about how I had been puking in the bathroom. I just laughed along.
It’s hard to do it. It hurts, first of all, but you have to distance yourself from a lot of people for it to work. You can’t let anyone come to the bathroom with you, which is contrary to feminine instinct, and you can’t talk about anything serious because you don’t want to slip and tell them. You let a few people get close to you and that’s it. Restaurants are easy because they have single bathrooms with doors that lock and loud fans. I used to go to Boston Market with my dad and get turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and root beer and have a great time. He had no idea. Mostly because I am so “strong” and so “independent.” I guess that’s why everyone was so shocked when I told them. My boyfriend at the time freaked out and thought that it was his fault, and that it wasn’t cool to have a girlfriend with “problems.”
My friends and my mother were totally shocked when I told them. My mother was half the reason that I did it. She had gone to the same school I do, but was a lot thinner. She reminded me often with comments like “When I was your age, I was a lot thinner than you are” or “You’re not skinny, you know” or “Have you put on some weight?” when I didn’t feel like I had and didn’t need to hear her insult me. I think she’s jealous of my strength and intelligence, two qualities she did not have when she was my age, so she tries to make me feel bad for lacking her strong points: her physique and her social activity. I disconnected myself from a lot of people and I suffer from that still. It also gives you a bad attitude when your friends are skinnier than you. You always size people up, girls more than boys, because you constantly have to know where you stand in relation to them. If they look better than you, you have no control of the unconscious hate for them that invades your consciousness.
I had to tell the administration at school what was going on for them to let me stay home for the few days I needed to quit. I hated having them know, having them talk about me in faculty meeting, the girl with the “eating issues.” I didn’t then and I don’t now like having them know anything about me, my body or my real life. I had to go through mandatory counseling with this woman that I grew to like a lot. Another girl from school was seeing her, and she was the kind of therapist who specializes in my problem, so we had a sort of silent respect and understanding though we don’t speak to each other about anything and aren’t really friends.
It’s funny (well, maybe not funny exactly), but interesting to look back and see what I put myself through. I have a picture of Kate Moss on my wall that says in big black marker “YOU ARE NOT MY IDOL” but that’s a lie. I don’t want to be her or look like her, but you can’t help but know that she symbolizes what I am supposed to be. This impossible standard of “slenderness” makes many things challenging. It’s hard to concentrate on school work, hard to love, hard to let people love you, because you think all the time, “How could he/she love me? I’m so fat and heinous and disgusting and stupid I don’t see how anyone could want me.”
Even though I haven’t done it in three months, there isn’t one day that goes by when I don’t think about it, and think about doing it. I have come close many times but have succeeded in resisting. Sort of. I don’t look at it as a success; the hardest thing to say is “I know I’m beautiful even in this short skirt, and everyone knows it, including me.”
Even now, with my incredibly wonderful, great and supportive boyfriend, I feel gross sometimes. He really does love me the way I am and I believe him when he says it and he’s helped me a lot. He still wants to see me naked in the light but I haven’t worked up to that yet. But it’s okay. I’m moving, slowly. I work out and I eat the best I can, treating myself to potato chips or jelly beans or nachos every once in a while, but it seems the less I care about what I eat, the less it can do to me. Maybe someday the fist ruling my world will be not one of iron, but one of my own.