When Your Reflection is All You're Worth: Bulimia in Retrospect This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Denton, TX
The most unsurpassable obstacle that I have faced thus far in my years is myself. But it’s more than just who I am. It’s also everything that I have been shaped to be; it’s everything that I have absorbed and everything that my environment has wanted me to become. It’s everything that makes me who I am, but everything that I would never be under a different light. If we strip away all that our circumstances have made us be, how much would be left? A lot? A little? Nothing at all? It’s easy to try to deny our affiliation with the outside world, with society and those who run it, but we can never truly escape. What we think we don’t take to heart, is still absorbed through the skin, through the ears, through the eyes. Everything that has been thrown our way, whether positive, negative, or entirely neutral, has gone into the creation of the statue that is erected of us. And sometimes the shadow of that statue is the most haunting of them all.

For as long as I can remember, I have been the fat girl. Of course there were always many other adjectives that I found myself labeled with, amongst those are ugly, mean, and vainglorious, but none have stuck as well as fat. And, sure, I was. Am. But there’s something titillating about the blatant attempts to cause me harm, no? However, I certainly never needed to hear the word because I always knew. Yes, thank you for telling me, kind soul, for I was unaware of this state of being which has plagued me since, I dare say, my infancy. But no one ever cared about my apparent knowledge of the subject at hand. Although, at the time, the insults seemed to rebound, I find now they stuck like glue. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to save myself from the damage. And even though I’ve never really been that fat, somehow I was not impervious to believing that I was, believing that I still am.

When I was fifteen, I’d had enough. I was tired of being hated for who and what I was, and I was tired of hating myself for being hated. So I tried to change it in the only way I knew how: a sure path to death, if only followed long enough. The idea of such drastic measures had sickened me before the way that, at the time, the idea of being fat sickened me. I suppose you don’t think about the rational solutions when you are plagued by all the things that make you crave so desperately those that are irrational. I never even realized that I was on the way to starting a problem that I wouldn’t want to solve.

I never really considered the fact that I could be bulimic. I always thought that bulimics were those who threw up everything they ate without really realizing that there are other forms. Exercise is good to an extent, but when you tirelessly work to negate all that you just consumed immediately after consuming it, you cross the line into an eating disorder. What a surprise to me when I found out. That didn’t last long, though. So, I tried something else.

I was completely aware, that time, of the label my actions would take. I’d surely be on the path to bulimia if I continued. To my dismay, however, the first time I tried to throw up, I was incapable. My gift of never throwing up turned, at that moment, into a burden. For ten minutes, I tried and tried and tried, but my probing fingers were unable to produce the desired response. That night I gave up, wiping salty tears from my eyes with my shoulders as I scrubbed my hands clean of what I had just done, swearing off the act forever.

Forever took the form of twenty-four hours.

Twenty-four hours later, I was back at the porcelain, praying to whatever God, asking for him to give me ability to purge everything I had just consumed. None of the Gods answered my prayer, though, and I left again with tear-stained cheeks. I never cried out of anguish, sadness, or fear, however. Every time that I cried during the act, it was from the act itself. The watery-eyes were a natural reaction to what I was trying to force myself to do. I was entirely indifferent to it all. When I should have been sad at the fact that I had let myself go that far, I felt nothing. When I should have been afraid of what could happen to me, I felt nothing. Looking back, that’s what scares me the most about the heinous deed. If I had cared, maybe I would have stopped myself before I actually succeeded.

Thanksgiving. What a wonderful time of year to get together with your family and celebrate the amity between the skilled Indians and the clueless Pilgrims. What a wonderful time of year to start an eating disorder.

The day that school got out for our Thanksgiving break, I went to a football game with my friend. I had eaten absolutely nothing all day and I felt absolutely glorious. Even then, I only felt truly happy when I felt empty. The game wasn’t a success, ending in my school’s defeat, but I didn’t care. They played well and they made it far, it was all anyone could really ask for. But I got home and I was starving. It was around 11 PM, but my family members were still awake.

I walked into the living room and my mother and stepfather greeted me. They asked me how the game went and I replied, not willing to exchange much more than that, for I felt faint. I just wanted to go to bed, but my stomach had other ideas. It wanted to announce to the world that I was hungry. “Did you eat anything at the game?” my mom asked. “No.” “Well you should eat; it’s been almost twelve hours since your lunch.” I suppose it would have been a good time to mention to her that I had not eaten lunch that day, but since she was staring me down like an eagle, I decided to appease her.

What did we have to eat? But, of course, it was pizza night. Yum. I grabbed a slice without really trying to see what it was and threw myself onto the couch as my parents watched something on TV. It tasted good, but I hated every minute. After nibbling the piece until it was gone, I stood up and announced to my family that I was going to spend as long as possible in the shower and then sleep for the rest of eternity. It sounded like a good idea. After exchanging “goodnight’s”, I went upstairs, grabbed a towel and some comfortable pants, and locked myself in the bathroom. It was then that I felt sick. Nauseated. I turned on the vent fan and stripped myself of clothing. Like usual, my back was turned on the mirror. Then I turned on the water, letting it heat up for a moment.

I slowly turned and picked my discarded clothes from the floor. I turned my back on the mirror again, and folded each item of clothing neatly before exhaling slowly and setting the items next to the sink. I tried to avoid my reflection, but I caught a glimpse of flesh in the mirror. I looked up and horror struck me. I was appalled, like usual, by what I saw. I couldn’t tear my gaze away, though. After what seemed like ages, I stepped away from the sink and grabbed my phone, turning the music on as loud as possible to drown out my thoughts.
And then the thought hit me. What if I tried just once more? I felt lucky, and with the running water and violent music creating an unmovable wall of sound, I dropped to my knees and tried once again. I guess the third time really is the charm. I purged everything in that slice of pizza, and I took the burning in my throat as a sign of victory. I beat my inability to vomit. I didn’t consider the sort of repercussions that it could have, though. I didn’t really think that I would ever do it again.

That week, I did it four more times. The following weeks, I purged at least three times per week. There were people that knew, of course; people who were like me and people that I had made friends with through social media websites. They understood my pain and my problem. And eventually, all of them, me included, agreed that I needed to tell someone real. So, I told my mom.

I guess parents don’t like it when you tell them that you have an eating disorder. Who would have guessed? I was a mess when I told her. I cried enough tears to wet the Sahara and I think I even blamed her at one point. It’s all somewhat blurry. She told me to stop. And I’ve always been one to do as I’m told, so I did. I stopped.

It’s funny how I can turn it on and off as I please. I stopped vomiting my meals for a whole month. It wasn’t even hard. I just remembered that my mom told me to stop, and I obeyed. What a good daughter I am. But then Christmas break started in mid-December and I threw away every thought of convalescing because it wasn’t even as if I was legitimately bulimic. So, I started purging again with regularity. Until my mom found out.

I hadn’t been as careful as usual one night at the end of December. My brother heard me and that was the end of my secrecy. I cried as my mom screamed at me. She eventually calmed herself as I curled myself into a ball, feeling so sad that I wanted to vomit. I had never felt that way before I started purging. I suppose I mentally tricked myself into believing that every problem I have can be cured if I just throw up. Purging became a simple fix to all my problems. Sad? Purge. Angry? Purge. Tired? Purge. Disgusted? Purge. It’s as if that’s all that there was.

I started being more careful after that, refusing to reform myself because I knew that I would eventually slip into the cycle again. It wasn’t difficult for me to deny the urges, but I just didn’t want to. Why stop something when you don’t want to? You can’t get better if you don’t want to. You can’t get better if you don’t think you have a problem. But, of course, I had a problem. I knew that I had a problem. Everyone knew that I had a problem. I still said that I didn’t, though.

It has only been seven months since I purged the first time, and even though I’m still stuck in the cycle, I’m confident that one day I will stop. I don’t want to stop today, but maybe tomorrow will shed light on the gravity of the situation.

But I’m still stuck in the shadow of my statue, in a continuous face-off against the only demon that one really ever has: himself. It’s curious to see how affected I was by it all when I clung heavily to my beliefs that I was unfazed when every second I was being molded by circumstance. It’s a pity the effect that circumstance can have on a person, isn’t it?





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