Here I am, once again, perched over the toilet like a solemn parakeet in its cage, unable to escape, but can see the outside world. To everyone else, I’m average sized, but to me, I’m far from it. Although my clothing fits well, I tend disregard that arbitrary metric. You see, it’s not the clothes, the mirror, or others who decide my worth: it’s me. It always has been, and likely always will be. I’m a relatively normal person; except I’m a male with an eating disorder.
On the outside: I’m outgoing, funny, charming, and all-around extroverted. On the inside: I’m broken, sad, distrustful, and angry-- at everyone and no one. My (ex) girlfriend was the first person I told of my struggle, in a grocery store of all places. She was dumbfounded: piecing together what she just heard, fighting back tears, and mumbling under her breath. I didn’t mean to tell her, but It just slipped out. She made me promise to never do it again, and I’d break that promise-- several times.
It all started over a stupid, locker-room joke. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it felt like it. Now, I’ve always had thick-ish skin, but it still seemed to penetrate through my defenses. I left shortly after, and stepped out of the freezing rink into the hot, summer sun. Still shaking, I got in my car, put the keys in the ignition, and drove to work. After less than an hour, I was sent on a much-needed break. It provided me a chance to escape the “excitement” of being a theme-park carnie, and it gave me a chance to eat my feelings away. This had become a regular, vicious cycle in my life. I’d invariably feel down, eat too much, feel worse, eat more, feel even worse, and eat even more. I wasn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, I was 5’7” and 178 pounds. Being a year-round, two-sport athlete, this was perfect for me, but I failed to see it as such. After feasting, I went to the bathroom to be alone. I still felt sick from the day, and turned to the toilet in a momentary lapse of judgement. The tears ran faster than the vomit from my chin, and I felt a sense of relief. Not because I felt better, but because I didn’t feel worse.
This happened five more times that week, and the scale finally showed me the fruits of my labor. Three pounds less than the week before. As a person, I hated it, but as a character, I loved it. This meant I could finally tame my weight, even though it wasn’t a necessity. This happened daily for three months until I was happy. I went to school as a happy, 163-pound, charismatic me. People noticed the weight--or lack thereof-- almost immediately; in fact, it gave me the courage to talk to my (ex) girlfriend for the first time.
I was happy until the weight returned. I slowly, but surely, returned to my old, destructive habits. This made hockey season a living, breathing hell. Throwing up seven times on the team bus only exacerbated my already-growing problem. The signs were there, but people were unmindful-- or willfully ignorant. Even my own mother, whose intuition rivals the most stringent, sharp-eyed detective, still was unaware of my growing problem.
The problem wasn’t difficult to mask, either. I’d do it late at night, outside of the house, or with music playing loudly. It became almost ritualistic. It became a science. It became my reality.
Eventually, one day, my mother asked me if I was a binge-eater. I denied it until she was satisfied, but my (ex) girlfriend protested. She’d encouraged me to seek help for over a year, and I refused on the grounds that I didn’t find it to be problematic. I saw it as a normal part of life. A day later, I tearfully texted the contents of my story to my mother. She responded with a simple, “I had a hunch”, and that was that.
The drive home was the scariest, unnerving, fearful 15-minutes of my short life. Why wouldn’t it be? I poured the last year-and-a-half out on a small, touch-screen keyboard. Simple, typed words fail to do justice to the problem I was facing-- and still face.
I got help, and it worked. My girlfriend and I broke up. We’re soon-to-be freshmen at different schools, in different states, in different parts of our lives, but we’ve managed to be alright. As of now, I’m alright, and I’m sure it will remain this way. My relationship with food is a double-edged sword, but I’m learning to rest on the “better” of the two edges. I’m almost a month puke-free, and have never been happier. The constant need to throw-up has almost ceased. It’s a miracle that it’s no longer pavlovian in nature, in regards to the binge-and-purge cycle. If you’re reading this, and you have endured bulimia: It gets better, I promise. I’m living, breathing, happy proof that the rainy days will fade, and the sunshine will cause you to forget all of your problems-- even for a bit