I am at a point in my recovery where I have no problem talking about my eating disorder to most people. There are still members of my family who pretend my eating disorder never happened. Within the context of my family, it's a taboo subject that no one wants to acknowledge. I'm not sure if it's because acknowledging makes it real and they want to project the illusion that our family is perfect, or if it's just that they've never been able to understand the seriousness of it all.
Regardless, for the most part, I am open to talking about my anorexia. I am obviously open to writing about it. I am (God willing) teaching a 50-minute lecture about anorexia in poetry in December at the graduate school I attend in Los Angeles. I'm not scared for people to know I was anorexic. I don't mind talking about it. I want to create awareness. I want to admit that though my eating disorder is something I still struggle with, I've made progress and progress is possible.
But I've realized that my bulimia, well, that's an issue I'm not so comfortable opening up about. But why? Bulimia is just as serious as anorexia. It's just as frightening. It's just as devastating and damaging. I think the reason I have trouble owning up to my bulimia is that anorexics tend to think of bulimics as weak. Starving oneself becomes an act of skill and restraint, so binging and purging represent those instances of corporeality that the anorexic tries to suppress. If the anorexic wants control, bulimia is the loss of that control. At least, that's how it goes with my own experience. Certainly I no longer feel this way. I know that both anorexic and bulimic behavior is dangerous, deadly, and weak. Neither behavior signals strength. There is only strength in recovery, and I have recovered (and am still recovering) from both.
So why can't I talk about bulimia?
Why do I try so hard to forget?
Is it the physical act? Because it's so gross? Who wants to hear about vomit?
It's so much more than that. I'm not going to pretend that society understands eating disorders because I know that society does not. But even within the context of society, anorexia is typically glamorized whether directly or indirectly. Thinness prevails. It is to be aspired to. People make fun of bulimia, in my experience, far more so than anorexia. It's thrown around as an insult like it's something stupid, vapid girls do. I guess it's just harder for people to see bulimia as a legitimate eating disorder. It's about more than just throwing up after you've eaten. When I was bulimic, not throwing up after a meal was not an option. I had to throw up. I had no choice in the matter. I was throwing up 7 or 8 times a day when I was at my sickest. By that time, it was almost purely a physical reaction. I threw up without thinking about it. It's something my body learned to expect. It's like getting an itch and automatically reaching to scratch it without being fully cognizant of the action.
Only now can I see how horrifying it is.
How could I have ever done that to myself?
Starving myself was bad enough. But then to give my body the food it needed so much only to take it away again? How badly I've mistreated myself. Maybe that's why I can't talk about my bulimia--because I'm ashamed.
I try to forget all of the time I spent bulimic. That entire segment of my life was chaotic and miserable. Part of not wanting to talk about being bulimic is inevitably my way of not wanting to remember those painful moments in my past. That was my rock bottom.
Whenever I feel like relapsing I think of those moments spent in agony crying on the bathroom floor. Sick from puking. Sick from laxatives. I remember the time I took NyQuil on an empty stomach because I felt so guilty and so ashamed of myself that I just wanted to sleep. I didn't care if I woke up again. I hadn't eaten in days. My body couldn't handle the medicine. I was falling asleep and throwing up at the same time. My mother found me passed out on the bathroom floor.
It seems like a dream.
I feel so guilty for even remembering it.
That was four years ago. How did I ever make it back from that dark place? When I think that recovery is impossible I remember how far I have come.
I always tell people that there is most certainly life after anorexia. But that's only half of my story.
There is life after bulimia too.