The worst part was looking in the mirror afterwards; cheeks swollen, freshly broken blood vessels snaking over my eyelids, blurry, salted vision from too many tears- it was the same every time. Bowing over the toilet bowl with fingers stuffed down my throat became an everyday ritual I obeyed tirelessly. I knew which bathrooms were empty during the school day, how long I could leave the classroom without seeming suspicious, ways to get rid of that red-in-the-face look you get from throwing up; I was a master of my craft and I hated it. I hated every single second of it and yet I didn’t want it to stop.
“Good Girl” was the title branded on my forehead and it was the only identity I’d ever known. In fact, losing that reputation horrified me. I clung to my social identity as a means of self-validation – if everyone approved of me I knew I could approve of myself. I couldn’t face the idea of being disliked and pleasing others was a burden I’d grown accustomed to carrying since my playground days. My performance of the beaming, morally sound schoolgirl was measured and calculated because I refused exposing any sign of “weakness” or loss of control. So when I discovered Bulimia, I unearthed a space in which I had the freedom to lose control where no one else could see. Control was something I was so used to having over every other part of my life and binging provided me with a release, a time where I could savor submission because it was a liberty I didn’t typically allow myself to take. Purging, on the other hand, was a means of self-punishment for failing to securely grip the handlebars. It was a way for me to prove I was back in control.
It wasn’t until I ate an entire half of a massive birthday cake that I faced what I had become – bulimic. With a gentle nudge of my boyfriend at the time, I ripped myself open and exposed that raw, vulnerable part that hid behind a mask of labels I felt I was constantly expected bare: Good, Pure, Bright, Gentle, Likeable. With the help of a loving therapist, nutritionist, my parents, my God, and a few close friends I slowly learned that it was okay to kneel, to rest, and to eventually lower those burdens from my shoulders. I grew okay with letting go, with not being “perfect”, with not pleasing everyone (including myself). I can proudly say that I’ve been Bulimia-Free for several months now (but that’s not to say I haven’t had pitfalls along the way). My recovery was no walk in the park, that’s for sure. But the outcome of my journey rewarded me more than I could’ve ever imagined: I discovered my passion for inspiring other sufferers, for welcoming them into my arms and saying, “Hey, I get it.” Getting down to the grit of my fears and faults was the first step in healing from my eating disorder.
Exposing brokenness is not weakness. It may be messy, that’s for sure. But it’s human.