I used to be bulimic.
I’ll tell you. Hell, I’ll tell anybody about my past struggles with bulimia—my years of hospitalization, withdrawing and changing schools, and other various forms of hell that only ended about a year ago. If you came up to me right now and asked, I would tell you anything about my past. But this story isn’t about the past. It’s about the present.
You see, I also still am bulimic. But nobody knows that part. I have told my story over and over again: all the gory details of treatment, the pain of withdrawing from school, the torture of being stuck in a body you feel like you don’t belong in. This story is completely true until I reach the ending, a happy, feel-good tale about how I finally managed to accept myself for who I am and have been set free and all that cliche crap that I’ve heard throughout the years, but never actually experienced. According to my story, I’ve been recovered for about a year, and it’s been “one of the happiest and most liberating years of my life.”
By being forthcoming and open about my past, I have led people—-my friends, family members, acquaintances—-to believe that I am, in present day, recovered. I have led people to believe that I am courageous, strong, beautiful, even inspirational.
But I am none of those things.
I am a liar and a hypocrite, a dedicated practicer of all the things I preach against. I tell people that they should love themselves at any size and that they are beautiful and healthy, and then I turn around and completely self-destruct. Worse yet, I tell people that I am so forthcoming about my past because I want to be able to help others that are dealing with the same issues. This is true, but my primary motivation for sharing my “story” is something far more sinister.
You see, I have gained quite a bit of weight—-about fifty pounds, although I no longer weigh myself—during the past few years. Some of this weight was needed, but most of this weight was merely a direct consequence of my binging, drinking, and other self-destructive behaviors. I don’t think people would describe me as overweight—-I’m 5’4 and usually hover around a size 8—-but I definitely think that I am perceived as less attractive than I was when I was thinner.
People normally make rude comments and remarks when somebody gains a lot of weight, because our society is just fucked up in that way. Luckily, especially in recent years, society has also dictated that criticizing the weight of a former bulimic makes you an asshole. So I tell people I used to be bulimic, with very little shame or reservations. I don’t exactly stand on a chair and shout it to a room of strangers, but I’m very open about it, because the more people know about my “former” struggles with bulimia, the more people know that it’s a dick move to criticize my weight.
And because of this, I’ve never received a disparaging remark about my weight, only comments about “how great I look” now. It is the single greatest trick I’ve ever pulled. People think that this is my natural weight, and that I’m healthy and happy at this weight, and I will continue letting them think that.
To be clear, I don’t enjoy deceiving people. But this lie is different, because it helps people. There’s nothing like a good story about somebody recovering from a serious, debilitating illness to give people that warm, fuzzy feeling, that feeling that all is right in the world. My story makes people feel good.
And, so, at the end of the day, my lie has been successful because it’s what people want to believe. They don’t want to believe the truth, that I still binge and purge multiple times a week. That some of my food problems have been replaced by drinking problems, and I’m well on my way to becoming an alcoholic. That I still have days where I hate my appearance so much that I just sit and cry. That it’s 7 pm and I haven’t eaten yet today because I am convinced that losing weight is the key to winning over my crush. That I’ve been in treatment for years and am still not okay. No, they don’t want to believe any of that.
And so, like I have done my entire life, I will give people what they want.