I don’t remember the first time I made myself throw up. But I do remember the weird sense of accomplishment I felt soon after. If I really had to think about it, it probably started a few weeks after my brother died. It wasn’t an image issue. It wasn’t really anything. In a weird way, I think it began in a more natural sense. The day I found out Kenny died, like most traumatic responses, my body went into a sense of shock. I think almost everyone can relate to this. Our bodies respond to events just as much as our brains do. Just like when you’re very stressed you either completely lose your appetite or you can’t stop eating. Well, I barely ate when I found out my brother died. I felt extremely nauseous for weeks and any idea of food made it worse. I ate a bare minimum to get me through the day, but even that was painful. Eventually my body leveled out enough to enjoy a large meal. But I guess my stomach shrank in the weeks prior and an average sized meal was too much. I wanted to vomit.
Given my years of experience in heavy drinking, pulling the trigger was a simple solution. After one too many Vodka Sodas, I’d feel it all coming back up, but unfortunately, I rarely ever threw up naturally. So, I’d try out the old trick of sticking your fingers down your throat. After a few gags, I’d feel better. So, when my stomach felt it was going to burst from my first full meal in weeks, I ran to the bathroom and did the same. Except this time, the feeling was much different than just getting eight Vodka Sodas worth of sugar out of your system. It was a high. For the first time in weeks, I felt in control.
When I heard the words, “Kenny was killed in an accident”, my brain spiraled. My mind was racing trying to figure out what the word “killed” meant. My thoughts were something along the lines of the following – “Kenny was killed in an accident? But killed means died…Kenny died? No…That can’t be right. Kenny’s never coming back? Wait, no, that can’t be. Kenny couldn’t be dead. It has to be someone else…no…the cops are here, they have to be right, they gave us his wallet. Kenny died…Kenny’s gone?…forever? No. No. But I can fix this! I can always fix everything! Something could be done! I can have them take him to the hospital and they can fix him! He’ll be fine!...No…they can’t. Kenny died…and I can’t do anything about it.”- The foreign overwhelming sense of a lack of control flooded me. I had never felt this out of control before. If something affected me, I could always fix it or make it better. But this time I couldn’t. I had no control over life and death. Death does not discriminate. Black or white, rich or poor, young or old, good or bad. None of us have control over who lives and dies…and, now, let me formally introduce you to my Anxiety. (More on that asshole later)
So, when I threw up and felt a little better, I felt like I gained back that control. And it felt fucking amazing. A lot of people reading this may not understand that part, but few might. It’s very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it first-hand. But that type of pleading, pleading for a life back, offering everything down to your own soul to have it back, and knowing that you won’t just not get it back, but no one will even respond to you. It’s not like applying for a loan, where they’ll say, “Work on your credit and try again in six months”. It’s not like a significant other who will conversate with you to help you understand where it all went wrong and to “hope” to stay friends. (If you have heard this recently, don’t try it)
It’s none of that. It’s nothing. There is no one. You are in your room, on your knees, tears running down your face, falling to the floor, a cry so deep that your sound goes silent, begging, for just one more second, one more goodbye, one more anything. Begging for whoever took him, to just take you too. And you get…nothing. No one to even say, “no”. No one even hears you. That lack of control is disheartening. So, at that time, feeling like I had even an ounce of control over something, felt euphoric. And so, it continued.
First, it was just once a day. Then quickly, a couple times a day. Then even faster, it was everything. I threw up just about everything I ate, to the point I was barely eating anymore. This when Bulimia turned Anorexia.
Prior to my brother’s accident, I became very conscious of my water intake. Nothing crazy, I was just trying to aim to drink about a gallon of water a day. I knew that chugging a ton of water at a time would make you feel full for at least thirty minutes to an hour. And being bulimic, caused me to need even more water at times. So, I would chug water anytime I felt hungry. I also love coffee, which curbs your appetite for quite a bit as well. So, I drank coffee all day long, instead of eating. But it didn’t stop here. Eating disorders are like any other addiction. You keep it a secret, you know it’s bad, and it just gets deeper and deeper. These weird eating habits were my drug. And once you get used to one you need more and more. And I needed more and more control. But it’s not just about the control either, it’s the obsession. Like I said previously, my anxiety was off the fucking walls at all times. I was constantly worrying (and still do) if Kenny is okay, wondering where we go when we die, pleading with the universe to give him back, wishing I could just go join him wherever he was. These thoughts were CONSTANT. Even out at the bar, with friends, the thoughts still flooded my brain. I remember a guy once hitting on me at a bar and him having a difficult time getting my attention. This happened a lot. I mean the guy not being able to get my attention, not me being hit on. However, when I do get hit on, I hate it. And I hate it even more, when a guy can’t read the blatant disinterest on my face. Normally, when I’m being hit on, I’m just sitting there thinking if I should have my Uber driver stop at Taco Bell or McDonalds on my way home alone later, not listening to a word they’re saying. But at this point in my life, I was constantly thinking about life, death, the meaning of it all. So, when this guy hit me with the, “whatcha thinking about?”, I said “where we go when we die”. Normally I would have kept that to myself but his gold chain and gelled hair were asking for it. It wasn’t just my complete disinterest in him, it was the truth. But either way it got the job done and he took his Stoli Cranberry (dodge a bullet, I know) and left. These anxious thoughts were everywhere, all the time. And then only thing that silenced them was this new obsession.
I couldn’t worry about life and death, if I was constantly worrying about how much water I drank, how to get another cup of coffee before I got hungry again, how many calories were in the apple I had for dinner, and if I needed to purge it or not. But again, I got used to this and the thoughts would creep back in. So, I started to work out. Now what could possibly go wrong with an adult woman, consuming only about 500 calories a day and going for a run? Genius, I know… Anytime, the scary thoughts got too loud, I went to the gym and ran. But again, it’s a drug. I needed to consume it more and more. So, now I would just plan out my workouts in my head all day long. I was also losing weight like crazy, which just fed this addiction more. This may sound like I’m condoning this lifestyle, trust me, I’m not. Just like every high, there’s a crash. I needed to hit the emergency stop on the treadmill because I was nearing faint countless times. I couldn’t sleep at night because my body would wake me up in the middle of the night to eat something. ANYTHING. At 2 am, I would ransack the fridge, mixing things together that would make a rat nauseous, to get any bit of a nutrient in my body. Then panicking ten minutes later to purge it all. While I was heavily bulimic, I lost a cavity filling from the acidic flow. I have lasting stomach issues on top of countless mental effects this all added to. I do not condone this lifestyle.
I never told anyone about my disorder until recently. I never told my friends and I hid it from my therapist for over a year. But, I decided to finally tell her after I started dating the first guy since it all started. It’s hard to start dating someone with a disorder like this given most relationships start with some dinner dates. You know, the dinner dates, where you’re eating all these delicious foods that you’ve been avoiding for a year because they’re harder to purge. The dates where you hang at the table joking around, getting to know each other for an hour after you finish eating and you can’t rush to the safety of your own bathroom to throw up. Don’t get me wrong, I made it work for a while. People with these disorders aren’t stupid. Like most addicts, they’re smart and adapt. You learn to muffle your yak, make excuses about why you’re not eating certain foods, carry travel size mouth wash in your bag, and so on. But like most secrets, they get hard to hide when you let someone into your life. It’s especially hard being bulimic when his bedroom shares the wall with his bathroom. It became exhausting.
This super annoying thing happens when you begin dating someone you enjoy. You’re faced with all your demons. FUN. Having another person getting to know the real you exposes your insecurities, doubts, and everything else holding you back from a future with them or even just yourself. You’re no longer in your happy little bubble of self-destruction. You’re now with someone who’s wondering why you keep leaving after you eat or why you’re more anxious when you can’t. So, I told my therapist, and surprisingly, it was that confession that helped the most.
I’ve always been a bit rebellious. A wild side, if you will. You know, the bad thing that feels so good. Blah blah blah. But, in this time of my life, I was rebellious against myself. I hated myself. I hated my life. Literally. I wanted a new one. I hated that my brother was dead. I hated that I was alive. I hated everything. I think I just wanted to be bad to myself. In addition to the high of control, the secret of it all made it feel even better. Once I told my therapist, it was like the high was taken away. Like I said, some may not understand it. I didn’t even understand it at first, but it’s a disorder. A state of confusion. Nothing really ever does make sense in it.
All I know is, I developed a disorder as a trauma response to losing my brother. It wasn’t healthy and did more harm than good in the long run. I learned to manage my disorder over time and confront the root of it all in healthier ways, which is way harder. But I still struggle with it to this day and always will. It is way harder to sit through your scary thoughts than to purge your food, or obsess over calories and water, or squeeze in a workout at 10 pm. Developing healthy coping mechanisms is hard and it takes time. Our demons are terrifying. That’s why we treat our bodies like shit just to forget about them. It is extremely difficult and if you’re reading this and can relate, I feel for you wholeheartedly.
It’s hard to confront your demons. And it’s hard to confront them over and over again. But we must if we want to move forward, if we want to let people in, if we want to grow from them. If not, it’s just always going to be just you, the demons, and the toilet. (Or the alcohol, or the drugs, or the guy with the gold chain)
So surprise surprise, now that my unhealthy mechanism is gone, I had to find new healthy ways to cope with my anxiety...
Next up: Raw Dogging Anxiety and How Much It Sucks!