I’m currently in the process of writing a piece for a short film that I’m going to be making in a couple of weeks and it is harder to write than what I thought it would be. I am remembering and talking about things that I have chosen not to for quite a while and it rattles me a little. Today I was at a meeting to discuss how things were going and also share what I had already done but all I could feel was this amazing sense of sadness. So much of my life has been infiltrated and turned upside down by my mental health problems and a self hate that seemed to take on a life of its own, feeding on my energy and draining my potential dry. I wonder now what it was all for? Where did it come from? Why did I let it carry on? Why am I still to some degree letting it continue to impact who I am and the life that I live?
My story covers one of the behaviours that always scared me the most and the one that I did let go of about 3 years ago. Purging. I try not to think too much about it, as though in some ways I can begin to forget how it felt to be so brutal to myself…because it was brutal in the beginning. I was 13 the year I first ‘discovered’ that making myself vomit was a solution to the problem of eating. I’m not sure how I got to that thought…but I did. I remember though how unnatural it felt at the start, how it burned my throat and left it feeling as though it was bruised and swollen on the inside from where my fingers had bashed around desperately trying to find the ‘right spot’ to make it work. Had the need to get rid of what inside of me not been so strong then I probably would have given up…but that need was strong and it far outweighed a little voice in my head that told me it was wrong. After a while the voice went away and it was replaced by a new one, one that encouraged, cajoled, screamed at me to get whatever was in me, out as quickly as possible. The minutes after eating became unbearable as I waited for my first opportunity to escape. I told myself that it was a phase that I was going through, it meant nothing, it was fine. I was fine. I could stop whenever I wanted to.
I almost believed myself sometimes too.
In the first few months I cried every time I did it. It was hurting and I was hurting but already it seemed like I didn’t have a choice. It changes though doesn’t it? Pretty soon it becomes your world. I came to enjoy that rush that came afterwards. I got used to how my heart hammered and fell out of sync, I got used to the bursts of stars that would cloud my vision, I got used to feeling hollow. I thought I was strong, that by fighting nature I was winning somehow. I couldn’t imagine ever telling anyone what I was doing but people started to notice something was wrong. My skin turned to an ashy colour except for round my eyes, the skin there turned a yellow hue. I was withdrawn, tired, angry and yet I convinced myself that this was fine because I was maintaining a healthy weight. After a few years my body didn’t know how to react to food and it became a struggle to keep food inside of me. It was a time that was mentally and physically exhausting, addictive and something that I thought had the potential to save me. I did try to stop eventually. I tried to stop many times and sometimes I did for a while. I had periods where I ate and did not vomit or restrict but there was never an emotional relief, the voices of the behaviours never let up. In all the years I never binged though and I guess that’s what made me feel like I still had some control. It’s amazing how we will cling on to anything in order to not confront the truth.
By my late teens I became so desperate to be completely empty that there were times that I would wake up on the bathroom floor after blacking out. My head would feel like it had been bashed repeatedly by a sledgehammer and it was harder to stop the shaking that engulfed every bit of me. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t pleasant.
Stopping was hard but things change…I turned more often to restriction until that became the thing that I could not let go of. Occassionally I would still engage in behaviours and then the last time was the time that I knew that I could not go back to it. I blacked out, woke up covered in bruises from where I had fallen and had pulled the muscles so badly in my chest that I thought I was going to have a heart attack. At the time the eating disorder was the loudest it had ever been previously and I was not willing to risk having my secret out. I was not prepared to have someone come in and try to take it away from. Anorexia crept in…and the rest really went from there.
Like I said purging scared me, but thinking about it now, so does remembering. It’s not that I’m afraid that I will go back there because I don’t think I ever will…it’s just that some days it unnerves me how capable I was and still am of putting myself through something that was so damaging personally to my soul. How did I learn to hate myself so much?