I am running on empty, my zillionth lap, my own private marathon. I am running very vigorously. My knees are beginning to hurt, particularly my left knee is producing a sharp pain. Ninety-five minutes have passed and my lungs are aching, begging this Judas of a mind to stop the madness. I slow down, catching my reflection in the wall of mirrors at the gym. Slowly I turn the corner toward the water fountains, hoping to rejuvenate my fluids enough to continue onto the next phase of my workout, when I spot a friend. I wave, hoping he will pass on by, my anti-social brain is so fixated on the workout. He stops next to me. Inquisitively, he asks, “So what are you running from?” I gaze into his dark, searching eyes, and chuckle thinking to myself, if only he knew …
I suffer from bulimia. It has consumed my life for several years. Before that I was admitted to an eating disorder clinic for a brief period of time but found anorexia too challenging of a coping mechanism to uphold and hide from the outside world. Bulimia became my drug, and friend, of choice. It has been a rollercoaster ride since then. I have failed in a multitude of ways, lost and destroyed relationships by lying, hiding, rejecting help and support, and ultimately surrendering to the injustice of this disorder.
I vividly recall an acquaintance, a nutritionist in fact, that I befriended and eventually confided my addiction to. She was astonished by my confession, she said, because I seemed so strong to her. I remember feeling submerged in a tidal wave of shame, crushed with humiliation, that jagged, dull knife twisting deeper into my soul. But I am strong, I screamed silently.
I am a single mother, raising my beautiful daughter on my own, with no help and support close by. My daughter’s beauty and innocence is surreal; she is what keeps me from going over the edge. Her sweet smile and surprising wisdom propel me to take action towards recovery. Unfortunately, it has become a habit to fall back into relapse just as ardently. I am a nurturer. I need to take care of others. My desire to help and heal those around me is so fervent that I have chosen careers to fulfill that longing. I am also going for my Master’s in Counseling, specializing in, of course, eating disorders. I sit in my classes with such a strong urge to stand up and educate, advocate, on certain topics. I am obsessed with searching for the latest research, knowledge, studies, trends, in eating disorder recovery, that I feel like a fool.
Why God, can I not stop? How hard can it be to find consolation in your love rather than the porcelain king in my bathroom? I have been to many therapists, usually with no prevail. It is not as if they are not helpful, but the sessions weren’t constructive or I was a poor student. I have done journaling, visualizing, workbooks, developing pages and pages of alternate coping mechanisms, screaming, crying, and then nothing at all. They say that binging/purging produces a feeling of being high. I guess, now I need to find something to take me higher.
Sometimes I envision a scene where I am wading in the shallow depths of a lake, slowly walking in deeper and deeper, watching as the skirt of my dress floats up to surface, resisting what is to come. Below are my knees, which I have always abhorred, but now I see only the strength of my legs, feel that cold earth between my toes. The water is frigid, but not nearly as much as my intent. My belly is showing its strength too, despite being a victim of punishment, enduring the pain of extrusion, bloatedness, stretching, and nausea. Finally the water is up to my breasts and in admission of defeat I turn around one last time … I am standing at the water’s edge, looking out at the woman wading into the water, almost completely submerged. I raise my hand, which appears smooth, without scarred knuckles from years of abuse, and wave to her. My lips and eyes smile deeply, so much so that I know the twinkle in my eyes is glowing now. I wave to her, knowing this is the end. She was a dear friend, the best friend I have ever had actually, yet I feel no grief, just euphoria and compassion. Then she disappears.
I am sure you know who she is … she is my eating disorder.