I tried my whole life to get over my eating disorder. I read every book or article published about recovery from compulsive eating, anorexia and bulimia. I tried every diet ever invented, went to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, behavior modification specialists, intuitive eating classes and even a hypnotist. Nothing worked. Nothing.
In my late 30s, while my mom was very sick and dying, my disease peaked. I lived in New York City at the time, and every night after leaving her house I’d run through the streets, from bodega to bodega buying donuts, ice cream, cupcakes, bagels, cookies, loaves of bread, frozen pizzas, anything. As I ran, I’d eat from the bags, shoving food into my mouth. I’d head into each market, eating, with crumbs smeared all over my face. I had no shame; I had to keep eating.
Once home, I’d eat until I could barely move and hardly breathe. When I couldn’t shove even one more bite down my throat, I’d head to the toilet and puke for the rest of the night, praying that I’d throw up enough to stay thin. When I couldn’t vomit anymore, I’d take a handful of laxatives and crawl to bed.
As my mother’s health deteriorated, so did mine. Night bingeing and purging became all-day activities. That was my existence – binge, purge, binge, purge, binge… Miserable.
After my mom died, my life fell further apart. Overwhelmed with grief, I left my job in NYC and moved in with my brother. Using some of my inheritance, I took time off and hung out on my brother’s couch (I don’t think he and his wife were thrilled, but they were kind), and continued my ritual of bingeing and purging.
My stomach, naturally, was always unsettled and acidic and achy, but soon after my mom died, I developed a really bad ulcer. Vomiting and laxative abuse became excruciating. Eventually, I couldn’t do either – it just hurt too much.
For the first time in decades I wasn’t purging. I also wasn’t working. At 40, I was living with my brother in New Jersey. I didn’t have friends in New Jersey or any kind of social life. I’d move from the couch to the bed and back again.
Everything was new, including some real weight gain. When I stopped purging, it seemed like my body didn’t know what to do. I kept binging for a while, but without purging, it felt too terrifying. I’d lost 80 pounds twice in my life, and I refused to gain them all back again. Also, I’d liked purging – it felt like the weight of the world left my body. Binging seemed less interesting and rewarding without it.
However, I had NO idea what or how to eat. For so long, I’d only starved OR binged – nothing in between. Eventually, I began eating three solid meals a day, and stopped gaining weight. I didn’t lose, but I did stabilize. Also, I drank pretty heavily (stories for another post), so I’m sure that added to the calorie count.
After a whole year of not working, I began working for my brother. It was convenient, not too taxing AND good to be with family. I could feel myself beginning to heal.
At my brother’s office, I made my first New Jersey friend and began having some fun. She and I laughed constantly. More healing.
One day, I met a nice man who took me on nice dates. He introduced me to his lovely friends and included me in his family gatherings. He was kind and comforting, and I fell in love.
With the excitement of new love, without trying, I lost some weight. We traveled and played and talked, and I didn’t care about food. And I lost a little more weight.
Soon, I was verging on thin and the call of the scale kicked in. I was off to the races again, obsessed with a number and getting it smaller. My life, once again, revolved solely around weight and food. Once again, I was fainting from hunger and destroying happiness – mine and those around me.
Blessedly, change and freedom were around the corner. Next post, the journey to well, once and for all