I was sitting at my computer, eating microwaveable cheese cannelloni. It was big enough for two, if you paired it with a side salad. Or maybe some garlic bread. But I was hungry, having just got home from school, and ate the whole thing.
While eating the cheesy, saucy goodness, I was ICQing with a friend. I forced him to admit that I’d put on some weight. Finally he typed, “maybe ½ a pound in each leg.” Then told me I looked good.
But the ½ pound admittance was all I needed. He verified what I’d been thinking. Calmly, I walked to the bathroom.
That was the first time I prayed to the porcelain goddess. It wouldn’t be the last.
I was 15. Maybe 16 at the time. It’s hard to keep of track when you’re sick. Days are defined by calories in and calories out. Pounds gained, pounds lost. Meals skipped, and eventually friends lost.
But with that said, I was definitely in grade 11. In my childhood home, surrounded by childhood things, I didn’t know the path that sweet release was going to take me down.
For weeks I didn’t really eat. To this day, more than 12 years later, still remember what I did eat during that time: baby carrots and 1 carefully measured tablespoon of ranch dressing, watered down.
In my final year of high school, I stopped eating lunch. I’d have a can of some insanely sweet pop and maybe eat a friend’s pizza crust. It went on like that – weird eating habits. Some things were allowed. Others were most certainly not.
I was afraid of pasta. I wouldn’t touch it for the world. But McFlurries were fine – a large with extra Smarties please, to be exact.
With each weird day of eating, my eating disorder held me a little tighter. It gave me the illusion that I was in control. That was just a joke.
I had no idea that one day I’d be terrified that I was suicidal. Or that I’d march myself—in the middle of a cruel London winter –to the hospital on my university campus and demand (or beg) to the triage nurse, “do something to make me better. ”
I really thought that I was in complete control. I thought my eating disorder was my best friend.
When I was diagnosed with bulimia, I was in university. It was sometime in second year. And I already knew I was sick.
I’d been bingeing and purging and starving every day for a whole summer. And when my roommates came back, I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure I wanted to either.
I’d try to cover the sound with the running of the shower.
Finished, I’d slink away to my room. Avoiding eye contact at all costs. I was ashamed. But mostly I was angry that they were there. I hated them for being around. I wanted it to be just me and my binges and purges. I’d eventually come to resent almost everyone who cared about me.
I can’t remember exactly when I was diagnosed, but I do remember that I wasn’t shocked. Or sad. Or scared.
I was relieved. I thought that a diagnosis would be enough to make me stop.
My eating disorder had me in a strangle hold. Each day, it squeezed a little tighter. Rapidly, my life revolved around food and calories and attempting to fast. It was literally squeezing the life out of me.
The doctor’s official diagnosis – “okay, so you have bulimia,” I remember he said so nonchalantly – made it even more real. It breathed life into the disease and it took complete control.
Pretty soon, bulimia was who I was. It was an identity that I embraced.
Yet. I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself. My dirty little secret – I thought I’d keep it to the end.
About Cynthia Alana
Cynthia has battled bulimia (and won), faced depression, and lived with anxiety throughout it all. After realizing she wanted to be a force of good in the world, she tried recovery for 6 months. It’s been years. Travel is her passion, and so is her job: writing for charities. You can follow Cynthia’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, and additionally, you can connect with Cynthia on LinkedIn.