(Author’s Note: This blog post contains information that may make an eating disorder seem desirable. This is absolutely not the intention of the author.)
If you read my first blog post, Days Defined by Calories: Cynthia’s Fight with Bulimia, you might have come away from it a little confused – especially if you read it to the end – wondering, “did she like it? Did she hate? Did she want to get better? Did she want to stay sick?”
Those are great questions. And I wish I could give you these answers:
1) No I didn’t like.
2) Yes I hated it.
3) Yes I wanted to get better.
4) No I never wanted to stay (or be) sick.
But the truth is, I can’t.
At times, absolutely, without a doubt, I loved being bulimic. I’ve had an intense love-hate relationship with bulimia. My eating disorder. ED. Ed, as I’d affectionately call it. Like an abusive lover, or backstabbing best friend.
I’m sharing this information with you today because I hope to shed light on why it’s so hard for some people to go into recovery. It’s so much more than trying to lose weight or look good while still eating everything you want. In fact, that isn’t bulimia or any eating disorder at all.
Here are three surprising reasons why I loved being sick:
1) I was terrified of being a failure.
“You’ll never be anything. YOU. ARE. NOTHING. You’ll never do anything important. You’re a nobody. You don’t matter.”
Those thoughts constantly swirled around in my head. When you say them often enough to yourself, you believe them. And boy, did I believe them. They started when I was in university, I was lost, confused, and afraid. I had no idea what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go with my life. I didn’t have a clue about a job.
I wanted so badly to be successful (or at least just not be a failure) so I started to create my own definitions [of success]… less than 800 calories. Down a pound. 24-hour fast. 36-hour fast. Don’t ever miss a day at the gym. Carefully measured teaspoons and tablespoons of protein powered and skim milk.
That was my success. That was how I defined my entire life – my entire sense of self-worth rested on not messing any of those up.
I’m sure you can imagine how fast and hard the feelings of failure came, when base your worth on that.
2) I was angry.
It used to be explosive. Screaming, yelling, freaking out, lashing out. It’s a horrible feeling to lose control like that. To see your poisonous words, venomous voice hurt the people you care about. To realize how powerless you feel when you freak the F$%! out.
Eventually, I figured out how to bottle up the anger. Suppress it, if you will.
But it has to go somewhere. You can’t keep it in forever. It eats away at you and it builds us.
So I turned on myself. Every time I was angry at someone or something, I turned against me. I hurt myself so I didn’t hurt others (how ironic). As long as I wasn’t hurting anyone, everything was okay.
3) It promised me that I’d be okay
When you have no idea where you life is going, and you have no idea where you even want it to go, you have no direction. You’ve got nothing to look forward to. No goals, no ambitions, no nothing. At least that’s how I felt.
Of course, part of my bulimia was about my appearance. I was fixated; I guess I thought that was what was making me so unhappy. And my good friend was helping me get thinner. Fitter. Prettier. Happier. I turned to “thinspo” – if you’ve never heard the term, it comes from “thin inspiration”, which is reduced to thinspiration. Thinspo for short.
Pictures of thin girls gave me something to strive for. It was a lure, a promise that “if I get that thin, everything will be okay. I will be okay.”
That was the biggest lie ever. At my thinnest, I was the most unhappiest, depressed, anxious I have ever been. I don’t think I will ever fall so low again.
At least, I really, really hope not.
The thought of that stops my breathe. Weighs my chest down. Makes me want to cry. I can’t imagine going back to hating myself so much, not when I know how good life can actually be.
Thank you so much for reading about experience. I hope you join me for my next post.
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.