I bet you thought this food stuff would be fixed by now! Me, too, man. It takes up so much time -- I wonder what women would accomplish if so many of us didn't waste a decade or two learning to like ourselves. Feel free to skip this article if you're f@$%ing bored of my eating and body issues -- I know I am.
But of the like 80 million things I've learned about recovery, one of them is that actual behavioral change is a) exceedingly rare and b) incredibly slow. At least that's the line my therapist sells me when I start complaining about how it's been almost FOUR YEARS since I last took a drink or snorted a line, and yet I'm still fucked up when it comes to sex, finances, food and probably a bunch of other stuff I'm not even recovered enough to be aware of yet.
I remember telling my first therapist that I hoped I would be "normal by 30," and that was several years before I even realized I needed to get sober. "Normal" was pretty tongue-in-cheek, but at the time it seemed doable that I might work through my major issues in the next 8 or so years. Now I'm 29 and that shit's a joke.
Here's where we are, for those of you who haven't been following along at home. I've been an on-again, off-again bulimic for my entire adult life. I recently realized that dieting is part of my disease cycle, which looks something like this, played out over months at a time: Diet/Restrict -- Binge -- Puke -- Diet/Restrict. (And for those of you who gave me shit about quitting Weight Watchers, that program explicitly states that it is not appropriate for anyone with a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, which I know because I went through the whole signup page the other day, stopping only when I got to that disclaimer. Look at me, following directions!)
I'm having a hard adjustment to life without a system of rules assuring me that what I am eating will not make me fat. In fact, I am kind of fat right now, or at least quite a bit fatter than I was. I hate that. But mostly I hate having to be present for myself -- losing the ability to give myself over to a mathematical power greater than myself to drive my eating choices. I don't even like myself most of the time, and now you tell me I'm supposed to listen to myself on something as VERY IMPORTANT and all-encompassing as what I put in my MOUTH?
Maybe I will never be able to master the seemingly simple art of eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full. Maybe I will, but I just have to keep suffering the discomfort and the setbacks a while longer. Maybe I need a set of training wheels in the form of a non-diet meal plan that's focused on nourishing myself and eating an appropriate amount of daily calories, not on losing weight. Maybe I need to just bite the bullet and go to OA because if there's one thing I need it's more FREAKING MEETINGS in my life. All topics to discuss with my therapist (who, by the way, is thrilled that I've quit dieting).
But while I figure it all out, I am sitting with a hell of a lot of uncomfortable feelings. (If you were my therapist, you'd ask me what the feelings were, and I'd get pissed and tell you they're just the UNCOMFORTABLE kind that make you feel UNCOMFORTABLE, OKAY? What is your obsession with identifying my feelings, huh, lady?) Related: Bad is a feeling.
Yesterday, I ate more than I wanted or needed. I knew when I was full, but I felt powerless to stop and continued well past that point. I presume everyone does it sometimes. But when I do it, I also immediately begin to obsess over ending the waves of shame and self-loathing by bringing it back up. I mean, I could sit here, burping, with my stretched stomach pressing against my waistband, hating myself for a few hours. Or I could just stick my finger down my throat -- so easy, like nothing ever happened! It's very hard to let go of the latter possibility once it occurs to me.
And while I know there are reasons not to make myself throw up -- there must be, otherwise why am I struggling with this shit? -- in the moment, it's genuinely difficult to recall any. So I did what any eating disordered blogger with poor boundaries would do: I asked Twitter.
Aside from the one person who encouraged me to "go for it" because I'd "feel better afterwards" -- I dig your honesty, sister -- I got a ton of awesome reasons not to violate my esophagus. This list thing is kind of Mandy's deal, but with all these perfectly good reasons not to vom up my lunch, I'd be a fool not to throw 'em in a post.
So here you go: 39 Reasons Not To Stick Your Finger Down Your Throat. (Fully a third of these are dental-care-related, but that shit's important.)
1. Gives you those gross busted capillaries around your eyes! Totally not worth it. But seriously, been there so many times. Deep breaths. It'll pass.
2. Because toilet water and some slightly older puke can splash back up into your eye. It happened to me.
3. B/c it's just one snack and you're too awesome to feel badly about it.
4. Because you're a momma now.
12. Because you haven't chugged a bunch of grape soda.
27. Because what a waste of deliciousness! But I'm there too. So if u dont i wont. Deal?
28. Because they'll make you the topic of an After School Special. Do they still have those? Could you imagine the humiliation?
31. Because putting things down your esophagus (sexual or otherwise) is much nicer than things coming up.
All excellent points. And in the end, I didn't do it. Partly because I didn't want to have to clean my toilet afterward, which is part of the deal as a cohabitating bulimic. Partly because yes, I am a mom now, and I wouldn't want my son to hurt himself the way I do. And partly because I don't want this same cycle to be playing itself out when I'm 30, 40, 50 and on, and stopping has to start sometime.
But mostly I didn't puke because all those people cared enough to send a response. So thanks everybody! And if anybody out there is having the same dilemma, those reasons apply to you, too.
Help @msemilymccombs not self-destruct on Twitter.