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.
7. just in case no one said it, throwing up is totally groddy.
5. Because it's largely ineffective, it's bad for your teeth, and most importantly it's okay that you ate too much. You're okay. The feeling will pass and it will be okay.
6. Bulimia is *so* 1987.
8. Gross messed-up teeth, & bad breath. Or you might vomit so hard you poop your pants...again :(
9. Because you can pretend you're pregnant and score a seat on the subway.
10. Puking fucks up your teeth. Better to feel shitty than have fucked up teeth. Nobody likes a gangsta grill.
11. Think of all that money you've spent on your teeth.
12. Because you haven't chugged a bunch of grape soda.
13. Because if you just relax for a few minutes, the discomfort will pass and you will have conquered this small battle.
14. Because being present w/the discomfort is a good opportunity to practice self-love, in the face of self-loathing triggers.
15. Because if you wait a little bit, that feeling will pass.
16. What if you choke and somebody writes you a terrible obituary? You'll have to haunt them forever and that sounds exhausting.
17. Because the plants and/or animals in that food died to become your meal. A little respect?
18. You'd be hurting your esophagus, stomach, & heart! Just work it off at the gym while watching shitty reality TV.
19. Because you will treat yourself gently, today.
20. Because how long has it been since you cleaned your toilet, do you want your face near there dude, I don't think you do dude.
21. Because you might choke and end up head first, drowned in a toilet full of your own vomit. And, that's not a good way to go.
22. Your mascara will run! also the sore throat you get from poking around back there sucks. i know from experience.:(
23. I've just had a gastric virus, and it turns out, being sick is awful.
24. Just drink some tea and move around a bit (laundry, clean the house, take baby on walk). You'll feel better in an hour!
25. Because you don't have a delicate feather epiglottal tickler. That's the only feminine way to throw up.
26. Your teeth, lady, your teeth. Dental bills.
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?
29. Because ladies don't vom.
30. Because you could take the best nap right now.
31. Because putting things down your esophagus (sexual or otherwise) is much nicer than things coming up.
32. It never tastes as good on the way back up. But wait... What if it does? Do really want to be tempted to eat your own puke?
33. Do you really want icky vomit breath in the middle of the day?
34. Barf is gross and you might burst a blood vessel in your eye!!
35. Because it's kind of a lot of work.
36. Don't do it. It'll make your face all puffy.
37. Think of your enamel! #teethsafetyfirst
38. Because what you ate is rarely as good coming back up as it was going down?
39. Cuz it will totally make your eye makeup run.
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.