I was 14 the first time I purged. I had just entered high school a few months prior. The stress of being in a more demanding academic environment than I was used to, coupled with being bullied daily, was too much for me to handle. All I was trying to do was shift my mind away from the pain. All I did was create a new demon.
I called her Mia, and she was my best friend. She told me that if I made myself skinny, people would stop bullying me. And if people stopped bullying me, I would be happier. She lied to me.
It has been almost 10 years since that first time. By mid-2011, I had been to rehab for bulimia three times. In early August, I relapsed again. I felt so tired, so worn out. I was so depressed I couldn’t get off the couch to binge, much less purge. So I took to alcohol. I would drink, drink, drink until I vomited. That was the plan, after all.
My partner sat me down one night to express his concern with my drinking. I responded by binging and purging. I knew my eating disorder was out of control but I didn’t have the energy to go through another bought of rehab. I started reading XOJane in June. I mostly came for the beauty section. I identified with Cat, in a way, but reading her articles was like reading the inside of my head.
As I ventured to other areas of the site, I discovered Lesley. I loved her body-positive articles. I looked up to her, yet I was still binging and purging three to four times a week. It made me even more depressed that I couldn’t beat bulimia. I wanted to be happy like her.
I was sad, so sad, and I thought every day about how I would rather be dead. It was on my mind constantly. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, but I didn’t know that I could ever be happy. I spent much of my time planning my suicide. Then I discovered the Real Girl Belly Project.
And I discovered all these ladies with their beautiful bellies, and they owned them. There were fat bellies, skinny bellies, squishy bellies, hard-as-a-rock bellies. And they were all beautiful. I wanted to feel beautiful with my belly. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I knew what I needed to do. I had to get myself back in rehab. I had to make it worth it this time. And all of a sudden, I had the courage to do so.
I went into rehab for the fourth time. This time, I went in with a different attitude. I went in knowing that if I kept going on like this, I would not last much longer. I went in knowing that there are people of every size and shape who are happy and comfortable with themselves. I went in knowing that I want to be one of those people. I deserve to be one of those people. We all do.
Rehab is not an easy thing to go through. It’s mentally trying, and I spent the majority of my nights there crying, rather than sleeping. But the staff at this facility was so patient with me. When I purged in the middle of the night, they didn’t scold me; rather, they asked me what I wanted to do about it.
They helped me prioritize: Did I want to be skinny, or did I want to be healthy? They worked closely with me to make sure I got the best treatment possible. They did that for all their patients. I like to think that even if I had come out of there unrecovered, I would still be better for having been there.
I still struggled a bit when I left the hospital. I was all on my own, once again. I had techniques, but I had no experience with them. I slipped up twice in the weeks immediately following my release. But since then, nothing. Food still makes me nervous, and my partner still gets suspicious of my trips to the bathroom. I think it will be this way for a long time. But each day is a little better than the previous one. I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
I’m not sure if I will ever be completely recovered. I think Mia will always be in the back of my head, poking at me, teasing me until I give in. But because of the treatment I received, and because of the Real Girl Belly Project, I have the strength to fight her. I’m happy now, and I don’t need her.