We all have demons. Those little personality traits that’d land us in the NQR bin if we weren’t careful. My demons are nothing but ghosts now, but it feels like the right time to tell you about them.
I grew up in a very active family. Actually they still are, and so am I for that matter. From the time I was old enough to go for walks on my own, you better believe my Dad was booting my tooshie to the footpath telling me to take the dog for a walk. I remember having friends over on weekends and Dad asking us ‘have you kids done any exercise today?’ If watching movies all day and sneaking chocolates from the stash Mum still thought I had no idea about constitutes exercise…then yes.
I remember sitting in the shopping centre food court on school holidays surrounded by kids devouring picture perfect cheeseburgers, golden crispy fries, washing it down with Coke so fizzy it danced down your throat. I remember that feeling, looking on longingly, the sweet smell from the deep fryer filling our nostrils, teasing us as we ate from our dejected glad-wrapped vegemite sandwiches before the movies. At the time it sucked having parents who only ate fish ‘n chips on Fridays and didn’t let us leave the table ‘til we’d finished the veggies on our plate, but as I grew up I appreciated the discipline they’d taught us.
It became second nature to me to be aware of what I was eating. I moved my body every day, not because Dad told me to anymore, but because it made me feel good. I’d choose the salad roll over the pie at the bakery, not because I was forced, but by choice.
Being disciplined with my diet was something I prided myself on. It was something I had complete and utter control over when other elements of my life were anything but. I was 18 and started to find myself slipping up in areas that had perviously been so easy for me to control. I wagged TAFE regularly, choosing to hang out at my mates’ houses when I’d previously been well behaved in school, lying to Mum and Dad when they asked how my course was that night. I was even finding it hard to exercise the self control that had come so naturally in the past when choosing what to eat.
When I was home alone I’d ransack the pantry for foods I’d been denying myself of for so long. I’d shovel anything sugary or sweet down my throat like a crazed, starved animal, wide eyed listening for the sound of the front door. I raided that same chocolate secret hiding spot like I did as a child, then hide the wrappers in my pockets and dispose of them in neighbours' bins.
I remember that rush in the midst of a binge where you weren’t even counting. How many had I eaten? Three? Seven? Ten? Having no idea what you were even unwrapping, but knowing that it would be fatty and sweet once it touched your lips and that was all that mattered, that was all you needed.
On multiple occasions I blamed my younger siblings for missing food, lying to Mum’s face. I used to lock myself in the pantry after dinner, shielding myself from my family, frantically rustling through packets before they’d notice I was missing. I used to pretend to dry the dishes and put them away in cupboards I knew had food in them so I could steal a few at a time with my back turned. If I was going to gorge, I may as well do a good job whilst I was at it. If I was going to purge moments after to erase the guilt, I’d wanna make sure I’d enjoyed my time beforehand…so that’s what I did.
Every single night as my family started washing up after dinner, I’d disappear for a few minutes to the toilet where I’d kneel down over the bowl and prepare to atone for my calorie laden sins in the only way I knew how. I remember my throat burning, and the tears running down my cheeks splashing into the bowl with my dinner. I cried partly from the purging, mainly from the disgust at what I was doing. I’d try and recall exactly what I’d eaten so I could shame myself into going for one more heave, just to be sure I’d thrown up the last of it…but most of the time I couldn’t even remember. It was as if I’d been blinded in my state, eating anything and everything I could get my hands on even if I didn’t want it because I figured I ‘might as well.’
Then I’d wash my mouth out, pat my eyes dry and walk back out to the family room keeping an unusual distance from everyone just in case they could smell it.
This routine continued on for months. It became as normal and as thoughtless as spraying deodorant of a morning or brushing your teeth before bed time. It was just something that I did. I never thought too much about it afterwards either. It was just a part of me and part of my daily (as a minimum) routine. Changes of scenery didn’t stop me either. It didn’t matter whether it was at my boyfriend’s house, at TAFE, on holidays, at work, the floor of a restaurant bathroom – so long as there was a toilet it didn’t matter.
Looking back now, I’m surprised at how long I was able to hide it for. Being that I was almost constantly surrounded by people, I’d become more sly in my process. My binges were planned and my trips to the bathroom deceitful. I’d cover my tracks and re-enter the room with a ready made excuse for my routine disappearance…just in case, but I rarely ever needed them.
It was only a matter of time until a few people picked up on what was happening (thank God). After Mum became sus about my sudden and frequent “bowel movements” I realized I’d been careless. Instead of going to the downstairs bathroom, I’d pretend to leave something upstairs in my room and run to grab it. I shifted my nightly routine to the bathroom upstairs, away from listening ears and suspicious questions. Soon after though, they were onto me again and Mum confronted me during a walk together. I can’t remember exactly what she asked me but I recall spluttering “I hate myself” through my tears. I think I cried for a lot of different reasons that day. Partly from embarassment, partly from the shame but mainly from the relief that finally someone had noticed and wanted to know if I was okay.
I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back now six years on, I think more than anything what I was doing to myself was a cry for help. I was struggling to know which direction to head into and with a busted compass, taking control of one section of my life (but in a harmful way) made me feel better about my lack of conviction in every other area.
At the time, I never felt like I had a problem. I would often hear people talking about eating disorders but never classify myself as such. I remember thinking that although I was purging like people with ‘real bulimia’ did, I wasn’t ‘crazy’ to go along with it so I never identified as someone with a problem. In my head I was making conscious and considered decisions and that meant I remained in control at all times. But looking back now, it was this behaviour more than anything that was my biggest problem of all. The complete and utter denial of it all, washing my hands clean (literally) of any sense that I was losing grip of my own actions.
With the help of my parents and my boyfriend, I slowly but surely stopped my after-dinner trips to the loo. The purging was such a small part of my overall problem - it was my attitude to food, but most importantly my attitude to myself that I needed to work on. I’d forgotten what it was to be kind to myself. Clutching the toilet bowl had become my coping mechanism for the self-loathing and the guilt, not just after a binge but in every aspect of my life. I thought stopping would be a ‘flick of a switch.’ I was wrong. I’d become so good at convincing myself that I had things under control that I actually believed it would be easy to stop. It wasn’t. In fact if I’m completely honest, I very very occasionally catch myself falling into the same patterns. ‘I could have one more piece if I…’ and that’s as far as it goes. The awareness of my own thought process and the ability to ward off it’s negativity has been my biggest weapon in becoming a healthy, happy me.
- Created: 18 September 2014
- Last revision date: Friday, 19 September 2014 13:06