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In which i had the tiger by the tail…until i didn’t

When a call went out over Twitter looking for people who had had an eating disorder, I didn’t hesitate to reply that I had once had an eating disorder.  I received a response asking if I was willing to talk about it.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m an open book so I figured “yeah, why not?”  I had always intended on talking about it so now would be as good a time as any and it’s not like I hadn’t already been incredibly open about it with my family, especially my two college aged daughters.

 

I would be a guest blogger on ? while she was doing a series on eating disorders but weirdly enough, this has been a tougher assignment than I would have suspected.  First, I’m already in my midwinter slump and down in the dumps so writing, especially an emotional piece, is difficult and secondly, where do I begin?

 

How do you explain an eating disorder without explaining your complicated relationship with food?  And how do you explain your relationship with food without explaining why you’re screwed up in the first place and need to use food as a feel good source?

 

And trust me; I’ve been in therapy for 28 years.  Explaining the need for food, the need to self medicate with food would be a novel if I went into the entire thing so seriously, how to explain an eating disorder which is actually a symptom without explaining your feelings, which is actually the disease?  The more I thought about it, the more difficult it became to figure out exactly what to say.  What I’ve decided is NOT to go into the many psychological issues about WHY I was a binge eater, but to simply tell the convoluted story of HOW I became bulimic…so here goes.

 

When I was in college, like many young people, we would go out and eat and drink.  There were many evenings that ended with huge pig-out’s.  My roommate, and many of my other friends, would simply make themselves throw up afterwards so that they wouldn’t get fat.  While it was often suggested that I do the same, I simply couldn’t.  I don’t mean that I couldn’t mentally throw up, I mean that physically I actually tried to throw up and for some reason I couldn’t.  Therefore, my weight often fluctuated because I alternated between starvation diets and gigantic pig-out’s.  I don’t think this was highly unusual, especially for college kids.

 

At any rate, after I graduated college I went on a one month trip to Europe and between a shitload of beer, a ton of chocolate, a lack of diet soda and an overload of unhealthy food, I gained a lot of weight.  Arriving home, I needed to go on a massive diet and lose a lot of weight.   I was doing pretty well until one day, in a crap mood for some reason or another; I had about a half-gallon of ice cream.  A half-gallon you’re saying?  Yeah, no shit, a half-gallon and trust me, I felt pretty damn sick.  I went in the bathroom and I stuck my finger down my throat and for the first time ever, I managed to make myself throw up.  This had NEVER worked for me before but this time I felt SO MUCH BETTER.  What a relief, both physically and mentally.  I had eaten too much but now I wouldn’t get fat.

 

The ramifications of that particular instant were devastating although at the time, I didn’t know that.  I didn’t try it again right away but the next time I was in a bad mood and I ate too much, I immediately went into the bathroom and threw up.  This was awesome, or so I thought.

 

Because I’m a binge eater, throwing up is a perfect solution.  What is a binge eater you might say?  To me, it’s someone who basically consumes MASSIVE quantities of food to eat away the pain, the emotion, the black hole of feelings.  I have always eaten when I felt bad although it took me YEARS to realize that was what I was doing.  Simply put, I could literally sit down and eat a pound of M&M’s, an entire half-gallon of ice cream or an entire pizza in one sitting.  Did I feel sick afterwards?  Hell yeah I did, but that could be taken care of by throwing up.  Win-win, right?

 

At any rate, as throwing up because the perfect solution to my weight problem, I realized I could literally have my cake and eat it too!  It was great, until one day I realized that instead of over-eating and then throwing up I was actually planning on eating knowing that I could always throw up afterwards.  What had begun as the perfect solution to an occasional problem had developed into an addictive behavior which I was incapable of controlling.

 

Although I wasn’t happy about this, I also wasn’t particularly disturbed about it because honestly I was 22 and figured it was no big deal.  I was taking some courses post-graduate and living at home and altogether enjoying this time with my parents.  It wasn’t until one evening when I was watching 60 Minutes on TV and they had a story on bulimia.  In this story, a young woman had DIED because she suffered a heart attack while throwing up.  To say I was shocked would be a massive understatement.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t healthy and I knew it could mess up your teeth but actual DEATH; it scared the ever living hell out of me.

 

I tried to stop, and I couldn’t.  I knew I was screwed so I decided to tell my parents.  This was literally the most difficult thing I have EVER done in my life.  My parent’s always seemed to capable, so amazing and to admit such a glaring weakness was terrifying.  My dad, who was in all honesty my hero, was always saying things like “Lynn, if you want to lose weight; just don’t eat so much!”  It was all so cut and dried to him and to have to tell him this was both scary and embarrassing.  And yet, I knew I needed to let them know just how much trouble I was in.  I sat them down and I told them the news and they were incredible.  They just hugged me, told me they loved me and quickly set about to find a therapist to help me.  Honestly, I don’t know how the situation could have been handled better.

 

And so began my process of recovering from bulimia.  How long has this taken?  Well, I’m 51 today and I’m no longer bulimic and haven’t been for quite some time.  I would like to tell you it was easy but it wasn’t.  I started therapy in Greensboro, North Carolina when I was 22 and eventually moved to New York City.  Through my job, I found a new therapist and continued to have appointments twice a week.  By the time I met Kevin, I was 26 and was just beginning to get better.  I had good days and bad days and every type of day in between.  I had the lowest of low points where I despaired that I would never get better.

 

It took a long time for me to be able to tell Kevin the truth; that I was bulimic and I was getting help.  I was worried about how he would take it; would this be the end of my relationship?  Obviously, we’ve been married for 23 years and he’s been incredibly supportive.  Through the 25 years that we’ve been together there have been times I’ve been great and yet, I’ve had relapses…even through my early 40’s.  I’ve never stopped therapy and very frankly, I never will because I love it.

 

I’ve told my girls that easy answers aren’t always the best answers.  For many young women nowadays, throwing up is the easy solution.  I have instilled in my girls repeatedly that it’s a TERRIBLE solution because sometimes, right when you think you have the tiger by the tail, it really has you!

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Jessica
    March 10, 2011

    Off to read, I struggled with anorexia as a teen, brave of you to be willing to open up about such a tough topic.

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      I’m pretty open about it with my family but i was surprised at how difficult it was to actually write about. Especially, since it’s a really complicated issue.

  2. Lady Estrogen
    March 10, 2011

    It was great!
    My eating disorder is just binging – I did a post a while back on how I couldn’t purge because I read that it would pit my teeth – yeah – at 13 years old, that’s what got me to not do it. It wasn’t the health issues whatsoever; it was the vanity.
    I guess whatever worked – although my issues with food have never been resolved; it’s a love/hate relationship.
    Lady Estrogen recently posted..The Rockstar &amp the VirginMy Profile

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      I was worried about my teeth to but not as worried as i was about being fat is suppose.

  3. Pixi
    March 10, 2011

    I’ll be sure to check it out. I struggled through anorexia as a teen as well, pretty badly.
    As my best friend had been badly battling bulimia behind closed doors. I never knew, but I “knew”, you know. That’s very scary.

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      wow…i’m glad you’re doing better. Bulimia is such an insidious thing…i hope she gets help and gets better

  4. Karen
    March 10, 2011

    Great job on the post! I’ve never struggled with an eating disorder, but as someone with OCD I can still relate to the compulsion part of the disorder. I do like the analogy about having the tiger by the tail, until the tiger has you by the tail. That really puts it in a great perspective. I think that can apply to addiction as well, I know some alcoholics and addicts that could definitely relate to the tiger tail analogy. Thanks for your honesty, it was brave to open up like that.

    Karen
    lilmuna.blogspot.com

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      Thanks…sometimes when i write these types of posts it’s because somebody asks me to and that’s actually a good thing. I always feel that if i can help just one person, than it was worth it!

  5. Carla E. Knight
    March 10, 2011

    When I was younger, I didn’t need to do anything to lose weight. I tried everything under the sun to gain weight. Then I quit smoking and bam. There’s all that weight I wanted and about 50 pounds I didn’t ask to have. I wished for awhile (as a middle aged adult) that I could be bulimic, but just never could bring myself to do it. I hate throwing up, so it was a difficult point to get around. So now I’m dizzy all the time, nauseated most of the time, and throw up regularly. I guess you should be careful what you wish for. Unfortunately, since I sit around like a useless blob most of the time, even tossing my cookies regularly does not make me lose weight. Sometimes, ya just can’t win.

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      I’m sorry to hear that. That sounds terrible

  6. Redshoes51
    March 10, 2011

    My brother’s daughter is having a bout with an eating disorder… so I understand all of this better than I used to…

    ~shoes~

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      I’m sorry to hear that. I hope they get it straightened out!

  7. jillsmo
    March 10, 2011

    I had it, too! On my way….

    • Lynn
      March 10, 2011

      sorry to hear that…hope you’re all cured!

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