Changing The Ending
Trying to explain a chronic eating disorder to someone is arduous. There are times I even believe it to be impossible. There isn’t a complete way for someone to know exactly how another feels unless they experience it for themselves. This is true for many things, but especially for something as internalized as an eating disorder.
I’ve been battling Bulimia since I was nine. So many years dealing with a voice—thankfully, a voice that has silenced little by little each year—whispering things to me constantly. This isn’t to evoke sympathy or even educate you about the long-term consequences of disordered eating, it’s about being as vulnerable and honest as I can be to try and relate something that I struggle with every day.
I try to refrain from telling people I was bulimic for as long as possible; the response is always similar:
People think it’s all about vanity, looks, and even more offensively, that I can “control it.”
The most helpful way I’ve been able to debunk this claim is by telling people it’s like suggesting to a drug addict or alcoholic to “Just stop.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Abby, you’re such a smart girl, why would you do that to yourself? Just stop.”
Believe me, I would do anything to be able to “just stop.”
I’d do anything to not scrutinize every single thing I eat or drink, to not anxiously anticipate what’s going to be on a restaurant menu, to not have to deal with chest pains that burn so badly I can’t even stand up, to not have arm and leg aches so painful all I want to do is stay in bed all day, to not have to plan my week around doctor’s appointments.
I’d do anything to have a say in all of those things. I’d do anything to completely silence the voice and just stop.
I get other responses too.
Those who know me well know how much I love my burgers, steaks, and bacon. When people find out about my eating disorder, oftentimes I'm met with confusion that I could enjoy these foods and struggle with others.
Many people with eating disorders tend to categorize foods into “good foods” and “bad foods.” It just so happens my favorites as I just mentioned fall into the “good” category, a category of foods I have deemed to never make me want to use behaviors. It’s quirky, it’s illogical, but those foods feel safe to me.
Sometimes it stems back from pleasant memories surrounding those foods, other times it’s purely physical. It’s different for each person.
Honestly, I’d rather it be about vanity. I’d rather worry about looking “good” rather than worry about feeling sick all the time. Since I have been struggling with this since I was very young, I’ve had these urges always there, a constant with every meal. I've always wanted to have a different body type, but I remember it's not about being curvy or thin, it's about health. This is my body type, and this is how it's always been--it's probably something I can't ever change, but I can change the way I think about it.
Every comment about weight or food strikes me in a way it wouldn’t for someone else. But I deal with it. I’m not sensitive, and I understand most people aren’t quite like me. They don’t think about the things I do constantly.
I remember the first time I used behaviors. I wasn’t quite sure why I did it, or what it was, but it felt good, it felt like I had control over something. I’ve always liked to be a person with this sense of control. I always felt I could talk or write my way out of anything. I’ve always been good with words. Often verbose at times, but I’ve considered this a blessing. I could always so easily pinpoint exactly how I felt about a person or situation. Expressing myself clearly is never the issue, I have no trouble determining exactly what I want and communicating that with others.
This was different. This was something I couldn’t understand. The nine-year-old girl who could name each Chairman of the Federal Reserve and discuss ad nauseam the literary motifs in Macbeth could not understand why I was making myself do this, and I didn’t talk about it with anyone either. Maybe I was embarrassed, ashamed, confused, it didn’t matter.
One of my favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
This is something that has guided me throughout the long recovery process, and a quote I read every day to keep me on track. How I wish I could go back to little Abby and tell her not to do it, tell her it will be okay, but I can’t, all I can do is work on myself now. I hope a little girl or boy reads this or anyone of any age for that matter who is struggling.
My best advice to hush that demon is to find something to replace it. For me, it’s been watching baseball. No matter what, I could rely on baseball. Baseball wasn’t something I needed to have control over. And for those three hours, I could watch the game, relax, and know it would be back the next day. And when the season ended, baseball would always come back in April, always. Find that thing to hush the demon, it’s out there, and the sooner you find it the sooner you can silence it for good.
I like to think of eating disorder recovery similar to the recovery after a failed relationship.
You’re breaking up for a reason; they’re toxic in your life and interfering with your happiness. Life isn’t about firsts, or even about the journey, no – it’s about lasts.
The “lasts” are the things that truly matter. The lasts are the things you choose after you’ve learned everything else. The last person you choose to love or the last time you choose to do something harmful to your body. You cannot change the beginning, you cannot change the journey, but the lasts are in your control right now.
Change the ending.
About The Author: Abby Elyssa
I’ve been battling an eating disorder since the age of nine. I want to inspire young ones to seek help and stay on the path to recovery because it does happen, regardless of how impossible it seems.
I am a Syracuse University graduate with a journalism/English degree. Currently, I’m a magazine writer in Long Island, New York. When I’m not writing, i’m probably watching the Yankees or eating a burger.