I binged yesterday.
Except I didn’t. That is, I binged, but it was a regular binge, not a bulimia binge. The difference is in quality and quantity, both important factors. Quantity especially. When it comes to numbers, a bulimic binge can be a different kind of animal. [i]
I remember listening to my friends as they talked about their pig-out sessions. A whole bag of chips! Two chocolate bars! Along with seconds at dinner? Stop the insanity.
That’s barely a warm-up. Non-eating disordered people don’t know from bingeing. Their stories of “huge” consumption are eye-rollingly pathetic. It’s like listening to rich people complain about being broke. It’s the ultimate in cluelessness. It’s unintentional and mostly doesn’t make me angry. I kind of don’t want people to know. The lack of imagination regarding how low you can go combined with a movie industry that always gets it wrong keeps my shame from being an open secret.
There’s also the qualitative difference between an eating disordered and non-eating disordered binge that the non-afflicted utterly fail to appreciate. It’s mental in a way the neurotypical person pigging out doesn’t experience.
I binged yesterday. I was edgy and unhappy and resentful for no reason. I’d blame the moon, but it’s in the waning quarter and not responsible for much. At this point in the lunar cycle, it’s about letting things go. Bulimia knows all about that.
Too soon? I’ve never understood people who get pissed at the afflicted for making jokes at their own expense. I’m allowed to mock myself. I own the rights to my damage: I earned them.
I stood at the open fridge seeking salvation. I had a few bites of angel hair pasta, the clumped-up bits I enjoy that indicate poor cooking technique. I tried a piece of shortbread but realized halfway through it wasn’t working for me. I ended my attempt at gastronomic escape with a handful of tortilla chips: I also cursed the incompetent who does the grocery shopping, leaving me with a pantry of nothing I want to eat.
It’s me. I do the shopping.
I thought about making it a binge. There’s chocolate in one of the cupboards, and I could make Kraft dinner. There are also waffles, but it seemed like a lot of work, especially since the voice was hinting at purging, and I want to do that even less.
I’m a little bit sad that I couldn’t drum up the necessary enthusiasm.
Don’t get me wrong. The eating disorder is still waiting to leave the building. I don’t blame her: I historically cave. My first response to hunger is still, “no, you’re not,” and I’m very willing to restrict. My inside voice gets taken over by team eating disorder less often now, but still isn’t silent. I love the vicious, hyper-critical bitch who hates everything about me, especially the size of my thighs.
But I don’t want to throw up anymore. On purpose. [ii] Self-induced vomiting isn’t a bad thing to leave behind. I suspect my self-hatred is now in the realm of “normal,” and how tragic is that? My self-hatred is evolving: it’s becoming societal rather than pathological.
The dissolution of my eating disorder is a good thing. I’m grateful. It was misery and hell. I’m currently nineteen months vomit-free. I won’t be putting it on a T-shirt, but I’m starting to feel not only proud, but that I can perhaps relax my vigilance. Just a smidge. Just enough to work harder on the other stuff. Except for the PTSD. I’m still comfortable with avoidance. It’s a valid choice. In that, it’s utterly maladaptive and will be unsuccessful long-term, but allows for transitory, false comfort in the now.
A great deal of my life has been about my eating disorder. [iii] It drilled its way in everywhere: it tentacled to the bottom of my soul and life. There are empty spots that need reinforcing now that the festering cancer of a chronic eating disorder is gone. [iv] On the bright side, I have other neuroses, chronic pain, and a money shortage. Ample opportunities for misery-inducing obsessing.
That’s all I’ve got, save for this semi-appendix. It’s an example of a typical binge, and by “typical,” I mean the list of foods is not unusual, and this isn’t extreme. I had extreme too, but I’m uncomfortable getting that naked (I did write about it somewhere, possibly in the autobiography destined to remain a dust catcher). Consider this the trigger warning for those of you who feel the description might prove distressing, dangerous, or inspiring.
A weekend alone.
Bulimia is a demanding lover. She’s time-intensive. When I was a working single mother, she often felt neglected. I’d throw up part of lunch or the pieces of chocolate I had for an afternoon snack, but it was never enough. Big binges are tricky with kids. Leaving them unsupervised while you purge is too risky, and you also don’t want them to find out and start asking awkward questions. You wait until there’s a playdate. Or until they’re in bed (pray for uninterrupted sleep). Maybe you can trick them into watching a movie? The best was when you had extended free time.
It’s odd. You hate everything about your eating disorder much of the time. But you love it and serve it too. I didn’t want to binge, but I wanted to binge. I didn’t want to purge, but I wanted to purge. The urges all seemed imperative. Adhere or die. It’s only when you learn that resisting won’t kill you that recovery is possible.
The kids leave. You can barely contain your excitement. You feel like a lousy human being and parent, but you let those thoughts drift away for now. They’ll come up again when you start hating on yourself for being a disgusting failure of a human being, but for now, the only thing on our mind is acquiring food. Luckily, I knew when the kids would be visiting dad. I’d have the necessary food on hand. No time-wasting shopping trips needed.
First things first: ice cream on the counter for later – it’s easier to eat soft – and check the time. Sixty minutes is all that’s allowed. We don’t want to let too much food pass into the intestines. There’s calorie absorption in them thar’ hills.
Candy also on the counter. There’s a system and a routine. Things are eaten in certain orders for various reasons. I’ve detailed that in dribs and drabs before, for sure. This leaves us with the list.
I’m procrastinating. Perhaps a table will make this easier? Who doesn’t love a table?
|crackers, one box||two sandwiches||two family-sized chocolate bars||three apple fritters|
|a bowl of cereal||two pieces of pizza||some of the ice cream||the leftover macaroni and cheese|
|two rows of Oreos from the box||half a carrot cake||salty protein, cheese or cottage cheese||the rest of the ice cream|
[i] A clarification. I threw up a lot, and often after meals, but meals are not binges. Binges are a different part of the disorder. You need them, but it isn’t only after a binge that purging occurs.
[ii] Can I put in a request for no involuntary vomiting? Who do I talk to?
[iii] I have memorabilia. I used to think it was weird, but neuroticism is a large part of my life. Holding onto this or that thing from different treatment efforts has proven helpful. It’s a push, a reminder to keep going.
[iv] Once upon a time, I’d have worried about using a metaphor like that, comparing my eating disorder to cancer. I’d have worried about people being upset or offended, and I’ve have pulled it. Then I got cancer. It’s gone, but now I can crack cancer jokes.