It’s okay. It’s okay. Relax. Just breathe. I concentrated on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Slowly, quietly. My hands covered my stomach. I couldn’t find a comfortable position; my abdomen protested with every shift. I blinked suddenly, trying not to cry. And failing.
That night stands out in my head, even though there were dozens like it. Dozens and dozens.
That night I had eaten two desserts after a big dinner. I had gone to a movie with friends and finished off a large popcorn and bag of M&Ms. I had loosened my belt in the bathroom so I could keep eating. I had eaten peanut butter from the jar. I had hidden an empty bag of chocolate chips in the trash.
I had binged.
It had been going on for months. I would eat and eat and eat. In public, in private, in the morning, at night. If I wanted to binge, I would find some way, any way, to accomplish it, gorging myself until I wanted to be sick.
But I refused to make myself throw up. Because binging and purging is bulimia, and bulimia is an eating disorder. Bulimia is a real problem. As long as I didn’t throw up, it wasn’t a real problem.
The binging started just before my first quarter at Northwestern. I needed a release from the stress of being away from home and the demands of school.
Coupled with the social comparisons I subjected myself to every day, my binging increased from a few times a
month, to multiple times a week, to nearly every day.
I felt powerless and weak. The less control I felt in other areas of my life, the more I binged to prove I had control over something.
But I wasn’t in control. My binging was starting to affect more than my jean size (I had climbed from a size 2 to a 10). This disease was starting to seep into all areas of my life, disrupting my relationships and school work. I was lying to friends and backing out of obligations, isolating myself as I sunk deeper into my disorder and depression.
I was covered in a constant cloud of shame, certain no one else had issues like mine. Food not only became my escape, but also my prison. I stayed trapped in that prison for two years, until one night when I couldn’t take it anymore, when I was too close to purging. I cried to my mother for help. I admitted I had an eating disorder. It was the first time I said the words aloud to anyone. Even to myself.
I needed help.
The road to recovery is long, and I’m only at the beginning of mine. Some days are better than others and some are worse. I oscillate between loving and hating food, between loving and hating my body. But
I refuse to be ashamed anymore, because I know I’m not alone. I am not alone in disliking my body, and I am not alone in fearing food. I am not alone.
You are not alone.
It is my hope that if you or someone you know struggles with disordered eating, you will seek help that can truly change or even save your life. Talk to someone, anyone. Open up to a friend, a family member or see a counselor at CAPS. Above all, know that you are strong; you are not alone.
Call 847-491-2151 or visit www.northwestern.edu/counseling to schedule an appointment with CAPS.