Vomit, tears and laxatives: What it’s like to live with an eating disorder

Warning: This article contains information which may be triggering. If you think this might happen to you, please don’t read on.

I tweeted asking if anyone would be brave enough to share their experiences of having an eating disorder on #EatingDisorderAwarnessWeek – six lovely women responded to my tweet keen to share their stories.

I have been fortunate enough not to have any firsthand experience of this, so I made it my mission to get a better understanding of having an eating disorder. I think it is very important to read people’s stories to help raise awareness and understanding of this mental health condition and I am so happy that these wonderful women have been so open and honest by sharing their experiences.

Marissa from Canada has written a fantastic piece about her experience of having an eating disorder. She also has a brilliant blog called Life on the Borderline which you should check out.

If you’d like to read more people’s eating disorder experiences this is:

Tinka’s story.M

Arabella’s story.

Adele’s story.

This is Marissa’s story…

You wake up.

Immediately, before your eyes even open, your hands are awake too, uncurling out from under your chin. Palms flat against flesh as your hands move down your body, towards your abdomen. Towards your stomach.

Is it flat yet?

No.

Not this morning.

Not even after last night.

Your stomach is still cramped, tied all up in knots and ready to burst like a geyser, a human hot spring of self hatred.

Your mind flashes to the night before, which in reality was only hours before. How quickly the memory is fading; already years away, before long it’ll be gone and forgotten forever. It wasn’t anything particularly eventful for you after all. It was the kind of night that is starting to happen for you a lot more often lately.

You started off just taking one. One was all you really needed, back in the beginning, and it was only once a week, if that. Maybe two, if you had a particularly bad binge. That was what, a year ago now? You can’t remember. This is your whole life now.

You stretch your sore body out and groan. Your stomach is still cramped, tied all up in knots and ready to burst like a geyser, a human hot spring of self hatred.

You can’t go to school today. Not like this. You open your eyes slowly and yet, it’s still too fast for your tired brain to catch up with and the room looks just as foggy as your mind feels.

The sun is shining way too bright through the crack in your blinds, and you were up way too late shitting your brains out, thanks to the entire box of laxatives you took after dinner.

Why do you do these things on a school night? You have no idea. It doesn’t feel like it’s up to you anymore. You tried to keep your secret late-night binges for the weekend, but eating is the only thing that makes you feel good lately and you’ve been spending a lot of time feeling bad.

So, as things tend to do, it spiraled. Nowawdays, it’s happening more and more. Last night was already the third time this week alone after all. The third full box. Laxatives aren’t cheap either, not at $10 a box, so you’ve taken to stealing them at any chance you might get. You’re not proud of this fact, but you don’t have a choice.

Truly, you don’t.

None of this was your choice and none of this is under your control anymore. Not really.

You think back to:

Being five years old, looking into your little pink plastic talking mirror that called you beautiful, but seeing nothing but a grotesque alien monster looking back at you.

Being seven and thinking during Christmas Dinner, “hey, maybe if I don’t put butter or gravy on my mashed potatoes anymore, I won’t get fat”.

Being sixteen and obsessing over every single thing that passes your lips as the weeks go by and you eventually stop losing weight at all.

Being nine and being called a pig for eating too many of your aunt’s chocolate chip cookies on your family camping trip, all in jest, but still, forever ingrained into your brain like a parasite.

Being eleven and wanting to be stick skinny like all the pretty popular well-dressed people you went to school with.

Being twelve and making yourself throw up for the first time in the bathroom of your grandparent’s house as everyone else is outside, sitting around the pool and eating snacks.

Being thirteen and spending every single night alone in your bedroom, crying and hurting yourself, because this was the year you discovered self-harm

Being fifteen and going days without eating anything at all, beyond the meagre few bites you force down in front of your family during dinner.

Being sixteen and obsessing over every single thing that passes your lips as the weeks go by and you eventually stop losing weight at all. Your body has hit the point of stagnation and the scale has begun to plateau and from here on out, nothing will change for you, except the ever worsening state of your self-image, relationships, schoolwork, mental well being, and your whole life in general really. So you go to the store and you buy yourself your first ever box of laxatives, because at least this way you feel like you can have something, anything, to eat.

All the way up until now.

Being seventeen and swallowing thirty laxatives in one sitting, for the third time this week

This is the reality of your eating disorder.

None of this was your choice but yet, you made all of these choices. Every single little thing you did or didn’t do up until this point was both you and not you. You were compelled to do these things by some unknown force inside of you, as if something else was controlling you in these moments.

You don’t want to spend every single night curled up in the fetal position of the floor of the bathroom, stomach ripped apart and leaking from both ends, because by this point, they don’t just make you poop. Taking this many laxatives sets your whole body on fire and you spend hours alternating between throwing up and throwing out, before you finally empty yourself out completely and manage to crawl back into your bed, only to wake up a couple hours later for school.

You wake up, and you want to die.

This is the reality of your eating disorder.

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