I don’t know where to start... I can’t even believe that I’m actually typing these words. I recently came out, or a better way to put it is, I got caught, and I guess I was tired of hiding. Tired of doing this every day for the past ten years. It was just so easy, waking up every morning and knowing what I had to do to be enough... wake up and purge. I did this over and over after every meal, every snack for the past ten years. It became my new norm. So here it is...my story of having an Eating Disorder. I didn’t know it until about six months ago that I was a battling an Eating Disorder known as Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. An easy way to put this is I basically would force myself to vomit after every meal, which would lead me to become addicted to fat burners and laxatives. By restricting myself to food, I began to binge eat in secret and again would obviously purge that out as well. Food became my worst enemy. I did everything and anything possible to be “small”, “skinny”, and “pretty.” You must be surprised especially if you knew me... why did I do this? I really don’t know why.
Eating disorders are not necessarily something you want to talk about, let alone be connected with. Especially today, despite how commonly discussed it is, you will never really find a South Asian girl opening about an eating disorder and mental health. It is still a very taboo topic and I want to end the stigma. So that is why I made the decision to talk about it because I really believe that I could help someone. Even if I help just one person, it’s already worth it for me.
Let’s start from the beginning. I was about 18 when my relationship with food and body image took a turn for the worse. I wish I could identify the trigger that started it all, but the truth is there are so many factors…I just remember starting university and putting on that freshman 15. I saw myself changing and I hated it. Though, I can’t lie, I did receive a lot of comments from people saying “omg you’ve put on so much weight, what happened”, “if you get any bigger you won’t be pretty”. Being the person I am, I took this to heart. I remember sobbing for days and not wanting to leave my room. I obviously knew I put on weight. I live in my body, but having others remind me or make sure I knew I was bigger was just so hard to deal with. Growing up in the South Asian culture, you have your aunties and uncles that feel the need to express their opinions even if it is hurtful. I’m sure we brown girls and guys have all been there and I was just one of those brown girls that did not know how to handle it.
Like most people I started to work out and that is when my love for the gym began and still exists...thankfully! But I wasn’t seeing the results fast enough. So I started taking fat burners, I was taking two pills, three times a day and made sure I worked out in the morning and evening. I thought I was determined, but the results still seemed to be taking forever. I tried every new diet fad and again nothing was working. This is when my mind got split into a new personality. You can call him/her ED for Eating Disorder. I had a new partner that I didn’t get to choose...ED who kept telling me that my loved ones and strangers think I’m fat and ugly. Oh the things that would creep up in my mind was insane – “I was not enough”, “I could do better”, “be better”. That is when I knew I needed to make more drastic changes to be good enough.
I’m going to be real blunt here, so if you are triggered by these sort of things, just be advised. At first, I was in denial, as with any addiction. It started with simply purging at first. Somehow I learned that forcing myself to vomit and depriving myself of food will help me be better. I didn’t think my behavior was unsafe or problematic at all. It was a way for me to control my weight, but then mentally it became so much more than that. It became a way to cope with my stress, cope with anxiety, cope with depression, just coping with life. But I obviously didn’t realize any of it at the time. I thought I had it all under control. It was supposed to be temporary or until I reached my “goal”. I thought once I reached a point where I was happy with myself I would stop.
The first time was the hardest, I had no idea what I was doing but I forced it. But as days turned into weeks and then months into years, I was a pro. I made sure no one realized I had gone to the washroom for too long, wasn’t too loud, rinsed my mouth to avoid smelling like puke, made sure my eyes weren’t watery. It was a job and I couldn’t bare getting caught. I would do it anywhere and everywhere. From my home, family and friend’s home, work, restaurants and even garbage bins. I knew I had to do it so wherever I was, I made sure to get it done. And I always did get it done. Years have gone by and I just kept thinking nothing is wrong with me, I knew I would eventually stop. Even when I was getting compliments from people, it still wasn’t enough. And I think that’s the scariest part about eating disorders… you have no idea how much it controls you. The restricting then led to binging and purging and it all became an extremely dark, vicious cycle. This Eating Disorder was/is part of me now. It’s been through the up and downs of my life. It was there during my graduation, first job, travelling, getting married and buying my first home. It defined me, it is me. I didn’t/don’t know life without ED.
Fast forward to today, you must be wondering how I came out. I got caught, but don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten caught in the past as well. Back then, I always had a story to cover it up. This time around, my husband caught me and I remember him waiting for me in our bedroom to ask what’s going on. Like usual, I washed up and looked in the mirror and told myself get ready to lie again. I went to the room and I have no idea what came over me, but I told him. I told him everything. I told him my biggest secret. The secret I kept for over 10 years was finally out. In tears I didn’t know what I was saying or doing, it was all a blur. I felt ashamed, I felt disgusting and I felt depressed but he was amazing. He was so understanding. He did all the research and got me the help that I needed. So today, here I am on the journey to recovery from ED.
Recovery is a life-long process and I definitely have relapses. I am still trying figure out my purpose – why was I honest with him? Do I really want to go through with this? Some days I really have no freakin clue why I am doing this because it is so damn hard. Other days I know I’m doing this because I was tired, tired of doing this for the past decade. I am learning how to not give in to those destructive habits. The biggest challenge are those dreadful feelings in your head and accepting that the number on the scale doesn’t reflect your worth. Every day is a struggle but just taking it one day at time…