The Boss Babe Blog
Build your career without sacrificing your life.
When I was thirteen years old, I had absolutely no idea what the word “bulimia” meant. I also had no idea how much this word would end up meaning to me in just a few short years. Sure, I had heard stories of the pretty, skinny models in the magazines starving themselves so they wouldn’t gain weight, but normal people like me didn’t do that sort of thing…right? Unfortunately, I was wrong. When I was diagnosed with bulimia in 2014 I found out that anyone can hurt themselves in that way…they just need to be given a reason. My reason was the opinion of someone very close to me.
I remember getting off the school bus at my Dad’s house just like I would on any other Friday afternoon. I dropped my backpack on the floor, and I kicked my shoes off right at the front door. I ran to the kitchen and rummaged around until I found everything I needed to make a ham and cheese sandwich. Then, I filled a soup bowl up with Cheetos and sat down on the couch to enjoy my afternoon snack.
My Dad walked through the front door just a few minutes later, stopping in the doorway to stare disapprovingly at the snack I was devouring. “Already eating I see…”, his comment caught me off guard. I always fixed an afternoon snack. It was commonplace for me to skip breakfast and lunch, so I was quite hungry by the time the school day was over. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just didn’t say anything. This was a tactic my mother had told me would work best in this type of situation. My Dad didn’t return the silence. “You really do have the potential to be pretty. If you would spend a little more time washing your face at night, and get up off that couch to do some real exercise, you might actually be able to get a boyfriend or something. It’s really a shame that you’re letting yourself go…just like your mother did.” My breath caught in my throat. I was actually hurt by his comments. I continued to stare blankly at him, hoping he would announce that he had only been joking, but no such announcement was made. He had been completely serious. He just shook his head and walked into the other room, presumably to get a shower and change into some clean clothes. For the first time, I truly felt bad about myself. I looked into the mirror that happened to be positioned on the wall across from the couch where I was sitting. I noticed the acne that had spread itself across my face in the previous few months. I recognized the chubbiness of my cheeks and the dull color of my eyes. I had the potential to be pretty…but I was not pretty.
The weekend passed like any other, much too quickly and filled mostly with travels back and forth between the houses of family members that I hadn’t seen in very long, due to the recent divorce. Come Monday morning, I couldn’t decide what to wear to school. I slipped into my favorite pair of jeans and a pink t-shirt, but upon a second look I noticed that the bright color showed my size all too well. So, I ditched the pink shirt and replaced it with a black one. The design wasn’t as nice, but at least my tummy wasn’t as noticeable.
The school day was uneventful for the most part, but the bus ride home was not. While I was sitting in my seat, listening to One Direction on my iPod, a boy sat down next to me without warning and tapped me on my shoulder. “Do you see that guy in the red American Eagle shirt over there? He wants to know if you’ll be his girlfriend. He thinks you’re really pretty.” My heart started beating really fast. No one at school had ever called me pretty before, especially not a boy. Without giving the situation much thought, I excitedly answered “Yes!”. The boy sitting next to me laughed, and a few seconds later the boy with the red shirt came running over to me. “I’m so sorry. I don’t really like you, and I don’t want to be your boyfriend. He was just playing a prank on me.” My heart sank, but I nodded as if I understood. I didn’t understand.
I couldn’t understand how some people could be so cruel. That hadn’t been a very funny prank, at least not for me. Of course, I should’ve known better. I kept telling myself: “You’re not pretty. You should have known he was lying. It was all a big joke. You’re so fat and ugly that you are a joke. No one is ever going to think you’re pretty.” I unlocked the front door of my Mom’s house and went through the same ritual as I had the Friday before at my Dad’s house. Door open, backpack down, shoes off, and run to the kitchen. This time, I found a granola bar and some applesauce. I took my snack to the coffee table, and fetched my homework, so I could kill two birds with one stone.
I was trying to focus on multiplying and dividing fractions…but my food kept distracting me. The more food that passed my lips, the more guilt I started to feel. I should have been out running or playing basketball. I shouldn’t have been stuffing my face with more food if my weight was the problem to begin with. Somehow, my brain managed to come to the conclusion that I would never be as pretty as the models in the magazines or the actresses on television. In my mind, I would never be good enough for my Dad’s approval, or that boy in the red shirt’s attention. I started to cry. Without thinking, or having any control over my actions whatsoever really, I ran to the kitchen and started digging through the cabinets. A half-full package of Oreo cookies, a box of Fiber One brownies, canned ham, pumpkin pie filling, hot chocolate mix, a bag of Doritos that had already been opened, a box of Ritz unsalted crackers…I didn’t know which junk-comfort food I wanted to stuff my face with first.
That moment changed my life. Instead of choosing one thing to eat while I cried over the events of my day, for the first time, I chose to eat everything. I opened all of the boxes and bags and cans and started eating all of it as fast as I could. After all, my Mom would be home soon, and I couldn’t let her walk in on that mess. After the thousands of calories had been chewed and swallowed, I had to find a way to dispose of all the packages. I shoved all of the trash into a trash bag and cleaned all of the trash and extra papers out of my backpack to fill the bag up the rest of the way. I quickly put a fresh trash bag in the bin and walked the full bag down to the end of the driveway and deposited it in the designated box.
When I returned to the house, I rearranged the cabinets to make them look more full. Then, the realization hit me of what I had just done. I started doing mental calculations. One hundred here, three hundred there, fifty times six makes another three hundred…I consumed well over five thousand calories in a matter of minutes. On instinct, I ran to the bathroom scale. The number that was displayed in front of me was absolutely repulsive. Too many thoughts were running through my head to make proper sense of any of them. Can I drink enough water to counteract all of that? Are there any diet pills in the medicine cabinet that could help me? I wonder if I could run this off…no probably not. What do those models do to get skinny? They stop eating…it’s too late for that. Didn’t Ann’s daughter make herself throw up? She’s really skinny…she’s beautiful.
That was my quick solution. If it had worked for my step-sister, it could work for me too. I dropped to my knees in front of the toilet. I remember the pain being harsh enough to bring tears to my eyes. After a few minutes, my head started aching really badly, and my stomach muscles began to get sore from tightening up so much. When I started to see stars dancing around the corners of my eyes, I figured I had gone far enough. I shakily stood up and walked to the sink to brush my teeth. I felt…empty. I felt light. I stood on the scale again, and the number still wasn’t as low as I would have liked, but it was better than a few minutes earlier, and that was all that mattered. My Mom returned home from work about 30 minutes later. I made up an excuse for not wanting to eat dinner that night, and no one suspected a thing.
This cycle of binging, purging, and fasting went on for about three years. I tried to stop once or twice, but I became addicted to the practice. Even after I dropped out of the public school system to start homeschool, and started refusing visitation rights to my father, who had continued to make nasty comments after that particular day, I still wasn’t happy with my body. Ever since that first binge, I’ve never been able to look at food, or myself for that matter, in much the same way again.
Today, I tried on four different outfits before I was satisfied while I was getting ready for church. The leggings made me look too fat. The shorts made me look too pale. The sweater made me look too old. The dress looked okay, but I still wasn’t completely happy with it. It just seemed like nothing was good enough, even though my Mom complimented each outfit that I modeled for her. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m ever going to be truly happy with my body. I have a disorder, a mental illness, and I can cure the symptoms, but the thoughts may always be there in the back of my mind. On the bright side, I can proudly say I am in recovery. I may still be overweight, and I may still have a long road ahead of me, but I get stronger, happier, and healthier with every day that I wake up. Instead of crying and binging on unhealthy food because I didn’t like the way my church clothes looked on my body, I took a couple deep breaths and a drink or two of lemon water. Then, I texted my boyfriend and asked for his opinion on the outfits. He reminded me that I would look beautiful to him in anything, but advised me that the dress was his favorite as well.
It’s true what they say: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ever since my first binge, I haven’t considered myself beautiful, but day after day I just have to keep reminding myself, just because you don’t see the beauty in something, doesn’t mean that the beauty isn’t there. Just like anyone can hurt themselves or hate the way they look, anyone can also be beautiful. You just have to ask the right person.