The Butterfly Foundation does amazing work with sufferers of eating disorders, if you’re looking for a charity to back I recommend them. Recently they’ve encouraged people to send in their blog posts about their experiences with eating disorders. So today I would like to share with you a story. I won’t tell whether it is mine, or a friend’s, or someone I barely know; that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this girl is a person, with a story, and she doesn’t want other people suffering to feel alone. So in honour of the work that the Butterfly Foundation does, here is her story.
I was a nerd in high school, I won’t deny it. Hell, I’m still a nerd now and proud of it because nerds are awesome. But I wasn’t the stereotypical glasses-wearing, braces-clad nerd; one guy in my 9th grade history class called me a pretty nerd and we all had a good laugh while I helped them with their assignments. But I didn’t believe it, I didn’t think I was pretty…not even a little bit. It didn’t bother me so much until I got older, about fifteen towards the end of 10th grade. I started to place more importance on how well did in school, because I didn’t think I was pretty the nerd part of that equation was all I had.
The first time I found myself on the bathroom floor, forcing myself to vomit I wasn’t one hundred percent sure why I was doing it. I remember now getting another math test back and getting another C+ even though I’d studied longer and harder than any other time. Even though I’d received an A in every other subject that semester, I couldn’t get past that one C. To me it was proof of my failure, proof that I wasn’t anything, smart or pretty. So I pushed myself to do better, not just in that but in everything. But when I didn’t live up to my high standards there was a punishment, a control mechanism and that is how I came to throwing up more frequently and with purpose. During the holidays this merciful feeling of contentment overcame me. There was no work, no pressure and I felt like maybe I had stopped. It was just some dramatic little teenage thing I did when I was younger, more foolish. It was when I got to year 11 that I realised I was wrong. The pressure I put on myself increased as I tried to cope with new things expected of me every day. Again, Math B became my justification. Chemistry joined it, a subject that I had expected to do so well in and had barely cracked a B on my first report card. My parents didn’t care about the grades, they were proud of me. Nor did my friends, they begged me to help them with biology because I was one of only a few people to get an A on that first report card. But I didn’t see it, I just saw pressure, and failure, and lack of control. Throwing up became my coping mechanism, but it would only provide me that feeling of control for a little while and I would be sad again; so I had to do it again.
By August I was down in it, and refused to tell anyone out of fear. My own mind had convinced me that if anyone knew they would know I was crazy and I’d end up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. Not knowing much about treatment, and reading too much Sylvia Plath, had scared me into this little hateful world that I was afraid to let anyone in on. The first person I told was my friend. He wasn’t my best friend but he had the same kind of troubled, tortured air about him. In legal studies class we sat together and I suddenly blurted out to him: “I make myself throw up and I’m afraid I can’t stop”. He looked unsurprised, said all the right things and told me that he’d tried to kill himself. That was our relationship from then on, we kept each other’s dark little secrets. But he and I were the same: young, sick and in denial. He couldn’t help me anymore than he could help himself. So I kept doing what I was doing until about a month later.
After a chemistry class where one of my closest friends opened up about her own troubles, I was conflicted about my own. After class I walked along the school balconies, avoiding the crowd at the front of the school, thinking about how brave she was to tell me, to tell her parents. It was one of those rare, lucid moments where I hated what I was doing and desperately wanted to stop. But I usually talked myself out of telling anyone pretty quickly. But that day someone caught me in the right moment. My teacher, one whose class I loved and whom I had previously almost told in another lucid moment but shut my mouth before the punchline, was walking along the same balcony as I was. He waved and wished me a good weekend, and I in my state of confusion and fear barely managed to raise my hand to wave back. Then he asked if I was okay, and instead of saying yes like I always did I said no. I said no in a way that my brain hadn’t quite expected, it yelled at me and gave me lines with which to back-pedal but for once I ignored it. He asked what was going on and he looked like he cared about the response so against every thought in my head that screamed “bad idea”, I responded. “I did something stupid,” I told him. I told him everything. It was by far the best decision I ever made.
While it wasn’t straight away I eventually let him help me, and I started talking to people. He was there for me when I thought I couldn’t trust anyone, and the day I graduated high school I promised myself that I would never forget what he did for me. A year later, he’s still my friend. My psychologist was an amazing person, and I will be forever grateful to her for helping me realise that it was okay to be scared. It was okay to be afraid of the real world, because almost everyone is, they just have better ways of dealing with it. My eating disorder wasn’t exactly textbook and was born out of a number of different pressures, not just body image. But in my experience, no one’s story of ED is typical; it’s personal and heartbreaking and different every time. To anyone who is suffering, from anorexia, from bulimia or any other eating disorder please tell someone. It may not seem like it to you at the time, but it is the best decision you can make. You don’t have to be alone, because someone else will be afraid of the same things you are; you just have to find them. We are never alone in this world, so never suffer alone.