There is a girl I once knew. One that I thought I would know forever. She is everything ordinary in the world. She is just the same as each one down the line, maybe with different hair and bluer eyes, but so wrapped up in portraying an image of perfection and sameness, that you couldn’t pick her out from the rest.
She is held captive by doubt, and a long line of attempts and failures. Failures of her own design, the result of playing small, as to continue going unnoticed.
And beneath it all she is vibrating with anxiety and stress, the reel of self-doubt and shame moving through her so quickly, you can sense the tremor of it when you’re around her.
It’s funny because I watched her try on different masks and ways of being, picking and choosing lifestyles and new ways of numbing, but nothing ever really changed. The reel of chronic self-loathing still hummed away beneath the new walls.
I thought I would know her forever.
But I am so glad I won’t have the opportunity.
365 days, 12 months, 1 year, they are all the same. But this last year, everything changed.
It has been one year since I stuck my finger down my throat to purge the thousands of calories worth of food I binged on. A habit that has come and gone in varying degrees for the last decade of my life.
And I’ll do you one better: I finally stopped the habits I picked up after putting down bulimia, including binge drinking and eating.
I realized recently that I hit a milestone in my life, which I have paid multiple therapists countless dollars to help me reach. A milestone I begged for late at night after binging and purging, feeling exhausted and hopeless. The same thing I begged for upon waking up after a blackout night, the shame pounding just as hard as my head.
In the most recent years, as my eating disorder reached a fever pitch, what I wanted more than anything was a calm life. I wanted a life that would allow my husband to keep peanut butter and chocolate in the house, without me eating it in one sitting. I wanted to not think about food incessantly, I wanted to enjoy cooking and eating, without shame. I wanted desperately to not be driven by fear and emotions towards the vodka or the grocery store. I just wanted to be.
What I wanted more than anything was to quiet the part of my brain that screams for the emotional fix of food and alcohol, to not have to justify giving in, only to feel the familiar shame after I do.
And I did it.
I fucking did it.
For the first time in my adult life I no longer feel the desire to gorge myself on food when I’m alone, or to placate my gnawing self-doubt and stress with alcohol.
I no longer have to laugh off the 2-3 vodka drinks every night, with a roll of my eyes and the “it’s been a rough week” excuse. The justification for numbing as transparent as I felt.
I feel calm. Finally.
And it has taken a helluva lot of work, realizations, and self-reflection to pull it off.
But I did it.
And now I kinda get where this pre-mature gray hair came from. I’ve spent a decade as a ball of anxiety, gritting my teeth and white-knuckling my way through life. It all makes sense, for better or worse.
And damnit, I want the same success for you. Not the gray hair part, because screw the upkeep. But I want you to walk through this life calmly, without the weight of your shame and numbing, because it feels so good.
It feels inexplicably good. And if you know me personally, there’s not many things I can’t explain my way through. But this foreign feeling is one of them.
Eating disorders are treated in silence. Recovery feels like shame and guilt, because why can’t we just deal with the pressure of life, without leaving a wake of candy wrappers and takeout on the counter? Why can’t we handle our vices?
“Bulimic head case” was my mantra for a decade. My eating disorder felt like a failure I needed to hide from the world.
This cultural idea that eating disorders or addiction is failure is what keeps us on the downward spiral—it keeps us alienated from the world. Compared to diseases like cancer, eating disorders and addiction are shunned, the conversations turn to whispers, and it’s not polite to discuss addiction recovery around the dinner table.
It’s this very silence and alienation that drives us further into the downward spiral, because shame keeps the demons going, and not talking about it does too.
But if we want to make actual change in the way we deal with eating disorders, to make a dent in the 20 million women who battle disordered eating, we need to talk about it.
We need to say “me too.”
So, I’ve realized that maybe, just maybe, this is what I’m meant to write about, because it might just help one of you down the line.
I'm writing this because I spent too many hours crying on the floor, laying awake at night in desperation, experiencing heart palpitations, and collapsing from dehydration and low blood sugar, because I was wrecking my body. I’ve run the gamut to try and make myself better, and I want to share with you those things, so maybe you can save a decade of your life.
If this struggle has been for anything, it’s for you. I don’t think I was given the gift of writing and self-reflection, along with a decade worth of material, for nothing.
Playing small and coveting my shame will no longer cut it, there's work to do.
© Cayla Vidmar January 9, 2017