She was hysterical, and she wouldn’t open the bathroom door. “Are you ok? Let me in!,” I kept insisting. But she wouldn’t, and the water was running, running, running. It was impossible to hear clearly. And she certainly wasn’t thinking clearly. There was that disagreement with her roommate, an issue no doubt, but this behaviour was too irrational to fit the crime. Continually rebuffed, I refused to leave. Tap and tears crescendoed in a mindless cacophony, until finally, silence. Then slowly she opened the door.
We sat down on her bed and I tried to comfort her while figuring out what the hell was going on. Because something had snapped. My beautiful blonde, bold friend was in that moment beaten. Why? I knew she was going through some “stuff.” But then she looked me square in the eye and said this was more than just those issues….and in that moment, my world slowed into a silent, disconcerting montage and came crashing down.
Our quest to keep healthy and obsessive daily exercise regime…. How she cried when she ate that cookie at dinner one night…. How when I freaked out that I’d bought a slice of pizza because of all the calories she told me to just throw it out and that she’d buy me a non-fat frozen yoghurt instead…. It was the food, the eating, or lack of eating.
It was the moment she told me she was bulimic, and was going to leave school, and I realised that the person I’d been basing all my healthy living behaviours on of late was not healthy at all. And neither was I. Perhaps not bulimic, but not well, in body or in mind. We hugged each other, and my cheeks burned from the tears, and this harsh slap of reality….
I was 20 years old when this went down, and in over my head before I realised it. It sounds silly to say, but I thought I was smarter than this. I’d had a friend hospitalised with anorexia in high school and I saw how debilitating that was. How had I let this happen to me? While I may not have had a certifiable eating disorder that’s exactly what I had really – I ate, just enough to keep going, but not much at all. I ran every day without fail. And eating out, eating in general, lost its joy and only stressed me out.
The most scary thing for me was once I actually admitted my behaviour was wrong, I still really struggled to change my bad habits. I’d trained my mind in a bad way. And I imagined that those in even worse positions than me, didn’t want to change either.
So I struggled with it for a couple of years. Pulled myself back from the brink through a mix of the love of good people around me, a transatlantic move and some shreds of common sense. And I’m happy to say that probably 1.5 years into my London life I left this sad chapter behind. For good. And while I’m no authority on health, I can say with confidence that I’ve found my groove of healthy eating, exercise, living – for me it’s all about the balance rather than fad diets or work out binges. I’m so much happier and healthier, in body and in mind.
Looking back on it all, I take full responsibility for my own actions. My friend and I were not good for each other from a healthy living perspective, often eating disorders can come in pairs, but I made my own decisions. I also realise that for me while this may have started as a drive to get fit and loose some weight gained during freshman year, it became a wider control issue. I channeled all my stresses through my ‘health regime,’ so the root cause of it was bigger than physical fitness alone. This is pretty common for most that develop some type of eating issue from what I can tell.
So why am I writing about this now? Two reasons I guess. Firstly, to meet my New Year’s resolution to write more often of the truthful and meaningful stuff. And secondly because when the time is right, I feel I need to share this story with C and M so they have it in their coping mechanism arsenal and don’t make the same mistakes I did. The time for that is not now, and probably not anytime soon, but I’ll definitely get there.
Discussing hard truths with children can be tricky. I don’t want break their wonderful innocence before needs must. But I want to talk with them honestly about life so that they understand how to navigate it wisely.
I’m going to leave you on that sage note to herald in 2015 – Happy New Year all.