The problem with disordered eating is that it never goes away. Hand on heart, I’ve had odd eating habits since I was a child and they morphed cheerily into binging and purging habits as a teenager. I have forever used food as a comfort and a punishment. It is the truest form of self harm that I have ever acted out against myself. My relationship with food has been consistent and self indulgent and painful for as long as I can remember and, over the last decade, I have engaged in binges that can only be described as perverse, allowing myself to feel degraded and disgusting with every longed for, despised mouthful.
I remember telling my mother, once, why I refused to wear makeup. As a teenager and a woman in her early to mid twenties, I was so ashamed of my existence that to put make up on felt… It felt wrong. Like decorating a turd, like I didn’t deserve it, like it was trying to make out like I was something I wasn’t (pretty.) Now I am older, I have to wear make up to look vaguely human. That is how I feel most of the time though – like I need to apologise for living. ‘I know I’m fat, but…’ ‘I know I’m bigger than his usual type, but…’ ‘I know my hair is greasy, but…’ ‘I know I’ve got my glasses on, but…’
This year, I decided I wanted to be different. I wanted to be healthy and relaxed around food and if I lost weight as a by product of that, then perfect. I started well and aimed for between seven and ten portions of fruit and veg a day, as well as regular exercise. I also weighed and measured myself. Three weeks in and, although I have lost half a stone over all, I gained a pound this week and goodness me, has it sent me over the edge. It’s been a long time, years, since I have made myself throw up, but this weekend that is exactly what I did.
I’m not silly enough to think this is all about my weight. I feel out of control in a way that I haven’t since I lived with my parents and the numbers on the scale were the final straw. The pressure was building and building inside me and the only way I could release it was to kneel on the floor, slide my fingers down my throat and vomit. The relief was instant and beautiful and I did it a few more times, welcoming the stinging eyes and the creeping headache. For the remaining few hours at work I felt light and chirpy. That evening, after bedtime, I sobbed my way through a post dinner work out and then greeted the toilet like an old friend, skin tingling at the contact from the cold, slate tiles under my knees. I felt in control, I felt good, I felt purposeful.
I know it was wrong, but it served a purpose. I know I will probably do it again, but I also realise that in order to stop it taking hold, I need to look at my life and move forward now. This has been the lurking, slimy thing at the back of my mind for nearly fifteen years and I’ve never really escaped it. It has been sitting at the edge of a murky pool, feeding on bits of my life, content to linger on the periphery, biding his time. This weekend, he shimmied his way gleefully to the forefront, smiling and laughing and reaching out his arms to hold me tight in a dark embrace. I’m not a teenager anymore, though and I don’t need to take his hand and skip merrily down this leaf mould path. Don’t get me wrong, the temptation is there, beckoning sweetly and whispering to me as I stare in the mirror, but I am channelling Jessica Jones from here on in – shooting for a likeness to Buffy. A bit broken, a bit bruised, I know what the dark things eat, but ultimately, I want to stab my demons in the heart with a stake.