Hunger Games: My Struggle With Bulimia

They say that it’s easier for bulimics than anorexics to acknowledge their problem. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Anorexics can pass of their disorder as “a diet” (albeit a severe one). With bulimics, the whole fingers down the throat bit is, shall we say, harder to swallow.

So yeah, I knew. I probably knew for the entire year and a half of not eating then eating A TON then getting rid of it in the toilet, and occasionally the shower, sink or Tupperware containers. Although I wouldn’t dare admit it. The only time I’ve ever said it, said “I am bulimic,” was to myself as I cried into the toilet after the whatever thousandth time of successfully chasing that cavernous feeling in my stomach, the way I imagine an addict will cry taking a hit they know they don’t want but still need. And even then, when I thought, “I can’t do this anymore,” I logically followed that up with this gem of an idea: “Maybe I just shouldn’t eat anymore.”

Because I was that committed. When I started to stop purging, I told myself it was because I was taking my life back. But sometimes I suspect it was because I knew I was losing my gag reflex.

For me, in my war with disordered eating, there is a lot to regret. I regret knowing which bathrooms on my college campus are single occupancy and with a locking door. I regret all the time I wasted sitting hands and knees on bathroom floors when I could have been out doing things that really mattered. I regret knowing how I wouldn’t have enjoyed those things if I didn’t feel thin. I regret how being that thin, being able to wear what I wore no problem, made me so fucking happy. I regret knowing that, aside from the moments of hulking my teary eyed despair over a porcelain toilet bowl, I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy or that confident. I regret fooling everyone I know. I regret how people wanted me — to fuck me or have as a fabulous friend. And I especially regret allowing myself to buy it.

And it haunts me. The specter of a person I was still haunts me when I see her appear in the side of a Facebook page, photos of me in friends old albums, where it says “Do you know this person?” Or when I search through my iPhoto for a picture of me for something as harmless as a resume I see photos of a me I don’t look like anymore. Or when someone I’ve just met comments on a old profile picture of mine, saying something like “prettyyy !!!” And do you know what I think? I think: “Wow she does look pretty.”

I can’t — or I won’t — tell my mother, truly my greatest friend and to whom I tell everything. Not because I feel ashamed, although I guess I do, or guilty, but because it would simply wound her. She would feel — though she would be wrong — that she could have spared me in a number of ways. That every casual remark about her thighs taught me to hate my own. That anyone knows that losing that much weight that fast is never a good thing. That she should have known my long showers really meant vomiting in the toilet. That she should have known that despite what I said, sick people lie. That, as a mother, she just should have known. In short, I know it would Break. Her. Heart. And that would break my heart too.

Sometimes I forget what I am capable of. Maybe on a weekend where my roommate goes out of town I think, giddy with opportunity, that “I can eat whatever I want! And spend however long I want in the bathroom throwing it up. And no one will know!” At those times, telling myself “no” is a full time job.

But most days it’s hard to forget. Especially now, when I’m sitting at my desk, typing on a keyboard, with the way the florescent light hits the scar on my right hand, on the pointer finger, just below the knuckle, where I imagine my molars or incisors gradually wore a piece of me away.

Ed Note: This story was sent to us by a reader. If you have a story about weight and body image you’d like to see featured in Hunger Games week – and you want to write 600-800 words on it - reach out to Jennifer[at] or Ashley[at]

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    • matbo

      “That she should have known my long showers really meant vomiting in the toilet.” Whenever someone is taking forever in the shower I always imagine them masturbating. (Sorry, just couldn’t get that out of my head – thanks for being brave enough to face yourself, maybe I’ll do it to one day.)

    • Jon

      Way to trick me into thinking this would actually be about “The Hunger Games” books. But yes, bulimia is definitely a challenge.

    • Ashley

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it is poignant and so true how you talk about the relationship between anorexia and bulimia – how you can slip from one to the other, or how they are viewed as a diet versus a “bad behavior”. I know how it feels when, as you said, telling yourself “no” is a full time job. But keep up the fight :) It’s definitely an inspiration for the rest of us to keep fighting too.

    • Joy

      This is a great story and so brave to share, but perhaps the whole theme of the week is a bit misnamed, as most of us associate The Hunger Games to be about the books?

    • 10yearsistoolong

      Excellent and eloquent! Absolutely beautiful and spot on reflection of the complexities of bulimia. Not only do you describe your honest feelings concerning food but you understand and lay naked the schism that eating disorders create; the “old” you and the “new you”. And trying to come to terms with them. Really great. Thank you