Thoughts I think when trying not to have a bulimic relapse.

I know, Taco Bell is gross. But potatoes, guys.

Hello, friends. I have written about my eating disorder on The Gloss previously, but it was long enough ago that I know many of you probably haven’t read it or don’t remember the piece. Essentially, I threw up my food for the majority of a decade. After getting better, I found that the after effects are still a huge issue — acid reflux, tooth decay, throat pain, stomach pain, fear of food, obsession with eating, avoidance of eating. They all ache, but it’s those last three that make me shake lately.

I am presently seeing somebody whose body is considerably different than my own (remember my “On Dating With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” story? That guy!). This doesn’t matter to me with regard to whether or not I’m attracted to him; he’s an extremely lovely human being and I like him quite a bit. But I weigh about 20 pounds more than he does and this bothers me. This bothers me immensely.

It is not as though I look at other people and believe that there is such a thing as a “mismatched couple” with regard to appearance. People are not puzzle pieces when it comes to looks; they do not need to “fit” in other people’s eyes. Nevertheless, I am afraid that I look strange, that I look “too large” by comparison, that I look like the equivalent of an oversized coat when near him (and when near everybody else, for that matter). To me, he is the “normal” one and I am the one who should be tucked away, quietly avoiding the gaze of other people who might take offense to my appearance. Sure, I can walk constantly and eat healthily and stop drinking so frequently (all of which I’ve done!), but my thoughts have begun to turn back to my old means by which I would lose weight: throwing up.

Right now, as a matter of fact, I am in the middle of a thought cycle wherein I want to eat every bit of food I can find, then throw it up, then do it all over again. I won’t, because I’ve learned tips and tricks to keep my mind from doing so — and I know how shitty I’ll feel if I do — but I will be seeing him in two days, so in addition to my typical “Sam, you’re fat as fuck” thoughts, I’m also now thinking about how bloated and swollen and terrible my face looks. As I’ve said, these are 100% not thoughts I think about other human beings. I don’t run around wishing people who aren’t size 4s would just go away or calling people ugly in my brain (well, except when they behave in an ugly way); these stupid, arbitrary rules apply to myself only.

Sometimes, I get emails from readers who are currently bulimic or are recovering from an eating disorder. Earlier this week, in fact, one reader told me she had finally recovered, but was currently dealing with the horrible after effects doctors often keep you in the dark about when it comes to getting better. It makes sense that they do, though, because there are some side effects that — had I known about them — I might have found frustrating enough to simply avoid the stress of stopping my habit altogether.

It would be nice to go a few days without wanting to throw up, but I recognize that this is presently an impossibility for me. I’m a neurotic, obsessive weirdo whose anxiety circles around her brain like a vulture. But for the most part, I can sense that the urge is subsiding for hours, even a day at a time. Obviously, I am trying to prevent a relapse all of the time, not simply around my partner, but because of the circumstances, I’m just plain more nervous about that happening when I’m with him (or preparing to see him) than most days.

All that said, I have at least been able to vocalize these insecurities and fears to him. So far, he’s been incredibly supportive about all of my issues while simultaneously making me not feel like it’s just “baggage” that he doesn’t want to deal with, as many of the people I’ve previously been with have done. But while having a kind, understanding person to be with is awesome, I’m trying to make it (A) not something I need to rely on all the time and (B) not something that changes my situation dramatically, for better or for worse.

I’m not sure how to finish this, and to be honest, I probably won’t go sending this his way (even though he is a fairly regular reader/commenter, so if you’re reading this before I get there, buddy, hi!). I am just genuinely curious to know if anybody else has had this issue. Is it normal? Does it go away? Is this something only 15-year-olds worry about and I should’ve gotten over by now?

Photo: Reuben Vollmer (2009).