I have been suffering from eating binges since the age of 22 and am now 53 years old. I have gone through long periods that I have not binged, but it keeps coming back. These eating binges can be massive. I do not throw up. I am not able to throw up. I would throw up if I could. My therapist attributes my inability to vomit to the fact that I was force-fed as a child. She, and many people, tell me that I am very, very fortunate that I never learned to regurgitate. To me, it is a curse to have to hold food in, as I had to hold my food in as a toddler, against my will.
I do not choose to binge. It is rare that I say, “I am going to binge today,” and go binge. It is generally something that comes over me, something Other, some Force. I cannot control it. My therapist says I can, but she is not in my shoes.
I’m not going to talk about my first binge. I’m not in the mood. I’m going to talk about last night’s binge:
It was late. I had already taken my meds. I was getting ready for bed. I decided to have some skim milk and a hard boiled egg before bed. I didn’t need skim milk and a hard boiled egg. I don’t know what I was thinking, but that was what set me off.
It was automatic. I grabbed a sac of potatoes and cut up half of them and put them in my steamer. I knew these would take a while to cook, so I cooked some potatoes in the meanwhile in the microwave. I cooked one and then ran cold water over it to cool it.
I held the potato in my hand and ate it whole. It wasn’t cool enough. It burned my mouth. My mouth was already ripped up from a binge Friday night on raw vegetables. Despite the fact that I was burning my mouth I kept on eating the potato.
There was a time in my life that I did cutting. I didn’t know why I was doing the cutting. Some say that cutting is a way to relieve bad feelings. I say that it was to see just how much I could take. Sometimes, I think that’s why I stayed in abusive relationships, rather than getting out of them when I had the chance–to see how much more abuse I could tolerate before I snapped. And you know, I never snapped. Not unless you count having developed an eating disorder.
I ate the cut-up potatoes, too. There were a lot. These, too, burned my mouth. They didn’t fill me up all that much, not really. I didn’t want to eat all the carefully prepared food that I had set aside for myself in the refrigerator, so I decided to go out.
On Friday when I went out, I risked exacerbating my injury by walking to the convenience store and back, which was a bit too far at the time, to get binge food. That was how desperate I was. Tonight, I would again take a risk. My injury has improved and I could go further, a lot further, and even carry stuff on my back, without using my cane. This would enable me to free up two hands, so that I could eat while walking home.
Yes, I take risks. Yes, I am that desperate. I am on a mission.
I grabbed a knapsack and my wallet. I made sure I had enough cash. Quickly, I changed into baggy clothing, and put on a jacket to hide my thinness. Surely, appearing thin would be a dead giveaway. What extremely thin woman eats goodies, unless she’s on a binge? Let’s not be obvious here. I put on a baseball cap, too. My MP3 player so that I could hide from the world. My keys.
I decided to divide up my trip. I haven’t done this lately, but I didn’t want to get “caught.” I have been “caught” at Tedeschi’s too many times lately. I decided to buy a loaf of raisin bread there. Innocent enough. They would never suspect, and the guy didn’t. I am positive. My plan was to get something to put on the bread at CVS, sour cream most likely. At CVS, where I can be anonymous at 1:30am, I purchased a large tub of chocolate ice cream, sour cream, and a huge bag of milk chocolate M&M’s to eat on the way home. Over 12 dollars. The raisin bread was maybe $3. This was an expensive binge.
I asked for a bag at CVS. I was in such a hurry that I left without the sales slip, but the guy said, “Don’t you want the coupon?” I said, “Oh,” and grabbed the sales slip and left. Once safely at a hideaway, I separated everything. I took the bread out of my knapsack and put the ice cream and sour cream on the bottom, then put the bread on top. Then I had the M&M’s in a bag to eat. I quickly ripped open the bag, put a bunch in my hand, and tossed them into my mouth.
I had thought M&M’s would be soft enough for my already damaged gums. I was wrong. With every bite, I could feel my gums get more and more ripped apart. I tried chewing with my front teeth. The candy practically fell out of my mouth, so I went back to molar-chewing.
Suddenly, the bag ripped. M&M’s went everywhere! All over the sidewalk! All I could think of was that I wanted to bend down and pick up every single one of them, and claim it as mine. I even thought about how many I’d wasted. But I didn’t pick them up. I quickly snatched up the bag and allowed the candies to flow into my pocket, all of them, so I had a pocket full of M&M’s, a huge pocket full of them. This was the reason for the jacket with pockets in the first place. I kept walking, pulling handfuls of candies out of my pocket and eating them even though they continued to rip apart my mouth.
I thought, for a moment, what a fool I was, walking down the street spilling M&M’s all over the sidewalk, how obvious it must look to an onlooker. I thought about the people across the street. I was now passing Tedeschi’s, and folks were coming out of the store with their supplies. Had they seen me, the fool, the skinny one out on a binge, the one who has been binge eating for 31–I repeat, 31 years? Did they see my suffering? Probably not.
Even as I was coming into the building, I still ate. Even as I came into the apartment, I was still finishing up the M&M’s, but just the last couple of bites. I have my timing down just right. I set the ice cream on the counter and broke into the bread and sour cream. I got a knife and spread gobs of sour cream on top of each slice of bread. But what’s this? As I took each bite, I could see red blood clearly on the sour cream. My whole mouth was bleeding. I could even taste the blood. The sour cream soothed me, but I knew I had done quite a bit of damage. I wiped my mouth periodically on a towel, and each time, I saw blood. Partway through the loaf of bread, I ate the ice cream, also soothing. It was messy. I finished it all, then went back to the bread and sour cream, and nearly polished that off. Finally, I doused the remainder in water, and flushed the last of the sour cream down the sink. I was done.
I have written all this very matter-of-factly, without emotion. Why? Perhaps because the mechanics of eating overshadowed whatever I was feeling at the moment. I think the blood in my mouth must have scared me, but the push and drive to get food in me, the destructiveness of an eating binge overshadowed my concern over the worsening condition of my gums. And when I was finished, I was finished. I went to bed.
I slept a few hours, then got up. I felt no better than last night, still impossibly stuffed, as if I couldn’t get another bit of food or drink into me, or even air into me. But Puzzle needed her walk. Devoted mom that I am, I mustered up the strength to take her a mile and a half around the neighborhood, feeling miserable, wearing baggy clothing, the same clothes I wore last night. We came home. I took my meds and went back to bed. I slept till noon.
I still feel very, very stuffed. I haven’t been able to take in fluids. I did make myself a cup of coffee. It stung my mouth but I managed to drink it after it cooled some. I haven’t passed a stool, nothing substantial anyway. This is the first time that I’ve been able to sit in a chair without substantial discomfort.
So I am sitting here, writing in The Starvation Transformations notebook. This incident that I have just described is one of the many ways that my eating disorder has transformed my life.
While I wrote those words, when I wrote “transformed” I also wrote, “ruined,” and then deleted it. I don’t know why.