or…a brief story about my experience with bulimia and how much healthier I am now
The very first Cat Wisdom I featured on the sidebar of my page was this quotation from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot:
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! Smoothed by long fingers, Asleep … tired … or it malingers, Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
So I just went back and reread the poem, and it had such a calming effect on me. I was thinking about how I’ve loved this poem since I was 18, when I read it in English class in high school. My freshman year of college, I actually posted it (in it’s entirety in 12 pt font – around 4 feet long) to one of my walls. It’s interesting to think back on this, because it is also a reminder of how far I’ve come as far as mental health goes since those days. To continue the poem excerpt will give you an example of the urgency and indecision of my thoughts at 18:
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” —
If one, settling a pillow by her head
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”
At 18, I was bulimic and depressed (which I channeled into the bulimia). Every decision I made felt fraught with tension – to eat the food, or not to eat the food? Or perhaps to go buy lots of good food, only to later find the nearest public one-stall bathroom in order to purge it back out. I was often far from home, taking myself to school or figure skating training or my boyfriend’s house, all of which were over a half hour from my home. When people ask me where I grew up, I hesitate to name the town my house was in, because I feel more connected to some other towns, the towns where I skated or the town, 40 minutes from home, where I went to public high school through the state’s school choice program just so that school would fit better with my training. It was definitely pretty intense, and I often felt kind of locked inside my own head. I was also completely overworked. In addition to this intense sports regimen I worked a part-time job at the local mall or coffee shop or beginner programs for the sport, and I was in many AP classes. I was an exceptional student and stayed up late at night finishing my homework. Most of my friends were also figure skaters. People at school whom I was friendly with had stopped asking me to hang out long ago, having learned that I was always busy. I, of course, had made friends at the rinks where I trained, but by my junior year many of them had quit. I was soon training in a new location, where nearly everyone was younger than me (and much richer and, for lack of a better word, cattier than me). So I was also pretty lonely. Or perhaps you’d say insanely lonely, at least compared to now…compared to living here with Husband, in this loving happy marriage.
I met Husband immediately after my sophomore year of college, which makes it nearly 4 years ago. I think I have made a lot of progress in that time. Although I had seen a counselor as soon as I got to college, I had still been struggling with the bulimia on and off up until the day I met Husband. I remember it very well, because I had been having a really bad day as far as the bulimia was concerned. But then I got a call from the exciting man I had met on match.com, and we made plans to meet up. And when I met him, I was so overjoyed at having found this wonderful, amazing, funny, intelligent, creative and adorable human being with whom to share my time, my thoughts. In whom I found understanding, which gave me the ability to be completely frank about the crazy thoughts inside my head. And he was as crazy for me as I was for him! This amazing catch thought I was amazing too, and genuinely found me to be sexy, which helped allow me to be sexy without being ashamed or overly concerned about whether I looked ok. He awakened in me the confidence I had been building but struggling with, and I didn’t need the clutch of the bulimia anymore. I moved on, and over time the thoughts faded, and now I no longer remember with accuracy the calorie content of most of the foods I encounter, nor the location of the nearest prime locations for a bulimic episode.
So as far as mental distress over eating, I have improved vastly. Physically, however, some manifestations remain. While I did successfully rid myself of the purging aspect of bulimia, I still occasionally binge eat. I don’t think I do it as often as I used to, but Husband and I both will sometimes spend time chilling out and eat so many sweets that our tummies ache after. We haven’t done this in a while though – we have both been succeeding at eating a bit healthier and losing some weight. For me, it’s been very slow and gradual, but there is a significant downward trend over the last few months, and that’s good. I get a fair amount of activity running, crawling, jumping, and playing with the kids a few days a week and now I can play DDR at home too, but I need to get to the gym more.
Additionally, I still suffer mental distress over other things. After giving up the bulimia (I say “giving up” because it was an addiction and a crutch), I plunged into a depression, which I have written about more extensively and still deal with. For that too, though, I can report improvement. I think 2008 has been relatively depression-free so far. Sure, there have been some sad and stressful times, and a minor quals freakout, but for the most part I’ve been functioning well – getting good work done, spending time with friends and of course with Husband, and spending time at my part-time nanny job. (Where two small children love me so much that last night, the older one kept something small from my bag that I had let him play with and brought it everywhere, even to bed with him. I feel loved, and warmed to think that the thought of me is so comforting to him.)
So, that’s where I am now, and a bit about how I got here.