The pressure behind my eyes was so intense I truly thought they might explode. My stomach flexed and emptied the last of its contents. I was fourteen. It was the first time I had made myself vomit.
I switched from a private school to public at the beginning of fifth grade and quickly felt the disapproving stares of the more worldly girls. My lunchroom plate of the given portions was suddenly a glutton’s feast and I more often than not tossed all of it in the trash. I existed on grapes and diet soda. I’d eat at home where no one could see, I thought.
Junior High was worse. A minefield of girl cruelty. Curled up in the library I devoured a book about a young girl, a ballet dancer like I was, who had anorexia. I wanted to be her and I was failing miserably. At 14, my ballet career was at best pathetic. I took the bus faithfully to Boulder Ballet Ensemble three times a week and danced to the tinny piano sounds that Tom’s Tavern below drove out with loud CCR on the jukebox. I had a crooked spine and very little drive and determination. I spent my time in class daydreaming about the stage rather than really working to make it happen.
That same lack of drive and determination made me a failure at anorexia as well. Sooner rather than later I would fail, overwhelmed by the desire to eat and I would inhale a pizza. “look at her go!” parents would say and my face would flush with shame. So it was in that same book with the beautiful anorexic dancer I desperately wanted to be there happened to be a bulimic girl. An electric shock flooded my body. I could get rid of it! All of it!
The feeling of fat and shame was quickly replaced with a high of ridding myself of all that punishment. But like all highs the time between needing to experience them gets closer and closer and closer until you lose quality of life and in many cases- nearly my case, life.
At 17, I lounged in a borrowed room, my mother having moved to San Francisco for a job, watching Oprah and splurging on Yoplait lemon yogurt and five saltines. I wouldn’t keep them, but it was still a splurge. I distantly heard a girl on the set tell Oprah she had been busted because of the tell tale bruises on her hand. Those of her two front teeth being repeatedly pushed into them as she forced the food up and out. I looked down. There they were, two bruises. I’d never thought about them, but there they were — two purple tooth marks with aging bruises circling them never given a proper chance to heal. I heard her say that was when I started using the handle of my toothbrush. Oprah’s voice distantly echoed now I don’t want anyone thinking that’s a good idea!
I was already in the bathroom. That was when I learned there were tricks to bulimia, tricks of the trade.
Later my rituals were so streamlined I needed nothing. I could simply lean over and let go. I may have failed at anorexia,(still I prayed every night God would gift me with it and take away bulimia) but I was a damn good bulimic.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder please contact NationalEatingDisorders.org — you’re not alone. Know that you can beat this and you can and will have a life.
Stephanie Stearns Dulli is alternately confident and riddled with anxiety. Perfect qualifications for the two major careers in her life: once professional actress in LA and now stay at home mom in DC. Since leaving LA and the acting world behind (for now), Stephanie has found other ways to be creative. After starting her blog five years ago, she began working as an on-camera iVoice for iVillage.com. She currently blogs at Stephanie Says about where you will find pop culture, fashion, photography, and is the director of the Washington, D.C. Listen to Your Mother show.
Image via Stephanie Stearns Dulli, with permission