Coming Clean

Whew, I’m hoping this will lead to the sort of relief that accompanied coming out to myself and others as a gay man. The burden that was lifted in that instance was indescribable. Since doing so at the late age of twenty-four (but better late than never), I’ve become so much more comfortable in my own skin, so much more willing to just be myself and to advocate fearlessly on behalf of my community. I hope — for anyone struggling with this disease and, admittedly selfishly, for myself as well. 

I’m bulimic. I have been for more than half my life now. It started when I was thirteen (I turn 28 in April). Body image has always been a personal obsession and a means of self-demeaning — and to someone who’s fought depression his whole life, it makes for another potent ingredient in the self-loathing brew. See, when I was younger, I was really a fat kid; I don’t say that in jest. When I was twelve, I weighed 185 lb (84 kg) and sported a 38″ (96.5 cm) waist. By comparison, at 27, I weigh 125 lb (56.7 kg) and comfortably wear a 28″ (71.1 cm) waist. Those numbers might sound familiar, as I admittedly brag about them. Just for a face-saving disclaimer, those numbers don’t necessarily reflect my disease — at 5’6″ (1.68m) with a naturally narrow frame, that’s about where I should be. My inordinate pride in them, however, is certainly a manifestation of my disease. 

The ironic part is that, in the spring/summer of 1997-98, I lost the vast majority of my weight the right way — eating healthily, working out daily, riding a bike across town. I entered middle school a new person, slim, fit, and — while I’ll never be drop-dead gorgeous — cute enough for boys and girls to pay attention to. Yet it just wasn’t enough. That niggling bit of chub in the belly, loose skin on toned deltoids, my chipmunk cheeks (objective here, no matter what I do, no matter how intensely I work out, I will always have chipmunk cheeks; what’s one to do?), no matter what, it’s never been good enough. 

Nothing is ever good enough — and that’s the rub. My freshman year of college, a girl on my floor suffered from extreme anorexia. Extreme enough that she became known as “lettuce girl,” as all she ever ate (to anyone’s knowledge) was unadorned greens, day after day. Extreme enough that the college made her withdraw in order to get her shit together and seek counseling for her eating disorder. My freshman year was bad enough, and she and I were never close; I don’t know what happened with her, though I saw a brilliant young woman torn apart by an eating disorder. I saw myself in her.

I’ve hidden it well, and sometimes less well. My family knows and likely has for some time. My ex certainly knows, though I have every reason to suspect that this individual understood in a highly sympathetic way, if you catch my drift. As such, it wasn’t anything that ever came up. For me, it started freshman year of high school. Without going into too much detail, it was and wasn’t a similar traumatic time as familiar to most. My “clique” from the previous ten years broke up three ways, and I, always the peacemaker, got left in the lurch trying to reconcile the irreconcilable. This is hardly unique. I took it hard, of course, but that’s just part of that age; the kicker for me was that my previously unassailable parents’ marriage ended abruptly. I found out by virtue of my nose for intrigue and my hacking skills (the latter of which I am not proud, mind you). 

Now none of the above justifies turning myself into a walking wraith or in any way excuses it, yet in therapist-speak, those are the identifiable triggers. Needless to say, I starved myself and threw up whatever I did manage to down. I remember clearly lying in bed, heart pounding, a cavity in my core, less an absence than a filling nothing. I took pleasure in having no body heat, in feeling nothing but a consuming emptiness, wondering if perhaps tonight would be the night that my flickering flame would just run out of heat and peter out. There’s a strange pleasure to that sort of nothing, an adrenaline rush even to eat oneself full and then expel it out and wash it away. It’s a high even. I don’t even eat for the sake of taste (though I do have some, I might say) or nourishment; I eat — even now — to fill myself in order to empty myself.

Truly it’s a perverted zen koan; I empty myself in order to see myself. 

(This is just the first stab at a topic I will return to)

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~ by Benji on 22 February 2013.

6 Responses to “Coming Clean”

  1. I can’t imagine the relief it would be to finally admit to your family and friends that you’re gay. I wouldn’t want to carry around that sort of secret, having to deny such a huge part of who I am.

    Do you foresee entering recovery for your bulimia in your near future? I hope that you are able to find freedom from it.

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    • Thanks! I’m slowly recovering, learning to eat healthily and work out regularly. I can’t say I’m fully recovered or anywhere near that, but I’m working at it and it’s gradually getting better. It comes down to learning and stopping myself before I get out of control, as with any addiction. I’m still skinny, but I’m healthier than I used to be and am working toward becoming healthy in general.

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  2. That makes me really happy to hear. It can be a really long and difficult journey, but I think it’s all worth it in the end.

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  3. It must be a very difficult thing to write about. SO brave of you to write about it as was coming out, too. I am glad to hear you are feeling better though. I hope you are not taking too much medication. Eat all the lovely healthy food you enjoy, perhaps, and drink lots of water? But I know so little about this that I should not be giving ANY advice. Except be happy and contented and I would advise anyone to be that! Take care of yourself…

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  4. Oh, my dearest bunny. I have wondered, I’ll be honest. I struggled for years and years with various permutations. I am so happy to be free, but of course those thoughts do come knocking sometimes. If you ever want or need to talk, I’m here. xoxo

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  5. […] wrote this a couple of years ago, when I finally had the courage to come out (for a second time) as a man fighting an eating […]

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