xesce may 2004

[A lot of this is probably too unclear and disorganized - I will try to put more effort into this page when I can.]

[My main eating phases are: binge-purge phase, restricting phase, holiday/travel/special occasion phase and 'normal' eating phase. I am usually gaining weight when in the binge-purge phase, losing weight in the restricting/exercising phase, maintaining while eating moderately but indulgently (non-healthy foods, drinking coffee, etc) in the holiday phase and usually maintaining, or losing at a very slow rate while forcing myself to eat and exercise healthily and sensibly in the 'normal' phase. Occasionally, there is another phase in which I eat somewhat excessively, but do not vomit. I gain weight during this phase, but not as rapidly as during the binge-purge phase. Usually, all of a sudden I become panicked when I discover how much weight I've gained, and this will often send me into a restricting phase.]

Usually, I am in a rapidly gaining phase when I am vomiting. I think the vomiting helps psychologically to shorten the overall phase. By not having to endure the long horrible process of digestion when I've eaten to the point of severe discomfort, with the constant feeling of fullness, I think I experience less fear, and somehow I think more of a limit is imposed on the out-of-control period. When I feel so full I'm in pain, some bizarre thing happens where as soon as it lets up even a little, I seem to stuff a bit more into myself. If your body spontaneously vomits when you are overfull, you would never know what it's like to have to endure the painful and incapacitating hours of digestion. It's a kind of torture. If you've experienced that sort of thing a few times in your life, but only on holidays or special occasions and would never do that to yourself on a regular basis because you learned your lesson, I guess it can be hard to understand why a person wouldn't stop before they get to that point. I'm not sure I know how to explain it easily. I'll try to get around to it in more detail as I work on this website.

Anyway. The vomiting seems to somehow prevent that horrifying process, and probably reduces the amount of time I spend feeling powerless, just waiting. It increases the rate at which I'm able to attempt to refocus more 'positively', and I think this has something to do with why I never gain as much as I did when I was younger.

In order to understand why some people feel a need to seek out info about how to vomit, I think as many factors as possible need to be examined. I'm just attempting to add what I can, whatever I can get into words. I had to experience an incredible amount of discomfort, despair and desperation before vomiting ever became a a way of coping that I actually utilized.

[I don't think that withholding info about how to vomit will ultimately be a successful method of preventing anyone from vomiting. Not all people who view info about how to vomit are going to start vomiting. I think there has to be a very strong need there, a combination of complex factors.]

My first attempts to vomit were unsuccessful. I consider myself to have had a serious eating disorder by the age of 13, but I didn't actually start vomiting until age 21. Before that, I tried to induce vomiting a few times, but it didn't work, and I stuck with trying to compensate for binges by restricting/dieting, exercising and occasionally fasting. It may sound mild, but it wasn't. The distress I experienced was incapacitating, and seriously impacted the rest of my life. I did actually ask for help, in various ways, but I guess I was never in the right place at the right time, I wasn't articulate enough, or the people I asked for help just didn't know what to do with the info I gave them.

I think it was difficult for me to learn to self-induce vomiting for a variety of reasons. I seemed to have an abnormal capacity to eat past the point where most people I've known would just spontaneously vomit. And even at that point, it was not easy for me to induce vomiting. For example, I tried to drink water with tons of salt in it, I tried drinking milk with a lot of vinegar in it. I tried my finger, but somehow I didn't seem able to relax enough to allow my gag reflex to operate. I also tried running a mile or so at full speed.

Partly, I think there was a very strong stigma attached to vomiting that was affecting me on unconscious levels.

It may have been wrapped up in my identity and in pleasing adults. I wanted to be seen as strong and healthy. I seemed to get positive attention for that. When I had the flu, I always made it to the toilet on time to vomit, I didn't mess the floor or bed like the others. And I was always up and about almost immediately, ready to do chores or whatever. Also, one key adult figure in my life seemed to have a strong aversion or almost a phobia related to bodily functions like urination, defecation and vomiting.

Another example to illustrate what i was like as a child: On a celebration for my 5th birthday, I was at my grandparents' place, playing in the basement with my siblings when I slipped and hit my head hard on the edge of something wooden. I remember that it hurt, and I used my will to prevent myself from crying. I went on as if nothing had happened. I was strong. But I started to feel very sick and dizzy. I felt embarrassed, but I asked an adult to carry me upstairs. He seemed angry, saying I was a big girl now. I felt ashamed of myself and made an effort to deal with my dizziness and nausea on my own. During dinner, I had trouble seeing what was on my plate, and I think my fork skidded across the plate in an uncontrollable way. Sometime around then another adult asked some questions, and soon I was on the way to the hospital. I tried so hard to control it, but on the way there, I vomited all over the navy blue dress I was wearing. The feeling of shame was so intense, I never wanted to experience anything like that again. I had messed the car, caused a huge inconvenience, a disgusting mess, and I had messed myself. I felt it showed I didn't have enough self-control.Anyway, I had a concussion and had to stay overnight for observation.

From what I've gathered, many people whose eating patterns are relatively stable still seem to think of bulimia as a somewhat ridiculous vanity disorder in which a person indulges and then 'cheats' by vomiting to prevent the consequences of overindulgence. People with eating disorders seem to be affected by this perception to the extent that I've sometimes seen them refer to their problems as 'silly'.

It's complicated for me, and I guess I can only speak for myself.

When I eat a 'normal' meal, I don't vomit. 'Normal' meals for me include things like a bowl of wholegrain cereal with fruit and skim milk; a sandwich on multigrain bread with fancy lettuce, tomato, something like snowpea or alfalfa sprouts, a bit of fresh red bell pepper and a bit of reduced fat cheese; a stirfry with rice, noodles or couscous.

Also, if I eat a restaurant meal, I do not vomit, even if the meal is excessive, high in fat, etc. There is something about the restaurant experience that I think psychologically provides some of what I'm compensating for (atmosphere, novelty, social stimulation, the potential to wear non-everyday clothes, etc) when I engage in binge/purge behaviour.

When I eat 'normally', I also have small snacks through the day, and basically it's probably fairly healthy, and I feel comfortable. But the cravings don't really stop, even when I'm not actually experiencing hunger. And if eating normally doesn't seem to be leading to weight loss, I feel discouraged at a certain point, and a kind of pressure starts to build. It may be related to a need for release, from a high anxiety level, from always trying to see everyone's point of view, a need to allow myself to be 'bad' in at least one way.

'Normal' eating usually branches into binges eventually. I'll feel it's necessary to release some of the pressure that's building, and so I'll try to have as much control over it as possible. I'm not secretive about it. I choose foods carefully, and give things a lot of thought. For more info, check out my rituals section. At the back of my mind will be the idea that I am trying to 'refocus' and force myself into 'normal' eating, with the idea of restricting always being at the back of my mind. It's just that now my bulimic phases seem to have such a horrendous effect on my body that I don't recover from them very fast, and I'm afraid of being forced into a hospital if I go straight into a restricting phase. So, reluctantly, I now go into a sensible 'normal' phase for a while.

Or, 'normal' eating goes a different way... I start feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day life, and don't want to be healthy, and don't want the stress of all the decisions related to what to eat and preparation and planning, I feel just absolutely overwhelmed, and go into a kind of 'safe' mode designed to prevent losing control where I just eat cereal for 3 meals a day, because everything else feels too demanding and stressful. Hand-in-hand with this, I start to notice I'm losing weight and I like it, and I end up wanting to do it long enough to be pleased with the results. And at a certain point I end up wanting to restrict how much cereal I'm eating, so that it ends up at about a 500 calorie a day total. And yes, I realize that that sort of thing is likely to lead to binges, but at the time, it feels psychologically necessary, like I'd feel too depressed and hopeless if i weren't doing it. Like there's no possibility for any kind of pleasure in life, ever, if I'm not doing it.

When I finally learned how to vomit, I think it was because I was more desperate than I'd ever been. 21 years old, I discovered that I wasn't capable of living on my own. And after 6 months of being thin, I was losing control. I ate to the point of pain, and one night, I think I was just shaking so much, so upset, that I approached trying to vomit with enough violence that it worked. And after that, I think I started to understand better how the process worked, and what I had been doing unconsciously to stifle it.


In my teens, I fasted for 2 days a few times, and once I think I fasted for about 4 days. In my early twenties, when I lived on my own for the first time, I fasted regularly for 2 days or more. I had lost weight prior to leaving home, and was scared about gaining it back. I had lost weight as healthily as I could (I didn't go below 1200 calories per day, I ate from all the food groups and limited desserts, high fat and junk food), but because I associated gaining weight with being trapped in the family home, when I started bingeing again it seemed better to me to fast than to gain weight. I wanted a healthy, fit body, but when I had the chance to see what it was like to live on my own and didn't want to go back to who I was before, I didn't see any other choice except to adopt desperate measures. I always meant for it to be temporary, to try to refocus and eventually get the hang of maintaining my weight healthily. I always had a vague sense that in certain circumstances it might be possible.

However, when living alone, I was never able to store regular food. I would binge on anything. I decided that if I was going to binge, if I couldn't control it, I would prefer to only eat foods I really wanted. I got into a habit of only buying fun food, gorging for a day or two days and then beginning a fast. After the first flat, vomiting was also included in the whole cycle. I'd fast for as long as I could and then go out and buy more binge food. I worked it out with the timing of my welfare and disability cheques such that I'd spend all my money - first pay rent, buy toiletries and other necessities, music and then binge food. This way, I'd ensure that I couldn't go out and buy any more food until the next cheque came. I was rarely able to save money to buy new clothes or anything for my apartments. In two of my flats, I didn't even have a phone. I would often go out shopping the first day I got a cheque, leaving only a small amount of money in a bank account for the next binge. Then I'd fast for another week until my cheque came. Sometimes, I gave money away to people on the streets (less for me to use for binges) - it seemed to me that I should be on the streets myself, or that it was only a matter of time.

When I'd start eating again after a fast (almost always a binge - I'd get a new welfare or disability cheque and go out to buy food), I often noticed that I had pain in swallowing. I probably didn't drink enough water when fasting. At a certain point during a fast, I just couldn't handle the thought of trying to drink water, and sometimes it made me feel nauseated. My digestive system handled almost anything well, though, when I started bingeing again, and even if I overate rich foods, I wouldn't have digestive pain or feel sick. I'd eventually feel full, and feel pain and discomfort related to that, but if I vomited it was relieved.

I am not sure, but because I fasted very frequently, I may have been very depleted or perpetually dehydrated to some extent, and that may have something to do with why I would feel noticeably weaker by the 3rd day. I often ended up just lying around by that time, although I tried to shower once a day. [Maybe the extremes, extensive binges followed by vomiting and fasting, were harder on my system than fasting alone for longer periods would have been.] Fasts were from 2-9 days. Two was the most common, 9 only happened twice, and the inbetween-lengths became longer and more frequent during certain periods of living on my own. Usually, it would start off with shorter fasts first, and then I think something would happen psychologically to make me seek out longer and longer fasts.

During a 9-day fast I hallucinated while in the shower: I was in a large hole like a grave, and dirt was being shovelled onto my head. In the harsh winter of Winnipeg, Manitoba I would sometimes worry that I'd pass out when walking if I hadn't eaten for a week. [Winter temperatures in Winnipeg can be dangerous.] I didn't faint, though, even though the walk to the grocery store and back was approximately one hour in total. The cold air would seem to wake me up and take away any feeling of nausea. In summer, I sometimes noticed a cramping in my lower legs, but didn't faint in public then, either. One theory I have is that my high anxiety level had something to do with preventing public fainting.

Often in my flats I had little or no furniture, including no bed to sleep on. This was acceptable to me. I didn't think of it as deprivation. I wanted to shut out distractions, I wanted things clean and clear, simplified. I wanted to be able to hear myself think. Often, all I did while fasting was to sit and think. It wasn't noble, or enlightening. I spent most of the time fantasizing about what I'd eat next when I had a new cheque. There was hunger and nausea, but those waves would pass. At times, they seemed to go on forever, with nothing to do or think about except food, but when I made it over the hump, there was often a pleasant sensation, a feeling of accomplishment and well-being.

The first two days were usually the easiest for me, although I have heard that for others the first two days are the hardest and it gets easier from there. Part of the problem was that I was very isolated during the entire fast. I didn't have much of a life to start with, and no one missed me for a week or longer. When I was alone in my various flats fasting, I didn't have much to do. I had no tv, no furniture (in the later flats I did have a tv and some furniture), no hobbies, no one to call. I didn't want to call anyone in this condition because I found it shameful. Also, I might be tempted to ask someone to borrow money for food or to weasel some kind of dinner invitation (the times I did left me feeling humiliated). In one of my flats, my father came semi-regularly for a while to take me grocery shopping. Often, I would borrow $5-10 and I would pay him back when I got my next disability cheque, and this pattern would go on and on. For a while, my father and his girlfriend held semi-regular Sunday dinners (sometimes this would be my one meal in the week), and sometimes sent me home with leftovers - which I ate as soon as I got home, vomiting afterwards. It was humiliating to me to stoop to that - I actually wanted to lose weight, and felt there was something in fasting that I admired, or that could give me a feeling of redemption.

When I was younger, when fasting I still had some kind of hope I could achieve a certain look eventually. I didn't ever get there. I didn't have the kind of strength necessary for that. My life circumstances would change, I'd eventually be able to fast less and less, and then I'd start behaving in increasingly desperate ways, selling off what few possessions I had, including my music. And I'd eventually gain more weight.

It may sound strange, but I do miss the particular kind of aloneness that I had back then. I was in a desperate situation, but there was still the hope that somehow I could create something unusual with my life. It felt like I was paying a price in order to gain something that not all people even realize exists, and it was acceptable to me. To just accept myself and my place in life was not an option, anyway. I couldn't eat normally. I was always out of control.

I always lived with a sense that a major disruption could occur at any time. When I lived on disability, I knew that I was only continuing to get it because they weren't checking up on me. If somehow that changed, I either wouldn't be able to cope with further visits or doctor's appointments or whatever would be needed, and so I lived with a feeling that time was running out, that I was always on the verge of homelessness.

But if I could be thin, I would be able to cope with that better. In fact, part of why I can't seem to plan a suicide relates to shame about my body and appearance. It's almost like a phobia when I imagine that someone would have to deal with my dead body - this body that I don't accept.


I haven't done much fasting in recent years. In the last 5 years I have lived on my own on two separate occasions: once for 4 months, and once for 5 months. On both occasions, there were people (the two men I had lived with in longterm relationships) keeping in contact to the extent that I didn't really do much fasting (compared to the past). If I had stayed on my own longer, I probably would have isolated myself further and gone back to past patterns. I was taking steps in each situation to ensure further isolation. [I am now living with the second partner, GK, again. While I make many comments about my isolation, it can't be denied that he cares about me, tries to help and has added a lot to my life. He is the person I consider to be my family. I do still wish to be on my own, for many reasons, but it looks unrealistic at present. I feel ashamed of myself and of what I have put him through, and can only try to get myself together well enough to leave eventually.]

I know I come across as strong in certain ways. I sometimes draw people to me, and some have told me that they think they could benefit from talking with me a while - about eating disorders and other topics. I do see that I need to get out of myself. I understand that sometimes it can help to help someone else. I honestly tried to do that in the past, but not only did it not help, but in the long run it made things worse for the people involved because of my lack of stability. I try to remain open, and when any new person approaches me, it wrenches my guts, I go through a lot wondering if I could handle communication. But I am not stable. And when I have ongoing contact with people, there's this incredible stress. It's not the others' faults. It's something related to how things are out of whack with me. It seems to me that if I have anything to share with others, I first need to find some stability in myself, perhaps by trying to articulate what I need to here in order to pull myself clear enough, far enough. The reality is that I may be too far out of life and society to ever be able to maintain relationships, even with others who consider themselves freaks or outcasts.

My eating is not currently out of control. I am not bingeing technically, although I am eating binge food in moderate amounts. (I have only had a couple of brief b/p episodes in the last year.) I feel out of control, but do feel grateful that it's not as out of control as it has been at times in the past. However, it seems to me that part of what this represents is a lessening of anxiety that may come with age, and that may come through removing certain kinds of anxiety from my life through isolation. Isolation is a response to life and to stress that I've naturally sought. It's hard to say whether it's for the best or not. I don't see it as an ideal solution. Over time, it has lead to a feeling of being less alive, less curious, to wanting less in life, and to more fully appreciating my insignificance.

For many years, I kept detailed food and exercise charts, as well as comments about my emotional state, at what times I felt like bingeing most strongly, what foods I craved. I have a basic understanding of what it would take on a longterm basis to achieve the weight and fitness level I'd like as healthily as possible. I've tried different ways of dealing with my particular habits and leanings, (I'm also less repressed, more assertive than I used to be), but I have to admit that it doesn't seem realistic I could ever maintain the weight and fitness level I want. At best, it seems I could achieve it for a very short time only. The alternative is to try to accept myself, my body and my appearance, and I've tried that also, and tried out different looks to make the most of my 'natural' appearance. It doesn't seem to work for me. I can't resolve the internal war.

I don't see it as any kind of victory that I am not engaging in binge/purge behaviour when I am horrified by my body, my clothes, my entire appearance, when I don't want to go anywhere, when I constantly want to die.

I can guess how irritating it must be to others to see that I am so hung up on all of this, and that I ignore my own unique personality or don't try to make the most of it. That I can't stop worrying about the things that I am not, or can't be. It's just that - I keep trying to find some way to accept myself, and I am pleased with some of my efforts, but on a daily basis, I can't shake off the feeling of horror attached to who I am and what I look like. I don't know what to do about that. Losing weight would perhaps help me to feel less repulsive in a physical sense, would help me to feel more at ease and graceful in my own body, would make it possible for me to wear clothes that I actually like, and would give me a feeling of accomplishment - all of these years I have failed, so it would be something to improve my self-esteem. But, even with that, I'm not sure I'd be able to cope with my life. I have other issues related to the rest of my appearance, and my lack of life, career or social skills, and a level of depression and withdrawal from life that seems irreversible.

It may be that it would be better for me to hide these particular thoughts and feelings, in part because they are annoying to others, and/or may reinforce others' own negative feelings about themselves. But it's like I've been trying for so long, and for a long time I didn't actually even know that I felt this way. I was always trying to see it more positively, I was always trying to find ways to cope, to find alternative ways of looking at everything, without resorting to these negative thought patterns. The reality is that I can't just talk myself out of these negative thoughts. I do have ideas about how to find peace, to make the negative feel positive to me, but those ideas do not include a long life or ongoing participation with life and people. Unfortunately, it may be quite some time until I can gather the strength.