Eating Disorder Stories
Down The Rabbit Hole by Stephanie Mayer
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was going to get out again . . .There were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked, and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.
"You've ruined everything. You gave in. You're weak," I whispered fiercely. The eyes in the mirror filled with tears. I looked away from her, allowing her the space to cry. My eyes fell on the red door to the handicapped stall of the stark bathroom. I walked slowly toward it, wiping my eyes on my sleeve. I took a fateful step into that stall, and tumbled down the rabbit hole.
I shut the door and slid the lock into place, oblivious to the metamorphosis that had just occurred. I looked cautiously at the white porcelain toilet with its silver handle and pushed the sleeves of my brown and cream striped shirt up to my elbows. Lifting the seat, I took a deep breath. I opened my mouth as wide as I could and slid my right index finger down my throat.
I gagged and choked, watching the yet undigested pizza and breadsticks splash into the water. Listening to the echo of my retching, I gasped for breath. The mixture of bile and pizza sauce stung my tongue, and my eyes began to water. The acrid smell of vomit pervaded my nostrils, but I pushed my finger back down my throat as if in a dream.
The door creaked. I froze, terrified that I would be caught. Spinning around so my feet faced the right way, I carefully suspended my right hand above the toilet in order to allow the saliva and food particles to drip into the disgusting pool instead of on the floor. My heart pounded as I listened to the intruder enter the stall next to mine. I listened, petrified, as she flushed the toilet and unlocked the door. I heard the water in the sink begin to run, the hand dryer start, and finally the creak of the door signaling her exit. I turned around and thrust my finger back into my epiglottis. My fingernails scratched my throat as I forced the gagging, and the stomach acid was bitter in the back of my mouth. I watched as the last of my gluttonous dinner joined the revolting mixture already present.
When I could no longer expel anything, I decided I'd done all I could do. I looked at the undigested food that filled the bowl and was struck by an intense feeling of pleasure. Wiping the grotesque remains of mucus and saliva off my right hand and forearm, I felt clean. Empty. I had regained control.
I pushed the shiny silver handle, lowered the seat, and left the stall. Once again, I examined my face in the mirror. Eyes watering and puffy, nose running, a twisted smile on my face . . . I scrubbed my reeking hands with soap, then used them to cup water and rinse out my mouth. I held my hands briefly beneath the dryer, acutely aware that I had been in the bathroom longer than a normal trip.
That Friday night, I crossed a line. My New Year's Resolution ceased to be a diet and became a disease. It progressed rapidly. I cut my caloric intake to a maximum of 1,000 calories a day, and vomited more with each passing week. Soon, I was vomiting daily, usually after dinner. I felt weak and was plagued by headaches. I didn't care. I was losing weight.
I categorized food into "safe" and "unsafe" groups. Some of the groupings were logical (candy is bad, fruit is okay), but others were completely arbitrary. Great Harvest Bread fell into the safe bracket, despite the fact that it is fairly fattening. I stopped eating meat even though some types of lean meat are healthier than processed carbohydrates. (Meat was also harder for me to throw up than foods like pasta.) I refused to drink milk, juice, or regular soda because I was convinced that liquids with calories were a waste. I lived on bread, cereal (never in bowls, just by the handful or perhaps in a plastic baggie), fat-free frozen yogurt, and fruit. Everything else wound up in the toilet. Needless to say, the human body was not designed to function on under 800 calories a day derived from only two food groups. I was constantly tired, but could not sleep at night. My hair pulled away from my scalp as I washed it in the morning. I bruised easily, and felt cold all the time. Headaches tormented me daily. Standing up too quickly left me dizzy, and my pulse plodded along stubbornly.
Worse than the physical pain, however, was the emotional and mental anguish. I could not concentrate since I thought incessantly of food. During class, instead of listening to lectures or taking notes, I thought about what I had eaten that day, when I would eat again, what I would eat, and whether I would have the opportunity to throw up. I baked nightly and brought the treats to school the next day, distributing them among my friends. I watched others eat, vicariously savoring each bite. I read cookbooks and hoarded recipes. I never looked in the mirror without thinking, "Fat." I saw so much lard on my 5'2" frame that I was genuinely shocked when people said I was getting too thin. At the beginning of the disease, I weighed myself each morning, then each morning and each night, then several times in between, until I literally weighed myself a half dozen to a dozen times a day. I thought of nothing but how I needed to be thinner. Eating unsafe foods sent me flying to the nearest bathroom, slamming the door and shoving all the fingers of my right hand down my scratched and aching throat.
By the time I had lost twenty pounds (ten over my original resolution), it was fairly obvious that something was wrong. My friends had long ago expressed irritation at my constant nutrition monologues and excuses as to why I would not eat lunch. They began to confront me, threatening to go to the school counselors or my parents. I told them to stay out of it, that I was fine, that I was in control. Finally, someone tattled. A friend called my mother and informed her of my behavior. My mother caught me vomiting two days later, and I was sent into therapy.
It took nine months of counseling before I started to eat semi-normally again, though I did not stop vomiting completely. I gained ten pounds along with the knowledge that I had been committing a slow suicide by starving my body in order to repent for what I considered an imperfect soul. I learned the difference between what I saw in the mirror and what was actually there.
Though I have made significant advances, I still cannot eat an ice cream sundae, or participate in the junk food feasts that occur so often on weekends. I am still tortured by the voice in my head that tells me, "You're weak. You don't deserve that. You're useless, and you're alone in the world." It takes a great deal of strength for me to quiet her, to tell her that I will not careen headfirst down the rabbit hole again.
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