A Day in the Life: Suffering From an Eating Disorder, Part I
Disclaimer: This narrative is a recollection of a time in my life several years ago; it is not necessarily representative of every individual with an eating disorder.
It’s 4:30am on a Wednesday in February. I’m pacing between the kitchen and the living room, anxiously waiting to gain feeling in my left leg again. The tingling is fading and my heart rate is leveling. I sit down at the dining room table, trying to catch my breath. I am winded after six minutes of pacing.
My head is face down in my hands, my palms pressing against my closed eyelids. I lift my head up from my hands and see my leg pressed to the chair below me. I scoot myself to the edge of the chair and admire the circumference of my thighs. Bringing my legs together, I pick up my phone from the table and drop it between them; my phone falls to the floor, not even skimming my legs. A daily ritual and safeguard to making sure I am still on track.
I haven’t eaten in four days and I am starting to doubt my ability to make it to five. I worry that too much expulsion of energy will push me to the edge and I will give in to cravings. “I should stay home today” I tell myself, “it’s for my own safety.” I pick up my phone from the floor and compose an e-mail to my boss; I won’t be coming in today, I’m not feeling well. I plug my phone in and go back to bed.
7:00am comes and I am awoken by a combination of the fierce sun and the Port Authority 71B rushing past my ground level apartment window. I try to sit up and this time, it is my right leg. I slowly pick my leg up and swing it off the edge of the bed, allowing the blood to return. After a few minutes, I stand up and instinctively make my way to the bathroom. I pull the scale out from behind the toilet and place it on the most even surface of the old, tiled floor. I step on, and nothing.
He took the batteries again.
I return the scale and as I stand back up, I catch my reflection in the mirror. I think about whether or not I should brush my teeth today. I still haven’t been able to find a solid answer online as to whether or not toothpaste contains calories. I weigh my options.
- Brush my teeth and risk the chance of consuming extra calories.
- Don’t brush my teeth and risk my dentist finding out that I’ve been purging for months.
I turn the light off and make a mental note to buy more batteries (and find a good hiding place).
On my way to the kitchen, I pause in front of the mirror. I close the blinds, remove each article of clothing and study every angle of myself. I open one of my dresser drawers and take out a white and green striped bathing suit. I put it on and once again, dissect in front of the mirror; this time trying to behave candidly, as though I am watching myself from someone else’s eyes. I pretend to laugh, to converse, I sit down, stand up, turnaround. I think to myself, “how will I ever be able to wear this in four months?”
I put my underwear and my Steelers Superbowl shirt back on and grab a can of Diet Coke from the fridge. I take a sip and set it down on the dining room table. My body is slow, but the neurons in my brain are firing at the speed of light.
“What if I can’t wear that swimsuit by summer? What if I give in and eat this week? What if I can’t weigh myself at all today?”
I put on a pair of sweats and my winter coat. I scope the dining room for my backpack. I see it on the table, open the front zipper and grab my pack of Camel Lights. I slip the black BIC into my pocket and slide out the backdoor of the apartment complex.
It’s freezing outside and my body is barely able to handle my 65⁰ apartment. I inhale as much and as fast as I can, watching my fingers turn purple and my hands start to shake incessantly. I flick the butt and see it disappear in the mountain of snow; I quickly hurry back inside.
I grab the Diet Coke from the dining room table, a second can from the fridge, and make my way to the living room couch. I set both cans on the carpet in front of the couch and lay down. I wonder what’s on TV today; a Will and Grace marathon, Law & Order, Roseanne. I choose Will and Grace and toss the remote toward the bottom of the couch.
I lie there for an hour, numb to the environment. I’m not sure what happened in the show or how long it’s been. I feel a bit dissociated and concentrating isn’t in my skill set anymore. A commercial comes on and that’s my cue; I sit up to grab another smoke break. As I start to stand, my vision goes and I try to yell but I can’t seem to get anything out. I stabilize myself on my hands and knees and close my eyes tight. I open my eyes and try to stand again, my entire body trembling; it’s hard to tell what is from weakness and what is from panic.
My sight begins to tunnel again and I think, “I just need air, that’s all. I just need fresh air.” I stumble up the steps to go outside and I collapse on the stairs. I open my phone to call Jesse but can’t remember his name. I drop my phone and lean against the banister, closing my eyes again. If I take my vision away myself, I feel more in control. I want to panic, but I don’t have the energy.
I open my eyes; I don’t know how long I have been there or who has walked by. I stand up and return to my apartment. I walk to the kitchen, open the fridge and stare for a few minutes. I look for something that will hurt the less when it comes back up. I choose yogurt.
The hard wooden chairs at the dining room table are painful for me now; I grab a spoon from the drawer and sit down on the soft, carpeted living room floor. With my spoon upside down, I ritually eat about 3 ounces of yogurt, avoiding the whole pieces of strawberry.
With my eyes closed, I slowly stand up, sliding my back against the wall for balance. I open my eyes and walk to the bathroom, already hating myself; not for the next five minutes, but for not pushing harder to avoid the yogurt.
As per my normal routine, I scroll through my music until I find “Your Own Disaster” by Taking Back Sunday and press play. I kneel down, set my phone on the edge of the bathtub, and pull my hair back into a ponytail.