What It's Really Like Having An Eating Disorder -- Bingeing, Purging And Feeling Like A Fraud

This blog post is the second part of a nine-part series chronicling Iris' 46-year battle with bulimia. To read the first part, go here.

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A very good friend, whose daughter happens to be bulimic, asked me how I would describe binge behavior. Here is my answer:
  • Eating huge amounts of food in less than two hours
  • Feeling powerless to stop
  • Feeling numb while doing it

I have been bulimic since I was 19-years-old. And I binged and purged until I was on the brink of Medicare.

I roughly calculate the seconds, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades:
  • 4.5 decades.
  • 45 years
  • 540 months
  • 2340 weeks
  • 16,425 days
  • 394,200 hours
  • 23,652,000 minutes
That is how long I have been bulimic.

And if I spent just one hour every day bingeing and purging, that would add up to just under two years of time spent leaning over, sticking my fingers down my throat and puking up my guts, into a toilet bowl.

What else could I have done with that time?
  • Almost completed the first two years of law school
  • Learned to speak Spanish fluently
  • Attended a ton of yoga classes
  • Worked for environmental change
  • Mentored a whole slew of students
How I squandered my time.
And if I spent one hour out of every day bingeing and purging and during each binge I ate approximately $10 worth of food, that would add up to $164,250. I cringe. Is it possible I bought, ate and threw up $164,250 worth of food? What else could I have done with that money?
  • Made a substantial down payment on a large house
  • Got a weekly massage for the next four years
  • Started a foundation
  • Set up trust funds for my grandchildren
  • Contributed an awful lot of canned goods to a homeless shelter.

I always felt like such a fraud. On the surface, I appeared serene, confident, in control and exuding vitality. Underneath, I was not what I appeared to be to the world. I was nervous, agitated, unhappy and lacking self-assurance. Forces I could neither understand nor control were driving me continuously and relentlessly to binge and purge daily. That was not the arbiter of a mature, well balanced and highly functioning adult. It was all such a pitiful facade.

Highly aware of the corrosive stomach juices spilling over my teeth nightly during my purges, I also focused on maintaining the best dental hygiene I could -- visiting my dentist every three to four months for cleanings. And root canals. And crowns. And caps. And mouth guards. And dental implants. Wisdom teeth extractions. Dry sockets. Since I lived in a few different cities over those years, I recall seeing at least four different dentists as a regular patient. Not one of them ever mentioned to me that they suspected an eating disorder was at the root of my dental problems.

In my bulimic years, I saw many doctors for minor health issues and routine check check-ups. I never confided in them about my bulimia and if they suspected anything was amiss, they kept it to themselves. After all, I was Miss I-Can-Cope- With-Anything. Miss Do-It-All Perfectly. Letting a professional close enough to pierce my fragile armor was not in my lexicon of tricks. And besides, because most of these guys and their wives ran in our social circle, I certainly did not regard them as safe havens.

Only one doctor in all those years of my bingeing and purging came close to picking up ED's presence. He was a young South African internist, trained in Western medicine, and, as he jokingly referred to it, "voodoo" medicine (known today as holistic and/or integrative medicine). Upon examining me on my initial visit, he pronounced I had agitation emanating from my stomach.

No shit.

I remained unresponsive and tight-lipped. The exam continued uninterrupted.

Before you click away: This is serious stuff. What's "eating" you? And what's your personal way of dealing with your demons? Please enlighten. Be part of the conversation.

If you want more information about Iris's forthcoming book Tales of a Bulimic Baby Boomer, or to sign up for her weekly newsletter, visit www.irisruthpastor.com or follow her on Twitter @IrisRuthPastor.

You can find more from Iris on LinkedIn
LinkedIn -- https://www.linkedin.com/in/iris-ruth-pastor-9b894a24

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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Milestones Through the Years