2.) Truth 2: No One Cares That You Puke
It’s Week 1, Day 6-
And you’re sitting in the eating disorder rehab cafeteria that was once a barn.
“That weird nurse caught Dawn doing crunches this morning.”
Kenzie looks tired across the cafeteria table, sighing into her coffee.
“Again?” You say, scraping out the staff-measured 1 tablespoon of cream cheese from the container.
“She always does,” she moans. “I’m dead asleep and I wake up to her sitting on the ground doing pushups,” she pauses to take a bite of her bagel. “I’m just like bitch, go to sleep.”
Jacy grins, lifts her pin up to write her name on top of her food journal. “Yeah well, last night my roommate stared at the wall for 10 minutes before getting into bed.”
“She’s weird,” Oliva says, shaking her head. A piece of pink curly hair falls in her face. “That girl’s crazy.”
“I think she’s on withdrawal meds.”
Jacy nods. “When she went to shower last night, she stood in front of the mirror before and I swear she didn’t blink.”
“Creepy,” Olivia agrees. “But at least crazy Bitch is gone.”
“She left?” You ask, feigning surprise.
“Yeah, she signed a 72 and was outta here this morning.”
From the corner of your eye, you see Lilly slink into the cafeteria, pushing her hair out of her face like she just stumbled from her bed (she did, and everyone knows it but says nothing – not even the counselors). Dirty skirt – the one she wears nearly every day – hanging from her slender waist, and a XL Wu Tang Clan sweatshirt shifting off one of her shoulders.
“Sup assholes,” she mumbles, plopping down to the tray that says “Lilly” placed across from you. “Thanks for waking me up.”
“I tried,” you say. “You grunted and said you’d be down in a minute.”
She sighs down at her food – starts to unwrap a bagel (It’s extra starch day on Fridays.) “I missed meds,” she says.
“Just do them after.”
We have this conversation every day you begin to notice.
On cue, Lilly mutters something about losing her schedule. We both know she’ll find it behind the couch when we convene back in the community room for another session of group therapy.
“Dawn’s doing crunches again,” Kenzie tells her.
Lilly shrugs. “No shit. She’s been here as long as I have and she doesn’t look any different.”
“Crazy bitch left,” Olivia chimes in.
“Really?” She grins. “Good, now I don’t have to hear her puke in the bathroom after dinner.”
“How did she ever get off escorts?” You wonder aloud.
“She didn’t,” Lilly says with a mouthful of bagel. “She just snuck in there between group.”
“How do you throw up that quickly?” Kenzie asks. “It’s like 5 minutes between.”
“I don’t know,” you say. “But did you see her cheeks? Homegirl’s been doing that shit for years.”
“Hope I’m not 30 and still puking.”
“Watch it,” you warn. “I’m going on 25.”
“Yeah,” she says. “I always forget you’re that old. You look like you’re 12.”
“A 12-year old in a beanie,” Jacy pipes up.
You smile now, surprised at how quickly your idiosyncrasies follow you – surprised, always, at how casual a conversation can be about bulimia.
You look back at Lilly, catch her eye in that odd way you two share.
“You alright?” You mouth to her.
She shrugs. “Fuck bagel day,” she mumbles.
You smile because you don’t know how you ended up knowing this person across from you, but she’s funny, and she’s aloof – and it’s fitting to you that she resembles a cat with her subtle Asian-set eyes.
It’s fitting because you know she’s lying – and know she lies daily.
Lies about how “hard” she is, lies about how independent she is – and lies about her own little trips to the bathroom in between group.
You know this and you love her anyway.
Because let’s face it – in rehab, you’re not special because you throw up. In fact, you’re boring. You’re incredibly boring, and by the time you step foot in that facility a solid half of your family and friends (the ones you’ve been halfway honest with, at least) are so tired of feeling guilty and never saying “the right thing” that they’re ushering you in there like a mouse to the cheese trap – happy to be free of the anxiety if only for a moment.
So, lemme repeat – you’re not special because you puke.
I mean, you’re special – at least they’ll tell you that. It’s like when your 2nd Grade Music teacher sat you in a circle with all the other flute-playing kids picking their noses and went around in that falsetto voice claiming how talented each of you are.
You are special. But, you’re not special because you’re sick – and that’s a harsh reality to accept.
You stumble into Rehab with this preconceived idea that you:
1.) either have a screw looser than any of “the others”
2.) think you have no screws loose and that your parents are just big assholes for sending you off to get big with a bunch of loons.
Whichever way, what I’m trying to say is that they’ve seen it. Every staff member, every housekeeper, every security guard, and every patient who has spent longer than one month in that place has met you before you’ve ever met them. They see you on your first day trudging through the door, pants baggy in the butt, your t-shirt hanging off you like it’s a fashion statement.
We size you up quick (literally).
We know people enter rehab under two notions. Either the notion that what goes on in your head is somehow more complex/deep/incurable/tragic than anyone else – or under the disillusion of beautiful denial. (Me– thin?!?!?! You don’t say…)
However, the fact of the matter is that after sitting in there week after week – you slowly begin to realize how tired you are of your own bullshit.
Sounds easy then, right? Change your life, mate. Change your thoughts- But what “the Muggles” (we watched a lot of Harry Potter – YAY for PG cinema) can’t comprehend is that we’ve painstakingly rewired our brains to only focus on perfection- on flawlessness. On an unattainable idea that our goal in life is to be so severe that everyone around us will look when we enter a dinner party and cower at how in control of our lives we are. (Who cares if we have to excuse ourselves later to puke up that appetizer. WE. ARE. IN. CONTROL. BITCHES.)
Is this how it starts, you ask? With this gallant disillusionment of control? Of course not. People stick their fingers down their throats for plenty of reasons. People stop eating for different tragedies, and people enter into an addiction with the mindset that you’ll do it sporadically and life will function onward as it always has.
I puked for the first time when I was 16 years old in the bathroom of my high school during Chemistry Class. (Side note: isn’t it fun how we forget our parents birthdays but puking, shoving our fingers down our throat, we can remember like it was yesterday)
I was thin. Always had been- never worried about it. I was the scrawny one. The girl that stood last in the row of tallest-to-shortest. The “cute” but not hot one:
I was the 8th grader that stood in line at Subway with their mother as the Sub employee leaned over the glass and asked if 4th grade was “treating me well?” (Yeah bitch, 4 years ago Mrs. Hellstern was a RIOT.)
I shopped at Kids Gap into my teens. Found a Homecoming dress at Dillard’s Junior Department my freshman year of high school and lied and told everyone I got it in Neimans… Actually that’s a whiff of a lie. I probably just told people that because it sounded more expensive.
Anyway, I wasn’t your CNN bullied obese kid. I was the opposite- a delicate, fragile little girl with big ears, buck teeth, and a significantly small appetite.
My family knew it– my extended family knew it– It became the Christmas pun every year on my dad’s side: “Oh, what’s Lindsey going to eat? Oatmeal? Waffles? Cereal?” (My penchant for binging cereal started early. Damn Fruity Pebbles.)
It became my identity. To be the picky one- the small one- the little girl. I mean hell, if I wasn’t going to be the prettiest (and I wasn’t), I damn sure was going to be the smallest. The finger-chewer, the neurotic, the people-pleaser.
And I was. I was the one that never had to worry about bra sizes, and periods. I was the chameleon who could strike up a conversation with the girl in the corner who did cocaine off her desk.
I was perpetually validated in my actions and it carried over into my diet. I could eat whatever I wanted– I could be whoever I wanted–
and so I did.
High school started– I snagged my first boyfriend (despite the ears). He liked my “elf” feet, he cooed. My slim waist, my little, bony body. He liked it and therefore, I liked it. Happy that while everyone else was starting to fill out and complain about “junk in the trunk,” I got to stay in my perpetual Neverland.
–So with that in mind, you can imagine the disdain when you go to the doctor your Sophomore year, and are told you weigh- for the first time- a whopping triple digits.
“But I have friends who weigh this,” you think.
It is then you take notice of the subtle changes in your appetite. The dinner choices you’ve been making when eating out with your boyfriend. The Qdoba burritos you’re now finishing at lunch with friends.
You don’t hate that you’re eating more, but you’re not pleased either.
A few months goes by– You start venturing into Hollister, Abercrombie, Polo Outlets. You start swapping shirts with your friends where they were only a tiny bit too big for you in the chest.
Junior year starts and Doctors put you on birth control.
“Birth Control,” you whine in the car. “I’m not even having sex.”
“But you need to start your period,” Mom says.
So you take it– painstakingly aware of the weight gain your girl friends complain about.
And I suppose that’s where it all begins– the beautiful downward spiral into retching.
You take the pills- they make you sick and need to throw up. Sick every morning, sick all morning, sick to where you can hardly get out of bed. You lose weight. Dip back into the 90s–everyone notices. Which, as any disordered patient will say, is both the blessing and the curse of this illness. The attention.
You like being notably small again– You like being “that person.” However, you do not like being sick all the time from these stupid estrogen-enhancing pills. YOU are a perfectionist, damnit, and this is keeping you away from your 116-grade A in English.
So, you do it. You make the plunge. You get up in Ms. B’s class one morning–sick as hell– barely able to lop yourself out the door and to the bathroom– and you lean over the toilet and shove a finger down your throat.
It’s awkward at first- the movement of a finger in your mouth. What the hell do you do, you wonder. Do you go straight for the plunge? Do you wiggle it around back there on that hangy part of your throat (to this day, I still have NO idea what that’s called.)
You don’t know. It’s awkward.
And then suddenly you’re hunched over a disgusting high school toilet rim with a slobbery finger in your mouth dry-heaving some phlegm. PHLEGM? You think. But you’re so nauseous you don’t even care. Just as long as the feeling subsides.
So you can finish that damn problem on the board.
So you can be this person– with your good grades, and your big smile, and your friendly demeanor– so you can be everything and anyone.
So you can try on any dress, and flirt with any person, and be loved by everyone.
So everyone will look back at you fondly and think: “That girl was something special.”
Because you are special, you think, going back to Chemistry in your Hollister jean skirt.
You are bloody perfect.
This is Rehab: Truth 2