Bulimia; Science of the Holiday Season and Food

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The holiday season is the best and worst of times.  It always was.  The food is phenomenal.  The feelings that fill a heart, mind, or is it my stomach can cause enormous misery.  For a person immersed in the rituals of bulimia the latter weeks of the year are better than all others.  Opportunities to indulge are ample during the holy days.  The selection of food fare is far superior.  Scientific research on food reaps ample rewards.  The secretive practice of self-imposed solitary confinement causes much angst, or could, if one were not able to find an escape in food.

Fortunately, a bulimic can and does take flight.  She or he can sprint to the stores.  There selves are filled with cashew nougat cookies.  Boxes of these white wonders melted in her mouth.  Delicate doughy dinner rolls lined every end display.  These delicious buns were strategically placed in case a customer forgot to grab them when in the bread aisle.  Buns sold for pennies.  Christians, Jews, Gentiles, those who worship Jehovah, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, and more must love these doughy delights.  While stuffing was a staple, in the winter, the cost was nominal, and the supply was grand.  She could fill her shopping cart with boxes a plenty.

In the dairy section, sweet and savory eggnog was available.  This liquid ambrosia did not appear before or after the national celebrations.  She could hardly wait for the New Year.  Grocers would reduce the price on this stock and she would buy all she could.  She would place the excess in the freezer and save these for another day.  As America celebrated, so too did she.  However, her festivity was a bit less conventional.

She needed no lights, no tinsel, or tree.  A menorah, or a Kinara were not necessary.  An image of the crescent moon, or the five-pointed star, was not important parts of her ceremonial gala.  All she needed was food.  She no longer required family to enjoy.  Food was her kin, her kind of company.

When Bethany was a child, Thanksgiving Day brought songs of the good cheer.  Merriment filled the house.  Mommy and the little lass would sing all the traditional carols.  Dradle, dradle, dradle, I made it out of clay.  O Tannenbaum, oh Christmas tree, Sleigh bells ring on a silent night.  As December 25th approached, the family dashed through the snow, roasted chestnuts, and pa rum pum pum pumed with the Little Drummer Boy.  Her Daddy said the gaiety made no sense to him.  Yet, he laughed aloud and reveled in the expressions of glee.  Daddy tried not to croon and carol; however, at times he joined in the caroling.

Times were good.  The late November dinner was usually turkey.  Mashed potatoes and gravy made from scratch graced the table.  Home-baked breads also adorned the setting.  Daddy carved the meat with studied finesse.  Mom dished out the stuffing.  Homemade pies and cookies sat in wait.  There were many choices.  Mommy baked for days on end.  Lemon meringue was for Lisa.  Bethany preferred pecan pie.  Dad did not decide until he was ready for desert.  Would he dive into a traditional pumpkin pie or save that slice for another occasion?

In her family, food was considered the means to celebrate life.  Mom, Lisa, and Bethany ate when they were happy, dined when they were sad.  Each of the ladies filled lonely days and nights with chow.  Fodder brought thought; it stimulated reflection.  Realizations occurred over a bowl of soup, cereal, salad, or stew.  Daddy was not as dependent on victuals.  However, Bethany’s first father was a glutton, for punishment and pleasure over a plate of steak, veal, lamb, or lobster.  That man customarily consumed as though there was no tomorrow.

Bethany recalled every New Years Day, Michael sat on the bathroom floor slumped over the toilet bowl.  He puked and purged until he could do no more.  When his stomach was empty, then he would stop, only to await the time when he would fill up again.

For Michael, bingeing and ridding himself of all he ingested was not habitual.  However, it occurred often enough.  The activity was a vivid memory for Bethany.  Perhaps she learned to adopt bulimic behaviors.  After all, aspects of the conduct were part of her experience.

For her natural father Michael, life was an adventure.  He thought it fun to be spontaneous.  Bethany was more of a scientist just as her Grandfather had been and as her Dad trained her to be.  The little bit of a girl questioned everything.  Studious as she was she researched the minutia.  There was nothing in her life that did not involve great thought.

When she first chose to relieve herself of food, it was a calculated decision.  Early one evening, during dinner Bethany ate so much.  After the meal she could barely move.  Consumed with a sense of discomfort she sought relief.  It occurred to her, if she simply flushed out the food, all would be well.  However, she discovered as all scientists do, it is never possible to truly control the environment, or the outcome of any experiment.  Indeed, in an investigation, what seemed a solution to a problem, could, and did control the researcher.

Physiology and psychological components are more powerful than mere mortals might wish themselves to be.  Addictions may begin with a conscious decision as all actions do.  Nonetheless, there are forces that preclude logic and rational thinking.  The body is more than a reasonable brain.

Quickly, what was meant to be a moment became a lifestyle.  Hence, Bethany concluded she must learn to cope.  To survive this young being would have to learn the science of intake and surrender.  She measured her moves.  What edibles went down smoothly, and which released themselves from the stomach walls smoothly.

While cottage cheese is often considered the finest pabulum for those who wish to lose weight, for a bulimic, this provision is a nightmare.  The tiny curds stick to the innards.  The amount of acidic bile needed to breakdown this dairy product is ample.  It seems a single soul cannot produce enough enzymes to eliminate this compound within a reasonable amount of time.  Most cheeses clump once in the digestive system.  

All through the holidays, cups of cheese spreads fill the grocers delicatessen cases.  Spreads are smooth to the taste, and smoother on the tongue as they slide in and out of the most central orifice.

Milk will cuddle if it sits on the kitchen counter for too long.  It does the same if left for any length of time in the stomach.  Eggnog, however, glides through the system.  She knows not if the egg, sugar, or other additives make the difference.  Bethany only understands that this is a delight.

Summer potato salads may be flavorful.  However, a boiled and particularly pulverized tuber does not travel as well as the mashed perennial plant does.  The moist breadcrumbs that we call stuffing are an interesting delicacy.  The ingredients within the mixture matter more than the actual entrée.

Hard cookies can crumble into bits in the outside world.  They do the same once digested.  Miniscule particles spilled on the floor can be difficult to clean up.  When in the body cavity these small pieces scatter.  The fragments of food do not gather in as a group, and exit as one.  Flat crisp baked goods do not easily escape; yet, the holiday goodies cashew nuggets, goes down and comes up as a silk scarf might.

Indeed, the holidays are wondrous.  The food is more fun than time with family might be, or so Bethany hoped as another year approached.  Sadly, in truth, during the winter solstice she felt more alone than she ever did.  No matter the trials and tribulations, the gift of a shared experience means more than any other event might.

Science and food could not, did not, and would never suffice for what she sacrificed.  Those the little bit of a being was closest to were a greater source of solace than what she, a bulimic labeled nourishment.  Nature, in the form of ingested plant or animal products, does not nurture a starved soul.  A satiated stomach could not compare to a heart filled with joy.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanzaa, a regal Ramadan, none would be as long as Bethany remained bulimic.  If only emotions, epidemiology, and the effects of these could be as easily understood as the study of food.

Bulimia. “Control,” Not the Means Nor the Mission [Chapter Seven]

Carousel of Romance? Top Revolving Carousel Musical Globe

Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

She heard it said every time the topic was brought up.  The words flow from their mouths as the food did from hers.  Terminology spills into the sink of the uninformed and ignorant just as her fare did almost immediately after she swallowed it.  Resembling her refusal to digest what she ate, they reject what is offered to them.  Bulimics do not do as they do so that they might feel in control.  While marinating in a myriad of feelings and flavors, a binger that purges is not exerting his or her desire to control.  She cannot.  She knows this all too well. 

In the same way an athlete understands, muscles have memory she recognizes a little practice goes a long way.  The first time might have been a choice.  The second was a consideration, followed quickly by an almost unexpected upheaval.  After that, there was no need for a prompt.  The cycle was complete.  She was on a carousel cemented in concrete.  She could not get off this ride.  Oh, how she tried.

For her physiology, neurology, and biology were forces to be reckoned with.  Psychology played a part, particularly on that first day.  There were so many feelings she wanted to avoid.  That evening she stuffed her face, inhaled her meal.  Surely, food would relieve the pain. 

Her stomach was bloated.  She felt sick.  Fingers were not necessary.  She just threw up.  After, she felt better, temporarily.  In those moments, she was not thinking ‘this would be gratifying or great.’  She only wanted the ache to end.  It did.  The throbbing in her head, her heart, and her body went away for an instant. 

She could not and did not control the hurt coming on; certainly, she was not controlling its egress.  In actuality, the anguish only increased.  Her life became a series, a sequel of events, repeated over and over again.

She awakes and thinks of food as she goes about the day.  Thankfully, since transitioning from anorexia to bulimia the thoughts are not as overwhelming.  Puking allows her to eat, and eat, and eat again and again.  Indeed, she has become an eating apparatus.  She consumes and is consumed. 

Each day she must make time for her doings.  She purchases her provisions.  She buys enough to feed a few, perhaps, throngs of people.  Preparing the fare will be full-filling for as she cooks she chomps on those condiments that need no roasting, toasting, baking, boiling, or frying.  She controls nothing more than the temperature of the comestibles.

However, much must be done before she can fully engage.  She has to drive or walk hauling her heavy load, pabulum for the voracious.  As she strolls or struggles to maneuver the curves on the road, she begins her antics.  Bananas are best for this part of the process.  Should there be an accident she will be less worried if only fruit sits in her stomach.  The long yellow crop exits the system easily.  Some foods do; others do not.

Knowing what will settle in the belly too deeply to be retrieved and what is pliable enough to take leave on command is important.  A scientist such as she is never able to fully control the chaos that is life.  There is much to consider and manage.  She learned long ago, nothing is truly manageable.  Control is but a myth and she has no illusions.

In those early days, she choose to chew nuts while in transit.  Cashews are beyond delicious.  Brazil nuts are not bad.  Peanuts are good-a plenty.  Nevertheless, she learned.  Too many of these, if the travel is long, or if the unexpected occurs, will not sit well.  She might worry.  Bulk gnaws at her.  What if she cannot relieve herself in time?  Besides, teeth crumble under the pressure.  This delicacy is too hard on the enamel.  After a fracture, a fissure, and the final falling out of dentine she forfeited the practice.

Once home was in sight, the excitement increases.  Still there was much to do before she might genuinely begin.  The groceries needed to brought in.  Imagine taking bag after bag into the house, then the kitchen.  She is a clean person and prefers to avoid chaos at all costs.  The items must be put away.  Some went directly into the stomach.  Others filled cabinets. 

The cupboards were never bare.  She back-stocked.  The idea of withdrawal, not having what she craved haunted her, even when not at home and not indulging or ingesting.  This young woman would never suffer; it was contrary to her every belief.  Yet, in truth she knew.  She was agonizing.  Nothing was in her control, not her thoughts, her actions, her feelings, and certainly, not her life.

After all was ready for her attention, there was more to be done before she could focus.  She needed to dress in her throw-up clothes.  She had a full wardrobe just for this purpose.  As a fabric lost its resiliency, it was placed in an honored bin, a treasure trove.  Shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, tee shirts, and pantaloons graced her body before the ceremony began.  She cleaned these fibers each evening.  She is a traditional soul and cherishes rituals.

Next, though she revels in sunshine and light, she needed to seal herself off from intruders.  She did not wish to be discovered.  Doors and windows were locked and sealed.  Drapes and shutters were closed.  Blankets, sheets, cardboard, and planks of wood were used to bar peekers from seeing beyond the shade.  She wanted no one to view what was within. 

Heaven knows what others might think if they knew what was going on inside the house, in her mind, heart, body, or soul.  There are gaps between the wall and the window frame you know.  She must eliminate these, close herself off.  Try to control the uncontrollable, the unruly, herself, her life, her feelings, most importantly her hurt.

That did not happen.  With each passing day, she was more distressed.  The agony deepened.  The doings had more power over her than she had over them.

The only consolation was, bingeing and purging were far easier than not eating.  When she was an anorexic, she had less control or so it seemed.  Starving a body starves a mind.  Without nutrients or nourishment, growth and learning were less possible.  She loves learning.  She always has.

The lesson she now  comprehends to her core is bulimia has nothing to do with a need to control or be in control.  There is in reality no such possibility.  Probabilities are chance.  Any scientist will tell you we can only control for what we can predict.  We can never fully understand the chaos of the universe.  She certainly did not grasp hers.  All that she was sure of was she was out of control.

She recognizes that she has no power.  She tries to flee from her feelings.  That is her deepest desire.  Weight is not the issue.  It is a derivative, a diversion.  She longs to take flight.  At last, she is organized.  The great escape can begin!

Bulimia Builds Bitterness and Bridges

Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

As we stood face-to-face and quietly discussed my years of anorexia and bulimia, I was reminded of what I always knew and yet, was too distracted to acknowledge aloud.  It was not that I never spoke of it before, I had on many occasions.  However, this conversation helped me to realize the heartache my illness [and I unintentionally] caused more deeply.

A sweet and sensitive soul stood tall, looked at me directly and said, “My sister struggles with bulimia.  I would really like to speak with you about your experience.”  Moments before this utterance, we were discussing teeth and toothbrushes.  I shared my history of stains and offered my theories.  I mentioned my concern; had years of bingeing and purging damaged the enamel.  Perhaps, my dentine was more porous than they had been before I began traveling down the path of bulimia.  I did not know with certainty; I hypothesized.  Then Douglas spoke.  A minor musing evolved.  My hope is I have as well.

Over the next few days, Douglas and I chatted often.  I shared three missives I penned on the subject.  Surprisingly to me, he read them immediately.  He wanted to understand his sister.  She is his very close and lifetime friend.  We talked a bit more.  I provided three more pondering prose.  The wondrous man quickly read these as well.  It seemed he was devouring information.  He was searching for answers.  Too much had been left unsaid for too long.  Sarah had been ridding herself of fodder, denying herself nourishment for a few years now. 

Douglas and his sister Sarah struggled to discuss the unspeakable.  This empathetic gentle giant of a man did not understand; why would she wish to eliminate all the food from her body.  He feared for her; yet, he acknowledges, he did not express himself well when bulimia was the subject.  Douglas was frightened.  He felt powerless.  Unbeknownst to me, my words gave him strength.  He trusted I was open to discussing the topic, or at least he knew that I said I was.  However, I wonder.  Until I asked him of his thoughts, he said nothing.

Then, upon inquiry, Douglas spoke of how he never imagined that she might felt separate from herself as I had.  This feeling fellow could not comprehend that his sibling was not as concerned with her weight as she might be about other situations, those that are far more serious. 

I cannot be certain what troubles Sarah.  She may fear adult responsibilities; I did.  Graduating from high school or college can be a challenge.  Fitting in or fearing not is quite an experience.  It might be . . . ?

Douglas offered, he wondered why she did not just stop.  As we exchanged tales of woe, his, hers, and mine, I could see that he was contemplating.  Every thought I expressed traveled within him.  There were many chords struck.  The causes, the effects, all touched his tender heart.  Douglas decided to present my letters to his sister.  Possibly, she would know that he cared; that might be meaningful.  His desire to help was palpable.  I could see it in his face, hear it in his voice, I felt it.

This healthy hardy, fellow that stood before me knew he would never do as she was and is doing.  As he read early on, as he reflected further, as we chatted, he realized that perchance, the physiological, the physical influences might be more powerful than he ever considered.  Neurology might matter.  I expressed my realization; bulimia is not purely a psychological problem, oh, that it were.

Upon reflection, as profound as our exchange was, I did not realize the depth or intensity.  I had no idea that this encounter would change me.  I long ago concluded I had worked through all that was during those trying years.  I was wrong. 

I never realized how fully my relationships with family, and friends, was affected.  Might my acquaintances also have tales to tell of their trying times with me?  When I was immersed in an enigmatic illness, I was, as all human beings are involved with many individuals, those at work, at school, on the streets and in the stores.  Discussing with Douglas helped me to learn, to grow, to resolve some of sorrowful details, and to realize there was more I need to work through.

Among the quandaries still left to resolve is my relationship with my cousin Alexander.  After, Douglas first revealed his situation, and his gratitude for our conversation, I was elated.  I telephoned my Mom’s first cousin, my close friend, Alexander.  I was excited and wanted to share the story.  Might my history assist another?  Would that not be wondrous?  My cousin took a deep breath and paused.

Alexander and I rarely authentically discuss this part of the past.  He lingers, as it looms large in the background.  I understand that just as it was and perchance still is difficult for Douglas to discuss the doings, the dilemma, and the festering feelings that Sarah’s situation fosters, Alex struggles.  His stomach churns.  Communication, when dealing with bulimia is a challenge.  Alexander and I chat freely and often.  We have for decades.  Yet, this topic is too tender to touch.  The scars are subterranean.  The scabs sit delicately on the surface.  No one wants to pick at these.  Bloodletting is not our pleasure.  Alexander stammered.

Then my sweet, caring cousin began to reflect on his reality.  As I listened, I heard a somewhat protective cadence in his voice.  It took time for me to remember that just as that period profoundly altered my ability to be free fun, silly, and stay on the surface, my affliction affected others abundantly.  Even today, there is bitterness.  What was not communicated then continues to have its effect.  Perhaps, my family can build bridges now.  However, first we must break down the barriers.  Alexander begins to speak and I realize the wall is wickedly thick. 

Years, and years ago, my Mom in desperation, turned to him requesting his assistance.  Alexander and Mommy were close.  They were raised together as siblings might be.  The two had a loving history, and Alexander is a man of ample means.  Mommy hoped for a financial favor.  There was no one else she could turn to.  No other family member or friend had funds for such a venture.  She thought it might be best to hospitalize me, not for a day or two, not to stabilize my physical imbalance, but to place me in a treatment program that would work with me as a whole. 

My Mom thought it wise to put me in close and constant proximity with physicians that specialize in bulimia.  Although my Mom is a psychotherapist or perhaps because she is, she feared, she might be part of the problem.  She could not help me as much as she longed to.  This hurt her heart; it scarred her soul, and I only wish she truly knew.  It was never her fault.

Alexander offered no cash.  From across the country, cousin Alex, alone consulted with a doctor that someone recommended to him.  The reference practiced many hundreds of miles from Mommy and me; he was considered a specialist.  This physician is a psychiatrist.  Since Alexander lives on the East coast, and the Doctor on the North West shore, the two talked by telephone.  Alexander took copious notes.  He jotted down pages and pages of data.  Ultimately, this Doctor stated, since my Mom is a professional she likely is as knowledgeable as he.

Berenice Barbara certainly had knowledge of the dilemma.  She lived with it daily.  Yet, she could not continue to do so.  Mommy remembered.

There was a time, years earlier, I resided in my parents’ home.  Each day, I would walk to the grocery store, buy bags and bags full of food.  I had my own shopping cart and could crate much home.  Once settled in the sanctity of the abode, I prepared for the afternoon and evening delight.  The experience or entrées  were delicious, or might have been had I ever bothered to taste the delicacies I prepared.  Culinary escapades come in many sizes and shapes.  Mine was huge and it took on many horrific forms.  My adventure was interesting to say the least. 

I placed newspapers on the floor in front of the television.  I would travel between the kitchen and living room.  I never bothered with the bathroom.  I cooked, cleaned as I prepared my mega-meals, sat down  ate, and then threw-up.  All my food fell into a basin neatly placed in my palms for just this purpose.  There was no time to travel to the toilet.  Besides, that seemed so inefficient.  I was busy, productive, bingeing, purging.  Leave me alone!

My parents let me be.  Possibly, they hoped it was a phase.  Probably they knew they could not stop me from doing as I did.  My brother was quite young at the time, not more than five years of age.  I am certain he was curious, though he never said a word.  Now, he barely remembers any part of his childhood.  My routine went on for a while.  Finally, I secured employment.  I moved out.

Money was tight and became increasingly tighter.  Try to feed a food frenzy that never ends.  Imagine paying for twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours of provisions everyday.  I could no longer afford an apartment.  I returned to my parents abode, for ten minutes.  I walked into the entryway and was about to prepare for “my day.”  My Mom turned to my father and said , “No, I cannot do this.”

My father, an extremely loving man was not willing to give up on me; nor was my Mom.  It was only that Mommy could not watch as I wasted away and destroyed my body, again, and again.  My condition affected my parents differently.  They are , as are we all uniquely individual. 

Mommy thought herself responsible.  It hurt her heart so much to see my body bend, twist, and turn herself inside out.  She saw her child wither away and feared I would pass.  Even when the weight stabilized, she did not feel at ease.  Berenice Barbara knew too well, what I was doing.

Bodily functions were precarious.  I was depleting my electrolytes.  Potassium, needed to sustain the blood flow was barely available.  It was flushed out with the bile.  The muscular organ that beats life into a human being was threatened.  Mommy feared what was yet to occur.  There is ample literature on the hazards of bulimia.  None of the symptoms or effects of bingeing and purging are promising.

My father Barry, was equally familiar with the folly.  Perhaps, although we were and are best friends, my antics did not affect him as they did my Mom.  After all, he is not biologically related to me.  Perchance, our bloodline had no bearing on his feelings.  Barry only wanted to help and actively make known he loved [loves] me and believed in me. 

Of course, Mommy did too.  We were always very close.  Possibly, that is why we were fine, as long as I was not throwing up in her home.  I often say, “Home is where the heart is; mine is wherever my mom lives.”  Mommy wanted my heart to thrive.  It could not, if in her home she accepted its suffering.  I understood.  I did not say a word when she asked me to leave her house.  I could not.  I hurt her so much.  Harming me caused her much pain.  Hurting my Mom heightened my sorrow, my grief, and my anguish.

Barry spoke instantly.  He told me not to worry; he would help.  Minutes after my Mom expressed her exasperation and left the room, Barry and I drove to a lodging inn not too far from my parents’ dwelling.  Barry rented an efficiency apartment for me.  This man, my father secured my rent for a month, then the next.  Of course, there was the following.  Eventually, I worked my way out of that living situation.  However, the bulimia did not transition as easily. 

While in the hotel apartment, I invoked a newer pattern.  I began “proceedings” at 1:00 Post Meridian.  I cooked, cleaned, ate, and eliminated until usually one or two ante meridian.  Nonetheless . . .

As Alexander spoke and shared his version of the anecdote, my mind wandered.  Actually, I wondered.  It was obvious to me.  He believed he had done all he could.  He saw no reason to involve himself further.  Alexander was certain that Mommy had everything under control.  I knew she wished she had.

For Berenice Barbara, it was not the undelivered dollars that did her in; it was the sense that Alexander did not care.  He and Mommy are first cousins; as children, they were together always.  My Mom felt she turned to him as a confidant, a brother, and he did not bother to talk with her.  Actually, they never spoke again.

Mommy and my father Barry did much to assist me, as did Grandpa.  Alexander believes that Grandpa loaned Mommy a bundle and she never re-paid the promissory note.  Cousin Alex thinks my Mom frittered the dollars always, or tucked them into a mattress perhaps.  She never sent me to a treatment center. 

Alexander knows me now, or thinks he does, decades after that time.  He sees me as healthy, happy, and I suspect feels certain my affliction was never all that serious.  Yes, he has heard me speak of it, though rarely in depth and detail.  It seems he is not truly interested.  He often does not recall or realize the severity of what I say.  He does remind me often that Grandpa wrote checks to me.  Indeed he did. 

Full of sorrow, and understanding my predicament, Grandpa saw the financial strain and the emotional toll.  He connected to my struggle through my writings.  I was stuck in a dead-end job.  I hated the work.  My employment had an effect on my health.  I was grinding my teeth among other things.  I could not afford to complete my degree.  The duties in this mailroom were simple.  I could complete the work with ease.  I was often told the sorting station was never as clean and efficient.  Still, I had to stay, sit for a nine-hour day. 

To pass the time I penned my feelings, my frustration to Grandpa.  Writing was then as it is now, my release.  If I could not escape through food, and certainly while at work I could not, I wrote.  My grandfather, after a time, I know not why for I would not ask, decided he would pay for my last year of college.  He wanted me to have a degree, a piece of parchment, and a better sense of myself.  Grandpa felt badly that Mommy, his daughter could not afford to assist me with my education.  He did.

Years before that Grandpa gave much to me, Alexander is correct, although the giving was not cash.  What grandfather Mitchell shared was of far greater value.  My Grandfather came to visit Mommy, my father, and me.  As a pharmacist, a scientist Mitchell trusted he could teach me how to better care for myself.  Barry arranged for the transportation, and Grandpa with me in tow strolled into the American Association for Retired Persons pharmacy. 

Together, for over an hour, we read every bottle.  Grandpa  Mitchell, my mentor explained the differences between one vitamin, mineral, or another.  He discussed bonding agents and the pressure used to produce a pill.  Capsules were considered, oils as well.  A regime of supplements was created for me.  I promised to take these nutrients when I awoke and before I lay my head to sleep.  The pledge I made was to me.  I was living with the benefits[consequences?] of bulimia.  I longed to survive.

My hair was extremely thin and brittle.  What was once thick and wavy was now thin and straight.  The teeth that once glistened turned gray.  Smooth skin was cracked and dry.  Fingernails were brittle.  When I scratched the dry surface of my flesh, bumps would rise.  These tiny welts filled with blood; it took days before they disappeared.  My young face was weathered and aging quickly.  While I dressed well, I truly cared for and about my clothes, a close evaluation would reveal, I was not a pretty sight.

Nonetheless, Alexander never knew this.  He did not see me, feel me, or understand my pain.  Nor did he converse or come to spend a moment with Mommy.  Alexander only heard of what is easier to speak of, the money.  Grandpa shared stories of woe, not mine per se, his own.  That is what we all do.  We only know what is within us.

Alexander trusted my grandfather was concerned; however, Mitchell did not mention what he observed or understood.  That would be too difficult.  Much like Douglas, Grandpa Mitchell expressed his fear, not his love.  Caring was too painful.

My cousin only related to the cute little girl I once was.  That was his knowledge and understanding.  Sadly, it still is.

Over the years, much to my Mom’s dismay, I developed a relationship with Alexander.  He never knew that I was hospitalized for days at a time.  He was certain I was not placed in a program.  Cousin Alex did not sense I was near death on more than one occasion.  I was placed on a machine.  Feeding was intravenous.

Alexander was [and is today] unaware.  He did not [and does not] understand how Mommy felt.  He could not comprehend nor will he.  As we spoke, after my conversation with Douglas, Alexander declared he knows what he knows.  My cousin refused to listen to my narrative. 

My cousin did not and does not experience my Mom as she was.  When I was detained in  a medical facility, Mommy was never able to visit me.  Physically she was capable; emotionally, she could not endure the pain. She tried once.  I happened to be in a hospital affiliated with her work.  She was there to meet with a patient and felt she could not leave without seeing me. 

Mommy entered the room, sat on my bed, and we chatted.  Each of us tried to communicate as we always had and did when I was not expelling food before I digested it.  However, it was too hard for her.  I could see the tears forming and before they gently fell down her face.  She excused herself.  She was flooded with emotions.  Oh, Mommy, I am sooooooo sorry. 

Alexander assumed much and apparently still does.  He knows that he and Grandpa lived a block away from each other.  They were friends; although I often wonder.  When one, or both persons in a relationship share some information, and never fully deliberate, how intimate and whole might the rapport be.  Nonetheless, the two were “close.” 

Each time my grandfather spoke of gifting money to my Mom or me, Alexander decided the sums were large and an unwanted load for my Mom’s father.  Cousin Alex does not recall what my Grandpa taught me, or does not make the connection for I shared the parable many times.  “No one does something they do not really want to do.” 

After a time when Grandpa gave me two hundred and eighty nine dollars to travel, I thanked him profusely, for months.  I could not resolve within myself how generous a gift he bestowed.  Then, one-day grandfather Mitchell said to me, I would not have given you the money had I not wanted to.  You need not continually thank me.  He shared his now famous adage.  Slowly, I learned.  This lesson is about far more than money.

Nonetheless, Alexander remains stalwart, doing diligence over the dollars.  I discovered this only days ago.  As much as Alexander cherishes my Mom and I, he resents us.  Alexander believes he has the specifics.  For him there is nothing further to discuss. 

My cousin believes my bulimia was a financial burden far beyond what it was.  He thinks my Mom borrowed money and never repaid it.  Grandpa disinherited his own daughter and sacrificed for his granddaughter.  He brusquely said to me, “Ask your sister.”  I did.  I discovered that my elder sibling understands as I do.  The details of that I will save for another time.  I told Alexander, in part of the exchange with my sister.  Alexander refuses to hear the rest of the story.  Bitterness becomes him.  It must, for he has chosen to live with it for all these years.

Perhaps, that is the truer crisis.  Bulimia breeds contempt.  As the person afflicted purges in an attempt to escape feeling, the feelings flourish.  They envelop everyone.  Authentic communication ends.  At times, we cannot be sure it will come again.  The illness has a profound effect on the individual.  It is as a heavy stone falling into a pond.  The ripples travel.  All are touched. 

So much is shoved out of sight.  Embarrassment causes the bulimic and her family to hide their emotions.  There is much harm done to every one.  People do not speak; they do not wish to see what is painful and true.  Tales are told.  Everyone wishes to appear excellent, exalted, and above it all.  Yet, friends, family, familiars are all brought down.  The spiral spins out of control.

Thankfully, it need not be.  Douglas shared my writings with his sister.  They had a lengthy conversation.  Tears and fears were placed out in the open.  Until, I told my truth, Douglas never understood how his sister Sarah struggles.  He thought his sibling was concerned about her weight.  This brilliant and munificent gentle man could not imagine why the healthy woman he knows and loves would do as she does. 

It was only days ago he discovered, each night she cries herself to sleep thinking tomorrow, I will not do this.  Yes, I remember; I did the same.  This evening I told my father what Douglas shared.  Barry asked was that true?  He never knew.  My father did not imagine my daily distress.  I can barely phantom his sorrow. 

As we reflected, Barry avowed, “Ultimately I  trusted your sense of yourself and your evolving being.  Mommy and I often talked about what we could do.  Your health and well being was on our minds.”  I trust it still is.  I feel it in Barry’s musings.  I sense it in my soul. 

Each day and evening I think about Mommy’s anguish.  The despair my Mom felt, and may still feel, fills my heart.  She has passed and I cannot inquire, Yet, I accept I cannot experience a fraction of the pain as she did, has, and sadly, may still . 

Alexander, oh were he to speak of the unspeakable; what might we resolve.

Douglas and Sarah, I love you both.  You give me hope.  I wish to bequeath to you both hugs, kisses, and pleasant dreams.  I have faith; tomorrow will come and good health will be yours.

Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Six.  Please do. These reflective diaries discuss my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge  [Chapter Two] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self  [Chapter Three] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me  [Chapter Four] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight  [Chapter Six] By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
    Or Similar Discussions . . .

  • I Am An Anorexic, Bulimic, A Person! By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • When Will I Be Right? Is It Ever Okay To Be Me? By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org
  • Weight. Balancing Fat with Feelings, Habits With Health. By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

    Other References . . .

  • The Effects of Bulimia.  RecoverYourLife.com.
  • Bulimia Nervosa. The National Women’s Health Information Center.
  • What are the effects of bulimia?  Tina deBenedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.  Helpguide.org.
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most, By: Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.  The Harvard Negotiation Project.