- Anti-Porn and Anti-Prostitution Writer, Speaker and Activist
- AntiPornography.org Volunteer
WARNING! VERY GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING CONTENT BELOW!
My shift had finally ended and I had about fifteen minutes until my mom picked me up. Time to go shopping at my favorite place -- the grocery store I worked at.
I filled up a basket with all of the junk food that I could afford on my tiny salary. Candy, cookie dough, chips and Diet Coke. I went through the checkout line and the cashier joked about how much I must love junk food. "I could never eat this way without blowing up!", she chuckled. "Oh to be a teenager again..."
What was so great about being a teenager? I was fifteen years old and I hated it. I felt fat, ugly and worthless. These feelings of self-loathing were part of the reason why I bought the food, finished it in one night, and threw it up afterwards.
This was a regular routine for me; a huge portion of the money that I made at all of my jobs as a teen went to my number one addiction -- food. My eating disorder developed at a younger age than my porn addiction did, and it also started before I began using drugs. The challenge of overcoming bulimia was also more difficult than overcoming porn use or quitting drug use.
I always had a strange relationship with food; I couldn't seem to control how much I ate. I remember being ten years old and making my mom mad when I ate all of the puddings or chips meant for school lunches. I wanted to be thin like my neighbor, the most popular girl in my elementary school, but I just couldn't stay on a diet. The kids in elementary school never let me forget that I wasn't good enough.
In middle school it got much worse, and the kids were meaner than ever. Everything I did, said or wore became something to scrutinize or make fun of. Compared to my mostly-white and well-off (or just plain rich) classmates, I was a loser. I stood out as the "dark," chubby, quiet girl in a sea of designer clothes and perfect hair.
To say I lacked self-esteem was a understatement. I had none at all. I never talked unless someone talked to me first, and I actually had a few kids come up to me and ask, "Do you talk?" They thought I was mute! Just the idea of talking to a stranger made my stomach hurt and my palms sweat, and that meant that making friends was nearly impossible.
In my mind the problem was all about how I looked. I thought that if I was skinny, my cheap clothes and untamed hair wouldn't be as big of a deal. Kids would want to talk to me and I would magically become outgoing and confident.
I tried in vain to lose weight -- starving for half a day and giving up, trying to only eat fruit or crackers all day, or chewing gum and drinking diet coke. But nothing worked. I couldn't stay away from food, and I had an odd fixation for it. When I got a craving, it was all I could think about. I'd sit in class and daydream about cheese popcorn, chocolate chip cookies and cake. No matter how hard I tried, the intense cravings wouldn't go away.
When I was around thirteen years old I started throwing up the food that I ate. I'm not sure where I got the idea, but the first time I binged and purged I was hooked. I didn't understand at the time that intentionally throwing up was so much more than just being able to "get rid of" food and lose weight. It was a way to relieve my stress and anxiety. The binging allowed me to forget all of my insecurities and just focus on the food, and the purging (throwing up) was a way for me to calm myself down. In a strange way throwing up was my way of expressing myself. I couldn't bring myself to speak up at school, but with bulimia I had an outlet. Some bulimics report feeling dirty after they throw up, but for me I felt cleaner than ever after purging.
At first I didn't binge and purge every day, or even every month. But as the years went by and I felt more and more isolated and frustrated, the problem got worse. When I was fifteen I got my first job, and that made it easier to binge. Now I could afford my own food and I didn't have to worry about my parents noticing large amounts of food missing.
I spent much of my paycheck on food and stored it in my bedroom. When everyone was sleeping or had gone out I was in bulimic heaven. I would eat entire packages of raw cookie dough, family-sized bags of chips, piles of candy bars, and anything else I could get. Afterwards I would usually purge in the sink or the shower, because it was easier to clean up and more comfortable than leaning over a toilet bowl.
It became my ritual, my hobby, and something to look forward to. Eventually it also got to the point where I avoided eating much in public or with family or friends. Instead I'd eat alone and purge it all. When I was binging and purging, it was just me. No cruel classmates, no lecturing parents, no "friends" that treated me like dirt; just me in my own world. My friends had no idea that I was struggling with an eating disorder, and my parents didn't even know bulimia existed, so it was easy to hide it from them.
I became so consumed with bulimia that I started reading up on the disease. I found out about all of the potential dangers, which included stomach rupture, decaying teeth and heart failure, just to name a few. But I wasn't very concerned. Why would I be? I didn't care if I lived or died anyway.
One of the unfortunate things to come out of my research on bulimia was stumbling across "pro mia" and "pro ana" sites. ("Mia" stands for bulimia, and "ana" is short for anorexia.) These sites had all kinds of info on eating disorders; everything from how to hide it to how to purge more effectively.
These sites were also full of lonely, sick young women, just like me. (And some young men as well.) We emailed each other "encouragement," and traded pictures of thin models and celebrities that we idolized. We talked about how much we hated ourselves and how disgusting we felt. We all seemed to share the same goal of getting thin, but in reality what we shared was a deep depression and despair.
By the time I was seventeen I started to feel trapped in my eating disorder. I wasn't losing weight (most bulimics are normal weight or a bit overweight), and I was sick of thinking about food all of the time. I had started getting into drugs at sixteen -- just weed and coke a few times -- and I was definitely interested in trying more. Anything to make me feel better and get my mind off of food.
I tried meth around this time, and it seemed like the ideal drug. The first time I smoked it I felt absolutely amazing. I talked for hours with a group of people who were mostly strangers and I felt no anxiety. I drew pictures with crayons all night and everything was just great. Best of all, I didn't even think about food.
From that night on I smoked meth anytime I could get my hands on it. I lost weight and finally became thin, but my brain was too muddled to enjoy it. I put myself in dangerous situations, like walking around sketchy neighborhoods at night and making "friends" with addicts twice my age. (Please see my collection of articles for my story that is solely about my meth use, including how it harmed me and how I stopped using it.)
Thankfully I wasn't on meth for too long. By the time I was eighteen I had gotten off of it, and I told myself that from then on I would only smoke weed and drink alcohol. Unfortunately, though, once the meth problem was gone, my eating disorder came back with a vengence. I struggled with it for years after that point; quitting for long periods and then going back to it for months at a time.
I wish I could say that I went to treatment, but the truth is that I battled my eating disorder on my own and somehow managed to finally beat it. I think a big part of me beating it was deciding that I didn't want to die from it. I still had low self-esteem, but I was no longer apathetic about dying.
I still think about binging and purging sometimes, and I won't lie -- when I get stressed out it seems like an easy relaxation technique. But I know that I can't ever go back. I already have serious problems with my teeth due to so many years of throwing up. This has led to me getting a lot of dental work done, and I still have thousands of dollars of more work to go.
If I go back to bulimia I'll end up with much more than "just" teeth problems -- there will be serious health consequences. I know now that I am worth more than that, and that my disorder was never really about "being skinny." It was fueled by self-hatred, anxiety and depression. Once I started to deal with those underlying issues, the fixation on food lessened significantly.
I am so grateful that I didn't end up with worse health problems than I did, and that I managed to get past this horrible disorder. I feel terrible for all of the people who are currently battling this mental illness, and I wish that I could tell them that it isn't worth it.
When I was bulimic I could have been developing hobbies and facing up to and dealing with the underlying issues that I had, but instead I wasted so much time on self-destructive behavior. I'm hoping that anyone dealing with an eating disorder who is reading this won't waste as much time as I did, and won't hurt themselves and their health as much as I did, or as much as others have. I hope that they'll do what I should have done -- seek help. If I had done that as a teen maybe I would have gotten off of that self-destructive path a lot sooner, and saved myself a lot of heartache and pain that could have been avoided.
For more information about the harms of bulimia and where to seek treatment, please see these Web pages below:
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Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexualitytakes an unflinching look at today’s porn industry: the stories woven into the images, the impact on our culture, the effects on us as men and women, the business machine that creates and markets porn, and the growing legitimacy of porn in mainstream media. Above all, PORNLAND examines the way porn shapes and limits sexual imaginations and behaviors.
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Saavi Accountability -- The only online accountability program that works with all online addictions. It is also the only program that sends notifications instantly via text message to an accountability partner so that they can be supportive when an individual needs it the most at the point of weakness, while they are accessing the online content. The software was created by a young man (26) who overcame his addiction and is trying to help others.
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"Pornography is a marketing device for sex trafficking: It normalizes degradation and violence as acceptable and even inevitable parts of sex, and uses the bodies of real women and children as objects. The difference between pornography and erotica is clear in the roots of the words themselves -- porne means females slaves, eros means love -- so pornography, like rape, is about violence and domination, not sex. Millions of lives depend on our ability to separate pornography from erotica, and to disentangle violence from sexuality."
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