I'd had bulimia for four years by the time I went to inpatient treatment for it at age 17. After four days of living at the treatment center, I'd adhered to the special diet closely enough for a reward: hot chocolate powder I was allowed to prepare on my own. Five days in, I began stocking up on the packets, pouring the powder down my throat and then swallowing water so I could vomit up the mixture.
My stay lasted two weeks; my insurance wouldn't pay for more. My mom and stepdad were too busy at their jobs to come to the regular family meetings more than once, and when I was released, I knew things hadn't changed, but I didn't understand why I wasn't better. Two months after treatment, when my mom realized I was once again throwing up, she said I'd never recover. "The nurse told me that," she said, giving me a familiar look of disappointment.
As my eating disorder developed, so did my sense of shame.
I was raised by my single mother or, more honestly, by our television. By third grade, I was a latchkey kid, walking myself home from school and immediately sitting down in front of the TV to do my favorite thing: eat. Sitting passively in front of the television and eating gave me an immense feeling of comfort and safety otherwise absent from my life, but when my mom caught on to my routine, she began !-- react-text: 178 --">. She'd come home from work at six or seven and bang the cabinets open and closed, sighing with exasperation, "Godammit, Stacy, I'm not made of money. You can't keep eating like this."
Eating gave me a feeling of comfort and safety otherwise absent from my life.
Still, I continued to binge when I came home from school — a habit now accompanied by feelings of intense shame that made my body feel far away. As I got older, my mom began to comment on my weight gain, sometimes telling me no one would love me if I kept getting fatter or saying I wouldn't be so fat if I weren't so lazy. These were cruel things to say, often uttered in the heat of her angry outbursts, of which there were many. But I know now my mom's comments reflected how she felt about herself, and how many women are taught to feel: Our bodies define our worth, and living in fat bodies makes us unworthy. This is deeply untrue, but my mom didn't know that. As a kid, neither did I.