Bringing Bulimia to Work

3 years ago

Potential trigger warnings for eating disorder behaviors.

Twenty-nine minutes. That was my record for locking myself in the bathroom last year in the middle of a binge/purge attack during the workday. I know because unlike some people, I still have to wear a watch everyday out of habit.

Not taken at the last minute for this post.  Nope, not AT ALL.

(Photo not taken at the last minute for this post. Nope, not AT ALL.)

I don’t remember what caused me to have to do this in the middle of the day.  It had to have been stressful.  Then, maybe not.  Who knows what I am really thinking when I get into these cycles? The fact that I tried doing this at work shows how low I was.

Being the “good girl” who didn’t eat at work (always on a diet!), I never had food at my desk.  That day I took a break from my desk and got food I knew I could eat a lot of and quickly.  As long as I told myself I was just hungry, hadn’t had breakfast and wouldn’t have dinner to balance this all out, then it would be fine.  Purging was not on my mind.

Except that was a lie, as it pretty much always was.   I loaded up on the junk, ate as much as could in the car so I wouldn’t have food evidence in my office trash, and went back into work.  My coworker was gone, so I had the space to myself for a while.  So far, so good.

Twenty minutes later I was feeling stuffed and needing to get rid of everything I had ingested.  I got up to go to the bathroom, right when my coworker returned.  No big deal, I excused myself and went on.

Now, my office is not in a shiny, corporate building, but instead in a quaint, older house.  We have fireplaces (closed off), hardwood floors and the rooms flow one into another without halls.    The former living room is where my office is, then there is a conference room, kitchen and the bathroom off of that. Once I got in the bathroom and shut the door, I heard my coworker enter the kitchen.  The  floors and open rooms conduct sound really well and, to be kind, she is a hard walker.  Bang, bang, bang with each step.   She also narrates her tasks.

So this is all I hear for almost half an hour:

“Where’s the coffeepot?”
(bang bang bang, slam)
“Ok, gotta washout the coffeepot …”
(bang bang bang bang) …
(bang bang bang bang)
“Oh, popcorn!”
(bang bang, slam,) Beep, beep beepbeep!
*more humming* BEEEEEEP!
(cell phone rings)
*Conversation while standing in kitchen eating popcorn*
(bang, bang, bang, bang across the floor)

All the while, I am trapped in the bathroom.  For those minutes, I couldn’t move.  If I did anything to purge what I ate, I would be heard.  It would result in a bunch of questions, which was the last thing I wanted.  Sure, those questions would have been from a place of kindness, but I needed to be left alone.

Finally, I just gave up and came out, claiming to not feel well (not untrue).  I spent the rest of the day sick and hating myself more than ever.

That night I finally called to get a referral to a therapist.

It’s been over a year since that day.  I haven’t had the urge to engage in any of these behaviors at work again.  Therapy has helped a lot.

Things aren’t 100%, or even close.  I refuse to eat at work functions and still skip events that involve food.   I don’t make a huge production, I just tend to disappear during these times and reappear when the program starts again.  Back in May, I did make an effort to actually allow myself to have lunch with others at an off-site work meeting.

Well, it seems my “not eating” extremes may have backfired, since the two most outspoken people at the table had to remark about the fact that I was actually eating, and what I was eating.  Again, I am sure they meant no harm.  Everybody eats, right?  I certainly do not look like I am starving. They couldn’t know.  The fact it was such a big deal that it became a lunchtime discussion made it unbearable.

It was hard.  I really wanted to cry and run away from the table.  Then I wanted to go puke my guts out.  I didn’t do any of this.  I got through with a fake smile, made some lame joke about only eating when the food was good and saved the tears for later.

Today, I am by myself in the office.  The rest of the group has gone to a “networking symposium” to mix, mingle, eat and drink.  Even without the bulimia, the introvert in me cringes at these.  I appreciate the opportunity to go to events and training sessions, but this was optional, not related to my field and was further out than my already long commute.   Right now I am holding down the front desk, working in peace and quiet.  I’ll save the anxiety for next week, when I do have to go someplace all day for a course that is mandatory.

For every step I think I am taking forward, there are situations that will always come up and remind me how far I have to go.  That is OK.  One day I will be able to interact without fear at these functions.  I know this will happen,  I just don’t know when.  I knew a year ago I would not go back to trying to hurt myself in the middle of the day, and I haven’t.

Every victory counts in this war.

I actually submitted this one to 100 Reasons to Recover's site.

I actually submitted this one to 100 Reasons to Recover’s site.  They now have over a thousand reasons, so check them out!

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