My name is Carly. I have had bulimia for eight years, and I have never been treated for it. I have been treated for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other things that can be linked to eating disorders, but never for the disorder itself. I wasn’t always open about my struggle with bulimia, but once it was something my parents knew, something my friends knew, it felt silly not to talk about it.
So why was I never treated for bulimia? It’s actually pretty simple: I wasn’t sick enough. My experience of treatment in America was that they won’t admit you to hospital for treatment of an eating disorder unless you are under a certain weight. The people supposed to teach you how your worth isn’t a number won’t actually teach you that unless you hit a certain number. Try not to be obsessed with the scale with that looming over you. The treatment for people not sick enough to get treatment was usually left up to health insurance, if you had it, if it covered a counsellor, plus whatever other resources you managed to find.
While I was talking to my first counsellor I was not ready to recover. I will admit that I did everything wrong. I lied constantly. I lied even without thinking about it. The counsellor that I was seeing was chosen by my parents and in the end, I only spoke to her to appease them.
A typical day with an appointment would go like this: I would wake up or at least get out of bed after not sleeping. I would either do nothing, not even look in the mirror, or I would go all out with makeup and hair and clothes. I would walk past all of my university supplies and not even look at it because I knew I hadn’t been to class all term. I would get in my car and drive to see her. Once I finished my session I would drive around and stop at drive-thru windows and eat in my car, taking the longest route home that I could. Before I got to my house I would go to the grocery store around the corner from my apartment complex and I would get a cart or a basket and fill the entire thing with whatever I wanted. Then once I got to the apartment I would stop at the first dumpster and throw away all of the garbage and then take my groceries into my apartment, past the kitchen and into my bedroom.
I could get away with so much while I was seeing her; there were entire sessions that I would talk about that week’s episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. She never asked me if I was eating, if I was purging, if I was bingeing, until I noticeably was losing weight. Living in my own place, being responsible for my own food shopping, going through day to day without anyone else gave me so much control that I abused it.
There was a hospital that I had to drive past every single day and there was not one time that I drove past that hospital that I didn’t think about checking myself in, or feel angry or hurt or isolated. I became so obsessed with needing to fit the hospital criteria for treatment that I wasn’t noticing anything else, like school or my friends or my family.
In the end, I was never put in hospital. I was never medically “sick enough” to get treated. I don’t have any stories about group therapy or doctor appointments or anything they show in movies. But just because I didn’t look sick didn’t mean that I wasn’t sick, and just because I have been in recovery for almost five years doesn’t mean I still don’t have disordered thinking. What I want to end this with is to say that if you’re like me, not looking sick or not being able to be treated in a hospital, that does not mean that you aren’t sick, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve recovery.