If you’re just joining this series, I’d suggest starting with Part One and Part Two to get a bit of background. Once again, I’d like to warn readers that these posts deal with sensitive, potentially triggering, topics related to binge eating.
Today is when things get a bit … sticky. Up until this point, nothing I’ve talked about has been new to my family. Perhaps they did not know the reasons behind my behaviors, but they knew they existed. They were, after all, the ones that discovered my secrets.
Today, though, we delve into that part they don’t know about. The secrets I’ve kept hidden for six, seven years. Mentally and emotionally, but also literally, for as I got older I got smarter about destroying the evidence.
Today I tell the stories I’ve held onto for close to a decade. Today I pull myself from the inside out, reach down to scrape my interior clean and release the dusk that has been waiting and collecting.
Today is my coming out party.
While I have a whole host of vignettes I could share with you, minute pieces of history and moments that tell my tale, I’m instead going to focus on two very specific episodes that, I feel, will give you a much better scope of the situation I was dealing with post-college.
To begin, you have to understand that during college my disordered eating behaviors seemed to diminish. Yes, I gained weight, but mostly from simple over eating and not binge eating, although to this day I still mourn the loss of Ben & Jerry’s Southern Pecan Pie. Over the years I’ve tried to find a new favorite, but none of the current flavors come even close to the sublime simplicity Southern Pecan Pie had. Which is good, because I really don’t need a reason to go out and buy pints of Ben & Jerry’s on a regular basis.
College was the first time I was given freedom and liberation. Nobody knew who I was so I was allowed to simply be me. I began dying my hair red and got my first tattoo. I wrote more in those four years than I ever wrote before or since (my degree is in creative writing, hence my lovely, eloquent posts. And, apparently, my modesty). The summer between junior and senior year I joined Weight Watchers for the first time and did very well, losing about 45 pounds in 6 months.
Something, however, snapped and I gained it all back, plus some, so by the time I graduated I was pretty much back where I started.
Upon moving home, I started working part time at two different jobs. The first was the Stars Hollow Public Library, which I worked at in high-school. The other was at a transportation call center a few towns over. I was at this job five days a week, the library only one. The call center was located right near a Sheetz gas station which, as anyone who has ever visited one knows, is the best gas station in the entire world. I realize that’s an odd qualifier, but I stand by my statement. Mostly due to the Made-to-Order station.
And the fact that they sell Krispy Kremes.
I would stop into that gas station at least four times a week. Mostly to just pick up candy and snacks to munch on while I was sitting at my desk and pop, always diet, naively telling myself that somehow negated the bag of Starburst I was about to consume in an eight hour period. True story: I ate so much Starburst at that job I learned how to unwrap a piece with my tongue, always keeping the wrapper in one piece. (No guarantee I could do it now, though.) Tuesday mornings I’d also get one of their breakfast sandwiches, loaded with cheese and mayo and hash browns and, yeah, heart attack on a plate.
Often, more often than I care to admit, I’d also usually buy Krispy Kremes. Most of the time I’d go small, only half a dozen. I’d fill up the little white wax paper bag with my six doughnuts and roll it up and put it in my purse. The doughnuts were never eaten at work. Instead, I would take them home with me and eat one after another after another. Usually after dinner, after I’d already eaten for the day and nowhere near hungry, but those doughnuts just had to be consumed. Once the bag was empty, I’d crinkle it up into a ball and stick in the drawer of my nightstand.
Every once in awhile, though, I’d go for the full dozen, tucked neatly into that green and white cardboard box. To this day I can’t even begin to tell you how I managed to smuggle those into the house, but I did and more than once. The dozen I would usually spread over two days, the box hidden in the small gap between my desk and floor. Once the box was empty, I would flatten and fold it and stick back under my desk.
I was quite antisocial as a teenager and young adult, often preferring to stay home alone whenever an opportunity arose. Part of it was just enjoying the silence available to me, but I also needed the time to clean out my room. Along with the Krispy Kremes, candy still being hoarded and eaten and I had wrappers to dispose of. So whenever I had the house to myself my first task was collecting the evidence. That meant going through all the drawers and under the desk and under the bed and filling a trash bag. I’d usually do this every few weeks and the bag would be fairly full.
The key then was to get it out of the house and I had quickly figured out that if I take it straight to the trash can, nobody had to know about it. But I also didn’t want to risk having my parents remember they accidentally threw something out and go digging, so I’d plan these clean ups around trash day when the cans would be full. I’d go out to the garage, take out the bags already in there, and put mine on the bottom of the can. Then I’d put the other bags on top. Day or two later, the garbage truck came and my secret went with it.
A few years ago I was visiting my parents and my mom was planning on redoing my bedroom, so she asked me to go through my stuff to see if there was anything I wanted to keep. Looking underneath my desk I found my old bathroom scale and one of those empty Krispy Kreme boxes, long forgotten. I put the flattened box in my suitcase and took it back home with me to be thrown out at my apartment, another means of avoiding the conversation.
So that’s the first story. I worked at that call center for maybe three years and I guess I bought doughnuts two or three times a month, not counting the weekly MTO breakfast sandwiches and bags and bags of candy. Even now, doughnuts are a bit of a trigger food. Seeing one, I imagine my eyes dilate as my mouth waters. The majority of the time I’m capable of Just Saying No. But every once in awhile I’ll take one half as a treat. Oddly, though, after one bite I lose the taste for it. Something doesn’t sit right in my stomach or head and I’ll end up throwing the half out.
The second story is shorter, but much more intense. At least for me. See, after I graduated and moved back home, my parents wanted to help me out with my weight and signed me up for a local gym. In the beginning, I did go, attending a weekly step class. Eventually, though, I got bored. And tired. And lazy. I was out of shape and self-conscious in the class. But my parents had paid and I knew they did it out of love and concern for my health and I didn’t know how to explain to them that I felt I didn’t deserve it, because I was their fat, ugly, unpopular daughter.
So, I kept up the ruse. Once a week I’d come home from work and change into my workout clothes and get in my car. Only I wouldn’t go to the gym. Not right away. Instead I’d run through the drive-thru at one of the multitude of fast food joints surrounding the gym. I’d buy cheeseburgers or chicken nuggets or french fries or whatever I was in the mood for. I would then go to the gym and sit in my car at the back of the lot and eat. Of course, my parents would assume I had been working out. Luckily this was fall, winter, so it was cold outside and I’d drive home with the windows down to get myself rosy, flushed cheeks to mimic the ones you get from exercise.
But, really, let me make sure you fully understand what I just told you: Instead of working out at the gym, I would gorge on fast food while sitting in the gym parking lot.
On this particular evening I opted for Arby’s. Specifically their ooey, gooey, greasy, but ohmygod so good mozzarella sticks. I devoured all the cheesy fried goodness, moaning with the release of an addict getting her fix. Then I drove home and ate dinner with my family.
A few hours later I was asleep when I woke up suddenly, knowing something wasn’t right. I barely made it to the bathroom in time before I threw up.
For the next day or two I stayed home with what my mom believed was the flu. Maybe it was. Or maybe, as I suspect, it was something related to those stupid mozzarella sticks. How could I explain, though, that I thought maybe I had food poisoning when I was the only one in my family who was sick? We had all eaten the same dinner, yet I was the only one camped out in the bathroom. There’s no way to have that conversation without opening up a whole lotta questions I didn’t want to answer. So I kept quiet, kept silent, kept secret, until now.
Safe to say, after that night I never ate an Arby mozzarella stick ever again.
This series started around the time I was 15 or 16. I worked at that call center until I moved to Kentucky, back when I was about 25. That’s ten years worth of stories and secrets and, sadly, it’s not quite over yet. There’s still one chapter left. One leg of the journey to still travel before we hit the path to healing.
Love from the ashes,