“So, when you purge, or you cut yourself – what are you trying to get rid of?”
This was the question posed to me by my counsellor today. And, to my surprise, I could answer it instantly. I realised, immediately after uttering that one word, that it was the most honest answer I have ever given. It was so simple, unedited, and raw.
Pain … Such a tiny word, for so powerful a feeling.
Pain can take seemingly immeasurable forms. For me, it is a pungent, loaded, searing emotion. It affects every part of my being. It starts by thumping through the corridors of my mind, forcing me to relive the darkest days of my past. It forms a tight vice around my heart. It clenches, constricts, and blackens. It swells to a crescendo, and finally billows forth, seeking an escape. It hungrily traverses my body. My veins are endless passageways in its rampant pursuit of freedom.
But there is no exit. There is no escape. I know this. Yet I am also acutely aware that if I don’t find a way to get at least some of it out, then it will consume me. If I don’t get it out it will destroy me. I will not be able to function. I will not be able to carry on, to get through the day, to do what needs to be done. I will not be able to survive.
For years I tried to hide from it, to evade it, and to deny it … all that pain. I repressed it. I put it in a cavern of my soul where it couldn’t hurt me. But that only works for so long, and sooner rather than later it involuntarily dragged itself out into the light.
I tried to drug it when it emerged. I drowned the pain in codeine. I evaded the pain. I was numb to it. But I was also numb to everything else. I am a recovering codeine addict. And I’m proud of that. But make no mistake, any time the pain freshly strikes my first instinct is to reach for that blissful state of numbness.
I tried to bleed the pain out. Countless times. In the darkest of hours, I took a blade or a shard to my skin in a desperate attempt to rid myself of emotional pain. I saw the pain physically leave my body in those trails of blood. But, just like the pills, self-harm is always temporary fix. I rarely cut these days. But the instinct is always there. The desire remains.
I battle with the inclination to revert to pills, or to self-harm, on an almost daily basis.
But they are battles that I am still winning, even by the smallest margin.
There is one that I am not winning. I have to get the pain out. I am not allowed to numb it will pills. I am certainly not allowed to cut myself. So what am I supposed to do? I HAVE to get it out. I am DESPERATE to be empty of it. In that agonising desperation I resort to the one thing that still delivers that feeling of releasing the pain … I purge it out.
In the evening, when night has taken hold of the world, I eat my one meal of the day. I go into the bathroom. I stand over the toilet. I shove two fingers down my throat until I vomit. My anxiety fades the second I feel the weight of the food in my body has lifted. I feel relief as I see my pain pour out. I keep pushing my fingers down my throat until I am completely empty.
I have had an eating disorder for two years. And it is not getting better. It is getting worse. It is the battle I am losing. But right now, I need it to help eradicate some of that pain.
So when you ask me why do you need to purge? … Yes, the answer is simple. But the story is not. The story of my pain is far from simple. And it’s time to face the truth. In the coming posts I will unburden that story, in the hope that the journey will lead me to freedom.