I am graduating college this year and it has been a stressful time. Basically, I started purging around Thanksgiving time. It started with an upset stomach when I was feeling guilty about being around a boy other than my boyfriend. It has slowly progressed since then. I have been with my boyfriend for 4 years but often find myself having feelings for other guys. Whenever this happens, especially when I am drinking alcohol, I end up making myself vomit. Sometimes I don’t even get anything up, I just enjoy the feeling of the gag…after I do this I feel so much better – like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders. At my worst, I was throwing up 2-3 times per week. I know it is so bad for me health-wise so I try my best to limit the vomiting only to times when I really need to. I never binge, which is why I don’t think I am bulimic. I do feel overweight (5’3, 127lbs) and I do think about it sometimes when I am throwing up but it isn’t ever the triggering factor. My trigger is a feeling of guilt or anger, usually associated with my boyfriend or my feeling like I let down my dad for some reason or another. I started seeing a therapist when I told my family about my vomiting, and I was diagnosed with bulimia and an unspecified anxiety disorder because I have anxiety attacks sometimes in the mornings after I have been drinking. I have cut down on my drinking and rarely have these attacks now, but I still throw up about 2 times a week. I know I’m wrong, I know I shouldn’t think of throwing up as a “treat.” If I get in a fight with my boyfriend I always run to the toilet because it seems like the right thing to do, the only way to clear my head and feel better. It’s just that I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why I have these feelings and I don’t know how to get rid of them. I tried reading, baths, writing in diaries, everything to try not to throw up when I feel emotionally charged and nothing works. I still crave the high I get when I throw up. Another thing that scares me is that I don’t even feel guilty about it. I talk to my friends about my vomiting like it is normal. I don’t know why I do this. Really gross. I don’t talk to my family about it anymore because it makes my mom sad and my boyfriend thinks it’s ridiculous. – G.
I do not know what insight I can provide outside of the tremendous self reflection you write. It is apparent to me that you are aware that you choose to vomit when you feel certain feelings. You have made a decision that the “high” you get from vomiting is more “palatable” to you then feeling real feelings—anger, guilt, disappointment, possible shame.
My hope is that you continue to see a professional counselor to increase the chances that you will practice different coping mechanisms rather than vomiting. “Running to the toilet” as you write has serious health consequences for your teeth, esophagus, stomach, heart, and overall health. Please do not assume that because you are not aware of an “obsession” or “preoccupation” with weight prior to throwing up that this behavior is not tied to body image. Body image/self worth/ and disordered eating are inextricably tied.
Disordered eating behaviors (including throwing up) are a cover up. The behavior (vomiting in your example) becomes an obsession that allows you to ignore what you are really feeling. Some disordered eating persons state they may feel a sense of shame over their need for others, an intense sadness about the idea that a relationship is not what it is wanted to be, and/or anxiety when there is conflict in relationships and this “triggers” the need for control. He/she then utilizes vomiting in order to feel “centered” or “better,” when in reality they have just been distracted from what is really true and what is really needing to be addressed—their feelings.
You are not a robot. There is no ON/OFF switch on your back, yet you are behaving as if there is. Each time you vomit you are switching the light off inside you! You are whispering to yourself to deny what you are feeling and believe that this will make it better. That voice wants you to deny reality because if you listen long enough you will not grow. You will be stuck. And I think you are.
Please do not be smug or certain that your vomiting is acceptable. It is not. It is not how grown, healthy, thriving, people live their lives. It is a sign to you that you need to stop, to listen to yourself, to deal with the issues surrounding attraction, sexuality, development, separation from family, launching into adulthood, etc.
You are at a fork in the road. You can either choose to live based on truths, such as I will be attracted to multiple persons, I can be attracted and not act on it, I can control my urges, I can have a relationship with my father that is full of boundaries and not laden with shame, etc. or you can choose to be stuck, closed off, and dramatic.
I hope you don’t choose the latter.