One Size Does Not Fit All

Maddie Davis, Co-Editor

Staring at yourself in the mirror, you feel empty. 

Worthless.

Ugly.

Fat.

You pinch a piece of skin between your fingers in disgust. 

Suddenly turning away, you crouch down next to the toilet, wrapping your arms around the bowl to steady yourself.

You breathe in deeply and wait to make sure no one can hear you.

Then, you stick your fingers down your throat and force yourself to throw up, emptying your stomach of the dinner you ate just minutes earlier. 

When you’re done, you wipe your mouth with a tissue and stand up, shaky from the adrenaline now coursing through your veins.

You tell yourself you feel better, but a part of you still feels guilty. You know doing this is bad for you, but you can’t stop.

It’s like you need to be in control. Need to harm yourself in order to look as thin and fit as your friends.

You quickly brush your teeth and take one last glance at yourself in the mirror as you leave the bathroom.

You look even emptier than you did before.

An anonymous Blue Valley student said he struggled with bulimia in sixth grade and has dealt with body image issues since then.

“It started around the summer in between fifth and sixth grade year,” he said. “I had been to the pool, and I remember seeing a couple of my friends who were very physically fit. I had hit puberty already, and they were still all very skinny, but I wanted to look like them. I was willing to do anything to look like them.”

He said he started forcing himself to throw up after meals in order to lose weight and look more like his friends.

“I didn’t really know what [bulimia] was,” he said. “I didn’t know there was a name for it, but I thought it sounded like a good idea. It just kind of progressed, and it started to become a habit after a while. I would end up in the bathroom after pretty much every meal unless it was some minor snack like a granola bar.”

In order to prevent anyone from finding out, he said he went to great lengths to hide his disorder.

“The first time I did it, I pretended like I was sick and skipped school,” he said. “I thought after a few days I would be fine, but it became a habit, and then I did have to figure out ways to hide it, especially in school. After lunch, they didn’t let you out of the lunch room, so I had to wait until the next hour, and if someone else was in the bathroom, I had to wait. At home, I would go to my basement bathroom instead of the main floor bathroom so nobody would hear me.”

However, he said despite his efforts, his best friend eventually found out about his struggles.

“I was at the pool — it’s ironic because that’s where it started and ended — and [my friends and I] were eating snacks from the concession stands,” he said. “Then my best friend came in the bathroom after me, and I didn’t know he was in there. He heard me throwing up, and he asked me if I was sick. I said, ‘No,’ and then he told me there was an actual name for what I was going through. He told me that I was sick, not physically, but mentally.”

He said because his friend responded so negatively to his attempts to look more fit, he realized he needed to get help.

“I talked to my parents about it,” he said. “My mom is pretty good at talking, but when I first told her, she cried, and it was kind of like an epiphany to her. She figured out what everything was about, when it started and was really sad and disappointed. We got through it together — even though nothing was wrong with her, she still felt my pain and helped me through it. It took about a year to finally just break the habit and get the whole mental attitude out of my head, but I’m thankful I got help and had someone to support me.”

He said especially after getting help, he realized forcing himself to throw up in order to try to look a certain way did not help him in any way.

“I still struggle to think of myself in a positive manner, but it got a lot better when someone really informed me of what I was doing to myself,” he said. “I used to get these adrenaline highs after I was done because I felt good about myself, but after hearing that it was bad, I started feeling bad about myself after I did it. In truth, when I was done, I had to have some pretty extensive whitening for my teeth because of all of the acid from my stomach that was breaking them down, and that made me self-conscious, too. I went from being self-conscious about my body and my weight to my teeth and my breath, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t need to be harming myself emotionally, mentally and physically.”

He said although eating disorders are mainly seen as problems women have to deal with, it is important to realize that men struggle with them, too.

“I think the main reason why people characterize this as a girl’s disorder is that it seems that girls are more conscious about their body image,” he said. “But, it depends on who you’re talking to about your body image as a guy. If I would have talked to any guy besides my best friend about it, they would have just shrugged me off and told me I was doing it for attention. People need to start realizing this isn’t something that just affects one gender. It’s an issue for a lot of people.”

He said he urges those thinking about hurting themselves in order to look a certain way not to start.

“It’s not worth it,” he said. “It’s not worth it at all. It’s like a snowball effect. Once you start, it just kind of grows and grows and side effects come, and then you feel worse about yourself. Just don’t start. Please don’t start. Everyone has the same feelings about themselves at some point. Not very many people can always positively think about themselves, but you get over things. It goes away eventually.”

If you are already stuck in a situation like this, he said it is important to reach out and get help.

“You need someone to talk to religiously,” he said. “You can’t just go around telling little bits to different people. It needs to be one person who knows your situation. If you get to the point where you talk to everybody about it, people will think you’re doing it for attention, and they won’t treat you the same way. But if you talk to a counselor or even a parent, they can really help you out because even a different person’s perspective on the situation will make you feel better. And that way you’re not alone.”  Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 8.59.31 AM copy