Eat, pray, puke by nate eileen tjoeng
short story

My name is Beverly. I am 29 years old, I have bulimia and I have lived purging what I consume for 13 years.

It all started when I was a plump kid at 16. The mockery and scorn tore me apart. All I saw in the mirror was a fat girl, and that image never disappeared up until today.

Now my friends tell me I’m skin and bones, but what do they know? They don’t see the body I see. It is a disgusting lump of fats that my eyes can’t bear to digest.

Every time I eat, I feel like I am going crazy because I am gaining weight. I know that my head is messed up and this screws with my daily routine and robs me of having genuine pleasure in enjoying food and drinks. I only indulge because I know I can purge.

On weekdays, I purge after dinner when I am home. On weekends, when I am home most of the time, I purge after every meal. After many years, I have mastered how not to make any noise when I purge, but there will always be the sound of the liquid splashing down. Anxiety strikes when I am faced with not knowing where a toilet of sanitary standards can be found, or if people can hear me from the other cubicles.

Being Normal

I’d like to believe I deserve the pleasures of a normal life, too. I have a job as a graphic designer, I have a close group of friends, I do drink and party, I fall in love. Can I really be normal, though? The thoughts that I face every day are definitely not typical of others. I’m constantly gripped by the fear that people will not accept the way I am. On a day to day basis, I am always on the lookout for a washroom. Not because I have a weak bladder, but that’s where I want to head to after my meal.

You’re a foodie? Hey, me too! I love eating and drinking. I can enjoy eating out with you. Just… don’t ask me what happens after.

I’d like to believe I am normal, and I am trying to be. Even though my lung collapsed twice and my menstruation cycle is fucked, I am still trying to live my life normally. The scars on my body? I do that to make myself feel calm. Yes, I am suicidal sometimes, don’t you think being alive is tiring? When I’m not plagued with demons in my head, I try to be just like everyone else.

Going Down Under

Most people love to travel, right?

Fresh sights, new terrains and uncommon adventures may bring on an adrenalin rush for anyone, but probably not for a person with eating disorder. The chills that are sent down the spines of those inflicted with eating disorders are not thrills but more of fear and trepidation.

But it’s all about fitting in, no? Australia looks so pretty in Facebook photos, and I wanted to be there, too.

I plucked my courage to go, but nobody knows how crazily anxious I became before the trip. I remember starving myself a couple of days before the trip so that the extra weight I knew I would gain on the holiday would not matter so much.

During the trip, it was painful. I travelled with both my then partner and a friend. They’re both food lovers and that’s one fact that constantly bugged me. When I was with them, they would hunt for food all the time. At meals, I would suffer from mental torment. I would be battling with whether to order my own portion or to just have a bite of theirs. I would end up ordering my own share, but after I took the last bite, I would feel sick in my stomach. What have I done? Upset, I would head to the washroom to throw up.

A Day at the Theme Park

There was a day when I was at the theme park and the sun was scorching hot. I was so dehydrated, but I was battling with myself about if I should drink water or not. For each bottle of water I drank, I had to find a washroom to throw it up. I didn’t want the water weight to be kept in my body. My day was exhausting. Six bottles of water meant six toilet trips and six times of throwing up in 3 hours. After the fifth time I was completely stripped of energy. I needed to lie down and that was impossible at a theme park. I felt like I could have passed out any moment. The food at the theme park was hard to resist as well. I had everything from churros to hotdogs to ice cream, which I flushed down with a bottle of water each time.

At my sixth attempt to throw up, I found a toilet within the compound that had gaps between the toilet doors. That meant that people in line could see you. I feared that people could see what I was doing, but I threw up anyway. To my horror, I didn’t lock the door. When I was in the midst of purging, someone pushed the door open to ask why I was taking so long. I was covered with utter embarrassment, like someone had ripped my clothes off. I wanted so bad to make myself vanish.

I can never forget this day. I literally paid money for a day at a theme park to make myself suffer.

Life Goes On

There seem to be more important paths that I need to navigate myself towards. Not to other parts of Australia or the world, but towards the road out of this darkness.

Recently I sought help, and I am beginning to see a tiny light at the end of the tunnel. Only with a friend’s recommendation did I open up to a therapist, who led me to see a psychiatrist and dietician. This step revealed a future that I have been dreaming about.

illustration by Falco Verholen

Story by Nate Eileen Tjoeng

Illustration by Falco Verholen