I’m going crazy, I thought as I grabbed a cookie out of the trash can during an out-of-control binge at 22 years old. Who does that? I wondered, absolutely disgusted with myself. But what felt even worse was when I stole the binge food. Among all possible jobs, I became employed at a restaurant as the manager in charge of inventorying food every single Sunday night. Let’s just say that sometimes my original count of 10 cookies became a big zero by the end of the evening. Stealing from the restaurant by bingeing like this made me hate food—and myself. Then again, I loved food, yet I was terrified of gaining weight. My solution to end the confusion and chaos became: Just don’t eat. Of course, this misguided tactic failed miserably and set me up for more intense and prolonged binges, and, ultimately, for purging. I couldn’t figure out how someone who had maintained excellent grades in college and was accepted to medical school couldn’t master something as basic as feeding myself.
Fast-forward 15 years, and I’m on the phone with my therapist, curled up in a ball crying, saying those words again: I’m going crazy. I was describing not a binge, but an uncontrollable exaggerated startle response that seemed to activate without warning. Who does that? I asked myself. My whole body would jump as if someone had walked up from behind and scared me—only no one was there. In fact, nothing actually existed anywhere that was dangerous in any way. I had learned in therapy that I jumped because my body was afraid of a memory, a trauma that I had experienced in my late 20s. This happened to be about five years after I had finally sought help for bingeing, purging, and restricting. My startle response frequently occurred when I saw, heard, smelled, touched, or even thought about anything remotely related to the trauma. While the startle, as I began to simply call it, bothered me, what made me feel worse—the I’m a horrible person version of worse—was a fierce rage that would well up inside and come out in the most unflattering ways. (That’s an understatement.) Never in my life had I been overtaken by a deep-seated, vicious anger. I am fairly sure this scared me more than anyone who encountered it.
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Gürze-Salucore Eating Disorders Resource Catalogue website.