Monday, May 4, 2009

ON DISORDERLY EATING

Chocolate laxatives taste less chocolate than waxy. An entire box at once crammed in your mouth leaves a dry, filmy residue.

Of course I didn’t slam the whole box in my mouth—dropping the foil wrapper out the window as I drove from the drug store—merely for the taste or the texture. It was what the plastic-tasting candy blessed me with four hours later that compelled me, 20 miles over the speed limit, clad in pajamas and slippers, and devoid of makeup, to the corner convenience shop. So convenient, that once all the wheat tortillas smothered in microwave-melted chocolate are gone, and there’s no more cereal or milk in the house, and every chip, cracker, granola bar, or piece of hidden candy in the kitchen, bedroom, living room, bathroom, or any closet had swelled me to resemble a boa that’d just swallowed a bunny whole, so convenient that after I’d devoured everything but the refried beans in the mold terrarium at the rear of the fridge, it was very nearly logical to make my way to the drugstore for chocolate Ex-Lax as my dessert after dessert . . .

In college, I found Betha girl who had also developed the penchant for bowel stimulants in hopes of finding Skinny. Whereas I had the benefit of forming my partiality after moving away from home, my companion stumbled upon the delightful secret of stimulants while still under the parental roof, presenting some logistical difficulties. She had to be tactical in her acquisition of the drug. Thus one Thursday night, her parents found themselves summoned to retrieve their daughter who was being held for shoplifting Ex-Lax. No one had even known she’d found an appetite for the stuff.

Just once, in front of my roommate, Beth and I fell into conversation about the post-Ex-lax euphoric horror . . .
It’s four or five hours after you’ve chowed the box of laxatives and—wham!—a hand fists around your intestines and twists, winding them ‘round and around. Then you’re on the toilet, hands pressing as hard as your arms can push them into the walls on either side for some semblance of stability inside you, outside you, whatever. The invisible hand toys with your guts, pulling them back and forth, twisting some more, and inducing the release you are sure will absolve you of the sins you committed hours ago: the slices of bread smeared with marshmallow fluff, the box and a half of fudgescicles, the two pints of mint-chip with what was left of the chocolate syrup, the remainder of the pita bread, all of the hummus, someone’s left-over orange chicken and chow mein, the jelly beans you were saving to take to work. It’s all coming out! It’s all leaving! Victory! And then the hand socks you, hard. You curl your toes into the tile and lean over, gripping around the soles of your feet and pulling up to please! make it stop. And then you swear; you swear you will never do this again. You make one of those irrevocable, solemn promises people make at altars that this is the last time. Dear Lord, I will never do this again. Ever. And right then, you mean it.
We’d made the same promises. And then we’d broken them. We knew that the pain was bearable only because it was how we got the food out. It isn’t God that grants you forgiveness after eating absolutely everything you could. Only Ex-lax can do that, cleaning out the weight-gain-inducing poison, making you pure, giving you the amnesty you will never, ever give yourself.

Medical professionals term the way that we used laxatives as “abuse.” My experience says that the laxatives are the ones that do the abusing—the literal gut-wrenching was violent and cruel.

Laxatives force the bowels to get moving, and, supposedly, if The Patient exploits the waxy chocolate too often for too long, the intestines can forget how to make movement on their own. Because of the repeated commotion both my college buddy and I experienced on our respective thrones, we were cursed to yearn for but be denied even a daily bowel movement.

Charmed by the miracles of Modern Medicine and with faith in Le Docteur, I visited a gastroenterologist. While waiting in an exam room, I looked at the colon, rectum, and liver models inflicted with every disease, polyp, and lesion known to the GI tract and speculated if I’d perhaps given myself one of these polysyllabic problems. Then the door opened and the man I’d assigned to be my savior stepped in. Propped against the counter, one ankle crossed over the other, he asked what seemed to be my trouble. It wasn’t difficult to explain—“Constipation” seemed to do the trick, appending my past history of laxative abuse for weight loss; my "eating disorder," if you will.

I admit that I had scrubbed and perfumed my private spots that morning, worried that the doc would need to examine my rump and its corresponding parts right there in the exam room. So I was relieved when, without laying a finger on or in me, he said he’d like to schedule an endoscopy procedure. Hence, while Baby Boomers were following Katie Couric’s lead and getting their first colonoscopy as a measure against cancer, I, at 22, could speak intelligently to any one of them about what it’s like lie on your side, be knocked out, and have a long camera slithered into your bottom.

When I returned to the doctor for a follow-up, the man said I was a very healthy young lady, told me to take fiber, and zipped back out the door. No doubt my insurance company was overjoyed to bankroll an endoscopy that indicated I needed more fiber. Like every other American. I amassed a Metamucil stash, took the supplement three times daily, and experienced marked improvement (though I still don’t enjoy the benefits of normal colon motility), despite the fact that years later a therapist specializing in helping those with food issues tried to convince me that I could Think my bowels better.

After her journey through Laxative Land, Beth's colon went on strike as well. She went to her to her primary care physician, a woman who practices like the town’s only medicine woman, delivering babies, treating cancer, and counseling the mentally bothered without discretion.

The doctor assessed her persistent bowel difficulties, truly already aware of Beth's propensity to use too many laxatives too often, and prescribed her a . . . wait for it . . . laxative. Naturally, Beth dabbled with the prescribed laxative in the manner of her old habits, but, because she’d gone to the doctor for help, she stopped. She had taken the initiative head to the doctor only to be foiled by the M.D. behind the woman’s name. Without the doctor’s brilliantly recommended laxative to show waste the way, my friend was again stuck.

She confessed her relapse, I pushed fiber pills, and the supplement did what it’s supposed to. Weeks after she’d been popping the pills, I received a message I could only assume was sent while sitting on the toilet: Bless you. Bless fiber.

A different type of toilet-prayer. And the right one, so far as we were concerned.

•••

"Beth" isn't her name. But you already knew that. I have the real Beth's go-ahead to post this.

The me in the story is me. Megan. And the story is true. And I'm as better as one can be. And I'm not seeking sympathy. I'm actually using my tale as entertainment. Because it's my history and I can do that. And really, parts of it are funny.

Do I know how crazy it is to think that laxatives can do a good job of making you skinny? Yeah, I do. I'm actually really smart. (And not skinny; so that plan was a total bust anyhow.)

Is it gross? Am I grossed out by myself and my past? Of course. And not so much. But my past is mine. It made me me. It grants me perspective. It issues me warnings. And it reminds me of my weaknesses. And problems.

And how in those problems, I'm certainly not alone.

And really, neither are you.

8 comments:

Mal Robin said...

Aw, I too love fiber.

M to the E to the R to the I said...

Man, I've never done the laxative thing, but it's nice to know I'm not alone when it comes to INSANE spells of overeating. I need therapy.

misti said...

Truth in blogging....good stuff. I wish there was more of it.

Keli'i and Megan said...

Never did that kind of bulimia...only other kinds of eating disorders...isn't that some sort of rite of passage among college girls? Such a serious thing, but I'm so glad that part of my life is over.

rabidrunner said...

That was fantastic. Might I point out the most fantastic part? Okay, thanks.

"It made me me. It grants me perspective. It issues me warnings. And it reminds me of my weaknesses. And problems."

Love that. Might even print it up with vinyl letters and slap it on a wall somewhere.

p.s... Who the heck is "me me"? The baby you never tell us about?

~Morgan~ said...

i appreciate how normal you are. seriously. you are the only one i know that dares talk and write about "shocking" subjects full of truth, such as this. and it's the very "shocking" experiences that make us all normal. i wish i had your guts in verbalizing my own past. i bet it's liberating huh?
wow. did that make a lick of sense?
in my mind it did i guess.

Kar said...

I tried the laxative thing once. I took it at a time that would mean I would be home when it started to take effect. It didn't take effect during the span it said it would, it worked the next afternoon...at work.

Awkward.

Heather Johnson said...

Oh, how I understand. The part about promising yourself on the toilet that you won't do it again 'cause it hurts THAT bad...but you do do it, because, like you said, it's worth it. Every gut-wrenching twist and turn of your insides is worth it so that you can joy in eating everything you wanted and then flush it all away.
Those years are gone as well for me, but I will never forget the vivid memories of sneaking down the dorm halls to the bathroom (usually on another floor so the girls wouldnt recognize me) so that I could relieve myself for what would take a great deal of time and was ensued by a number of round, blue pills.
Good writing. Nice to know there are others.