Friday, April 29, 2011

My Eating Disorder and Me

Ashling is knocking timidly on the door of her own bathroom, which is an insult in itself.  I have been occupying her bathroom, or more specifically, the floor of her bathroom, for roughly forty minutes.

"...Caroline? ...Are you ok?"


Slight pause.

"Can I come in?"

I stretch my foot over to the door and turn the handle, because I don't have the physical energy to lift my head from the edge of the toilet seat. The door swings open, and there I am. My fringe, recently cut and truly dreadful, is sticking in damp clumps to my face. Day-old eyeliner is rolling down my face in fat blobs. I am clad only in her pyjama pants and her boyfriend Seán's Mudhoney tshirt, which I have folded my knees under. In short, I look like I've contracted the black plague at a Wilco concert.

Ashling begins quivering with laughter.

"Shut up."

My friend is now bent over, an entirely acute angle, laughing.

"Close the door."

"I told you not to eat it."

She's right, she did tell me not to eat it. She warned me that eating her abandoned chicken roll, still swimming in last nights mayonaise, was disgusting on basically all levels. But I ate it anyway. Why? Because it was there, and therefore I had to. And here I was, paying for it by vomiting up all of my internal organs.

At some point in my life, I developed an obsession with food. Not just the eating of it: the hoarding, the searching, the dizzying highs, the terrible lows. I'm not entirely certain where all of this came from, because food obsessions are generally the hallmark of people with unhappy childhoods, which was not the case. Here I am on my first day of school, trying to eat my own hand.

It only got worse from there. Whenever I had any sweets I would hide in a quiet corner of my bedroom. I would then organise my confectionary, trying to figure out a logical way of consuming them that would maximise on their deliciousness. Not unlike other areas of my childhood, I think it was something that temporarily worried my parents, but because I never seemed to gain much weight (oh simple childhood, how I long for thee) and because there were other children to worry about, they just left me be. While my brothers found new and interesting ways to fit our cat into a rollerskate, I wandered around the house like a contented buddha, eating fistfuls of Rice Krispies at a time. A little later, I began the hoarding process.

I don't know if this is usual or not, but from the time I was old enough to have pocket money, a large sum of it was dedicated to buying food which I could then hide in various places around my house. One of my favourite places was in the pockets of disused winter coats hanging in the closet. That way, if I was having a bad day (I don't know how children can have bad days, with their lively feckless existences, but I get the feeling that they definitely do) I knew I could just stick my hand into one of those coats and find a veritable plethora of delicious E-numbers. If I had a spirit animal it was something between a hoardy, forward-planning squirrel and the shameless rooting raccoon.

Of all the social foibles that plagued me as a child, this is the one that I find the hardest to understand. Maybe it was something to do with being the youngest of four kids. Maybe it was less about having sweets, and more about having something secret, and that only belonged to me. Maybe I was just a greedy little bastard. All I know for sure is that, of all the habits I've ever harboured, it's been the hardest one to kick. Yes, I still hoard food like a bulhimic pirate. And yes, I can think of three places in my room right now where you can find a kinder maxi.

This isn't me, but it isn't far off.


  1. "Bulhimic pirate"- make that a web comic!!

  2. 'veritable plethora of delicious E-numbers' the honesty of this post, such a great piece...made me smile :) x