On Saturday morning at 5am I woke up panicked. I had this vivid memory of binging and purging and was terrified that I had actually done this in the middle of the night. Binging is something I have only done 3 or 4 times in the 12 years that I have struggled with disordered eating so this was a very strange thing for me to do at all, especially now that I am doing so well in recovery.
It started slowly, with a cookie. One more couldn’t hurt, then another and another. I purged and returned to the kitchen stuffing down cookies, chips, cereal, apple crisp with ice cream. I purged again and returned to the kitchen. After about 4 or 5 cycles of binging and purging I went back to bed, exhausted. When I woke up at 5am I remembered feeling absolutely ravenous and completely deranged. I felt the residual desperation and was terrified – had I done it? Had I gotten up in the middle of the night and not only purged but binged? I was too scared to get up (what if going to the kitchen made it happen again?) so I went back to sleep and told myself I would investigate in the morning.
When I woke up I stumbled to the bathroom and examined my face for evidence of purging – puffy eyes, burst blood vessels around my eyes, sore throat, scrapes on my knuckles, bruises on my ribs and abdomen – nothing. I walked to the kitchen looking for evidence of my late night activities, there was nothing – the kitchen was exactly as I had left it. That wasn’t possible, the binging and purging had felt so REAL, but surely I wouldn’t have done the dishes and put away only those dishes afterward – it must have been a dream. I had a very unsettled feeling for the next few hours and had to constantly remind myself that no, I did not binge and purge, I had dreamed the whole thing.
I have heard of people with eating disorders having dreams like this when they were very sick but I never had them. I had dreams of people laughing at me for eating, gaining hundreds of pounds in a matter of seconds, junk food sprouting legs and arms and chasing me, being in groups at treatment, purging food down the bathtub drain and having it land in an enormous pit of all the food I had purged with little landfill workers shuffling it all around under our house. I had plenty of food and eating disorder dreams but none that were this vivid or realistic.
Why did I have this dream? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I was worried about the Halloween candy that I had eaten, maybe it was the purging urges I felt after dinner compounded by the high amount of sodium in my Chinese takeout meal, maybe it was just a strange thing that happened for no reason.
The one thing I did come away from this dream with was that I had forgotten how awful being sick felt. I forgot how desperation forced me to do horrendous things, how I was so ravenous that I would eat anything because my body was so starved. I forgot about the pain that threatened to rip my head open because there was too much stress and worry for my mind to contain it all. I forgot that I would do anything to reduce the anxiety even if it meant lying, cheating, manipulating, hiding, or hating myself to the very core.
I’m still feeling pretty shaken by this dream but I’m glad I had it. I needed a bit of a reminder that the picture I paint of my illness is far from accurate. The body that I want, the “control” I crave, the emotional regulation I wish I had all comes at a very steep cost – one that I am no longer willing to pay.