I still remember the day I forced myself to throw up for the first time.
I was sitting at home on the couch watching my favourite TV show at the time ‘Home and Away’. I was 13 and there was a young girl on the screen not much older than me who was anxious about her weight. It had just been someone’s birthday on the show and there was a giant chocolate cake in the fridge which she took to her room and engulfed. Ashamed, she quickly ran to the bathroom, stuck her fingers down her throat and forced every last bit back up again.
As ridiculous as it seems now, it’s like a light bulb went off in my mind that day. I thought to myself, ‘If she can eat delicious sweets and still stay thin by forcing herself to throw up then, that’s what I will do too.’ And so I did. That day lead to me to an extremely lonely 10 year battle with bulimia.
Change is not always something that happens overnight. I’ve read the stories about those who quit their jobs on a whim and do their own thing. They start their own business or travel to a foreign country to live out their dreams. I love those stories. But that’s not my story. Sometimes change is slow.
Sometimes change takes patience and commitment to doing the same thing day in and day out. Sometimes change is a long, slow labor of love.
I stood in line with 150 other girls who wanted the same thing I did—a spot on the TopCats dance team to cheer on National Football League’s Carolina Panthers from the sidelines. Nineteen and 21-year-olds listened to tryout music in their earphones and spun their perfect, spray tanned, sequin adorned bodies into pirouettes as they practiced their first-round routines.
They appeared as though they had been dancing their entire lives unlike me who had only taken jazz classes one month prior to auditions. This observation simultaneously scared me and made me curious. I decided to explore the latter by asking the girl in front of me how long she had been dancing. “Since I was four,” she replied.
The call to my wife’s cell phone came on Christmas Eve, 2010. ‘Hi Merryn,’ the voice said, ‘it’s Emily, from the clinic.’
That Christmas was shaping up to be a Christmas like no other. Just a few days prior we had been given some news that we never thought we would receive. After ten years spent trying almost every means possible to start a family—including special diets and courses of fertility-boosting supplements, prayers for healing and chiropractic sessions (you’ll try anything), numerous rounds of costly IVF treatment, an agonizing two-year wait on an adoption list, followed by even more rounds of IVF—we had been told that she was pregnant. Pregnant! After a decade of raised and dashed hopes, we were finally going to have a baby. We could hardly believe it.
What about yourself makes you feel so ashamed, so scared, that you would go to any length to hide it? The one thing that you think you’ve succeed in forgetting, until it returns to haunt you again in some unsuspecting moment. I know it’s in you, because it’s in all of us; just under a different name.
Maybe yours is called a childhood memory, or an affair that you are hoping will never re-surface, the guilt that won’t fade away, a compulsive habit that you are trying hard to control… Or maybe it’s your sexual identity or the gnawing sense of emptiness in your marriage. Whatever it is that you are running away from, you are not alone. You’re probably wondering how I am so sure. I’m sure because I ran away from it too.
Seven years ago I was living in suburban Boston, Massachusetts with my husband and wondering how we were going to make it work. We were both traveling too much for our jobs, and our time together was almost nonexistent. When we were home, we were overwhelmed with the task of taking care of a suburban house while living a mobile lifestyle. It was exhausting, and we were on the brink of personal and professional exhaustion.
Something had to give.