“Honestly, I’m terrified of the stomach bug,” my friend whispered across the table at me. I nodded, thoroughly chewing my first real meal in days. I swallowed.
“Yeah,” I laughed a little, for years the stomach bug had been one of my biggest fears too. “Me too.”
Nobody likes being any kind of sick. The flu – terrible (trust me I just had it in November). Pneumonia (dare I say even worse), but the stomach bug…that holds it’s own certain kind of power. Especially over those of us who live with ED.
My freshman year of college, my first year of recovery, my fears of the stomach bug came true. I’d just made it past 60 days without a relapse when New Years rolled around. I’d made it through all the tough holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day, however, had something in store.
When my brother and I woke up we both knew what was coming, he called upstairs bathroom, so I found myself kneeling on the tile downstairs stricken with fear. What would happen if I threw up? Would I be able to stop? Could I even do it without…help?
I wasn’t sure and I wasn’t patient enough to wait and find out. The bug lasted for 2-3 days, but the vomiting stayed for weeks. It was like opening up a floodgate. I didn’t feel good so I didn’t have to eat. I didn’t feel good, so if I ate it was okay to throw up. I was losing weight…even though the illness was gone, did that mean I had to gain it back?
The swirl of thoughts inside my head were hard to squash. I wanted to get better – I thought – but at the same time the idea that sick people lose weight was grossly attractive.
At least until I said it out loud.
Five years later.
“Wait, what? Repeat what you just said for me?”
“The nice part of getting sick is that…” I stopped. There wasn’t a nice part to getting sick – to spending hours in bed (or on the bathroom floor), stomach aching and throat burning, missing out on everything fun that you were supposed to be doing.
“ED stop trying to get me back,” I said instead.
And this time around, this New Year’s Day stomach bug, I only threw up once, the one time the bug, not ED, made me.