The bathroom has always been somewhat of a calming place to me; and for obvious reasons, it’s also been sort of an isolatory place. Hey, the bathroom isn’t exactly the venue you’d book for a party.
As a child, I experienced some pretty intense digestive issues, which stemmed from a combination of anxiety and poor eating habits. I spent a lot of nights running back and forth from my bedroom to the bathroom crying and throwing up.
I remember calling for my parents whose room was also connected to the bathroom. They individually came to comfort me until they realized that it had become a nightly endeavor, at which point they resolved to ferberize me…except I wasn’t actually an infant, and there was no let’s-wait-thirty-minutes-or-an-hour-before-we-comfort-her. There was nothing.
Instead, they began telling me it was all in my head and that I needed to calm myself down. My mother advised me to sleep with my knees pulled into my chest. “Imagine you’re on the beach,” she’d say.
Meanwhile, I was progressively developing a case of gastro-esophogeal reflux disease and bulimia nervosa, both of which my 8 year old self had no vocabulary to explain. To be fair, my mother was understanding of headaches. No one ever told me the migraines I experienced as a kid were just in my head. Though, come to think of it…that’s exactly where migraines were.
When bedtime hit, I’d crawl into bed and within minutes the upset would occur. I’d walk into the bathroom and purge hoping to find relief. And at first, that was all it took. I would feel better afterwards, head back to bed and sleep until it was time to wake for school.
As time progressed, I found that purging offered relief for smaller and smaller increments of time until it stopped working all-together. In the course of a year, I went on to induce multiple times an evening despite it being entirely ineffective, slept fewer and fewer hours, and started skipping breakfast because I didn’t feel well enough to eat. I did this off and on until I was a sophomore in college.
I spent many nights sleeping on the bathroom floor, with my face on a toilet seat, or in an empty tub. Something about being in the bathroom had become calming…perhaps because throwing up in my bedroom had become one less thing to worry about. But also because I learned I could count for everything in the bathroom to just be… there.
Also, I realized that aside from simply feeling sick, the idea of throwing up terrified me. It’s like having to go to the bathroom; only, throwing up isn’t normally the type of thing you can control. By a certain age, you know when you have to pee. You learn the signs, make your way to a bathroom and go.
Now that I think about it, that’s probably why I was so aware of the fact that I needed to throw up in the first place. To forego the shame of essentially “going where I shouldn’t”, I monitored my body for any sign of imminent sickness with hyper vigilance. I simply couldn’t accept the idea that this was an “uncontrollable”circumstance. I figured that if I at least induced vomiting when I didn’t feel well, I could control when it did or didn’t happen. And that brought me peace, minuscule as it was.
I don’t know how you describe no longer being bulimic. Do you use words like remission or recovered? Do you say that you have achieved wholeness or health? I have…and have considered myself healthy for a decade now. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but given my neurosis, I am not surprised!
As dark and tragic as I have made this all sound, after a decade of using my bedroom as a bedroom (aka ‘not sleeping on the bathroom floor’), I’ve come to see the bathroom is still one of my favorite rooms in the house.
The bathroom has somehow become the one room I can go in and feel whatever feelings I feel without being judged. I can count on being able to walk in looking one way and come out looking another. I can go in dirty and come out clean. And I can go in after a long, mind-numbing day and come out feeling warm and revitalized.
Where do you find peace?
- What’s your go to place?
- Is it a room in the house?
- Or do you have to leave entirely?