I was always the girl with the beautiful teeth.
When I first started at Cambridge High School in 6th form, there were two of us new blonde girls. I remember being told to differentiate between us, the other was the one with the Altezza car; I was the one with the perfectly straight, white teeth.
I loved that this was my distinguishing feature and started to regard it as my greatest physical asset. I loved people’s astounded reactions when I told them that no, I hadn’t had braces. My “textbook perfect bite” (dentist’s own description at a check up, not my own full-of-myself phrasing) called to be showed off so I bared my chompers more and more.
I don’t want to get into some of the practices ED led me to do because I feel shame and emarrassment at admitting to them. But for this sake of where this post is going, I’m going to bare all in one regard.
Bulimia is a horrible, destructive and addictive act. I remember the first time I made myself throw up. I was 14, and it was after rowing one morning. I got home from training and absolutely gorged myself on cereal and biscuis and bread. I was absolutely bursting with food, with regret, with guilt, so I went into my mum and dad’s bathroom and shoved my hand down my throat. Over and over until all the feast came out. It was the oddest, most unnatural sensation and it took a good ten minutes before I suceeded.
Then there was no turning back. I started purging once a week. Then once a day. Then at almost every meal.
I personally think bulimia is a far more dangerous affliction than anorexia. The body doesn’t necessary act as physical evidence of an eating disorder and many many sufferers are in secret silence because they just look “normal”. One of my bestest friends is probably one of the sickest people I know (unwell, not rad in this context – though she is definitely that as well). Yet, because she doesn’t appear as gaunt and emaciated people don’t realise and/or don’t see the seriousness of the disease. She has an incredible body with a waspish, tiny waist and big perky boobs. You’d never guess that most evenings her dinner returns it’s downward journey back up and out.
Psychologists, counsellors and people close to me, especially my mum, warned about vomiting ruining my teeth. I always shrugged off the idea; they were my best feature, they’d never be affected. They were bulletproof.
When I moved back from Australia I went to the dentist and was told I needed four fillings. Deep ones too. The shock was immeasurable. My teeth had turned on me. Then I realised; no, I’d turned on them.
I’d only ever had one filling before when I was about eleven and to be informed four of my teeth needed aid was pretty devastating (for me as well as my bank account).
Vomiting hasn’t been as much a part of my life since I was about 20 or so. ED instead took the form of heavilly restricting my calorie intake instead. But in Brisbane, now and then the bile bastard beguiling me would prove too much and a puke here and there became common. (I’m sorry mum, I lied to you and I feel monstrous and hangdog for it).
As I lay in the dentist chair with my supplied sick sunglasses on, (and this time I do mean “rad” in the sick sense) I vowed to never vomit again. The dentist knew what had caused the cavities too. He gently looked straight into my eyes and said, “I think it’s time to re evaluate some lifestyle choices, isn’t it?”
My teeth aren’t as nice anymore. I don’t get told as often how lucky I am. I truly grieve for how my pearlers used to be before I put them on the frontline, in battle with bile. I’m just glad I had a wake up call now rather than ten years down the line when I may have had to have each rotting one pulled out and a set of veneers pierced in.
I always think of that famous Madonna quote about one day having to choose between your face and your body – one eventually has to suffer.
For me, I’m choosing my teeth.