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Bulimia As You've Never Seen It Before

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    PHOTO: COURTESY OF LAIA ABRIL/FABRICA.

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    Jo, 21, is bulimic. Every morning when she wakes up, she hopes for a "good day" — a day free of binging and purging. Most days, she is disappointed.

    Once a dancer (before bulimia claimed her energy and time), Jo kept her eating disorder a secret for some four years. But, over a few weeks in November 2010, she opened up to 25-year-old Spanish photographer Laia Abril, who found Jo after "deep research." In Abril's photo series, "Bad Day," she captures Jo's struggle. These 17 devastatingly honest images, alongside captions from Abril and from Jo herself, document the heartache, shame, and disgust that Jo feels nearly every day. They're the first chapter of Abril's long-term project on eating disorders, which is divided into three chapters; the second is on thinspiration, while the third is The Epilogue, on her upcoming book (again about bulimia). "The lies and misunderstandings that surround bulimia are what convinced me to further develop this project," Abril says of "A Bad Day." Jo's fragility, she says, "ultimately belongs to every human being."

    "I woke up with Jo and listened to her saying: 'I hope this is going to be a good day,'" Abril continues. "With her, I went to the supermarket and watched movies on her computer. I also saw her going through daily crisis, eating and vomiting immediately after... I saw her good days turning into very bad ones, and I saw Jo acting in public as if everything was absolutely fine." This pretending is what bulimia is all about: hiding pain from the world, and getting by, if only barely. "If I was not bulimic I would be dancing like before," Jo told Abril during their time together. "But, ballet is about elegance and perfection, and I’m a crap person in the middle of chaos."

    These photos reflect Jo's mental turmoil as she binges and purges five or more times a day. "You know that it’s not right," Jo says. "But it just makes sense now."

    For more of Laia Abril's work, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. For more information on eating disorders and to find help and support, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.

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