This post has taken some time for me to write and even longer for me to find the courage to share.
There are still parts of my journey, which I’ve not gone into too much detail about here, but they’re a story of their own and one day, maybe I will share those too. But for now, this is me, dipping my toe in and seeing how I feel, once I’ve told you this much….
14 years ago, I reached the end of an 8 year battle with Bulimia.
Contrary to what many people believe of Eating Disorders, I never chose it, I never did it to myself for attention and it didn’t begin with me wanting to be thinner.
I hadn’t been staring at pictures in magazines, wanting to be ‘that’ person and I actually went out of my way to keep it a secret, for 6 long years, before finding the courage to ask for help.
What I actually wanted, was acceptance and control. Control for the feelings and emotions I couldn’t.
It wasn’t until quite a while into my illness, that I became obsessed with my weight and the scales began determining my mood. Again, this was actually a fight for control and me battling the way I felt on the inside, not specifically the way I looked. However, it was very quickly, my Eating Disorder in control.
It took me several years to realise I needed help. I had heard of Anorexia, but not Bulimia. No one spoke of Bulimia.
I had visited my GP many times, before I was able to ask for help, but was never able to utter the right words. I’d talk of chest pain, indigestion, nausea, feeling exhausted, even bring up blood, but would never tell the full story. I was scared and I felt ever so very ashamed.
The day I found the courage to ask for help, I sat in the waiting room feeling foolish, because I hadn’t been able to deal with things myself.
Why couldn’t I just stop the bingeing and purging? Why couldn’t I just eat normally?
I was also embarrassed, because of the lengths I had gone to to hide my illness, and scared, because I just couldn’t imagine life without Bulimia. It had become all I knew. It was how I dealt with all my emotions and, by then, was such a massive part of my life. Bulimia was me and I was actually scared to change.
However, my GP listened. He admitted he knew very little about Bulimia, but asked some questions, did a few medical checks, and asked me to wait outside, whilst he made a phone call.
Despite being very underweight and unable to keep even the smallest amount of food down, I still didn’t realise how ill I was. All I knew, was I wanted it to stop.
My GP called me back in and warned that hospital admittance was on the cards if things didn’t improve quickly, but it had been decided to try Counselling as a first step.
A few long and difficult weeks passed, before I was attending my first appointment. There was no support available to me during this time. My anxiety and fear grew further, as did the bingeing and purging. I couldn’t find the courage to talk to my family or friends, and no one really spoke of it. By the time my appointment date arrived, I almost didn’t attend.
It took every ounce of strength I could find, to walk through that door.
I found it so hard to begin with, but my Counsellor was patient, caring, and soon, for the first time ever, I could actually talk openly about my illness. She wasn’t shocked and she didn’t look at me with disgust as I explained my daily struggles.
As we were only able to meet every other week, she suggested I purchase a book, as a kind of ‘Self Help’ guide, to run alongside our sessions. She suggested, ‘Getting Better, Bite by bite,’ by Ulrike Schmidt, Janet Treasure and June Alexander.
I admit, I was a little sceptical at first. How on earth could a book help?! I just wanted someone to take this all away. But, it was fantastic and such a help.
Beat, the UK’s Eating Disorder Charity, was not accessible to me back then. This book was the closest thing I had to any help or support during those lonely and fearful times, between sessions. But, I had so many questions and there were so many times I could have done with that extra support, because, and I won’t lie, recovery is tough.
Most, if not all, addictions or habits can be removed from temptation during recovery.
But, not food.
A recovering Bulimic still needs to eat! You can’t take the food away. You have to learn to mange what you eat, to not binge. You have to learn to tolerate that unexplainable guilt, the intense nausea and pain with every mouthful.
I quickly discovered my big ‘trigger foods.’ The foods I could just not keep down. The foods I would normally have reached for when emotions took hold. These foods, I cut out completely. In fact, I became fearful of them for some time.
I slowly began eating (and keeping down) a healthy three meals a day; little at first, then gradually built up to a more substantial amount. Obviously, my stomach wasn’t used to any reasonable amount of food staying around for long and it did, physically, hurt a little to start with.
I also had to start facing my feelings, my emotions and my fears, but I struggled to manage them at first.
This was when I began having severe panic attacks. Antidepressants were prescribed by my GP, just to enable me to leave the house. It took a while to find the right one for me, but eventually they helped, as I learnt to accept, and to cope, with every emotion.
As the months that passed, I got stronger. There were several relapses, as recovery is more of an up and down cycle, not a straightforward sprint for the finish. But, I fought, and continued to become more and more determined, reminding myself how far I’d come and where I wanted to be.
It wasn’t until a few years later, that I finally felt confident to say, I had beat my illness.
For me to think of anyone going through what I did, fills me with tears.
I honestly thought I would never beat Bulimia.
If I could go back now, to see myself, lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, too exhausted to move, so terrified to eat. I would sit her up, hold her tight and tell her, “You will beat this, you can be happy and you’re so much stronger than you think” …..
I am so glad I found the courage to ask for help.
My story is just one of many. There are so many women, girls, men and boys who have battled, or who are currently battling, an Eating Disorder.
As I said earlier, Beat was not accessible to me during my battle, but it is for everyone now, including those caring for loved ones. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t talk to those close to me. I felt so ashamed and couldn’t bare to tell anyone what I was going through.
To have been able to pick up the phone, ask questions, read through success stories or hop onto forums, would have made my recovery days much less lonely and, possibly, have even reduced the relapses, the guilt, and the time it took me to ask for help in the first place.
This is why I will continue to raise money for Beat…. to keep those invaluable helplines open and awareness being raised. To keep Health Professionals educated and research continuing into Eating Disorders.
If you would like to donate to Beat, you can do so via their webpage or through my ‘Just Giving’ Page (link below). It would mean so much to me and many others.
Thank you for reading my story,