I want to share with you my experience with bulimia. Some of this is very personal, honest and raw, but it is real and that is important as not enough people are talking about the reality of bulimia. So here is my story… I hope you find helpful and inspiring for your recovery.
It was 2004 and after another forceful bout of vomiting I collapsed in a heap on the floor next to the toilet, my eyes were streaming and blurred, I had vomit over my hands and mouth, I fell into in a hazy daze.
When I eventually came round I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My mascara had smudged over my bloodshot eyes and I noticed I had once again ruptured the small capillaries on my eyelids leaving scattered tiny red dots, my cheeks were puffy and swollen and my lips were so badly cracked though malnutrition they were now bleeding.
I felt my heart palpitating, I had shallow breathing and I felt so ill. I had been living like this for 10 painful years and I desperately needed help. I took a long stare at myself in the mirror that day, and perhaps for the first time ever, I actually acknowledged what I had become and it was painful, raw and real. Deep down I finally acknowledged that I was at deaths door. Something had to change or I would die. That day was a turning point for me.
“Something had to change or I would die.”
What started out as a simple healthy eating diet at the young age of just twelve years old turned into ten years of living hell. Something triggered in my brain and I became utterly obsessed with dieting. I kept pushing myself harder and restricting more. Getting to my goal was just not enough, I strived to be thinner, I strived to restrict more, I became obsessed with checking my appearance, I became obsessed with thinness.
Pretty soon, my calorie input was next to nothing. My weight quickly dropped dangerously low and this brought a whole range of problems with it. I became anxious and started to suffer panic attacks, I couldn’t sleep, I was cold all the time and couldn’t concentrate. I lost interest in my friends and going out and I wanted to isolate myself from everyone. I was so thin my ribs poked out. I developed anorexia and lived with it for a couple of years, after this time bulimia slowly started to creep up on me.
“I became anxious and started to suffer panic attacks, I couldn’t sleep, I was cold all the time and couldn’t concentrate.”
My problems with bulimia really started to manifest at university. Around this time I lost my dearest friend, she was only eighteen years old. I found this very hard to deal with. What went from purging only here and there, increased up to ten times in one day, if not more. I had no way to stop.
I started to plan my binging. I would buy a ton of binge food like bags of crisps, sweets, jelly babies, ice cream, anything really that I could get my hands on. On my way back from the shop the binge would start and it would not stop. I would eat and eat. It felt like something else was taking over my body, I felt numb like nothing in the world mattered except the binge. It numbed out painful emotions and I thought it was temporarily helping me cope with life.
The feeling of being overly stuffed caused so much panic, I would have such an overwhelming need to vomit. I would then spend ages vomiting it all back up. It was awful. I hated myself, I hated what I had become.
Many times I blocked the toilet with vomit in the shared student house I lived in and I would blame it on someone else being drunk. In another house I shared the entire drainage system had to be pumped out, I was so embarrassed, I blamed myself.
Everything in my life felt shattered, I lost all my confidence. I stopped attending tutorials as I would get panic attacks. I would study alone in the student library and buy junk food from the vending machine only to vomit in the public toilet.
I eventually lost my part time job in the cinema where I worked, this is because I was dreading going in, so I phoned in sick many times. In the cinema there was so much binge food around from “pick n’ mix” to large bags of sweets. It’s so embarrassing to say but I would be driven to eat peoples left overs such as half eaten bags of M&Ms and maltezers when cleaning up the cinema screens. I would then vomit it up in the toilets during work.
It was such a lonely and isolating existence. I really wanted to reach out and get help from the university councillor but I was too frightened. In the evening I would drink with my housemates and pretend everything was great. Alcohol gave me the fake confidence I needed so I probably appeared fine to everyone as I went to great lengths to hide my pain, no one knew I was crippled inside.
“No one knew I was crippled inside.”
I honestly did not know what was wrong with me, I thought I had faulty brain wiring. I would actually pretend to myself I had full control of my eating behaviours, I would make excuses for bulimia being in my life, like it was serving some purpose. I done this because I was scared, I was scared senseless because I had no idea how to stop. I would wake up each and every day and promise myself to not binge and purge, this never worked, not even once. I could see no way out. I even contemplated suicide on several occasions, I found it very difficult to accept that my life would be continually like this.
Bulimia doesn’t just destroy you mentally, it actually causes a lot of damage physically. I used to have lovely straight, pearly white teeth and I got a lot of comments when I was younger about my teeth and my great smile. Not any more. By my second year in University my teeth began to rot from acid erosion caused by vomiting. I got my first two porcelain crowns at 19 years old, (really nothing to be proud of). Over the years I have had so much work done, from countless fillings to root canal treatments to porcelain crowns. Eventually all my top teeth were replaced.
I had painful abscess after abscess. One abscess was so bad I needed oral surgery, this meant drilling a hole into the gum above the tooth and draining the abscess away. I pretty much lived on antibiotics for years to help with my dental abscesses. The NHS (the UK National Health Service) covered the cost of my dental treatment because I was a student, which I am grateful for as it totals over £25,000! ($37,000!)
Losing my real teeth really affected my confidence as I do look different now. My face has lost it’s shape. When you get your teeth extracted you loose bone density, this can make your face sink inwards and collapse and can cause premature ageing. So once again there is nothing glamorous about bulimia.
After University life my binge intensity went down a lot. I was no longer planning my binges, but what I started doing was eating next to nothing and still purging through self induced vomiting. Something known as Bulimiarexia. This is also very dangerous, if not more dangerous.
My weight plummeted and I was very weak, my heart was beating irregularly and I had palpitations morning, noon and night along with shooting pains and deep aches in my chest, I was dizzy a lot and felt like I was going to pass out when I stood up.
“My weight plummeted and I was very weak”
My turing point was starring in the mirror after collapsing, looking at the person I had become.
I eventually plucked up the courage and made an appointment with my GP. Unfortunately the doctor did not really know what to do. She said to me to check out self-help books and told me she would put me on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist – but this would be 6-9 months. I was so upset. I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest, but I thought I would get more than that. I felt that the doctor really didn’t understand, I really needed help there and then, I felt suicidal, I felt close to death, I could not live another day living this way, how could she send me on my way? Perhaps I should have opened up more about how I felt, I was so emotionally numb at the time. I went home and cried.
Luckily I have such an amazing partner and now husband, I plucked up the courage to tell him 6 months beforehand about my eating disorder and he really wanted to help me. He promised he would do everything he could. It was a lot of hard work, but we made a commitment to find a cure to my bulimia. Richard never gave up on that idea. I then became my own scientific experiment on bulimia recovery.
“I then became my own scientific experiment on bulimia recovery.”
You name it, we tried it out. Hypnosis, CBT, positive thinking, affirmations, meditation, tapping, mindfulness… most of what we tried didn’t really work (isn’t that always the way) but eventually we discovered some snippets of what did work. We discovered bulimia has a LOT to do with food. The mind body connection is profound. If you are not feeding your body the nutrition it needs your mind will suffer. Heal the body and you heal the mind. We began to treat bulimia as more of a physical issue rather than a mental one and that’s when I began to make huge progress.
I began to focus on my eating habits, ensuring I was getting adequate nutrition, eating regular food, eating my daily calorie requirements and thats when I noticed a dramatic reduction in my binge habits.
It was a lot of hard work with many dead ends and set backs, but slowly, bit-by-bit, like putting together the pieces of a large puzzle the parts started to fall into place. Within 3 months I had stopped bingeing and purging and with 12 months I considered myself fully recovered, it was remarkable.
” Within 3 months I had stopped bingeing and purging”
I wondered if our approach would work for others. We decided to build a website to share our new approach which we called “The Bulimia Help Method”. To be honest, we weren’t sure if it would help anyone else. Perhaps I was just a unique case, but we figured that if it helped a handful of people then it would be worth it. But the method caught on. People began to resonate with our ideas and in time the recovery stories and thank you emails started to pour in. Since then over 13,000 people have passed through our programs and our new book is already Amazon’s best reviewed, best selling book on bulimia recovery.
In helping others I believe I have found my calling and my purpose in life. I now dedicate my life to educating and inspiring others on how to find their own recovery from bulimia.
I am now a certified Nutritional therapist and my days are now spent on Skype coaching individuals from all over the world on bulimia recovery. It can be very challenging at times, this is because recovery is not easy, there are ups and downs for most people, but it is my job to be there for them, supporting, guiding and coaching through each and every challenge they face,
No one deserves to suffer Bulimia and it’s my mission in life to tell as many people as possible that there is a way out and there is a way to find freedom.
I say this time and time again to my clients, recovery is very possible, I can’t stress this enough. You can make a full recovery from your eating disorder. I have and I have witnessed time and time again sufferers coming out the other side and living a fulfilling life free from the chains of bulimia. Believe in yourself, you can overcome this!
Your friend and coach,
P.S I am currently taking on a limited handful of new coaching clients. If you would like me to personally coach you directly on the phone each week, supporting you, guiding you, holding you accountable, every step of the way – keeping you focused, motivated and on track for recovery, then please register your interest here.