My name is Kirsty and I’ve struggled with bulimia off and on for about 11 years.
I look at that statement and it makes me sad that I can’t say I am fully recovered yet, but I also know how far I have come and when I consider how dominating it used to be in my life, I am truly thankful at my position now.
I started dancing at a young age and was always prancing around in a leotard and subconsciously knew I was expected to look a certain way and maintain a certain shape.
I got high grades at school, I moved to different countries when I was younger which meant I learned quickly how to please people and make friends, and I became a bit of a perfectionist in everything I did.
The unhealthy relationship with food developed much earlier than the binging and purging. I remember watching a drama on eating disorders at school and deciding that I would go down the bulimia route if I ever gained weight. I loved food a lot and I couldn’t imagine the anorexic “option”.
When I was 16 my family moved from the USA back to Scotland, and I went from dancing 5 times a week to just once. My lifestyle changed. I discovered alcohol, and I naturally starting gaining some weight. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I began experimenting with laxatives, starving myself all day, and when that got too difficult, I started to throw up my food.
My thoughts revolved around calories and restriction and when I could next buy food and when I could throw it up. It didn’t take long for my parents to notice my bloated body, my swollen face, my bad skin, and an unhappy child. I denied it but eventually broke down. I tried to convince them I could get better on my own, and because they didn’t really understand what I was going through they believed I could get better myself.
I moved away from home and spent most of my early twenties binging and purging. I sought help and confided in a few people, but I regret and wasted many of those days.
On a particularly bad episode, I cried to my mother, and asked her for help. I was put on a waiting list for public treatment, but it was 3 years long. In the meantime I got to see a nutritionist (who recommended a diet), a private counsellor (who was too expensive to maintain) and I confided in a few friends. From the outside, though, I was a happy university student whose weight fluctuated a bit more than others.
As I waited for professional treatment, I read lots of books about health, nutrition and exercise. I developed healthier coping strategies, I started running and eating a bit better.
I never really got rid of the fear that if I gained weight people wouldn’t like me. My perfectionist attitude allowed me to delve further into despair, unhappiness and loneliness, because I was too proud to discuss it openly.
The counselling came and a few bad habits were challenged. I realized the importance of sharing but was upset at how deeply the behavior was ingrained. I realized that I had gone from vomiting 7 times a day at my worst, to about 3 times a week. This is where I stayed for the next 4 or so years. It became a bad habit, a bit like smoking, but not one that dominated my life anymore.
For the past 3 years I have been much better. I have managed only a couple of episodes in a year.
I am determined to not let bulimia control my life. I am determined never again to be severely exhausted, suffering from a junk food hangover, lying on my bed, when I could be out there with my friends, enjoying life, or helping others.
I realize that what started as an obsession with food, diet and looks has turned into a coping strategy, one which is not easily broken after so many years of treating my body so badly. I am aware of the trigger points, and I know myself to avoid the dangerous situations that tempt me to binge and purge.
I have noticed the physical affects have finally caught up on me. I had my first filling last month. My teeth went from being “surprisingly perfect” to “severely damaged” in the space of a year (I suspect the damage started well before that).
My metabolism used to be extremely fast and I could eat anything I wanted and it would digest no problem. I now struggle to digest the food I eat and have been on an influx of dietary supplements since. My hair, as a teen, was thick and beautiful. It is now much thinner and at the worst stage fell out in clumps.
But I do believe this has all happened for a reason. I want to help others. I want to raise awareness of such a debilitating pattern of behavior. I want to get across that bulimia is not glamorous, it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t make you happy. I want to go into schools and work places and get rid of any misconceptions and encourage people to get help sooner.
The Bulimia Help Method Recovery Program gets the fundamentals in place first – structured eating is crucial to getting you back on track and thinking straight. We need routine and stability in our lives.
Next you have to develop coping strategies – what to do instead. I’m happy to say I’m 90% there.
The challenge for me, 11 years on, is dealing with the WHY.
Perhaps I didn’t start out with any “issues,”, it was mainly down to wanting to maintain a low weight in an unhealthy way. But now, I have realized that whenever something is difficult, uncomfortable, or not immediate, I am tempted to reach for the chocolate. I block out and ignore my responsibilities, my ability to make a decision, and I still, occasionally, let bulimia win.
I am fed up of this being the case, so I have decided to take a more aggressive approach. I think the best thing I can do is talk about it - openly and honestly - so there is no shame.
I have decided that binging and purging is no longer an option for me. Regardless of how painful, exhausting or boring it is to delve into any problem a bit deeper, I am going to deal with it “normally.” I am going to write it down, discuss it with friends, pray about it, and eat my dinner.
And I’m going to eat a decent portion, let it digest, and go to bed knowing that I have provided wholesome fuel for my awesome body.
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