TRIGGER WARNING: I’m discussing my bulimia in depth in this article. I do not mention calories, weights or otherwise- but please be advised that this may be graphic.
I’ve written a little bit online about the fact I had an “eating disorder”
You probably know that I had one, maybe I’ve dropped it into a conversation at one time or another. But note my careful use of the words. I’ve never once put it out there explicitly, that I was not, in fact, a restrictive eater.
If I’m being brutally honest (and please don’t judge me for this)- I kind of would rather people think I’d had a food restriction problem than the fact I’ve been a binge eater and suffered from bulimia in a past life.
Okay- it’s out there. The words have been typed. *Deep-breath*
I feel awful even writing that I would rather people assume I had anorexia or was severely underweight than what I actually had. But this is my blog, my brain splurge- and I would be lying if it wasn’t the truth.
Now, I know that anorexia is a horrible, life-threatening and terrible mental illness and I never ever wouldn’t wish it on anyone- but I think in my muddled little head, it’s a lot less shameful than sticking your fingers down your throat after eating an entire bag of biscuits, a bowl of pasta, 5 mini desserts and pretty much anything else you could get your hands on.
My teenage brain glamorized anorexia. My muddled mind equated thinness next to Godliness… and my mental illness to some degree, still whispers that thought into my ear now and again.
It takes a lot of strength to fight a thought that you’d been repeating to yourself for years.
The other thing that makes me hide my eating disorder is that the media doesn’t seem to shy away from depicting anorexia. I feel like it’s more widely known about, accepted and understood. I feel like if I say I have suffered an eating disorder- your mind will automatically assume that, and I’ve not done anything to disprove it.
But that is part of the reason that I’m writing this today.
There’s a lot of shame with bulimia and binge eating- which is why I want to talk about it.
I want to talk about the honest truth behind a secretive illness- and I want to stop pretending that this huge part of my life didn’t happen.
So I guess the only place to begin, is at the beginning.
First off, we’ve all been there. Eaten to the point of feeling absolutely stuffed full. And I’m sure most people have at one time or another, used food as a comfort. There’s a reason that “eat your feelings” is a saying.
However for a binge eater- it’s not a case of having too many mince pies at Christmas, or the struggle to keep your jeans tightened after hitting up a hench Chinese buffet. In the end, it’s not even about food. It’s about filling a hole inside you of sadness, despair and misery. Food is a filler, not a substance that you enjoy.
Mine started around 14/15.
To cope with my anxiety about my upcoming GCSE mock exams- I began to eat. And eat, and eat.
At first, I was just overeating. But a week or so later, I was stuffing myself.
I would wake up each morning, left home alone to study- and left to my own devices- I would clear the kitchen cupboards.
I would cry with anxiety, panic and worry that I was going to fail everything and everyone would be disappointed in me- so I ate more to shut the feelings up.
It was a cycle. The more I tried to avoid eating all the food, the closer I would edge to the kitchen, and fill myself up, before having anxiety attacks about my upcoming exams.
I started to gain a considerable amount of weight- in fact, I went up two dress sizes. I was binging to the point of sickness every day, and it was becoming noticeable.
My mum knew something was going on- but when we finally had a conversation we both laughed it off. How could I be a binge eater? I’d been a size 8… I was normal, happy and healthy….this was just puppy fat, exam stress… I could lose it when they were over…. all lies that I fed to her, to myself and to everyone else.
Because I tried to shut down the truth about my eating habits, I started to panic about the weight gain. Now that someone had noticed it, I started to feel self-conscious.
I was worried that being ‘fat’ would make me unattractive so, I continued to binge eat- but soon after that, I found Tumblr. (Aka the most negative, frightening platform I’ve ever experienced in my life)
I began to read up about anorexia, about purging your food- bizarre exercise regimes and ways to keep yourself full when you didn’t want to eat.
I didn’t find a binge-eating network of friendly people, trying to help each other out. I didn’t find support and help for an increasingly spiralling problem.
I found a pro-ana/mia community.
This is a group of primarily girls, who encourage each other to starve, share tips and tricks- and share in their mental illness.
It sickens me to think even to this day, that they are still up and running- poisoning young and impressionable minds and glorifying mental illness.
I also hate this part of my story, and I’m throwing in a hefty trigger warning- but- I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be tiny, skinny and waif like.
I wanted to take black and white photos of my tiny body and share quotes and be part of this club, that I had decided I wanted in on.
So I learnt from them.
I didn’t want to be a binger – I wanted to be skinny.
If you want to know the tricks that go on in the mind of an eating-disorder sufferer, I’m sure that I know all of them.
I would starve myself eating a single grape in a day and a crap ton of black coffee. I would glug water until I could feel it swill in my tummy. I would drink diet coke endlessly, because there aren’t any calories in it.
But by 8pm I’d be so hungry I’d binge secretly in my room.
The thing is- you can’t make yourself be anorexic.
Hear me out.
Anorexia is a mental state, a change in your brain chemistry. And it’s totally seperate to wanting to be thin.
My body was being a smart little devil and trying to stop me starving. If there was food, then I was going to pack it in. My brain would flip the switch, and when I would crack from hunger, I would be like a shark on a feeding frenzy. I was mindless. It honestly passed like a dream when I was stuffing it in.
Then came the guilt.
I would feel overwhelming anxiety about what I’d just done. So I’d pound the treadmill, do star-jumps in my room and write out countless meal plans for the next day.
I confided in my Tumblr community about the guilt I was feeling when I broke my ‘rules’- and that’s when bulimia came into the picture.
I remember so clearly the person who told me about it.
Make yourself sick and get rid of the calories?
It seemed like the perfect solution.
Eat what I want, throw it all up- and never gain weight?
Maybe if you’ve ever considered a tactical chunder, maybe if you’re wondering if it will work- or maybe if you’re suffering now, let me share the reality of making yourself sick after every meal.
First off the physical symptoms.
I never lost any weight when I was bulimic. Let’s just get that clear. Your body starts absorbing the calories straight away. Even if you throw them up, you’re only going to get about 20% out. It will make absolutely no odds to what you weigh on the scale. In fact, I’m lighter now than I was when I threw up all the time- and I eat 2000 calories a day.
Secondly, it’s going to ruin your teeth. I have had a root canal, several fillings and most of the enamel on my teeth has eroded away.
It makes me cry a bit inside when I see girls with nice shiny white teeth- because mine are always going to be pale and damaged after 4 years of washing them with stomach acid.
Also, think you’ll be skinny and more attractive? Well, you’ll get puffy cheeks, bloodshot eyes and your breath will smell. You’ll actually smell like sick, your head will hurt and you’ll feel a whole new level of tired.
I was lucky enough that my stomach never bled, my osophagus didn’t rupture or in fact, that I’m still around today. A lot of people didn’t have such a lucky escape.
Mentally- it’s a whole different story.
My mind turned into a mess.
I was paranoid about all food, my entire life revolved around calorie counting- and I was just horrible to deal with as I had vile mood-swings and was constantly irritable.
When I finally started to get treatment, my mum wouldn’t let me use the toilet after meals. So (and this is grim)- I used to be sick out my bedroom window, or into bags and then dispose of it later.
I would lie to her face, I was mentally just so fucked up- and every day for me was a battle between trying to be normal and fighting the urge to binge and throw it up again.
Fast-forward to now.
I ended up kicking my eating-disorder in the butt when I went to university.
I’m doing a separate post about the ways that I handled and ultimately got over my eating disorder- but I guess the thing is- even today it still flickers in the background.
I am still weight conscious- although much less so than I used to be.
I still have anxiety, which I’m sure was made worse by battling with my mental health for so long.
But ultimately, I found my way out.
If you are struggling with bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating or any other disorder- PLEASE speak up.
You’d be surpised at the support you’ll get and how much it will aid you on the road to recovery.