Newest Review: ... Finally we met up and she told me she was suffering from an eating disorder called Bulimia. I knew straight away what it was as Princess Di... more
Once you have gone down this road it is hard to turn back
Member Name: bkecky
Advantages: There are none. It ruins you.
Disadvantages: Numerous health problems and a permanent state of paranoia that is not easily erradicated.
From my teens I have struggled with this horrendous condition and in this review I would like to shed some light on exactly what bulimia is like to live with and how it affects individuals and their families. My aim is to spread awareness and show how normal people can be affected and to inform about the signs of bulimia and share my experiences to reduce prejudice, help people to recognise the symptoms and for people to be aware of how tragic it is that this is increasing in our society.
I have always been tall and I suppose what you would call "big-boned" and as a youngster I was big for my age and I don't just mean in height! I never really noticed my size until high school and in my primary school I would happily munch through whatever I wanted to eat without really thinking there was consequences to my eating habits. My mother has always been overweight throughout her adult life and my grandmother quite the opposite being a size 4. I loved my food and I could eat at a young age more than what I see some adults eat now. As young as 5 years old I would insist on an adult menu and not the children's and what could have been seen as a healthy appetite, I paid for when I went to high school.
High school was the worst 3 years of my life. I went to a comprehensive in my town and having not really socialised so much with people my own age and been constantly around adults I was quite mature for my age and had the intellect of someone much older. I worked hard at school and always got top grades. In addition I was overweight with red hair and never felt comfortable around people my own age. This was when the bullying started. Children can be so cruel and I heard the lot that even I remember to this day. Such comments as "Lyndsey is like the village bike, everyone's had a ride but Rebecca is like the old village bike that no one wants a ride on", "I bet your mother was so disappointed when she had you and she saw you had ginger hair", "If my child looked like you I would drown it". I went through such extremes to avoid school like pretending to go to school then secretly creeping back in and hiding in the cupboard all day until I could creep back downstairs, open the door and pretend I had just come home. It was awful and then that was when the bulimia started. At first it wasn't to be thin, it was to be sick so I could show my mom and not have to go to school. It was horrible to do but I hated school that much I would do anything to avoid it. Then I started to realise that if I did this regularly I could eat what I wanted and lose weight. The worst thing about it was that I thought I could control it. I will never have an eating disorder. The ironic thing was that I thought when I read about anorexics and bulimics that they were stupid but little did I know just how easily it was to become trapped.
As time went on I increased my purging to maybe twice a week. Still I thought I was in control but as time progressed I stopped being just sick to avoid school and to lose weight, and I started to binge eat to be sick. This started at the age of 12 and by the time I was 16 I was a professional. I no longer dreaded being sick, it was a normal part of everyday life. I would eat and eat then purge and then wait maybe an hour and then start again. Obviously this could not go unnoticed for long and soon people noticed that the food in the house was being consumed at an alarming rate. I refused to get help still believing I was in control. It was my choice to do it and therefore I could stop when I wanted. This was not the case.
When I hit 18 I realised that it had gone beyond my control. I became obsessed with the gym, going twice a day alongside an exercise dvd at home. I had an amazing figure looking back yet it was never quite good enough for me. And they way I had achieved it was disgusting. Yet the feeling of pride I had in myself after I had purged was addictive. By this time my family knew and my boyfriend also knew. I would spend whole days repeating my cycle of binge and purge. If I went to a restaurant with friends I would make my boyfriend take me to the toilet so that people would think we were doing something else rather than my actual reality of throwing up the meal I had just paid for. We would return to the table to whistles and a round of applause and then I would sit down and finish everyone's leftovers to comments of "I don't know how you stay so thin the amount you eat, you're an eating machine!" And I felt proud of myself! I had envious looks from women, appreciating looks from men and saw no shame in what I was doing.
Then one day after eating a feast of a KFC family bucket I started throwing up blood. I called an ambulance and was taken to hospital, put on a drip and had my anus probed in front of my family. This humiliation made me realise I had gone too far. It was the wake up call I needed. I went to my doctor and got a note to be admitted to the Priory in Birmingham. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. In one way I wanted to go because then I couldn't eat and i was sure to lose weight. Still I was thinking about my weight! And so for a while I went onto a strict diet of chicken and vegetables but I still couldn't stop the vomiting. By this time my oesohpagus was a two way system. Acid reflux meant that I couldn't keep my food down if I tried. The most shocking thing I found during this time on bulimia websites was a girl who had posted that she had heard that you can throw up without putting your fingers down your throat and was asking fellow bulimics how she could get to this point. By this time I was horribly unhappy. I was scared to binge but I had an addiction. I believed that without throwing up it was impossible to stay thin. Having refused medical treatment my mother bought me some self-help books, which I followed for a while. I started introducing small "forbidden" foods into my diet and ate small portions regularly. It worked for a while but then I got back into my cycle with the hospital incident seeming far behind me. I realised how much I was affecting my family when on New Years Eve I got drunk and my family had to restrain me from throwing up, and the brutality of the experience made me really want to stop. Not for me but for them.
I started on the path to self-recovery and I cut down my bingeing. I still did it but I realised that I couldn't just stop. The fear of putting on weight was too intense. I mentioned before in my smoking ban review that I have only been a smoker for 3 years and this was when I started. I needed something in my mouth that wasn't food and smoking after meals calmed me and gave me something to occupy myself with. OK I had replaced one addiction with another but bulimia can cause cancer of the oesophagus, stomach ulcers, stomach ruptures, disorders of the intestines, kidney and liver damage. If anything smoking was an improvement. And so I was almost cured with only an occasional relapse.
Yet the thing with an eating disorder is even when you are recovered, you are still plagued by it for the rest of your life. The feeling that your worth is how thin you are never goes away. I will never be satisified with how my body is. There is nothing worse for me than walking to the sea in a bikini. I believe that everyone is staring and judging my body. And when I lose weight I feel so proud even now! In the past year I had lost over one and a half stone, not through bulimia but from my boyfriend leaving me last November. Now I am in France I don't have the money to eat often so I eat my piece of bread for breakfast and my main meal at night and so the weight is dropping off. And yet I feel proud I haven't eaten. It feels good to be hungry and this is where the danger of crossing the line into anorexia lies. I love the feeling of my bones sticking out from my hips and seeing my ribs in my back when I bend over. It's sick but true. So yes I don't binge these days but the psychological effects are still there. I don't think I will ever fully be normal again and the funny thing is that when I was bigger I had more body confidence than I have now that I am 4 dress sizes smaller.
I would say to anyone who is demonstrating the behaviour that I experienced at the beginning to stop now because you will regret it and you will be stuck with it for life. I never stop feeling guilty about eating. I even get snappy at people when I have finished my meal and that anxious feeling is creeping through my stomach. I never over-eat anymore to reduce this feeling. For families and friends who are aware of someone with an eating disorder the key is not to push. Bulimics get very touchy about the subject and by shouting and screaming you will only aggravate the shame they feel and push them into a binge. The trigger for me to stop was seeing my mother crying at what she had created, even though it wan't her fault part of her thought that it was due to her own issues with eating that I had this horrendous disease. You have to be calm and by removing all the food in the house it won't help because bulimics can find food, the desperation is so intense that they will always find it.
Signs to watch out for are going to the toilet frequently, taps running for long periods of time, frequent flushing, bags of rubbish hidden anyway, food disappearing, over-eating claiming that they haven't eaten all day, a stuffing type action when eating as if the food may disappear off the plate and wearing baggy clothes. It can also be accompanied with alcohol and drug abuse. If you confront them be gentle, don't make them feel abnormal and never ever shout at them. A bulimic needs to reocgnise they have a problem before they can do anything about it. I ignored my family for years thinking my behaviour was normal and controllable. Another thing to remember is that bulimics are not anorexics, they do not need to be painfully thin in appearance. They can be normal size, thin or overweight.
Even now I have relapses on occasion but I have to stop myself. My most recent was when i went to visit a friend in Prague and she wanted me to try everything and Czech cuisine is not the healthiest. I had to get rid of the food or I couldn't function. This was my last relapse and it was in April this year, but after those 4 days I came back and restrained myself. Going to the supermarket and buying just enough pre-prepared meals to get me back on track. Occupy the bulimic after eating so they are distracted and don't overload their plates with food and try to give them healthier food to reduce the anxiety after eating. I am not fully recovered but a few times a year is a big improvement on several times a day. I hope that one day I will be able to fully recover but I don't believe my feelings of guilt over food will ever go away. Here in France my problem has gone and the French attidude of quality food in moderation has helped me to understand how to enjoy food again. I can only say that if you are struggling with this problem share it with someone, they will help you to make the right choices. The worst part about it now is that if I ever genuinely need the toilet after a meal I know what everyone is thinking and I will have to wait a suitable amount of time before I feel comfortable to leave the table. Another thing if you are aware of someone with this problem, never give them the impression that you are talking about them when they return to the table. The amount of times I have come back to a sudden halt in conversation when I reappear and sometimes it was a completely innocent toilet visit. It makes the person feel that even if they are trying to help themselves people are still doubting them. Make them feel like they can overcome it because if they feel no one else thinks they can do it they are unlikely to believe it themselves.
I hope that this review has heightened people's awareness and to make people realise that normal people get eating disorders. With pressure in society today it is becoming more common-place and I seemed like a normal happy young person on the outside but on the inside I felt paranoid and depressed with myself. If you feel like this then don't suffer in silence and no matter how many times that someone tells you that you are beautiful or thin at the time it seems impossible to believe. But help is at hand and don't be afraid to ask. Don't let it go as far as mine. I still suffer with the permanent damage I have done to myself now. Only last week I had my front teeth filled because of them breaking due to acid rotting the enamel. The consequences are irreversible and once you go down that road it is hard to turn back.
Summary: Watch for warning signs and never think you are in control and it will never happen to you.