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
The Monster Within
Member Name: wigglylittleworm
Advantages: there are advantages?
Disadvantages: feeling out of control, physical side effects
When you picture somebody who has an eating disorder in your mind what do you see? My guess is that you are picturing a waif thin teenage girl and not a 34 year old woman but people with eating problems come in many different shapes and sizes and do not all fit the stereotypical image. I have had problems with food and eating on and off for a number of years, if you had asked me a year ago I would have confidently told you that those problems were behind me but in the past few months they have reared their ugly head again.
My problems with food started at the tender age of 13. I thought that I was overweight but in retrospect I can see from photos that I was simply an early developer and would love to have a figure like I had then now! I hated the fact that my body had developed earlier than many of my schoolmates meaning that by the time I finished primary school I was wearing a D cup bra, in those days the world seemed to be split into two types of girls those who wore bras and those who wore vests and I longed to be in the latter camp. I detested having a grown up body with nasty hairy bits and was horrified that I had to deal with periods every month. I spent the summer just after my 13th birthday starving myself, it was easy as my mum was out at work all day so I was left to my own devices, most days I would make myself a single meal which consisted of a vegetarian sausage and a packet of flavoured rice and as you can imagine the weight dropped off me.
I was really disappointed, I had lost loads of weight but nobody seemed to even notice or care, looking back I was probably clinically depressed at the time but again my family were too wrapped up in their own lives to notice what was going on with me. I enjoyed going back to school in smaller clothes and although I still watched what I ate relaxed back into a normal routine with more normal eating habits.
The next summer when I was 14 I again relapsed into the pattern of skipping meals and living on very little food. This is the summer when I also developed bulimia and started to self harm too. I read about bulimia in a magazine, saw throwing up as a good way to speed up my weight loss. At first it was very difficult to induce vomiting but with a lot of practice it became easier. At that stage it was more of an unhealthy diet aid than a serious eating disorder, I never used to binge just eat normal meals and throw them back up again.
Again I went back to school and my depression eased and the behaviours became less and less. I first discovered laxatives when I was 16, well it was the first time I managed to push myself past the embarrassment factor of going to the chemist and buying them! My eating habits were erratic throughout my mid teens, I would go through periods where I would eat normally, periods of severely restricting my food intake, periods of binging and intermittent use of both self induced vomiting and laxative use to keep my weight down. Again my family did not notice, my guidance teacher at school did try to talk to me a few times and ask me about my home life etc but I never managed to open up to her. One of the things that happened during that time was that my mum found my stash of laxatives which I kept in an unmarked plastic bag which fell out of the cupboard. She picked them up and looked at me before going and putting them in the bin (from where I later retrieved them). She had no way of knowing those little white pills were laxatives and not something far more serious but never mentioned the incident to me, the fact my family simply showed no interest in my welfare was probably a big part of my problems developing,.
My eating disorder took a far more serious turn when I was 17 and left home. I managed to pass my exams a year early so went to university just after my 17th birthday. I muddled through most of the first year ok but became severely depressed around the Easter period of my first year, I was coping well academically but struggled a bit socially and felt shy and fat and out of place. Once again I restricted my eating and started to throw up losing a large amount of weight. I plucked up the courage to talk to student health about my problems and was prescribed Prozac which only made me worse and I ended up in hospital following a severe bout of self harm. I was referred to a psychiatrist who would visit student health to give me counselling every fortnight and prescribed different medications but by now I was in a downhill spiral and after overdosing I was admitted to a psychiatric ward, I did get a bit better and was discharged.
In retrospect I was not well enough to go back to university for my second year, I lived in a flat instead of halls of residence and the increased privacy only let my self destructive behaviour grow to new heights. My eating patterns were now well and truly out of control and I was binging and using laxatives on a daily basis. Not surprisingly I failed the year of uni and moved back to my home town. My mum died which shook me badly but living with my sister was a good period of my life. I got a job I enjoyed and started to enjoy life once more and put the eating problems behind me.
Becoming a mother at just 21 was not part of my life plan, I loved my baby but developed crippling post natal depression and once again the food issues spiralled out of control, I lost ridiculous amounts of weight by living only on pasta and dairylea cheese. My lovely GP helped me a lot, I was once again referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed bipolar disorder rather than depression which would explain why antidepressants made me worse. I had therapy which helped me a lot although it was very behavioural based rather than dealing with the root of my problems it helped me to discover new ways of coping that were healthier, once again life was good.
Like I said earlier I thought my food issues were behind me until earlier this year. I developed a reasonably healthy body image and absolutely refused to weight myself as when at the peak of my eating problems I would weigh myself dozens of times a day. I had put on a lot of weight over the past few years and decided I would join slimming world to lose it healthily. Standing on the scales again was not nearly as bad as I thought, I managed to follow the plan for around a month and lose a few pounds but being on a diet and being weighed regularly triggered off the dormant eating disorder monster in my brain and it has been spiralling out of control ever since.
The first time I threw up again was after I went out for a Chinese meal and pigged out but still wanted to lose weight at my weigh in so up the food came. There's something very addictive about vomiting, I can't quite explain it. I have been under a lot of pressure lately and although I regularly manage to fight the urge to throw up when I do I love the clean and empty feeling and my head seems so much clearer and brighter for a while and it also drains me enough that I can sleep.
Like I said in some strange way being sick makes me feel better in the short term but it has more bad side effects than good. My stomach hurts constantly, I've been having palpitations, my teeth hurt, the massive fluctuations in blood sugar gives me migraines and although I have only lost a few pounds I look pale and have huge dark circles under my eyes. Once you are in the cycle of vomiting regularly then it is very hard to stop. Most people think bulimics stick their fingers down their throat to throw up but my stomach now rejects food fairly frequently, I can just drink tonnes of cold water to make my stomach rebel and release its contents. Sometimes it doesn't even need that prompting, one of the lowest points of the past few months was a couple of weeks ago when I had to rush to be sick after eating normally and never made the toilet in time and ended up throwing up over the floor.
This time I don't have my old lovely GP to turn to for help, my current GP does try to be helpful but ends up giving me patronising pep talks, I ended up feeling really guilty when I told him he just made me feel worse. I saw a dietician who described me as malnourished even though I am overweight and gave me wildly unrealistic diet sheets to follow. A student GP promised my some support from a psychiatric nurse but that has yet to materialise. I do take antidepressants right now but they are obviously not working, the fact that I probably don't absorb the full dose does not help. There's a new GP at my surgery, my daughter saw her last week and she seems really good so I'm also going to try and pluck up the guts to make an appointment to talk to her.
I know that means I have to help myself, online support groups are great. I found a private counsellor in my area who specialises in eating problems but unfortunately she is not taking on new patients right now. I'm planning on buying a couple of self help books, the problem is that it is a complex problem so it is not easy to beat. I know I need to tackle my eating patterns so I eat regularly and substantially enough not to trigger binge and vomit behaviour but food is only part of the problem, the food issues are a symptom that I am under pressure. I am confident that I can get it back under control again as I have managed to in the past.
This review only shares my experiences, eating disorders are complex problems with many causes, in my case I don't want to look like a supermodel or be a size 0 so super skinny models have no effect on me. There's lots of good sources of information out there if you have similar problems. The Beat eating disorder site in the UK is a good place to start, www.somethingfishy.com is also a great resource.
Summary: it doesnt just affect teenage girls
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