It's common for people suffering with bulimia to slip under the radar. A lot of the time those suffering don't tend to look that differently physically, so how would anyone know what is going on?
No one knew I had bulimia and regularly binged until two years after I had been in recovery from the illness and chose to share my story. I didn't choose to tell anybody bar family at the time through fear of being judged and of no one really understanding what I was going through – there is something very 'dirty' about the idea of purging food, which makes people feel uncomfortable.
Before bulimia took a hold of me I suffered with anorexia. It was when I started to gain weight in my recovery from this that I started to binge eat. Nothing could have prepared me for my body’s reaction to the sudden intake of calories when I started to eat regularly again. I went through a very short phase of feeling very run-down, lethargic and sick, to a sudden urge to feed my body more and more. The human body is fascinating, really: as soon as I started feeding it, it craved food constantly. Before I knew it, I found myself regularly binge eating; morning, afternoon and night. I say binge eating because it was excessive quantities of food within a very short period of time. This lead to bulimia (as the guilt would set in and I would make every effort to withdraw all the calories through fear of gaining weight).
So to paint the picture:
I'm weight restored, so I must be over anorexia? And of course nobody saw me during these manic episodes of binge eating, because it would happen in the privacy of my own room, so to the outsider, I must be fine?
At first when I did told people I was uncontrollably eating excessive quantities of food and couldn't cope, they replied: 'but you hardly eat anything', 'you're just overthinking, Katie; it's in your head'. They had seen me starve myself for so long, the thought that I could be doing the opposite didn't seem possible.
My point is exactly that, binge eating and purging is such a private act, no one can see it, and it is easy to hide. You can be suffering with this like me for years because you live in fear everyone will thing you are disgusting or won't understand.
This is where early intervention is absolutely crucial! My bulimia stemmed from anorexia – I didn't receive any medical assistance when I was my lowest weight and really needed it, but if I had I don't think the binge eating and purging cycle would have ever manifested.
Having emotional support is so important.
I was offered therapy about 2.5 years into my eating disorder after sitting on the waiting list for months and being told numerous times my BMI was not low enough for specified treatment. Despite all of this, the therapy saved my life. Eating disorders are mental illnesses first and foremost, with severe physical side effects it doesn't matter what you look like – if something isn't right, persevere, because your time will come.
I just want people to know that whatever eating disorder they are suffering from, it is temporary and it doesn't have to be a life sentence. The only way I convinced myself at the time I would get better was by reading blogs and other people’s stories of recovery. The wait for treatment became bearable because I could see with my own eyes that people do get better. I won't lie: daily life can be a struggle sometimes and it isn't perfect, but it is a million miles from binge eating and purging numerous times a day – and that's all down to perseverance and patience with treatment and the bravery to talk to other people.
Such a weight can be lifted just by sharing your feelings with other people, be it friends, family or strangers!
I want people to read my story and be able to relate and think, 'Oh, she got better! So maybe this isn't the end for me after all!' no matter how bad it feels now.
Recovery isn't about being perfect and everything being back to normal and easy; it is about recognising you are worth it and not waiting for further problems to manifest. Don't let eating disorders win because you're the stronger one of the two, trust me.
You have to learn how to live again and, like with any lessons, you often have to fail to learn the best way or the right way...
In the past I’ve wanted to hide the eating disorders that are part of my history, but I want to shout from the rooftops: I'm proud of how far I had come!
I want to shed some light on diet culture and what it drove me to do to myself for eight years. I will never get those eight years back, but what I do know is that I will never put myself through all the self-inflicted pain it took in order to look a certain way.