For many years I accessed online support for bulimia and was repeatedly told ‘recovery is always possible’. This felt really hollow to me. People kept telling me it was possible but not how it was possible. I needed hope at a time when it was in short supply.
I struggled with an eating disorder for around 15 years. I was a young teenager when I became ill with anorexia and after a brief period of remission I relapsed and was diagnosed with bulimia.
I would like to focus on hope of recovery in this blog and so I don’t wish to spend time focusing on the past for too long. For many of you reading this, the pain of an eating disorder will already be known to you and I don’t personally find it helpful to dwell on the past. What I will say is this: at one point I was so unwell after being on a waiting list for an assessment (not treatment) for over a year that I was referred for inpatient treatment. This is unusual for those with bulimia and I believe reflects how bad things got.
These days I am a completely different person. I am fully weight restored and haven’t engaged in any eating disorder related behaviours for almost two years. This is probably one of my biggest achievements to date and I will continue to maintain this progress because I have now lived something I only dreamed could be possible: recovery.
For me recovery started with a big change, a very supportive friend and sheer determination. The support from my friend was particularly important because I had lost faith in myself that I could recover.
When I first started my recovery journey, I don’t think I actually believed I could do it, but I was coming up to 30 and I knew I needed to at least try. I was completely sick and tired of the gruelling regime I had created for myself. I was fed up of not having a social life because it involved food or drink or I needed to exercise. I’d had enough of the misery and anxiety of constantly thinking about food and exercise. But most of all, I was sick of the voice. You know that voice. Everyone’s eating disorder voice is different but for me it was relentless, incessantly cruel and critical. If it was a person, I can’t repeat the word I’d use to describe him or her. I knew I needed to change.
The hardest part for me was that accessing support services felt impossible. I had lost faith in services’ ability to help and support me. That’s not because psychotherapy and evidence-based treatments don’t work, but I felt that if I asked my GP for a referralI would be waiting a long time to start my recovery and I wanted to make the change now when I was motivated and had the social support.
With this in mind I would like to share with you what worked for me. This is not to say this should ever replace specialist support, but I think it can be helpful to hear what has worked for other people.
A greater understanding of my biology has allowed me to change how I think about food and eating. I don’t restrict my diet at all and haven’t for a long time. My weight has remained constant despite this lack of control over my intake. Essentially, my body knows what a healthy weight is for me and so long as I listen to it, it keeps me at a healthy weight.
My dad said to me some years ago that recovery from bulimia would be one of the hardest things I would ever do. And true to form, he was not wrong. But difficult and impossible are not the same thing. Difficulty can make us believe something is impossible but just because we believe something, doesn’t make it objectively true. Yes, recovery is hard, especially when you’ve spent over a decade behaving a certain way. But I would not change it for anything. I have my life back and you can have yours.
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.