Bulimia has been the devil on my shoulder for the best part of 25 years. This year is the first time I’ve stood up to the devil and said enough is enough.
I’ll never forget the first day. I was 16, my boyfriend had died, I was finishing my GCSEs, my relationship with my parents was volatile, and emotionally I was all over the place. I didn’t really like myself very much and was desperately seeking comfort in alcohol and risky behaviour. Then came food. But with food came guilt. Guilt about how I looked. I needed to expel the food but needed the comfort.
So there I was, caught in a cycle of bingeing, guilt, purging, guilt, fasting, hungry, irritable, back to purging, guilt and so on. My bulimia devil was in and out of my life from then on. In stable happy times, he left me alone. Any disruption, stressful moments or knocks to my confidence, back he came.
Did I ever tell anyone? No. How could I? It felt disgusting. I felt ashamed. I felt like a troublemaker. This was my devil that I needed to combat. I had periods of being on antidepressants and periods of therapy, but I never spoke about the bulimia, only about my family and relationship issues, or about my sadness or my anxiety. Never about what all that was leading to.
In the last 25 years, my teeth have suffered, my stomach hurts and I get palpitations. Four years ago I thought I’d finally conquered it. I’d left my unhealthy relationship of 15 years, came off antidepressants and started to thrive. I felt confident and secure. Six months ago the devil propelled back into my life full time. My mum died, and I felt ruined. What did I have now other than to comfort myself?
But this time I had a supportive partner. This time I had a good job. Why was I jeopardising it? I woke one day with palpitations and bleeding from my stomach. I texted my partner and disclosed everything via a message – maybe not the best way. But he listened and he held me up, and I went to my GP. Rather than judge, the GP was concerned for me. He didn’t make me feel guilty or disgusting. He cared. He knew I needed help to fight the devil, that I couldn’t win the fight on my own.
I don’t know what the future holds but I do know I don’t want this illness to claim my life. I suddenly feel like I can have a life without it. I wish it hadn’t taken me 25 years to speak up.
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.