I was 12 years old when I first made myself sick. Looking back, I can’t remember why I did it, but I had no idea how quickly it would take over my life. A couple of years later and I did it again. It had always been in the back of my head, feelings of being not good enough, often feelings of worthlessness, but I was too young to care at that point. I wasn’t quite happy with who I was or how I looked but it didn’t bother me enough to want to change it. As my friends started getting into relationships, I felt the pressure to do the same, but something in my head told me that it couldn’t happen if I looked the way I did at that moment. And so, it began.
It started off so innocently, just a new year’s resolution to ‘lose a bit of weight’ and ‘tone up.’ For the first time in my life, I began exercising and with this, my new year’s resolution began to take effect. The already disordered part of my brain was hooking on to the fact I was losing weight, and how quickly I was doing so, and it decided it wanted to speed up the process by restricting my diet. After months of restriction and weight loss, my body had reached its limit of nutritional deprivation. I began eating. I began eating anything, everything. I was confused. Why was I doing this? I can vividly remember munching my way through packets of Cadbury Animal Biscuits that had been sat in the cupboard for months. I was hungry. I was starving.
But the fear of gaining weight took over. How could I ruin all this ‘progress’ I had made? It seems ludicrous that I thought I had made progress, when looking back, I was dying. Slowly, but surely, I was dying. The seconds after consuming this vast amount of food were painful. What was I to do? Was I to sit there and pretend I hadn’t eaten what felt like the contents of all the kitchen cupboards? Aha! What if I could indulge in the food and then, get rid of it…? And so, I did.
This is where the cycle of bingeing and purging began. It became a daily thing. I would plan my binges under the circumstances of whether I would have the house to myself or what food we had in. How could I make the most of two hours of numbly eating my way through packets upon cartons upon tubs of food? It was like a secret. My secret. Nobody would suspect a thing because I was eating, so they didn’t care. I would go out for meals, and then pretend I needed the toilet. It was that easy.
But despite what I initially thought, it wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t as simple as, hey, you can eat what you want and still lose weight.
Sticky hair. Broken fingernails. Yellow teeth. Blocked toilets. Blocked sinks. Dizziness. Cold, all the time. Weak. Fainting. Depression. Shame. Binge. Purge. Repeat. Binge. Purge. Repeat. Binge. Purge. Repeat. Binge. Purge. Repeat. And as it slowly crept in, it became even more difficult to see what it was doing to me.
I chose to stay in rather than go to parties with my friends. I chose to avoid doing important schoolwork and revision. I chose to stay in my bedroom rather than socialise with my family. I chose to say yes to the toilet and no to the life that I could’ve had. I chose my eating disorder for three years. I missed out on my early adolescence. Bulimia meant my doctor didn’t allow me to go on the trip of a lifetime to Peru. Bulimia meant that a total of four holidays were ruined. Bulimia ruined multiple birthdays, some of them not my own. Bulimia seemed like an escape, but I was trapped in a cycle. My bulimia has not only affected me but those around me. I have seen my mum cry over what I was doing to myself. I have seen grown men cry over the way I am ruining my life. But worst of all, I decided to avoid the problem when I was 12 years old.
No matter how severe you perceive something to be, if you see, recognise or suspect a behaviour that is out of the ordinary, please take action. There is not enough awareness for Bulimia Nervosa as it is often regarded as a ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ eating disorder. But remember, just because someone looks okay on the outside, it doesn’t mean they are. Bulimia, along with any other eating disorder, has the ability to kill.
It’s not too late to recover. I chose to recover when I was 16, four years after I began displaying bulimic behaviours. I began eating regularly and this gave me more energy to socialise and do schoolwork, the two things that everyone else my age seemed to be doing. It wasn’t an easy decision to choose recovery. I didn’t want to gain weight, I didn’t want to give up this ‘secret’, but I did.
Recovery is possible. There is support. People care about you. But more than anything, learn to care about yourself. Your body will not be able to sustain itself for a lifetime if you continue these bulimic behaviours. It’s not invincible. It’s now or never.
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.