And one day, just like that, I took my life back
I guess my eating disorder began pretty generically. I had booked a girls’ holiday and didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in a bikini, so about six weeks before I was due to embark on a fun-filled week in the sun, the ‘holiday diet’ began. This ‘holiday diet’ will probably be familiar to the majority of people going on a summer holiday and it’s something I’d done before.
However, this time was different. There were voices in my head that I’d never heard before, voices that were extremely unkind. I began setting myself strict rules that I had to follow else I’d punish myself. I remember that I would allow myself one chocolate biscuit on a Sunday evening whilst my favourite programme was on but this was ONLY if I’d not eaten another single ‘bad’ thing that week. I had to burn a certain amount of calories, run a certain amount of miles and do a certain amount of sit-ups each day, or else those voices in my head would call me lazy and not good enough. In the run up to my holiday, I was that strict on myself that binging never even crossed my mind.
The holiday came and went and because of how hard I’d pushed myself and how strict on myself I had become, it was a holiday I didn’t even enjoy. I spent my time obsessing over the amount of calories were in the cocktail I just drank or on the bathroom floor doing sit-ups whilst my friends slept.
It wasn’t until I came back from holiday that I realised I had a problem. I felt like I was finally allowed to eat all the things that I deemed to be ‘bad’ before my holiday but the problem was, I couldn’t stop. I knew I wanted to keep up the healthy lifestyle, so my window of opportunity to eat all the ‘bad’ food I wanted was small. I ate and ate until I physically couldn’t move, to the point where I was in agonising pain, yet this still didn’t stop me. I recall one time, my dad had seen how much food I’d eaten and said, ‘I think you’ve had enough now.’ He didn’t know I had bulimia and at this point, neither did I. I was embarrassed, embarrassed that he’d seen me eat that much he felt like he had to tell me to stop. This is when I ran upstairs, disgusted at what I had just done, and made myself sick for the first time.
This was when the strict eating and exercise rules began again. This time they were much, much stricter. My periods stopped and these rules started taking over other aspects of my life. Cleaning and doing my washing became more important than socialising, I was irritable and had no energy. I’d decline nights out because that would mean I would have to miss the gym or go to a restaurant where I didn’t know how many calories I was eating.
The whole time this was going on, about once a week when my friends weren’t home I’d go to the shop and buy all the food I had had forbidden myself from having. As this was my only opportunity to do this, I couldn’t just have one treat. I had to have EVERYTHING. Crisps, cake, chocolate, sweets and I would eat every last crumb again, to the point where I was in extreme physical pain. After, I would go to the bathroom and make myself sick until I felt I had got rid of as many calories as possible.
What sticks in my mind most are the times I would go back home and visit my parents. I would wait until they had gone to bed and then I would binge. I live in a small village so there is no shop to buy any of my binge food from so I would make do with whatever was in the cupboards. Sometimes I didn’t even like the food I was eating but I still had to have it and would eat until I had no choice to make myself sick.
After seeking help from my GP and being told I’d have to wait 11 months to see anyone, I decided to contact my university for help. This was a huge turning point for me and talking about my feelings to a counsellor made me see that I didn’t want to live my life like that anymore. I realised that life is for living and not spending my days counting calories. Nothing bad happened to me when I ate the pizza I fancied or missed a gym session to go out with my friends. I worked on eating in moderation, something I wasn’t capable of before and yet the world kept spinning. I was making memories again and doing all the things my eating disorder once stopped me from doing.
I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have a family and a set of friends that I could always talk to and trust not to judge me. I always knew that if I was having a bad day, there was someone I could talk to and I truly believe that without them, bulimia would still be controlling my life. I still have bad days and I still have times where I’m desperate to binge, but I’m better at controlling that now. I know the importance of being kind to your body and going from starving myself to eating to the point of not being able to move isn’t being kind to my body. However, having the pack of Malteasers I fancy without punishing myself is. Being able to love yourself is something many find extremely difficult, me included but is something I’m working on. I thought that being able to say no to cake, going to the gym every single day and being the person that people said ‘oh I wish I had your will power’ to made me stronger than everyone else, when really all it was doing was making me miserable whilst everyone was happy and having fun. When I slowly started to let go of some control and began being kind to myself again, I saw just how amazing life can be. It’s not easy and it takes time, but believe me, recovery is so worth it!