What went wrong? And more importantly, how can I stop this?

Posted 01/03/2018

I write this not as someone who’s come out the other side of my eating disorder, but someone still in the throes of it and desperately seeking a resolution. I want others to know that the question ‘what went wrong?’ is at the forefront of everyone’s minds when they grapple with something like this, and I want others to know there’s always a way through to the other side where we will feel happy, healthy and enough like we once used to.

I started engaging in unhealthy habits in the summer after my first year of university. I had loved every moment; I’d joined a gym and swimming club, met an incredible group of friends and felt settled in my degree. Which is why I first ask myself: what went wrong? To an outsider, I must have appeared content and carefree, but behind closed doors I continued to engage in bulimia with increasing frequency. Initially I told myself that I would only engage in this behaviour when I absolutely had to, say if I’d eaten an entire pack of biscuits and felt too bloated and uncomfortable. But it went from once in a while to once a week, twice a week, once a day… By the time I returned to university for my second year last September, it was at the point most would consider to be out of control (and in all honesty, it’s getting even worse, what a pain).

Now I can reflect and pinpoint the triggers that contributed to my viciously unhealthy mindset – I am a competitive and obsessive perfectionist. I would constantly try to beat my friends in the gym, constantly brag about my uber-healthy meals and secretly look at the clothing labels in my flatmates clothes on the drying racks when they weren’t looking. All these little secretive habits spiralled into a compulsion to make sure I didn’t gain a single pound or inch. Now I find myself shutting myself away in my shared house bathroom umpteen times a day, or the gym bathroom, train toilets, even club loos in order to satisfy this urge to keep my weight down and my body as small as I can get it.

So, what went wrong? I’ve gone from a happy, crazy, energetic teenager starting an independent life to a paranoid, desperately sad and frightened shell who continually shuts out her friends and family for fear of jealousy, mistrust and the fear of being caught. Once I would be the go-to for anyone’s issues; I’d support my friends and family and be a source of chaotic fun and laughter when others needed it most. Now I plead with my friends to let me shut myself away; I’ve convinced myself that I’d rather hug a toilet bowl than sit at the pub with my best friends on a quiet Monday night. I’ve gone from someone people want to be around to a burden, and more importantly I’ve gone from a healthy young woman to a frail and poorly girl visiting the doctors once a week. What went wrong? And more importantly, how can I stop this?

I urge anyone who relates to my situation to seek help as soon as possible. I know it’s frightening to admit to yourself that this has become a problem, and to ask YOURSELF what went wrong, but the sooner you access support, the better you will be for it. Just because things have gone a little awry, doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. I urge you to turn to your friends, your family and your doctor for support; they want the best for you and to see you healthy and happy as you once were. This life is no life to lead, no one deserves it and there is a way through this, I promise you. The first step is always the hardest to take, but I promise it will be worth it, and accessing support networks such as those offered by Beat can make all the difference – I’ve found them so incredibly helpful and reassuring; it shows me I’m not alone and neither are you. Once you take the plunge, ‘What went wrong’ will no longer be niggling at the front of your mind. I promise.

Contributed by Harriet