Bulimia; A Survivor's Story
Trying Too Hard and Slowly Dying to be Perfect
Don't Let Bulimia Ruin a Life...Don't ignore the signs!!
Struggling with bulimia? Unsure if your are bulimic? Suspect that a loved one is bulimic? Yeah, we can all go online and google eating disorder signs and symptoms, "possible" causes, treatments etc. These are tips and pointers that tend to come from the health care field and professionals. Professional Bulimic? ...No. Five years ago when I somehow found myself in the world of bulimia and after spending the first almost year denying it to myself that I actually had a problem or that I couldn't control myself, I started looking for help. I didn't realize that would become a long horrible, stressful, frustrating, lonely journey. Very rarely do people share their eating disorder. It tends to be embarrassing and shameful. There was a time in my life that my family knew about my eating disorder and they were extremely concerned and even tried to intervene. Unfortunately, the more I got out of control, the worse guilt I felt for their "failed attempts" so it was back in the closet I went. I looked for all kinds of help online and even spoke with my regular doctor about it. Sadly, in the rural America that I live in, there is no real help for eating disorders and one must have to travel to far away cities for the possibility of some help. The health websites on the Internet have no idea about each individual's problems that have led to the eating disorder, it is all just generic factoids. There are sooooo many factors involved with eating disorders and it needs to be absolutely, aggressively addressed because it is extremely emotionally, psychologically and physically damaging. I felt like I spent five years running around looking for help in secret and I have yet to find it in an outside source. Any growth or treatment or help that I have found has come from within. But...if you or someone you love is struggling there is no need to let it go so far and "hopefully" figure it out. I have such good advice, I am not a medical professional, though I am certified in the medical field (Bulimia does not discriminate).
She can't see what others see
Why bulimia? Why choose that route? I know that it may seem like a choice, a conscious choice, but it really doesn’t usually work that way. Personally, I never woke up and said, “Today, I will become bulimic”. It is a very embarrassing illness to suffer from and yes, trust me; there is a lot of suffering. I have to admit, I find it a little hard to speak about now, especially considering it is still a very fresh wound from me. After going through this horrible battle, I wish no other human being to struggle like I did, alone and scared and living a lie. I think that at some point in my life I developed a particularly strong need to satisfy everyone. Everyone is a lot of people and it is an impossible feat and a foolish attempt. There is so much pressure in the world to conform to some kind of perfection, but whose perfection are we referring to? In my mind, if I was perfect, smart, funny, beautiful, athletic, etc…then there was no room for flaws or criticism. Doesn’t it seem that despite how many things we might have going for us, there is still always a critic? What I needed was the skills to accept the critics and appreciate who I was, regardless.
Trying to be perfect...or at least good enough?
When I wasn’t getting the kind of love out of a relationship that I wanted, instead at looking at what might have been the problem as a whole, with two equal parts, instead, I very unselfishly took all of the blame on myself. I figured, I was working a good job, I was going to school, I was providing for my children and “new boyfriend” on every level, the house was immaculate, the dinners were delicious, I was attentive and had a great sense of humor…so what was I doing wrong? Oh, maybe I don’t look good enough, I thought. So, being the winter months, I convinced myself that maybe I had put on a couple of winter pounds. I was somewhere between a size 3 and 5 (probably closer to 5). No one ever had said anything to me to make me feel as though I was overweight, but I made it up myself. Originally, my thoughts were that I would just be a little more careful about my eating choices and try to throw a little more exercise into my day. Yet, taking care of two children, working a full time job, going to school and running a house by myself had me too busy to implement anything else into my schedule. So instead of watching what I was eating, I ate a meal for two, on the very first day that I was going to begin “getting fit”. I had felt so guilty after polishing my plate that out of anger, I forced myself to vomit, which wasn’t an easy task, trust me. However, at that moment, I sat on my bathroom floor, thinking about what I had just done and how I had gone from absolutely button-popping full to just right. I was almost kind of in awe of the process, but had no intentions on repeating that same behavior.
Unfortunately, I would find myself “guilt eating” again the next day and thought to myself “well, it worked yesterday”, so back to the bathroom I went. By now, I was starting to catch on to this new little revelation of mine. Wow, so you mean to tell me it’s possible to eat however you want and as much as you want and yet don’t have to suffer the consequences? What a concept. Now I was almost excited about it, in some ways, I saw this as my “new diet”; eat what you want and then just toss it. Yeah, me and my bright ideas and warped ways of thinking. Next thing I know, I am a good week into this new lifestyle and I actually start losing a couple of pounds. This is where I need to deter the convo for a moment because I found medical websites to contradict this theory. Most of all the information I had gathered through reputable sources describe bulimia as having the effect of maintaining weight but not losing weight. Sure, maybe that is or has been true in some cases but not it mine. I was all of maybe 127 pounds and 5’6” when my bulimia started. I ended up flirting with being less than 110 pounds over the next five years and never went above 119. I was throwing up all of the calories that I was putting in my mouth. How would I not be losing weight?
It was at this point, the first few weeks of my road to hell aka bulimia, which I started to get a little arrogant. People at work started commenting on how I looked and asked if I had been losing weight. Those comments boosted my ego and gave me the courage to share my dirty little secret with my close friends and family members. I actually started to brag that I had found the perfect solution to life’s problems, I could look great and eat what I want and all I had to do was stick my fingers down my throat. My friends and family didn’t share the same feelings about it as I did and they actually attempted to talk me out of doing it all together. I reassured everyone that it was a great idea and I only was going to carry on that way until I lost maybe ten pounds or so. Then you get to a point where it’s like, “Well gee, I wonder how small I could get if I just keep going”? So I did, but I seemed to plateau after a while somewhere between a lose size 3 and a tight size 1. Once I got there, I didn’t want to compromise this new tiny little body I had, so I figured that I had to keep it up. It took me almost a year before I realized that I was stuck in the world of bulimia and wouldn’t even know how to get out.
Shortly after a year of this behavior, I found myself starting to fall apart. I became weaker (bulimics tend to be constantly dehydrated). I would get dizzy and light-headed and all of my levels in my body were depleting and I was slowly, very slowly starting to shut down. So, being ignorant, I just kept going, and figured down the road I would really have to consider seeking help to kick this problem. Next thing you know, my body started falling apart on the outside. This was about as counterproductive as it could’ve gotten. If my bulimia started as an attempt to be perfect than developing other physical issues wasn’t going to do anything for my already super low self-esteem and warped body image. My body was throwing all kinds of defense mechanisms at me. My body temperature regulation had crapped the bed early into the bulimia and I would freeze in the winter and be cold in the summer).
Now, I’m spending hours in front of the mirror inspecting my appearance and stressing. It was at this point that I became increasing overwhelmed and sought medical help. I would spend the next 4 years chasing doctors, getting referrals, going to specialists, and always to be turned away, and never a specialist for my specific issues but the specialists that were “close enough” I live in a rural part of New York and there is no specializing in eating disorders around here. So I never once, in four years had anyone actually help me with anything. So I have taken matters into my own hands and bought and concocted and tried everything, some of which caused more damage. On top of all that, I started getting to the point where I was having so much acid reflux, that I could be in the middle of talking to someone and I would have to be careful that my reflux didn’t fly out of my mouth and on to them while I spoke. If I eat a banana, it comes up. If I eat a small salad that will come up for 2 hours coffee, meat, even water. There is virtually nothing safe from coming back up. It never goes away.
Help me help you!
I have been there and lived and breathed the horror that comes with bulimia. Despite all of horrible things that I had a prior knowledge about the illness. I suffered in silence because I was ashamed and embarrassed. A lot of people have this misconception that it can just be stopped if it's unwanted and that is so not true. Please, if I can help, stop, save or change one person from having to go through this, my struggle will have been worth something.
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