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ADHD-Driven Bulimia

by Chelsea

I used to live in the pool. My friends and I were always in a bathing suit and I can't remember a time when I wasn't comparing myself to them. I wanted to be skinnier than everyone else, even though I was always one of the tallest in my age group.

When I turned ten, I started worrying about gaining weight when I got older, so my solution was to begin dieting before I had a problem like my mom and aunts did. I began counting calories and watching my portion sizes, stuff like that.

Around that time I started attending church with my friends. For some reason, it became important to me to have self-control so I could make sure I wouldn't sin. This quickly spiraled into self-injury whenever I felt like I had "sinned" in some way. I hated puberty, hated my body, hated my scars and scratches, and I was very depressed.

I decided to pray for God to make me happy, fasted for seventeen hours a day, and slept on the floor until God answered my prayer to heal my depression. After about five or six months of this my depression lifted and I was overjoyed for about two weeks.

I stopped hurting myself, but I couldn't let go of my habit of skipping breakfast and lunch. Since my parents worked all the time I always had the house to myself after school and binged as soon as I got home. I was thirteen years old and right at my ideal body weight, but I panicked once I noticed I was binging after school and something clicked: I could eat and un-eat, and still have my self-control.

I cried after the first time I purged. I knew it would lead to bulimia, but I didn't care. At first I purged when I was alone after school a few times a week. After a few months it turned into every day. I stopped binge eating and stuck with purging and restricting. I had to purge in containers and hide them in my room until I was alone and could dump them down the toilet.

My room stank to high heaven; I quickly acquired more vomit than I wanted to flush into our septic tank, so every few weeks or so I had to skip school to clean my room out while my parents were working. But the bulimia was taking so much energy out of me; I would often have to skip another day of school to regain my strength after cleaning the puke out of my room.

I stopped hanging out with my friends, I stopped going to lunch at school, and spent much of my time outside school napping or puking. I don't remember much about high school at all. I had the most amazing boyfriend senior year and I broke his heart after graduation because I cared more about having my disorder than having his love.

I went 700miles away from home to a christian college hoping to find recovery there. I opened up to my roommates for the first time about my eating disorder. Soon my entire floor knew about my disorder and all the girls surrounded me in support.

I didn't eat for the first month of my second semester until my roommates noticed and forced me to eat. I failed all my classes that semester but I didn't care- I came home weighing X pounds and was proud of it. (In high school I had joined a pro-ed website)

Everything hurt; my bones pinched, I bruised easily, I my stomach ached constantly, my hair was falling out, and I was cold all the time; all I wanted to do was sleep. On several occasions I "woke up" in places I never remembered falling asleep: the student lounge, my bathtub, next to my desk chair, on the floor of a public bathroom... (Once I got a little better I realized I been passing out.) My hands were purple and my body was growing fine hair over my face, back, and ribs.

I found myself wandering around in 24hr supermarkets late at night just looking at the aisles of food. I dreamed about food. I read recipes religiously but rarely ate anything I cooked. I firmly believed all food was plastic except bananas. I ate bananas like they were going extinct.

My teeth started rotting out. My dentist refused to fill my tooth one day because I showed up for my appointment very hypoglycemic. I denied being anorexic and made a note in my chart for legal purposes, then sent me home to eat before he would fill my tooth. I thought everyone I passed by was staring at me because I was fat.

After about seven months of all this, I was taken to a hospital by my resident director after my roommate witnessed me with an electrolyte imbalance the night before. I was told I had to recover that day or leave school and find an inpatient program because I was close to dying. I promised I would recover.

My RD took me out to dinner after my hospital visit and bought me the best meal I think I've ever eaten in my life! My friends really supported me and my RD talked with me a ton while I recovered from anorexia.

In just a few months I gained X pounds, started seeing a therapist, and began running to regain muscle. My periods came back after two and a half years of not having it. I went through PTSD once issues started coming out and I was dealing with them instead of starving them away.

I took photos of myself so I could see how I really looked, because I couldn't see it in the mirror. It was really horrifying to see all my bones sticking out!

I managed to confront and get rid of all my negative thoughts, build up some self-esteem, find a new zest for life, stop trying to lose weight, and I learned to love my body- I even started dating again. But I couldn't stop the bulimia, to my utter dismay.

My boyfriend at the time was the only person who knew how bad I was. I had to lie about it or face being expelled from college. My boyfriend stayed with me for a summer at my parents' house; he often snooped around and threw away my purge containers while I was out on a run or in the shower. He denied doing it and never mentioned it to me, which infuriated me. I broke things off with him as soon as fall semester started and my bulimia spiraled downward again.

Despite this, I ran cross country and encouraged many girls on my campus who were going through recovery for their own eating disorders. I secretly spent much of my time alone in my room binging and purging and spent all the money I made working on binge food; I hated it. I told everyone I "recovered" so much that I had myself believing it too.

Last summer, my high school boyfriend and I started spending time together again. He'd just gotten back from basic training (army-national guard) and I felt bad about the way things ended after high school so we started talking again. At the end of the summer before I went back to college, I confessed to him that I hadn't ever stopped loving him, and he said he hadn't ever gotten over me either. We started dating again; he really is the best thing that's ever happened to me!

I was diagnosed with adult attention deficit disorder and put on medication about a year ago. Curiously enough, stimulant medication was all I needed to finally kick my binge-purge urges. While medicated I'm not impulsive and consider myself completely free of bulimia. But when my medication wears off at the end of each day, I again find myself caught in binge-purge cycles.

During my fourth fall semester at christian college- I had a huge faith crisis and ultimately rejected christianity. I didn't tell anyone except my boyfriend (he's atheist too). It was a truly lonely semester for me; one semester short of graduating, I transferred to a local university to be closer to my family and my boyfriend. even though it meant extending my graduation date. Letting go of my religion released a lot of weight off my shoulders. I was able to forgive myself of a lot of things and let go of the anger I held against God (because I no longer believe there is a god to be angry with in the first place!)

This past winter I reformed my beliefs and took care of my nana as she died of cancer. It was hard, but I was so glad I was there with her in her last days. My bulimia was out of control. My boyfriend got only three days notice before he had to deploy this past April. Taking him to the airport was one of the hardest things I've had to do. He'll be back next year, and I told him I'll do whatever it takes to get myself better and finish my college degree while he's fighting overseas.

Now on the proper doses of meds and with the support of my boyfriend, I've been able to reduce the number of times I binge and purge a day from about fifteen times a day down to one or two times a day. I'm happy about that, but I'm still trying to reduce that number even more until the day I can say I'm binge-purge free.

Structured eating is a good idea not only for my bulimia, but also for my ADD. So far it's been a challenge to stick to my schedule, but I don't want to give up, every day that goes by it's just a little bit easier to stick with it.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program