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Bulimia turned me into a shell of a person

by Recovering
(Honolulu, HI, USA)

My bulimia started with self harm. I remember cutting my leg just so I could feel the pain that was in my heart, soul and mind. My dad had died from cancer and my mom didn't think I was old enough to know the details. She never even told me what kind of cancer he had or that he was dying. He went into a coma and they were going to take him off life support. My mom finally admitted he was dying. I begged for her to take me to the hospital so I could see him one last time. She refused saying the hospital won't let me go because I'm too young. I was 11 years old. I lay on the couch for hours at home alone. My mom finally came home carrying flowers and said to me: "dad is dead". She went to her room after that and I don't remember much else during the years following except that she sent me to camp the next day with my 6th grade class like nothing ever happened. She thought it would be easier to ignore what had just happened in our lives. I was alone, emotionally abandoned, depressed, angry, and so much more. I felt guilty for letting him die. I felt responsible because I was afraid of him when he got sick. The last interaction I had with him was me yelling at him because he was trying to help me with math homework. I think he went into a coma the next day. I hated myself. I thought I deserved to disappear. My dad was my everything. He was my person. I loved him so much it tore me up inside to think that I didn't show him this when he was sick. I couldn't understand how or why he died. It felt like a dream. Like he was simply on a business trip and would one day return.

My pain and loneliness got so bad that I started cutting myself and only could cry because of the physical pain I was causing myself. My emotional pain was so overwhelming that cutting was my only emotional outlet and window into my true feelings. My sister's friend who was staying with us during this time saw the scars and demanded I stop. She told my mom what i was doing, and I felt so guilty and exposed... Like I was a bad kid. My mom and I didn't get along well until I was in college. I had so much resentment towards her in regards to my dad's death. One of the worst memories I have after his death was the funeral we had at our farm in Wisconsin where we planted an oak tree in his memory. My mom called me over and put a ziplock bag of brown/gray powder in my hand. I remember asking her "what is this"? It was my dad's ashes. I didn't even know he'd been cremated. I freaked out and screamed. I ran away and cried on top of the barn. I felt so alone. I hated my mom.

I don't know when because these years were a blur, but I eventually started restricting my food. I'd try to eat nothing or only a nutrigrain bar a day. It made me feel in control when I could succeed in restriction of my food. Eventually this turned into bulimia or a cross between the anorexia and bulimia. My school and my mom sent me to therapy which was a big joke because I wasn't accepting or it and wasn't mature enough or ready to "admit" I had a problem. I guess I didn't understand how big of a problem it would eventually become. I started getting anxiety attacks in high school. These continue to this day. Life just kept getting darker and harder over the years.

My family used to spy on me which made things worse. During high school the bulimia subsided during junior and senior year but returned in college with a vengeance (or so I thought). I became even more depressed and suicidal, was put on medication, sent to therapy and cleared as "normal". I was such a great actress in regards to "totally normal and happy girl". I got good grades, worked out, shopped alot, always had a bf, etc. Bulimia left my life here and there throughout college. After college it went dormant and then returned when I was working my first "real job" then left my life when I became really into health, fitness and working out like mad. I was healthy, fit, happy (or so I thought). I quit my job to do post-bacc pre-medical coursework and excelled in all my courses. I took my mcat and did pretty well. I applied to medical school, got wait listed but was eventually rejected. 3 years of planning, studying, hoping, envisioning my future went down the drain (this is how I felt). I had taken a temp job to make money while I was on the wait list and I hated it. When I didn't get in, I felt as if the life plan I had laid out was destroyed. I had such good intentions for wanting to go to medical school... I should've gotten back up and stood up strong but I was crushed and felt defeated - like I was a huge failure in life.

During this tumultuous time I had also met a guy who was about as emotionally cold as I was. I felt like I could never read him and would put so much into making him happy without much return. Bulimia came back during this time and progressively got worse until it was at the worst point I have ever experienced with this disease. It took over my life. I felt like I was in a circular hell that I could not escape once it became so bad. While bulimia took over my life, I became a workaholic and had no balance in my life. I kept getting promoted and kept being offered more money to stay on with the company I am working with. I worked 12+ hour days and was sleeping 3 hours or less a night. I applied and got into a masters program hoping to balance my life with education ad work (hoping to have less time to think about food) and escape the cycle. Instead, my life just became more busy and I had even less time to attempt to heal my life. I knew something needed to happen so I could escape the hell life bulimia had created.

Something did happen. I suffered hypokalemia after working out, had ascending paralysis, was admitted into the ER and given iv fluids and oral potassium. The ER should have given me iv potassium as my level was 2.2 or 2.8 (can't remember exactly without looking at my labs again) but thy did not. Therefore, as soon as I got home from being discharged from the ER, I was having symptoms of hypokalemia again (this time worse). My bf called the ER and they told him not to bring me back, but i went anyway because i knew it was serious. I was admitted back into the ER and was in so much pain from the muscle cramping and paralysis I remember praying and trying to find something to bite on to take the pain away. It got to the point that i was screaming in pain. No one really seemed to know what was happening to me despite my disclosure of the bulimia the first ER visit (and second). My ECG was abnormal, blood pressure through the roof and eventually my respiratory rate dropped. This is when the ER realized how serious my situation was and started giving me iv potassium, more iv fluids, iv pain meds, etc. I thought I was going to die. I gave into the pain and told my bf I loved him before they put me on oxygen. They coached me through breathing to try to keep from intubating me. I could not feel my face, my chest, my arms or my legs. I could barely speak because my whole face was numb. I was hospitalized for 2 days because I incurred so much muscle damage that my cpk levels were at 1900 (normal is about 70) and the doctors were worried about kidney damage.

There's so much more to tell of my story. I am changing my life, my behavior, my attitude, my work style, my mind, my diet, and my daily behavior. I've opened up to my bf (our relationship has come a long way), am communicating more with my family, trying tips from this website (I.e. Peppermint tea every morning), have seen my primary care physician to discuss openly my health history and re-run my labs to check my kidney status, have had one appointment with a psychologist who specializes in EDs, wake up at 5:20 to do yoga every morning before work... I've invested money in a lot of aromatherapy things, have the "New Optimum Nutrition Bible" by my side for leisure reading when I have time, have been jogging or walking almost everyday, keep a daily food log, have had a few slips but nothing major (doesn't make me feel less crappy when I do slip though..)...

Each day is a struggle, a battle against this disease that almost took my life. I feel alive and happy for the first time in years. Years or suppressing my mental soul and having bulimia rise and fall in my life. This is the start of my journey towards a clearer future. It's been about 3 weeks since I was hospitalized. Although not perfect, I am on the road to recovery. I have so many tips for recovery that I am finding work for me. I'd love to share tips with others out there when I have more time to write more. I need to get back to studying for my class tomorrow.. Especially since I need to wake up in 4.5 hours or so to do yoga and go to work...

I can be an overachiever without bulimia. I can have a healthy control of my life without this disease. I do have faith in this despite how lousy I feel during certain times on certain days. I can learn to listen to my body again. I have a huge fear of gaining weight but I know I can become healthy and fit again without bulimia. Bulimia turned me into a shell of who I really am. Bulimia took the life out of my eyes and clouded my brain. Bulimia made me selfish, wasteful, shame-filled, a liar, controlling and cruel to myself. Bulimia made my life feel as if it were not worth living if my life were to continue on revolving around binging and purging. One day at a time. It's good to be alive. I do not want to die at 28 from bulimia. I've always feared death. It amazes me how close I came. I am lucky. I will survive because I have the willpower to.

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

The Bulimia Recovery Program