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Five years later. Recovery; let's do this!

by Ella

Dear all,

I am nineteen and i've just begun my first year at University studying Medical Neuroscience. I have been living with bulimia since I was fourteen, or maybe thirteen. Hmm. My life has very much spiralled out of control over the past couple of months in a way that's scared me. My bulimia had always been what felt like an instinct; a ritual. Natural? (hah!)

6 days ago I vowed to recover. I vowed to rebuild my life and most importantly, rebuild myself. I have never been so consumed in my bulimia as I have been these past few days. My unconscious trips to the bathroom after meals have become conscious battles to lie down and allow the bloating and automatic regurgitation to pass. I'm really struggling to pinpoint how i'm feeling. I feel constantly tired. Although I used to, I felt I had an excuse; I was starving my body of nutrients, of course it's going to tire, but now? I am eating just as I was with few binges, I am feeding and replenishing my body and this is how it reacts? Rubbish! It feels a chore to breathe, let alone socialise, cook and study. I feel somewhat numb. I don't really understand how i'm supposed to feel now or what i'm supposed to do. Lying down thoughtless, I feel nothing yet i'll have a tear or two slipping down my cheeks. I hope this is just a phase otherwise I can see i've severely underestimated my recovery.

I can't remember how my bulimia began. I remember being around the age of 13/14 but quite why? I don't know. Looking back I can see things I could use as a reason. (N.B. thinking back, I might've even been 12/13 when I began.) My immediate life consisted of my mum and I. From the age of around nine she entered a relationship with a real pig of a man. Domestic abuse filled my household for the next four years. Not all of the time, but enough. I remember these memories so vividly. The fear instilled in an eleven year old hearing screams and smashes from down the stairs was so intense. I've never had such adrenaline rushes since the times i'd thrown myself out of bed, flown to the kitchen and screamed my tiny lungs out begging them to stop. My mum wouldn't leave. She couldn't leave. Did my bulimia originate from my lack of control and the temporary destruction of my mother? Around the same time I had my first boyfriend. He was older. I was thirteen and he sixteen. I knew at the time he cared for my personality. I had always been very clever at school, shy yet witty outside, funny and involved when I became closer to new people. I didn't want a sexual relationship at such a young age. Nonetheless, perhaps I wanted to be as pretty and as capable of having one as his older friends. Maybe that was the trigger. I was never "thin". I developed early on with a D cup size bra by the time I was twelve! I liked sweet foods. I didn't like exercise. I remember lying about eating habits, working out BMI's in science at age fifteen and lying, saying that I was "normal" because I was ashamed to be "overweight" .. what a stigma!

Although I cannot remember the origin of my bulimia I know exactly what my triggers were and still are.

Expectation. There was none. Yet, there always was! My mum had always told me; "grow up to become a decent, happy human being and i've fulfilled my job" ie. don't become an axe murder and she's done alright. I always had to be the best in school (without the ego!). I would study for hours for tests and exams; attend revision sessions every spare hour I had and when i'd become overwhelmed, mentally exhausted or stressed I would binge on sweet foods and therefore purge. It happened a lot through my GCSE years, but it paid off. I achieved the best results in my schools history. Must've done something right? Through sixth form I felt myself slipping. I struggled more, finding it harder to keep up yet harder to ask for help. Still determined to succeed these are the years my bulimia really took off. Once again, back to lack of control?

Other sufferers. Again, during my sixth form years. I knew two sufferers of anorexia/bulimia in my first year. I wanted to help them as I couldn't help myself. They'd both speak to me on a regular basis about their habits. Their habits that worked. They dropped weight dramatically; dangerously; and as sick as it is, I felt awful so my bulimia once again escalated. I can definitely say trying to be an extra shoulder to cry on exacerbated my emotions thus my condition.

Teenage life. Falling outs; boys; relationships; alcohol. Blah, whatever else!

For me, I feel absolutely freakin' ridiculous describing all of this. How could I ever be so naive and stupid? I grew up and matured from a VERY young age. I shouldn't have felt these childish emotions. But I did. And that's something for me to face.

This takes me up to August 2012. I got my A Level results. A*AB. Shit. I'd messed up and missed my offer to study Medicine and Kings College London. The world could've ended there and then (at the time). My life was over, two years of weakness and failure had accumulated now I was stuffed with no university place for a year. Alright, massive over reaction, but at the time, that was totally how I felt. My younger step brother fell ill with Cancer around the same time, continuously fuelling my bulimia. Until April 2013 it was all pretty unconscious again. I'd always manage to keep breakfast down yet purge after lunch and dinner.

15th of April 2013, age eighteen I set off to Asia for 4 months on my first travel experience. For the most part I was free of bulimia, perhaps 3 times a week as opposed to 15. I was confident. I made so many new friends, experienced so many different cultures and tried out so many new foods, activities, etc! The biggest confidence boost was everybody thought this little eighteen year old was around 23/24. I was mature, approachable, outgoing. The whole experience opened my eyes to the world and to life. There was so much more than educational success, so many people were so happy in their own little pockets of the world. I would give a lot to go back, alternatively, just go anywhere. The biggest "down moment" of my trip was the sexual assault I suffered. It affected me pretty badly, having more of a delayed affect rather than immediate. No matter how many people tell me I wasn't to blame, I cannot see any other explanation. The guilt, shame and feeling of utter filth and disgust has been a big factor over the past few months as to why i'd end up b/p. Anyway, off topic!

When I arrived home from travelling I felt severely depressed. I had no worth, no confidence, everybody was judging me, I had no purpose to my life, I hated it and strongly disliked everyone around me complacent in their dull ways. Bored and lonely I began to fill my days with b/p cycles. Not so extreme, but around 4/5 times a day. For the first time I developed a real anxiety of the people around me. I thought I might be discovered so went to the extremes of throwing up in the sink whilst running a bath, throwing up in the bin in my bedroom. I was so isolated. My bulimia began to physically hurt me more noticeably. I would sometimes feel an irregular heart rate, I couldn't walk upstairs without becoming out of breathe, I had a sore throat a lot of the time. I no longer needed to use my hands to purge, I couldn't keep water down in one go; it would constantly bring itself back in to my mouth mixed with bile. The difference here was that I didn't want to make myself be sick. I cry walking to the bathroom because my destruction was becoming apparent both physically and psychologically.

I am part of St John Ambulance. I was on a course a couple of weeks ago and I just broke down in to floods of tears in a treatment scenario. Something I know like the back of my hand I did not have the confidence to carry through. This, accompanied with my new start at University, is what has initiated my decision in to recovery. I could cope with the physical bulimia but I cannot and will not cope with the psychological affects of the condition.

Recovery is hurting already. Like I said in my first paragraph; I feel horrendous; bloated, sick, sore, swollen throat. But if I let this continue how much worse will I allow myself to get? Despite my feeble previous attempts this time I will succeed. I will smile again and be confident. I will succeed in my studies and I will continue to travel the world. I can do this and I believe everybody can and should recover.

Thanks for the inspiration Shaye, and thanks for anybody that took the time to read this waffling essay!

With love, xo

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

The Bulimia Recovery Program