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Teenage bulimia has the potential to ruin lives...It has the potential to make your teenager fade away... Physically and in spirit...
Day by day and year by year, bulimia consumes you in darkness... Until you feel as though it owns you... and has power over you.
To watch a loved one suffer from bulimia can be devastating. Especially if you're a parent. You might hope that with enough love and encouragement... they'll snap out of it...
Unfortunately, most of the time... Teenage bulimia isn't that simple.
I'm going to give you the advice that I wish my parents had been given.
I started dabbling in bulimia when I was 10... But, It was during my teenage years when I started dieting very restrictively that the illness grabbed me in it's full force.
In my early teens my family immigrated. It was traumatic... I was in a new country and knew nobody. I was alone and scared.
To try and make myself popular at school and to excel in sports, I started depriving myself of food to lose weight.
I began restricting my food intake to 400 calories a day. Sometimes I would slip up and eat far more than I was allowed. The restriction of the diets I put myself on resulted in binge eating. When I cheated, I'd feel so revolting that I'd force myself to vomit.
Over the years, I more or less stopped trying to restrict my food. Food made me feel better... So I would eat and eat and eat... Then I would throw it all up.
I ate for any reason... To forget, to numb, to commiserate, to celebrate... I ate just so that I was doing something. The lack of control was horrendous. I felt like a drug addict - only bingeing and purging was my drug.
The bulimia continued for 10 long years... I felt close to death. My heartbeat was irregular and I'd get incredible chest pains and dizzy spells...
By the age of 20, I knew bulimia recovery was now or never. I made the call to a counsellor and began my recovery journey.
I wish my parents had known that I was bulimic... My mom had a hunch and even sent me to a therapist... But, bulimia had taught me to lie so well and I convinced the therapist I was fine. My mom dropped it and my bulimia continued for another 5 years before I sought help on my own.
I wish my mom had caught me in the act... had proved beyond a doubt that I was bulimic. That way she would have got me into therapy and made me continue until I was fully recovered.
I wish somebody had been there to give my parents this advice:
Do whatever it takes to prove your teenager is bulimic. This could be the difference between life or death. Put your ear against the toilet door to listen for vomiting. Secretly turn off the flush on the toilet and see if there is panic...
At the time, I would have freaked if my parents had done this... But in hindsight I would have thanked them.
They will react by either becoming angry and denying it... Or, they'll be so relieved that it's finally out in the open.
Prepare for anything... but most importantly, don't lose your temper. Keep your cool. You're dealing with a fragile person who needs love and understanding.
Whatever happens - don't let them convince you that they have it under control!
I would suggest somebody who practices cognitive behavioral therapy. Don't allow your teenager to stop going to treatments on their call. They need to persevere with therapy to kick bulimia once and for all. One or 2 sessions is definitely not enough. A good year of therapy may be required.
Throughout all this - remind them over and over again that you love them. Tell them you think they're great and that they deserve to live a life of freedom. Do what you can to ease teh shame and fear that they're feeling.
Knowledge on how to act as a parent is essential for your teenagers bulimia recovery.
Read all the books you can find about teenage bulimia...
I recently purchased Karen Phillips book "Mom, Please Help - Anorexia and Bulimia Positive Energy treatment"... I couldn't put it down. The techniques she teaches to beat bulimia are easy for parents to learn and practice with their children.
I truly believe that educating yourself on bulimia and becoming active in your childs recovery are 2 most important factors in beating teenage bulimia.
I wish you all the best and pray for the health and happiness of your family and in particular, your teenager with bulimia.
Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community