the big moment of realisation... oh crap, i am actually not okay.
We had been looking forward to going to this party all month, a day time event where all our friends and half of cape town would be enjoying the sunshine. music and friends and fun outdoors with my love, what a perfect day.
But not today, not for me.
All my clothes were on the floor, everything looked disgusting on me, my reflection made me anxious.
The more I threw my clothes around the room in search of something to hide my hideous self with, the more desperate I felt.
My girlfriend started noticing that I was acting a bit crazy. She kept telling me to just put whatever on and "let's go". I was walking around in circles, suddenly I became completely overwhelmed. she came up to me when she realised there was something very wrong, "what's wrong baby?", and I just collapsed into her arms, weeping, exhausted and ashamed of my irrational behaviour.
I have felt this feeling so many times before. There is nothing wrong with my body, in fact I am beautiful. So why did every cell in my body feel like it was rejecting itself?
She was so gentle with me, so nurturing, and suddenly... I said...
"well, I feel so bad and weird because... yesterday... I threw up... because I felt so disgusted by what I'd eaten..."
She remained gentle, "my love, that's sort of like bulimia. no, not sort of, that is bulimia."
I quickly jumped to my defence "no it's not bulimia, I don't have a sickness, it's not like I am an actual bulimic, I just sometimes feel really fucked up about what I've eaten so I throw up."
It hit me. I had NEVER ever considered the fact that I was bulimic. I was 26 years old, I had been binge eating, vomiting, starving myself, and then destroying myself with cruel guilt and shame for over a decade, and not once did it occur to me that I was bulimic. In fact I thought bulimia wasn't even a disorder, it was just what weak, pathetic people without will power "do". and I was disgusted by it.
She was amazing, she loved the shame and guilt away and allowed me to be held, for the first time, relief... I wasn't alone, for the first time since my early teens.
She was extremely health concious, and when we started dating I cut out all crap from my diet, she didn't know that I actually love chocolate, I just acted like I was on the same mission as she was. always commenting on how unhealthy other people were. After a month or two I lost a lot of weight and everyone noticed (I was always curvy, around Xkg), I got a lot of positive attention. but suddenly I was missing chocolate and treats, I had been denying myself, which was fine when you've just started a relationship, and love is taking away your appetite... so I started sneaking chocolate at work. I worked at a restaurant. I would get brownie off cuts from the kitchen, empty mixing bowls from the cheese cake, a chip here, a slice of bread there... it became something I had to hide, so when I got the chance to eat I would guzzle my food/sweets while no one was looking. everyone was so proud of me for losing weight, I felt pressured to stay this way... so eating happened in a panic.
Before I knew it I was obsessed with eating, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Literally from the moment I opened my eyes I was thinking about what to eat, how to eat it, how to hide it....
When I get like this, my skin reacts very badly. I get cold sores from the stress, all the sugar gives me eczema, and the junk food gives me pimples, so I pick at my skin until I bleed, which makes my reflection unbearable. Which is the start of a terrible downwards spiral. "omg look at you, look at what you've done to your skin, you have disgusting skin, and look at your eyelashes, so short (sounds silly..), and your teeth are so ugly, I wish I just had nice teeth, no one else has such awful teeth at this age. You need to stop eating so much crap for gods sake. that's it, tomorrow, no food. hot water and lemon, maybe a juice. that's it!!"
And within minutes I was opening all the cupboards and the fridge, eating anything I could find. this could go on for ages. hours would pass, and eventually I'd feel so sick that I would have to throw up. I couldn't handle the thought of all that food in my body. usually I wouldn't get it all up. by the end, I'd meet my blood shot eyes in the mirror. I'd feel like such a loser. Brush my teeth, wash my face, and head out back into the world of denial, like it never happened.
The thing that changed everything, was telling one person about it. She said that I don't have to stop throwing up, but when I did, I needed to tell her. she made me promise. and she promised to never judge me.
Also, the fact that she now knew what was actually going on allowed her the opportunity to help by not making comments about what I eat, buying me chocolates sometimes, telling me I look gorgeous, that she loves my body.... that she loves everything about me... she would make really nice healthy food for us, without making a fuss, and then we'd have a little treat after... she never made me feel weird about food.
Suddenly, the vomiting practically stopped. I would feel the spiral coming, I would tell her, and it would often dissolve... just by talking about it. and when I did do it, I kept my promise and told her, and she would shower me with love. I didn't realise how much love I needed. Every time I was held and allowed to be all the weaknesses I felt I was, without being judged, I healed a tiny speck of myself...
Things were mostly under control for about a year and a half...
Then we moved to London. Again I lost a ton of weight quickly, cos I was happy and excited and didn't eat much, I was walking around, and I noticed I was getting thinner. I saw how people reacted. I liked it. Then my girlfriend, now my wife, and I broke up. I hurt her BADLY.
Suddenly she was out of my life. Besides all the obvious heart break that I was dealing with which would usually be enough to send me straight into bulimia central, I no longer had my life line, my entire support network was gone. I was in a new country, working as a carer. so I spent most of my time in isolation.... without having my healthy meals prepared for me, and not loving myself enough to make the effort to feed myself properly, I turned to comfort food. a lot of it. I became obsessed with food again. I wasn't vomiting often, it only happened when I was hitting serious lows.
It was happening all over again, I didn't want to go out in public, I looked horrible and oversized in everything, I was so ashamed. "I'm so pathetic I can't even control what I eat for ONE DAY!!! I HATE MYSELF! TOMORROW NO FOOD!"
An old familiar tune...
I realised I needed support. I told a friend back in south Africa. She was a great help. Except for the times where she would let things like "just stop throwing up!" slip out.
I needed something else. I needed someone who understood... (I still do) someone who could check in on me all day. someone I could contact the moment I started to spin... I needed a release. I started a blog recently. I told another person, and another. That's 4. The journey I'm on in forcing me to be my own "arms". I often have to hold myself and say "hey, it's okay, you're trying, and you are amazing". Every step I take is a small victory, every time I tell someone, every site I find... little steps towards recovery = effort = an active choice to help myself = show of love from me to me. which is so lovely...
I want to be there for others. I felt so alone for soooo long.
Talking helps. This is the first time I've shared this part of my story. and it feels good, for now, at least there are a few moments of feeling empowered.
My bulimia is my inner turmoil manifested. a mirror. the reflection of my fears. this is my thing... I will learn to love myself.
I'm grateful for this platform.
thank you <3