This is ME!

In recovery, it’s so important to recognise who you are! Rather than being led by my eating disorder. In my years of recovery, I’ve realised I don’t need to run around filling my day with disorder rituals and looking after everyone else.

I deserve to look after me and it’s taken me five years to discover myself.

For a lot of the time, it did not feel like me. I felt like I had lost my identity trying to get rid of every part of my Eating Disorder before I could move on, which is hard when you have had it for years.

I started to build my life around it so there is so much more of me now.

Here are my top six things I have realised:

  • I am enough
  • I am grateful for being able to do small things, like eat with my family
  • I am not a robot - some things can always wait
  • I don’t need to act on all my thoughts. I can pop them on a cloud and let them drift away
  • Recovery gives you the freedom to do you. I have found my love for dance and walking and going back to college
  • Never give up it. Take it minute by minute and be kind to yourself

I never thought in a million years I would be here but recovery is possible.

Looking back at my childhood I can now see I had some issues with food - I remember when walking to school, dreading it. I was picked on and didn’t have many friends but then I started to take out my chocolate and biscuits I managed to sneak out the house and as I ate these it made me feel better. Food was a major comfort - I always felt better, but then afterwards I felt guilty as I was desperate to be slim. I thought if I was slim I would be happy and popular. I tried to diet but I couldn’t stick to it - I felt like a failure. My dad suggested I went to his health club, so at the age of 12 (pretending to be 16), I started to do aerobics and dance classes, I loved it and decided this would be my job when I was older. I couldn’t wait to leave school and when I did I went to dance college but I still always felt not as slim or as good as the other girls. I got into a cycle of comfort eating to make me feel better, then feeling guilty and doing excessive exercise.

At the age of 21 I had my daughter Natalie. My focus went to her - she was my everything and I spent very little time concentrating on myself but, after a failed relationship and some hurtful comments about my weight, I wanted to do something about it. For the first month I was eating healthy meals, then I had a bad day. One biscuit led to another, but I thought: ‘not this time, I’m not going to fail this time’.  That was the first time I purged – ‘just the once’, I thought as my head was spinning, ‘I’ll go back to being healthy tomorrow’.

Unfortunately, this was a start of my 15 year struggle which sometimes left me in the depths of despair with bulimia. For the first year I didn’t really care, I was losing weight and I kept telling myself I could stop at any time. I was getting lots of compliments, my weight had dropped considerably in 6 months, but after becoming really ill with laxative abuse and slimming pills I realised I needed help.

So I decided I wanted to stop! I tried myself but with no joy. I always thought when I decided to stop it would happen. I thought I was in control, but the voice inside me wouldn’t allow it to happen. ‘No worries, I’ll get help from the doctors’ I thought.  I was very good at having an eating disorder, I kept it secret - only a few people knew. I didn’t look like I was ill; I was always looking glam and smiling but on the inside I was self-destructing. I remember thinking if I could change the clock back and be happy with who I was, I would do it!

Being slim for me was hell. The cycle of my life was gruelling, running sometimes 20 miles a day, restricting food or drink, going to the gym then, on a good week, only being ill only 4-5 times. On a bad day, it could be 10 times a day. It was draining, exhausting, and relentless. But somehow, I was managing to juggle this life. I was managing to keep a home, be a good mum and work. I was like two people in one. I wondered: ‘how could nobody know!’ Part of me wanted to get caught at work or at home so I could stop leading this double life.

I had side effects: lack of sleep; anxiety; paranoia; and panic attacks. I lost all my back teeth, I had chronic stomach problems and Iow blood pressure which led to fainting episodes. I was a slave to bulimia and exercise but, for me, what affected me most was my mind. I had become very depressed. I was advised after years of counselling and group therapy that, if I wanted to get better, an inhouse programme of 12 weeks was the key and if I got any worse it wouldn’t be an option it would be forced. I knew I was ill but not this ill!!!!!!

My family begged me to go and I went to look around. I was horrified! I was worried if I went through this and still didn’t beat it, what then? Work would have to know, it would be on my records and my daughter would have had to live with her dad, so I stopped for a few weeks to get a bit stronger.

Looking back, It was a battle between bulimia and me. My family kept me going but it was exhausting. It was a tug of war. I was like two people; one wanting to be normal but the other person totally reliant on this illness. Looking back it makes me so sad that I really punished myself like this.

Years later I met a person who helped me so much in my journey. He really understood me. He wanted children but after some time I found out I wasn’t fertile. Specialists suggested I put on some weight and stopped excessively exercising and this gave me the motivation I needed. This was my chance to change my life. Within 6 months I was pregnant and I looked after myself as I was carrying my son. Finally, I had done it! We decided to get married and stupidly I brought a dress two sizes too small. I had just had a baby and was going to lose some weight the healthy way. Unfortunately, I wasn’t strong enough to do it and my bulimia started again - even on my wedding day I wouldn’t let myself off the punishing regime.

This time relapsing hit me hard. My son and husband were asleep and I was purging into bin bags. I felt I couldn’t put my family through this again and I decided - no more secrets! I told everybody I knew. I did a parachute jump for charity and left the bulimia in the sky. That was four years ago and I have been in recovery ever since. I have had the odd single incident but for over two years I have not done bulimia. I never thought that day would come as I was so addicted to it. I’m learning to like myself again, and when problems happen, I find ways of coping rather than numbing the pain.

It’s hard to relapse and be knocked down so many times but I truly believe there is a life after an eating disorder. I found empowerment in simple things; when I managed to sit down with my family and eat a meal with no thoughts of bulimia that was my milestone.  The road to recovery isn’t easy; relapsing is hard but it made me stronger. In the long run I’ve learnt ways of coping and accepting myself and, most importantly, moving on. I get bad days but my motivation to stay safe and be healthy is far more important to me.

I really think early intervention is the key. Looking back from an early age I had some really distorted thoughts about food but had no one to talk to or believe that I had a problem. I was down at home and school and food became my comfort.


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