After much deliberation, I decided to bite the bullet and share my story on FB to raise awareness for Eating Disorder Awareness Week, beginning February 23rd.
I’m a recovering bulimic.
My disordered eating began at the age of 11 (for those of you counting, it’s 28 years), I’ve had bulimia for 15, and I’ve been in treatment for the last 2 years… and counting.
I hid it well. For 26 years in fact.
Throughout those 28 years, it’s affected every single relationship, job, and my ability to socialize and be confident. I thought I could fix all of the above issues by reducing the number on the scale but no matter how much weight I lost, it was never enough.
Body dysmorphia kicked in at 14. I had danced competitively from a young age and was offered a place at a performing arts school where dance was my major. As class began, I would stand in front of the mirrors disgusted and ashamed of the body I had.
As my teens progressed, my dysfunctional relationship with food manifested itself in OCD and as the disorder evolved, it generated new behaviors.
I developed a fear of eating in front of people which led to skipping meals. Skipping meals became the lesser of two evils providing me with a short lived moment of peace, but while I invested time in restricting, I also had to deal with its extremity, binge eating.
In the homes I’ve lived in over the years, I’d binge eat in secret manipulating the items in the cupboards or fridge to ensure I’d covered my tracks. My body was desperate for nutrients so in between the restriction, whatever would provide it with the quickest energy boost that’s what it would crave, and often, that would be foods high in sugar.
At 25 I began to exercise compulsively. My eating disorder was overjoyed to find the more I exercised the less hungry I became, and restriction became easy. I was able to then justify the amount of food I was eating based on the amount of exercise I had completed. The guilt of what I classed as “overeating” was overwhelming and despite exercising, it was simply never enough.
By 28 I was struggling with my mental health due to the consistent high state of stress, anxiety, unhappiness and body abuse through the cycle of restriction, bingeing and exercise, which continued until my diagnosis.
However, in hindsight, I realize it’s also saved me. It’s protected me and kept me safe when I couldn’t do that for myself; I’ve met many inspiring people who have walked a similar path and possess strength that I cannot begin to fathom, and others who’ve dedicated their lives to making a difference in the lives of those who struggle to manage their own.
I have an incredible team who have taken care of me these last two years. They’ve kept me afloat in my darkest moments and continue to do so as I continue with my recovery. I will forever be in their debt.
And finally, yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but this year I will be dedicating it to myself. My gift will be self-love, compassion, and self-care – oh, and of course, tea!