Even writing the title of this post feels surreal. It’s like I don’t even know what to say, like I don’t know how it happened, like I’m not sure how I managed to finally pull my head out of the toilet and start seeing food for what it really is: FUEL, ENERGY.
I still have atypical anorexia, my relationship with food is not normal or healthy, but everything bulimic is gone and that is… a huge achievement. One I never thought I’d accomplish. It’s been 11.5 years since the first time I made myself sick. I was eleven years old, almost twelve. Basically just a kid who had no idea of what she was doing or how such a seemingly simple thing would impact the rest of her life. My life.
This is my story.
Bulimia fucking ruined me. It ruined everything I was, it took away everything I had, it broke up my relationship with my mother, my boyfriend, I flushed my economy down the drain, my studies, my health, my friendships, my dreams, my hopes, bulimia turned me into a monster. An emotional bitch who’d erupt with rage and anger if I didn’t get my highs. My highs being; my food, my vomit. If I didn’t get that, I was unable to function. Food was my drug. Food was everything I needed and I abused it. Bulimia changed who I used to be into something I no longer am. I’m not who I used to be before bulimia and I’m not who I used to be when I was bulimic.
My eating disorder started with purging, but it was always gross and hard to do it. Starving myself always seemed easier so that’s what I did most from 2002-2008. I did have a few quite bulimic months in 2007 and I thought it was bad at the time, but I had no idea of how bad it would eventually get a few years later. A friend taught me “the magic” of vomiting “handsfree”. That is; bending over the toilet and vomiting without using your hands, a toothbrush or anything else to provoke the gag reflex.
I remember the day I went to the supermarket in 2008 and my only intention was to buy binge food, my only intention was to overeat and vomit. The day my bulimia went from being something impulsive to something I wanted, something I thought I needed. Something that made me feel good, something that made me feel better, at least for a little while. March 29th.
Through my early years of anorexia my weight remained more or less the same. My eating disorder wasn’t obvious because I never lost all those pounds, I was just the girl who “didn’t eat a lot”. A “picky eater”. When I was hospitalized for a couple of months in 2007 after a suicide attempt, they didn’t think my eating disorder was as severe as I described because my weight didn’t match my story, but they realized they were wrong after observing my behavior for a couple of days.
In 2008 when I started throwing up the way I did, my weight “finally” dropped. Rapidly. My weight kept dropping until I was hospitalized at the same unit for adolescents where they specialized at treating eating disorders. I was tired. I wanted to get better. I wanted to quit, honestly. I gained the pounds I’d lost before I was hospitalized but I turned eighteen while I was there and when I came to the toughest part of recovery; accepting my weight restored body, I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t stand it and I became severely depressed again. Suicidal. I wanted to discharge myself, but after overdosing while I was on leave, they sent me to a general ward for adults where all they did was make sure I didn’t die.
Within two intense weeks, I dropped weight until I was four pounds over my at the time lowest weight ever before I was medicated for other issues (they suspected I might be developing schizophrenia, they were wrong) and the medication made me gain back the pounds I lost until I was back at my “normal” weight. During this period my self harm was severe and as soon as I decided to fight self harm, I turned to bulimia to cope with my emotions and my weight started dropping once again.
I was referred to another unit for adults with eating disorder but they didn’t want to treat me because they meant my self harm was too much for them to handle – even though I was working very hard to stop.
This is when I met a girl whom I am no longer friends with – who also had bulimia. We’d binge and purge together, it was our secret. We became inseparable, us against the world. Someone to share it with. Partners in crime. Someone who understood. Someone to share the guilt and shame with. We tried quitting together and we failed together, again and again.
Bulimia is an addiction. We got “high” together. I’m not going to lie, it was fun. Enjoyable, thrilling, exhilarating – even if it hurt. Even if it was wrong, even if it was self destructive.
My weight kept dropping and I got to the point where I had a new lowest weight almost everyday. I was thinner than I’d ever been before, wasting away, day by day. I couldn’t stop weighing myself and I couldn’t stop eating. I stole food from my family and the unit where I was inpatient. I couldn’t keep food in my apartment without bingeing and purging, nothing. If my fridge wasn’t completely empty, my compulsion drove me to empty it again and again – no matter how many hours I’d eat in a row. I could pull all-nighters. I could go on for more than twelve hours, I’d throw up until I passed out from exhaustion, I’d throw up until my heart raced and my hands shook. I’d throw up until the world was spinning, I’d throw up until there was blood.
Eventually it scared me, eventually I realized it couldn’t go on, eventually I realized that I was in fact; dying. I’d lie awake in bed at night with the same thought every night; “will I wake up tomorrow? Oh what a relief it would be if this was it”, but it never was. I’d count the hours without purging, I made schedules, I scribbled down hour after hour but yet I wasn’t able to go a day without bingeing and purging. My body was so used to being treated the way I abused it – I got physically sick if I didn’t binge and purge. It was agonizing. Unbearable. Dark. Lonely. Painful. It was hopeless.
And then, in March 2010 I was admitted and got a feeding tube. I gained about ten pounds within a week because I was so dehydrated and it terrified me, but yet I wanted to get better. The unit for adults with eating disorders was ready to take me on as a patient, but I refused – firmly believing I could go home and recover on my own terms. Unfortunately, I’d caused my body a lot of damage and I had my first epileptic seizure the day I pulled the feeding tube out. A week later I was diagnosed with gastric hemorrhage and about a month after that, I was diagnosed with unspecified epilepsy.
Still, I was determined to beat this shit. After staring death in the eye, I wanted to live more than ever. It terrified me that I, at the age of only nineteen, was at risk of dying without even having lived!
After gaining 42lbs within three months, I was heavier than ever with a healthy BMI of almost 21. I couldn’t stand it and I thought I’d never stop gaining weight. I gave up and went back to bingeing and purging. I went back to school for the first time in years and for a while I did good. I still had my best friend, the bulimic friend. We still binged and purged together, like we had. I was satisfied. I got good grades and I was losing weight. I was constantly broke but that was sort of ok. I could accept that.
In January I was betrayed by the only family member I felt close with at the time and trusted. My world was crumbling and it became hard to go to school. Bingeing and purging was my escape and it was so much easier to disappear into a world of my own. My bulimic friend had got a boyfriend now and she went inpatient to get better. I was alone. Completely alone. I lived on my own and the only thing I did was binge and purge. That’s what I had left. The only constant factor in my life. The only thing that remained by my side through everything else, the only thing I could control – even though that was just something I told myself to protect my sanity, or what little I had left of it.
In april 2011 I had another public epileptic seizure and it’s one of the most horrifying experiences I’ve ever had. Waking up in the midst of a chaotic situation I’d created without intending to do so, with people staring and surrounded by paramedics – my life hasn’t been the same ever since. As a direct consequence of this incident – I developed agoraphobia and became scared of going out in public, even if I was with someone I trusted. My neurologist believes my seizures were mainly triggered by the extreme drops in blood sugar after purging and I became scared of throwing up because I was scared of having public seizures.
This is where my real battle with bulimia began. April 2011. In a way it was my point of no return. Realizing my body could no longer handle it, for real. I was failing the last term in school because I was unable to show up because of agoraphobia. I BEGGED for help but I didn’t get any. Or I did, for a few weeks, until a psychologist whom I absolutely despise – sat me down and told me it wasn’t good for me to be inpatient. I was supposed to “live” on the outside of a psychiatric hospital and even if I told her I didn’t want to be inpatient, even though I explained in detail how bad my bulimia was, how much I wanted to relapse and start harming myself again – she stood her ground and I discharged myself the same day because everything was lost. I had nothing left when I declined another offer to go inpatient at a residential unit that treats adults with eating disorders. I believed I was too heavy to deserve treatment.
I had agoraphobia and bulimia – but this is where my bulimic symptoms changed. If I purged everything I ate, I would have epileptic seizures and it would make agoraphobia worse, so I kept some food down. It prevented me from losing weight so my weight remained the same.
But I tried to quit purging. I kept trying and I also kept failing. Not as often as before, I was able to go a few days without doing it, but every time I felt low – I needed it. Eventually I managed to go a week, two, a month.
2012 became the worst year of my life. I was miserable. Completely isolated because of agoraphobia and I wasn’t even as thin as I preferred to be, and even worse – I was unable to lose weight. I spent about 97 percent of the year alone. I rarely had good days where I was able to go out with friends. I spent about 85 percent of that year on my own. Alone. The best things that happened that year was a weekend where I felt free and went on adventures with a friend, and when I got my second dog – Nick.
I did accomplish almost four months without bingeing and purging before I had a two month long relapse at the beginning of 2013. In 2013 I finally got the help I needed and learned what I needed to do to beat agoraphobia. I was finally making progress. And I moved. I left the city where I’d lived for about eleven years and I moved somewhere else, to another part of the country, far away from everything I knew, everything that was familiar.
But in May, bulimia got worse. I know my family knew even if I tried to hide it. In july I spent a month on my own and agoraphobia got worse because I wasn’t in treatment for a few months because I was on a waiting list.
By now I’d developed food intolerances. My body cannot break down milk proteins or gluten and if I eat it – it enters my blood stream as opioids, related to opium, which basically means that I get high. Dizzy – and I hate it. It triggers agoraphobia and in order to avoid milk proteins and gluten, 95 percent of what I considered “safe food” was no longer an option and I had to challenge myself to eating scary and unfamiliar food.
In a way this was a turning point. Even if it was beyond extremely hard and I felt bitter and angry because of the damage I had done. Even if I didn’t purge as much, I still restrict my intake and I haven’t gained weight. It made it feel safer and eventually I realized I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I still restricted – without gaining weight.
But there was one problem. All my favorite binge food for when I gave in to bulimia – contained lots and lots of milk proteins and gluten. Yogurts, ice cream, buns, pizza, crisps, cheese, chocolate, a lot of candy and the list goes on – contains gluten even if it doesn’t contain milk. And it made me sick. Not just dizzy, it fucked up my digestion and it made my agoraphobia worse as well as making me feel physically ill and extremely tired. After a binge/purge session I’d feel heavy and drowsy for four days before I started feeling better. I hated it. I hated the fact that I did it but still I wanted to hurt myself even if I didn’t really want to – so I’d give in because I was confused and it was easier to give in than to fight it,
The last time I binged and purged was December 29th 2013. Now it’s just atypical anorexia but I’m doing better than I have been for years. I eat what I want as long as I under eat in total. I know it’s not healthy, but it’s safe and familiar and it gives me a sense of control I still feel like I need.
But I eat what I want. I eat chocolate for breakfast everyday! Who would have thought?! Breakfast is my favorite meal and I eat until I’m full. I eat porridge cooked 50/50 with milk and soy milk, artificial sweetener, a dash of salt and usually I add frozen blueberries, last but not least I add a teaspoon of peanut butter and four small pieces of chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, sour and salt. Sometimes I even feel uncomfortably full even if I eat basically the same everyday – yet I force myself to finish my breakfast even if it takes up to an hour because if I don’t, I get cranky and it messes up that feeling of control for the rest of the day.
And I eat dinner with my family several times per week and I do my best to make those portions look normal – for the sake of my six year old brother who is not aware of the fact that I even have an eating disorder at all. I eat dinner for my dad and my stepmother because I keep my disordered thoughts to myself. Basically I restrict when I’m on my own or skip meals because I forget to eat. I eat before I go out because it eases my anxiety to know my blood sugar isn’t low and I eat if I feel physically ill, such as feeling dizzy or shaky.
I know it’s not healthy and I fully acknowledge the fact that I still have an eating disorder.
So it hit me, two days ago; when do you know you’ve recovered? I thought about it while eating cereal for dinner, I went through my previous behavior which I’ve just described in detail if you’re still reading, and I compared it to my current “symptoms” – which basically no longer exist. I’m fully capable of having all sorts of food available, I never binge, when I get upset I no longer even consider bingeing and purging to feel better and I don’t miss it. Or I do, sometimes – but it’s the same with self harm but my thoughts alone cannot hurt me as long as I don’t satisfy my cravings for self destruction. I don’t have fear foods. I have some food I’d rather not eat – but I CAN eat it if I don’t have another option and if my blood sugar is low. I don’t obsessively count calories or weigh my food – except the amount of oatmeal I use when I make breakfast, but I can excuse that because I’m actually following a recipe of my own.
Still, when can you call yourself recovered? How do you know? Because I felt recovered two days ago but I didn’t feel confident enough to believe in that. I texted my doctor from 2010 to 2013 and asked her if I could ask her a question. We still talk from time to time, she knows me through and through and she’s been there for me. She visited me in the hospital when I had the feeding tube even if she didn’t need to. She was perfect person to ask because she knows what my bulimia looked like.
I described my feelings about food now and my behavior and she texted me back saying she was almost in tears and “of course you’ve recovered from bulimia” and more but I’m not going to quote all of it.
I am there. After three years of intense fighting, I finally made it through. I never believed it to be possible, yet here I am. As I’ve mentioned, bulimia is an addiction just like drug abuse or alcoholism and I will have to be cautious for the rest of my life to not relapse. In a way I will always be “a bulimic” just like an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic even when s/he’s sober.
I have now recovered from borderline personality disorder, self harm and bulimia nervosa. (Atypical) Anorexia and agoraphobia still remains. Currently working on beating agoraphobia and I will get there. I want life to be enjoyable again and hopefully – it will be.