For me it was about learning to love and respect myself
This is something that is very dear to my heart because I suffered from Bulimia for many years. I would say definitely over 20 years. I first started making myself vomit when I was quite young. Thankfully, it has now been 2 years or more since I last made myself vomit. I feel as though I should know how long it has been because I guess, like an alcoholic celebrates their sobriety, I should be able to celebrate overcoming this horrible illness.
I haven’t really written or talked in depth about my bulimia before, but I feel that I am in a place now that I can talk about it without being worried how other people will judge me. A massive part of my overcoming this condition has been working on my ability to stop giving a shit about what other people think of me. Being able to write about it in the way that I plan to in this blog post feels like it is another step forward in my healing process.
I want to make this very clear. I am not an expert when it comes to overcoming eating disorders. Like most of what I write, I can only speak from my own experiences. What worked for me may not work for everyone, but I do think that having someone who understands exactly what it is like to suffer from an eating disorder makes it easier to talk to them about it and relate to them. I can imagine that the most effective AA sponsors were probably alcoholics themselves who understand exactly what it is like to fight that battle. I can now speak openly and clearly about my experience with bulimia because I have absolutely no intention of going back to doing what I used to do. I am not under any form of delusion, I know that I have the capacity to do this again, but I want to do everything in my power to ensure that I don’t return to those actions.
I think that my bulimia started out very low key. To be honest, I can’t even remember the first time I forced myself to vomit. At that point I don’t believe that it had anything to do with my body weight or appearance. I wasn’t in a place where I cared about those things. I think that it may have been a way to gain some form of control over my body and over myself because I was at the mercy of my surroundings. It was around that time that I also began to self harm. Perhaps those things happened because the situation that I was in made me feel worthless and this was my way of reinforcing those thoughts or even to escape my reality.
What I am trying to say, which might sound very unhelpful is that I actually have no idea why I first started making myself vomit. Later down the track, body weight and physical appearance played a factor in continuing on with this behaviour. At my worst, my bulimia was out of control. I was doing it on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day and the extremes that I was going to in order to vomit are quite scary when I look back at them. I am no longer embarrassed to write what I am about to write, because I no longer care about people judging me for this. At times I would eat deliberately so that I would have something that I would be able to throw up. I knew what foods I would be able to vomit and what foods were difficult to vomit. I would deliberately choose foods that I knew I would be able to throw up and eat large amounts with the intention of throwing it up afterwards. I wouldn’t even necessarily choose delicious foods and sometimes it would be something like weetbix. Those people that have never suffered from bulimia would probably read this thinking to themselves that this sort of behaviour is completely crazy, and yes, in hindsight, and to be honest even at the time, I know/knew that it is completely crazy.
After a period of time, your body starts to try and protect you by not allowing to vomit quite as easily. So I had to get creative and would resort to desperate methods to force myself to vomit. On the rare instance it didn’t work and I would end up a crying mess on the floor of the bathroom. I recall a particular time when I was so desperate to vomit every remaining content in my stomach so badly that I burst multiple blood vessels on my forehead and in one of my eyes. I was meant to be going away for the weekend interstate to meet with some friends. I had flights and accommodation booked and paid for and I bailed because I looked absolutely terrible. I was so ashamed at what I had done to myself that I vowed that I couldn’t do this anymore. It maybe stopped me for a few days. That’s it.
Despite the result of what it had done to me it didn’t stop me from being bulimic. This is the first time that I have ever communicated these sorts of things and even writing this now is very confronting. Looking at this logically, that situation ‘should’ have forced me to stop. I clearly wasn’t ready to at the time. Over the years I could see the side effects from making myself vomit on a regular basis. I have had numerous gastrointestinal issues and still sometimes have issues digesting food. It also affected my teeth and in time I am going to have to find a substantial amount of money to fix the damage that I have caused to them. These sorts of things are still not enough motivation to change the behaviour when you aren’t ready to.
When you are bulimic and you are not ready to change the behaviour, you generally won’t tell anyone about it, especially not people close to you. It’s like most habits or behaviours that you aren’t willing to change. The moment you tell anyone that you engage in that sort of behaviour, you feel as though people are going to be watching you and trying to stop you from doing it. When you aren’t ready to change, you can’t deal with people forcing you to change.
I made the decision to stop being bulimic multiple times, and multiple times I failed on this. I guess the reason why I don’t recall the last time that I made myself throw up is because I didn’t realise at the time that it was going to be the last time. I didn’t stop being bulimic because I decided that I wasn’t going to force myself to throw up anymore. I believe that I stopped being bulimic as a natural progression in my mental healing and working on my deep emotional issues.
Improving my self-worth and self-love led to unconsciously ceasing to make myself vomit. When I was in a poor state of mind, making myself throw up was part of the self-destruction that I was going through. I think that everyone has a different way of self-destruction and this was mine. Again, I have no formal training on this topic, only my own experiences, but I truly believe that overcoming an eating disorder has absolutely nothing to do with the eating disorder itself and everything to do with your mental state and how you feel about yourself. Learning to love and respect yourself takes time. It’s just like anything. You have to work hard and you have to be consistent. It’s not a band aid approach and it’s definitely not a one size fits all. As desperate as I was to stop myself from vomiting, for so many years I was not desperate enough to actually stop. My desperation to change my mental state had little to do with overcoming bulimia and instead came from a place of avoiding committing suicide and to never go back to rock bottom again.
It didn’t work straight away and it is still a work in progress, but each day I get closer and closer to finding true love and respect for myself. Finding this level of respect becomes powerful in so many different ways. It stops you from engaging in so many self-destructive behaviours, I have found that it even allows me to rest my body and not exercise when I’m unwell or injured. I used to be addicted to exercise, even when it was harmful to my body to do so. All of these things were as a result of how I felt about myself and have only changed since changing how I felt about myself.