9th May 2014
After 2 pieces of writing centered on anorexia I feel that it is now necessary to reflect upon the bulimic phases in my life, in the hope that my experiences of this disorder may in some ways help others. In my view bulimia is not treated with the same severity as anorexia, although it is every bit as dangerous. Again this is down to the same old BMI and weight debate, you are not ill unless you can't stand up, but I do not feel that enough support is out there for bulimics. There are probably a lot of people that simply won't admit to being bulimic, as they feel ashamed. I can identify completely with this. My advice to anyone who is contemplating making themselves sick to control their weight, is to never ever go there because once you do, for a while you kid yourself that you can have your cake and eat it and you will, and then some.
Bulimia is highly addictive, you tell yourself, 'well I can eat because I can just throw it up' but before you know it you are eating, vomiting, taking laxatives and are in the gym like a maniac, anything to compensate for the food that you have eaten. Think of *Fat Boy Slim's (interesting choice of name!) song 'Eat, sleep rave, repeat' but replace the lyrics with 'Eat, binge, purge repeat' and you have bulimia summed up in a nutshell. I have done all of these things and yes while I was doing them I hated myself with a passion. The utter self loathing and self reproach you feel after a binge is indescribable, unless you have been there and done it. Whilst struggling with bulimia I felt that my entire being had been hijacked by an evil robot. My trips to the shop for food and then food and then more food seemed to be like an outer body experience, like I wasn't really there, I had been inhabited by some demon. I guess that people don't like to say that they engage in these behaviours, because it suggests that they are weak and out of control, well yes you are out of control but so is an anoretic they just don't know it quite so well.
To those who are ignorant to the powerful force that is bulimia it may seem like an abhorrent illness. I have heard it referred to by people with very real eating disorders of their own as 'vile and disgusting' The thing that people don't get is the minute that you are sick for the first time the ferocious violent physical act is no longer so abnormal. I could sweep that feeling nicely under the carpet along with the many food wrappers, which I couldn't bear to look at after a binge. Referring to my own personal experience I never intended to start to binge, I made myself sick a few times at first just to empty myself from feeling too full. The problem is that because you kid yourself that you are ridding your body of all the food that it silently craves you obsess about it and end up in the mind set that it is just going down the toilet anyway, so why not fill your boots? Bulimia is a vicious cycle because every time you binge and purge you condemn yourself to being a fat pig and try your damnedest to restrict like mad. This then triggers another binge, because you are starving and so the pattern continues. My deepest days of depression were spent in the throes of bulimia. I didn't want to look in the mirror and I got this paranoid feeling that everybody knew what a vile vomit beast I was. I used it is a self destruct mechanism, I don't like myself so lets punish me by doing the thing that I want to do least in the world: EAT.
Bulimia just like anorexia is not a good look, but maybe less easy to spot unless you are the man in the mirror. Many bulimics 'get away' with hiding their disorder because to others they look normal. This just adds to your feelings of inadequacy, ok, so you feel dire have a sore throat, feel dizzy and find it hard to concentrate at times, add to this the swollen glands, puffy face, dry skin, fluid retention all horrific to your übercritical self and you end up crying inside and wanting to retreat from the outside world. I would glance in the mirror looking at my bullfrog throat and then beat myself up mentally, because after all I had done this to myself. I would cancel appointments and avoid social interaction simply because I just couldn't bear to look in the mirror for the time it took me to look half decent enough to go out. Bulimia is also an expensive habit, my partner once said to me 'why don't you just put the money in an envelope and flush it down the toilet, cut out the middle man' fair point well made, but in your fuzzy haze of a brain, that niggling hunger needs satisfying and off you will go again to stock up.
Many bulimics often engage in other types of substance abuse to block out their feelings of inadequacy, this adds another worrying dimension to the illness as you put yet more strain on your body and pickle your brain cells even further. Your weight goes up and down like a yo-yo because you are confusing it just as much as your head, again this convinces you that you have magically piled 3 kilos on overnight and reinforces the inherent belief that you really are a worthless piece of shit. My main regret is the damage that I have done to my teeth. Stomach acid and the perfect smile do not go hand in hand and although you have sod all to smile about whilst you are in the bathroom 24/7 there will come a time when you realise the consequences of your actions and be mad as a wasp with yourself.
When you are bulimic the electrolytes in your blood go haywire, especially if you take laxatives in the hope that they will rid you of the amount of food that maybe you didn't get up. Trust me laxatives are the DEVIL and once again if you are not careful you will end up dependent on them. They will rule your life as being near to a toilet is imperative. You will also suffer terrible stomach cramps, headaches and you can quite simply pass out. Dehydration, lethargy and a general feeling of weakness ensue. The potassium, magnesium and sodium levels in your blood all become severely depleted and can cause serious medical consequences. I am no Doctor so I shall leave that there, but in short this is some serious shit. Cardiac arrest is no joke and anyone with an eating disorder is putting strain on all their major organs, most notably the heart.
Therapy for bulimia is normally 'stick to a meal plan and then you won't binge' easier said than done. Many people with an eating disorder feel fat, whether they have eaten nothing or everything, but for me the guilt of bulimia was what really brought me down. I just felt at times that I would rather not get up than risk another day of it. I am not in that cycle now, sure it rears its ugly head once in a while, but I am in one equally as terrifying believing that it would be my salvation. Anorexia is not the cure for bulimia and bulimia is not the way to deal with having to eat more to overcome anorexia. I have no answers to solve the problem, I wish I did, but if you are suffering with bulimia don't be afraid to admit it. Anyone who judges you for it isn't emotionally aware enough for you to give the time of day to. Believe in yourself and believe that you deserve the help whatever you weigh. I stress once again that eating disorders are NOT just about weight, they are a way of coping or choosing not to cope with emotions. They are borne from low self esteem and like any addiction once it gets hold of you it will only chip away at your psyche and leave you in an emotional vacuum bereft of feeling and self deprecating. Sufferers often oscillate from one eating disordered pattern to another, leaving you with no recollection of what it is like to eat normally. You simply don't remember as this is your way of life, but surely there is more to life than spending your days either sat on the toilet, or with your head down it? We deserve better than this and until we realise it the fight to overcome the urge to purge will be a constant battle. Don't let this powerful illness get the better of you. It will not make you happy and like any other ED will have a devastating affect on your relationships with others, as you try to hide your erratic behaviour. Be strong and stop hiding, hold your head up and question why, why continue in the pursuit to die?