I Battle With Bulimia, And I Won't Be Quiet About It Anymore

I Battle With Bulimia, And I Won't Be Quiet About It Anymore

It takes one voice. We are not alone.
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Low carbs. No dairy. Less sugar. No fat. Less fat. Eat three meals a day. Eat five meals a day. Skip dinner on the weekends, you’ll drink your calories anyway. Don’t eat the next day. It’s okay if you throw up, good for you for getting rid of those calories. Growing up as a female in this day and age, we are bombarded everyday with new and crazier ways to become thinner. The ultrathin society created by magazines and popular figures in the media have manufactured this unrealistic expectation for women to conform to. When do the ideas pass by the normal dieting phase and twist into a slippery slope of an eating disorder? For some, this expectation descends further past the surface and starts to define who they are to the core.

With the pressure of a growing ultrathin standard, it is no wonder that we are seeing a rise in eating disorders in young adults and college students. The prevalence of this mental illness is manifested from this standard and it is perpetuated due to the secretive nature of the disorder. I am a junior in college and actively battling an eating disorder of my own. Not many people see the struggles I face on a daily basis, which is why I have gained a better understanding of the magnitude of this glossed-over disorder. But this beginning to change, so here is my story. Here are all my nitty gritty details that are hidden and silenced due to the uncomfortable nature that is talking about mental illness.

Eating disorders do not appear overnight. The illness takes years to form, and for the most part just seem like some new dieting trick. Except the habits are far more than just a diet. Eating disorders come to control every single thought. Eating disorders will isolate you, weaken your immune system, and make you vulnerable to injuries, sicknesses, and yourself. Eating disorders are even secretive to you. I took an abnormal psychology class my sophomore year and learned about anorexia and bulimia. Even then I couldn’t recognize the signs when they were blatantly diagnosed in front of me.

My eating disorder, ED, became an abusive friend. Ed controlled every second of the day. Ed left me feeling dependent, trapped, and without options. Ed even led me to the darkest time of my life, the beginning of my junior year. After years of battling with Ed, he jeopardized my life more than ever by leading me to the day I planned to kill myself.

Ed and I had a familiar routine. Eat. Drink. Binge. Purge. Restrict. Then return to normal for a day or two. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, this cycle was my ritual. Until one Saturday night, I blacked out and the next day, purged to the point where my body physically could not move anymore. Familiar with this cycle, I prepared myself for a tough couple of days to follow in which self-hatred and disgust would settle in as Ed told me how unworthy I was.

When I woke the next morning, I looked at myself and saw Ed glaring back at me. Ed told me I was disgusting. Ed told me that I was not enough nor will I ever be. Ed told me I was a failure and had no right to exist.

Monday, September 12, 2016. This was the day I planned to kill myself.

Ed had tired me to the point where I only heard his nonstop judgmental voice in my head. I had no more will to live, no more will to fight him. The rest of the morning I was numb, only listening to the thoughts of Ed in my head telling me I wasn’t enough, and that I was too disgusting to live. Later that day at lunch, I sat down with my best friend. When she asked how I was, I looked up, thoughts swirling in my head as I would for the first time speak up about Ed and break the silence. I whispered, “I don’t want to be alive anymore.” After that, something inside me broke. The rest of the afternoon was a blur. My friend got me back to her dorm where I laid for hours sobbing repeating, “I don’t want to be alive anymore, I don’t want to be here anymore, please make the pain stop.”

I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a week. A week living under the constant surveillance of nurses and therapists. The craziest feeling of all was being there because I was a danger to myself. We are taught to be afraid of strangers or crossing the street without looking both ways when we are young, but I never thought my greatest fear would be the reflection looking back at me in the mirror.

After being discharged from the hospital, I vowed to never take another day for granted. But soon that feeling started to dull, and Ed crept back in. Ed told me if I didn’t want to end up where I once was, that I must listen to him. Ed would make me enough. Ed would make me happy. The months that followed were a downhill spiral of trying to keep my feet under me but moving too fast to be able to stop. These months of denying I was under Ed’s control ruined relationships with my family and friends. It ruined work relationships and made me lose any and all motivation for things I once enjoyed. I was having everything stripped away from me, but I only felt in control when listening to Ed.

One day Ed’s grasp was a little loose and I was able to speak up for the second time, breaking down about what was going on with Ed and me. With the help of a family friend, I found The Renfrew Center, an eating disorder clinic where I could start getting better full-time right then. But there was no way in hell Ed was letting me go. Ed started whispering in my ear again. He told me lies and insecurities in order to sway me from getting help. He told me I would lose all my friends. He told me I would be an outcast in the program because I didn’t really have an eating disorder. He told me not to bother getting help since nothing was wrong with me.

I struggled between what the right decision was and what Ed was saying in my head. Even as Ed turned every area of my life upside down, I still could not imagine getting the help I so desperately needed. It took the love of close friends to make me want to get better. I wanted to be a better sister, daughter, friend, and girlfriend. My family, friends, and boyfriend are the reason I went into recovery. When I didn’t think I was enough, I knew that I wanted to be more for them. So after finals, I started treatment.

On December 21st, 2016, I started treatment at Renfrew Center where I would stay for 8 weeks.

My first night at Renfrew was very intimidating. Although all the women and the therapist were friendly and supportive, I was still scared to speak. Ed held my tongue even when I was in the company of those who would become the people who understood me most in the next few weeks. Throughout my time at Renfrew, I started opening up in the group sessions and to the individual women in the program. The groups would become my greatest outlet to defend myself against Ed. Never had I felt so safe and supported. I could open up and explore the twisted path Ed and I had walked for many years and finally feel safe enough to step away from Ed. After connecting with the women in ways Ed never had let me before and opening up to the therapist, I became stronger and happier.

I have never been one to write down the words I wanted to say—mostly because I never thought they had any worth to offer others. But after this journey, I wanted my experience told. I write these words to show that it does get better. I do not know if I will ever be fully free from Ed, but I do know now that as my voice gets stronger, his gets weaker. It is a long and strenuous road to recovery, and it did not come without prices. I severed relationships with some of the closest people in my life, becoming a hollow shell of the person I had been. I scarred my family. I had my worst semester in academics in college. I nearly lost my job. I nearly lost my life. All of this because Ed’s grasp grew tighter each day.

Nevertheless, I have made it here, with a full life ahead of me. For the first time I’m thinking of a future. Thinking about all the experiences I can enjoy without Ed in my ear. I never will forget the women and the therapist I met along the way, nor will I forget the lessons and tools they gave me to fight against Ed.

It has taken me years to get where I am and open up about the relationship between me and Ed. Eating disorders, just like mental illness, are not fun to talk about. They are uncomfortable, secretive and tiring. But this silent stigma that mental illness has surrounding it must go.

It takes one voice to start and show we are not alone.

So here is my story and here is my voice. Maybe you’ll understand the next time you see someone like me staring down at their plate with a miserable expression or a rigid, timid gate as they walk past Wismer’s stations. Because what you see is more than just a girl trying to eat a meal. What you really see is a girl battling against her own Ed, not just to eat this meal, but fighting for her life.

Cover Image Credit: Jon Sandler

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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The Basic Facts on Eating Disorders in the United States

What you need to know about the epidemic sweeping the country in adolescents

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Eating disorders are estimated to occur in 5-10 million women and one million males in the United States. Eating disorders are psychological problems that can be viewed as unusual eating habits. Eating disorders can be known as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. These disorders have affected men and women across the world for many years, but the topic has caused great controversy in today's society. As children become young adults, they come to realize the pressures of being thin, which can be stressed by pop culture. Pop culture is one of the major influences on men and women today. Being overweight is frowned upon and young adults can be bullied for being obese. These conditions can also be caused by family members or stress and can create many problems for them later in life. Eating disorders can be caused by stress, family pressure, and pop culture and can have long-lasting effects.

Family pressure on young adults can impact the choices one makes on a daily basis. Family members can impact the feelings of an individual by teasing, regarding the need to change weight which plays a role in the pathogenesis of eating disorders. Eating disorders can develop in children from family members who are over-involved in their life. When parents play too big of a role in a child's life, the child cannot grow to be independent and make their own choices. Some adolescents believe they have a certain expectation to meet to please parents, and fitting a specific body type is what that means to them. When the child does not meet this expectation, starvation occurs or the child may even result in throwing up their meal. Other factors that can contribute to these diseases are parental drug or alcohol abuse. Depression can result from these situations, which leads to the development of a disorder, and can eventually lead to suicide. Genes are another common cause of eating disorders. Individuals who have parents with eating disorders are more at risk for the diseases. Children can result in blaming their parents for their misfortune, and lead to ruined relationships with family.

Pop culture plays a role in where eating disorders are prominent and who they affect. When children see television stars on shows with slim figures, they begin to think they need to look the same. The images then cause the children to starve themselves in order to obtain the television stars figure. Some celebrities have also developed eating disorders while in the spotlight because the pressure from viewers is too much for them to handle. Supermodels today have continued to get thinner and thinner, which shows an unrealistic representation of what a man or woman should look like in today's society. Television commercials are also another problem that individuals have faced because the actors or actresses act as if losing weight will make them happy and free them from all their life problems. the dieting companies drive to make more money makes for a vicious cycle of thinking that lives will be better once one attains a certain weight.

Feelings of stress can turn people into adapting unusual eating habits, making it a constant battle between the two. When individuals feel stressed, they may turn to food to solve their problems. Binge eating is one of the main effects of stress. The feeling of control may result when binge eating to solve stress, which eventually leads to obesity. Anxiety is also a known effect from stress levels rising and can cause many problems to the brain such as low self-image and depression. Other factors such as child, alcohol, or drug abuse can also affect how stressed a person may be if there is a history of abuse in the family. Trauma is a common cause of eating disorders and mental problems can cause the body to result in these psychological disorders.

Family pressure, pop culture, and stress can all contribute to the onset of an eating disorder and young adults need to realize when a problem is beginning. The family is the center of an individual's life and whatever they say, a person takes into consideration. When attention is not received from parents or abuse is occurring, eating disorders can occur. Pop culture in society today is one of the largest influences on eating disorders. Models and celebrities in magazines and on television show an unrealistic representation of the ideal weight of men and women

today. Stress levels can accumulate when abuse or trauma occurs which can make individuals turn to food for comfort. The person feels in control of their life when food is consumed, and the weight adds on, which can result in obesity. Eating disorders are a global issue and young adults need to be educated about the warning signs before it is too late.

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