Some of you may know that from 2010 to 2013 I suffered quite badly with bulimia. I was always of average weight, so no body really looked at me any differently or noticed. It ended up getting quite bad, to the point where I was hospitilised at the end of 2011 with pneumonia and a collapsed lung – caused by the vomit that had been trapped in my chest area from purging all the time. I made things worse in the hospital by refusing to eat, with them nearly having to enforce tubes to ensure I was being fed. Of course, I realised I’d have no control over what they were feeding me, so I reluctantly agreed to eat – at least that way I’d know how many calories I was taking in.
I had a chest drain put into my right lung which drained 2 litres of fluid. I was put into an intensive care unit over in Southampton (a far way from home at the time) and my parents had to sell their vehicles to afford to be with me every day. I look back and can’t believe how selfish I was.
When I eventually left the hospital, I returned home and really isolated myself. I was housebound for a while, missed out on lots of college and also lost a few friends along the way. It was only then that other symptoms started appearing, such as my skin becoming absolutely awful, my nails brittle, and clumps of hair falling out all over the place. I remember blocking up a few hoovers! I have lovely thick hair too, so that for me was the worst of the lot.
Even though all of this had happened, I couldn’t stop purging. I carried on throughout relationships, causing people unneeded stress. I feel guilty for putting these issues onto other people.
With the support of my family I gradually began to stop, I’m not sure why, I think I just saw how much I’d hurt everyone and how much everyone had done to try and help me. Me and my boyfriend at the time had broken up because of the amount of pressure I’d put on him, and I think I realised I was just pushing people away. I didn’t want to be selfish anymore. It didn’t completely stop, but things got a little better.
It didn’t stop until I met Angelo, who I have been with for 2 years now. I opened up to him about everything and he supported me and made me swear I wouldn’t do it again. I really, really liked him at the time. I knew I loved him so early on. And I didn’t want to lie to him.
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as “ok I won’t do it, I promise” it was a long battle. A battle I can finally say I have overcome. Angelo really appreciated my body and I wasn’t used to that. He started making me feel better about the way I looked. And to this day, I’ve kept my promise. There have been times when I’ve wanted to, when I’ve been close. But I won’t break a promise.. ever.
Anyway, there’s a few things that I went through with people not believing me, laughing at me, and actually vocally attacking me because I wasn’t stereotypically ill. And, of course there’s more to the story on a much deeper level, but I don’t really think it’s necessary to go into detail – I thought I’d just give you the basic idea, before I wrote the 7 things you may not know or understand about bulimia nervosa. So, here’s a few things you may want to take in. Because your actions may affect somebody suffering, because you don’t fully understand. Why push people further away from opening up when you have the chance to help?
1. Bulimics aren’t necessarily skinny. A lot of sufferers are more of an average weight. If somebody chooses to open up to you about their eating disorder, don’t be so quick to judge. In fact, don’t judge. I hate how people seem to think that you have to be extremely underweight to have an eating disorder.
2. It is not all about weight. It can be about control. For some people, food can be the one thing you are able to control when you feel everything else in your life is happening unwillingly. It can be about self esteem, it can be caused by trauma. There are plenty of different reasons that result in bulimia nervosa.
3. You don’t always purge after every meal. I can’t speak for everyone, but being bulimic doesn’t necessarily mean to purge every meal. Purging can be a way of relieving guilt, so you may just purge the foods you consider to be bad.
4. You can’t always spot it. Media tells you we have bad teeth from all of the vomit and yellowing skin — basically doing everything they can to shock you. I suffered for years and have white teeth and nice skin. I’m sure in the very long run it may have been different, but it’s not always the case. Don’t just look for these signs. And don’t use them as fact. If somebody chooses to speak to you about it, please don’t disregard the seriousness of it just because they don’t fit the “symptoms”.
5. Bulimia can cause a variety of different illnesses. When I was in school I was hospitalized with a collapsed lung and pneumonia. This was actually caused by vomit that had gotten stuck in my chest area for quite some time and had spread infection, and caused one of my lungs to collapse. When I finally spoke out about what had happened, no body believed me. I even had one girl at a party come up to me and tell me “your words offended me, because you have NO idea what an eating disorder is” alongside other people nastily backing her up. They didn’t believe me because I wasn’t extremely underweight, and I they obviously had no idea that my collapsed lung and pneumonia was caused by me being bulimic for years.
6. Bulimic people aren’t vain. I didn’t throw up because I lead a life of vanity. I threw up because I felt it was the only control I had in my life at that point. I did it because I was angry at my body… I was angry at myself. I threw up because I believed it would eventually make me happy.
7. It’s not as simple as “can’t you just stop?” Recovering from bulimia isn’t just about not throwing up your food. It’s about learning how to eat again, how to eat in moderation without binging, how to socialise with friends and family, how to eat in front of other people, how to prove to your loved ones you’re not using the bathroom or running the shower just to purge.