I don't want to write about my experience with bulimia. I don't want my friends and family reading about my experience with bulimia. I don't even want Twitter followers I have never met or complete strangers reading about my experience with bulimia.
Why? Shame. Why write? Because as long as shame is attached, not enough is being done to challenge the stigma that surrounds Bulimia Nervosa.
I have no statistics for you for this one. If I did, they'd be wrong. Bulimia is one of the most secretive illnesses out there and I would hesistate to even guess the percentage of men and women who do or have suffered. It is also dangerously addictive and when kept under wraps, can spiral out of control and cause massive amounts of devastation not only to the physical body, but to relationships, personality, work and wallet.
To most people, the idea of making yourself sick, of being sick full stop is disgusting. So why do people do it? Like a first drag on a cigarette at thirteen, some will try to throw up after a meal, hate it and never do it again, good for them. For others, something will click.
There is something silently cocky about the act of purposefully getting rid of whatever has just passed your lips. You are undoing something bad, you discover suddenly that you are able to indulge without facing the consequences you fear so much. You are the boss. You control what goes in and what comes out. And it's your little secret. Your weapon.
If there is one thing in my entire life that I could take back, it would be the first time I stood over the toilet bowl and forced myself to gag.
<p style="text-align: center;">It gets old pretty quickly. The control doesn't last. At first, there is the excitement that you can buy any food and drink you like and gorge away to your greedy (and weakening) hearts content. There is adrenaline; it pumps like speed around your body while you scour the aisles of the supermarket chucking anything and everything into your basket. There may be giddiness as you stuff yourself with treats knowing that soon comes the big f**k you.
Months later, maybe even years, the elation is long gone. You're tired, miserable, skint and unhealthy. Your teeth are chipped and crushed, your skin covered in spots, your heart jumping around to its own rhythm and your sparkle gone. You faint sometimes and you have to steady yourself everytime you stand up. Shopping for binge food becomes a chore, but one that you have to do whether you like it or not. Too tired? Doesn't matter. Sore throat? So what. You miss appointments, lectures, meetings. You stay in when your friends are all out enjoying themselves; just you and your food and the toilet. You're depressed, but that makes me feel hopeless, helpless, more disgusting and all of this feeds the addiction and the cycle continues.
Part of the reason nobody talks about this, and why I am finding it so hard to write, is that we know that a lot of people think this is a choice. We know that people will think we are twisted individuals who do this day in day out without a care in the world for those who have to scrap around and live off rice and dirty water. We know that we will be looked down on, misunderstood and seen as the lowest of the low; rich bitches who only care about weight and calories.
I can safely say that no bulimic in the world would even wish this illness on their worst enemy. Any element of choice is taken away along with the control - the grip that bulimia takes on the mind and body is formidable.Who in the world would choose to spend their days locked away, eating until they can barely walk, putting their body through so much pressure and pain just do it it over and over again? Who would want to literally throw all their money down the toilet? Who, for God's sake, would want to die, alone, unexpectedly, in a pool of their own vomit? Who would choose that?
I am desperate to leave this behind forever. Where there is choice, is in recovering. But it isn't an easy one and it's far from easy to actually go ahead and quit. Smoking cessation it aint.
Breaking the cycle comes first. Cold turkey and a sticker chart on the bedroom door. I tried it at hospital and surprised myself, but there I had support of staff who could talk through whatever crap was going through my mind after meals and snacks. At home, the stickers get easily forgotten about, shoved in a drawer and what to everyone else is abnormal becomes normal for me. I hate that. That that can ever be classed as a normal thing to do. It has to change and it will. My anorexia and bulimia have wrecked relationships, destroyed trust, taken over ever corner of my mind and, saddest of all, cast a huge shadow over my future - unless I do something. Now.
Eating Disorder awareness is increasing and there are many fantastic organisations, charities and individuals who are helping to break down what used to be such a taboo subject. I still find though, that Bulimia hovers in the background. Health implications are sometimes discussed, but largely, we don't talk about Bulimia; we gloss over it, ignore it, section it off nicely and discuss Anorexia instead.
If I, and other bulmics want to stop, then so does this.
If we keep it quiet, hushed up and secret, it will remain a quiet, hushed up and secret.
There is the danger.