The title of this blog post may be slightly misleading. Perhaps what I write here isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. I do hope, however, that it is somewhat useful for you regardless. This blog post isn’t a set of instructions which you can follow and then just begin eating normally again. It’s not a step by step guide on how to stop purging. This time last year, I was heavily bulimic. I was regularly overdosing on laxatives. I was purging 3 or 4 times a day. I was stuck in a restrict/binge/purge cycle. I was doing so much exercise and the thought of doing that much exercise now makes me literally cringe. It was ridiculously out of control. I was an outpatient at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and after being there for a while, started a day program in Glebe. Basically you were there, 4 days a week from 10 – 4 and had to eat morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea there. Weigh days were Monday. We were blind weighed. If we lost weight, there were consequences; discussions to be had, stern words to be spoken. Food had to be consumed. We had half an hour for lunch, 20 minutes for snacks. The bathroom door was locked after meals.
It was exhausting.
Why did I go? Because I knew I needed to change. I wasn’t necessarily 100% sure I could, but I had to try, right? I had purged the day before. I had nervously measured and consumed 1/2 cup of yoghurt earlier in the morning before going, and drank some coffee on the way there. I was only there three days before I was hit with a nasty flu before eventually backing out of the program the following week, but the hardest thing for me was challenging some of those scary foods that I hadn’t eaten in a long while. Day 1: potatoes. I just sat there and stared at them and cried. I couldn’t eat potatoes. I didn’t do potatoes. I would become huge if I consumed potatoes. It sounds so illogical and unreasonable to me now but at the time it was a very REAL and big fear. Day 2: tim tams at afternoon tea time. The worst part is when everyone else has managed to eat their food and you’re still sitting there crying onto your plate which has 2 arnott’s biscuits and a tim tam on it. And then everyone has to wait until you struggle your way through them all, counting the bites because you’re not supposed to be eating this food. Day 3: ice cream. We went down to Broadway and ate ice cream. In a cone. It had been 2 years since I’d eaten ice cream. I just sat there jiggling my left foot and wondering if I could run away.
Walked from Glebe to Central Station that third afternoon. Needed to get rid of the food. Wondered if it was too late to purge. Knew it was. Walked faster, talked to A on the phone and told him I was proud I’d eaten ice cream. I was. But I was still stressed about gaining weight.
In those first three days, I challenged so, so much. And I realised this: I actually have the potential to overcome this eating disorder. I can physically eat this food. I can actually gain some real control here. Like I said, came down with the most disgusting flu. Didn’t go on the Thursday. Worked all weekend. Didn’t eat. Purged on the Sunday. Lost weight by the Monday and got in a bit of trouble for that one. So they gave me an ultimatum: move to Sydney, or perhaps just ditch the program until was willing to move to Sydney. I wasn’t willing to move to Sydney. So I ditched the program.
One of the hardest things for me in early recovery days was putting up with the constant fullness and heaviness in my stomach. Because I hadn’t eaten properly in so long, my stomach had shrunk. Physically, eating a meal was a difficult thing. I felt bloated all of the time. So it’s a good fact to be aware of when you’re recovering – and know that the feeling passes.
When I rang the day program the following week and told them I wouldn’t be returning, I had this very determined feeling to be able to do this – to be able to eat well, and properly To eventually stop purging. To kep challenging those scary foods. And I knew I really could get to that place and I have! Perhaps that courage and knowledge came from God Himself. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Enough rambling; enough with this small part of my recovery story: the bulimic can learn to eat again when the bulimic decides they want to learn to eat again, and starts making changes to their current pattern. No matter how much you’re force-fed, no matter how often someone tries to tell you that you’re not fat, that you’re actually UNDERWEIGHT and need to gain some weight – nothing will change unless YOU do something about it.
You really can, if you like. You aren’t stuck. And the eating disorders grip is nowhere near as strong as your mind is. Or as strong as our God is.