“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
I received one of the most fantastic email in my inbox weeks back on Bulimia Coaching Series. This is a pure blessing, a free bulimia coaching series from Bulimia Help.org to help people on their journey to recovery, healing and self-discovery. I cannot emphasis enough on the good work Ali Kerr and her team has done to help people beat bulimia. Their program is one of the best on internet. Please do visit their Website.
In the first series Catherine shares her heart touching bulimia story with us. It’s very touching and laced with so much pain and conviction. Thank you Catherine for sharing this with us.
Bulimia Coaching Series with Catherine Liberty who has been working as a Recovery Coach at Bulimia Help for over 5 years now.
Today I’d like to begin by sharing a little of my own bulimia story with you, so you can get to know me a little better.
Age 13, having been overweight and an emotional eater for most of my life, I made the decision to go on a very restrictive diet. I cut out almost every food group and started surviving on a dangerously low amount of calories, most days only eating one plate of veggies, some days not eating anything at all. This continued for about a year and as you’d expect, I lost a huge amount of weight as a result.
I come from a very small family and my mother was sick a lot when I was younger, so no one noticed my dangerous new eating habits or even commented on my weight loss at first. At this time I also became tangled up in “pro” ed websites. These websites taught me the art of deception and how to convince people I was healthy, which only ever served to fuel my already destructive behaviours.
After a year of intense restriction I found I could no longer keep it up. I began losing more and more of the ‘control’ I’d initially had around food and I started to experience uncontrollable episodes of binge eating instead.
Eventually, as the bingeing intensified I realised how powerless I was to stop it and so I had the idea that if I could just be sick after eating then it wouldn’t matter how much I ate or how uncontrollable my hunger was. To me, throwing up after eating was the solution I’d been dreaming of. So one day, after a particularly terrible binge, I went to the bathroom and purged. As I’m sure you can imagine, it wasn’t just a one time thing. My bulimia quickly escalated.
At this time I still continued to restrict my food as much as I could, so this was when people finally began noticing my weight loss. But I was such a good liar at that point. I managed to convince my family that it was a mixture of healthy eating and perhaps also a little exam stress at school that had caused my weight to change so drastically. My lies were so believable, I covered my tracks really well and nothing was ever done to help me.
I remained bulimic for ten and a half years.
During those ten and a half years I binged and purged every single day. Sometimes just once if I was having ‘a good day’ but generally upwards of ten times a day, every day. How I survived putting my body through that for so long is beyond me.
Like most people caught in the grips of a debilitating eating disorder I did think about recovery from time to time, but never seriously, because I didn’t think I could live without bulimia. I thought I was just one of those people who would always have this uncontrollable appetite. I reflected back on my childhood eating habits and convinced myself I’d been born with an inability to eat normally, and that it would be impossible for me to change.
Honestly, until I entered that tenth year, I’d never truly wanted to recover anyway. Many people say they experience guilt after a bulimic episode, but it was never like that for me. Yes I was exhausted a lot of the time, but I enjoyed the escape from reality bulimia gave me and even ten years on I still got “high” every time I binged and purged.
The first time I seriously considered recovery I was about 22 and I had developed anxiety disorder. This was one of the lowest times of my life, my anxiety was so bad I often contemplated suicide. Eventually I went to my doctor. I wasn’t stupid, I knew there was probably a link between my eating disorder and my anxiety, so I confessed all and asked for help. But when the letter came through for my eating disorder assessment I threw it away. I just couldn’t contemplate recovery, even then.
A couple of years after that I had managed to get my anxiety under control enough to begin functioning normally again. I could go outside, I could talk to people, I could work, and when I did have an anxiety attack (which often lasted days, not really like the panic attacks I’d read about before) I could rationalise it, I knew that it was not going to hurt me even though it felt that way.
Then January 2009 came and I hit an all time low. I became so depressed and again felt suicidal. I was just a couple of months away from completing my Social Work Masters Degree, but at that point even getting out of bed felt like I was being asked to run a marathon, so I dropped out of University and spent all day every day hiding away at home.
I began bingeing and purging from the time I woke up, until the time I went to bed. I just didn’t care any more because I “needed” it to get through the day. At my worst I think I was bingeing and purging around 20 times a day, literally when I wasn’t asleep I was bingeing or purging.
It was such a scary time, I’d never felt so out of control in my entire life. Also I started to develop very scary symptoms, some things I later discovered are related to low potassium levels, and others I think were the physical damage I was causing my stomach and oesophagus.
July 2009, almost 6 months after this horrendous cycle of 15-20 times a day binges and purges started I had a breakdown. I was so angry that this was happening, I was ready to end my life, but somehow, perhaps born out of the shock of almost going through with my suicide plan, I had a bursting moment of clarity where I knew I didn’t really want to die. I just didn’t want to go on living that way any more because I had hit my rock bottom.
It was then that I searched the internet for help. I remember tears streaming down my face as I saw ”Bulimia Help” appearing on my screen. I’d searched the internet for help in the past, but nothing had ever called out to me like this before. I think I was in shock that a website like Bulimia Help actually existed. I signed up and my life instantly changed in that moment.
I started my recovery on July 4th 2009 and I never looked back.
Deciding to take the plunge and really committing to recovery in that way is never going to be easy but I think one thing you have to realize is that there is never going to be a perfect time to start changing your life. You can’t wait until you feel better, until you’re less stressed, or until you’re happy with your weight or body, because if you do, then that day will never come. Instead think about the pain you’re in right now, how much it is taking from you, how it is stifling your potential and decide right here, right now to use that pain to fuel your recovery, just as I did back then.
I waited so long to get help because I was terrified of what life would be like without bulimia, but I am standing on the other side of it all right now and I can tell you that it is worth every second of fear and uncertainty to get here. Stop making excuses, stop waiting, stop allowing the fear to win and make a decision to take back your life today. It will be the best decision you ever make. Of that I am certain.
Recovery really can change everything (if you let it). My recovery Journey led me all the way to becoming a recovery coach at bulimiahelp.org, Something I never dreamed I would be doing.
Imagine what you’d be capable of achieving in your life if bulimia was no longer holding you back. The possibilities are endless.
Part 2 Coming Soon-
Next series is all about what to expect when you’re starting out in recovery.