My Eating Disorder: Battling Back

by Marta on February 5, 2015

Disclaimer/TRIGGER WARNING:  This post discusses my personal experience with bulimia.  I am not a doctor, or psychiatrist, and any conclusions I have come to are based on my own experience after years of self-reflection. 

This post is the fifth post about my experience with bulimia in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

You can read the first post about the beginning of my eating disorder here.
You can read the second post about losing control over my eating disorder here.
You can read my third post about the stress of hiding my bulimia here.
You can read my fourth post about hitting my breaking point here.

In the summer of 2009, I was tired.  I was tired of constantly lying to everyone, tired of obsessing about food, tired of feeling lightheaded and weak, tired of worrying about my health.     Unfortunately, I had already exhausted all of the professional resources available to me with no results, so I decided I would take recovery into my own hands and educate myself.

I started to do research about eating disorders online, and I soon discovered blogs by people also suffering with bulimia.  They described feeling the exact same way I felt, the highs of a purge, the lows of a binge, the energy crashes and constant light-headedness.  They shared the same contradicting fears that ruled my life: the fear of gaining weight, the fear of people finding out, and the fear of eventually dying due to this disease.  For the first time I felt like there were other people like me, and some of these people had even managed to recover.   This gave me motivation.

The next two years were full of many ups and downs.  Even though I was finally ready and WANTED to recover, I struggled to keep my meals down.  No matter how much I wanted it, my body simply would not listen.  I would feel physically ill after eating but I would try to wait it out.  Usually I was unsuccessful.

Eventually I strong armed myself into keeping a couple meals down a day.  Although I was happy with this progress, it was far from the freedom I desired.   I still couldn’t go more than a day or two.  It felt like I was trying to fix a leaky pipe – every time I sealed a hole, it would start leaking from another spot.  I had hit this plateau physically, and emotionally I had made no progress.  I was still consumed with all of the fears and thought patterns that had caused my eating disorder in the first place.

This all changed in the spring of 2011.  I had always been an active person (running compulsively to balance whatever meals I managed to keep down), but I found myself looking for something new.  One day I saw a picture of a friend of a friend on facebook with a kettlebell and I was intrigued.  I did some research and came across a collection of videos of fit looking men and women doing crossfit.  They were muscular, and healthy, and energetic, and I couldn’t help but be envious.  After two months of watching the videos, I finally worked up the courage to try out a class at my local crossfit gym.

I will never forget that first workout.  It was the hardest thing I had ever done – a combination of squatting and overhead press mixed with a short run.  The entire thing probably didn’t last more than 20 minutes, but when I left the gym I was exhausted and sore. My legs felt like jelly and I couldn’t lift my arms over my head. I was physically defeated… but emotionally I felt different.  Something strange happened. For a few moments during the workout, while I was lifting the barbell over my head, I felt strong for the first time in years.  When the workout finished and I was lying on the ground panting, I had a deep awareness of my body that didn’t revolve around its size.  For the first time in my life I appreciated my body for something beyond what it looked like.

fifth post pic 1

Feeling Powerful

Over the next few months, I fell in love with feeling strong. Every day I would come to the gym and do things I had never imagined I was capable of, and every day I felt that same deep appreciation for my body I had the 1st day.  Soon enough my inner desire to become a stronger athlete started to battle my fear of gaining weight.  I realized that I needed to eat to become strong.  Understanding this, I was able to keep more and more meals down.  I started to also eat paleo – inadvertently removing many of the foods that triggered my binges (grains, cookies, cereal, etc…) – and soon I was going days without throwing up.  A few days slowly became a week, and a week eventually became a few weeks, and in October 2012 I realized I had not thrown up in a month… My desire to be healthy and strong had finally overpowered my fears.

 

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My Eating Disorder: Breaking Point

by Marta on February 4, 2015

Disclaimer/TRIGGER WARNING:  This post discusses my personal experience with bulimia.  I am not a doctor, or psychiatrist, and any conclusions I have come to are based on my own experience after years of self-reflection. 

This post is the fourth post about my experience with bulimia in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

You can read the first post about the beginning of my eating disorder here.
You can read the second post about losing control over my eating disorder here.
You can read my third post about the stress of hiding my bulimia here.

Even before my best friend confronted me, I had long realized that I had a serious problem. I was terrified of the physical side effects, it was on my mind constantly.  I had even begun to experience some of them.    My hair became very brittle and started to fall out.  I had a constant sore throat, and would often lose my voice.  I constantly had puffy eyes and cheeks.   I had nightmares about rotting teeth and heart failure.  I was consumed with my imminent death, and I was only 20 years old.

I am sure looking at it from an outside perspective it seemed obvious that the health effects and stress of what I was doing outweighed any benefits.  The solution seemed simple– just stop throwing up.  How difficult could that be- right?  Wrong… At this point, my bulimia had evolved into a coping mechanism, and an addiction.  I could not stop myself from throwing up after eating.  The sudden relief I got from the guilt and shame I felt when I ate was like a high.  I found myself eating when I felt anxious or my life felt out of control, just so that I could throw up and feel this relief.   I knew that I needed help.

2009

2008

Soon after my discussion with Byrne I made an appointment with mental health services.  I started to see a counselor twice every week for 45 minutes to discuss my disorder and make a plan of action to manage my “symptoms” as she called them.  We would set minor goals like waiting 15 minutes before allowing myself to go to the bathroom to throw up, or trying to keep one small meal down per day, baby steps.  My counselor was kind and patient with me, but week after week I was not able to follow through.  Each session she would ask me how it went, and each week I outlined my failure.  I was frustrated and angry at myself for not being able to come through, and I hated having to report my failure.  That’s when I started lying.

This charade lasted about 4 months.  By the time I went home for the summer my counselor thought that I only had “symptoms” once or twice a day.  She was wrong, I had made no progress.  The truth is I was not ready to recover.  I had done enough research to understand that restricting calories slows down metabolism, and gaining weight in recovery was common.  I was still terrified of gaining weight.  We had not solved this issue.  My entire belief system for the majority of my life had been shaped around my fear of weight gain.  I had obsessed about it for over 10 years.  It was insulting to me that my counselor thought a simple eating challenge would fix me.  I decided that I was unfixable.

For the next 6 months I truly accepted that bulimia would be a part of my life forever.  I started looking into “managing” my disease rather than curing it.  I read an article about a woman who was in her forties and had been bulimic for 25 years – I was sure that this would be my life.  Being pragmatic I knew that I wanted to be healthy in some sense, so I made a deal with myself that I would eat a healthy breakfast every day and not throw it up.  In order to allow myself to do this – I started to exercise.  Every single morning I would do 60 minutes on the stair master or treadmill before I ate breakfast – this was what I believed was healthy.

I thought it worked.  I managed to keep at least one meal down every day.  But in reality I had just shifted my method of “purging” the calories from throwing up to exercising.   I was actually worse off since I had added the stress of fitting in 60 minutes of cardio into my day, on top of full-time school, working two part-time jobs, and juggling my double-life.  As you can imagine I was perfectly setup to have a complete meltdown.

The meltdown came about half way through my third year.  The pressure became too much, and I found myself at the mental health services trying to see someone about my anxiety.  Seeing as I already had a file open with a counselor that is whom I was assigned to again.  I must have really alarmed her, because this time she got reinforcements and brought in a team.  I was sent to a psychiatrist who decided the best course of action was to prescribe Prozac. I saw a dietitian that gave me a pre-printed meal plan full of all of the foods that triggered my binges. And I saw a nurse who reassured me I was not dying.

Even though I clearly had my doubts, I started taking the anti-depressants, and seeing my counselor every week.  Unfortunately, the second round of counselling did not go any better than the first.    Other than making me feel like every day I was walking through the cloud, the anti-depressants did not help my compulsion to throw up.  I also did not help the situation by continuing to party on weekends, where the mix of anti-depressants and alcohol lead to many explosive nights.  Finally, after about four months, one particularly explosive night paired with the breakdown of my relationship found me worse off than I had ever been before– I had finally hit my bottom.

An explosive night in the works.

An explosive night in the works.

The next day I got in my car and drove home for six hours straight.  Some time during that car ride something clicked.  I decided that I was not ok with just managing my eating disorder for the rest of my life.  That I wanted more for my health and my spirit.  I was ready to take responsibility for my own recovery. The very next day I stopped taking the anti-depressants (this is not recommended, and should be monitored by a psychiatrist) and I never stepped into the mental health services again*.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do it, but I was going to figure out my disease

You can read the first post about finally battling back against my bulimia here.

*Although the treatment programs I tried did not work for me, I am in no way against them. I know many people who have had success with psychiatrists, structured programs, and anti-depressants, and if you are suffering I urge you to explore all the treatment options you have access to.    

Helpful Resources:

  1. http://www.nedic.ca/
  2. http://sheenasplace.org/
  3. http://www.camh.ca/

 

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My Eating Disorder: Double Life

February 2, 2015

Disclaimer/TRIGGER WARNING:  This post discusses my personal experience with bulimia.  I am not a doctor, or psychiatrist, and any conclusions I have come to are based on my own experience after years of self-reflection.  This post is the third post about my experience with bulimia in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  You can read […]

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My Eating Disorder: Losing Control

February 2, 2015

Disclaimer/TRIGGER WARNING:  This post discusses my personal experience with bulimia.  I am not a doctor, or psychiatrist, and the conclusions I have come to are based on my own experience after years of self-reflection.  This is the second post of a series in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week,  It discusses how I slowly lost […]

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