Leonie's Story Bulimia Nervosa New Zealand





THE BEGINNING:

It all started with having low self esteem, thinking I was fat, dieting regularly, getting fatter, having a mother who dieted regularly, having a boyfriend who let me know I was fat and blaming my weight on every problem in my life, especially to do with guys. Then one day, after being hurt terribly by a guy, it took a different turn. In my mind I knew that the reason this guy had treated me so badly was because I was fat, and that if I had had a gorgeous body he would have loved me and never hurt me in such a way. So I said to myself "that's it, no more! I hate being fat, it's destroying my life, I hate myself this way, I am not going to eat such crap food!" and I started purging junk food.

BULIMIA:

Within a few months I was purging everything and bingeing crazily. It went on until it had me firmly in its grip and was squeezing the life out of me. I changed so much within a year. I didn't care about anything anymore. I hid bulimia from everybody, and at the same time I was furious that no one knew, that no one cared enough to notice. For a long time I cried alone. I lived in a world that no one knew about and I wasn't going to let anyone in. My world was hate and guilt and sadness and depression. How could no one see it? I could not see a way out. I didn't know much about eating disorders but I definitely thought I was alone and that no one had been where I was. It was hitting rock bottom that changed everything. I couldn't get any lower. I had isolated myself from everyone. From the place I was at it was either recovery or death. This is part of a poem I wrote, when all that was my life was bulimia:

I look in the mirror and don't like what I see,

an unhappy child, not wanting to be,

sad all the time, hiding her tears,

wanting the key to unlock all her fears,

I smile with you all, but do you know how I cry,

completely alone, wanting to die.

RECOVERY:

The first step for me in my recovery was telling someone I trusted. It felt so liberating to talk about it. It wasn't at all what I expected it to be like. I felt such a release after I'd talked about it, but I guess it matters who the person is that you talk to, so choose carefully. (Thanks Carla).

I think of bulimia as an addiction and like other addictions the only way for me to kick it was to go cold turkey. This involved moving back in with my parents for 3 months (they were unaware of my problem) and FORCING myself not to run to the toilet 10 times a day. It was HELL, but somewhere deep inside me I knew the "real me" wanted so much for it to stop. I guess it was like self-preservation. I felt like I would die if I continued the way I was going and there was still this little part of me wanting to beat it, and I did.

For the first 3 months I struggled with everything I ate. I HATED myself when I was full, I could barely stand the feeling of the food in my stomach but I knew that in order to survive I had to resist the overwhelming urge to get rid of it. The next 3 months were a bit easier, I could handle eating healthy food but still hated myself when I felt full and when I ate unhealthily. Sometimes I'd think "just this once, one last time, I won't do it again, I'm just so full", but I knew that "once" would be the end of it for me and I had begun to like myself again. I was not going to go back to the place I had been. I just cared for my life too much.

With time it got easier, as things do, and eventually my life felt normal again. It's been almost 6 years since I started my recovery and I never let bulimia take hold of me again, I never will because I'm bigger than it now. I still have issues with food, and with men, but I know how to deal with them in a more mature and positive way. I have made a promise to the part of me that needs to survive that I will never try to destroy myself again. It may seem clichˇ but if you learn to love yourself it all goes away, just like that. These days I do love me and I owe it to myself to treat myself well.

ADVICE:

Try to take hold of that little piece inside you that wants to survive, that little piece of you that you still love, notice it and it gets stronger, and eventually it gets stronger than the disease. Loving yourself is innate. It's there when you are born and it's still there now, somewhere. Bulimia is not innate. It forces its way into your mind and your life and your spirit and it tries to take that all away from you. You wouldn't let a thief steal your most valued possessions if you had the chance to stop him, why would you let Bulimia steal your life when you have the chance to stop it?

Leonie, 26, New Zealand