Ok here it goes. This is what has motivated me to create a new blog and how my total outlook on life has changed for the positive!! This was meant to be written a long time ago but life just got in the way and I wanted to take time in writing this post to get the true message across.
Previously said in my Let’s start this off! blog post I had a previous blog and many people know what I have struggled with throughout life. The reason I created that blog at the time was to raise awareness and to help anyone who is suffering behind closed doors as I felt like I was strong enough to do so…but I wasn’t and soon the pressure of updating the blog honestly was so hard as I wasn’t moving forward in my recovery as it could be very triggering. However, what can be seen as a positive and negative, is the fact that so many people who I knew of and didn’t know of was coming forward asking for help and guidance. At this time I didn’t feel like I was in the position to do this I was trying to reach out to others for help too….how was I going to provide good advice and help when I wasn’t implementing it myself.
However, I am now happy to say I really feel for the first time in my life I have had that turning point in my life, I have learnt how to cope and adjust with change. It has been a massive learning process dealing with different situations but I have got to know about what suits me personally, I have let my body heal and become more at one with my body. Yes it has been challenging and not easy at all but I am come through the other side… I finally feel like I am at peace…..I never ever thought I would have said that just 11 months ago. So what am I on about? Well I have been battling bulimia nervosa and anxiety for a good 6 years behind closed doors. As everyone knows I put on a very good front as I am always happy and smiley (which I emphasise was totally genuine) but there was a storm happening within me. What a rocky 6 years it has been but I have finally come through the other end to now tell my story after reaching rock bottom.
I am finally Living Free and Living my Journey down a life-changing, enjoyable, peaceful and secure path in life ❤
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
What is bulimia nervosa? For people who don’t know bulimia is an eating disorder defined as:
“an emotional disorder characterised by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging”
Yes this is correct but it is so much more than this which I will try and to explain as best as I can with my experience and other peoples’ that I could relate to. Not everyone is the same, my journey may be similar or different to others, but we all connect as we all battle everyday and this is where we need to speak up and support each other.
Bulimia Signs & Symptoms
An individual suffering from bulimia nervosa may reveal several signs and symptoms, many which are the direct result of self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging, especially if the binge/purge cycle is repeated several times a week and/or day.
Physical signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:
- Constant weight fluctuations
- Electrolyte imbalances, which can result in cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, or ultimately death
- Broken blood vessels within the eyes
- Enlarged glands in the neck and under the jaw line
- Oral trauma, such as lacerations in the lining of the mouth or throat from repetitive vomiting
- Chronic dehydration
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Chronic gastric reflux after eating or peptic ulcers
Signs and symptoms of binge eating and purging are:
- Disappearance of large amounts of food
- Eating in secrecy
- Lack of control when eating
- Switching between periods of overeating and fasting
- Frequent use of the bathroom after meals
- Having the smell of vomit
Bulimia nervosa can also create problematic strains between the sufferer and family and friends, particularly as the individual has abnormal eating behaviours and/or the avoidance of social activities to engage in binge/purge episodes.
The Early Years (Aged 7-15)
It was only through my different recovery techniques such as CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy), hypnotherapy etc etc, did I look back on the triggers that could have contributed to my eating disorder. Why was I like the way I was? As a young child I was a happy, carefree, sporty child who was always smiling and loving life. However looking back, underneath all the positive and bubbly personality I was portraying, I remember negative thoughts going my head.
One key moment was in primary school where I was known as being the ‘early developer’. A tall blonde girl, the tallest in the class and probably the clumsiest too. It didn’t bother me too much but as I was developing early this meant my boobs were obviously growing at a faster rate than the other girls in my class. Winning!!!…..erm not, especially as a sporty girl. This made me feel very self-conscious which caused more negative thoughts in my head about how I looked. I guess this happens to a lot of girls growing up, it is normal, but these thoughts began to control my mind and my life for the next 6+ years.
As I was the tallest girl in my class this was emphasised in one of the lessons, some clever person decided it would be great to draw around the tallest and smallest of each sex, male and female. I remember feeling so down this day, the two small students in the class were perfect and petite, and here I was the giant which in my head I thought I was ‘obese’. I began to associate being tall with being fat. Despite playing all the sport I did, I never became small and petite as obviously my body had a certain physique…I couldn’t change my bone structure. I wasn’t stick thin like the models so it was repeatedly playing on my mind. Changing into my school uniform, looking at myself in the mirror and all I could see was a fat Hayley but then going to school with the same smile on my face. It is sad looking back on this and how down I felt inside.
In my high school years, this is where it became apparent that I turned to food. This was my control. I was a healthy child so there was no way in hell that I would let anyone see me eat unhealthy food…which I rarely did! I was still the sporty one, I had to keep my athletic persona and be known as ‘the healthy one’. I remember if I did try and ‘fit in’ one odd occasion by having that one packet of crisps or some sweets from the tuck shop (an attempt to feel like a normal school child)….it felt like all hell as broke lose. I had broken my image and people noticed by giving comments such as ‘oh my god Hayley is eating something unhealthy.’ This could have been a a jokey passing comment but this would trigger so much more……the hate against my body increased….I felt like I had lost the control and beat myself up so much.
As the stress of growing up increased, image became more and more important I turned to food and couldn’t stop. In my later years in high school, I would fast meaning I wouldn’t eat all day in school as I felt self-conscious eating in front of others. I felt drained as I was running around with my hundreds of bags during the day doing different activities such as netball, dancing, running training etc etc. I blamed not eating on being busy and I got away with it. However, a routine became apparent as I would literally time myself how fast it took me to walk home and how much time I had on my own in the house before my parents came home. This was my time to eat and I turned to food to mask the feelings I had deep down. There was a problem though, as soon as I ate I couldn’t stop. I was binging in secret as best as I could but it became noticed by my parents as things were missing in the kitchen cupboard. At this age I didn’t know really what I was doing..I just know I always wanted to lose weight. After the uncontrollable binge after school I would feel terrible and knew I had to do my evening activity that evening whether it be the gym, swimming, netball or running….but it was awful going to swimming training with a bloated stomach and so much guilt and hate. This would make me push my body…or more like punish myself for losing control after fasting all day. The routine continued…
The strive to be the best in my sporting activities and to be academically recognised took control from a very young age. This is common amongst people with eating disorders but I must stress this isn’t the same in everyone. For me I put so much stress on myself to succeed and I was constantly setting goals for myself…..majority of the time unrealistic goals. This would send me in a downward spiral where I would then begin hating myself more. I became separated from friendship groups and simply didn’t feel normal. I wouldn’t go out with friends as much as I had to fit the gym in or I didn’t feel good enough and didn’t want anyone to see me as I felt like I was being judged by everyone. I was focused and was determined to succeed, plus I wanted my dream body. I wrote down gym plans, nutrition plans and I must stress these weren’t healthy plans….my anxiety grew and grew. I would find unhealthy ways to try and lose weight and beat myself up if I didn’t succeed. By the end of my high school years I felt normal as I had a boyfriend…things were looking up but my insecurities still took control.
College and University Years (Aged 16-22)
These were definitely the years where things spiralled out of control, things were changing and it really took some strength to get through. I didn’t think at the time I had this strength to battle through. Firstly, I had been accepted in a well-known highly academic college where only a small amount of people from my high school progressed onto. I was originally excited to be going..it was a new start in a new place with new people, but these years turned to some very rough times. I wasn’t the best at anything anymore and there was greater competition in every part of my life. I felt threatened in my relationship, my passion for sport at the college disappeared and I felt stress and pressure to continue doing well with my academic work. This is where I really felt like I had lost my identity. I was more conscious of my appearance, competing to look at least half-decent and the anxiety took control where I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging. Obviously looking back this was all in my head, but I would break out in a sweat and panic in big groups and preferred a lot of the time to just be on my own. During this time I felt knocked as I lost my confidence playing netball. Something happened at the beginning of the year where I missed something as it was my boyfriends birthday and it put me off on the wrong footing. At the end of the day I just wanted to get home and out of the place, all the extra-curricular activities I enjoyed doing in high school I didn’t enjoy doing in college and just wanted to get home to the gym. It was a longer journey to college which didn’t make me happy at all and I became exhausted.
During this time I was fitting in my academic work, my crazy diets, my gym routine, my boyfriend, my work and I had no time to just sit and think. I fasted for days not wanting to eat anything, I did crazy gym routines, I took all sorts of diet pills, I was beating myself put as I felt too fat and always wanted to lose weight. In my relationship it was breaking down and I completely lost myself, I felt alone and emotionally broken. College was all a blur for me, I remember bits but I completely zoned out these two years…all I remember is living off energy drinks, beating myself up whenever I ate something bad or anything at all, and trying to keep my relationship stable whilst battling my insecurities. At the end of the college years I came out with great academic grades…..super happy and surprised despite everything going on in the background. The stress of picking my next step in life became so nerve-wracking, I felt like I had to pick between my relationship and what university I was going to go to. I got into the top sports university but I turned it down to be at the same university as my boyfriend and convinced myself it was for the better….I was closer to home and it was going to make our relationship stronger.
University years……some good times, majority the worst times. I thought going to a university with my boyfriend I could finally meet new people, go out drinking, hang around with loads of new people and finally enjoy being a normal university student. WRONG! This wasn’t me and very soon I realised it wasn’t. During my first year I struggled going out. I didn’t want to drink like the others as I didn’t want to put on weight. I isolated myself and it was the first time I had full control of my food intake. I would go on different diets all the time and couldn’t relax. If one night I wanted a normal movie night with my boyfriend with junk food I would go into full panic mode…as soon as I ate any of this stuff…I couldn’t stop! it was embarrassing and I felt disgusting. This is where the binging and purging really took over my life. Fast forward a few months I had a messy split with my boyfriend which crushed me. It was my first boyfriend and we had been together for nearly 4 years….I was alone. It emotionally destroyed me at the time, I couldn’t eat and would go home crying uncontrollably….this was so not like me as I never cried in front of anyone. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything and struggled to focus on anything else. My anxiety became out of control and would panic just walking around university ….I felt so much nervous energy and could feel the fat on my body.
I made it through the first year….thank god. Second year it was another ‘new beginning’ for me in a new house with new room mates. I decided to get involved with freshers and partied hard….but my partying hard is drinking and not eating. No way could I be drinking calories as well as eating calories. I would go to the gym half-drunk, I would keep on drinking these next few weeks on little food getting me through. As you would predict…I crashed. I couldn’t handle it and my mood dropped to all time low. Work was piling up and my binging became out of control. Second and third year, I lived off little sleep and hurt my body a lot. The binge and purge cycle became intense and I couldn’t stop. The rush was too much to handle. Many people may not understand this binge and purge cycle I experienced but I will try and explain with an example of what would happen many, many, many times.
- My mind ‘Ok Hayley you have this assignment to do, lets go to the library and get the work done’……..
- 5 minutes into the work my anxiety increases and finding it hard to focus on anything. ..’I can’t do this assignment, I don’t know what to write, I need food, I am hungry, why can’t I do this? Everyone is looking at me. I need to go to the gym so I need to get this done. I can’t eat anything I will get fat. What can I eat that will not lead me into a binge? How many calories and fat is that? I will eat something and come back to do my work.’
- Pack my stuff away and head off to get food…My mind is racing, I feel so much adrenaline, I need to settle this empty feeling. I zone out and head to the shop. ‘This has too many calories, this has too much fat, what can I eat, this is so hard to pick, people are looking at me, how many should I get, I can’t get two, that won’t fill me up, bread will bloat me, I want something sweet, or do I want something savoury, should I go back to the library, my roommates aren’t in, I can go back later and do my work…….’ My mind explodes and I go into a complete trance. It is all so overwhelming in the shop. I panic I leave and without thinking I head to another shop where I hope no students will be to see me. I pick everything and anything into my basket. I am sweating and totally flustered. I reach the till and feel judged completely….It is completely obvious. I have 30 english pounds worth of food in my basket with 3 boxes of laxatives …..hmmmm?
- I literally speed walk back to my flat where I know I have just under 2 hours to do this. The first mouthful of food is unexplainable…..my anxiety decreases as I keep eating. Not even thinking I am shoving all this food, all this fat, all these calories into my body.
- BANG…looking around at all the empty packets. WHAT HAVE I JUST DONE? Panic increases and immediately i need to get the food out of my body. I run to the bathroom and force myself to be sick multiple times making sure the last thing I have eaten comes up. it gets to the point where water is just coming up. I sit on the bathroom floor completely zoned out. ‘Why have I done this again?’. I feel so emotional and beat myself up. I take a packet of laxatives still panicking I have gained weight immediately and end up taking nearly the full packet. I had become immune to them from overuse so I just had more and more.
- In pain, zoned out, dehydrated, depressed and feeling disgusting I try to focus and go back to the work I had to do. I stay in my room and don’t go out as I am too embarrassed as I feel like everyone knows what I have done.
A lot of people with bulimia believe….it is shameful, it is selfish and the eating disorder made me become a very selfish person. It became so intense this cycle it would be happening multiple times a day. Looking back I don’t know how I functioned. My body was falling apart and I was mentally in a downwards spiral. I felt so much anxiety I would have a panic just leaving the house, I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone as I was so ashamed and pushed so many people away. I put myself in some scary situations for example I felt after having multiple binge and purge sessions plus overdosing on laxatives I fell asleep on the bathroom floor as I couldn’t move, I was so dehydrated and thought this would stop me. This is how powerful the eating disorder takes control of your life….you feel nothing can stop it and the next day you will continue.
Where did I get help?
I admit I tried everything! From following a structured eating plan, getting referred to outpatient eating disorder program, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation and hypnotherapy. I believe you have to do this to find the thing that helps you as it isn’t the same for everyone.
One thing that I hope this blog post will encourage is for people to speak up and talk to people around them. It is scary and not everyone understands…you feel shameful and embarrassed. I stress you shouldn’t. The first blog post I wrote about this I was overwhelmed with positive comments and a lot of people came forward who were suffering behind closed doors. I was very lucky to have a close supportive family that helped me come through the other side.
With my personal experience I will tell you, it isn’t a smooth journey! It is recovery journey that continues with you throughout life full of ups and downs. However, having techniques to overcome these will help in which you can tun to when you feel the urge. It is time to start loving yourself and living your life free!!!!
One thing that massively helped me get the ball rolling after many attempts at recovery was hypnotherapy. I saw my hypnotherapist once/twice a week where I would talk to her about how I was feeling and was totally honest with her. This was hard!! She would then get me to lie down attached to a monitor to measure my pulse rate…..you wouldn’t believe how high it was at the beginning of the session because of how much anxiety I was feeling. During the session we would focus on one thing, it could be increasing positivity, confidence, self-love etc, and I would close my eyes and she would slowly speak about this topic. My pulse rate began to decrease the more I relaxed into a trance where positive thoughts were filling my mind. It sounds crazy but I came out of every session feeling so much better and relaxed.
This was one thing that did help me but I believe the main thing was practising the importance of gratitude. At this time I was faced with a massive change of leaving home for a long period of time….I was travelling around during this time and faced with many obstacles. However, this really opened my mind up about the world and I reminded myself everyday of how grateful I was for the little things in life. I understood the importance of self-love and gave myself that ‘me’ time. My anxiety decreased as I met so many people from around the world and hearing peoples stories helped me appreciate my life so much more. I started to respect my body plus love my body for how it was and slowly my relationship with food began to change.
There was no quick fix and it is a life thing that I will battle with but I can honestly say I now cannot remember the last time I purged anything and have relaxed massively about gaining that perfect image. I love myself now whatever weight I am and learned to listen to my body. I just hope this blog post opens peoples eyes up about the seriousness of this eating disorder, how it takes your life away and destroys everything around you. I had broken friendships, broken family relationships, no social life, a broken body and mind. It is totally not worth it. Don’t let your negative mind take control.
“There are women who struggle to GAIN weight who are beautiful. There are women who struggle to LOSE weight who are beautiful. You know who is the most beautiful? Those who learn to love themselves the way they are. You don’t need to change for ANYONE.”
― Teresa Mummer
In the Media
When I wanted to recover I was reaching out trying to find other people who have gone through a similar thing. Here I created a video called ‘AM I NORMAL? AM I ALONE’ of certain movies, interviews and documentaries that may explain bulimia in a more visual way that may get you to recognise yours’ or someone elses’ symptoms who be struggling behind closed doors and to stress this is normal when you suffer with bulimia.
Also, I found an amazing book that described everything I was going through so well. It really was comforting to know someone else has been through the same struggle. It is a true story called ‘Something Spectacular: The True Story of One Rockette’s Battle with Bulimia’ about a girl called Greta Gleissner who was a Radio City Rockette for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular in New York City.
Below is an article about the book that sums it up so well with her experience with bulimia.
“Insecure and suffering from bulimia, Greta Gleissner had her dream job as a Radio City Rockette for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular in New York City – but that didn’t stop her from bingeing and purging up to 30 times a day.
Gleissner had been stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her parents’ credit cards in order to pay for food; and at 5-feet, 7-inches tall, she constantly compared herself to the other dancers – never feeling she was good enough to belong.
Depressed and feeling bloated toward the end of the show’s season, she called in ‘sick,’ deciding to spend the day bingeing and purging. In her mind, Gleissner rationalized this would make her feel thinner.
After eating “huge balls of mozzarella … a breakfast burrito, three hash browns, a cinnamon roll, two strips of bacon, and egg and cheese biscuit and a large Diet Coke,” Gleissner attempted to purge – but the cheese became lodged in her esophagus.
“You stupid idiot. What’s wrong with you?” Gleissner remembers thinking. She chronicled those thoughts in her memoir, Something Spectacular: The True Story of One Rockette’s Battle With Bulimia.
“That was a close call,” she wrote. “I easily could’ve choked to death. …Agh, I don’t want anymore. I’m finished for today, having scared myself silly.”
Gleissner, who soon entered a rehab program at Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona, said she remembers the specific day she became a bulimic as a teenager. Initially, the process was difficult – but she soon learned the ‘tricks’ of a bulimic – and became hooked.
It got to the point where she didn’t even have to stick her finger down her throat – her stomach would convulse on its own.
Jenny Taitz, a New York City-based psychologist who has not treated Gleissner, but treats patients with eating disorders, said it is estimated that 24 million Americans struggle with eating disorders; although it’s hard to know for sure, since many people struggling with one don’t always seek treatment.
A talented dancer from an early age, Gleissner was faced with mounting problems: Her parents were constantly fighting, which ultimately led to a divorce; she felt the need to lose weight in order to be successful and fit in – and through it all, she was questioning her sexuality.
“While my family dynamics played a part, it was how I chose to react to the situation,” she said. “Initially, I didn’t think it was an issue . . .but it became a full-fledged addiction.”
Taitz agreed: There’s plenty of research that shows bulimics and anorexics struggle with managing their emotions – and as a result, they misuse food to cope.
“So we have to teach people how to manage their emotions in more skillful ways, rather than using food and struggling with the fact that you’re eating with secondary emotions,” she added.
Gleissner was convinced she could kick the habit once she became a Rockette, but the rigorous schedule and anxiety to compete with other women only added to her disease.
“I was never told to lose weight,” Gleissner said, but guidelines stipulate Rockettes have to maintain a certain weight and height. “But with the characteristics of eating disorders, I was comparing myself to everyone else.”
Taitz said a common theme for people with eating disorders is that they define themselves according to their weight and shape.
Despite the lows she was going through, Gleissner maintains the Rockette gig – her last professional dancing job – was still a dream come true.
“It was amazing; it was a wonderful organization that treated me very well,” she said. “I thought this would be the job that changed my life – external solutions to fix internal problems. I wish my bulimia would not have stained my experience.”
For the third and final time, Gleissner entered a rehab program at the age of 28.
At Sierra Tucson, Gleissner learned how to eat smaller meals at the proper times. She learned to change her internal dialogue – and although she had periodic relapses, it has now been years since she has binged and purged.
Long-term effects of bulimia can include osteoporosis, gastrointestinal problems, cardiac arrest, low blood pressure, infertility and dental damage. With the exception of some root canals from all the junk food she ate, Gleissner said she did not incur any harmful health problems.
After Sierra Tucson, Gleissner spent three months at another treatment center in Florida and continued with therapy and a 12-step program. Eventually, she attended college and graduate school and became a psychotherapist.
Gleissner currently works at Hazelden – Tribeca Twelve, a housing facility for young recovering addicts in New York City. She treats patients with substance abuse disorders and eating disorders, and she has her own private practice. She said she has “normalized eating, just like everyone else.”
At 39, Gleissner is in a committed relationship and said her family life has definitely improved.
“Being in recovery is possible,” she said. “It is a process, and a lot of hard work, but it’s possible.”
Where I am at now?
I am the best I have ever been. It is so hard writing this blog post as I don’t even recognise the person I am writing about. To be honest I don’t remember much of my thought process at this time as it is all a blur and something I have discarded from my memory as much as I can. Practising gratitude everyday has helped me take control of my life and surrounding myself with positive people…I am very lucky to be who I am and I love myself no matter how much negative thoughts creep back into my mind.
I wish anyone who is struggling to speak up. I will always speak to anyone and provide any advice to help in anyway. It is not easy but recovery can happen!
Lots of Love to everyone ❤ Be kind and gentle to yourself ❤
YOU DESERVE IT!
“Live Free…Live a Journey”
Speak Soon xx