Linda talks about her experience with bulimia and her realisation that for a long time, she was forcing her body to be a way that it was not meant to be.
TW: Eating disorders, disordered weight and body thoughs, body dysmorphia
I started University on a high. I made friends quickly and easily and thrived in my degree. I was living my best life. However, lurking under all of that was something that I could never quite put my finger on. A secret sort of sadness.
Everything fell apart very quickly. I started dieting and exercising a lot more than usual. I just wanted to be healthy, but slowly, my relationship with food was becoming more disordered. It was a very slippery slope; by the end of the second term of university, I had lost a lot of weight and hadn’t eaten a proper meal in ages. My whole life revolved around food. I sat in lectures, unable to concentrate because I was starving. I spent ages coming up with excuses to avoid social commitments that involved food. Shopping became laborious. I went to Tesco’s every day; I was so scared of binge eating that I only bought enough food for two meals at a time. When I went, I spent ages trying to find the ‘right’ food. When I returned home, cooking would feel like an immense struggle.
Bulimia became my self-identity.
During my second year of university, I started compulsive exercising. Again, it was a slippery slope. Just walking a bit more. Going on a run now and then. Soon, I was spending more hours than I care to admit, exercising. I did not care about the weather – if it was snowing or raining, I would still find a way to burn calories. And rest? Ha! I pushed my body past the breaking point and then some more! Therefore, it is no surprise that my health started to decline. See the body, whilst thriving under moderate exercise, is not made for exercising all the time. It started with an ankle sprain and soon, aching knees, back and leg pain. By refusing to take a break, I reached a point where my muscles were so inflamed that they were crying out in pain! An inflammatory enzyme had built up so much that at its worse, it could start affecting my kidney functioning.
I was in constant pain for eight months.
Fast forward two and a half years. I have gained all the weight that I lost back, and I am no longer in pain. I have had three different types of therapy since and finally, I am starting to recover. Sometimes I look at myself and call myself names. I feel fat and disgusting. Then I remind myself that when I was thinner, I was not a person – just an eating disorder. Similarly, I exercise and find myself panting and want to berate myself because I have lost a lot of cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Then I tell myself that the gains that I made were not sustainable. I do less exercise, and it is not as intense. I go on long walks and do yoga. I eat more, and I am happier for it.
See, I forced my body to be a way that it was not supposed to be and in doing so, I also lost years of my life. Knowing that makes me determined to continue trying on my journey of recovery. My ankles are still weak from the compulsive exercise but when they heal, I am going to do the couch to 5K. When things open up properly, I am going to learn how to swim. Currently, I am seeing a nutritionist who supports me with eating healthily and I am still in therapy to figure deal with the distress that led me to rely on an eating disorder.