I wanted to talk about how it feels to experience different mental health problems, so I decided to do a little series.
So far I’ve covered, with the help of some wonderful guest bloggers: anorexia, depression, mania, OSFED, anxiety, BED, and EUPD. I am putting a content warning on this post as there might be some difficult content.
In this post, the lovely Xena Worrier Princess is sharing her experiences of bulimia.
I’ve spoken openly about my mental health struggles this past year after hiding it from the world, friends and family included for many years. Even opening up on suicide. But, there’s one part of my condition I’ve kept quiet, and it could be my last ‘taboo’- my battle with bulimia.
The unwelcome side effect
I fell into the binge purge cycle of bulimia a decade ago, when first diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication. I was just 25, and a complete stranger to the world of mental health, as were most people back in 2008. I had never struggled with my weight before. I was a young, healthy, size 8-10. I wasn’t a fanatic healthy eater or exerciser (I didn’t even have a gym membership), nor did I load up on junk. I was miss moderate.
It’s important to see where the bulimia started. I was incredibly lonely during this period. Both physically isolated from friends and family whilst living in a different part of the country, and choosing instead to hide away, increasingly so as my weight began to balloon some months after starting on Citalopram. I didn’t know at the time, this was a common side effect- I’d not spoken in depth to the doctor when being prescribed it, and I was too embarrassed to ask any questions.
The more the weight crept up without my diet even changing, the more self-conscious I became and I would hide myself away. I was deeply unhappy and couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror. I began to comfort eat, picking on biscuits, cakes, anything sweet and stodgy to fill the craving. I would eat so much I’d disgust myself, and physically feel my body rejecting what I’d inhaled. I remember the first time I deliberately made myself sick, and the relief I felt afterwards. It was like everything that had been building up was suddenly being let go. I was physically and mentally lighter.
All of this was in secret. I lived with a boyfriend at the time, but I couldn’t stand him knowing what I was doing. It seemed so shameful, not something a teacher in her mid 20s would do. After my first purge, it became habitual over the next two years- the duration that first period of depression lasted. Then, just as suddenly as the illness came along, it disappeared. As my depression eased, and I stopped the medication, so too stopped my binging and purging.
Until ten years later, when mental illness struck again. Although I was sure to insist this time on different medication that wasn’t so likely to have the unwelcome side effect, I somehow fell back into the cycle of bulimia. A mental crutch. For me, I’ve realised it has little to do with weight. Though that may have been how it started, it became about my mental state. My severe anxiety this time round was my biggest demon. And the binging and purging somehow became a crutch, a way of seizing control when everything seemed to be spinning away from me.
I sometimes felt as if I was in a daze, as if in those moments nothing else mattered. It became a regular repetitive action, the tearing apart of the cake, the rapid chewing, the greedy gulping- it blocked out all the noise that was regularly rushing around my head. I had a habit of bottling things up, talking wasn’t something I was yet comfortable with – and it’s often how I think the bulimia crept up on me. Like I was literally needing to explode, empty everything out of me. I would keep this completely private, never binging and purging with anyone around. It was something I did in secret, my own secluded escape route. I would rarely start out with the intention
of having an episode. It would begin harmlessly enough with a biscuit, one piece of cake. But my brain somehow seemed to connect that one piece with the feeling of going completely out of control and then, the relief and release of letting it all leave my body afterwards.
I’ve struggled and battled to find other ways of coping with my illness, and for the most part I’ve succeeded. This seems to be my last battle, the lingering habit I’m finding so hard to shake. Whilst I don’t do it as regularly as I had at my worst, when it was daily, twice daily. I’m very aware it’s still there.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share? If so, head over to the ‘Contact Me’ page and let me know.