I was considered heavier than most and translated that as ”there is something different and wrong about you.” While I was not overweight as a child, I was hefty and strong and I didn’t have a problem with eating. I did develop a sweet tooth from an early age. But there existed the message I already had about myself; “there is something wrong about me made me ashamed about the excitement I got from sweets. I guess somewhere along the way, I picked up that it was bad to be big and to eat too much and to be a ‘bad’ person meant that you were not worthy of love.
I discovered that I could make myself sick quite by accident. My family was going to church and I was getting ready. I had a pain in my stomach. I thought that I had eaten something bad and did not want to be sick in the church so I stuck my finger down my throat and I vomited. I don’t remember how soon after I started throwing up my food, but it became a habit and a gripping cycle that I would be trapped in for years.
I first told someone of my illness in 1994 and was encouraged to get help. It was very difficult to get help. I had called the Samaritans before with buckets of tears, but never mentioned my distressed eating. My GP was also not very encouraging, but she did point me in the right direction. She sent me to a psychiatric hospital that dealt with eating distress. It was, of course, not close to my home. My first step toward professional help was the beginning of recovery. However, it was not helpful to hear from the psychologist that I would have this illness all my life. He was quite pessimistic, but he gave me some useful tools for helping me to understand why I was behaving this way. He encouraged me to thoroughly examine my feelings, emotions and the cognitions behind the behaviour and I began to see that I am a deeply sensitive person and that my whole self-esteem and self-value was hanging on what others thought of me.
Since those early days, I have come a long way. I am no longer ruled by food. I enjoy it, I allow myself to eat what I want. I am healthy and my aim is to treat my body well. Food is a necessity for life. For a long time, it was the enemy for me. I had to become friends with food again and re-learn how to eat. Being able to live with the feeling of fullness was difficult at first. I had to learn self-soothing exercises to calm myself down when I felt overwhelming feelings rising in me. Some things I found helpful were; being really gentle with myself. Rubbing my stomach when full and telling myself that food is good for me and my body needs it. I would also do things like go for a walk in a quiet area or read a good book in a cosy spot. I also had to learn to be expressive in the world and accept that everyone cannot possibly love me and that is OK! I feel compelled now to reach out to others like me who may be feeling lost, confused and desperate. I want to tell them that this does not have to be your life! There is calmness and happiness out there. It does take hard work and a desire to be well and it also takes support. I could not have done it alone. My success gives me pride and confidence in myself. You can have that too!
Recovered, Age 30
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