In 2014, I was sat in a doctor’s office, being officially diagnosed with an illness I knew I had: Bulimia. Despite my mental state, I distinctly remember asking him if I would ever get rid of the illness, to which he simply replied: “Most people learn to control it but it will likely be there for the rest of your life”. Four years later and unfortunately those words ring true.
For me to develop Bulimia in the first place was quite a shock to anyone who knew me growing up. From the age of 10, I suffered from Emetophobia, the phobia of vomiting, triggered by my fathers drunken antics.
When I say phobia, I don’t mean general disgust and a slight adrenaline rush, I mean full-blown panic attacks, hysteria, sweats, anxiety… It is a huge contributor as to why I don’t drink alcohol or go out clubbing…
But when uni starter the september before, I found myself consumed by the devil itself.
Four years on and I am a happy, healthy ex-bulimic with every determination to stay this way for the rest of my life. However, I still have bad days. Day’s when I look in the mirror, horrified by what I see. Days where the voice in my head begs me to skip a meal or work longer shifts so I burn more calories. I succeed in banishing that voice back to the dark pit from which it came but it always lingers. The best way to tackle it is to avoid any triggers or situations that involve dietary talk. Unfortunately that’s isn’t very easy when you work in a hospital full of sick and vomiting patients as well as a department with a huge population of ‘fad dieters’. Fad diets spread around my department as fast as the Pneumonic plague and when your trapped in the middle of a four-way dieting conversation, its suffocating.
Managing myself, my thoughts, has become the norm for me. As anyone who has experienced a mental health illness will tell you, you can’t run away from your own thoughts so with the support of those around you, you have to learn to shout louder than any other voice. I know for now how to control it. My worries come for the future, when I eventually find someone and have a baby. I don’t know how I’ll cope seeing my body change. I know I’ll be growing another human being and not getting fat but the issue with body dysmorphia is that you don’t see yourself as you are.
If I decide to eat a whole pizza in one sitting, the next day I will believe that I have gained permanent weight but I know that any bloating is temporary and in a day or two I’ll go back to feeling like my normal self.
This illness has made me a very jumpy person. What once was a fear of vomiting has developed into an immense fear of ever becoming bulimic again. It is my biggest fear, and out of all the crap I have been though in my life, having my thoughts controlled and dominated was by far the worst. I get panicky whenever someone close to me loses weight. Whenever someone simply mentions the word ‘Diet’, but especially when someone comments on the way I look. I absolutely hate it.
I am lucky that I have gained a huge support network. My family and friends are all there when I need them and know what to look out for should I ever fall back into my old habits. I have always been open with people about my past because I know all too well how easy it is to hide and get consumed.
I wrote this in honor of National Mental Health Day. It is ok to not be ok and no one should feel like they have to go through it alone. If you are struggling, please tell those closest to you. We will get through this together.