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  • “To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.”

    Buddha (563-483BC)

    I am a self-recovered bulimic. I say that because despite being sent to a psychiatrist in 1984, I chose the long road instead and decided to work it out for myself. I became bulimic because the conditions were ripe and I had been exposed to the practice on TV. In the beginning it was difficult but soon became a habit and a coping mechanism for emotions I could not articulate. At first it was just a desperate attempt to lose weight. I had been on scholarship to the United States and had left as a fit, successful sports woman but returned hefty, unmotivated and depressed about myself. In everyone else’s eyes it was a shame to have such a pretty face. Well at least that’s what it felt like to me but then again I really was still a girl…
    Bulimia took me to some pretty dark places where I felt trapped in a vicious cycle of binge eating, purging and obsessive exercise. I was an addict and bulimia became my fix for dealing with anger that ran so deep that it felt safer to take it out on myself. In the end the things I felt ashamed about most I did to myself. However, for a long time I did harbour one very deep regret. I had a friend, my very best friend who began to copycat my behaviour. We use to run 10 kilometres together most nights. She knew of my secret but would never come to understand my torment and despair. When she was suddenly killed in a car accident I could barely grieve for her death because I had become so lost in my own self- destruction. That I would have to say is one of the things that I most regret and did feel guilty about for a long time. I felt an incredible sadness at her passing which was hard to accept. On occasion I had wished that she could see me to know that her death was what finally motivated me to find a way out of the darkness that had engulfed my spirit. However dramatic that may sound, anyone who has been caught in the grips of this eating disorder will know it is not an exaggeration.
    The path has been long. The road has been full of detours and unexpected turns. At times I did believe it would be easier to just give up but I felt it was my responsibility to find the answers myself. My family tried to help me. I had become quite ill and weak. I got kicked out of home. My parents begged and pleaded with me not knowing what to do with the daughter that had once been so confident and happy. Along the way I encountered those who would teach me lessons that I needed to learn. Along the way I encountered lessons that seemed harsh and cruel but most of the time I kept it together and fooled a lot of people but on the inside I loathed myself, to me I felt unworthy of love because I felt so ashamed of what I had become. I remained in the grips of bulimia for about ten years, untangling myself from its clutches and having periods of peace from what I nick named the beast. In 1986 I was sexually assaulted which sent me back into the downward spiral of bulimia again. It took five years before I could tell my mum about it but despite that traumatic experience, bulimia in itself was much more difficult for me to finally recover from, that experience just compounded it but the understanding of it has now set me free…
    Throughout the entire time the one thing that probably gave me any kind of respite was writing. I loved to write, always loved to write as a child. I loved to sing, always sang as a child but I suppose I allowed bulimia to steal my natural voice. For a long time it became lost, silent, mute but back then I didn’t even know I actually suffered from a disease. All of my experiences add up to my recovery. The first significant step was recognising that bulimia was a coping strategy for dealing with anger that I could not express. I kept a diary during most of the years that upon reflection now was rather dark, sad and depressing but it was an outlet for feelings that I kept to myself.
    So how did I actually come to the conclusion that I am fully recovered? I have been physically recovered for 21 years. I have not purged myself since then but more importantly the key to unlocking the door to final recovery for me came in understanding that I was emotionally recovered. I came to an understanding of this when my partner of 13 years had an affair with his best friend’s wife whom he had known since his teenage years. I realised that even though that was a difficult period for all of us; particularly our children, not once did I ever contemplate returning to this coping mechanism to deal with my unpleasant feelings. I just allowed myself to feel them. Being able to feel and learning to become attuned to my feelings is where my recovery has really taken place; although at times I still experience a delayed reaction because I can become distracted by what I think rather than what I am actually feeling. And to anyone out there who finds themselves in that dark place that I once only knew too well. My advice is to seek help and reach out. Recovery comes when you can truly love yourself for all that you were, all that you are and all that you can still become…live your life, love yourself, laugh out loud.
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