My battle with disordered eating
This isn’t something I’ve talked about much at all. Not until recently when I felt that I could. You see it’s something I’ve found really embarrassing and had been majorly ashamed about, my big secret. It’s embarrassing and gross not to mention hard to explain.
When I was around 11 (it’s hard for me to put an exact age on it) I developed disordered eating thoughts, habits and body image issues. I mean name me a female who doesn’t have those right?
I don’t know why but I felt super self conscious when people talked about what I was eating.
When I was 13 and my body started to change (I literally had a tiny boy body) I remember a comment being made while I was being fitted for ballet costumes that my hips and butt had grown, which I thought meant I was fat.
Looking back now it seems so insignificant but it really stuck with me. From there the obsessive over exercise started. The negative and morphed thoughts gradually got worse and worse until it consumed my life and I never thought I’d be free of it.
It wasn’t until I was 14 or 15 that I remember becoming bulimic. It’s all a bit of a blur and it came and went in waves when I was most stressed.
In therapy many years later we worked out my eating disorder was linked to my anxiety and feelings that I wasn’t good enough. It was a self soother and made me feel calm and so much better after each purge.
I had a boyfriend at high school who was vegetarian and he would break up with me when I ate meat (or had a sneaky party dart) and tried to tell me what to eat. This was hugely detrimental and eventually I broke up with him.
My eating disorder was at it’s worst while I was studying at Broadcasting School. I think being away from home for the first time, living in a new city, away from my then boyfriend, having new routines and not doing my sport and dancing four plus nights a week teamed with one of the most full on times, oh and throw in binge drinking and boys (lol) in the mix.
It was at it’s worst when was 18-20. I restricted what I ate, spent hours doing high impact exercise daily and threw up every single thing I ate. I was very sick, I didn’t know how to make it stop and it made me not want to be alive.
I don’t think people realise how much an eating disorder completely fucks with your mind. It’s not like you just won’t eat it’s so much more complicated than that. It takes over your life, it’s all you can think about. I remember thinking if I ate one biscuit I would gain 10kgs. I looked in the mirror and saw fat that wasn’t even there. It’s an obsession with an unhealthy desire for ‘perfection’.
You can’t imagine a life being free from it. As someone who has experienced grief, severe anxiety and panic attacks it’s well above all of that and I’ve never felt so crazy in my life.
I won’t go through all of my ‘tricks’ as I know from my own experience this can make someone who is currently in the throws of it worse. I read a book about a woman’s battle with anorexia and I just got better/ worse at doing it.
But let’s just say I was very good at hiding it. I would throw up in toilet, sink or shower. I got to a point where I wouldn’t even make a noise. I would find places outside and in bushes. Once I went to a concert at a winery and found a spot in the vines. See I told you it was gross. The ironic thing is I HATE throwing up. It makes me so upset and I cry and want my parents.
It was suggested by medical professionals I delay going back for my second year of study but being a stroppy head strong gal I refused to let this ruin my career dreams (it was already ruining my days and life). I committed to recovering as an outpatient. I was never majorly underweight but I was very ill and my unhealthy thoughts were making me feel crazy and I was a complete bitch to my family.
I went to the hospital for tests and was told I had caused damage to my organs. This upset me a lot I went home and cried and cried. I felt like such a failure. I didn’t like the clinical style of treatment at the hospital, I needed nurturing and support. It was something I really struggled to speak about with anyone.
Disordered eating is a form of mental illness and you need professional help to overcome this life sucking bastard.
I started seeing a therapist Rachel at EDANZ weekly. I swear she is an angel and she helped to change my life. I don’t think I could’ve done it without her. I cried a lot in our sessions it was very painful for me to talk about but you’ve got to get the process started. Pull the band aid off and start dealing with what is at the core of your disorder.
At one point I was doing three therapy sessions a week.
I met a spiritual therapist when I was buying crystals and I started seeing Louise regularly. She put crystals on my body and did energy healing. I responded really well to this type of therapy.
Not long before I turned 20 I came off my motor scooter and dislocated and broke my shoulder. I had been in therapy for almost two years but was told I needed to eat properly so my bones could heal. I don’t think I purged after that and before I knew it I had stopped restricting and throwing up my food. I had to be careful of my trigger foods but managed to eat a balanced diet and exercise less obsessively. It was a process and took years to stop fully being scared of food. When I discovered Dr Libby’s books and went to her seminars I learnt the importance of nourishing instead of punishing my body. Over time I realised that if I ate mostly clean I could have treats and not have to worry about gaining weight. I shared this with Dr Libby on her episode of The Self-Love Club Podcast.
I relapsed twice. Once after a traumatic experience with an ex boyfriend when I was 20.
The second time was not long before a long term boyfriend and I broke up. I remember I was driving on State Highway 1 going to see some friends in a different town and I made myself sick into a shopping bag. Each time I got professional help the first time I purged and was quickly able to get back on track.
My advice to overcome an eating disorder
Tell someone you trust. This is a beast of a burden to deal with on your own. It can be really scary to admit it out loud but you will feel so much better trust me.
Get professional help. You cannot do this on your own. They are extremely experienced and help people get through it every day.
Take each day as it comes. One day at a time.
Deal with and treat what is at the core of your disordered eating. Your therapist will help you work it out.
Come up with a coping plan. For me that was knowing what to do when I started feeling off or anxious. Instead of self-soothing and purging I would write, have a bath, go for a walk, hang out with my friends or be creative and paint or make something.
Ten years on
I only realised it had been ten years when I booked in and got my teeth cleaned and whitened at White Smile Dental in Takapuna, Auckland and I highly recommend them.
I had a dental exam, two thorough cleans, four preventive fillings and two sessions of teeth whitening. Dr. Fraser made me feel really comfortable and I will continue to see him for my dental care.
I always felt bad for the damage I’d caused to my teeth after my parents spent thousands on braces.
I was not paid for this and it was something I was going to do quietly for myself, but it’s important. This has taken me 15 year to be able to talk about to anyone apart from my therapists that helped me recover.
For anyone who is the shit swamp that is living with an eating disorder right now you are not alone. SO many of us go through this ugly and relentless battle. Get help. Get all the help you can. Do whatever it takes. Even if there’s only a tiny part of you that wants to get better, it will grow. You WILL overcome this. I promise you. If I did it you can too.
Listen to my Bonus Episode on The Self-Love Club Podcast
Where to get help
See your GP for a referral to a psychologist or counsellor
Healthline: healthline.govt.nz 0800 611 116
EDANZ: ed.org.nz 0800 2 EDANZ
NZ Eating Disorders Clinic: nzeatingdisordersclinic.co.nz 09 962 6236
Tupu Ora Eating Disorder Services ed.org.nz 09 623 4650
Adult Mental Health & Addictions Services waikatodhb.health.nz 07 834 6902
Central Region Eating Disorder Services: mhaids.health.nz 0800 745 477
(Includes Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North and Whanaganui)
Mental Health and Addiction Services bopdhb.govt.nz 0800 800 508
South Island Eating Disorder Services ed.org.nz 03 337 7707
Southern Support Eating Disorders Services : groups.qldc.govt.nz 0800 328 744
See your doctor for a referral to a psychologist
Butterfly Foundation: thebutterflyfoundation.org.au 1800 33 4673
National Eating Disorders Collaboration nedc.com.au (02) 9412 4499
Eating Disorder Hope: eatingdisorderhope.com 1-888-496-5498
Eating Disorders Victoria: eatingdisorders.org.au 1300 550 236
Centre For Eating & Dieting Disorders: cedd.org.au (02) 8627 5690
Eating Disorders Queensland: eatingdisordersqueensland.org.au (07) 3844 6055
The Swan Centre: swancentre.com.au 08 9382 8775