Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

What it's like to suffer from Bulimia.

This is Tash (my sister) and I now (I am on the right).
Today I welcome my AMAZINGLY strong and inspirational friend Elise to my blog. I met Elise in my third year of study at university in a geography course. We hit it off straight away. Elise and I have been rock climbing together, have danced like goobers in my lounge room together, baked, laughed and cried together. Elise opened up to me a couple of years ago about her struggle with Bulimia. I had heard of the illness but had ever known of someone who had struggled with it. I was shocked. She is SO beautiful both on the inside and outside. I wanted her to desperately see that. Writing this post today has taken Elise a lot of courage, but she was ready to share her story to help others in the same situation that she was in, and to create awareness for those who have heard of the illness, but don't fully understand it.

It has definitely helped me to have a better understanding of the illness, and to squash some of my misconceptions.

Take it away Elise, I am so proud of you.

 Elise's Story.

I suffered from Bulimia for over two years.
I have two elder sisters. As a child I was the skinniest. People seemed to think this was a good thing. I came to believe that being a skinny dancer was somehow good during my 10 years of ballet & tap dancing.
I started counting calories soon after I quit ballet and noticed changes to my figure. 
In 2005 I moved to London. My boyfriend at the time liked ‘skinny girls’ and I was ‘only just’ ok.  The idea that I was not already okay complemented my own beliefs.
I first tried laxatives in 2007 when I was 21. Soon after returning to Australia I started to purge because no other method was ‘working’.
At times, I would binge and purge twice a week. During the worst stages, I would binge and purge four times a day. Other times, I’d take a couple of laxatives at night or starve myself for a couple of days. Through it all I’d walk, walk, walk, just to make sure!

My weight fluctuated by about 8 kilos, which is “nothing major”. It’s easy to keep it a secret, which I did for well over a year.

The end of 2009 was the end of my recovery, so it has been almost 3 years.

Misconception 1: What a petty problem! Bulimics are materialistic & shallow, with nothing better to do than worry about their weight!
   First, bulimia is mental & emotional hell!!

Second, anyone who knew me will tell you that I wasn’t materialistic. I didn’t act like one of the Kardashians, didn’t care for fashion, and wasn’t spoilt.
I didn’t have an “easy First World life”. I was busier than ever being a fulltime undergrad student with part-time jobs, cramming internships into each university break, I moved home three times, and tried to maintain a long-distance relationship through it all.
Bulimia is not really about food, or body image per se. It is a way of trying to control unwanted emotions, situations, and beliefs. It was only during and after recovery that I discovered why I was doing what I was doing.

Me (on the left) and my sister Tash in my ballet days.

Misconception 2: People who have bulimia have no self-control
At least anorexics have the self-control to starve!! (As if they are doing it for fun!)
I told myself every day that I had no-self-control, was greedy and wasteful. Then, to try and do something about those feelings of shame, I’d suppress them until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then I’d rebel by doing what I’d fear I would do – eat. Then the guilt would come back, and I’d purge. The more I wanted to break free from the feeling of being shameful, the more I’d eat. So this attitude towards bulimia is very hurtful.

What tendencies did you have that related to your Bulimia?
Suppressing emotions/wants/needs –I didn’t realise that I was suppressing my natural emotions, appetite, desires to socialise, create, etc. but I did feel like an out-of-control emotional wreck of a robot and didn’t know why!
Low-self-esteem – If someone seemed more confident than I did, I’d assume they were right and I was wrong.
Perfectionism –I was not good enough as I was.
‘People-pleaser’ – Being a good person meant others always come first. Looking after myself was selfish.

What helped you recover?
1. Accepting how I felt.
Putting this into action was very powerful, and 100% worth it. Admitting what I was going through to my sister was a huge turning point. Sitting with my feelings after a binge and choosing not to purge was extremely powerful. Accepting when I didnt have the strength to do that was also powerful.
2. Allowing myself to eat whatever I felt like.
At first this was scary, because I believed that I’d just want to eat cheesecake! But I realised I often felt like an apple or a sandwich! I realised that I could trust myself to make reasonable choices about food and other aspects in life.
3. Becoming mindful of unhelpful standards and rules.
I’d boxed food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, just like I’d done with emotions, study, work and lifestyle choices, etc. Becoming aware of these standards, accepting how I felt, where I was at, and what I wanted, and putting that into action, was the way to recovery.
Me and my amazing boyfriend Ratnesh in India, where I live now.

Can you ever fully recover?
YES, I did. Recovery was a journey towards feeling in-control again. This doesn’t mean that at times I don’t still worry about my weight or overindulge. It does mean that I am much better at accepting myself for what I do, feel and think, and making choices based on what I actually value in life. Im far from perfect, and Im learning to accept that more and more each day.

How I would like others to relate to people with Bulimia:
Show support when they express honest thought/feelings, or overcome an unhelpful habit.
Show them respect for the tremendous fight they face every day.
Show acceptance for their flaws and quirks.
Don’t put them down if they’re being ‘too serious’, but see if you can make them laugh or have a bit of fun.

Thanks Kirsty!!


Audrey said...

What I love about inspirational women is that they are not perfect but have the courage and strength to face up to the challenges that life throws their way. Isn't it ironic that accepting and learning to live with our imperfections is one of the keys to being exceptional?! Thanks Elise for being inspirational and sharing one of the challenges you have had to deal with in your life.


Elise Collins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elise Collins said...

Thank you Audrey that's really beautiful and true, it is ironic, I often feel like things will fall apart if I accept a certain flaw instead of fighting against it, but quite the opposite often happens, things fall into place and I find a foothold to take a step in a valuable direction.

Kirsty Arnold said...

So so true. Accepting what things aren't quite right is the HARDEST step to take, but it's the most rewarding and it means that you can then learn how to deal with it and move on from it :) Hopefully the more we talk about the things, the easier they are to accept by people who are suffering from them x