Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018
This week is eating disorder awareness week and in the interest of raising awareness, here is the story I published last year about my battle with bulimia nervosa.
According to St Patrick's Mental Health Services "5-10% of young women have some form of eating problems, though 1-3% have an eating disorder." with this statistic in mind; chances are someone in your family or friends will have been affected by it.
So in this light please be aware that it is not a choice, it something that is very complex and needs a lot of support and empathy to overcome.
It was a cold, wet, evening in Spring, through the floods of tears I penned a note to say goodbye and left it for my flatmates who were also my best friends, I took all my belongings with me as I took the bus home. I had a sick spinning feeling in my stomach, my chest felt heavy, suffocating I could barely breathe through this, my mind racing.
I felt like I had the weight of the world on my 18 year old shoulders. I couldn’t see any other way out of this, after 2 years studying film and TV production, I had a law exam the next morning and I knew I would fail, as I had attended perhaps 2 law lectures the entire semester.
With a sense of defeat and a heavy heart I left Dublin and essentially ghosted my wonderful friends. What I didn’t know at the time and most certainly what no one else knew at the time is that I was suffering from anxiety.
I had suffered with panic attacks as a child, I couldn’t breathe amidst an attack and due to a lack of understanding of anxiety it was misdiagnosed as asthma.
Anxiety had taken control of my life leading me to miss lectures, to beat myself up excessively when I failed or even at the thought of failure. There was no logic in what I did but then anxiety doesn’t do logic! I had received A grades in first year but my grades had declined as the anxiety increased, as I partied harder, realistically I may have failed law but I could have repeated it in the autumn.
I threw away 2 years of college on a course that I loved right there. I didn’t tell anyone in my family what I had done. I just told them I was finished college for the summer. Keeping this secret increased my anxiety, added to my feelings of low self worth and failure and contributed to something which I had also kept a secret for years, my bulimia.
For years after I battled with anxiety not even knowing that was what was I was dealing with, a prisoner of my thoughts of the vicious cycle that comes with anxiety and bulimia, so nicely intertwined, one feeding the other (excuse the pun). For the more anxious I was the more my bulimia flared, the more the feelings of shame and low self worth fuelled my anxiety.
After that summer, I went back to do two FETAC courses and received the student of the year award but such was the stubborn and ingrained nature of my negative beliefs I still carried failure, shame, anxiety and bulimia with me. I enrolled in a business studies degree, done a month and decide it wasn’t for me. Again I viewed this as a failure as opposed to it just not being for me.
I always studied hard in school, to get the place in college and getting a good education was something that was important to me but at that point in time it seemed completely unattainable, my mind was my worst enemy at the time but it could have been my greatest asset.
What followed was years of anxiety, bulimia, negative thoughts and shame. I gave up on my education and built myself a career as a manager. I knew that I did not want to live this existence for the rest of my days. When I became pregnant it forced me to deal with my bulimia, I went to a counsellor as I knew I needed to get healthy. She was the first of numerous counsellors I have seen, my recovery was messy but then so was my problem.
I didn’t walk into a counsellor's office and tell her everything and she fix me, for I ghosted on her too when times got hard and found someone else only to continue my recovery. I was able to address the underlying issues and piece by piece put a picture together of what I was dealing with.
It wasn’t easy as I processed my pain, I would leave the counselling room exhausted and in floods of tears. Freeing up the suppressed emotions from the past in that intensive therapy along with studying CBT is what really gave me a handle on my anxiety and ended my bulimia.
I learned to sit through a panic attack to notice, stop and replace negative thoughts before they had a negative impact on how I felt or behaved.
I went back to college to study Psychotherapy as mental health fascinated me, and my own experiences spurred me on. As part of our degree we had to engage in 50 hours of personal therapy and group therapy which was life changing for me, it allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my problems, of how my anxiety was underlying my bulimia, it also gave me the tools to do what I had failed at so many times, it gave me the perspective that I didn’t need to be perfect that the past was just that the past and that I could leave my negative belief of failure there. It also allowed me to graduate with a B.A in Psychotherapy and train further in CBT, gifting me with the skills to help others.
It’s not all plain sailing for that negative anxious voice inside the head can come back when I’m pushing myself outside my comfort zone. Most people have some form of anxiety around change and starting something new, this is normal, that churn in your stomach, or shallow breathing, or sweaty palms, although uncomfortable, it is normal and it will pass.
The anxious demons can hold one back from moving outside the comfort zone, they can hold us back from living a fuller life but it is possible to work through these demons gain some power back from your anxiety and move forward. For when the storm of anxiety passes you may be exhausted but there is the calm, and if we work hard enough a blissful zen. That feeling of pride of wow, I’ve overcome this anxiety, I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone and I’m still standing!
I now know that I am in control of my thoughts and my worry, do I get anxious now? of course I do for this is normal bodily reaction to fear, what is different is that I can put it in perspective, examine my thoughts and assess if my worry is rational or not. Some of my family and friends may be reading this and think “I had no idea”, for anxiety and bulimia is something one can hide for years as I did, but I am recovered no.
I kicked bulimia’s ass! I am healthy, I have a really positive mindset because I know my thoughts feed my feelings and my behaviour. I practice gratitude daily, I know that if I get up in the morning and say I’m going to have a good today, that I can make that happen, I don’t let outside negativity affect my mindset, for life is too precious to live any other way. I practice self care and look after my mental health, with a very sound tool box.
Many people are suffering in silence when they don't need to. If this resonates with you then take the first step and talk to someone, even for a problem shared really is a problem halved!
I have a friend who says “sometimes when one has experienced enough emotional pain, they become strong and can take on any situation” I agree, for I am stronger now from my experiences and my anxiety no longer controls me, I have taken back the power from it.
Having anxiety or bulimia or any other mental health problem does not make one a weak person, it means we are human, for we are all perfectly and uniquely flawed.
I do offer individual sessions to help with anxiety and bulimia.
if this resonates with you and you would like some further help or information,
please feel free to
Call me at 0852528201
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org