I certainly didn’t count on it, but at 13, I entered a pretty dark phase of my life, and one that would stick around for a while.
I had crooked teeth and an overbite which required braces that caused me much discomfort and pain when initially fitted. The throbbing in my mouth and aching in my jaw was relieved only when I held a warm hairdryer to my mouth. For the first few days I was only drinking fluids and eating soft foods. I noticed I had dropped a few kilos, and for whatever reason I started becoming obsessed with my weight.
I wasn’t a big girl, I had no need to diet. In fact I was quite small, healthy and adjusting to puberty as best I could, like any teenager. I was quite a little perfectionist though, trying my best in everything I did.
I was never in the ‘in crowd’ at school, more the soft, sensitive, hang with the animals kinda kid. But, being a teenager, I was exposed to societies conditioning of what’s good enough, what’s popular and what’s acceptable. I’d see those flawless girls on the cover of those glossy magazines, you know, long, flowing hair, perfect smiles and bikini bodies, and wished I was half as beautiful as them. They all seemed so perfect.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was trying to fit in, to find my way, to accept and love myself for who I was. Maybe, if I forget about all my sensitivities and devote myself to being perfect, I would be beautiful too. Maybe, this world was all too much for me and I wanted to disappear completely.
the decent into darkness happened so very quickly it was frightening
It was like I woke up one morning with a demon in my head and that had taken full possession of my entire being, mind, body and spirit.
“You’re not good enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not beautiful. You’re ugly. You don’t fit in. You are fat. You’re so very fat. Look at your tummy. Look at your thighs. Look at those pimples. Look at those crooked teeth. Look at your ugly silver braces. Your short hair, it’s pathetic. You are worthless. You are lacking. You are nothing.
Get up outa bed you useless waste of space, drop and give me 20 sit ups, don’t eat a thing all day, get on the scales every hour to check you’re losing weight, c’mon, hurry up. We have much work to do to get you perfect. And, don’t worry, you’ll be perfect. So very perfect. I’m here now to save you, to make everything right. You’ll see.”
The dark force had me and that was it. I’d spend my days obsessing over the food I wasn’t going to eat, studying the calorie counter book in great detail and exercising, passing out, and exercising some more. I hid it well, I’d wear baggy clothes, and blame my lack of eating and dramatic weight loss on my sore mouth. Yes, indeed all was perfect.
On my 16th birthday I found myself in hospital on a drip and barely surviving at 30 kilos. I’d broken out in some terrible rash, as my poor little body was trying to cope with such severe neglect and abuse. By this stage I was jaundice, my hair was falling out in clumps and I hadn’t had a period for over two years.
it was time to call in the big guns, family, friends and medical and health professionals
Nutritionist, dietitian’s, doctors and psychologists all surrounded me and said I needed help. Hang on a minute, this can’t be right. I might be skinny, but I’m still not skinny enough, and I’m still fat and by the way, I’m not beautiful enough yet.
So, the demon had a plan and I was the willing accomplice excited to hear of a way to make everyone go away, make everyone stop worrying and still achieve my goal of total beauty and perfection. Or was I just numbing the pain of existence, even further. The plan was a good one, I liked it a lot, it would work a treat. I would start eating again only to throw it all back up. How perfect.
welcome to bulimia
Oh my god. As if the starvation of anorexia wasn’t abuse enough, I met the putrid, vile face of bulimia, and it’s hold on me was even more frightening. The road got darker, and ever so disgusting, I was full of self hate. I began the vicious, manipulative cycle of being totally obsessed with scoffing down food and purging it back up again.
On my worst days I would binge and purge 10 times. I’d eat anything and everything, cunningly devising a plan on where, and when to throw it all back up. My life revolved around this horrid obsession. It was beyond ugly and believe me it wreaked. I was in total chaos. My throat would bleed, my stomach convulse, and I often thought I’d choke in the process.
But, I was maintaining my weight, nobody knew what I was doing, at least that’s what I thought and I was in full control. However, I still wasn’t beautiful, I still wasn’t pretty and I sure as hell wasn’t perfect.
Over the years that followed, I managed to finish school, go to college and get a job. Even though the bingeing and purging had lessened, it still followed me around like a bad smell. It was my go-to in times of stress. Can’t cope with something, eat and be sick. Boyfriend dumped me, eat and be sick. Bad day at work, eat and be sick. It was the cure for all things, for in those brief moments of the bingeing high all the pain went away, it was total bliss, and nothing else mattered. And, just to make sure I didn’t pay for my addiction in weight, I would rush to the nearest bathroom and be free of it all. As shocking as this lifestyle was at times, it was somehow a comfort and safety from facing the real world, which I still felt I didn’t belong.
it was like a disease in my mind
It had me. It would raise its ugly head every now and then just to let me know whose in charge. No matter where I went, no matter what I did, it was still hanging around in the dark recesses of my mind. I’d change jobs, change locations, try new things, meet new friends, but, it always came with me.
I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I had no idea the power of the darkness. I didn’t realise how wounded I was. I was in total denial of all of it for so long. I didn’t want to appear I was broken. I was afraid to ask for help. I was so ashamed of myself. I was so scared there was something terribly wrong with me. I was my own worst enemy, and I hated that about me. I’d achieved nothing except a gold medal in self hate and beating my own self up.
Life went on. It was time to travel, explore and take an adventure overseas, I just hoped this sickness wasn’t coming along for the ride, by this time I just wanted it all to go away as I’d really had enough. Anorexia and bulimia had infected over 10 years of my life, and I was determined to survive it. And, this was not how my story was going to end.
“At any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety” – Abraham Maslow
What I learned from this painful experience was:
- Some things are beyond our control. What’s going to happen will happen, and sometimes you just got to let life have its way with you.
- There was nothing ‘wrong’ with me, when I first met this darkness, but it opened my eyes to what is very wrong with this world.
- Only you can save yourself, and when you’re ready to make positive change you will.
- Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.
- You cannot connect the dots looking forward.
- Be brave my dear, be brave. Have the courage to look at the real issue, bring what’s dark to the light.
- All I really needed was to love myself exactly as I was.