When a person is suffering from Bulimia, it can interfere greatly with their daily life. Many of those affected continue to manage working, studying and socialising, however this does not mean that everything they do is not touched or tainted by the wrath of the disorder. For some however, the disorder becomes so severe and debilitating that they can manage nothing but to exist, entrenched within their disorder.
During my Bulimia years I managed to study, get into college and get into university. I managed to work part-time and I managed to socialise. It was a dirty little secret that no-one really knew about except a few close friends who caught on to the changes in my behaviour, and my parents who inevitably stumbled across the evidence eventually. It pulls apart previous relationships, family tensions rose and friendship bonds became stretched. Yet still, no-one knew how much of my life Bulimia consumed: swallowing me up, swilling me around then spitting me out.
The thoughts are constant; it becomes a ruminating obsession that you just can’t shake. Not an hour goes by when food isn’t in the forefront of your mind. Compelled, I would write food lists, diet plans, research nutrition, making plans upon plans and charts upon charts to document and plan everything. I had to write it all down, I had to organise everything, I had to execute the ultimate plan to lose weight and gain control.
I never wanted to binge, it just happened and I would often not realise until I was almost bent over double from the agony of over-eating, but I had to make plans for purging: exercise plans, where I would vomit if I needed, ways to vomit in my room, outside or whilst my parents watched TV. I needed exits and strategy plans to accommodate my need to free myself of my guilt from eating. I needed my release.
In school my attention dropped. I experienced a level of tiredness I had never known before: a persistent fatigue that swallowed me up and held me trapped, behind a glass pane. Staying awake in class became impossible, concentrating on answers became an unbearable frustration, and eventually even just going became too much to handle. My confidence was through the floor, and every thought and feeling about myself was diseased with self-deprecation. Eventually, you become hollow, a ghosted shadow of your former self, and your true potential. In this way, Bulimia is affecting every aspect of your life: relationships, education, social life and your core, to the very heart of who you are.
That is just the psychological turmoil and damage. There are then the physical effects from binging, purging, fasting and exercising. Often, walking the stairs to lessons became difficult because even though my weight was categorically ‘healthy’ dizziness would spin me around, light-headed from dehydration, fasting or vomiting. Muscles become weakened because even though my weight was decent my nutrition wasn’t, so I wasn’t gaining the strength I would have from a proper diet.
My face became puffy from swollen and abused salivary glands, and my hands callused. As for biochemically, I was fortunate in that I encountered no difficulties in this area. Others however, are not and Bulimia can lead to dangerous potassium levels, electrolyte imbalances and heart complications which for some, can be fatal.
I had few hobbies during those years. I wrote, often about my eating disorder. I read, about food and other peoples’ eating disorders. I did art, about conceptualising my eating disorder. And then, of course, there was my eating disorder which took up so much time, energy and effort that it was my life, and only interest. I did take up ballet, but that was originally motivated by a need to lose weight: it did however, prove to be a welcome distraction and escape in the end.
Bulimia affects your every waking moment. Not an hour goes by where your being is not tainted by that demon on your shoulder, cussing, ordering and driving your everything.