Updated: Apr 18, 2019
You're there, I see you, I hear you, I can feel you. I've actually had a decent day today. But you're still there aren't you. Just teasing me, telling me I'm not good enough, spreading your lies. Making me feel like crap. Can't you just leave me alone for one day. Just one freaking day. That's all I ask. Even just give me half a day. Half a day without your constant shadow. Mate it's been four years, just give me 12 hours. What are you afraid of? Afraid I might actually be happy? That I might start to enjoy my life, be successful and not need you anymore. Would that really be so bad? Couldn't you just let me have it? Please! Please would you just f**k off!
Darren do you really need to swear? Stop being so sensationalist. The old Darren wouldn't have used words like that now would he? The aim of this blog is to give you a snapshot into what life is like as a bulimic. That life is intense. And so are the feelings it evokes. When you're lying awake in the middle of the night tortured by thoughts of food, self-analysis and hatred, you don't tend to say "Oh Mr Bulimia if you wouldn't mind just slipping away there so I can get some sleep. Thank you very much"
I am writing this blog in response to watching the BBC Panorama special entitled Men, Boys and Eating Disorders.
During this special programme, Nigel Owens (the world's best and most successful rugby referee) talked openly about his 27 year struggle with bulimia and interviewed a variety of males who have struggled with various eating disorders. He talked about sticking his fingers down his throat. Talked about the disorder rearing its ugly head just before the pinnacle of his career - refereeing the 2015 World Cup Final. I've always admired Nigel's competency and effectiveness as a referee but in my opinion this honesty is the most impressive thing of all. Even in the most "macho" of environments, vulnerable honesty is incredibly powerful. Thank you Nigel. I truly hope this programme will positively impact people and I believe it will.
I certainly don't have the influence of Nigel Owens or the BBC. But one thing is for certain. Silence doesn't impact anyone. And so I don't want to be silent. I want to be honest. And if someone reads this who is struggling with these issues the very least they can take from it is this. "I'm not alone." "It isn't just me." "There are others." And that small realization in itself can be incredibly empowering. Will knowing someone else struggles fix everything for you? No of course it won't. But it may begin to chip away at the shame and embarrassment you feel, allow you to be honest with yourself and others, and begin to seek out the help you need.
THE TRUTH ABOUT BULIMIA
I can only speak accurately about my own experience. I don't claim to speak for all sufferers of bulimia. I certainly don't claim to be more negatively impacted than anyone else. Yet I want to share some things I have experienced and come to understand about Bulimia. If you are reading these as a struggling bulimic, some of them may be triggering for you and I would encourage you to only proceed if you feel you can digest them in a safe way that doesn't harm your progress.
1.Bulimia Kills People
Statistically eating disorders kill more people than any other psychiatric illness. Around one in 5 sufferers of anorexia will die prematurely. Bulimia does have a lower mortality rate than anorexia yet can still be fatal. Constant vomiting messes up the electrolyte balance in your body which can lead to cardiac arrest. High acid levels in the blood can cause ketoacidosis which can place the body into a coma. Excessive laxative use can cause pancreatitis. During a large binge you can actually force a gastric rupture and burst your stomach. Bulimia has regular links with depression and sufferers may well often wrestle with suicidal thoughts and temptations.
Truth is I've known all this for a long time. My doctor has told me I'm actually lucky to still be alive. I've destroyed several nerve endings in my teeth. I've had dangerously low potassium levels. I've suffered heart palpitations. I've felt incredibly suicidal and wanted to end my life. I even collapsed once and couldn't get up after vomiting. But you know what. I still binged and vomited yesterday. I don't say that flippantly. But people who have never suffered this will say, "Surely knowing all this would make you stop." "Look what you're doing to yourself." Truth is and any sufferer can vouch for this. It's just not that easy. The all consuming power that this illness has will often cause every piece of logic to just dissipate. Simply knowing stuff isn't enough to change.
2. Bulimia makes you do things you consider disgusting
Vomit is disgusting. It stinks, it's acidic and it's grossly uncomfortable to bring up. I'm sure all of us can remember uncomfortable times as children running in the middle of the night to be sick. The pain of expelling the vomit from our bodies.
But you see vomiting is like anything else. Do it enough times and it becomes normal. Do it enough times and it becomes easier. You become more efficient. It hurts less. Doesn't abhor you so much. The first time I ever made myself sick deliberately was October 2013. It hurt. A lot. My eyes watered, my head hurt and i felt faint. Fast forward 3 and a half years and i was taking a bucket to bed with me every single night. I was eating large amounts of food, throwing up in that bucket, storing it in my bedroom cupboard and falling asleep exhausted. I would start each morning with the shameful act of having to empty that bucket and clean it out. Constantly starting each day with the reminder of how "disgusting" I was. But you see it became normal. Disgusting yes. But routine. Habit. Obsession.
I've thrown up in the houses of all my close friends, in numerous restaurants, in my grandmother's house, at the side of the road, in car parks, in public toilets, in churches, in shops, in hospitals, in hotels, in sports' changing rooms and i can't even remember where else. Over time bulimia makes these things feel normal. Yes still disgusting to some extent, but normal. But you see here's the thing. They are disgusting. They are inappropriate. It is disrespectful of me to vomit in my friends' bathrooms. It's inappropriate of me to steal food from people. Yet here's the distinction that needs to be made. Often instead of hating the act, I hate myself. The act has become normal but i hate myself. I've stopped hating the act because it has become so normal. I need to get back to hating the act, respecting myself enough to remember that this doesn't define me, it's not who I want to be and desiring true lasting change.
3. Bulimia is Beatable
Do I believe this statement? In my head? Yes! In my heart? Sometimes. In the times when my bulimia has been at it's more powerful and all consuming I haven't believed this statement. At least not for myself. You see there is a huge fundamental difference between believing something in principle and believing something for yourself. Do I believe it's possible to run the 100m in 9.57 seconds. Yes I do because I have witnessed Usain Bolt run it in 9.58 seconds. Do i believe i can run the 100m in 9.57 seconds?
Not a scooby!
I have spoken to people who have recovered from Bulimia. Do I believe recovery is possible? Yes because they have. Do I believe i can recover? That's more challenging. Recovering from bulimia, step by step is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. So often it feels like one step forwards and 2 steps back. But it is possible. It's about breaking the whole thing down and challenging negative behaviors step by step. 3 months ago i would have thought it physically impossible that i could go a whole day without vomiting. Yet eventually I did. Take each small achievement and celebrate it. Allow it to motivate you to pursue the next one. And when you fall, because you will fall. Keep going, try again. And when you fall again, try again. I believe recovery is possible. I have to, otherwise what's the point in even trying. I might as well just surrender. Let the disorder kill me like it wants to.
Nah mate! I have one life, and you've had more than your fair share of it bulimia.
Thank you for reading this. Please if I can be of any help or support at all don't hesitate to contact me. Even if you just want to admit to someone for the first time that you are struggling. I will be the last person in the world to judge you. My bulimia has led to me doing some abhorrent things and I would never condemn or judge someone else. You don't have to speak to me obviously. But speak to someone. Believe it or not, you deserve better.
And this broken, hurting world deserves a better version of you.