The lengths we go to.

After reading a post on Lexi’s blog about how bulimia is disgusting, and dirty, rather than beautiful and strong, I was reminded of one of the worst experiences I had with the disorder. I am sharing this in order to show those people, currently thinking that bulimia is an easy way to lose weight (you don’t), or a quick fix, allowing you to eat what you want, it isn’t. It is life changing, and very, very damaging in so many ways. It makes you do things you never thought you would do. You become desperate, you hide away, you become disgusting.

*Talk of graphic body fluids, please do not read if you have a weak stomach*

When my eating disorder began, I thought it was easy. I thought I was getting what I wanted, with no consequences. I ate what I wanted, threw it up, lost weight – hey presto. I washed down the toilet, I washed my face and hands, and no-one knew any wiser. Despite ‘sick’ being one of those smells that lingers, it wasn’t a problem. I swilled with mouthwash (never brush your teeth, it rubs the acid into them) and sprayed myself with perfume, and carried on with my day. I thought I was smart, and I thought I was in control. How wrong could I have been?

Months passed, and my controlled vomiting transformed into something much more sinister. Meals turned into binges, and increased in number. Soon, my whole day was controlled by food. I ate, I purged. I ate, I purged. I skipped school. I spent £100’s on food – cereal, milk, chocolate, crisps, cookies, doughnuts. Soon, the constant daily battle with bingeing and purging wasn’t enough. I wanted to make sure anything that managed to get into my stomach didn’t stay there.

I bought laxatives – lots of them. I always smirked to myself going through the checkout at tesco with an armful of chocolate and a handful of Dulcolax – but no-one batted an eyelid.

(Sorry this picture just made me giggle)

Picture courtesy of google images

At first, I took two or so laxatives. But quickly, that wasn’t enough. I progressed from 2, to 5, to 10, then 20 at a time. 20 was a standard amount for me, but once or twice I did take 40.

I took them every day, around 8pm – they would then wake me up at around 3am, and I could creep to the toilet without anyone realising what was going on. This went on for quite a while, and I had no thought for the long term consequences of my actions. I now suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, the main symptoms of which are sharp pains in my bowel (sometimes associated with wind) and chronic, but intermittent bouts of diarrhoea. It can make life very difficult, sometimes I won’t eat because I know I will need to empty my bowels (some in, some out!!!) and sometimes I need the toilet so badly, but there is no-where to go – there have been times I’ve had to stop on the side of the road (never want to repeat that experience).

Thankfully for me, it isn’t as bad as it could be – I know some people who have ‘accidents’ because of the damage they have done to their bowels through laxative abuse – luckily for me that has never happened, and I pray to god that it never does.

Anyway, I digress. I got by, taking 20 tablets a day, until inevitably, I realised I wanted more, I wanted to be completely empty, ‘at both ends’ so to speak 😀 20 tablets my body seemed to be able to cope with, 40 – a different story. The first night I took them, I remember waking up at around 2am to excrutiating pain in my stomach, my chest, my throat and my head. My head was spinning, I needed to crap, but I also needed to vomit, and I wasn’t even sure what was going to come first. I managed to crawl to the bathroom, but in the haze knew whatever was about to happen was going to be bad, so crawled back out to the garden, and lay on the lawn in the moonlight, sweating buckets.

Picture courtesy of uniqueandidyllic

As I lay there looking at the sky, through a haze of red (what I assumed at the time was my eyes bleeding but maybe it was my over-active imagination) I thought I was going to die. Somehow I managed to remove my clothes, as they hurt, but even feeling the damp grass against me was hurting. After about an hour, and, without going into too much detail, whatever was going to come out, had come out (and I’m talking both ends here) I managed to crawl back into the house, naked, and find my bed. I had the presence of mind to set my alarm, at earlier than normal, got up, and hosed the garden down and threw out my clothes.

I had never felt so alone as I did that morning. No-one knew what I was doing to myself – heck – I didn’t really understand it. I just knew I didn’t want to repeat that experience (but, like a true to form BPD sufferer, of course I did, quite a few times, although I learnt how to deal with it as opposed to lying naked in the garden for an hour).

It was over the years following this my eating disorder came and went, but I did learn to curb the addiction to laxatives, which is a big positive for me, that my IBS isn’t any worse than it is. I vaugely mentioned this next experience in a comment on Lexi’s blog, and thinking back to it brought up old emotions which I had clearly blocked from my memory.

I was 20, and was living in a shared house near to the university I was attending. We had a bathroom upstairs with a shower and a bath, and a bathroom downstairs with just a shower and a toilet. At this point in my life, my bulimia had taken hold once more, not to the same extent as before, I was binging and purging but there was no pattern to it, and I wasn’t using laxatives.

So, this one day, I had had a particularly bad ‘food day’. I had got into a really bad habit, years before, and now – please don’t judge me about this – I know how bad it is, but when you are in that place, you don’t see it. It was probably a combination of being lazy, and being utterly exhausted from the constant binge/purge cycle but I got into the habit of sitting on the floor in the shower, and purging. Being covered in vomit, and having to break it up with my fingers to push down the plug hole didn’t bother me. Obviously, I was very ‘clean’ about it, I scrubbed the shower meticulously so no-one would know, and thankfully, the pipes never became blocked (I didn’t even think about it at the time!).

Spot the bulimic… (I was about 9 stone here and my skin frequently came out in a rash like that)

However, this one day, I wasn’t so lucky. Perhaps it was bad luck, perhaps it was because I was at  my student house and the plumbing wasn’t so good, I don’t know. But, the plug got blocked, and before I realised it, the whole shower tray was full of water mixed with vomit, and I had got myself into a bit of a situation. Panicking, I tried to unblock the plug, first with my fingers, then the end of my toothbrush (lol) but neither worked. I hit a brick wall where I honestly had no idea what to do. I couldn’t leave the bathroom and go to the shop to buy either a plunger or drain unblocker because it would mean leaving the bathroom unattended for one of my housemates to stumble across, and at this time, my bulimia was still a secret, one I didn’t want to share with my housemates.

I decided perhaps if I got the water out of the tray, it would help to unlock the shower, or maybe I could remove the water, and then safely go to the shop without anyone noticing – the tray filled with ‘vomit water’ was a little hard to miss! I used a cup to start scooping the water out, first down the toilet then out of the window (yeah, I know how bad this is, please don’t judge me). It didn’t really work, on either count. Soon, I had drawn a blank, so huddled myself on the bathroom floor, naked, and sobbed until I had no more tears left to cry. I felt so alone, I didn’t have anyone to turn to, and even if I did, I couldn’t subject them to this vile, vile situation Bulimia had caused me to find myself in.

In the end, I decided to bite the bullet. I wrapped myself in a towel, left the bathroom and asked my housemates to avoid it. I told them I was feeling unwell, and that the water from the shower hitting my back had caused me to be sick, I had cleaned it up the best I could, but would go to Tesco (open 24- 7) and get some drain unblocker. This worked, but while I was gone, I’m sure they went in the bathroom, as our relationship as housemates after that incident was never the same.

So, the moral of the story is: you might think an eating disorder is glamorous, fun or a quick fix. You might see people who are thin and wish you were like them. But – you don’t know the lifestyle they have to endure to be that way. You know know what lengths their disorder drives them to. And if you have any sense, nor do you want to. There are better ways – please, please take the time to find them, and don’t make the same mistakes I made.

Picture courtesy of LIFEWORKS Eating Disorders Therapy

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