Gingerly walking along the street, one step a time. Be careful now don’t go too fast. If I fall I won’t be able to get back up. The handbag is slipping off my shoulder, I don’t have the energy to move my right arm across to my left shoulder to pick the strap back up, so I let it slowly slip until the handbag lands in the arch of my forearm. I grunt. The weight hurts no matter where the handbag is so might as well keep it there, I’m too tired. I keep shuffling along barely lifting my feet when I feel this intense, burning pain in the pit of my stomach. I collapse against a fence, grabbing onto it for dear life with my left hand and right hand against my stomach. It aches. I can’t stop myself as I slide to the ground with my handbag falling with me, its contents spewed out on the pavement. My breathing becomes shallower than before if that was even possible. My heart flutters, my stomach quite literally burns, and I’m so exhausted I could just curl up right here on the pavement and go to sleep. Hopefully I won’t wake up. I raise my droopy eyelids up and down the road to see if there’s anyone else in the road. No one. No one to help me. No one to save me. I need to pick myself up off the ground and keep going along the road but as hard as I try I can’t get up. The weight of everything is too heavy on my shoulders. I just must sit here and wait until someone comes to my rescue. This is what relapsing looks like.
I am a former bulimic. Correction, I AM bulimic. Might as well be honest here right? I have suffered with the condition since I was twelve and I’m almost twenty-five now. For the first ten years of being bulimic, I had no idea I had an eating disorder. People would always ask me, “Do you have any eating disorder or something? You’re so skinny!” and “God, why are you so sick all the time? Don’t tell me you’re bulimic!” The last one would always end on a laugh, like it’s a joke. Eating disorders are not a fucking joke. It’s not something I can just turn off there’s no switch for it. Would I love to eat normally? Yes, Would I like to not feel guilty about every single fucking morsel of food that I put in my mouth? Obviously. And would I like to not purge after everything I eat or even drink? Absolutely. This isn’t my fault. Although it is. I have this terrible internal struggle every minute of every day. Telling myself I can stop this behaviour. I can get better, I’ve recovered once I can recover again. The biggest question I ask myself is, do I want to recover this time?
The truth this, I enjoy purging. That’s it, I’ve said it. I fucking love it. During the process of purging and feeling every single thing come out of my body is euphoric, better than an orgasm (a decent orgasm not like one of those ones you fake to make your man seem better than he is which I have done on several occasions). The problems start after I’ve finished purging. This tidal wave of guilt and shame washes over me like a tsunami. Hits you so hard and so fast that by the time you’ve flushed the toilet that you begin looking for something else to take the pain away. Or better, make you forget. I would always reach for prescription painkillers. You name the pill and I can give you a list of contacts who could get you those pills within the hour, no prescription or explanation required. You see, being a bulimic is physically painful. Not actually purging my body is so used it over the last thirteen years that all I need to do is get the urge or even think about purging then my body begins to gag. Long gone are the days of sticking my fingers down my throat or using the handle side of toothbrush to bring my meals back up. I mean the physical pain. Your stomach feels like it’s on fire because you are starving. And I mean absolutely starving, to the point that it doesn’t even rumble anymore. You get so unbelievably cold, I wear jumpers in summer. Your whole body shakes because you’re so hungry. You bruise easily. Your heart flutters. You can’t concentrate on anything apart from how hungry you are. You can’t sleep but you’re exhausted. Your throat burns because you’ve purged too much. You get toothache. You gag when you brush your teeth then purge and need to brush again. The feeling of digestion is so uncomfortable. You bloat. You break out. It’s a very sad state of affairs when your natural reaction is to puke. I can’t help it. It is quite literally my natural reaction for EVERYTHING. Anxiety? Puke. Panic attack? Puke. Happy? Excited? Puke. It’s my coping mechanism and it’s so familiar and comfortable that I’m really struggling breaking the cycle. I was ‘clean’ for a year. A whole year without purging or binging. Nothing. I had been in outpatient care for the last three years, seeing a psychologist once a week then slowly moving on to once every two weeks. I would see a dietitian specialising in eating disorders every two weeks. She would weigh me to check my progress, I would fill out food diaries. I would lie on my food diaries. Does my dietitian really need to know that I had a McDonalds twice in one day last week? Apparently, she does. She’d catch me out in my lies. Fuck knows how but she would. She’d tell the psychologist and it would be this whole big deal about how I’m hindering my own recovery. Bitch I’m fucking embarrassed okay? I’m ashamed okay? They just didn’t understand me. It took maybe a year of constant appointments and ‘homework’ from them both to make me realise that they were actually right. I did need the help. They put together plans for me, diet plans with the full recommended calorie intake for a woman of my size (a fucking hobbit), CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), mindfulness (fucking useless in my opinion) and loads of other shit I don’t remember. It was my family who got me off the pills. My mother caught me with over eighty prescription painkillers hidden in my knicker drawer and she flushed them all down the toilet. She took my phone and deleted all the dealers’ numbers. Her and my sister would both babysit me to ensure I was eating then kept it down. Very degrading but also very necessary. After three full years and several false starts I did recover. I was at a healthy weight and BMI. My mental health was completely under control. I was discharged and that was that. Until now.
What has made me relapse after a year I hear you ask? Well. I bottle things up. I know, I know. I shouldn’t. I don’t like to bother people with my mundane life with it’s mundane problems. Instead I write them all down in a notebook kept beside my bed to vent my problems then try to forget about them. Sometimes I burn the pages if I can stop thinking about what I’ve written. Basically, in a nutshell, everything has gotten on top of me. My Nana died a few months ago; I was forced to confront my real father after seven years of him ignoring me, the guy I liked told me he fucked someone else and then rubbed my face in it. I feel ugly. Stupid. Fat. Useless. Worthless. It feels like I’m being buried alive. I have had a few friends reach their hand out to try to save me, but I don’t take their hand. They see me slip away into darkness and nothingness. I need to figure this out on my own. I want to be saved. Only person that can truly save me is me.
I will save myself from this horrible condition. I have done it once and I will do it again. As I sit there on the ground, back against the freezing cold fence with my hand still clutched to my stomach, I begin to pick up the contents of my handbag. I gingerly raise myself up from the ground on the count of three. I dust myself off and look ahead. I’ll keep going, no giving up now. I march on. Head held high. I will carry on. I will fight. I will beat this, if it’s the last thing I fucking do.