Bulimia is a complex mental illness, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible. It can be incredibly daunting to recognise that you have a problem, but recognition is the first step towards a positive change.
Bulimia is an eating disorder where people tend to eat large quantities of food – called bingeing – and then purge the food or calories from their system either through vomiting, laxatives or exercise. However, despite how it may seem, bulimia – like other eating disorders – is not just about the food. Rather, there are often complex emotional underlying causes that prompt an individual to look outside of themselves to cope.
People with bulimia can be extremely high-functioning individuals, and many maintain a “normal” weight, concealing their symptoms so much so that the eating disorder goes undetected.
For many, eating can become a means of emotional release and the act of bingeing can provide relief in times of stress; but the subsequent purging, which satisfies their overwhelming urge to remove the calories, often leaves an individual feeling guilty and ashamed.
Bulimia is often characterised by denial and resistance, so when a person comes to treatment, we have to recognise that they have already taken very important steps in their recovery. If you’re reading this and living with bulimia, here are four things we want you to remember when those days in recovery feel tough…
1) You are courageous and strong
It takes an incredible amount of courage and strength to be in recovery from bulimia. To recognise that you have a problem and to admit that you need support – that is huge.
That said, it can be incredibly conflicting to reach out for support. Your motivation to get better may fluctuate day-to-day, and there may be parts of you that are fearful of life without the eating disorder, or scared of what will happen in symptoms are challenged.
Take a moment to recognise the tough terrain you’re on. It’s not easy living with nor recovering from an eating disorder. Being in this situation is such a testament to your strength and resilience (even if that’s the complete opposite to how you feel).
2) You deserve better and more
It can be hard to believe that recovery is possible – especially at first. What does recovery even mean? What will it ‘look’ like for me? There are so many unknowns and uncertainties as we start out.
However, it’s a compassionate act to recognise that there might be a better option out there for you. Take it step by step, at a slow pace, and simply show up for yourself every day.
You don’t need to do the whole journey at once, just tiny steps.
3) You are not a “failure” if recovery hasn’t been smooth sailing so far
An eating disorder like bulimia impacts so many areas of our lives that it takes time to untangle it all. That is ok. You are human after all and may need to take things at your own pace.
You may find that the eating disorder gets very ‘loud’ when you hit a stumbling block. Don’t let it use it as an opportunity to beat you down. Every set back – even the big ones – is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your needs.
A kind, recovery-focused act is recognising that we all have tough days, and days when we want to give up. But you’ve made it through every one of them so far.
4) Nor are you a “failure” for having an eating disorder in the first place
It is likely that your eating disorder developed in response to significant challenge and often serves to protect you in some way and keep you going. They ‘help’ us to block out or regulate in the midst of overwhelming emotions.
At Orri, we treat individuals suffering with eating disorders and co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety and depression, so they can reconnect with the joys of day-to-day life.
As much as you may want to give up for the day and “start again tomorrow” if something doesn’t go as planned, try not to. Your next meal or snack is a new opportunity to work towards recovery.
A last message:
It takes a lot of courage to admit that something isn’t quite right, particularly if it’s something you’ve held onto for a while. Be proud of that courage, and hold fast to the knowledge that you deserve better than bulimia.
To find out more about our “stepped” approach, click here.