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I was bulimic for nearly 30 years AMA

(35 Posts)
ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:08:21

That's it, really. I was sexually abused, bullied and severely depressed as a child, and I started making myself sick 2 - 3 times a day at the age of 22 to control my weight, and deal with feelings of being out of control. This continued for the best part of 30 years. I'm now in my early 50s and haven't made myself sick since I was 48. I'm not an expert or anything, but if anyone has any questions about my experiences, feel free to AMA!

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:11:15

I've named changed for this, for obvious reasons, BTW.

cathyandclare Thu 02-Aug-18 11:17:52

How did you stop? Did you stop binging or just stop purging?

IKnowItsTIMHONKSTIMHONKS Thu 02-Aug-18 11:24:19

Did it do a lot of damage to your teeth?

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:28:11

It was a slow process, and I put it down to a combination of things: a good shrink, learning how to trick myself so that I didn't have the money or privacy or time or inclination to binge and purge, not blaming myself if I failed and did it, losing lots of teeth and being stuck with huge dental bills, taking up weight-lifting... they all had their parts to play.

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:30:24

Yes, I lost three teeth in my upper jaw on the right hand side of my mouth. I had a bride for a while, then I had fake ones screwed in. They still fall out occasionally. I also lost my gag reflex, and have never really got it back, so if I do binge and purge, not only do I worry about whether my fake teeth will fall out, I also have to use quite brutal methods.

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:31:11

A bridge not a bride!

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:32:56

Should have used the past tense when talking about binging and purging there. I will preview in future - sorry!

hotcrossapple Thu 02-Aug-18 11:34:07

No questions toilet wanted to say a huge well done for beating it, it’s a horrible disease and one with a real stigma (I was bulimic for about 6 years as a teen/young adult) and all the past trauma you were coping with using bulimia.

It’s still so hard to tell people about IRL isn’t it?

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 11:40:28

OMG yes, no-one knows apart from my partner, and I used to lie to him about it constantly. He had no idea while it was going on. You get very good at hiding it.

hotcrossapple Thu 02-Aug-18 11:49:19

Yes, people never saw me binge, only my family knew about it - I remember I used to go to different shops to buy the food (before online shopping).

Have you started to wonder recently if we should tell more people and risk the inevitable judgments as a service to people suffering?

Perhaps that’s too much, we only owe ourselves our own recovery and at least you can find online support these days but I have wanted to help others and the shame is part of the problem with all eating disorders isn’t it?

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 12:00:40

hotcrossapple I did the same (going to different shops). I didn't buy purge food online, because I never planned ahead for it, and also, I didn't want it to be traceable.

I know what you mean about the usefulness of telling people about it, but my experience of telling people about the sexual abuse I suffered has put me off doing the same with bulimia. I didn't go into the gory details with the sexual abuse, but my close friends definitely looked at me differently when I told them (I think it freaked them out a bit), and it affected my sex life with my partner too (the poor sod went through a stage of worrying about triggering me). Ditto the depression.

I'm not sure I need people in my personal life to know about the bulimia as well. That's pretty much why I posted here: I know it's VERY common, and I thought I would never get over it, but I did, and if talking about it on mumsnet helps anyone, that would be really nice.

BethanyCourt Thu 02-Aug-18 12:03:02

First of all, well done to you as this is really brave.

now my question. What do you make of the way the media represent eating disorders? I guess i'm thinking of this because of how much attention has been poured onto Demi Lovato at the moment with her mental health, bulimia and addiction battles

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 12:06:22

Bethany It's not brave for posting anonymously on a forum, but thank you anyway!

I think the media has a narrative with all these issues, and it's very difficult to stray from the story they are determined to tell. I haven't heard/ read about Demi Lovato (TBH I don't really know who she is, other than being a singer), but whatever she says is bound to have been filtered through her agent/publicity manager/the gossip mags, so I should imagine we're not getting the whole story. What do you think about it?

sugarbum Thu 02-Aug-18 12:11:57

Bless you. Your childhood sounds appalling. I had bulimia for 25 years so I understand. I weigh more now than I ever have, but I'd rather be fat than puking xxx

hotcrossapple Thu 02-Aug-18 12:16:17

you have the right of it toiletwitch, I have a few things in my past I’ve told the odd person as an older adult and it’s always disappointing when you see their perception change, I wouldn’t mind telling strangers.

You sound like you’ve recovered very well. I’m sure it does help as I’m sure people with bulimia are googling about it.

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 12:17:29

sugarbum LOL! Yes, you definitely have to tell yourself that! high-5

I went through a stage of panicking about my weight piling on as the post-binge purges got more difficult because my gag reflex was shot.

That's why weight-lifting was so important in my recovery. It breaks the connection between your weight and how slim or fit you perceive yourself to be. You only need to look at some of the women who post pictures of themselves before and after a year or so of weight-lifting to see that two people can weigh the same but the amount of fat vs muscle on their bodies can make a massive difference to their dress size.

BethanyCourt Thu 02-Aug-18 12:44:30

@ToiletWitch I didn't like the way, magazines and articles were so quick to put a label on her problems and typecast. I guess that's what the media does in general though- puts a label on it without knowing the individual circumstances. I don't think there should be such a generalized umbrella term used e.g. 'eating disorders' to describe a person's problems as this covers such a broad spectrum, and doesn't take into consideration that these things vary from people to people and that no two circumstances are the same.

It's like when i have to write down the word 'depression' on the existing conditions section on medical forms. It's very broad, and i would rather just write 'has an emotionally strained relationship with family' rather than someone presuming i am full blown suicidal because they see the word depression.

ch0c0milkrox Thu 02-Aug-18 12:52:47

Did you purge with laxatives at all?

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 12:57:52

@BethanyCourt Actually, I agree with you about the difficulties surrounding the use of the term "eating disorder" as a descriptor of a wide range of behaviours/motives, and I know what you mean about having to put down "depression" on forms; I have the same feeling. I always want to qualify it by writing: "Depression, and with bloody good reasons".

When I first spoke to my GP about the bingeing and purging (more than 15 years ago now), she sent me to the Maudsley's Eating Disorders unit to be assessed for treatment. At the time, I was "bingeing" a few times a day on anything from two whole cakes washed down with a tub of ice cream, to an innocuous bowl of soup, just so I would have something to throw up (it was the control=release fix I was after). They reported back to my GP that I didn't have an eating disorder, what I had was chronic, long-term depression and recommended I be treated for that.

I guess they were right, but if that was the case, what is an eating disorder? My eating was obviously very disordered, and although body dysmorphia wasn't my primary reason for purging after a binge, it definitely played a part because I thought I was physically repulsive (I wasn't), and I weighed myself several times a day.

@ch0c0milkrox Yes, I did try laxatives several times, if I had binged and been unable to purge, but in general, I would rather wait until I could binge and purge safely than risk not being able to purge after a binge. Laxatives seemed to take too long and I didn't get the same sense of violent release.

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 13:16:01

@ch0c0milkrox Also, if I suddenly ate large amounts of fatty, sweet food, washed down with lots of liquids, I would usually need to evacuate my bowels within half an hour or so anyway, so laxatives weren't really required!

Annalogy Thu 02-Aug-18 13:19:46

How long did it take for you to lose your gag reflex?

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 13:29:39

@Annalogy I'm not sure. Not that long, I think: possibly as little as a year. I adapted quickly once a simple finger down the throat stopped working, and progressed to handfuls of toilet paper, the bristle end of toothpaste brushes, angling my fingers/fist to find still-responsive areas at the back of my throat. By the time I was in my 40s, I could no longer just binge and throw up a simple bowl of soup, I had to eat massive amounts of soft or semi-liquid foods (pate, minced beef pies, fried fish in batter, ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc.) until my stomach was hugely distended and I was properly nauseous, in order to make it relatively easy to provoke my body into expelling the food.

Sorry if this is too repulsive for readers, but bingeing and purging is a very unpleasant activity. blush

Orlandointhewilderness Thu 02-Aug-18 13:37:15

The act of purging in its self sounds very traumatic.
I'm in awe of you op. Stopping must have taken true grit.

ToiletWitch Thu 02-Aug-18 13:44:41

@Orlandointhewilderness I'm not trying to downplay it, but it wasn't a case of grit, more a case of starting each day trying a new way to cope or avoid doing it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Eventually, by the time my teeth started falling out and I was worried I wouldn't be able to afford the next dental bill, I had a sufficient number of tricks to put off the daily binge until it was a bi-weekly binge, then a weekly one, then fortnightly, and I had a LOT of lapses. Weight-lifting helped. Increasing the anti-depressants helped. Seeing a psychiatrist every week helped. It wasn't a steady progression. I was never really ashamed of it, you see. I had been doing it so long, it had become as mundane as pouring a large mumsnet G&T at the end of the day.

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