"My illness"

About: Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust / Eating disorders Salford PCT / Community dietician

(as the patient),

I have suffered from bulimia for ten years now. I have always had a bad relationship with food. I was a chubby child and teenager and I used to eat fattening and high calorie foods and big portions. I remember one time watching the television and eating nearly a whole pack of kit kats because they tasted nice and made me feel good but as I started getting bigger and bigger at school, I started to get bullied and then I was seriously obsessed with my weight and food. I had no clue about food putting on weight. Looking back now I wasn't even that fat, I was a size 14 at my heaviest but I’m really small so I probably looked a lot worse than I actually was. One of my best friends who was big like me and who I grew up with lost a lot of weight suddenly. Her mum was friends with my mum and she mentioned that she felt that she had been making herself sick after meals. A light bulb flashed in my head and I thought I’ll try it just the once. I had always hated the idea of making myself sick and didn't understand how anybody could do it.

So that night, I had my usual large tea that my mum had made followed by chocolate and I ate more than normal because I knew I would bring it back up. I made myself sick and then that was it I was hooked. I can only describe it as someone taking heroine or cocaine. I started to lose weight and I got down to a size twelve. I got a boyfriend who I was besotted with and who played a lot of football and he started to call me fat so I ate very little and then what I did eat I would bring it back up. Eventually I told him about my bulimia and he was disgusted and ended up finishing with me, he lost all respect for me after that.

A year I got another boyfriend, we went to the gym all the time and I still made myself sick every day. I remained a size 10 to 12 but I was never happy with my figure. I used to be so envious when a slim, toned girl came into the gym and I’d watch the men's reactions as they'd walk past them. After two and a half years into the relationship I plucked up the courage to tell my boyfriend about my illness, I expected him to leave me but he was very supportive and made me get help. I had counselling once a week and after my first meeting I stopped making myself sick straight away and started eating really healthy. I don't know where my willpower came from but wait started to fall off me and I was still eating, I couldn't believe it. I was weighed once a week at the meeting and I had to cut out all 'bad foods' that made me want to binge or make myself sick. I had seven meetings and at the end I was better. I was a size eight, confident and have never felt as good in my life.

I was like this for a year and then I started eating takeaways again at the weekends and chocolate. I put half a stone back on and then one day I was so stupid and I made myself sick, I told myself it was a one off time and I’ll never do it again and then I couldn't stop the bug was back. I couldn't find the courage to tell my boyfriend as I felt like a failure and I thought I’d tried to control it on my own but I couldn't. He eventually found out and left me. That was two years ago and I gained some control when we split because I couldn't eat so I lost weight and then started to binge again and put two stone on because I wasn't making myself sick.

I met my current boyfriend and we now live together and are engaged and I started making myself sick as soon as I met him to lose weight. He doesn't know about it and I will never tell him. He works away in the week so I mainly binge at night time and sometimes I do it at work. At the weekends I don't do it although I do get into the binging state of mind in front of my boyfriend every so often although the majority of the time I will eat very little in front of people. I have started a new job and I have had a lot of time off already so I can't have time off every week to go to a counselling class. Plus it is far away from me and I don't drive and the clinic shuts at 4.30pm and I work till 5pm so I can't get there.

I'm desperate for help as I can't do this on my own, I’ve tried and tried and done the weight watchers diet to try and gain some control. I even run every day but I hate my figure so much and all I do is eat bad foods. I am so addicted to food and I just can't stop. I wish it was like smoking but my body needs food so that's why I can easily go off track, it is so hard. I wish I could just eat normally and healthily like I did when I had counselling. I was so happy and felt brilliant. I have tried all the techniques that I used then but I just can't do it on my own. If I wasn't bulimic, I would be obese. I feel like I’m just killing myself slowly and even though this scares the hell out of me I just can't stop. In the past this has helped me to stay strong but I don't think anything will stop this now. It's too out of control. I'm lost and don't know what to do.

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Responses

Response from

Dear ‘Me27’

You have struggled so hard to overcome your bulimia, it must be very frightening to feel that your life is becoming out of control. We know that eating disorders can be beaten, but we also know how hard it can be to do that on your own.

It can be difficult to tell anyone about your problems, especially if you worry that they won’t understand, or will think badly of you if they knew the truth. You have already been very brave to write about your feelings- and that is a really positive step. Bulimia is an illness- an illness that can be treated and overcome. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and it isn’t your fault that you have it.

Getting the right help as soon as possible is really important- and your GP is the best place to start. Many practices have counsellors on the staff, or can refer you for local help.

You can call our dedicated helpline too on 0845 634 1414 and speak in confidence to someone who would really understand.

Sue Ringwood

Chief Executive, Beat

(Beat is the leading UK charity for people with eating disorders and their families. Beat is the working name of the Eating Disorders Association.)

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Response from Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

We have liaised with the team manager of our eating disorder service. She advises that you to speak to your GP and ask for a referral for an assessment. Your GP may also recommend you have some physical investigations.

A self help book called ‘Overcoming Binge Eating’ written by Dr. Christopher G. Fairburn (1995) is a good resource for you to read. This book provides people who experience eating disorders with an accessible account on binge eating problems.

We hope this information helps and wish you all the best with your recovery.