My life has been ravaged by bullimia for about ten years. During the last six of these I have undergone many different therapies seeking freedom from this deep and insidious dis-ease of body, mind and spirit .
Where does my story begin?
Does it begin at the small country hospital where I was born and left alone to wait for a family to adopt me?
Or does it begin before my entrance to this world, within the womb of a woman who battled with her own feelings of abandonment by my father and her courageous decision to give me up?
Or does my story emerge from the endless swimming carnivals I attended, body conscious in a swimming costume amongst girls whose actual size did nothing to alleviate my endless insecurities and comparisons?
Or perhaps it begins with my shattered trust in adults when an elder cousin began his secret sexual abuse of my body and spirit?
I do know that I began to purge food by vomiting at around 14 years of age at my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary . This was the first time that I innocently discovered that I could have the "best of both worlds". That I was able to eat as much as I liked, and many times over, if I secretly purged it by vomiting afterwards.
Initially bullimia was a great game for me. I thought I had found the answer to gaining weight without having to starve myself.To the world I presented myself as a bright and confident, athletic looking girl.But inside I was being overtaken by the body and weight obsession that fueled bullimia and had little thought for anything else. Plagued by low self esteem, I felt in deep conflict about who I was, who others thought I was,and who I wanted to be.
I hid bullimia from my family for 5 years by throwing up in the shower. I felt constant guilt for the amount of my family's food and money I was wasting.Though this was never enough so I spent enormous amounts of my own money on secret binges that would go on for hours and even days.
I remember disclosing my secret to a close friend of mine and she didn't believe me. I felt I could trust no one, that I was out of control and entirely alone. When I was 19 my mother admitted me to a rehabilitation centre for drug and alcohol abuse. It was here that I was first confronted with my bullimia. I could no longer hide it from others or pretend it away from myself.
The therapists tried to tell me that I was living a lie. That my core issues of low self worth, fear and abandonment would continue the vicious cycle of bullimia unless I was willing to change. This meant a willingness to expose and confront my own self. I was so frightened, confused and almost incapable of allowing myself to be so vulnerable. So I ran.
I ran into the seeming "safety" of what I knew. Drug and alcohol abuse, sex and bullimia. Though I sought to escape myself I also knew I needed help and tried numerous therapists, therapies and even psychiatric admissions. On the outside I suffered electrolyte imbalances, corroded teeth, headaches, dizziness, hunger and fluid retention. On the inside I lost hope in myself and my ability to recover, I lost faith in the "system" in helping me to recover, but most of all I lost my spirit.
My family were gravely concerned for my health. My mother had done her research and was aware that excessive vomiting could cause esophegal cancer, irreversible tooth decay and even heart failure. She tried various methods of control. She monitored how often i went to the toilet and bathroom, hid food from me, walked in on my secret binges, tried using guilt tactics and desperately pleaded for me to stop. I hated her for this and took my rage out on those that I loved and myself.
About 2 years ago, at aged 22, I was given the name of a psychologist at Sydney University who was doing research for her thesis on eating disorders in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
With little hope I paid her a visit which turned into weekly visits for a number of months. I had begun a healing process which I am still in today and expect to be in for the rest of my life. Together we formulated a day to day regular pattern of eating.With her I shared my excessive fear of gaining weight, my shame and my self-loathing. Slowly these began to lose their power over me. I experienced a few months abstinence from bullimia for the first time in 10 years.
Today I am still not cured from bullimia. I do not expect that I ever will be. It is an ongoing daily process of increasing self worth and decreasing fear of food, my body and the relationship they share.
Today I am not so afraid of my body and her curves and my natural desires. I have weeks, even months where bullimia disappears, and then it comes back again. Today I am willing and want to recover. And I am.
My story never ends.
The "why's" of bullimia have alluded therapists, researchers and health professionals since the early 80's. Current knowledge explains what factors are likely to maintain an eating disorder, but cannot really tell us why they occur in the first place. It is now believed that women who have experienced sexual abuse and/or addiction are more likely to experience an eating disorder at some point in their life. Research is also being undertaken into the genetic predisposition for eating disorders.
Having tried so hard to stop the binge/purge cycle for so many years and having experienced periods of remission, I realise today that the origins of my story with bullimia are not only inside of my body but inside my emotions or lack of, inside my mind and inside my memories. It is as though bullimia were an octopus inside of me whose head represents the more obvious behaviors of bullimia, but its tentacles stretch deep and far into the murky depths of my self. Though the bullimic act has at times, disappeared, the underlying feelings and insecurities have remained.
Though we are all unique and all women have a herstory to share, there are some common traits among women who have experienced eating disorders. We seem to suffer the anguish of not feeling worthy or enough. Of feeling like we exist only through other peoples eyes (or how we think they see us!). Of relying upon an others attention, acknowledgment and approval to validate our sense of self worth. Of basing this worth upon what we look like and how we feel about our bodies rather than who we innately are. I know plenty of women who also feel this way though don't don't have bullimia or anorexia.
I believe womens body, weight, shape and food obsession is far more common than we realise. Is this the problem of the individual or is it a problem of our culture and society? Who or what is responsible for perpetuating such widespread, self defeating myths and attitudes of woman, her body and her being?
Amidst all the triumphs of civilisation, our culture seems to have forgotten the essential value of anima, of our innate uniqueness and diversity. Today in our world the effects of this are incredibly obvious. The constant barrage of confusing messages swamping us from almost every angle leave women confused, insecure and unempowered.
Magazines and other forms of media are relentless in their depiction of the desirable woman as emaciated, skeletonic, plucked and painted. Women whose bodies represent only about 1% of the female populations actual body size. Whose faces are the international icons of what we are told we should look like, even though most are the product of the photographers handy work.
Are women abnormal or unacceptable if they at all deviate from such standards? Aren't all women natural and beautiful? What has gone wrong here? Why are we paying surgeons to cut our bodies with their scalpels? Why do girls, even as young as 5 go on diets? Why are we trying to fit into clothes made to fit prepubescent teenagers? Why are we starving, purging and rejecting our selves? Why are most women I know unsatisfied with their bodies, wasting their precious energy obsessing about how much or how little they eat, not to mention their ever-waning body image and self satisfaction?
WHY ARE WE SO DESPERATELY TRYING TO CHANGE WHO WE ARE? AS I AM, AM I NOT ENOUGH?
These are the thoughts and questions that bullimia has led me to asking.
If I can possibly draw purpose out of 10 years of self abuse, it is that I now have insight into my own self. I know what I am not and I know what I don't want to be.This hopefully, can help me to realise who I am.
I am not just a body.
I am not just an object for others to admire or not.
I am not worthless.
I am not a bad person, but one who has been sick and who is so willing to recover.
I do not want to be sick.
I do not want to be spending my maidenhood trying to annihilate this beautiful temple that the Great Goddess has bestowed upon me.
I do not want to be either too independent or dependent.
I do not want to waste my time sneaking and searching desperately for toilets in public places.
I no longer want to be disconnected from my brothers and sisters nor from myself.
I do want to celebrate my body.
I do dare to be myself whoever she is.
I have the courage to feel the feelings that I avoided for so many years.
And to know in my heartest of hearts that I am so much more than a beautified object and an objectified body. I AM ME AND THAT IS ENOUGH! Jen
yOni sheild image (Hope) by Leslie Olin. See her gallery
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