I had an eating disorder for 10 years.
Bulimia, specifically. But this isn’t story about what a f*cked up time that was. I mean, it was, and it consumed me. I had burn damage down my throat, I destroyed my stomach lining multiple times.
I had acid damage on most of my teeth. My periods stopped all together for about two years. I grew hair en masse in weird places like my neck and on my back.
And after 10 exhausting years of it I had totally, utterly, and completely given up and really couldn’t ever imagine my life without it.
But that was three years ago. Because for three glorious years, the best years of my life, I have been free.
Here is the advice that I genuinely wished was out there when I was in the thick of it. Because maybe if I had known these things, it could have ended a lot sooner.
1. Know that your family and friends love you.
You might feel like an incredible burden on them, like you don’t deserve them, that it is only a matter of time before they stop being there for you, stop calling, stop asking how you are.
They probably don’t know what to say. Or what to do. They might be just as lost as you are about why this is happening and how to make it stop. (Christine Anu talks about body image to Mamamia TV. Post continues after video.)
So don’t hate them for not knowing how to “fix” you. Or for losing patience with you, or getting mad about the situation. They are probably mad as hell about it. Because it is a really, really, shitty thing that is happening; for you and everyone around you.
Just know that they really do love you (despite what they say or do) and if they knew how to help they would. (Post continues after gallery.)
2. Get professional help. From the right person.
If there was one – and only one thing – that I could go back to my 14-year-old self and say, it would be that finding a psychologist is like finding the right pair of jeans – you need to try a few on before you find a good fit for you.
The first one I had? We were on completely different pages and if anything she made everything worse for me, because I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t helping me, and then felt even more guilt about the situation than I did to begin with. Zero help.
The second – which I really regret admitting wasn’t until nine years after my first experience – took two months of sessions. Two months. Then it was behind me.
I wish more than anything that I hadn’t given up after that first unsuccessful time and kept trying. So please, keep trying.
3. Know that it’s not your fault.
The single greatest moment of my life happened when I was sitting in a gross, uncomfortable chair, with snot running down my face, staring a pile of red polish on my lap that I had picked off from my finger nails.
My psychologist asked me what age my eating disorder began happening. And then she asked me what was happening in my life around that time. And then she looked at me.
Then I figured out why I was so sick for so long. I figured out what was happening. Why it was happening. And that it wasn’t my fault. No matter your circumstance, whether an event has triggered your eating disorder or not, it is not your fault. More than anything that I wish for you to understand, is that all of it isn't your fault.
Forgiving myself, and understanding that it was out of my control, for all of it is what helped me be free from it. (Post continues after gallery.)
4. If you fall, get back up. And let it go.
My psychologist also told me if I ever took a step back, if I ever slipped up, that as long as I was OK with that, then it was completely OK.
That was three years ago. In that time I relapsed once and rather than beating myself up, I took a breath. I realised I had a terrible day. I told myself ‘OK, that happened.’
Then I moved on with my life.
5. You’re enough.
You’re enough. Always. Tell yourself that every single day. And mean it. You are enough.