If you don’t like bodily fluids, please don’t click away now, for it is a whole year (A WHOLE YEAR. A. WHOLE. YEAR.) since I last ate something and then purged it and therefore I am a safe and dormant zone, not at risk of self-induced explosion.
This is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me, because making myself sick was the part of it all that I hated the most. It was also the part of my eating disorder that I was most addicted to and the part that was, perhaps, most disgusting. Nobody wants to find their friend/family member or, even worse than that, a random stranger puking their guts up into a bin/church car-park/John Lewis toilet with an improperly locked door.
It’s just not nice for anybody.
The hardest part for me was that I often wasn’t aware of what I was doing until after I’d done it, which made it really difficult because you can’t stop yourself from doing something once you’ve finished.
But (and here, again, we’ve got the awkward eating disorder blog thing where I have to say that there’s a big but and everyone thinks I’m talking about them…I’m not talking about you), it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
There were three parts to my line of attack:
Firstly, I had to learn to trust myself. For people with eating disorders, this isn’t an easy thing to do. Trusting other people is tricky, but trusting yourself is nigh on impossible. Knowing that it was OK that I had eaten, and that I didn’t need to punish myself was a really long, hard journey. But eating again and again and again and keeping it inside showed me that it was OK. At the beginning, having help from other people – who would physically prevent me from being able to purge – was invaluable, but it’s so important to learn to do it for yourself, because nobody wants to be reliant on other people for their whole life.
Breaking the cycle came next. Apparently, a habit takes three weeks to make or break. I don’t believe that: really ingrained habits – such as wanting to make yourself sick every time you eat – can take far longer than that, and it’s important to keep going, regardless of the time-frame, because everyone can break a habit. I (unsuccessfully) tried to give up purging for a good six months before it actually happened, usually going for between about three hours and six or seven weeks before slipping backwards. I still got urges pretty often for about five months after I’d managed to kick the habit, but it got easier over time. Now, it is a firm rule that, even if I want to purge, I do not make myself sick.
It’s just not a part of my life anymore.
I also had to learn not to listen to excuses. It’s so easy to tell yourself that you’re different; that it doesn’t matter this time because it’s the last time/you’ll eat more later; you’ve been ill for a long time so you’re never going to get better; you’re allowed to because you’re doing so well everywhere else…the excuses are endless. In the end, it’s easy to spend years not getting better because you’re waiting for the excuses to stop. The excuses don’t stop; you have to stop listening to them.
You are not an exception: everyone can get better.
It takes will-power (lots of will-power) and asking for and accepting help.
But everyone can get better.
That doesn’t mean that getting better is easy for anyone.
What does it mean? I’m not special and I’m not amazing; I’m an ordinary person. But I did it. I set my mind to something and I achieved it.
Because I made my mind up and I asked for help, and I kept telling myself that I was sticking to the original plan, even when intrusive thoughts were telling me very much otherwise. I learned that my own mind was sometimes my greatest enemy because it could so easily lie to me, manipulate me and persuade me to make stupid choices. I had to learn that you can’t have a day off, and you can’t have a day where it’s OK to give in because those days are the top of the slippery slope.
But I also learned that sometimes my own mind is my superpower: I have, literally, used it to save my own life.
And so can you.