Getting dressed is harder than you could ever imagine when you have an eating disorder. Although I’ve had bulimia for what feels like forever now, I don’t want to look bulimic. I’d never want anyone to take one glance at me and know that I don’t have normal eating habits.
I’d be lying if I say that I haven’t been suffering for a while: seven years of an eating disorder with only a small amount of people knowing, and many of them telling me to “just stop” what I was doing. Friends didn’t take the news well and didn’t understand, and I was worried about what my family would think of me, so I thought that keeping everything to myself was for the best. Although it was always there in the background, I really thought that I had it under control. But the truth is, regardless of the severity of any eating disorder, it is never under control.
As a child I always cared about my clothes and being pretty. My friends and I would dress up as princesses and fairies and wouldn’t think that we looked anything less than beautiful. I was 10-years-old when this began to change. I started to notice that I wasn’t like a lot of my friends; I was shorter than them, thought I had a bigger stomach and wider legs. The clothes they wore never looked right on me, and I felt like I no longer belonged. At 13 I watched my friends blossom into intelligent, beautiful young women and I still saw myself as a chubby child who wasn’t naturally intellectual. That’s where my eating disorder journey started. It was only occasionally that I felt so self-conscious that I turned to my bulimia, but I was never prepared for how much those feelings would grow. After a while, it seemed normal to me and bulimia became my coping mechanism, my best friend, and the only thing that seemed to be there for me when I was struggling with anything.
No one could have prepared me for what happened when I was 18-years-old. The summer after finishing my last year at sixth form, one of my close friends died in a car accident. It felt like my world had come crashing down, and not even bulimia could take away the pain I was feeling. I questioned everything – she was one of the most amazing people I had ever met, so why her? At the same time as dealing with such a sudden and huge loss, I felt stuck in a relationship that wasn’t healthy, and that was the point where everything spiralled out of control. Little to the knowledge of the people around me, bulimia had well and truly taken its toll on my life. I couldn’t plan my day without taking it into consideration.
As I started my first year at university my weight started fluctuating constantly, my self-confidence and self-love disappeared, and my outfits mainly consisted of baggy clothes, oversized jackets and knee-high boots. They were my comfort blankets during hard times and hid my weight gains and weight losses. Wearing the same sort of outfit repeatedly felt like being in a cosy prison cell – I felt comfortable, but trapped. Whenever I did wear something else, my anxiety levels would rise, and I would want to go home and be alone.
A few months into the New Year my exams started looming, I was still grieving heavily and I was going through a rough break-up. I had so many amazing people around me, but I had never felt so alone. Some of my closest friends could tell I needed help and persuaded me to start opening up to more people about everything I was going through and seek medical help. Making that first step and telling some of the people that loved me most about my situation was one of the scariest things I ever did. I played every negative scenario possible in my head, and fully expected people to act in an angry way, but none of those scenarios were the case. I had never felt more overwhelmed with love and support than I did at the times of opening up about my illness.
I’m now 20-years-old. Although I’m still suffering from bulimia, and I know I will always have bad days, recovery finally seems possible. I’m starting to let go of my comfort blankets and I’m now wearing more clothes that I love, like fitted tops, dresses and jackets, and not just clothes that hide my body. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m starting to feel myself again, and I’m letting myself feel loved instead of hiding in that cosy prison cell.
If you are struggling with any issues similar to the one in this article, click on these links for help and guidance: