In Year 11 of high-school I became friends with girl who had bulimia. At school she would often compare our leg size with her hands, measuring her leg against mine. One day she said to me, “I can help you lose weight”. She took me to the bathroom and put her fingers down my throat to make me throw up. It didn’t work, however I really wanted to be like her. So I went home and continued putting my fingers down my throat until I threw up.
It didn’t take long until I also had bulimia. I did all the classic things that girls with eating disorders do, I was secretive and so sure I was doing a good job at hiding my purges. Until one day the Mother heard me purging and confronted me. From this point I didn’t care to hide it. And she didn’t care to help either. After meals she would encourage me to purge or make some mean sarcastic comment about what I would do after meals. The craziest thing she did a handful of times was also try to throw up her meal. And then later ask how I do it because she wasn’t able to.
The Mother told everyone I threw my food up, she told friends in front of me when they came to our house to visit. I honestly don’t know why, perhaps it was some attempt to shame and embarrass me. I wont ever know.
I was alone in this experience, and food became a source of comfort. I was trapped in the bulimic cycle of self-harm. Swinging between food to numb emotional pain or cutting myself with razors. So deep in this darkness, my bulimia became my own inner “Bully”. I battled with this Bully everyday for 15 years. Trying various kinds of therapies and nothing seemed to work. I was trapped. At the worst times on this journey I would purge up to 10 times a day and abuse laxatives to the point of passing out in the bathroom. Once having to go to hospital due to cracking the back of my head on a tap.
As I got older, I felt as though even therapists thought I was a lost cause. There was no hope, and I came to a place of complete acceptance that I would be bulimic forever. And that I would just have to learn to manage this disease of my mind. So it became a two-steps forward one-step back. It was at this point that the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I did years before actually began to help. My life was lived in 3-hour blocks. Getting through three hours of a day and then a small meal, making sure I had at least 5-6 small meals with me everywhere I went so that I never risked becoming too hungry. And slowly I began to binge and purge less and less. However, the final turning point for me in this journey was becoming pregnant. I had this little life growing inside me, and her well-being became so much more important than my Bully. Focusing on her enabled me to get over the final hurdle.
To this day I am still conscious of triggers, one in particular is the Mother. As I saw her less and less over the years I began to notice a pattern. In her company I would binge and after her visits would purge. This relationship between eating disorders and the mother-daughter relationship is a well established one. The dysfunction between her and myself is so utterly toxic that it would re-ignite my ‘bully’. Having this awareness has allowed me to regain some control over food in her presence. That being said, I really believe that having children and looking after their well-being has allowed me the space to also look after myself.
The time I have alone between caring for my family and working everyday is so precious, that now I prefer to read the news, put my feet up and have a cup of tea. Sometimes I’ll have a small biscuit or some other sweet treat and I am not triggered. Now I understand what it is to actually ‘take care of yourself’. This is something that has taken me a long time to learn. Children of narcissistic parents don’t ever learn to do this, it’s something we need to put effort towards teaching ourselves. My entire childhood was on high alert to someone else’s needs and moods, there was never an opportunity to actually learn how to self-regulate. And now I’m learning. Finally, in my late 30’s I’m learning to take care of myself and be happy in my own company.