Apr 14, 2016
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
My name is Darlene, I’m 52 years old and I have Bulimia Nervosa (BN). I’ve had it for about 2 years now but I’ve had some sort of eating disorder or disordered eating pretty much all of my life. I want to talk about the BN though because that was my dirty little secret/shame and it almost killed me.
I was a perfectionist and I was obsessed with being the best.
I think I need to give you a little bit of background to help you understand how I got to the darkest place I’ve ever been. I was a workaholic in a fast paced, high-pressure job and I never let up on myself for one minute. I was a perfectionist and I was obsessed with being the best. Of course this made me a great employee but a shitty human being. In May 2014 I had a breakdown at work and I was diagnosed with Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I went off work, got onto the couch and stayed there. In August, my daughter left home for university out west and I found myself at home, alone. I began to vomit.
In the fall, my mom who lived about an hour’s drive from me began to get ill and I started to visit her more frequently to try to help her out and take care of her. The sicker she got, the more I vomited. In February 2015 she was diagnosed with cancer and in April she died. I cried. I binged. I vomited.
I was so grief stricken after she died that I would line my medication bottles up on the coffee table (yup – I was still on the couch) and look at the pills. I was trying to decide whether there were enough drugs to kill me in those bottles. Remember, I’m a perfectionist; a failed suicide attempt would be a disaster in my eyes. In the end my daughter saved me. She still needs me, even if I am sick.
By early summer 2015 I was so entrenched in my BN that I could barely leave my house. I would wake up exhausted every morning, weigh myself and then decide, based on what the scale told me, what I needed to do. If I lost weight then I could watch TV or relax for the morning. If I gained weight or stayed the same then I had to clean the house, do laundry, change sheets, clean out cupboardsâ€¦anything to burn caloriesâ€¦and punish myself. By early afternoon I was eating, and the cycle of binging and purging began. I would do this until late into the night every single day. I never had the guts to count how many times I vomited in a day but if I had to guess now, I’d say it was well over 50 times every day.
Along with the food went all of my fluids, electrolytes, and nutrients.
I would cook elaborate meals big enough to feed three or four people, eat until I was full, throw up, eat again and repeat. I would bake cakes and eat them. Get takeout meals large enough to feed a family and eat them. All of this food went immediately down the toilet. Along with the food went all of my fluids, electrolytes, and nutrients.
Between May 2014 and the day I entered treatment, I lost a lot of weight and I was becoming physically sick. I had a pre-existing heart condition that was not very serious on it’s own but with the weight loss, constant vomiting, chronic dehydration, poor nutrition, and electrolyte imbalances, my heart was beating irregularly and very slowly. I was dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out all the time.
My blood potassium level kept dropping to critically low levels and this could cause my heart to stop beating so I would have to go to the hospital. Most of the time I was treated with respect but there were times that doctors and nurses would tell me to “just stop vomiting” or talk about my illness in the waiting room in front of all of the other patients and visitors. I was too sick to do anything about it then
In August 2015 I went to grief counselling to help me deal with the loss of my mother. In my second or third session with the counsellor I blurted out the words, “I’ve been vomiting” and my life changed. She made me promise to tell my family doctor and I did. Referrals were made, assessments were done, and I was placed on waiting lists for treatment. On February 1, 2016, I entered in-patient treatment and began my journey to recovery.
I know the road will have bumps and turns and I also know that it will be worth the work
As I type this story, it has been 46 days since I last vomited. This is just the beginning of my journey and I know the road will have bumps and turns and I also know that it will be worth the work. I will also never hang my head with shame again. This is an illness like any other illness and I am sick, not weak.