I’m Scarlett, and I have recovered from bulimia.
The reason I want to share my recovery story is that I have learnt that I did not deserve to fight my eating disorder on my own for so long. I am hoping that learning about my journey will give you some reassurance that no matter how unreachable recovery seems right now, it is possible.
How it started
I developed bulimia nervosa at the age of 13, and by the time I was 16 the illness had taken over all the space in my mind, and in my life as I increasingly withdrew myself from social activities, school, friendships. One day, I came across a documentary detailing the health consequences of bulimia and only then did I understand that this was a serious, life-threatening condition. This scary realisation made me want to get better, and yet, I was unable to do it. I now felt a prisoner of bulimia, addicted, and too ashamed to even consider talking to my parents about it. I gathered all my strength to privately inform my GP of my issues and desire to get help but received little to no support, care, or interest, which made me give up on asking for help for a long time.
I left home at 19 to move to London, which made it possible for me to become busy with a new lifestyle, and I started to sustain recovery for longer periods of time. The bulimia became more punctual which often gave me the illusion that I had almost overcome it, but it kept returning whenever I struggled to cope with my emotions.
My turning point
It was not until years later, when I experienced a burn-out at work at the age of 26, that I decided to seek help from my GP as I had not experienced such intense depression and bulimia in many years. Seeking professional help for the first time as an adult was the first turning point to my recovery.
After some time following a treatment plan, my mind began clearing up, and my compulsive behaviours towards food started to fade away. I regained enough confidence in myself to acknowledge that the life I was living was not the one I truly wanted and needed. I broke up with my then long-term male partner and came out as gay. Soon afterwards, I decided to leave my corporate job to undertake a psychology degree and, although difficult at first, all these major life changes have been crucial aspects to my recovery as they mean that for the very first time, I am feeling genuine congruence between the person I am on the inside, and the person I am presenting to the world.
I have been recovered for four years now and can truly feel that my perspective has shifted on so many levels, which I attribute both to the treatment and to the realisation I had later in life about my sexuality. Before coming out, I did not even comprehend or imagine that I may be gay, because the life I had been busy building for myself fell within the ‘norms’ of society and it just seemed the only way it could ever be – but living my authentic, recovered self today means that I can now reflect on the reasons that led to the development of my eating disorder in the first place. Eating disorders are complex and every person’s journey will be different, but the perspective I can offer on my own is fundamentally associated to the heteronormative nature of society, in which we are subtly taught that being thin and/or heterosexual are two natural, unquestioned pre-requisites to being a woman. I do not think that these norms have directly caused my eating disorder as this would be too simplistic to say, however I know that had we lived in a society where my favourite TV shows or magazines consistently showed women of all body types, ages, races or sexual orientations; never would have I internalised the idea that I needed to always be thinner to be happy; and that similarly, being heterosexual was just a given.
I now make it a priority never to obsess over food and to nourish my body the way it deserves for allowing me to experience life to the fullest. Along the way, I have also developed a keen interest in meditation, which I find especially helpful whenever I feel a little overwhelmed by thoughts or emotions, and make sure to attend regular therapy. I want to encourage anyone currently battling an eating disorder not to hesitate to reach out for help as soon as possible. This could be through your GP, therapy, support groups, helplines, or other services such as the amazing befriending service that Talk ED offers, so that you are not alone until you are able to reach recovery and create the life that you truly deserve.