My Long Lonely Struggle Against Eating Disorders
I suffered a lonely and traumatic childhood in my native Russia.
At 13 years of age children began teasing me calling me ‘fatty’ (although in reality I was just more developed than the other girls).
There were many days the comments were so cruel and hurtful that I’d run to the toilets to hide so no one would see me cry.
Desperate for the teasing to stop, I started a dangerous anorexic type diet. Many days all I’d eat was a couple of apples and some water.
I dropped a lot of weight but it wasn’t the end of my troubles.
You see, my parents were really strict and I was forced to study for hours with no contacts outside the house during school days and on most weekends.
My friends soon learned not to call or drop around as they would be chased away.
My parents meant well. They wanted me to get a good education and succeed in life.
But children need time to play and mix with other kids. I was an A-grade student but a lonely and unhappy kid.
I soon developed really bad eating habits as a kind of escape mechanism from the pressures and unhappiness I felt at home and at school.
I forgot about watching my weight and started binge eating practically any foods I could get my hands on.
Soon my mother started telling me I was putting on too much weight and I needed to control myself.
I tried but I just couldn’t…
Binge eating had become my only release…
…even though it made me feel guilty and anxious.
But then quite by accident I discovered that I could stuff myself with food and then throw it up. It meant I could practice my compulsion without the side-effect of unwanted weight.
I felt really proud of myself for coming up with this solution. I thought I had invented this behaviour which I later found out was a sickness called bulimia.
It gave me a great feeling of being in control of my body. And I grew addicted to the ‘rush’ of throwing up the contents of my stomach even though I often felt weak and lethargic straight afterwards.
And so my vicious cycle of binging and purging began.I became increasingly withdrawn from everyone around me for fear they would find out
What I was doing to myself. My self-esteem was virtually nil. I felt utter contempt for myself.
At 17 years of age I realized this obsessive and secretive behavior which I practiced while my parents were at work was placing my health at severe risk.
I consulted a doctor but back in the 1980s eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia weren’t a recognized condition in Russia.
When I went to university to study medicine I learned just how much physical harm all my binging and purging was doing, not to mention the periods of anorexia I went through. So again I sought help.
I approached my lecturers for advice.
When you’re young and impressionable you tend to believe people in positions of authority have all the answers. After all they were doctors and they were teaching me about medicine.
But the only help they could offer was to advise that I see a counselor.
I struggled through the normal relentless merry-go-round of counselors, therapists and clinics.
Maybe you’ve been through this yourself?
I did feel better when I was talking to these professionals but it was short lived.
I slipped back to my destructive binging/purging habits almost as soon as I got home.
It became obvious that therapy was not the answer.
Doctors prescribed me drugs like anti-depressants. But they made me feel awful and I would have to stop taking them. And deep down I knew this was just masking the symptoms not getting to the real root of my problem anyway.
Increasingly anxious and desperate, I finally realised that the only person who could help me was me.
At around about the same time I enrolled in medical courses on the brain and was growing increasingly fascinated by what I was learning.
It motivated me to do a lot of my own additional research on the brain.
And slowly the reasons why all the other therapy I’d received up to that point for my eating disorder had been so ineffective became apparent.
Does this sound like you? It
probably does in many ways, this is why I have shared with
you, so you know you are not alone.