Updated: May 12, 2019
Here I am again, in a blur of confusion and anxiety, my head in the toilet bowl, vommiting. Over the past 10 years I have gotten so good at bringing my food back up that I don't even need to use my fingers. I can go through this process completely silently so that no one around me would suspect a thing. Toilet paper put down to prevent any 'splash'. I'm lucky because this time my nose hasn't started to bleed from the pressure. I rinse my mouth out, pop a mint, and return back to the dinner table to join in conversation with my friends like nothing has happened. A wave of relief and achievement comes over me. Nobody suspects a thing.
The thing about my eating disorder was that it wasn't for 'attention' like we are so often told. There was only about 5 people who ever knew until i came out with it on social media after recovering. Looking back and after going through therapy, I can see that my eating disorder was a 'constant' and 'my safety' in times of uncertainty. It's hard to explain to people who say 'well why didn't you just stop?'. I tried, believe me. But I just couldn't. My 10 years with Bulimia was up and down. Some days I was completely unaffected, but there were times that i would be binging and purging 3-4 times a day. I was out of control, and so were many other aspects of my life. I found myself consequently acting the same way with alcohol and binge drinking. Anxiety would go up, and the vommiting followed.
Since coming out of the dark haze of a mental disease there are so many things I can see that it was doing to me. To an outsider, you would NEVER know I was sick. I wasn't thin or fat, I was just normal. But what I knew was that my hair was falling out and thinning, my memory was severely hindered, my focus was all over the place, my eyes were blood shot, the blood vessels around my eyes were popped, my skin wasn't clear, my vision was often blurry, my teeth were constantly getting cavities and chipping from the acidity, my blood sugars were constantly up and down which was causing me to have IMMENSE mood swings, my HEARTBEAT was becoming irregular and ontop of all of that, i was feeling utterly lost and defeated. I just COULD NOT shake it.
WHY WAS NOBODY TALKING ABOUT THIS?! I scanned the internet constantly for courses, youtube videos or instructions on how to get myself better. This was not the life that I wanted for myself but I just didn't know how to shake it. There was nothing I could find that would help me or make me feel like I wasn't alone. Barely anyone knew my secret, and i'd always tell the ones who did that I was 'heaps better'. I just wanted to read someone else's story and know that i wasn't alone. But NOTHING. And all those years ago I promised myself that one day I WOULD BE THAT VOICE for someone else who was going through the same thing.
There was one thing that haunted me that I kept reading and kept being told, 'IT WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU'. That very phrase had me feeling defeated before I even began to try to conquer this thing. It will always be with me? WTF? Am I destined to live with this forever? But here I am, nearly 2 years later with a PROMISE that at least in my case, THAT IS UNTRUE and it IS possible for whoever is reading this for you to get better. When I originally told you guys about my battle I had an UNBELIEVABLE influx of messages and emails from people who were fighting this fight. Eating disorders are so much more common then I would've ever thought and we need to stop the SHAME and perception that if we admit to our struggles we are only looking for attention. I know within my group of close friends, there were 3 other girls who told me they had been privately fighting also. THAT IS ALOT!
So naturally the most common question I was receiving was 'How did you get better?' I am the most stubborn and self reliant person to a fault. In this case time and time again I had made promises to myself to stop, i'd gone on holidays and sworn that I was going to break my habits and come back stronger. Therapy seemed so drastic and I really believed that I could get over it myself. Maybe i'd get through a week or two, but then something would happened and BANG, there I was again back to the start. It eventually got to a point that I just COULD NOT DO IT ANYMORE. I was SO Over it and absolutely fed up with what was going on inside my head. I was fucking exhausted. That entire 10 years had drained me to a point that I felt numb and I was ready to give in to anything. I started looking at recovery/rehab centres, but they were all so expensive. This disheartened me hugely as I felt I just needed to get away from everything that I knew and I felt like I needed 24/7 care. Honestly thinking about it now makes me teary, I really want to give that broken Ashley a hug and tell her that it was all going to be ok. I was then recommended a therapist who specialised in eating disorders and nervously and reluctantly made my first appointment. The day before that was the very last time that I ever vommited.
I saw her Twice a week, then Once a week, once a fortnight, then once a month until she told me that I no longer needed to see her. There was something about her repeating the things that I was saying to her back to me that started to switch my brain waves. I won't go into too much detail about the roots of my particular experience, because EVERY EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT but I do feel that it's important for me to at least voice a part of my journey for any one who may stumble upon this article in search of ANYTHING as I once was. As much as I believed it would go away or this I could fix it myself, in the end the only thing that helped me was SEEING someone and I only wish I had've done it sooner.
My message is simple.
You are not alone.
You should not feel ashamed.
YOU CAN CONQUER THIS.
Please seek help.
These days, if you were to ask me if I would've done anything different in my life or if I wish it never happened, honestly I would say no. I am grateful for my experience and all that it has taught me. The hardest battles that most of us will ever have to face are the ones within our own heads. And today I sit here typing knowing that I won that war, and the confidence and strength that that gives me every day is immense. Without going through what I went through, I don't think I could ever appreciate how incredible it feels to be in good mental health and what a gift that is in itself. It only drives my quest to help others get to the BEST versions of themselves both physically and mentally. One thing that is so amazing to me these days is being able to sit down with friends in a social setting and ENJOY eating. It may seem like a small thing to some people, but believe me to anyone who has ever fought an eating disorder this is probably the hardest place you could put us. To finish a meal and order dessert without even flinching. To feel full and not be taken over by a wave of anxiety.
I am Ashley Freeman and I suffered Bulimia for 10 years. But I am here to say that recovery IS possible, and you have nothing to feel ashamed of..