Bulimia: Sophie's story

Sophie was 14 when she became bulimic. Different things changed in her life and the pressure got too much. She's now 20 and has recovered from bulimia. She hopes her story will encourage others to ask for help.

"i found comfort in eating"

"I started trying to lose weight when a lot of things became uncertain in my life. My two best friends moved to a private school. This made me feel really separate from them. Their family had more money and it felt to me like they were special – I couldn't compare to them.

"My Grampa died around this time, which triggered lots of uncomfortable feelings as I lost my father when I was five. During this time I found comfort in eating. It was safe and familiar. Eating helped me forget how unhappy I felt at the time.

"When I gained weight over summer I was shocked. I couldn't be 'the fat one' - I was already shy, relatively poor compared to my friends, and had lost my dad. I came back to school and was determined to lose weight. This was something I could do without money, something I could do to make myself 'better' when I felt so worthless. I gradually began to lose weight by making myself eat less food and exercising too much. I lost a lot of weight but I didn't feel like I had achieved anything.

"I became obsessed with my body image. The more depressed I was, the more I hated my body. I can't remember the first time I properly binged and purged by throwing up, but suddenly it became a way of keeping my body weight the same.

This binge/purge cycle went on for several years, and it became too much to deal with when I got to college.

"I tried to keep losing weight but again life was becoming more challenging. I felt a lot of pressure at school. I also put pressure on myself to achieve and to be the best. I became obsessed with my body image. The more depressed I was, the more I hated my body. I can't remember the first time I properly binged and purged by throwing up, but suddenly it became a way of keeping my body weight the same.

This binge/purge cycle went on for several years, and it became too much to deal with when I got to college. I was throwing up sometimes five times a day and I was bingeing before the day had even started. I dropped out due to stress/exhaustion combined with depression.

I finally decided I wanted to get better, and put my life into perspective when I began treatment. At the start of my eating disorder I was referred to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (CBT) through my doctor. At first I used it as a way of keeping my mum happy, because I didn't want to recover. I only wanted to be thinner.

It wasn't straight forward, and I didn't magically un-muddle my thoughts, wake up one day and stop eating/purging.

"When the depression began to take over my life, I decided I really needed to get better – for the sake of my family and my future. More than anything, I wanted to get better.

"I went back to my GP and was referred to a different therapist who helped me talk through my problems a lot more – I really clicked with her and what she suggested actually made sense to me. I think it's important to find someone to talk to who you trust. Sometimes that isn't the first therapist or counsellor you're referred to. I still use some of the techniques she taught me to deal with things I find challenging.

"It wasn't straight forward, and I didn't magically un-muddle my thoughts, wake up one day and stop eating/purging. It took time and lots of patience but it paid off. I don't let food or my body image dictate my life anymore.

"I wrote my feelings down and tried to make sense of them that way – I think people with eating disorders need an outlet to deal with their emotions.

"I always used to feel like I was one of the people who wouldn't recover. I thought I'd be stuck in that cycle forever – and it made me extremely miserable and frustrated. I was the only person ever in the way of my own recovery. Once I opened my mind and realised there was so much more to life than being thin and pretty, I became so much happier.

"I am thankful that I found the courage to ask for help – I really needed it, as do so many other people. Now I want to tell people what I went through to stop it happening to so many other people. Mental illness is not a life sentence - you are not destined to be 'bulimic' or 'anorexic' or a 'binge-eater'. Your life is in your hands."

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