Self Expression Magazine

The 'B' Word, the 'O' Word, Or Just 'HELP'?

Posted on the 25 October 2015 by Onestory
I look and feel like a train wreck. I have a swollen salivary gland from purging. It looks like a golf ball is embedded in my cheek. My throat is red, raw and sore, and yet the urge to binge again is intense. One thing is clear: I can't fight this alone. It's too hard.
So I put the call out to my therapist. I said: I need more help more structure more support more tools more skills more knowledge I can't do it by myself I need help I need help I need help. I spend so much time alone. There is nothing to hold me back from doing my worst. It is me battling me, and I'm a nightmare of an adversary.
And so... the ball is rolling. There is one other treatment centre available under the public system where I live (and so free). My therapist is organising a referral for me. It is a small clinic that offers both a residential and a day programme. Whenever this treatment option had been mentioned to me in the past, I thought it sounded perfectly hideous. They have structured, supervised meal times - and no way was I prepared to sign up for that. While it still isn't exactly appealing, I have officially given up restriction (I've had fifteen days free of it!) and I think I could manage it now. Honestly, I'm so desperate to escape from the pool of vomit I am swimming in, that I'd do almost anything.
With the help of my meal plan, I have now clocked up a total of SIX DISORDER FREE DAYS. After more than eighteen months of disordered eating, this is HUGE. I have felt stronger than I have in a very long time. But anorexia was Chief Stress Reliever (and creator) in my life, and now I am now scrambling around lost. Bulimic behaviour has taken it's place.
I'm not happy about it. Bulimia is not 'my disease'. It's shameful, depressing and deeply unattractive. Despite that, I have weird compulsion to talk about it to anyone who's willing to listen. I'd like to get a bloody great loudspeaker and shout from the rooftops 'Do you how much I can eat?! You would not believe it! Buckets of caramel and chocolate and ice cream. Yes folks, and then I vomit! I vomit and vomit and until my throat hurts and my eyes water and I am exhausted and it is nasty!' It's as if 'outing' the behavior puts it at a distance, and I want it as far away from me as possible. Still, I wont be putting in on my resume.
The way I see it, the labels used for eating disorders are contrived. There is so much cross over from one disorder to the next, that I wonder if there is any point trying to pin a classification to a person. My disorder has been morphing so rapidly lately, I don't know where I fit. In a lot of ways it doesn't matter what label you are given - certainly nobody is chasing after me trying to slap me with a new tag every few weeks. But it is useful when explaining my situation to someone, and helps to organize things in my mind.
The clinical criteria for anorexia and bulimia are specific and very narrow. Aside from these well known disorders, there plenty of delightful variations, including: anorexia binge/purge sub-type, purging disorder, binge eating disorder and OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (previously EDNOS)). Orthorexia (an obsession with healthy 'righteous' eating) keeps popping up in the media, but isn't yet officially recognised.

Sometimes your head fits in one category, and your body in another. Eating disorders are classified as a mental illness, so I don't understand why physical markers are relied on so heavily in diagnosis. There were months early on when I was mentally and behaviourally 'anorexic' (I jumped straight into it because of my past history), but my body was a healthy weight. Then I had some time when I was anorexic weight and continued with purely restrictive behavior. Then I added in some of the binge/purge cycles. Next, I had a period when I was binge eating and not getting rid of the food. And then back to alternating between restriction and binge/purge. Giddying isn't it? Some time around then I would have come up out of the anorexic weight category, but was still underweight. Now, I binge and purge, no restriction, with windows of normal behavior. Does that make me bulimic? Or anorexic in recovery? (in the same way an alcoholic might always refer to themselves as an alcoholic, even if they have gone twenty years without a drink). I have seen bulimics referred to as 'food addicts', and I don't relate, because I've been addicted to hunger, not food. The urge to binge comes after eighteen months of physical and emotional deprivation, and I think I'm unconsciously driven to restore the imbalance. It could be thought of as part of my recovery, rather than a pathology in its own right.
So where does that leave me, technically speaking? OSFED? Well, no thank you, that label is crap. I'm inventing my own:
I'll ask the people at the new clinic to treat me for that.
The 'B' word, the 'O' word, or just 'HELP'?

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