Ever since I turned 19, I have felt I am too old for an eating disorder, everything I read talked about teenagers and I was barely one any longer. All the treatment I tried to find when I was moving to university were for under 18 year olds. I was too old. There had been nowhere to go in my hometown and now it seemed I would be on my own with it all over again.
During school, I heard ‘well it’s not like it’s serious’ and I believed it. I was not underweight. I made sure I smiled every day; even when I struggled to get up. I kept going, believing that the eating disorder helped me to do this. One GP I saw said ‘sometimes life gets us down’, I was 18 and had already taken an overdose.
I went back to hiding bulimia, into my twenties, through different jobs, different cities. Years ticked by. Every day I tiptoed around telling myself it has to end, I can’t keep doing this but I did; fighting with myself, wishing I were someone else yet not wanting to let anyone down. The world felt surreal.
Work became the place I dreaded the most
Work became the place I dreaded the most, night shifts let me hide away during the day and let bulimia thrive unwatched but it meant, for a few hours each evening and morning, I had to face people. Alternating between restricting and bingeing and purging gave a sense of relief. On my days off, alone at home, exercising was often the only thing to get me out of bed.
Each time I visited family, I felt like I should ‘be over it’ by now. I was untrustworthy and at any moment would be asked ‘Vicky, have you eaten all the ice cream?’ just like I was fifteen years old again. I became convinced that, if work found out, I would lose my job; when my colleagues did notice, a few were kind, others were not. I was told ‘I know what you are doing, you’re disgusting.’
The GP said ‘First of all, you are brave admitting it.’
I shut myself away, I agreed with them.
Somewhere inside of me, I did not want to miss out on life and am very grateful when I reached out to a GP in my mid twenties. The GP said ‘First of all, you are brave admitting it.’ A huge weight dissipated and I was able to attend therapy. It took months to be able to trust my therapist, gradually I learnt to speak what I was thinking and feeling, sometimes I would move forwards, other times I ran back to the safety net I had created when I believed I could not do something.
On my 29th birthday I made a deal with myself, I would not go into my 30’s with an eating disorder and concentrated on recovering. I was discharged before I turned 30.
Eating disorders don’t just stop because you reach a certain age
That was over 18 months ago. It has not been as easy as I thought, I make sure I eat and never purge but that old voice pops up more than I’ve admitted before; the old desire to disappear catches me. ‘Why did you think you could recover?’ Then ‘You are over 30! Pathetic.’
But I can fight back now.
Eating disorders don’t just stop because you reach a certain age and you can develop one at any age, they do not discriminate between gender, race or age yet the stigma around them does. Everyone’s experience is different, if you don’t find help the first or second time you try to reach out, keep asking, you will find it.