*Trigger warning: the following post includes descriptors of binge eating and eating disorders.
I can’t remember when binge eating became a part of my life, how it ebbed it’s way into my life.
I sat in bed, the duvet wrapped around me as I tried to distract myself with the images on the screen. I placed a hand on my chest as wave upon wave of anxiety flooded across my body. My skin tightened, my heart quickened and the pain entwined itself around my chest and through my ribs. My mind raced, as I tried to manage the pain, and then, I thought about the twenty-pound note that sat in my wallet and I felt the breath squeeze out of my chest as a smoky fog of calm encircled me. I pulled clothes over the top of my pyjamas and I was in the car, the dark smog pushing me forward as I drove to the local corner shop. Under the shadow of the darkness, I filled my basket with crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks and handed over the note to the cashier. Once home, I ripped off my clothes and spread the food around me and I climbed back into the bed and began to gorge. My mind distracted by the TV, I placed piece of food after food into my mouth, not tasting it, not smelling it, my mind calmer and my chest more relaxed. The elation would seep through me, and then the numbness would creep from my belly through my legs, into my fingertips and finally through my mind. I would hold my swollen stomach and fall back into the bed as the inevitable sleep would come and all would be ok again. Inevitably, once the food had been digested or I had lain on the floor as the stomach cramps rolled in, the numbness would dissipate and the nervous anxious energy would seep back into my pores. This time it was accompanied by waves of guilt and shame, as I stared at the empty packets of food around me. I would internally berate myself and make promises that tomorrow I would restrict my entire food intake for the rest of week, but the emotions would still linger.
This was how I spent the next ten years of my life, in a cycle of emotional pain and binge eating to relieve it. I coped. Bingeing Eating was my mechanism to do so, it made the pain and anxiety easier to manage and when I stepped into that fog of calm and numbness, it was worth it. It felt blissful. But each time I binged, the emotions I had pushed away came crashing back, and each time they felt stronger, more painful and I began to need more and more food to calm the noise of them. At my worst, I binged four or five times everyday. I would plan my day around when I could fit binges in, waiting for the working day to end so that I could scurry to the shop and fill my basket with food. I began to isolate myself, not just because my growing belly was embarrassing to show to friends old and new alike, but because socilalising interrupted my binges. I put on eight stone in weight, and physically my body was struggling to manage the effects, I had my gall bladder removed, I was obese and I had begun to have signs of cirrhosis of the liver. I was paranoid. I was paranoid that people knew what I was doing, that people thought I was grotesque and disgusting. I could barely stand to walk through a crowd of strangers, let alone see my friends and family who had known me six dress sizes smaller. I felt a failure. My binge eating put pressure on my relationship and when that relationship ended, my bingeing became my comfort blanket in which to escape the pain. Eventually, binge eating was all I had.
In 2013, knowing I could not cope any longer, I went to the GP and he prescribed me anti-depressants and anti anxiety medication and when I spoke about my eating, he directed me to the ‘Healthy Living’ team where someone chatted to me about calories and eating vegetables for half an hour. I took the medication and my bingeing did decrease a little and my anxiety was quelled, but still, when I was distressed, the bingeing would return and along with it, more shame and guilt and despair. After a while, I came off the medication and I was OK but binge eating still bobbed around in the background between diets and personal training sessions. At times, I felt like my old self again but I still couldn’t stop, and after periods of abstinence from the gorging I would relapse. By 2016, my bingeing had increased again and I was back to doing it every night. It was miserable.
Two weeks later I got a letter in the post, which detailed my diagnosis to my GP and set out dates for my therapy. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had been really sick and I felt a sense of relief that someone had listened to me. My name is Cara, and I have an eating disorder.
In September this year I began a twenty-week Dialectal Behavioural Therapy course, and in two weeks time this will come to an end. Since June 2016, I have had only three episodes of binge eating and as a consequence of this reduction, have lost over 3 stone in weight (not my main goal but something to discuss another day) and I am learning how to manage and cope without the use of food as an emotional blocker. I am committed to living a life binge free and I hope this is just the beginning of a more positive future.
BED has only been characterised as a stand-alone eating disorder since 2013. The NHS began implementing specific therapies for BED in 2014. It is estimated that 1-5%of Americans have BED. If you are worried about any of the issues I have raised here or you think you may have disordered eating, please do go and speak to your GP or you can visit B-eat who have online support tools including forums, chat rooms and helplines.