Our case study from someone who has been assisted along their journey with an eating disorder by AMH everybody, also shows that help is available – you can get better.
To add a bit of context this lady’s experience is slightly different as she did first experience comfort eating (which is completely different than binge eating disorder and can be a part of normal eating at times). However due to life events that she has mentioned – grief, relationship break down, loneliness and post-partum body dissatisfaction, binge eating disorder developed as the only coping mechanism to deal with all of these difficulties, and what once served as a comfort became distressing and felt out of control.
Growing up we never had a lot of sugary foods in the house, penguin bars or club bars to eat with lunch in school was the height of it. Going to friends houses I was always amazed at the amount of chocolate and crisps they had in the cupboard and they had no interest in them at all, meanwhile I’m salivating and hoping they’ll say “do you want something to eat?”
In high school we had a tuck shop filled with all things colourful and delicious but I never was given money going to school, I had a packed lunch and that was enough to keep my body fuelled. We were not poor or anything my parents worked hard, they were savers and with 5 siblings at home handing out lunch money everyday was never going to happen. So, I had to get money from somewhere I wanted to go to the tuck shop, I started taking money from my older brothers’ room, loose change lying around, he wouldn’t miss it. This continued for a long time, I was getting my chocolate and my brother wasn’t noticing his money going missing. Until he did.
I was old enough now to get a part time job. I was 15 and earning £2.90 an hour. I had no bills to pay or responsibilities. I could get what I wanted. For a few years I went to school/tech, walked to a music class, walked to teach a dance class and then worked from 5-9. On my way home I would stop at a shop and buy £5 worth of chocolate and a fizzy drink go home and eat lying in my bed watching the TV. I would lie to my mum and tell her I had dinner in work because I didn’t want a full on a plate of potatoes, meat and veg, I wanted my chocolate.
I’m 31 now and I can finally see and understand that I have a binge eating disorder. For years I thought I just had a bad diet and loved chocolate which is true. I do love food and it has been a source of comfort for me for half my life. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t drink or smoke but that was ok because I could eat.
After my daughter was born someone very close to my heart was diagnosed with cancer and my 6-year relationship broke down. My life was upside down. I had no fight left in me, I hated my post baby body, I didn’t look the same in skirts as I did before and I felt so alone, my friends had disappeared. They continued with their own lives, going on nights out, weekend trips and I was at home with the baby and a sick parent. The only thing I could control and the only thing that gave me joy was food. I was eating all the time, multi packs of chocolate, cookies anything I could sneak into the house. I would find excuses to go to the shop just so I could get more.
I can’t remember why but one day I made an appointment to see my GP, while sitting in his surgery I cried and cried and told him about my eating habits and I needed help. He was so supportive, not at all what I expected after telling him my dark secrets. I thought I was heading for counselling. I was nervous about counselling, I had been before, I mentioned my eating habits and I was criticised and judged so I never went back and felt I would never be able to speak about it again. A few months passed after visiting my GP and I got a call from AMH everyBODY.
I had my first session; it was the exact opposite of what I was expecting. It wasn’t counselling at all. I was meeting with a support worker. What did I need a support worker for, I don’t have a disorder? I thought I would continue with the sessions because it was something to keep me going until I got to counselling. I have been going to sessions now for a few months and it has changed my life. My support worker has worked very hard with me, she has been understanding, supportive, encouraging and never once judged me. She has helped me to see food all as one colour, she has shown me that I have a choice.
No longer do I restrict myself; I don’t have the Sunday night blues and promise myself every Monday I am going on a diet which I would fail at and hate myself even more. I no longer panic when I go to the shop and buy chocolate because I know I have a balance of food in the trolly. I enjoy cooking again. I have the ability to listen to my body and hear what it needs.
I still have my urges for a binge but with the help of my support worker I now have the tools to help me through and the urge 90% of the time passes. I still have issues with my body image but that is something that my support worker and I plan to work on next. I have no doubt that in time I will be able to love my body and appreciate all it has come through.
I never expected to receive the help I did from my support worker. I have never felt so safe telling a complete stranger my darkest secrets. I finally feel free.
If you live in the Southern Health Trust Area you can contact the AMH everyBODY Team – T: 028 3839 2314 or E: [email protected]