My secret eating disorder
Hi, it’s Zoë here. As part of the Bliss Sanctuary For Women business I sometimes get asked to be a spokesperson for women in general and in this case for a very delicate and personal issue around eating disorders. As it’s something that affects us so prevalently in the Western World around body image and the stresses of life and in my case the stress I put on myself to be successful, I felt when asked to be a part of this that it was time to speak out. As women we have all faced our own hardships in life and although not all of you may have experienced this specifically, we have all had to face something. So I hope by sharing my story it further humanises the Bliss Experience for you and what we are all about as women who have stressful lives, and need to take time out for ourselves to re-balance no matter what our personal story and personal experiences are. Love Zoë x
Two Australian women talk for the first time to Juliet Rieden about the eating disorders tat consumed their teenage years and haunt them still.
Zoë Watson, 38
Owner, Bliss Sanctuary For Women
I was raised in Adelaide by born-again Christian parents. I had a carefree childhood with lots of people around and a younger brother, Daniel. We went to church every Sunday. I went to the local Christian school, which was very much about the way you live, rather than your actual education.
I started suffering from bulimia when I was 16, in Year 12. I had decided at the age of 11 that I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted a different life – my dad was a bricklayer and my mum was a stay-at-home mum.
But the school I went to wasn’t that fantastic. I’d gone up a year already and I was very bright and always wanting to get on to the next thing. But I think that was challenging for some of the teachers. I was really frustrated and put myself under a lot of pressure studying.
The bulimia wasn’t connected to how I looked. I was quite a tall, thin, nice-looking teenager. It was very much stress-related. I would be up late studying and then I would binge-eat when everyone else was in bed. Food was very controlled in my home. We weren’t allowed to just go to the fridge and get something. And so I think since I was a child I’ve associated control with food.
I was quite rebellious and it felt naughty opening up the cupboard and getting something when people didn’t know. I would binge eat one to two big bowls of cereal and then, straightaway, I’d just throw it up. I think it was all the angst and seeking comfort, and then feeling so guilty about what I had just done and not wanting it in my body. I had to get rid of it.
I’d have a shower at night and I’d often purge in the shower, which is gross, I know. But it was so people couldn’t hear me vomiting. No one ever knew, but I could never understand why Mum didn’t pick up on how much cereal we were going through.
I think it was about shame and control. I felt like I was out of control of my own destiny and that’s why I ate. Then, by purging, I was gaining control again. It was a very weird thing.
It probably went on for about a year and a half, and then I stopped for a while. Since then, there have been certain times in my life when I was in a high-stress situation and it would happen again. But no one knew about it.
I was 24 when I got married and that ended up being quite an unhappy relationship. I wasn’t married long and I’m pretty sure there was a period of time in there when I started the binge-eating again. My husband didn’t know.
That was the last time I did it. I didn’t speak to my friends about it. I tend to internalise and try to sort things out by myself. I think there was something in me that needed to learn that you can’t control things in life and you need to go with the flow.
Definitely, the bulimia has had lasting physical effects. I’ve got irritable bowel syndrome and bad sinuses. My body just doesn’t regenerate quickly and I suffer from crippling migraines. At a period where my body was growing, I treated it really badly and now my digestion is terrible and I’m sure that’s got to be from the eating and purging.
I don’t think I would become bulimic again. I’ve really put a lot of time and energy into understanding the background behind it. Today, it feels like I’m talking about someone else, not me.
I think my parents will be very surprised when they read this, but I have to be honest. That’s what my life is about now and if my story can help anyone in any way, then I’m all for it.
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