Shelley May and her battle with bulimia.
Shelley May and her battle with bulimia. Contributed

'Disgusted in yourself': The horrifying reality of bulimia

PEREGIAN'S Shelley May still bears the emotional scars from shoving her fingers down her throat daily for more than 30 years.

Though the physical scars have faded - calluses on her hands, split lips, bulging throat - the memories remain.

Now 50 she has overcome it - although, as a serious mental illness - she is well aware that it could return at any time.

At her worst, bulimia saw her spend more than $50 on food at a time just to throw it up.

She'd force herself to vomit five times per day until she physically could not. It got to the point where she'd wrap her fingers in bandaids and rub perfume on them to be able to gag.

"The worst thing was you'd wake up and not feel like doing it, feel in control. Then this little voice in your head would say 'come on, just one more time'," she said.

"I'd then go buy two lots of takeaway, chips, ice cream and eat it. I'd eat it in order that I wanted them to come up the easiest.

"The dreadful cycle would begin. It was very calculated. You'd cry and just feel disgusted in yourself."

She battled the disorder from 18, something she says stemmed from both emotional and physical abuse as a child.

She has somehow come through the ordeal, although she lives with one eye open in fear of it returning.

She'd tried psychologists and psychiatrists but found that although they could give her a reason why she was doing what she was doing, they couldn't help her move forward and stop the behaviour. 

"I feel that if I had had someone to talk to who had actually had bulimia and overcome it, that would have made all the difference" she said.

She doesn't claim to have a secret formula and acknowledges that everyone's journey will be very different and unique, but she says her faith, a weight management programme and the thought of her children got her to the point of making the choice to change.   

"I did a three-month weight management program which helped me to break the dreadful habit of bingeing and purging." she said.    

"I also became increasingly aware of the bad influence and example I was being to my 12-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son where food was concerned.  

"We hardly ever sat down as a family to eat meals and I was terrified that they would follow in my footsteps.  

"When I shifted my focus to them instead of myself I felt a lot more committed and ready to make the necessary changes."

Through community event Stories of HOPE she will tell her story to the public for the first time.

Though deep down she's had the urge to help other sufferers, she felt she didn't have the right answers to help people.

She says sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen and a heart to understand them.

You can hear her full story next Wednesday night at the Nambour Community Centre at 7pm.

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