Angela Barnett, creator of the blog Fucking Awesome Bulimics I Know, wrote this piece about shame especially for Body Boop:
The thought of anyone knowing about bulimia can be terrifying, especially with work colleagues. ‘If they know I was bulimic they’ll think I’m screwed up. Weak. I won’t get work with chocolate clients,’ I used to think.
The shame is as heavy as the self-doubt.
As bulimia is so secretive we often go through the whole thing alone. The initial dabbling, the plummet, the addictive driving between take out joints in hats and dark sunglasses—even a full recovery is possible to achieve on your own. It’s a very lonely disorder because it’s too easy to hide. Plus the fear of being labelled whacko is a big motivator to stay silent. Or it was for me.
Last month I was invited to talk on Radio New Zealand (where I live) about body image. I thought I was going to be dishing out advice to parents about how to talk to teens on this complicated topic. I did my homework. I had my five points all typed up, ready to go. I wanted to sound like an expert as this was a subject I knew well (because, uh-hum, my own body image was so screwed for so long).
As tempted as I was to squash my anxiety with a big cupcake before going on air, I didn’t. I wanted to be there, present. I was not prepared for just how present I would be. For the first half of the interview, a full ten minutes, the interviewer wanted to know all about bulimia (she had seen fuckingawesomebulimicsiknow.com). It wasn’t just one question; it was a long chat, “What is it like? Why is it so shameful? Why so secretive?” Initially horrified where the conversation was going there was nothing I could do. Live on national radio (the NPR of New Zealand) I was coming OUT to the entire country. All I could do was go with it, and eventually squeeze in my five points about body image for teens at the end.
My worst nightmare had happened. Everyone knew. But do you what happened afterwards?
Nothing. My husband didn’t love me any less. Nor did my children. Nor my parents. Or friends. Nobody said they wouldn’t hire me for work. Nobody said it was rubbish. Or ridiculous. Nobody suggested a quiet visit to ward 13 of an asylum.
The only thing that happened was that people said, “Thank you. I learned a lot. I didn’t know.” That’s it. It wasn’t really about me in a weird way. It was about sharing some truths about this addictive, chaotic disorder that affects so many. People soon forget the messenger, and hopefully remember the message. We are not alone with our shit.
As with all fears, I found that once I faced my biggest one—people knowing—it shrank away. It lost power. As did my heavy cloak of shame.
As one famous bulimic, Sharon Osbourne, said once, “Half the bloody women on this planet have eating disorders but nobody bloody well talks about it.”
As us bulimics are more secretive than her Majesty’s Secret Service we need help spreading our tales, it’s the only way to kick that greasy pimp, Shame, in the shins.
Thank you Nicole for being brave enough to talk about yours here on Body Boop.