'I knew it had to stop because I was living a dual life' 

Liselle Terret, 38, had bulimia between the age of 14 and 23.

“I was struggling a bit at school and I wasn’t very happy at home. It was classic 'middle-child syndrome', perhaps. As a young woman, I remember feeling very confused about my body.

"I then started to purge my food in the toilet. The secretiveness of it was attractive to me. It was something that was mine. Unfortunately, I became addicted to the habit of vomiting.

"It was something I didn’t have to explain verbally and I think it was a way of feeling in control. I had started to use food for a little bit of comfort. It was a solitary time on my own in the toilet.

"Bulimia is known as the secret disorder. In one way, it’s a coping mechanism. It happens when you can’t cope and something needs to change. That’s why it’s a very dangerous illness to have because you carry on. I carried on in school. I did my exams (I didn’t do very well, but I did them), I got into university and I went abroad for a year. All the time I was secretly vomiting.

"My teeth were decaying and my periods had stopped. I certainly didn’t have any sexual relations, that totally stopped. Unfortunately, I learned to hate myself.

"It was at university that I realised I had to see somebody. I knew it had to stop because I was living a dual life. Apart from seeing a therapist, which I still do, I also went on my own journey of healing using the creative arts. I’m a lecturer and practitioner of community theatre.

"There’s absolutely nothing glamorous, exciting or positive about developing an eating disorder. All it does is decay your body, and it shortens your life. I still spend a ridiculous amount of money on my teeth, which are in a bad way, and it affects fertility. More importantly, it affects how you feel about yourself. It affects your relationships with family, friends and partners. For many years, I didn’t have a relationship because I was too afraid to. I was living in a terribly self-destructive way.

"The difficulty in getting help is that you can’t force people with bulimia to talk about it, particularly with an illness like this. You live in denial and, for me, there was a huge shame about it. I felt that people thought it was grotesque and they didn't want to know about it. You just want to be normal and you want to fit in.

"It’s an addiction. It is not a way of surviving, but the opposite. It's only when you realise that there is something wrong in your behaviour that you want to get help."

Page last reviewed: 12/08/2014

Next review due: 01/06/2017