Shannon’s story – recovering Bulimia Nervosa sufferer

In 1974, I was born in Natal, into a very loving and supportive family, who welcomed the birth of their first daughter and grand-daughter.

My Dad – a Civil Engineer and my Mom – a Nursery School Teacher. I completed Primary School in Gauteng and matriculated in the fairest Cape.

Having a positive, outgoing, bubbly and cheerful personality, I was privileged enough to always have lots of friends. My parents often claimed that I had a degree in socialising!!!

Although being popular in school and always being part of the “in crowd,” this came with a fair amount of peer pressure and at a very high price! I was the go-getter, the achiever, the girl who knew what she wanted and went all out to achieve it! (Prefect; scholar patrol; academic achievement for 7 consecutive years; dancing awards;

Friendliest Matric Pupil award; Human Relations Award – Dale Carnegie) A girl who had big dreams!

Yet, behind this very confident exterior which all around me only ever saw, was a sad, lonely young girl who always felt inferior to those around her. I had a poor self image, resulting in me perpetually feeling,

“Never quite good enough!”

Whilst in the midst of studying for my grade 7 prelim exams and growing through adolescence – a hormonal and physical change all on its own. My parents’ separated and my life, as I had always known it to be, quickly came tumbling down. Not only did I not know how to control them all, I didn’t have the life skills necessary in order to cope with all these changes occurring right before my eyes.

The paramount changes being the following:

  • The reason for my Dad’s departure was due to the fact that he had met another woman and decided to move in with her. As the woman’s daughter was a champion show rider (with dozens of trophies, citation awards and rosettes displayed on the family mantelpiece) I interpreted my Dad’s decision to break up our happy family, as being based upon the fact that it was “I” who wasn’t good enough! (As I didn’t excel in academics/sporting activities to the extent that the daughter, nor my Dad excelled in)
  • Graduated from Primary school and went to a high school which was different to that of all my friends who had been with me for 7 or more years
  • After 6 months in grade 8, we then relocated from Gauteng to the fairest Cape
  • I then went to another high school, where I once again didn’t know anyone

Whist all these significant changes were occurring, I began comforting eating! I turned to food as my emotional crutch which proved to suppress all my innate feelings of negativity and desperation. Within two weeks, I had gained 10kgs!!!!

This excess weight began changing my personality and I began withdrawing – not only from society, but from my dancing as well. I had been dancing since the age of 5yrs old. (I dreaded being seen in my leotards and hence tried to disguise myself in the dancing groups)

This sudden and rather drastic weight gain brought about its own anxiety and distress. Then one day, I stumbled across an article on bulimia, in a monthly fashion magazine. I thought to myself, well here’s clearly my solution to lose weight! Every girl’s dream come true! Eat everything which your heart desires, no additional exercise required and in an easy, effortless manner, you eradicate whatever you have feasted your eyes on, you purge! Wow, a brilliant idea – or so I thought!

Within an extremely short period of time, I become the victim to the dreaded disease, “Bulimia Nervosa.” Little did I realise that I would still be suffering 13.5 years later from this “monster within,” as I often refer to it as!

What was not mentioned, were the devastating life-threatening side-effects, which comes with an eating disorder of this nature, or of any other for that matter. I had no idea of the road ahead which I had chosen to take. The fact that this disorder soon becomes a behavioural trait and your emotional crutch. The realisation of it being an addiction, as well as a lethal disease.

I never cease to wonder, if I was made aware of all these facts, perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen to walk this path?

So, when did I reach my “turning point” you may ask?

It was whilst living as a bulimic for the past 9 years, when I lost all my teeth! Yes, I was fortunate enough to only have my very first filling at the age of 21 years of age. And by the age of 30 years old, I had them all replaced with implants!

Still, it was this very turning point in my life when I finally realised to what extent my body was eroding away. Something within me shifted and my eyes were finally opened for the very first time.

It was during this time that I was now wanting to change and fully recover! For no one else, but for myself!

“When the student is ready, the Professor appears!”

I was fortunate enough to be watching Carte Blanche one Sunday evening, when I found my Therapist who assisted me with my recovery. Not only was she a Psychiatrist, she did her thesis on Bulimia Nervosa and was a trained hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy certainly resonated with me, as not only are you working on your conscious thoughts and behavioural patterns. You’re also addressing the core, underlying belief systems, which often determine our outlooks and actions. Messages and comments we’ve received throughout our vulnerable childhoods, which have automatically been stored into our subconscious minds – regardless of whether they were true or not.

For 10 months I went for weekly and bi-weekly counselling sessions, entwined with hypnotherapy. It was during these invaluable sessions when I discovered my belief systems to be completely outdated. They were solely created by misinterpretations and misunderstandings, whilst growing up. Beliefs which proved to be major contributing triggers for me. Yet, this newly discovered awareness made me realise from where the destructive thoughts and behavioural patterns were emanating from.

My next step, was for me to now confront the various factors which had influenced my life so negatively. Along with forgiving several individuals along the way – several of them being teachers, parents, friends and people in authority. This was a vital part of therapy, as not only has it prevented me from continuing my life with suppressed hatred, resentment and rage. These critcal steps were pivotal throughout my months of therapy.

As it wasn’t until I confronted all the consequential factors and forgiven the relevant individuals, that I would be able to change! Change my thoughts, my behaviour patterns and relinquish my obsession with food.

With complete determination, commitment and the unconditional love and support I continuously received, and continue to receive, from my family and friends. That it is now 8 years on, that I am now able to look back on my life, a fully recovered bulimic.

I firmly believe that the roads which I have travelled throughout my life, have not merely been for my exclusive life lessons, but to reach out and assist others as well.

I am passionately wanting to create awareness of this lethal, seldom spoken about disease. And have now dedicated the remainder of my life, to assist others along their respective pathways, hoping to prevent similar ones from being travelled, as I did.

You are more than welcome to contact me, should you wish for me to conduct a talk at your school/rehabilitation centre/organisation. Alternatively, should you like to schedule a counselling session with me.

Love always,
084 281 2109