A Woman's Struggle With Bulimia - Vomits 30 Times Per Day
Emma Oldfield was a 22 year old student who was clearly out of control. Using her student loan to buy food, she would spend a whopping $175 a day on food, mostly junk food like cakes and sweets, and then eat until the point where she was actually in pain.
Emma explains, “I can overeat to the point where I am in pain,” explains Emma, 22. “At my lowest point, at the start of this year when I was spending all that money, I was making myself sick up to 30 times a day.... "It would feel like a clean slate each time afterwards, but then the cycle would always begin again.”
It Began With A State Of Grief
In 2012, when Emma was 17, the death of her mother from pancreatic cancer triggered her overeating and binging. She spent three months where she did not leave the house, except to buy food, and didn't see anyone. She felt that overeating provided her with some comfort in her grief.
“It got to a point where I didn’t want to be here if I was left alone with my thoughts so I had to overeat to block it all out.....But I’d quickly feel guilty about eating anything bad, and I would have to make myself sick. It escalated from being a once a week thing to multiple times a day.”
Read about more eating disorders here.
Bad Body Image
It was a vicious cycle for a girl who says she had never been happy with her body, and that even as a young kid, she would always want to lose weight. After her mother died, Emma entertained thoughts that she didn't deserve to be nourished and didn't deserve to eat. Initially, she began cycling daily and eating very little, and began to lose weight.
Emma moved from her home to start university, in the hopes of leaving contant reminders of her mother being. She exercised obsessively, feeling the need to do 10,000 steps before going to bed, as well as abusing laxatives.
A Cry For Help That Was Dismissed
She sought the advice of a doctor, who brushed off her fears that she had an eating disorder, and was told to get self help books.
“I was told to get self-help books,” says Emma. “It’s so hard to ask for help when you know you’ve got a problem. To then get dismissed, or told you’re not severe enough or your problem isn’t actually an issue, it can have such a bad knock-on effect.”
The Collapse That Finally Brought The Needed Attention
Later, she moved to California to become an action sports instructor.
“It was hard work and long days, 8,000 feet up a mountain in the Californian sun,’ she says. ‘I was overeating at mealtimes and constantly making myself sick in secret. I lost about a stone-and-a-half in seven weeks. No one had a clue.”
When she finally collapsed one day on the job, the magnitude of her sickness was finally revealed. Her potassium levels were dangerously low and she was told she was at risk of cardiac arrest, and lucky to be alive.
Collapsing at work, Emma was rushed to hospital where doctors discovered her potassium levels were dangerously low.
She was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa - Purging Subtype, a combination of Anorexia and Bulimia.
“I started getting help but by that stage it felt like it was too late,’ says Emma. ‘I had formed so many habits and routines that felt impossible to change.”
Emma's Recovery and Mission
Today, Emma continues to work on her issues and struggles, while seeking to improve the treatment for her disorders, as well as the conditions that make one eligible for treatment, as which now depends solely on Body Mass Index and weight. Emma feels that since this is a mental illness, one's BMI and weight should not be the only criteria in getting treatment.
She has also teamed up with Fixers - a national charity that gives young people a voice to help them shed light on current problems of concern to young people. Together, they are making a film targeting medical professionals, on the importance of early intervention and other factors she believes could have helped her sooner.
Emma was able to fool friends and family for years. Learn more about the secret signs of bulimia here.
A visit to the dentist can also reveal that someone has bulimia.
Have you struggled with and overcome an eating disorder? Can you help someone by sharing your story? Please comment below, or if you are struggling, please reach out to us.