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Bullying drove me to bulimia

A YOUNG Irish student who developed bulimia after years of bullying is to 'tell all' in a disturbing new book.

Leanne Waters (20), from Bray, Co Wicklow, struggled for two years with the disease and underwent several months of behavioural therapy.

She explained that her autobiography, My Secret Life: A Memoir of Bulimia, which will be released next Tuesday, was a way for her to mark her recovery instead of hindering it.

"A lot of bulimia revolves around cycles of fasting, binging and purging... now that this book has been written, this is the final purge," she said.



Lonely

In her book, Leanne, who is currently a second year English student at UCD, recalled how she was persistently bullied by other girls throughout her school years, not only because of her physical appearance but also because of her quiet and studious nature.

She recalled how her classmates once nicknamed her "lonely Leanne" when they were asked to associate adjectives starting with the same letter as their first names.

Vicious name-calling and sometimes physical violence only help feed her anxiety but despite her difficulties and what they eventually led to, the young author insists that her condition was the result of a combination of factors.

Her own personality, her need for "constant reassurance", and a bad break-up helped trigger the disorder.

"This emotional sanctuary was to be found in a local boy with whom before this point I had little or no connection," she writes in the book.

"The problem with young romances I have found is that they tend to be incredibly nurturing or terribly upsetting.

"There is no middle ground here and being as young as we are, people of my own age are near incapable of being able to judge a romance at the onset.

"Even still, I am only learning and doing so very slowly.

"This particular romance, as it would turn out, would do more damage to my sensitive state than I could have ever imagined.

"It was impossible for me to know this at the time, however, and like all teenage girls I tactlessly launched my fragile feelings and all the weight they carried in at the deep end.

"But the importance of this romance is not measured in how I felt for the other party; it is rather measured in the effect it would have on my mental condition and how it acted almost as the catalyst to my bulimic behaviours."

She became so reliant on this local boy and his affection that when he wanted to move on, she became someone else.

"Eventually, the inevitable break-up discussion was coming to an end and while I was collected and composed on the outside, I had failed yet again and it tore me up.

"As I was driven home that evening, a strange transition occurred and when I finally stepped out of the car, I was now someone else entirely.

"Something had changed profoundly, though I didn't know it at the time.

"The conversion was a hushed one; it was delicate and so soft that I had not noticed it.

"Nevertheless, a metamorphosis had most certainly occurred.

"It took only moments but I no longer stood as a full person. I had evolved into something more complex, darker.

"In hindsight, it had taken many years for my bulimia to develop and it was the consequence of both my personal disposition and a series of rather unfortunate occurrences.

"Its roots lay in the deepest earth and stretched so far into me that I had grown with it, alongside it, even in it.

"It did not form in this moment alone of course; let us not lose our grip on reality yet.

"No, its foundations had been laid long before this. It would be after this moment, however, that I -- that we -- would go on to make some of the most devastating choices in my life to date."



Hunger

Leanne was already exercising as often as possible when her bulimia nervosa took full hold, but her behaviour only became more obsessive.

"It gradually became easier and easier to suppress the hunger pains and even tolerate the stabbing intensity of a truly empty stomach.

"I soon found myself enjoying the pain. It would spark in the lowest point of my stomach, light like a match and blaze until I thrashed in flames.

"Then it would tear north, shredding my sides and scorching beneath the skin that enveloped my chest.

"It was more than hunger. My insides screamed at a deafening pitch, unable to fight the devouring emptiness. The hollow sting that I nurtured so affectionately began to eat away at me instead."

Leanne will talk about her path to recovery on the Late Late Show next month.

hnews@herald.ie