Did I Give My Daughter Bulimia; Good Health

Daily Mail (London), November 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

Did I Give My Daughter Bulimia; Good Health


Byline: GRAEME WHITCROFT

An eating disorder wrecked Karen's life ... and then, to her horror, she watched her daughter develop it too. So was she to blame? Or could mother and daughter BOTH be victims of their genes?

MOTHER and daughter Karen and Jessica Cross share a rare and terrible bond.

They both suffer from the eating disorder bulimia. Karen is a 44-year-old housewife and Jessica an 18-year-old model. They live in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, with dad Graham, 44, a building contract manager, and younger sister Lucy, 16. Here, mother and daughter tell their salutary tales.

THE MOTHER'S STORY

AS I STOOD outside the bathroom door night after night, listening as my precious firstborn child made herself sick, I felt so guilty. My daughter was bulimic and I felt it was all my fault.

I wasn't feeling the usual parental angst of a child with an eating disorder. I wasn't asking myself why this had happened, where did it come from or why hadn't I spotted the signs earlier.

The truth is that I knew the answers to these questions only too well.

After all, I have been afflicted by bulimia myself for more than 25 years.

Jessica had seen at first hand what bulimia had done to me. I had been open with her about my demons hoping that it would warn her off. But now my worst nightmare had come true. And I hated myself because I felt that in some way I had passed on this terrible fate.

I was 26 when I had Jessica. By then I had been a bulimic for 12 years and had so abused my body with purging and vomiting - even during pregnancy - that I fully expected her to be born deformed. So I was relieved when I gave birth to this beautiful 9lb baby girl.

From that moment on, I always thought of her as perfect - too perfect to end up with anything so sordid as an eating disorder. She was going to be stronger, better, healthier than me.

My own life has revolved around food for as long as I can remember. I was overweight from the age of four. Like a lot of my family, I always had a big appetite, but my problems ran deeper than that.

I was born in England but because my parents loved travelling we were forever moving. Dad was a sales manager and I went to 13 different schools when I was growing up. I never settled anywhere and so had trouble making friends.

We ricocheted between Durban, Rhodesia and Nigeria, and back to the UK in between. Life was always full of upheaval and I had no time to make any friends. Instead, food became my friend, especially when I was worried or upset.

At the age of eight I weighed 8st, at nine, 9st. I tried to make friends but I was always the fattest person in the class and got mocked and teased.

At just 12 years old I was classified as obese. At 13, I weighed 18st. I didn't think anyone, including my parents, could love me because I was so fat.

I was miserable. My parents, who could see how unhappy I was, did their best, following all the medical advice, even if some of it was clearly dangerous. In my early teens I tried hypnotism and a 400-calories-a-day diet.

The only thing that really worked was a very precise low-calorie diet, plus injections, that I started in South Africa when I was 15. I lost several stones in a year.

But within a month of finishing the treatment, I'd put a stone back on again by just eating normally. Something snapped inside me and I just stopped eating. That's how I got anorexia.

I knew exactly what I was doing, and within a short time I was down ten stones to 6st. Finally, I was in control. I lived on apples, carrots and sprouts, but physically I went downhill. I felt very weak and dehydrated, my tongue used to stick to the roof of my mouth.

I knew I was starving myself, and although I was feeling worse and worse physically - I had no energy - I was also feeling better and better mentally because I was getting thin.

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