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Opinion: I had to drop out of Gaelic football training. Why? Because I was bulimic

Alexandra Potter said she dreamed of playing for her county like her heroes Bernard Brogan and Stephen Cluxton, but Bulimia Nervosa soon took over.

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MY NAME IS Alexandra Potter. I’m from Clarecastle and I’m 16 years old. I love sport, training has always been on the top of my to do list, except for last year.

In October 2012 I went into third conscious about my weight. I heard that if you make yourself sick, you won’t put on weight so that’s what I did.

It started off just getting sick now and again but by Christmas I was making myself sick after every meal. This had so many affects on my health.

My hair fell out, my fitness dropped dramatically and I constantly looked pale and sick.

I had been going to county U16 Gaelic football training but I had to drop off the team because my skills and fitness weren’t up to standard, then my confidence dropped even more.

My dream was to play for my county

I felt I was never going to reach my dream of playing for my county like my heroes Bernard Brogan and Stephan Cluxton. I received counselling for a year with The Willow Unit.

The counselling really helped but it didn’t put all my problems to rest. Because my stomach got so used to being sick all the time, it went into overdrive and I couldn’t control when I got sick when doing physical activity.

Many times I was at club training or at matches and all of a sudden I would be sick without forcing myself to be, so I was put on medication to settle my stomach. Because my fitness was dropping and I wasn’t performing to my best in matches, it was getting quite down. I had to do something before things got worse.

Healthy living 

I joined a fitness centre last October, and that was my turning point. The staff helped me to balance my physical exercise and my nutrition plans, making sure everything was working together. Since then I have never looked back. My fitness is back up to the standard it needs to be at and recently I was selected for the County U16 Clare Gaelic football team.

My mental health is in a much better place and I’m healthy.

What I went through for a year is an eating disorder called Bulimia Nervosa. People who experience Bulimia usually feel a need for perfection and have a distorted body image of themselves which is often far from reality.

They frequently obsess over exercise and can have strict diet regimes and because of that they will often binge eat but then they will feel so guilty about it they will make themselves sick which is what I did.

A very dark place 

If I knew then, what I know now I would have never gone this road. It’s dangerous, unhealthy and a very dark place to be. For people who aren’t as lucky as me and have been dealing with Bulimia on a long term basis, they can have many side effects such as cardio vascular issues, menstruation cycle problems and in severe cases death.

The immune system also can become extremely week as you lose the vitamins and minerals that are so important to a strong immune system. This means you are then more susceptible to frequent illnesses such as viral colds and flu and to be in general poor health. This is only a few of many side effects.

Eating disorders can be fatal and play a massive role on your mental health. There are plenty of help lines, clinics, hospitals and local GPs who can help. If anyone reading this is experiencing anything like my story, please seek help. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy to talk about it and build up the courage to get help, it’s not. The truth is though the second you do, you are already on the road to recovery and things can only go up from there.

Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself. If you do that, you’ve half the battle won.

This article was originally published in Peil magazine. You can download your free copy of the mag here>>

Read: Men being treated for eating disorders up 67% in the last five years>

Column: ‘I was in a secret, emotionally abusive relationship with myself’>

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