Addiction comes in many forms. Whether it is alcohol, drugs, phone addiction. All of it can leave lasting effects on your soul and your body. It takes a strong person to realize they are addicted and dare to stand up and face their addiction. For Krisztina that lead her to the opposite side of the world. Living in a county where she knew no one, barely spoke the language and had to leave her daughter behind. All because she knew she had to recover to save her life. Krisztina is an incredibly strong woman who bravely stepped into a new world to save her self. Her scarifies lead her to an amazing life here in Australia. But her journey has not always been easy. Addiction is a beast that rears its head over and over again. I have so much admiration for people who have the strength to face their demons and survive to tell the tale.
We talked frankly about Krisztina's 25-year battle with anorexia and Bulimia and how she overcame it. A Pre-warning this could be triggering for some people who read it. However, I hope that it may help give you the strength to face your own demons. No matter how small.
Have courage; your life like Krisztina's is worth living and worth fighting for.
L: When did the anorexia start?
K: I'm not sure, to be honest. I'm still looking for the starting point. I know one distinctive point when the Bulimia started, that was at university. I was 20. But I've had issues with food since I was a child, my mother would prepare food, and I would just throw it away.
My mom struggled with her body image all her life. My childhood memories are of her doing diets and nothing working. She would never eat with us. Later on, I understood that she got enjoyment out of cooking for us because she restricted her life. She enjoyed food by watching others eat and of course subconsciously, I wanted to please her, so I just ate, and ate, and ate and I put on weight. But then I also had the desire to be slim. I found myself with two opposites desires to please my mom and to stay slim. Living and growing up in a strong family and communist environment, I felt that at some point, I just lost myself. I did everything I believed everyone else wanted me to do. There was a point where it all became too much. I had to get rid of my feelings one way or another.
L: Was it a way of feeling control in an environment where you didn't feel like you could be you? Because you were following the path of what other people wanted.
K: I didn't know back then what it was, but I think so. I just wanted to please everybody. I wanted everybody to love me. I wanted to have peace. I didn't have it at home because my mom and dad fought, I was hiding from their arguments, and as a consequence, I gave up on myself. I have no recollection of doing something I wanted or stating what I wanted to do.
I was so angry with the world, with my parents. I blamed myself for not being able to deal with my problems rationally. Then I started to blame my parents. Why do I deserve to be treated this way? Why haven’t they taught me better ways to deal with the struggles in life? Why don’t they love me more? Later on in life I started to realise it wasn’t their fault, they were doing the best they could. But at the time I was so angry and hurt by there actions.
L: Did your parents tell you how they wanted you to live your life?
K: Yeah, they wanted the best for me. They were not hurting me at all. I just had to fulfil everything they could not get in life, such as going to university. I could not dance as dancing was not a stable profession, according to my parents. I was good at math and physics, so I had to go to a university and study engineering, which I hated. I felt I gave up everything that was me voluntarily. I just wanted them to love me, and I want to have peace because that was more important to me than anything else. I think that's how the disease took control. But at that point, I didn't know what it was.
I felt there was something wrong with me, but I didn't talk about it, as I felt ashamed. I had no idea what I was going through. I had never heard about Bulimia or anorexia until Princess Diana came out about it. She wrote a book about her Bulimia. I was 20 something and thought oh, gosh, it has a name? This is a disease? That was when my discovery started. Okay, so I am sick. I have to do something about this.
It had been a few years, and I lost my dad, which was another struggle to cover come. I think in general, being bulimic had been my coping mechanism. I was sensitive; I could not really cope with stress or anxiety. And when the anxiety came, it was the fasted and easiest way to get rid of it.
It's like a drug that you're restricting and restricting. And you are just thinking, Oh, God, I just need to do it. You're eating food that is giving you this euphoric feeling, sugary, salty and of course, it's making you fat. So you have a couple of minutes, of blurry freedom, and after that, you throw it all up. It's a tough cycle to get out of.
When I recognized what it was, I went to a psychiatrist, back then it was just what I knew. Bulimia was just being recognized as a disease, so the doctor just gave me medication to deal with it. I took it for three months, but it turned me into a zombie. After that, I said, Sorry, I'm not taking these pills. I would rather deal with this problem whatever it is, then be a zombie.
The first person I told in my life didn't understand. I think deep down he probably knew something was wrong, but he did not want to know anything about it. It was easier to deny it and to pretend it was nothing. So I had to make one of my biggest and the most painful decisions of my life. I had to go back to my mom to overcome this problem and leave my daughter with her father. I remember I was sitting at a bus stop and I was thinking, do I go back to be with my daughter or to my mom and actually survive whatever this is. I made the decision that I had to go back to my mom because if I didn't go back, I would die.
L: That takes such courage to know that you have to leave to save your life.
K: Yes, I had a friend who was doing astrology. She said to me close your eyes and imagine that someone has to tell your daughter that you are dead. Do you really want to give this pain to your daughter? And I said, No. That gave me the strength to recover.
I knew I needed something new. I had to fight for my life. So I left Hungry, I had a great job; I was a good engineer. I had everything. But I had to leave everything to save myself. So I moved to Australia. I needed a completely different environment. Otherwise, I'd never recover.
So I came on my own, and my daughter (Luca) could come every six months for three months with a student visa. When I came here, I had to make sure I could create a life for her so she could come here as soon as possible. Over the next two years, I had to work really hard to establish myself, so I could bring my mom because Luca was too young to travel alone. This gave me strength, but it also pushed me down into depression.
L: I was going to ask, did you feel really alone being in a country where you don't speak the language? You didn't know anyone, you don't know the culture, and you didn't have a job. Everything that is your identity was gone.
K: Yeah, it was awful, but I knew that I had to do it. I didn’t really know why. I just knew that I had to. Maybe I had to prove to myself that I could stand-alone.
The first two years were awful. First, I met a kind soul who had a drug addiction. He helped me to accept my own addiction while I helped him with his addiction. Then I meet a really good dietician. Not a psychologist or psychiatrist, a dietitian. At the point, I was living on coffee and apples. Know I am 55 kilograms; back then, I was 40kgs.
I worked with this dietitian from the Czech Republic, and gradually, we introduced food. It was so painful. I couldn't even go to a restaurant or cafe to have a sandwich. So we started on a Sunday, I came to Glebe for lunch, and I forced myself to go to a cafe and just have one sandwich. I was so miserable going out and eating one sandwich. I was terrified of food.
L: Why were you terrified of food?
K: It was control; I felt that if I'm not controlling what I am eating the food would take control. I won't be able to stop eating. It's a vicious cycle because the more you restrict, the more you want.
I was really sick of my Bulimia; I just wanted to get rid of it. It was so awful and unnatural, so I stopped eating. That was when the anorexia came. After that you have alteration between the two. First anorexia and when you can't control that any more Bulimia. Working with the dietitian, we slowly introduced food, and after that, it was mainly self-help. I was reading a lot; I wanted to know the whys and the answers. I believed the body could heal itself. Over the years, gradually, I recovered from the addiction. But it's never a straight line. If somebody is expecting that the person will fail because there is no such thing.
You improve, you relapse, but you have the strength to get up and recover. I think the final push for me was dance because when I started dancing, I realized I lost all of my muscles. When you are not eating your organs still need energy, so they start to eat the muscles. It's like a silent killer, and then one day, your heart stops.
I really wanted to dance. I wanted to get back what I lost. This was a big motivation to get better. It's tough to do anything without a big motivation. We can give up, or we can work hard, and put energy towards something else, and it was ballet for me.
L: Do you think up until four years ago when you started ballet, you were still fighting the anorexic thoughts in your head?
K: Yeah, because I hadn't developed my self-confidence. You try not to do it because consciously you know the habit is unhealthy. It's driving you nowhere, but you haven't developed the tools to get rid of your anxiety and stress. Those habits come back as coping mechanisms. It's like a dry alcoholic. You're not drinking, but it's still in your head. When I started to do ballet, it was way more important to me than food restriction. I needed that strength, so I had to eat. It's really pushed away my fear of food; because now I could see food was giving me back my dream.
At the beginning it was you must eat, or you will die. And now it has shifted to a point where I love food because it gives me fuel to live my life. Through my journey, I met a beautiful woman who showed me how to see food as a source of pleasure rather than pain. Who taught me to appreciate food for the way it can heal your body and mind. Actually, she was the one who pushed me to my very first ballet class.
As I gained more strength and physical power, all those old worries and concerns faded away. It’s been two years since any old thought patterns have crossed my mind. I have had many times where I have been anxious or nervous but never gone back to my old ways of dealing with it.
My very first psychiatrist, asked me, what's my dream? And I said I would like to be free. Having Bulimia and anorexia feels like you're in a prison of your thoughts. It's like a high functioning addiction. You have to work really hard, so nobody notices because it impacts everything. I lost most of my friends because I isolated myself. People going out, they're drinking freely, and every time you go out, it's a trigger for you. It's a challenge for you; you have to fight not to fall into the trap of food.
You feel you can't control everything. So there's only one thing that you can control which is the body, but the trick is that actually, the body is controlling you. And this is what you don't realize. I wish somebody would have had told me that back then.
I have only recently had the courage to speak openly about my illness, another step in my healing.
It's a long, long journey. Sometimes I think I'm not a strong woman. But you know, looking back I don't think many people would have done what I have. Sometimes the strength you have is not what you see. It's under the surface.
In the end, love saved my life. Love for my daughter, love for ballet, love for life itself, love for the people in my life….and the hardest part of all, love for myself.