The blog has taken a little longer to get going because, well, recovery is hard. I have to keep reminding myself that my eating disorder has been a part of my life for a long time and it’s not going to stop overnight. This post is a little longer than I had anticipated, but I needed to sit down and air out my history and path to recovery. It’s been cathartic writing it all out, owning my journey. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine, and I’m convinced I’m on the right path. I hope this gives you encouragement, and at the very least, to know you’re not alone.
As I mentioned in my first post, bulimia is something I’ve struggled with for many years. It started in high school. Not a regular thing, often in response to stress or at other times a desire to lose weight. I’ve never felt great about my body, and I think high school was a period when that started showing up through my ED. Thinking back on it, it breaks my heart to think of my teenage self worrying about my weight and purging in the midst of high school. There was so much life to be enjoyed (and there still is!!)!
As some girls do, I gained a lot of weight in college. Drinking, generally bad eating habits, not working out, etc. all piled on extra pounds. My ED was still an issue– not everyday, but there was an odd (but has become normal for me) “feeling badly about my body leading to binging and purging” thing going on. Like many struggling with bulimia, as far as I know my disease went unnoticed by my peers. It was something I never talked about, and I never sought counseling.
It wasn’t until I entered the real world that I became aware of how my life was a little abnormal because of my ED “friend.” At this point, I had a real job with real responsibilities. I volunteered, I had a social life, I excelled at work. But my binging and purging was now an everyday thing. Something no one knew about. Something that (I thought) helped relieve stress. I have heard it said that bulimia is a very lonely disease, and that couldn’t be more true. Not like drinking or other drugs that are often part of a social gathering, I would let no one in on this part of my life. Perhaps more details on that in another post, but I think you get the point. But it had gotten out of control. I thought about food constantly. Based my food options on what would be easiest to purge, if I could slip to the bathroom quickly, how much I would have to keep to get through the day. It was like a monster that controlled my thinking and quality of life. Life is just too short– we only get one body and we HAVE to take care of it. I realized I physically couldn’t sustain this lifestyle for the next 50 years. I wouldn’t make it that long. Either my heart or my immune system would shut down, and I need a change. Time for the recovery part…
Now recovery hasn’t been smooth sailing. (Note: While my life today is nowhere near free from my ED, I really WANT change. I crave it. I see it. I know it’s within reach. I’m in the ugly, hard process, and I’m claiming recovery.) A few years ago, when I realized I needed a change, I sought professional help. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. One therapist gave me a huge workbook with lots of crazy homework, and a CD for me to listen to while I ate (she literally chewed with me on the CD while I ate). Another suggested that I go shopping instead of binging. As you can imagine, I gave up for a while. Took almost a whole year off this “recovery thing.”
Then, almost 9 months ago, I found the right therapist. She focuses on somatic experiencing — it’s often used for victims of PTSD, but based on my experience, it is based on listening and responding to our bodies. I know this sounds a little kooky and new age-y, but it is a real thing and it works– I promise! I will share more about somatic experiencing in another post, but through therapy I’ve learned not to stuff down my emotions (I will only purge them in harmful ways later) and to be comfortable in my own skin (to be fair, I’m still working on that). To listen to my body as to what I eat and drink, and not conform to others’ expectation of me. As a perfectionist and people pleaser, this is quite a challenge.
It hasn’t been perfect or easy by any means. Over the past nine months I’ve only had two or three weeks of straight, no binging/purging. But I have had many, many more days without it in this time than I’ve had in years. I’m learning to walk in freedom. I’m learning to give myself grace when my days aren’t perfect. I’m learning to see what’s going on around me and understand why I feel the need to purge. I’m learning to listen to my body. I’m learning to choose life.