HEALING FROM EATING DISORDERS: The inside job that has given me my life back
I am 34 years old, and I suffered from eating disorders for almost 17 years.
Although I believed that I could heal from other conditions, among them depression, self-harm, and alcoholism, I knew that I would never recover from bulimia and anorexia. I carried such a certainty with pride, like a badge of honor – the pain made me feel different and special.
Today I am able to observe the old belief in a different perspective, and what I used to call pride looks more like Stockholm syndrome. After all, the disease had captured me, in a way, and in captivity I had bonded with it. I did not want to leave.
I am 34 years old today, and for the first time in my life I know that healing from eating disorders IS POSSIBLE!
Not long ago I was at home alone – my husband was working that night – and I made myself a salad for dinner.
I sat on the couch and had the first bite of greens with a rice cake. I chewed, and I swallowed, but I hated it. In order to keep my weight under control, I had eaten the likes of undressed salads and rice cakes for most of my life. Throwing up had been the only alternative.
“I can’t eat this any more,” I said out loud, in the sudden realization that something inside had clicked, and that my body and soul were asking for mercy.
I was hungry, and I didn’t want to cook for hours, since it had gotten a little late for dinner. I had some gnocchi in the fridge, and they cook rather quickly, so I threw them in boiling water. While I waited, I also made a sauce with goat cheese and a little bit of butter. It was delicious; I had not binged, but savored my meal.
Early that afternoon, I had baked a crostata, an Italian-style pie filled with berry preserve.
I had taken it out of the oven an hour earlier, and its fragrance was so irresistible that I cut myself a slice.
It was absolutely heavenly, buttery on the outside, and filled with the tartness of the berries, but there is a reason why it is advisable never to eat warm pie. And the reason is that warm dough expands in your stomach, and it is very hard to properly digest.
It is in the darkest moments that we are given the chance to learn life lessons that allow us to grow into a better version of ourselves. And it was during a moment of struggle that I gained insight on my life-long battle with food, with my body, and with controlling life though it.
As I cleaned the kitchen counter, after dinner, I began to feel sick, wrong. I felt fat, I felt full; I felt like I had made an unforgivable mistake that would ruin my body. I knew that thoughts didn’t necessarily mirror reality – in fact, they rarely do – but I nonetheless felt terribly uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt like the 15-year old me, a little overweight, and with big dreams in her head. This is what happens when the voice of the disease speaks to you; it’s called scaling, the world becomes smaller and smaller, while you become bigger and bigger.
I didn’t want to throw up. I am working a lot on myself; I am learning to love myself, and I want to become a good mother. What kind of mother did I want to be? What example would I be to my child? Love, is what I want to give a child, not fear and self-hatred.
Moreover, I had thrown up to control my weight (or my life) for so long, that the mere thought of kneeling over a toilet made me cringe. I had suffered enough.
So I didn’t throw up, but instead I paused and I asked myself why, since I had been able to stop drinking, using drugs, and cutting myself, wasn’t I able to stop fighting the war against my body. Where had I done different?
That’s when something unexpected and life changing happened.
For the first time in my life I had the answer. And the answer was willingness.
In order to stay sober I had done the hard work that, because of fear, I was never willing to apply with food. I wanted my therapists to give me a quick cure that would fix me overnight, so of course I was disappointed when, after each session, I couldn’t see the change I expected. Little did I know that the change was building up inside.
Ultimately, what I wanted was somebody to fix me. And, of course, nobody could. I didn’t want to fix myself.
To stay sober, to stop cutting myself, and to stop my anger outbursts, I had been willing to stay in the discomfort of what was new, the new approach, the new thinking, and the new attitude. It had been a difficult journey; it had been long, and excruciating, at time. But it had taken me home safe nonetheless. Nobody handed me a cure; I had support, love, patience, tools, and kindness, but it had ultimately been an inside job. Every day is an inside job.
So why couldn’t I do the same with food?
Such a question had never even occurred to me. This was real change building up inside, something that I had been working on with Clean Language therapy for over a year.
Why couldn’t I do the same with food? I felt like a child hearing the sounds of the world for the first time. And for the first time I listened.
That night, after gnocchi and pie, I stayed in the discomfort. And how painful it was!
I didn’t go to bed to sleep the pain away. I sat on the couch instead, and I wrote a long email to my friend Linda, as I had originally planned for the evening.
Half an hour went by. I sent the email, and by the time I closed my laptop to watch some TV the discomfort had disappeared.
This too shall pass, I had heard countless times. The only constant is change, I had repeated like a mantra during meditation.
When the grey blanket of discomfort passed, something had changed in me; I felt free. By making that change I had stepped into a new reality. By making that change I had stepped into my own garden of possibilities – I had gotten out of the house where I had been trapped, and I smelled fresh air.
Change didn’t happen when I wanted, and certainly not in the way I thought it would. Change happened when and as it was supposed to happen. It happened when I had become willing to change.
My heart felt protected and light.
I asked God to help me accept whatever body I was supposed to have. I asked God to help me accept whatever life I was supposed to have. I asked God to grant me the freedom on which I had just opened the door.
I saw possibility for the very first time since I had gotten sick.
“Life can really be different now,” I said to my therapists the following day, crying tears of joy.
I had had the key to healing all along, I just didn’t know.
I once was hopeless. So if this message reaches even only one of you, suffering and not seeing a way out, I am the living proof that the way out is closer than we think.
Today I am 34 years old, and I have healed. For healing from eating disorders IS POSSIBLE.