I have an intense desire for food. I can’t stop thinking about it. The obsession is so great, I can think of nothing else. I can’t focus on work. I can barely think straight long enough to put these thoughts together.
I’m hungry, but not hungry in the way that most people are hungry. I’m hungry, and I cannot eat. Because when I eat, I compel myself to purge.
Bulimia is usually characterized by episodes of bingeing followed by purging, but I’m not even bingeing at this point. I’m purging normal meals and snacks. I cannot force myself to sit with the discomfort of food on my stomach.
And yet, I crave food.
Willpower tells me to simply restrict. Resist the urge to eat. Diet. Starve myself until I don’t hate what I see in the mirror. So for a time I will do that, hoping to break the cycle of eating/purging – hoping to be able to eat again someday.
But restriction always ends with a binge. And the binge brings with it feelings of shame and guilt. Shame for not being stronger, for breaking. Guilt for eating when I know I shouldn’t.
To feel better, to regain control, I purge. I rid myself of the shame and guilt along with the food. I feel I have no choice but to do this. This is the only way to regain control of myself, my body, my feelings.
This is the cycle: restrict-binge-purge-repeat. And I’m stuck in it.
Eating disorders are deeply rooted mental disorders. While the exact causes are unknown, some culprits are thought to be negative body image, low self-esteem, stress, a history of abuse, and professions/activities that focus on the appearance or weight.
I can point to negative body image and stress being the main instigators of my eating disorder. My bulimia cycle worsens (shortens) when I’m stressed. My negative view of myself increases when I’m stressed.
I write this blog to share my experience, strength, and hope. First, I write to help myself. Writing about my struggle gets the madness out of my head. It helps me process my emotions and see things in a different light.
I’ve struggled to write in the last few days because I’m all tied up in some very deep emotional shit. And I can’t figure it out. It might just be work stress. It might be the chemical imbalance in my brain. I might be punishing myself for drinking last week at the company party.
Whatever it is, my eating disorder is acting up – in a bad way.
I am obsessing about being thin the way I used to obsess about my next drink/drug. I also can’t stop thinking about food. Because I’m hungry – naturally my mind drifts to thoughts of eating and purging.
I went to an EDA meeting last night, desperate for some relief from my obsessive thoughts. Desperate to share about being stuck (again) in the cycle of restrict-binge-purge-repeat bulimia. And no one showed up.
I have never felt more lonely. There I was, sitting in an empty room, looking for help with a problem that I’m almost ready to admit is out of my control. And no one else came.
Meetings are important. Finding strength in each other is invaluable. This is the second reason I write this blog – there’s a chance it might help someone else.
I’m struggling with my eating disorder right now. The voices in my head are loud and obnoxious. They tell me not to eat. When I do eat, they demand that I purge. And I give in.
The inner critic never shuts up. It is the voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough. That voice gets loudest when I’m in the bulimia cycle.
I know the dangers. I know the consequences. Yet I cannot stop. This is my experience. I have no strength to share.
But I do have hope. Because I remember a time when I was not like this. I know there are tools I can use to break this addictive cycle that I am in. And I know that I must use them, or else I risk another alcoholic relapse.
When I was in treatment for my eating disorder we focused on treating not only the physical symptoms but also the underlying emotional causes. We addressed our low self-esteem and our negative body images. This is what I must do to break out of my bulimic cycle.
I might not be able to get to an EDA meeting, but I can still use the tools I learned in rehab, the mindfulness skills I’m learning in DBT therapy group, and the 12 steps. If I am willing. The problem is, right now, I am not willing. I want to be thin. The idea of eating is repulsive. The chewing and swallowing sounds make me want to gag.
It will take hard work for me to admit that I am powerless over my eating disorder – because my eating disorder is all about control. I must give up that control if I am to recover.