Recovery From Bulimia After 46 Years
Maya Angelou has a famous quote: “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” Well I certainly didn’t complain about my bulimia. Who would I complain to? It was a secret to all but a few people. And why would I change things? Bulimia served a purpose: it kept me coping. And coping was my watchword. So I fervently believed not only that I wouldn’t change, but that I couldn’t change – because as hard as I tried to break-off with ED (eating disorder), he kept re-appearing. So I took Maya’s advice and changed how I thought about ED. Instead of looking at my bulimia as a self-destructive vice that kept me emotionally stuck, that kept in me in disequilibrium, that kept me isolated and depressed, I changed how I thought about my bingeing and purging nightly.
“I simply regarded ED as a difficult and hard-to-break ingrained habit – something I had to endure and contain. So I put ED in a silo, rode the wave when he appeared and then stowed him back in his neat and tidy corner – where I hoped he would stay put. Hoping is not a plan.”
Gradually, the fear of doing great and lasting bodily harm from my disordered eating pattern overrode my reluctance to think about seeking professional help at an eating disorder treatment center. But it wasn’t until I came under the influence of a very courageous woman that I began to truly believe I could kick ED out of my life once and for all. Joy was merely a casual acquaintance when I read about her in our local paper. She had come out of the closet with her life-long struggle with bulimia and credited her success with beating ED to a pulp through the practice of Yoga. I immediately called her and we met for dinner. “I can’t beat bulimia,” I whined. “ED’s too immersed in my being.” “Yes, you can,” she replied gently. I shook my head no. “Yes, you can,” she stated more emphatically. I started to cry. “Yes, you can,” she hissed back at me. “Yes, you can!”
I wiped away my tears with the back of my hand and started listening. And the very next day, buoyed by her encouragement, I, with great trepidation, committed to outpatient treatment at a nearby eating disorder center. It’s been almost eight years since I have binged and purged. I still feel like I want to look the best that I can. And I’m able to do that now - not by bingeing and purging - but by continuing to hone and practice the skill of Intuitive Eating – marching to my own inner hunger signals. I have found other ways to self soothe: knitting, Yoga, walking, TV binge watching not binge eating.
“I can now discern the difference between emotional and physical hunger. I recognize what triggers binge-like cravings: anger, loneliness, isolation, fatigue, and feeling irrelevant. Coping is no longer my default. I don’t automatically power through uncomfortable feelings. I now work through the pain toward a comfortable resolution, instead of leapfrogging over painful mindsets.”
Joy and my connection to her and her support of me changed my life. The dictionary defines he word “joy” as derived from soul satisfying emotional well-being – an untapped reservoir of potential which brings peace with who you are. Joy gives hope – elevates our sense of self and engenders within us an attitude or belief that soothes. To this day, I treasure my relationship with Joy, the woman, and with joy, the emotion. And I have found great joy in helping other women with their eating struggles – through talking, mentoring, writing blogs and telling my story in my book.
“Both eradicating ED and my prolonged recovery have afforded me the energy and the will to fully, genuinely and authentically embrace my sisters as one of them. And that’s what sisterhood is all about.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: IRIS PASTOR
Iris Ruth Pastor is a seeker of sunshine and a lover of coffee - whose mantra is Preserving Your Bloom - using your talents and resources to be the best version of yourself. Her newest book is The Secret Life of a Weight Obsessed Woman - Wisdom to Live the Life You Crave - the story of her recovery from a 46 year-long battle with bulimia. Iris travels the country speaking about how to embrace life with joy and zest.