The Countdown to Bulimia Freedom

Days 13 to 15 detailing my journey through recovery

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Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash

Almost two weeks in, here I am. Still recovering, still persevering, never giving up. Sure there have been lapses along the way. Sure, I’ve encountered some trials, a few uncertainties, many unknowns. But the point is: I’ve overcome them as well. Because recovery isn’t about desperately trying to perceive the entire journey from beginning to end — that’s not possible anyway. The road is too windy, too curved and often sunlit so bright that it’s way too blinding to glimpse the finish line. Instead, it’s about taking each leg of it, one day at a time. And as the time is ticking on, I’m shaking my binge urges off and step by step I’m making it through. These are just another chunk of days to showcase that.

Monday 23rd November:

I’ve eaten lots. Snacked a lot. Overeaten a whole lot (on both “healthy” foods and “not-so-much”) and I’m super fine with all of it. It was all out of choice, all with my own permission and volition and, honestly, excitement. It kind of felt freeing?

Before bed I read a little more of Kathryn Hansen’s Brain Over Binge book, Chapter 31. On page 219, it reminded me that — especially during the weeks and months of recovery — it’s not imperative to focus on eating perfectly or optimally or “normally”, it’s important to just eat what you like in moderation and dismiss binge urges. Almost paradoxically, we need to focus on not focusing on food. To strip the attention away from it and confirm with our brain that it doesn’t need to assign so much significance to it. Only when hunger cues return, after rebuilding our relationship with eating, should we then strive to make healthier food intake choices. Of course, if that’s manageable from the outset then go for it. But the point is, focus on eating regularly and without a second thought. And then, when comfortable, start thinking about what we eat a little more.

What I learned from today, though, is: no matter how tantalising these urges are, no matter how tempting they might seem; they are not me. I keep thinking “oh but I do really fancy eating that entire jar,” except that that is just my BED having stolen my voice, layered on a little eyeliner and begun parading around inside my head falsely using my identity in order to try and persuade me. But I know that it’s not what I really want to do. It’s all part of the illusion. I just need to pause long enough to seek out my true voice, to listen to what I — what my body — really is in need of.

Tuesday 24th November:

It’s so insightful really, to know that the things we pay attention to strengthen their hold on our lives. Not just with food, but with everything. The more we think about something, the more of our existence it integrates into. Really, I think we know this. But we don’t know we know it until we encounter it. This is one of those times. Looking back over my time with bulimia, I’ve never not been consistently thinking about food. In that sense, I pretty much handed the power straight over to it, without even trying to fight back.

“We say “what you pay attention to grows” and continues to grow because the invisible thoughts create a neurology, chemistry, in your brain.” — David Giwerc.

Well this is me; regaining control.

Because yeah, I’ve overeaten, I know this for a fact. And I also know — for a fact — that I’m okay with this. This, my friends, is the taste of REAL food (as in; Regular Eating At Last). I quite like it. Sure, there are still niggles of doubt present. Sure, I still catch myself thinking oh no, I shouldn’t have done that, or worrying about my weight. But then I shake it off and carrying on living. So yeah. I quite like it.

Wednesday 24th November:

Had a rocky start to the morning (and a Rocky bar. Clearly stuck to a theme). Not as golden as I’d hoped for (despite the two Gold bars I followed the Rocky with), but nonetheless it wasn’t a full blown binge. I woke up excruciatingly hungry again, and I just think the lines blurred a little between me satiating my hunger and me inadvertently responding to my urges to binge. It’s just a little tricky when I know that I don’t get full. I haven’t been full in two years now so it’s difficult to spot when I have “satisfied my need for food”. Just got to keep ploughing on, though, right?

I think where I faltered a little today is with still not quite remembering to dismiss ALL urges. Because ANY urge that is encouraging me to binge — no matter how convincingly it might sound like me, no matter if I truly think I want to eat such a large quantity, no matter if my mouth waters and I cannot stop thinking about the snacks — it is not me. Anything associated with the desire to binge is my binge eating disorder. Nothing more. Like Kathryn herself says.

Still going to have my snacks. Still going to eat three meals — one of which being a humongous takeaway we’ve planned for later. Not breaking out of routine, just learning from my slight deviation from the path. There are no mistakes; only opportunities to grow.

I’ll be honest, it became a binge. A big one. The Dominoes pizza, Dominoes cookies, 24 custard creams, eight Gold bars, two Dairy Milk bars, a popcorn bar and two strawberry mousses plus an advent calendar. I even spent a full hour searching for the peanut butter I’d asked my mom to hide from me a couple weeks ago — fortunately, to no avail. I imagine I’d have polished that off in minus seconds, had I found it.

Thing is, I know what I need to do. And I know how it’s done. I just have yet to apply it successfully to an actual binge eating scenario.

What I mean is, I know it’s my survival instincts, my habits, my animal brain kicking off. This is the very foundational theme of Kathryn’s book. And even whilst I was raiding the kitchen I was telling myself hey kid come on, this isn’t you, you know this will upset you, you know this isn’t what you want, so stop. Except; I didn’t stop. I couldn’t distinguish between this sub-cortex urge and my own desire to eat tasty food. I just wasn’t listening to myself and this is where I’m struggling — because I don’t know how to make myself do that?

Patience I guess. Self-awareness, even. I just need to wait a little longer, take the time out to listen to myself and really hear what I’m saying. But I also need to remember that, in the words of Nick Wignall: “the ability to be self-aware is one of the most essential yet difficult to achieve skills we humans can achieve” — I shouldn’t be so hard on myself when I don’t quite manage it. It’s tricky for us all.

So I’ve sent an email to the author of the BOB book, Kathryn Hansen. The likelihood is that she won’t have time to reply or perhaps even see it at all, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve mentioned my inability to get full to her — in case that, in anyway, is what’s affecting my ability to lessen my urges. We’ll see what happens, eh?

But anyway. Still going to eat normally tomorrow. Not going to walk to Scotland and back to compensate. Trying my best to not even think about it. All it was was me, acting on one urge. One urge, that’s all. I just need to figure out how to slow down and think for a second, and that’s possible. Maybe not easy, but possible. We’ll get there.

I’ll be honest, at the very end of this post I wrote: “I’M SO SICK OF THIS NOW.” And in honour of true transparency, I want to leave it here. Just to show to any who might be reading this that this is not a linear process. It’s barely even curved. It’s a twisty, scribbled, loop-de-loop and there are moments when you might feel both physically and mentally nauseous.

But that is so totally normal. It’s the epitome of normal — it’s human. And I want you to know that, whilst in those moments and even now I am sick of having to do all this, I’m also proud. More so. I’m determined and eager and proud of myself for getting this far and for marching on forward despite all the trials and the tests. It’s okay to feel less than perfect. It’s how all the best ballads are written.

So keep going. You might be sick of this now, but pride lasts a lifetime.

I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer.

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