September 28, 2016

A Guide to Understanding Bulimia Nervosa.

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I wrote the poem below after experiencing an episode of bulimia.

I felt helpless; the tears were streaming down my face. The pain I felt inside was raw, and it cut deep. On this rare occasion, I reached out to a friend. I really needed someone to calm me down. I still get chills when I think back to this episode. I remember calling her and saying, “It’s happening all over again, I can’t stop myself. I’m out of control.” My friend tried her best to support me. She had hoped she could help and relate more.

My wish is this article might shed light on how it feels to suffer from such a destructive illness.

Making friends with yourself.

Throat is burning from the inside out
heart is beating, welling up with self-doubt.
Mind is racing, convoluted with fear
Nobody understands the emotional disorder bulimia nervosa.

Tastes of disdain, skin translucent, pale and thin
The hate campaign has started against the horror from within.
The switch gets flicked the decision has been made
A quick dash to the shops, it’s time to start it all again!

Crazed like a junkie on cocaine
Addicted to sugar to heal the pain
Overwhelming feelings of self-doubt and shame
Transiently happening time and time again

Why not love thyself and let the heart blossom
Smile from the inside and breathe
through each problem. Take your own advice
listen and think twice and remember: You’re an amazing strong being, you have got this!


Bulimia is like having an automatic switch in the brain. When we experience an uncomfortable emotion and we don’t know how to deal with it properly, the switch gets flicked and the unhealthy cycle starts again.

It’s like we are obsessive compulsives, addicted to control. It’s a deceptive disease, as the truth is, it controls us. It controls our emotions. It controls our life.

I had bulimia from the age of 15. It’s one of those diseases nobody can really understand—unless they’ve experienced it themselves. Not my family, friends or lovers. I have suffered and fought against myself, for many years, for what seemed to be the biggest hate campaign I have ever known. I have been misunderstood by many, but most of all by myself.

I never really understood what the main cause of bulimia was, until discovering a skilled transactional analysis therapist who explained simply that bulimia is an emotional disorder. I quickly realized that it stems from bottling up emotions. Instead of dealing with the situation that was causing me pain and talking about it constructively, I would ignore it and turn to food. I would turn to sugar.

I feel that in our society, food is used as an unhealthy distraction. It’s frightening how little we know about the foods we eat and the additives in our foods: additives = addiction.

It’s like we’re stuck on the hedonic treadmill, unrecognizable, addicted to the sweet stuff. Unfortunately, what comes up must come down. In most of our cases, that’s our blood sugar levels. If it’s not the sweet stuff, we’re addicted to, it’s the MSG found in up to 80 percent of our processed foods. I found the documentaries Hungry for a Change and Food Matters to be both inspiring and educational. They both definitely helped me change my relationship with food.

I presume my obsession with food developed and stemmed from abandonment issues. I believed if my father, the guy I idolized, loved and adored, could abandon me at the age of eight—who was I to be worthy of love? My inner critic told me I wasn’t.

I now understand that little girl needed to know she was wanted and she still needs to know today. The suppressed feelings of abandonment and neglect had unconsciously filtered through and affected how I perceive others and myself. I realized in situations when I encountered last minute cancellations, plans changing or feelings of being let down by others, it would resurface old wounds and bring back memories of feeling alone and unloved. This is something that would cause a bulimic episode. My inner child would experience the familiar feelings of loss and I unknowingly would go through an array of emotions, resulting in defeat and dismay. I can now look back at the eight-year-old girl, the shadow of my former self and realize the value of open dialogue.

I have discovered much about myself and about social dynamics from discovering Transactional Analysis. I can personally recommend a book called TA Today, by Ian Steward and Van Joines. Transactional Analysis is a theory developed by Eric Berne. He has simplified the three ego states model: Parent, Adult & Child. Through understanding this model extensively, I have gained greater understanding of myself.

In my case it was my inner child that was in need of healing. Through understanding culturally who has influenced our thoughts, in a negative way, we can mindfully address any future recurrences. The recognition, reassurance and rewards I so desperately craved for, I now get by simply giving them to myself. I have learned to be the parent and take charge. I tried harder for years to please others and to be perfect. The divine truth lies in pleasing ourselves. Knowing we are perfect exactly the way we are! This is where happiness resides.

“Do you not know yet? It is your light that lights the world.” ~ Rumi

It takes time to re-adjust. The uncomfortable feelings will come in waves of anxiety and depression, when we start going against what feels comfortable. Both our body and mind will feel confused. Through being mindful and evaluating each circumstance and being perceptive of what’s happening with our thoughts, feelings and actions. We will grow and develop to be comfortable with our true-self. With what’s right for our life, in this very moment.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

For many years my habitual pattern was to say yes and to keep busy. It wasn’t until I started slowing down and saying no more and putting my needs first that my script slowly started to change. A little reassurance goes a long way.

I strongly suggest bringing awareness to the following three key areas: Accept, Nurture and Deplete. Let us learn to Accept, Nurture and be aware of what it is depleting our life. Accept the here and now. Accept the addiction. Let us nurture ourselves. What is it that makes us happy? Let us become mindful and start to take notice of our daily life.

I believe it’s only when we can identify what it is that’s triggering the pain, or discomfort, that we can start to change the bad habits. I challenge us all to discover what it is that depletes our life. What repetitive cycles are inviting us to the cupboards, or who is it that’s responsible for driving us to the grocery store? I have lived and breathed the destruction of what bulimia can do to our mental and physical health. The traumatic events of binging and purging and the contempt of anxiety, fear and disbelief.

The self-illusion of control. Constantly contradicting ourselves; trying to gain authenticity and being left with our just-desserts. I believe the answers lie in the accepting of “what is” and visualizing the”‘what is to become of our new healthy, beautiful selves.”

Using daily affirmations is a great way to challenge the inner critic. I know it was a multitude of changes, which I encountered, that helped me turn my life around from the obsessive, addictive nature. I remember the limiting beliefs I had. The feelings of fear. I felt like it would never go away and I would never be able to rid myself of this disease.

I am here to reassure us all that it can be conquered. The last time I had a bulimic episode was when things were all out of balance in my life. I felt pressures from all angles. Life was too much to handle. I discovered myself in a very old habitual pattern of binging and purging. Afterward, there was no tears, no drama. I silently said to myself. I forgive you. I released myself from the inner torture. I knew in that moment, it was all over!

To everyone who has walked this path or one similar: please be reassured, even in our darkest of days, there’s reason and understanding, that above all will help us conquer our fears. We all have the ability to shine. It is time to carve a new beautiful path.

I would like to end this article with a quotation from a powerful woman.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~  Marianne Williamson



Author: Willow Woolf

Image: Hillary Boles/Flickr

Editor: Sara Kärpänen


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