I’m not perfect.
There, I said it.
I grew up trying to be perfect, trying to meet the expectation that I was ‘supposed’ to be perfect. I was conflicted though. I didn’t want to be perfect. I didn’t want all the compliments, the accolades. I just wanted to be like every other kid who got in trouble, played in the dirt and got messy.
Yet I was also fearful of what getting messy might result in. Would I get in trouble? Would I be rejected? What would people say or think?
And so my fear of the judgement that I thought would come with imperfection, kept me on the straight on narrow.
For a time. Then life did get messy.
For 5 years, I hid my bulimia from everyone, especially those closest to me, trying to keep up my ‘perfect’ image. I remember when I first told my boyfriend-at-the-time what was going on with me. It was after a weekend spent with him and his family. They kept going on about how ‘good’ I was (whatever that means?).
Even after they left, my boyfriend kept telling me, I was so good. I remember talking to him over the phone, and he kept saying, ‘You’re so good, you’re just so good’.
This triggered something in me like a dam bursting. I broke down, and through hysterical sobs and tears, I begged him to stop saying that. I told him why. I’m bulimic! See?! I’m not good!! I’m not perfect!!!…. I’m bulimic!
Right there, in that statement, was a release as great as the release I’d get from purging. All the pressure… gone.
Truth is contagious, and so I started telling more people. It was a very select few though. Only those that I deemed ‘safe’ to tell because I didn’t think they would judge me. It’s not like I was shouting from the roof tops, ‘Hey world!!! I’m bulimic!! I’m not perfect and that’s OK!!!’
Oh no, au contraire. It was still all a secret, something not to be spoken about in public circles, and definitely not around the dinner table (no pun intended).
I still tried to keep up the facade that life was great, everything was fine. Yes I’m bulimic, but I’m working on it, it’s under control, I’m ok.
After enough ‘work’, I stopped binging and purging, and could say I was really and truly free with food. The alluring comfort of perfection was still there though. As I was saying, ‘that’s not me any-more’, I was really saying, ‘that was never me.’ See… I’m still perfect, because I got over an eating disorder.
I was in denial that anything had been wrong, or could still be wrong.
This was short-sighted.
[Tweet “Healing from an eating disorder isn’t over once the behaviours with food stop.”]
My last purge was in August of 2006. I couldn’t confidently say that I was ‘free’ until July 2008. It was at that time I was ready to step up and lead an eating disorder recovery course in London (because I thought I was 100% healed).
In September 2008 I met my now-husband. When I met him, we’d go out to eat in pubs, and my diet of mainly low-fat vegetables and grains, was replaced with burgers and beer.
I didn’t care. That was sign #1 that I knew I was free.
At the time he was still in an entangled relationship with his ex. The details are irrelevant; suffice to say, that if I had met him even 6-9 months earlier, there’s the potential that I would’ve turned to food as a release, and for comfort.
I didn’t. I journalled and prayed a lot. Sign #2 that I was free.
Here’s the thing though. Yes, I am free from bulimia, and have been for over 6 years now. I am still healing though.
And I sure as hell am not perfect.
I can say this now, without feeling shame, guilt or embarrassment, hiding, or selectively choosing a handful of people to tell. I am willing to shout it from the rooftops if need be.
I thought that once I was free from bulimia, that everything would be fine. I’d have no more emotional crises, no other areas of my life to work on. The eating disorder was the problem, and once that was fixed, then I was whole, back to ‘perfect’.
Oh, how little did I know.
My freedom from bulimia was just the BEGINNING of my journey toward wholeness. The reality is, that there was no way to see how imperfect I was/am UNTIL the eating disorder was out of the way.
It’s like when you’re standing at the bottom of a hill; from where you’re standing, all you can see is the hill. It looks HUGE! You don’t even think about what’s on the other side because this hill is all-consuming and so friggin big!
The reality is, there’s a whole mountain range beyond it. You can’t see that though. You can only see the hill, so you prepare yourself for the climb. You’re ready for it, and as you reach the top, you’re celebrating! You did it!
Then you look out beyond and see this beautiful snow-capped mountain range behind it, that you never even knew was there. You have a choice. You can either stay at the top of the hill and enjoy the new view, the new found freedom. Or you can choose to continue on, knowing that the climbs to the higher peaks will be even more worth it, more rewarding, more free-ing.
That is what I’ve been doing for the past 6 years. Bagging some more peaks. Peaks around money, relationships with men, boundary setting, career, sex, family dynamics.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve bagged any of them yet; I’m still working my way to the top. These climbs aren’t necessarily easier. Lot of tears, days where I’m not thrilled to get out of bed, difficult conversations that I dread, lots of mistakes and hurt feelings along the way.
The difference is, that I’ve done it once, so I know I can do it again. Plus, the view is pretty awesome along the way.
So I decide to keep climbing. I have no idea what’s on the other side, because I sure as hell didn’t expect the mountain range I’m tackling now.
I’m not expecting or seeking perfection though. And I’m OK with that.