aka What does freedom mean?
aka Do you still think of yourself as disordered?
I answered this question for the interview I did with FABIK (aka Fucking Awesome Bulimics [Angela Barnett] Knows) and in my typical vacillating fashion, my answer was sometimes no, sometimes yes.
No, from the point of view that when it comes to food, I can hand on heart say that my relationship with food is not disordered. I no longer look at a buffet table in simultaneous fear of what it will do to my thighs, and longing salivation, as a dog drools over a bone.
I am excited by food, curious about food, enjoy food.
It doesn’t control my thoughts and my life anymore.
I feel ‘normal’ with food, whatever that actually means.
I suppose more importantly, I feel free.
Free to be able to stand in my kitchen and munch on a bag of crisps that my husband left open when I get home later than planned and haven’t eaten since breakfast.
Free to be able to have three meals a day with a few in between snacks.
Free to have cheese and crackers and wine for dinner; no veg in sight.
That feels damn good.
I wouldn’t claim that my eating habits are ‘perfect’. They don’t follow any rules out there. But to be honest, I’m glad my eating habits aren’t ‘perfect’ because if they were, it would mean I am once again more worried about someone else’s version of life, and I’m disconnecting from what is true for me.
Right now I’m connected to when I’m hungry, when I’m not, whether or not something actually looks appetizing, what I’m in the mood for, what my body is asking for, and why I’m eating something.
If I strive for perfection, I lose that connection.
So Yes, I really am better. I really am not controlled by food anymore, and No my relationship to food is not disordered anymore.
For those of you reading this who can’t say that, have hope. Freedom really, truly, is possible.
On the flip side, when I look at all the layers that lie beneath disordered eating, the underlying causes and the sister disorders, I am very much still a Work In Progress.
Shame rears it’s ugly head more often than I wish to admit. Even in preparing to write this blog series, Mr. Dick took on the persona of the cross-examining prosecuting lawyer from My Cousin Vinny:
Shame: Does being an ex-bulimic necessarily qualify you as being an expert on eating disorders?
Me: No, thank you. Good-bye.
But then that other firm, deep voice from within, the ultimate judge said, ‘Sit down and stay there until you’re told to leave.’
And the voice of Truth spoke: Your Honor, her expertise is in general life knowledge. It is in this area that her testimony will be applicable. Now if Mr. Dick wishes to voir dire the witness as to the extent of her expertise in this area, I’m sure he’s gonna be more than satisfied.
Once again ‘My Cousin Vinny’ explains my life.
Embracing the truth of ‘I am Enough as I am’… It’s one of those things that I know it in my head. Believing it in my heart? I’m not 100% there yet.
Fear? I still freeze or flight at first glance. It takes me time to work up the courage to make the phone call to the newspaper editor, put a date in the calendar for the workshop, get business cards made.
And that’s because I’m still learning to dance with vulnerability. We’re still stepping on each other’s toes.
The worst is when I’m face to face with someone.
‘What do you do?’ ‘What’s the event for?’ Nightmare.
I have no problem hanging a poster on a wall. But TALKING to someone face to face about my work? INVITING someone in the moment?
I clam up, stutter over my words, look down at my shoes or at the wall. Talk really quickly and try to wrap up the conversation as soon as possible.
No dialogue, questions, engagement or connection.
That whole, Free to Be Me thing? Flies right out of my head.
‘What do I say? What will they think?’… that takes over instead.
I’m learning to forget about me, and in the moment, hold on to the truth that I am Here to Shine; (So turn on the friggin light girl!)
It takes practice to undo years of ‘I am here to be Perfect’ conditioning.
While a work in progress, the beauty is that in these moments, I’m not running to the kitchen anymore. Nor am I running through the park for an endorphin high or stress release.
I’m feeling the feelings. Putting a name to them. And then practicing responding in a way that puts love and truth front and center.
Some other manifestations of the Tom, Dick, and Harry trio that I am working through:
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Receiving beauty and abundance into my life
- Fully expressing myself, including creatively and sexually
- And I’m still working towards balancing the Nourish and Pleasure pair of scales instead of the Binge & Purge, Deprive & Indulge cycles across many areas of my life.
That’s the short list.
But unlike 10 and 12 years ago when I had those life-changing bathroom floor moments, I’m not trying to ‘fix’ myself.
I’ve learned that we can approach our faults with some grace. Instead of rejecting that part of me, beating myself up when I get it wrong, and putting it on the top of the to-do list, I’m learning to surrender.
And with that, comes freedom.
Yes, I wish I was more articulate on the fly when there is a difference of opinion. Yes, I wish I could find the words to take a stronger stand for what I want. And for sure, it would be nice not to say no to money when people offer it to me (I know, that seems like a no-brainer. I’m workin’ on it.)
But this is where I’m at. The surrender is to keep accepting that I am Enough as I am, even at this point. Even at ‘not perfect’.
It was easy for me to say that I’m glad I’m not perfect with food. It’s harder for me to say I’m glad I’m not getting it perfect in the rest of my life. While I can accept that’s not the point, another part still wants to ‘get it right’.
When I can wholeheartedly stop worrying about ‘getting it right’, when I can fully surrender, that is when I am free from the ‘disorder’.
I find that it is not a permanent state of being. I’m not sure that’s meant to be in this lifetime.
But when it happens, I hold on to the moments, celebrate, and have hope that there are more to come.
Something to think about: Do you believe that it is possible to 100% be free from an eating disorder? What does freedom mean to you? What does recovery mean to you? How easy is it to accept that you are enough as you are?
Your story matters. As part of ‘Bulimia Uncovered: 29 days to being your Quintessential Self’ we want to hear from you. How can you relate to what you’ve just read? Leave a comment below and share your related stories and pictures however you do best. If using social media use hashtag #bu29days and tag me so we can follow. We’re also inviting stories to feature on The True You Project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like yours shared there.
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