aka Life as an Artichoke
aka So what did getting better look like? You talk about forgiveness, it being spiritual journey, etc. Details please!
Yeah, sorry, I’ve gotten sidetracked with all the juicy stuff 🙂
So here as some key highlights:
There was bathroom floor moment #1 where I decided I wasn’t going to live like this anymore. The key here to note is that it was a choice.
Over the next 18 months, the conflicted feelings and obsessive thoughts about food was there, but with additional decisions to do more things that I actually liked to do (eg wear blue-suede shoes and study Italian) I was starting to feel better about myself and my life, and sustain the decision to not purge anymore.
Bathroom floor moment #2 came 18 months later and that’s when I realized will-power wasn’t going to cut it and some deeper healing was needed.
This is when I started praying, started reconnecting with God, and participated in a recovery course that helped me realize there was a lot more going on than just bulimia to recover from.
It was shortly after this period of time that I moved to the UK. I was living on my own for the first time, no roommates. This was a real test on the food front because I had no one to hide any weird food behaviours from. I could easily binge, or binge and purge, and no one would be the wiser.
There’s another part to this story that is quite telling. Part of the reason I was so keen to move to the UK was that I had re-met a British guy that I knew. We carried on a long-distance relationship while I was back in NYC in the hopes I’d get a transfer to London. By the time I landed and got off the plane and settled into my one-bedroom flat, he had met somebody else.
This was the real test: How would I handle being jilted at customs? The rosy picture I had painted of my new life in London with a guy by my side, just had some of the pink erased.
Thankfully the healing that I’d received up to that point grounded me. I had a deep inner peace that I had made the right decision to move here, regardless of the outcome of that relationship, and that I would be OK. Sure, it wasn’t the adventure I was expecting, but it was still an adventure.
I spent a lot of time on my own in those first few months. Lots of reading spiritual self-help books. Journalling a lot. I didn’t have TV or internet hooked up in my flat, so it really was just Me time.
There were still nights where I would have mini-binges. I say ‘mini’ because I would stop after maybe half a sleeve of crackers or half a loaf of bread, as opposed to continuing on just because I had ‘broken the seal’. The good news was, I wasn’t trying to make up for the extra calorie consumption anymore.
I was still trying to maintain my running routine, although this was starting to change too. One, because it rained non-stop that year from May through August and Two, because I couldn’t run from my office like I used to in NY. I had to go home first, and by the time I’d gotten off the 20 minute tube ride and 20 minute walk to my flat, a lot of times I wasn’t in the mood anymore, and I was listening to that.
I started to practice what I call ‘eating normally’. Grocery shopping with meals in mind and then cooking them when I got home.A meal like stir-fry, or pasta with chicken. Not just snacking or grazing on food that didn’t need much preparation like fruit and peanut butter, or a sandwich, or a salad. This was a conscious decision to change my eating habits.
This new exploration with food and my body was a reflection of the changes going on inside. My confidence was growing, I was shifting my idea of self-worth, and I was consistently putting myself into new, vulnerable, experiences and I was surviving. I was more connected to me.
Having community was a big part of this too. I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with the church over the years and during my time in London it was very much ON. I found an awesome newly planted church in my neighborhood where I met a lot of people that I clicked with right away. Plus they served wine after the Sunday evening service and they met in pubs. This was my kind of place.
It was here that my faith was re-kindled and I realized that a lot of the strict rules that had been enforced in the church community that I grew up in (like no dancing or wine at weddings) were outed. I was able to move past a lot of the shame I was carrying about how I was living my life and that maybe God wasn’t such a control freak after all.
Within a year of moving to the UK I very much felt that my bulimia was behind me. I was talking about it in past tense. And I also had a desire to help others who were struggling. I felt that I had something to give in that front, although I didn’t quite know what or how.
I came across a sister church in London that was holding a course called New ID, created by a woman who had overcome anorexia, and I attended in the hopes that I could run the course at my church.
I think of attending that course as the final balm of healing of my bulimia. Even though I thought I was better before attending, there was a new freedom that I felt afterwards.
I know this because shortly afterwards I met my now-husband. And I was able to eat burgers, chips, drink pints of beer, make nachos, Welsh-cakes, and spinach-artichoke dip together, enjoy them together, and I didn’t bat an eye-lid. I wasn’t worried about calories, what would happen to my stomach or my thighs.
I was able to enjoy me, him, and our budding romance without the 3rd wheel of a bulimia-hangover.
It was a beautiful gift.
So at that point, I knew for sure, the bulimia was gone. And I knew it wouldn’t be coming back because, due to how a past relationship of his had ended, there was just the right amount of uncertainty to test me. And food never became the answer.
Journaling, prayer, having open and honest conversations with him, and having a good friend by my side to support me, did.
And of course, just when I thought all my ‘work’ was done – because I was pretty sure I was living a ‘normal’ life now, it became clear there was more.
This is when I realized my relationship with sex wasn’t right. I was struggling with the no-sex-before-marriage doctrine that I had literally signed my life away too in a No-Sex-Before-Marriage seminar when I was 16, and I realized I had no idea what I actually believed about sex and my own sexuality.
I realized that I was once again using sex for self-worth, validation, love and acceptance. In the same way I had been using food.
So I went to see a therapist.
That was over 7 years ago. What I have learned since then allows me to say that 7 years ago, when I could hand-on-heart say I’m not bulimic anymore and I thought I just had this little sex issue to sort out, I had only just uncovered the tip of the iceberg.
It has been in the past 7 years that I have learned and AM LEARNING what it means to not be in a codependent relationship. This was the pattern with men my whole life, except I never realized it until I went on the recovery course.
Thankfully, my husband and I promised each other that we wouldn’t carry this into our relationship (he had been in this pattern too). This meant both of us upholding boundaries with each other; not rescuing each other even when the other person wants us to. I am still guilty of the ‘wanting him too’ more often than not.
So yeah, healing from codependency, learning to set boundaries, learning to say what I mean in the moment, learning to express my wants and desires, learning to be able to think about my sexuality without embarrassment, disgust, or confusion, learning to detach my self-worth from money.. oh gosh, THAT has been a huge one too.
That has been the past 7 year journey that I’ve been on. On the outside this has looked like a lot of arguments, tears, loving embraces, having conversations at work where I speak my possibly unpopular truth, and other times where I’ve been too fearful and have held back. It’s looked like resigning from my 10 year career, following a dream to backpack in foreign and exotic places, starting two businesses, failing miserably at certain aspects, succeeding in others.
In a nutshell it’s been a rollercoaster ride.
I liken this adventure, from that first bathroom floor moment 12 years ago to now, to the idea of peeling back the layers of my favourite food, the artichoke, or like the more commonly known analogy, the onion. Each year, month, day, moment, another layer gets peeled back.
There is no straight path, a series of boxes to tick off, and then you’re done.
It’s a continuous cycle of revisiting the same principles and capital-T truths over and over. Each time you get to go deeper.
And maybe it’s just me, but it really is fun! I have never laughed so hard at myself, and I have never cried so hard.
Life peeling artichokes is good.
Something to think about: How can you celebrate moments that prove your own growth? What do you think about life being about peeling artichokes and onions? Would you rather be a head chef than a sous chef? 🙂 What expectations do you have for your own life and recovery?
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