“The only way we can live, is if we grow. The only way we can grow is if we change. The only way we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ~C. JoyBell C.
I was 44 years old and still had my head in the toilet most days. I had been counseling with Cesar consistently for about 3 months, but I had told my husband, Ken, it was simply to help me through the major transition over the previous few years—I had moved from Vancouver to Phoenix, had gone from being single to being married, my once lucrative award-winning career in Canada was now a more creative entrepreneurial one, and I had gone from 100% financial freedom and independence to having very little personal income. In short, I said I was lost in my new life and needed help finding my way.
I kept from Ken my main reason for going to counseling, as I didn’t feel safe enough with that wounded and messed up part of my heart yet. It was so tender and raw, and I wasn’t sure he could handle it. And if he could handle it, I wasn’t sure if he would use it against me in the future. (If there were ever relationship issues, he might blame me because I was wacko.) So I kept quiet. Even though he knew I would tell Ken when I was ready, week after week, Cesar gently challenged me to do so. Eventually, it became crystal clear that in order for me to succeed in abstinence I had to share my secret with my life partner. So I did.
One night over dinner, I plucked up the courage to tell Ken I was binging and purging and couldn’t stop. I shared the previous 20+ years of up and down struggles culminating in the last few that were close to the worst ever. This “part of my past he knew about” was suddenly right on our doorstep and facing us down. It was a present day reality, and sharing it felt like a heart meld. It was freeing and humiliating and bonding. Here I was, a high functioning, successful, smart, outwardly happy person who had her head in the toilet most days. I felt crazy. But I was met with love and acceptance. He even said, “Big deal! Don’t give it so much power. Everybody has some coping mechanism or the other.” Really? This was amazing.
He was right—I wasn’t crazy. And you aren’t either. In fact as an addict, you are likely often viewed as a liar, but you are actually a radical truth teller given the right timing. Not only are you a radical truth teller, your addiction is also—it tells you there is something wrong in your soul, in your life, in your family, in your circle of friends, even in the world. Your behaviors are screaming for you to examine, to challenge, to ponder. Bulimia is a truth teller, and once you consciously join the conversation about your struggles, life will get better.
Coming clean to Ken was the second time in my life I had fessed up that I was really struggling. The first time I told someone about my bulimia was via a short note. I just didn’t have the courage to say it face to face. My dad was flying from Vancouver to Oregon, where he lived. As I left him at the airport in Vancouver, I handed him a Manila envelope and said, “Please don’t open it until you’re on the plane.” As I walked away, I started to panic, knowing he would be calling me in a few short hours. I wasn’t sure what he would say, but I knew fessing up was mandatory for my survival. I was 26 years old.
The envelope contained a note saying I was bulimic, I couldn’t quit, and it was going to take me out if I didn’t get help. I also included a brochure for Remuda Ranch over which I’d scrawled—this is where I need to go. It seemed it was one of the first times in my life I actually reached out for help. Once I had, the dam of secrecy and shame broke and my healing journey gushed into reality.
I’m sure my dad immediately called my mom who immediately called my best girlfriend who immediately came over and showered me with love. The release of finally sharing my shit opened the floodgates. Tears wouldn’t stop. It was like a nervous breakdown. Maybe it was one. Vanessa gently washed my hair as I sat in the bathtub and wept. This kind of vulnerability-induced tenderness was previously non-existent in my life. It felt awkwardly beautiful.
My parents basically handled most of the logistics—calling the owner of the restaurants I managed saying I wouldn’t be in on Monday, notifying my landlord I wouldn’t be renewing the lease, booking movers to take my things to storage, packing up my apartment, and arranging travel. I was a wreck. Shame tried to cover me—I wanted to hide from the world— but I also felt freer than ever. My everything-was-okay façade crumbled, and seeing the pile of rubble was a relief. It had become way too heavy to wear.
One thing I know for sure—you cannot heal in isolation. Eventually, you will simply have to pluck up the courage and trust someone enough to share your struggle with bulimia. Even if you’re not sure you’re ready to leave your eating disorder behind just yet, coming clean is still an important step. And sharing could be the catalyst you need to get serious. If you know exactly who to contact, make the call. But if your bulimia has isolated you to such a degree you don’t even know who to contact, take a pen and paper, spend a few quiet minutes in prayer and meditation, and record the names that come to you. Your prayer can be as simple as, Spirit/Universe/Mother Nature/God—whomever you feel comfortable praying to—please bring to mind the person who’s already prepared to hear my story.
Sit quietly for a minute or two and wait.
Then write down what comes to you. Don’t edit and don’t be surprised if certain names seem random—people you haven’t even spoken with for a while. Have faith in the answers. Then ponder each person, asking the following questions:
1. Can I trust this person with my heart?
2. Is this a healthy person in her own life?
3. Is this someone I can see walking closely with for the next six months or more?
4. Do I feel good in my body and soul when I think of this person?
5. Does this person tend to gossip?
Obviously you want the first four questions to be answered with a “yes” and the last with a “no.” If the person tends towards gossip, no matter how many times they swear they will keep quiet, they likely won’t have the capacity. During this tender time, it’s imperative you feel safe. If you sense your confidant is spreading your story, the possible shame and uncertainty around who also may be in your “private” loop may lead you back to bulimia. Best to keep sharing to a minimum during this stage of recovery. Sharing shamelessly and deeply with many others will come later, but it is your story to tell—no one else’s.
If there is literally no one that comes to mind, please feel free to reach out to me here. I would be honored to help you on your road to recovery.
Love and light,