Recovering from Bulimia

by Christine Kane
www.christinekane.com

In my song The Way Clouds Do, there’s a line that says, “Back in Fairfax, Virginia, me and the girls grew up in homes they built on battlefields. In ponytails and panic, we were bad, bored and bulimic. We longed for something real.” It wasn’t just alliteration, I really was all three. Some of my friends who have had or still have eating disorders are shocked that I’m essentially admitting to thousands of people that I had been bulimic. Bulimia has lots of shame attached to it.

If you branded it, it’d be Bulimia: The Embarrassing Addiction.

Recovering alcoholics will occasionally tell horrific stories of drunken stupors that lasted for days and ended with them passing out in an alley while someone’s stereo above played Aretha Franklin all night long and the whole thing takes on the mood of a Jim Jarmusch movie. Recovering drug addicts will talk all about binges and felonies and thieving and though it’s horrible, it’s also poetry — it’s John Coltrane, it’s filmed in grainy black & white, it’s what life did to you and oh my god you made it, look at you!

Recovering bulimics do not talk about the night they ordered three pizzas from Domino’s, devoured two of them with a liter of Coke, followed by a bag of Doritos, another bag of Cheetos, another one of Oreos, finishing with a half gallon of Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough (the only poetry being that every food ends in the same vowel sound) all while watching “Pretty Woman” in a basement apartment, letting the answering machine pick up the calls, and then spending a half hour throwing up, cleaning up, sitting on the bathroom floor letting their hearts race until they couldn’t keep their eyes open any longer so they passed out on the bed and slept til too late in the morning and got up and pretended everything was okay when they showed up at work the next day. Not so much on the John Coltrane there. More like Paula Abdul.

So, yes, I was bulimic for about ten years of my life. And though that picture isn’t exactly a scene from those ten years, it gives you the general idea of your basic binge.

I’m no longer bulimic. This fact is number one on any Gratitude List I ever make. Contained in that gratitude is also a gratitude for having had bulimia at all. When I committed myself to healing, I was required over time not only to reconcile my relationship with my own body and with food, but with other people, with my past, with my family, with God and spirituality, and with my emotional take on life. These other elements were essential to the process, and the expansion and learning have been powerful. The road continues now, of course, but I’m a totally different person.

I’m convinced that commitment to anything reveals everything. But it reveals it in very tiny doses and steps. The exact doses you are able to handle at the time. It’s like the process of making art. It’s not linear. There is grace, there is inspiration, and there are times when you think you’re right back where you started.

That brings me to the good news: when you commit to healing, when you set your intent, when you pray in whatever tiny way you can, the door does open. Light does come in. People do show up to help you. New friends who have “been there” show up and walk beside you. Books appear. A song lyric will open your heart. Grace happens.

The bad news is this: The door opens gradually. At first, imperceptibly. This news is like a prison sentence for someone with an eating disorder. Bulimic personalities want answers, they want it done, they want to either have it over with or not do it at all… which is precisely why the spiritual direction that they necessarily must go through involves learning how to live in process, progress, gratitude, and presence. None of this is good news if you’re still dealing with the disease. If you had told me on my worst days that someday I would be writing this, or that I’d even think in this way, I would have puked. And I could too. On command.

In the next blog, I’m going to write about some steps I took that were helpful in the healing of my own bulimia and my own relationship with food and life. In the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts, post a comment or send me and email. I’ll try to address it in a future blog on this topic.

32 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Amy

    Having been bulimic also for close to 10 years and having now been in recovery for 4 with no purging for 3.5 years most days I feel strong… But unlike alcoholics with AA and similar drug rehabilitation groups I’m at a place where I need support. Am in a new city, bought a house with my ex (it’s now mine and he’s moved out) but alone with no DIY experience if things for wrong etc and struggling to find myself an outlet or support group… Where do we turn? I’m strong enough to recognise my small signs..biting nails, restricting calories during the day and already fighting it… But what if I have a bad day and tipped over the edge? Are there groups I don’t know about? Xx

    • Christine Kane

      Amy – I think any group can be supportive at this stage in your healing. It could be that this is a stress-induced situation – and the mind can easily take something like this and turn it in to “a relapse.” Which it’s not. It’s just stress and thoughts. Things that have helped me: Meditation, getting a trainer for my workouts, book clubs, acupuncture – and any group meetings where you can just meet and connect with people in the new environment where you find yourself. I hope this helps a bit!

  • Bulimia Help Team (@BulimiaDisorder)

    Hi,

    Was just wondering around is several sites and landed up in your wonderful blog. I was Bulimic, recovered a few years back but still fighting to avoid a relapse. To keep myself engaged I maintain My eating disorder recovery story. Hope we can share information and help people come out of this disorder. PLEASE let me know if I can support you by any means.
    Want to say your readers that : “Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient and the best things come to those who DON’T GIVE UP” . Please let me know if I can be of any help of yours to help our friends battle eating disorders.

  • katie

    Hi,

    I have been bulimic now for over 6 years I don’t have the courage to tell my parents–or anyone for that matter. I’m scared of what’s going to happen later down the road. How do i get myself to tell my parents.

  • Rachel

    Do the endless nights of eating boxes of cereal and ice cream while watching TBS movies and googling ‘Bulimia recovery’ ever get to be funny? Can I ever make a joke about the time I went to Walmart to buy ipecac and they couldn’t find it, so they paged “Does anyone know where we keep the ipecac?” over the loud speaker while I waited. Mortifying, but I was still busting to buy it. I try to joke and I usually have an audience for my bulimia war stories. But somethimes I wonder if I have ever really learned my lesson. Even when I am I am on the straight and narrow with food, I still binge and purge life. I recently diagnosed my self with boylimia- the bingeing and purging of men and relationships. http://3031milesaway.blogspot.com/2010/05/boylimia.html And I continue to ask myself, be it food, men, money, morals. Why is it all or nothing, black or white. Why to either suppress or have our feelings do we have to live in the extremes? In order to have both, do we have to commit to the gray?

  • Athena

    Hi Christine,
    This is the frist time I have ever come to your website. I was looking up setting intentions on the search engine and your website came up. As I was reading you had a link to this blog which is what I really needed to read at the moment.
    I was bulimic in High School and College but have been throw-up free for 15 years. However, I still binge and suffer after overeating. I still put myself through the pain. I have always kept 20-30 extra pounds on for protection. I am afraid to let is go because I don’t know what I would do without it – my thought is “What in the world would my life look like without my extra wieght?” It scares me to think that I can’t use my weight as an excuse for not moving on with my life. I have been seeing a councelor for a year and just this week I told her that I am ready to release this part of myself because it holds me back. She said, “Athena, I think you are afraid of your own power.” That hit me like a ton of bricks because I know she is right. I am ready to make a commitment to myself and to heal this part of me. I am afraid because of the unknown and because it is all I have known. But the emotional eating has become like a bad boyfriend that I want to let go of but afraid I will be alone if I do. So thanks for wiritng these words and for being a living example to me and others. I pray many blessings for you and lots of grace.

  • Ashley

    Hey, I know this is an old post…but it really spoke to me. I’ve been struggling for about 4 years now. I went to rehab last summer and it’s helped a lot…I’ve been doing well for a few months which is great for me. But now I feel it coming back into my life and I’m scared. My therapist, nutritionist, everyone thinks I’m okay but I’m not. They don’t understand what’s behind it. Hell, I don’t either. I don’t even know why I’m posting this…but thanks. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  • Chandler

    Christine,

    I never knew this about you. The Way Clouds Do is one of my favorite songs of yours, but I never seriously considered that line. I think it is really wonderful that you can openly tell your story to everyone that happens to come apon this site. It really sets an example for others that are suffering. I really look up to you as a strong woman. As a teenage girl, those people are really important to me. You were my first concert at the Grey Eagle in Asheville.

  • maddie

    i throw up after i eat and i just need to talk. i can’t talk to my friend because she does the same thing as me

  • My Life

    Nice story Christine. I dealt with bulimia when I was a teenager.

  • teressa

    im not overweight, except im scared that soon i will be because i just eat so much. i eat when im bored and just cause i feel like it, im neva hungry yet i eat. so if i thow up sometimes only when i eat junk, really that bad. and am i bulimic? ive done it bout 7 times but ONLY when ni eat junk food and when i’ve eatin just way too much.

  • christine

    Hi Elle, Thanks for your thoughts. I understand what you say in describing the back and forth of this healing… AND I’d like to offer you the perspective that even though this is something you might always have to deal with (in terms of patterns and thoughts and feelings) it does go away. I haven’t thrown up in years. And the only time I feel bulimic now is when my emotions and thoughts take over and make me feel like I’m crazy. This occurence is more sporadic now than ever, and it’s truly liberating to see how far I’ve come. I absolutely KNOW that you can get to a point where you don’t throw up at all… I’m holding that little prayer for you today!

  • Elle

    i read your story and could truely relate i spent years in my own silence till some one fina;; heard my cry and i got the help that i needed. I spent years thinking i was not pretty enough, not slender enough and when i look back now i still cant believe that i did this to myself. Sometimes i still look in the mirror and i feel sick and have to throw up i do not believe it ever goes away and like addicts its something that you always deal with. Sometimes if i eat to much i still throw up my food but it is not nearly as bad as what it once was.

  • Palmtreechick

    I checked out that post, Christine. Loved it. I actually took a great class in March that dealt with goals, affirmations and creating the life that you want! It was taught by Robert and Michelle Colt. http://www.actingsuccessnow.com. It was geared towards actors but I got just as much out of it as they did, I’m sure. I actually almost left because I felt so out of place the first night. I’m glad I stayed though.

    I think my problem is that I want, more than anything, to lose 10 lbs. I obsess about it, workout all everyday, weigh myself constantly, etc. I focus so much of my time on that that I don’t give my time to anything else in my life. Therefore, I can’t get anything else in my life that I want because it’s all focused on weight.

    Now, I don’t know what me losing 10 lbs is going to do for me, if it will make me like my body more or if I will even be able to tell the difference. Yeah, the number may be different, but would I see myself differently? That I don’t know. I’m 102 lbs now (at just over 5 ft tall) but can’t stand the way I look. No one but me thinks I am fat.

    Anyway, check out robert and michelle’s site if you want. They’re very good!

  • Palmtreechick

    I’ll have to check that out. 🙂

  • christine

    Hey there Palmtreechick! Thanks for the note. Everything you wrote there about the relationship with food is right on. I wrote more in depth about that dilemma in a later blog called “Building a Relationship with Money.” http://christinekane.com/blog/?p=7

    No worries about babbling! This is what blogging lets us do with glee!

  • Palmtreechick

    Congrats on beating bulimia. That was probably the best thing you could do for your voice, not to mention your LIFE!! I know it’s not an easy road to travel. Unlike an alcoholic or drug addict, we need food to survive. It’s not someone could tell a person recovering from an ed to avoid food, if only it were that easy. Although, it might be nice if someone said “hey, don’t go near any food!” That would like heaven for an anorexic and probably more like hell for a bulimic.

    I’m totally just babbling now. I’m glad Heather and Michelle Hope pointed me in your direction.

  • christine

    Hiya Sophia, Wow. You know, I am not at all able to tell you what you SHOULD do. I know that it’s really scary to see a friend go through something like this. I can tell you that when I first started down the path of bulimia, I was so clueless that I truly don’t think anyone could’ve reached me. I can also tell you that when I got really really bad and suicidal, the best friends in the world were the ones who just LOVED me without trying to fix me. The friends who held me with care and compassion and never ever told me I needed to stop throwing up. I don’t know how old you are or what your relationship is like with this person, but definitely start by loving her and loving YOU fully and completely. And be honest with her about how much you love her and that you’re scared for her. (without asking her to change) I will write more about bulimia in future blogs. In the meantime, Geneen Roth has written some great books on the subject. Keep me posted okay? My email is christine@christinekane.com.

  • Sophia

    Christine,
    I have a friend who’s not even a teenager yet.She has always been a little upset with her weight. She is 5’3 and weighs about 115 pounds, I’m really worried. She is always going on about her body appearance but she honestly isn’t fat. She has also admitted to making herself throw up twice, it’s not much but I dont want it to lead to something else…what should i do?

  • christine

    Thanks “n”. I do realize how many girls struggled with bulimia. Even now, I’m struck by how many women struggle with eating and body image daily. Luckily, more and more women are speaking up and helping one another. I’m glad this helped you!

  • n

    I think this is a real help for some people. I hope you realize how many girls were much like you. The differnce between you and them is denial… wishing that it was true when they say “I have no problems less an eating disorder”. it means a lot to me how opened you are about this subject and thank you

  • christine

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for the note. And yay for you for being bold. All the things I know about anorexia sound even worse than bulimia. As you said, “I commit every day to recovery…” That kind of says it all. I applaud you!

  • Karen

    Christine
    I found your blog somoving Iam recovering form Anorexia But its all the same
    I commit every day to recovery and I am grateful for the way my life has takemn me or I wouldnt be here and wouldnt have the strength that I have grown into and be able to be in recoveryand have a loving family
    I found you through Healther
    I look forweard to readingmore of your insides but for now I need to digest everything you have said in this blog
    In love & Health
    Karen

  • christine

    Hi Allie, Thanks for the note. You know, the continuing to get back up when you falter is a big one. Not many people talk about the role of persistence in this recovery. I don’t always “find the lightness” right away if I have “fallen.” Sometimes I take baby steps, small actions without any lightness at all. Then that builds a small momentum. It breaks the pattern. And then some other small door opens. I’m going to write about this soon, so keep checking in… Thanks!

  • Allie

    the door opens… and it opens slowly… i was just wondering, recovery has remissions… (usually)… when you faltered, how did you get back up? how do you find the lightness when you have fallen again…

  • christine

    Thanks Heather! I’m new to the blog world (obviously), so thanks for the link. I’ll check out your site. (Once I get a little better with this stuff, I’ll be doing some links too.)

    • amanda

      my husband recently started to recover from bulimia its only been a couple of weeks so i know the worst isnt over for him what can i do to help him get to this emotionally physically and spiritually

  • Heather

    Hi Christine, I just found your blog and love your post — you have described recovery in a beautiful way. I have recovered from 16 years of bulimia and like you, consider it at the top of my gratitude list. I’m not sure I would be enjoying my life the way I am today if I had not committed to pick myself up from the bottom of the barrel.

    I am going to put your link on my recovery blog, so that my readers will be able to see your words and be inspired for their own life in recovery. I hope you continue to share your perspective!

    With love,
    Heather
    http://TranscendBulimia.com (check the links section for your blog link!)

  • jane lee.

    * a lot of women struggle with this. it’s good when women are open about past struggles to not only help those of us that may want to understand how to help our struggling friends, but also for those that are struggling themselves. come to chapel hill! 🙂

  • Victor

    It’s interesting how these ideas seem to work through the ether. Lately these same topics of self discipline and self-improvement have been running through my mind, and here I come across your posting on this same day in my first visit to your Blog.

    As a person constantly battling a depressive personality type, it’s inspiring to see how far you’ve been able to come in your own battles. I think I always presumed you had assumed a character role when you wrote that song. To see the person you are today inspiring people with your words and music it’s amazing to see how far you’ve come.

    It gives hope. As you say, light does come in.

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