General Healing Ideas
If I look back on the big picture of getting over bulimia, I see it as a melding of many pathways and mindsets and prayers and people. Nothing linear about it. I can’t say what someone else’s path will look like. Mine was littered with wreckage and ruin at first. And I started cleaning it up. Then someone would come along and help me with a few of the pieces. And then the path would converge with another path and there would be velocity and lightness. Then I’d do something completely stupid or unconscious or addictive. And darkness would descend again, and I’d feel isolated and alone, picking up pieces I thought I’d already picked up. Then an unexpected breakthrough would happen. And I’d look around with a new perspective and begin again.
The six ideas below were present in a big roundabout way throughout this process. They are still present, only some of them are now at a different level or with a different consciousness, now that I no longer engage in the old behavior or mindsets.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the following ideas are not steps or how-tos. They are ideas, which point in a direction. The ideas in this post point in a very general direction. The next post will contain more specific ideas. I’ll conclude with ideas that apply to people who have moved past the initial stages of healing bulimia.
Idea #1: Intent
I’ve written about intent over and over again. Click and read the posts.
How intent applies to bulimia and compulsive or addictive eating is this: You have to want to not be bulimic anymore. You have to want to not be destructive to yourself with food anymore. You have to want to stop the perpetual hell of compulsive exercise or dieting or whatever it is you do to yourself. Even if your intent is simply, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I can’t take the insanity. I want to love myself more than I want to diet,” that is enough. It’s a start.
My intent began (though I didn’t know it at the time) when I graduated from college, and I wrote letters to God in my journal every night when I got home from my first (and only) 9 – 5 job. I was unhappy. I wanted to expand and grow and let go of the craziness of this addiction. Again, I had no idea what I was doing at the time, or what my life would end up looking like. But ultimately, writing that nightly “prayer” made me so clear. And as Lenedra Carroll says in one of my favorite books, “Clarity is very compelling to the universe.” I don’t think there was a choice about it once I started those letters. I had to heal.
I’ve met lots of women with eating issues. I’m amazed at how few of them will actually set the intent to heal. More often than not, they have resigned themselves. Or they take medications, which never work in the long run. They seem to not want to change their lives. Mildly and dully miserable is easier than uncomfortably going through deep shifts and facing your own stuff. I’ll quote the great AA line here: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.
Commit to healing. Set intent. Yes, it may mean that your life falls apart. But it won’t happen in a way you can’t handle. It will happen organically. As you heal, things that no longer serve you will go away. That’s all. (For me, this happened pretty rapidly. But I was ready. And I asked for it.) The simple act of getting clear and committing oneself will open up doors and bring about opportunities that are just waiting to be had. This is the grace that comes from intent.
Idea #2: The Question of Therapy
When I was in college, my roommates caught me stealing food points. (I was burning through mine at an embarrassing pace, and I had to figure out how to keep bingeing.) They reported me (and my bulimia) to the RA. I was required to see a campus therapist or be kicked out of my dorm.
The therapist was a man. Not only did he never have an eating disorder, but I’m pretty sure he never had emotions either. He was a kind person, but not the person to help a nineteen year old through this level of shame and grief and addiction.
I stayed pretty far away from therapy after that experience. It wasn’t until I started working with a great healer (a licensed massage therapist with no degree in psychology) in Asheville, four years later, that I really got the power of wisdom versus the mental level of therapy.
The reason I don’t often recommend therapy is this: Most women with eating issues or bulimia are very smart. They know what it’s about. They know their past. They know their emotions. What they don’t know is how to stop obsessing and thinking about it all the time. This is why therapy often keeps them stuck.
What you focus on persists. If you consistently focus on your past, your parents, your old patterns, then you may be spinning your wheels. If you’re in therapy or if you choose to begin therapy, I would highly recommend coupling it with alternative healing work so that your body begins to get stronger and aids your mind in creating new and more appropriate responses and patterns.
Idea #3: Alternative Healing
I can’t stress enough how powerful alternative healing was for my recovery. It was imperative. Acupuncture remains my #1 choice, and I still go once or twice a month, even though I have very few health issues anymore.
The reason acupuncture works so well with eating disorders is because so much damage has been done to the system. Binge eating, purging, diuretics, dehydration, sugar, salt, and excess leave the body depleted and very low on energy and blood. Trying to heal bulimia without addressing this weakened system is virtually impossible. Your organs have a huge impact on your emotions and mental functions. If you have severely damaged the spleen and pancreas, for instance, then you’ll have a hard time transforming tears into awakenings. It makes it harder to set new patterns and process thoughts if the organs are in this level of stress. Acupuncture allows your body to use its own energy so that you heal yourself. It re-teaches your own body to function optimally.
The biggest complaint I hear about alternative therapies is that you have to do them consistently. You have to commit yourself to regular visits. It’s not a quick fix. But here’s the thing: you’ve been engaged in this unhealthy behavior for 10, 20, even 30 years that’s going to take some time to un-do. As much as you want to think it away, it won’t go like that. It will begin to release with some consistent action and attention to deep healing on your part.
Idea #4: Creativity
When I began to write songs, I began to learn how to keep myself company. I got lost in this new discovery of silence and tinkering and moodling, and all the raucous joy that would arise (and still does) in those musical moments.
Women with eating issues are creative women. Often they are artists. They need to express themselves. Sometimes I wonder if the simple act of taking a pottery class wouldn’t eliminate the need for all the other stuff I’ve written about here.
It’s been reported that Americans don’t have hobbies anymore. In our American Idol consciousness, we don’t recognize the joy of getting lost in writing a poem, even a bad poem. Some of my happiest moments are when I’m drawing or making a collage. I’m seriously bad at visual art. But I love it because I can let myself do it badly. I can get lost in it without judgment.
Making something just for the sake of making something is powerful healing. Make a greeting card. Draw a picture. Play your guitar or piano for an hour. Creative ventures are powerful and will take you to territories that are so much richer and wilder than the spectacle of American Idol, which is only about trying hard to be something special for 12 minutes.
Be special to yourself forever. Make art. If you don’t have anyone to send it to, send it to me. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Idea #5: Trees, Woods, Oceans and Sky
Soon after I moved to Asheville, two of my new friends dragged me on a hike. I hated it. I didn’t like the up hill stuff. I dreaded not knowing what was around the corner. Then, I went on a hike that felt sort of fun. It was different. What I know now is that it was in a forest that hadn’t previously been logged. It had an untouched wild feel to it. I went back. And I kept going back. During my first year of healing bulimia, I hiked about five times a week on that same trail. I got to know nature. I learned about the beauty of winter stillness, as well as the awesome blooming of spring.
We are an indoor culture now. Our feet touch concrete and floor, never grass or dirt. Trees, breezes, leaves, mud, streams are all about life and energy and flow. You need life energy and flow in your body. We’ve lost touch with it. And we’re not meant to lose touch with it.
Get back in touch. It will heal you. Take walks. Go outside. Find a park or a hike or a lake. Start a garden. Observe. Sit down on a big rock. Have an adventure day. Be in it.
I now have a deep relationship with that same trail. I still hike it regularly. (The YMCA, who owns the property, clear cut 25 of its acres, which grieves me to no end.) I know every ladyslipper and galax bloom in the spring, and every aster in the fall. I talk to the trees. I feel like it has held me through vast pain and shown me the depth of awareness. It is why I wrote the song Everything Green.
Nature heals. Give it that chance.
Idea #6: Prayer
Yes, I pray. Very unconventionally, but daily. My healing took on a powerful velocity when I started praying.
When I pray, I don’t ask for “stuff.” Even when I was a kid, I didn’t ask for “stuff.” I just knew that wasn’t gonna do it. I don’t think God gives a hoot who wins a football game or if you get an agent. I pray with knowing. I use affirmative prayer. If I ask for anything, I ask for my own shifting of perspective. Sometimes the best prayer is simply, “Help.”
I’ll write a whole blog on prayer at some point. Until then, I recommend Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love. I also recommend her book Illuminata if you don’t know what to pray. Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up was instrumental in teaching me the power of prayer. I also used to read one of Julia Cameron’s prayers from her book Blessings out loud each day.