Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2. Click here to read Part 3. Click here to read Part 4.
Maintenance and Healthy Living Ideas
This is the final part of this series on healing bulimia and addictive eating. The healing ideas I’ve written here are, again, ideas. Not steps. These are a few of the components I’ve adopted to maintain health, both mental and physical. They’re elements of my lifestyle after stopping the behavior of bulimia. Some of these ideas are the final stages of healing any addictive patterns. They are thoughts on living a whole and happy life, not just about bulimia.
Idea #14: Talking to Depression
One of the questions I received when I was a guest on the teleseminar on eating disorders was about depression, and whether or not I still battle with it, even after recovery. (Depression is a constant companion when you’re lost in bulimia.) The truth is that I don’t have depression anymore. This is not to say I don’t have bad days, which is why I wrote this blog. But I don’t call it depression anymore. In fact, I am adamant about not using that word. It has become a buzz-word in the collective unconscious, and the very word itself holds too much power over us. Since I’ve stopped using the word, very rarely do I actually feel depressed.
I’ve never taken anti-depressants. I’m glad of that. The alternative health world gave me lots of incentive not to go down the path of pharmaceuticals. On some levels, this made my path harder, in that I had to muck through lots of stuff without the palliative effect of anti-depressants. But I’m now actually grateful to myself for going that route. Even though it was hard work to make my way through depression, in the long run I had it easier because there was nothing else there to cover up the symptoms or the deepest parts of me that needed healing.
So, the beginning of the end of my depression happened when I decided to “talk to it.” At some point, I realized that because I’m a singer and because I’m very auditory, that I needed to do some “out loud” work.
When the depression thoughts and feelings started coming up, I’d get very clear and conscious, and I’d say aloud, “I just want you to know that your days are numbered. I hear you now. I certainly understand you. But I am now intending a life without this heaviness and without your voice. I want to be happy. I’m moving towards happiness, and I’m letting you know this. And I’ll keep letting you know it.”
And I did.
I prayed and did this “talking to depression” thing for about a year. I can’t say there was one day where I looked around and said, “Hey! It worked! It’s gone!” But I can say that this process led me to see my feelings with more clarity, and to stop labeling myself as a “depressed” person. And shifts happened.
Idea #15: Working with Discipline
I used to run from the word “discipline,” claiming “I was bulimic! I can’t handle that word!” It was an excuse, and it kept me stuck in the “story” of bulimia. (Addicts love to hold onto that story. It makes people and growth back off pretty quickly.) When I started to tell myself that I hadn’t been bulimic in many years, I realized that I needed to move away from that story and experiment with a few different growth ideas that I had avoided for so long. Discipline was one of them. I wrote a two part blog about it. Click here for Part 1. Click here for Part 2.
Idea #16: Dropping the Story
“Poor me, the addict.” “Poor me, the intense and emotional one.” “Poor me and all of my depression.” These are stories we tell ourselves. In her book The Diamond in Your Pocket, Gangaji talks about dropping these stories. Not in a cold mental way. But in an observing, loving way. Ask, “Is this true?” (“Is this true?” is also the first question of The Work, developed by Byron Katie.) It’s never true. That’s the thing. Try it with your emotions. The next time you’re really getting a good weepy attack, sit with it. Allow it. Let it come fully over you. Only this time, let it come without the story. Just feel the feeling. What you’ll probably find is that the feeling doesn’t go very far without the story hooked into it. If you lose the story, the emotion loses its power. It’ll go some distance, but not nearly the distance that the story of the emotion will take you. This is a powerful technique. You may not understand it at this point. Give it time. Start asking, “Is this true?” when you find yourself getting stuck in drama or heavy-duty emotion.
Idea #17: Taking Action
Writing an imperfect song. Drawing a drawing just because you love to draw. Getting an idea and actually pursuing it. Wanna end depression? Wanna heal things? Start acting on your desires. Affirming, praying, meditating, and visualizing are great beginnings. At some point, though, action is necessary. Take a step, any step. I know of no better way to heal things than simply beginning projects and processes.
One of the things that struck me about Stephen King’s book On Writing is that the difference between Stephen King and so many other writers is that Stephen King gets an idea and begins writing it. He doesn’t sit back and say, “Yea, well. I doubt it’ll work.” Taking action on ideas makes genius happen. Taking actions on ideas has taught me to get over fear, to get over myself, to have fun, to play a little, and to stop playing small. And the best thing: to stop expecting perfection.
Idea #18: Giving Up the Struggle
Do you believe that life is meant to be fun? Most of us don’t. We love the struggle. We love to get things the hard way. We pride ourselves on those scars and wounds and all the pain.
I used to get really upset with my boyfriend in college because he thought everything was fun and easy. And you know what? For him, it was. Money came easily. His amazing job came easily. His friends adored him. Yes, he had some challenges, but he rarely stayed stuck for long. This frustrated me to no end. I thought this made him shallow and a little stupid, perhaps. (He was valedictorian of the School of Management. He wasn’t stupid.)
Now, I see wisdom in effortlessness. I am over struggle. Some of us have gotten so addicted to it, that we can’t allow ease into our lives for a single moment. Open up to effortlessness. If you’re on my mailing list, then you’ve received my New Year’s mailing for the last two years encouraging people to stop doing resolutions and start picking a single word for the year. Pick “effortlessness.” Pick “ease.” Let go of the struggle. Just because you’ve come from a challenging past doesn’t mean that the world has to hear about it or read it on your face from here on out. In the book Ask and It is Given Esther Hicks uses the phrase, “the art of allowing.” Try allowing more and struggling less.
Idea #19: Making Health a Priority
I am discerning and care-full about how I eat. It is a top priority for me, even when I’m on the road. For your average person, this is just too much trouble. For someone who has had an eating disorder, this is just routine. I keep up a regimen of regular health care, regular exercise, and I take more time than most people to prepare great meals and eat them in a relaxed environment.
I watch my own behaviors around food. My own word for “appetizers” at parties is “nervous food” because I tend to eat them completely out of nervousness at the awkward beginnings of parties. I try to avoid forced socialization buffets. (Like at weddings, where a band is blasting “Blue Bayou” while the man across the table from you is shouting, “Where are you from?!” while stuffing gobs of shrimp dip in his mouth.) I don’t get militant about it. I simply observe, and, if necessary, excuse myself from a situation where my insides are weird. Or I’ll sit quietly and allow for a one-on-one conversation.
I’ll probably move beyond these needs at some point, but for now, I honor them.
I will probably continue other practices no matter what. I pay out of pocket for acupuncture. I pay higher prices for organic locally grown food. I take extra time for meals. In our speed and efficiency-driven society with all of its social expectations, this is not a popular route.
So be it. I spent way too many years trying to keep up with all of this stuff and contort myself to fit society’s values. Once I created my own and stuck with them – miracle of miracles – I found happiness.
Idea #20: Process, not perfection
“There’s no such thing as being done with an artistic life.” -Julia Cameron
Remember this: there is no there to get to. This is an on-going path. If you are bulimic or have been, you are so blessed to be learning and growing at this deep level. I hope this series has helped, or will continue to help, those of you who are quietly reading this blog and working through this issue. If you let your challenges teach you, they will. If you continue to ignore them and hope your life doesn’t have to change very much, then you’ll miss out on the magnificence and beauty that are available in the healing. Remember: the world always needs more healthy people!