Watching a bright woman confidently search for a non existent method that will make her bulimia vanish is the saddest part of my work as an eating disorder recovery psychotherapist.
*pix Naive innocence is dangerous.
Today, in Los Angeles, I received yet another request for help I cannot provide. The woman asked for tips and a simple plan that would end her bulimia in a week or two. When I said recovery requires deep psychological work she responded with anger and disdain saying, "You have got to be kidding. I don't have time for years of treatment. I want something that will work now."
We ended our conversation, and I felt sad and helpless knowing her bulimia would become more entrenched as she looked for the answer to her wish.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder and want help in finding or deepening your recovery, I can support your efforts and often help you find a way to get on or proceed on your recovery path.
But if you are suffering from an eating disorder and request instant relief from a "tip" or simple pain relieving suggestion you are asking for something I (and no one) can give you. Why not? Because bulimia is an illness and a way of coping in the world. When you are bulimic your binge purge episodes make up your normal way of living day by day. To you bulimia seem normal, permanent and necessary. You believe you can't function bingeing and purging when you feel the urge.
At the same time, you believe that there is something wrong, weak, deficient or morally bad about you because you can't stop the behavior. You also feel shame because your weight fluctuates, and you are never pleased with whatever number appears on your scale.
Surely, you say to yourself, you could just stop bingeing and purging. No one is forcing you to behave this way. Or maybe you think you don't have to stop because it's a quick and easy way to relieve tension.
Sometimes you can binge and purge with no problems. But sometimes you have to binge and purge so many times in a day that you can't have a life. You can't leave your home. Or if you do, you have to get back home soon. You interrupt school, work, family time and social engagements to find a way to binge and purge. I know women who binged while driving and had to stop in alleys to vomit before driving on. You wish this was not the way you had to live.
If you are steeped in wishful false beliefs, you wish for the impossible. You wish your anguish and binge purge prison would blow away in the wind like the dandelion in the photo. You wish you could wake up one morning feeling good. You wish you would never have the binge purge urge ever again and live in peace every day for the rest of your life. But that doesn't happen.
You wish that someone could give you a tip or a simple formula that would help you slow down or stop your binge purge activities. That doesn't happen either.
A tragedy in this wish is that exploiters do exist who will make easy promises you want to believe. If you reach for these promises, which usually come with a high price, you feel worse about yourself when the easy answer doesn't work. You feel that you failed again.
To move toward real recovery you simply have to get real yourself. The wishes and false beliefs have to go. At least they have to tremble and weaken enough so a different and more realistic approach is possible for you.
Living with bulimia is not easy. Recovery isn't easy either. Recovery takes commitment and determination as you work, on a regular basis, to get genuine healing so bulimia is no longer necessary.
If you are steeped in wishful thinking and false beliefs you can't hear this. But if you have doubts in the validity of your eating disorder thinking and way of life, you have an opportunity to risk stretching toward a real recovery path and a much better way of living. Then I can help you and so can others who know reliable paths to recovery.
What beliefs do you have about yourself and your eating disorder that you might be able to challenge?
*pix FreeImages.com/Greg Jordan