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Freedom From Bulimia – Vulnerability & Confession

I’ve had a powerful realization in the past week and I would like to share some of my dirty secrets.

Not because I really want to, but because I want to show you how it can be done

…and what result of living a whole hearted life can do for you.

The Cloak of Secrecy

Bulimia as Your Master [Identity]

I’ve been communicating with a woman by email in her 50’s who says she fears her Mom (now in her 80’s) is still bulimic.  She’s concerned about her and wants to help her.  What I explained to her is that she hides her bulimia because she’s ashamed.

It’s a secret she doesn’t want anyone to know.

The veil, or better…the shield, of bulimia is something that we feel protects us from pain.  Having this outlet, this vehicle to relieve ourselves with when upsetting things happen in our lives or to us, is a like a giant security blanket.

We take our virtual security blanket, maybe a few dozen donuts or a gallon of ice cream and hide out from the world.

We withdraw ourselves from the connection and love of others because we fear we’re unworthy of being loved.

We stuff ourselves with food to fill the hole in our soul because we don’t want to feel that deep sadness, anger, disappointment or any other negative feeling we think could kill us.

The secrecy behind bulimia or any other secret we keep from others is what separates us.  It creates disconnection and isolation.  We think bulimia, our secret binging and purging, is helping us survive and get through tough times.

I’ve got some bad news for you.

Your secret about your bulimia is what is keeping you from your happiness.  …your Joy.

How to Stop a Binge BookHow to Stop a Binge Book There is not a person who has recovered from bulimia, including me, who would tell you binging and purging was ever worth the price of losing the love and connection with others.

But, you may not know that yet.  You may be so swept up in the act, the struggle, the daily routine and pattern of binging and purging that you can’t see how it keeps you stuck.

Your eating disorder has you in a straitjacket!

If you are actively binging and purging I want you to picture yourself for a moment wrapped up in a straitjacket.  A white jacket with those extra-long sleeves, tied around your back, and locked up to the neck.

Picture yourself in this straitjacket…

Do you see how you could not embrace a friend who loves you?

Visualize being tied up within your eating disorder…

Could you hold someone you care about if you had a straitjacket on?

Could you comfort yourself or sooth yourself if you needed a hug?

Could you express yourself in the world from your heart if you had this straitjacket on?

Could you stand tall and proud, could you be playful and fun like a kid, could you touch the beauty of nature that abounds if your hands are wrapped behind your back?

You are not able to embrace and open your heart to all the glorious gifts in your life because some time ago you put on this white straitjacket called an eating disorder and tied your hands around your back.

Ever since then you haven’t even realized what you’ve missed out on, what you’ve had to let go of because you can’t welcome it in with open arms.

An eating disorder may feel like this shield you have out in front of you protecting you from the world’s wrongs.  That idea itself is wrong.

Your eating disorder is like walking through life with an invisible straitjacket.  You don’t even realize you are tied with your hands behind you because you can’t see it.

I want you to see it.  I want you to unlock that straitjacket.  And…I think you can.

No.

Sorry, I take that back.

I don’t think you can.

I KNOW YOU CAN.

I KNOW YOU CAN with all of the fiber of my being.

You have forgotten that the jacket is actually not tied or lockedIt’s actually unlocked and you can take it off any time. 

If you decide to.

If you choose to.

If you tell a new story that you want to and deserve to.

Shame vs Guilt

I want to help you see how you can unlock the invisible straitjacket you’ve wrapped yourself up with. I believe one of the keys is in releasing the shame you feel.  The shame you feel in a lot of areas is binding you to your eating disorder like glue.  It’s the quick sand that takes you down when you try to step up to who you have become or step outside of your comfort zone.

What underpins shame? 

The feeling of “I’m not good enough”.

In Brene Brown’s TED talk that I love so much she talks a lot about how shame and guilt are different and how vulnerability is access to releasing shame.   If you haven’t read my earlier posts about her talk, please do, but I want to go a step further here with you.

In her talk Brene said:

    “What underpinned this shame is this “I’m not good enough”, which we all know that feeling … I’m not blank enough, I’m not fit enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.  The thing that underpinned shame was excruciating vulnerability — this idea that of in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”

In Brene’s Book, Daring Greatly she distinguishes shame from guilt in this way:

Guilt = I did something bad.

Shame = I am bad.

Pause.

Breathe.

Take 30 seconds right now and let that sink in.

Do not keep reading until you really, really get that distinction.  Because when you do you will start to unlock those invisible ties that bind you to your eating disorder.  Or to any behavior that has you hiding out and not being with people.

What my new understanding of shame has taught me is that it is when I can let myself be seen, and heard, and taken in….I am free.  I am free to truly be me.  Truly connect with another person.  To feel love and be loved.

When I release the shameful story I keep from other people, I can be uncomfortable in the moment of the telling it.  But, forever I am free like a bird to soar because it is not something I let hold me back.  Once that secret or shameful thing I held so close to me is known, I unlock my own cage and go free.

Sharing Vulnerably

I want to share two stories with you – including those things I mentioned earlier I was ashamed to let others know.

When I first stepped out into the world after deciding, or declaring to myself, that I was a non-bulimic I had the opportunity to tell a new person I was dating that I was a non-bulimic.  It was less than 90 days after my declaration and it was actually our first date.  I knew that if I was going to have any relationship with this man or any other I would need to let my secrets out.

I have heard from people with great, masterful, loving relationships that they don’t keep secrets from each other.  I believe that’s true.  Our secrets only put that wall of shame (or even just guilt) between us and create witholdings in the relationship.  It’s like knocking a few cracks into the concrete foundation of a relationship.  The more withholds, the more cracks.  Eventually the base gives out and the relationship crumbles.

So, as I stepped out and started dating after deciding I was non-bulimic I knew every relationship would have to be built on a factor of trust and I shared openly that I had bulimia.  It felt scary to tell him, but also hugely relieving. If he could not accept it, then we were not meant for each other.  He did and we had a wonderful relationship for many years after that.

The next story I want to share with you happened more recently – last weekend actually.  As you may have read on my blog elsewhere, I am a fan of Tony Robbins’ work and am part of a Tony Robbins MasterMind Circle in my home town.

Our circle had a day-long retreat where we worked on our life’s vision and goals, created stronger connections with one another and felt the support of the group in what we’re up to.  It was a magical weekend and I feel quite transformed out of the work we did.  More on that work I’m sure will unfold in future posts.

The one thing I want to share was after our initial welcome and hello’s the facilitators of our circle got us right into a very vulnerable situation.  First 15 minutes we were going deep!

They asked us to take a few minutes and share with the circle

What you don’t want people to know about you?”  Actually, I think the question was…

What’s the thing you MOST don’t want people to know about you?

Either way the uneasy shifting and awkwardness had me squirming in my seat thinking of taking a quick potty break or just running for the door.  I knew fear had immediately shown up and my inner monkey mind was going nuts.  My monkey started jumping from shoulder to shoulder with ideas of how I could get away with sharing something, but not the thing I MOST wanted people to not know about me.

Whew! I knew I didn’t want to go first because I didn’t want to chicken out and give a half-baked answer that really didn’t create vulnerability.  But I needed a few minutes to put my big girl pants on and speak from a place of sweet tenderness and openness.

One thing I want to add before I go on is that I’ve known members of this group (some of them for several years, some for less than six months) for enough time that I felt comfortable my secret would not be shared with anyone else.  We even said “what happens in our retreat stays in our retreat” so we had a level of agreement right from the start and I trusted that agreement.

Ok, back to that awkward moment…monkeys and all.

As I listened to a few other people open up I knew it was time to share my secrets – because I had an inkling secrets would set me free.

I opened up to my group two things about me I didn’t want other people to know.  I told them that I had a lot of sex in my 20’s and 30’s looking for love.  While I had bulimia I spent many nights with guys who didn’t love me, but I thought maybe they could if they had sex with me.  It took me many, many years and a lot of empty one-night-stands looking for love disguised as sex.  It took a lot of deep inner work for me to see my real beauty and like me as a person. Before I did that work I thought sex was how they would come to see the most beautiful parts of me. I know now, as a wise woman, that I was going about it all wrong.  Lessons learned.  I have been ashamed about all of those empty relationships for decades, but I’m lettin’ them go.  Right here….right now.

Like Brene’s definition of shame vs guilt.  I did some bad things, but I’m not a bad person.  I don’t even think those things were bad. Back then I did. I was a young, naive woman who didn’t know what she was doing, who she was or what she wanted.  Up to last weekend, I did let that shame of not knowing what I was doing be one of my shame shields that I hid out behind.  Well…no more.  Now you know.  Know I know you know and we can move on.

The next secret I felt I didn’t want the group (or you or anyone) to know was that I have about the same amount of money in my bank accounts as I did when I was 25 (I’m 41). That feels yucky.  That feels like I’m stupid and immature.  What the wise woman in me tells myself now is that I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve explored the world many times, I’ve lived a pretty high-flying lifestyle and have not taken time to cherish and respect money and allow it to work for me.  The monkey mind tells me I’m worthless.  The wise woman tells me I know better now and I do things differently now.  And I am.  I’ve been more conscious and mature with my money in the past 90 days than just about any time in my whole life.

Until last weekend I didn’t want anyone to know where I was financially. It was another shame shield I was using to push people away with and hide out you and the world.  Now you know.  Know I know you know and we can move on.

Let’s Be Straight With Each Other

Here’s what I’d like you to ask yourself and answer right now before you move on…

Do you feel like I’m a bad person?

Do you feel like you want to stop reading and never come back?

Do you feel like throwing our relationship away?

Do you feel like I should be taught a lesson or ashamed of myself?

Do you?

Do you?

I don’t think you feel any of these things towards me. I actually think you feel quite the opposite.

I think you now feel more connected to me than when you started reading this.

I think you’re feeling vulnerable and open yourself.

I think you’re feeling less ashamed of yourself.

I think you feel more connected to me, and to yourself, because you know my secrets.

And that’s the power of opening up.

Therein lies YOUR power.

You see, as I write this I’m sitting more tall, more open, more confident than when I first started writing this. When I thought about telling you all of this I didn’t feel so big and powerful.

I felt afraid.  I felt small. I felt like you’d leave me.

All of that is just the monkey mind doing its job of keeping us separate.

Of keeping me from connecting with you – and you with me.

But we don’t have to fear that monkey mind, that eating disorder mind any longer.

We – you and I – now hold the key to our cage in our own hand.

Do you see that my sharing with you in a sweet, vulnerable way has freed me from my cage?  How it can free you, too?

Do you see you have the key to your cage?

Do you see that you can unlock yourself from your eating disorder by putting yourself out in the world in a tender, vulnerable way?

By connecting with others in a sensitive, open way you unlock your cage, your straitjacket, you put down your shield and let the love in.

And let the love inside come out.

My Confession

Yesterday I had the opportunity to try this again with a dear, close friend.  Someone I know I can trust and who loves me.

I told her I had been drinking each night for the past three days when I got home from work. I told her I came home from work and had two beers by myself.  Not that two beers will kill you, but because I know I was having those beers out of habit, not mindfully.  When I am being run by my habits, my unhealthy patterns, I realize it so easily now because of my heightened awareness to all of this stuff.

My inner compass is very dialed in.

I realized how free-ing it was to share last weekend with her and some others about my secrets so I decided to tell her what was going on.  She embraced me, offered love and support unconditionally and I felt better.  I knew the work was mine to do on this situation, but telling her let me out of my cage of shame.

As I was driving to work today I had this ah-ha and it was…

Now I know what Catholics have confession every week!

Good grief! ….why has it taken me so long to get this?!

Confessing – or as I’d like to call it – sharing vulnerably is what unlocks us to be our true potential. To be our highest selves.  I don’t much like the word confession because that sounds like I did something wrong. It sounds like I’m a sinner and I don’t believe in such things.  I believe we’re all learning and you’re not bad if you’re growing and trying new things and learning as you go.

Brene Brown on Being Vulnerable & An Invitation To You


I want to share a few more things and then I’d like you to share vulnerably for yourself.  There is a great interview with Brene Brown on Huffington Post that I want to share a few excerpts with you now….

Rosenberg: In 12-step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous part of addiction recovery is sharing our vulnerability and secrets.

Brown: Our secrets definitely keep us addicted, which is probably why there are online sites where people can divest themselves of their secrets, anonymously. But because shame happens between people, there is no substitute for telling on ourselves, so to speak, to someone else and making ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.

Rosenberg: Yet you write that not all friends are appropriate for this type of sharing. Examples you give in the book are a friend who gives sympathy but not empathy, a friend who minimizes the emotional import of what is shared because she views you as a pillar of worthiness and a friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability, she actually scolds you for letting something shameful happen.

Brown: We need to share with those who have earned the right to hear it and people who are invested in the friendship. Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky. Sharing and hearing intimate stories is also not most people’s “default setting,” since we tend to self-protect from hurtful things. If someone drops a shame bomb on me, I am likely to give a non-compassionate response if my own resources feel scarce.

What separates people with a strong sense of love and belonging from those who do not?

They believe they’re worthy.

Worthiness is a CHOICE. 

Read that one more time.

Yes, seeing yourself as worthy is a choice.

Brene said in her TED talk:

    “… I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness (that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness, they have a strong sense of love and belonging), and folks who struggled for it (folks who are always wondering if they’re good enough).  There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggled for it … and that was that people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.  That’s it.  They believe they’re worthy.”

How do the “Whole Hearted” live?

With courage, compassion, and conviction.

They understand they have the ability to let go of who they thought they should be, to become who they already are.

Brene says that what “worthy” people have in common are:

Courage – “A strong sense of courage.  … They had the courage to tell the story of who they are with their whole heart … These folks had very simply the courage to be imperfect.”

Compassion – “They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.”

Connection – “And, the last was they had connection.  And this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity.  They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were, which is, you have to absolutely do that, for connection.”

Whole Hearted People As Vulnerable

Brene says whole hearted people…”fully embraced vulnerability.  They believed that what made them vulnerable, made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating, they just talked about it being necessary.

They talked about the willingness to say I love you first.

… The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees.

… The willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram.

… Be willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.

They thought this was fundamental.”

Please share something you most don’t want people to know in the comments below.

To living a whole hearted life,

Polly

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Dear Polly,

    Thank you for your honesty, your openness and your courage. Every word moved something in me and I feel relieved.

    Love and light,
    Lieve

    1. Hi Lieve,

      You’re most welcome. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable and receiving me fully with love and compassion. It’s a two way street my sister.

      Much love,

      Polly

  2. Thank you, for this extremely helpful blog!!! What I am most afraid of sharing is that I am STILL struggling with bulimia it’s been a 15 years now, I have had times of freedom but somehow slipped back into it. I hate it so much and am feeling so weak against it, praying that God will be my strength and I know He will but I totally agree with you it is totally a choice and a habit. Nothing extreme happened to me in my childhood that would throw me into this loop, it was clearly a choice I made at a time of low self worth and feeling in a panic to loose a few pounds. It became a habit and a choice I need the strength to change how I deal with food now and I need to be healthy and whole for me and for my family and friends!! Thank you!

    1. Hi Viveca,

      So nice to hear from you. I’m glad to hear you realize you have a choice and I highly recommend you look into how to break habits. I have learned a lot over the years of recovery that have me now realize bulimia is not a disease, it’s a habit. I developed this habit and my life wasn’t all that bad when I did. I take responsibility for using b/p as a means to diet and stay thin when I was a teenager and I didn’t realize it would be a habit I kept doing for 20 years. I finally woke up, as I believe you are, to what I was doing and that I could absolutely turn that habit around. You don’t need years of therapy to do it either. You just need to learn what’s causing the habit and how to create a better, healthier habit to serve you when you’re facing tough/challenging situations.

      I hope you’ll explore more on my blog that will help you.

      Wishing you the best,

      Polly

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