Before I started my bulimia recovery website and this blog I thought my readers would be 20-something women who had less than five years of living with bulimia (or anorexia).
Boy was I wrong.
What I’ve found, now 10+ years into my recovery and 20 years with bulimia (totaling 30 yrs and counting), is that I was way off. If you’re reading this I want you to know you’re not alone if you’ve had bulimia for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. In fact, women with bulimia for 20 – 40 years are the ones who most often connect with me.
Why do I tell you this?
Because if you’re still living with binging and purging as part of your life and you’re in your 40’s or 50’s and are resigned (or still trying) to figure out how you can “manage” your disorder until your die – you are not alone.
In fact, I have over 800 subscribers to my recovery newsletter – many of whom are in their 40’s/50’s (a few in their 60’s) and they’re all looking for hope and inspiration…a way out from the straight jacket that bulimia creates around us.
I don’t mean to start this off on a somber note. I just don’t want you to feel like you’re the oldest living bulimic because I can guarantee you’re probably not. And who cares if you are? We’re not keeping score. We’re creating recovery stories.
What matters to me is you’re wanting something different for your life.
What I’m trying to do here is open the conversation and to let you know that no matter how long you’ve been bulimic, there is ALWAYS hope. Recovery is possible for anyone at anytime.
Here is a story I found online from Val who is recovering after having had bulimia for 30 years. Most of the women I talk to who have had bulimia for this long say that their bulimia started before people knew what it was. Back then doctors and nurses didn’t know what it was. Therapists didn’t know how to treat it. The treatment centers, the access to online forums and chat groups, or local support networks just didn’t exist way back when. I can attest to that.
I can also attest to is the fact that women recover every day.
I see the recovery.
I read about it in emails and posts on my blog.
If you can open your mind to the possibility that you could recover, you open yourself to the support of the Universe to help you. If you’ve convinced yourself that your past is doomed to be repeated in your future, then you close yourself off to the support of your powerful subconscious mind to help you with ideas and resources to help you along the way.
Essentials for Recovery
As I think about all of the women I talk to who are looking for a way out of their personal hell with bulimia I thought it would be helpful to share a few of what I think of as essentials for recovery. These are the things I had to be (or do) in order to finally have sustained recovery. You can be these things, too. If I can do this, you can do this. Your story is not hopeless. I believe every one of us can have a happy ending. Are you ready to start creating yours?
7 Essentials for Sustained Bulimia Recovery
1. Hope – you have to have hope in your heart that you can recover. Hope doesn’t mean you know how to do it, or what steps or the time frame for how long it will take you. Hope means you feel deep inside that it’s possible for things to change. Once you move into hope you can easily slip into belief – or believing that it is possible for you to recover. Even after all these years? Yes, even after all these years you, too, can recover. Think of how many inspiring stories you’ve read of people who overcame terminal illness, loss of limbs, or some other extreme trauma and went on to lead extraordinary lives. Believe in your heart that if they can do it, you can do this.
2. Burning Desire – as human animals we are either driven by pain or pleasure. We will do things if they bring us pleasure, but we’ll do almost ANY-thing to avoid pain. Most of the women I talk to are driven by pain (shame, fear, doubt, self-loathing). Whether your burning desire comes from pain or pleasure, the stronger the feeling – the pull or push – to get away from things that cause suffering (fear of dying, body breaking down, hurting your loved ones) or the desire to achieve a new level of happiness is what will have you taking massive action towards sustained bulimia recovery.
3. Action – recovery is not an island you park yourself on. It is a journey and there are steps. You will not meet one person who has recovered who just thought about it and never did anything. Calling a friend, talking to your sponsor, meeting regularly with a therapist. Doing the work is what I call it. The work is processing whatever there is to process deep inside that’s creating the anguish you’re avoiding feeling by filling your void with food. Just like training for a marathon, you have to put in the miles leading up to the race to be in shape and cross the finish line.
4. Courage – there are going to be uncomfortable things you’ll have to do between now and when you’re living freely, passionately, independent of the urge to binge/purge. Divorcing your husband, telling your kids, moving out, moving away, quitting that job, splitting up from non-supportive friends or disconnecting from non-supportive people. The courage to face your fears comes in waves. You will be challenged to overcome the fears you are faced with today/ And then there is the courage to face the fears you haven’t even conceived but will face eventually as you continue to live your life. I find that recovery doesn’t mean that there aren’t uncomfortable or painful feelings in your life – but you are finally able to face them and move through them.
5. Commitment – if you’ve lived with an ED for as long as many of us have, you’ve probably had some level of “recovery” along the way. Some people recover for a month, six months, a year or a few years. To have sustained recovery is about you making a “burn the boats, no turning back” kind of commitment to WHO you are. To tell everyone in your life you’re a non-bulimic (or recovered bulimic) and mean it takes commitment to BE-ing that person. It’s the different person you become as a result of the 4 essentials above.
6. Self-worth – what this means to me is a conviction to treat yourself with love and acceptance. To prioritize your needs above those of others (whenever and wherever possible….and it’s always possible). To believe you’re worth treating well and to stop the negative self-talk. To quiet the disapproval or upset others will have if you prioritize your happiness, your needs, above theirs – especially husbands and children. I see far too many women who suffer in silence because they don’t want to upset their kids or husbands. Please stop that! You are suffering and that does not make you a very good parent/lover/spouse. I could go on about why this is, but please trust me that bulimia keeps you from being loving and letting love in. Bottom line – put yourself first or die suffering.
7. Gratitude (Appreciation) – I don’t know anyone who’s recovered and thriving who isn’t grateful for their life. The success story interviews I did last fall showed me that the number one most common trait among people with recovery is an underlying sense of appreciation for the things in their life. And if you think you can get to recovery and then be grateful, it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to find things to be grateful for now and then your recovery will only give you more to be grateful for.
Well, those are my essential elements to have recovery in your life. If you have sustained recovery and want to add to this list for me, please leave a comment below.