Who this post is NOT for:
- Those who have no emotional tie (through themselves or others) with Bulimia.
Who this post IS for:
- Those eager to better understand the tragic reality that is Bulimia.
- Those suffering that are looking for anyway out.
- This is a moderately graphic read. While not inappropriate, you may find yourself: rattled, disgusted, or disturbed. Do not read if you’re unwilling to accept those sensations.
- Nothing written here is meant to replace the role of a qualified Counselor or Professional. If you need help– reach out.
“Quick- Imagine this.
Imagine every single day, waking up to the worst day of your life.
Each day begins different, but by nightfall they’ve all ended the same. Whatever your biggest fear is, whatever your most horrifying regret is. . . it happens.
Every. Single. Day.”
I looked at this man standing on the edge, searching for something I could say.
Anything that would get him to take a step back down.
But before I had the chance, he continued.
“It gets worse, you know.
The thing that has you terrified? You’re completely aware that it’s coming. So you try your hardest to stop it. . . or to at least avoid it.
But like every day before, and every day after, no matter how hard you try, it eventually happens.”
The man takes a step.
Now practically dangling from the edge.
“And after all of this. Do you want to know the most horrifying part?”
Mesmerized at this point, I remained silent.
Giving me one last look,
speaking one last time,
and taking one last step,
“Finding the courage to simply tell someone.”
What do I remember most?
Definitely the smell.
While it changed slightly from time to time, there remained a very specific scent.
From the first whiff, it isn’t too bad.
In actuality, it starts out smelling almost sweet. Not completely unlike a freshly baked loaf of bread. Slowly that aroma begins to transform. The once sweet smell takes on a new life, leaving behind the underlying hint of something much more… sickly.
It isn’t overly strong.
And at times you can hardly pick up on it. But once you do, it becomes impossible to shake.
There was always something unsettling about it. Unsettling in the sort of way that left you feeling wrong or dirty.
Which maybe you were.
Or more accurately… Maybe I was.
And as I stood there, with my head hovering over the toilet, and my fingers half-way down my throat, I made sure to remind myself of that fact.
Wiping away the tears that intermittently streamed down my face, I plunged my hand deeper and continued.
What Else Do I Remember?
The first time you force yourself to purge, it really isn’t that bad.
In fact, it is surprisingly easy.
Maybe that is how we get hooked.
It appears as an easy way out.
Affording us a weakness where we wouldn’t normally afford one.
But the body is an amazing machine that adapts to almost anything.
Purging was no exception.
Over time, the once easy purge becomes something else.
- Begins to experience wear and tear. Repeated exposure to stomach acid causes your fingers to painfully dry out. Your knuckles begin to callous over from the grinding of your teeth. Your tongue becomes raw from the constant friction.
The slight tickling of your tonsils…
- Quits working. Your gag reflex, which used to be so sensitive, slowly becomes more and more resilient. And before you know it, you’re painfully carving away at the bottom of your esophagus with a foreign and unforgiving object. A tooth brush, spatula handle, pretty much anything that will initiate the regurgitation.
Formerly quick 20 minute routines…
- Become longer. Eventually you find yourself locked away for hours. Huddled over top of a toilet, shower, sink, or whatever your own personal hell hole is at the time. The self-torture slowly transforms into a full-time job.
That’s because it is.
But these exterior-based experiences aren’t where the pain ends.
And inversely, they aren’t where it began either.
No, the real pain manifests elsewhere. Boiling over from one singular hate-filled perception. One so deep that it manages to not only warp your grasp on reality, but also your perception of something much more important.
How you view yourself.
Why Am I Telling You This?
To Illustrate the Reality.
This stuff is morbid, I get that. But it’s also entirely real.
Despite this harsh reality, Bulimia remains incredibly misconceived, frequently being painted as a vain and shallow disease. Not only is this notion entirely false, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Bulimia is most often misunderstood because people fail to understand the emotional and psychological causation of it all. It is typically assumed that purging is simply caused by the horrific view of one’s self.
Which is true, the physical actions that accompany Bulimia do stem from a distortion of your self image. But that warped view of yourself is not inherently what causes the following actions.
It isn’t as simple as, “You see, so you do”.
It is more along the lines of, “You feel, so you see, so you do”.
That’s where it starts.
What these people feel.
What I felt.
That is where the misconception lies. Within the initial cause of the disorder.
I didn’t force myself to throw up because of what I saw in the mirror.
What I saw in the mirror was because of how I felt about myself.
So, to address the assumptions of vanity and shallowness,
here is the reality:
This disease does not revolve around a poor view of one’s self-image.
This disease revolves around a perverse hatred of one’s self.
What is Bulimia, Really?
The technical definition is written as the following:
an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.
an eating disorder in which a large quantity of food is consumed in a short period of time, often followed by feelings of guilt or shame.
And while those definitions are not inaccurate, they do not come close to telling the entire story.
Bulimia is a deep-seeded and highly emotional disorder. Its a vicious downward spiral and one that, the longer you ride, the harder it is to get off. Eventually leaving you seemingly trapped within the repeated self-torture and self-hate.
As with anything highly emotional, it is highly addictive as well.
While physically painful and damaging, the disordered person becomes reliant on the process. Craving the false and temporary sense of control on the one thing they hate most… themselves.
Imagine that for a second.
-Being absolutely addicted to abusing yourself.
-Hating yourself so much that you torture yourself on a routine basis.
For a disease so commonly viewed as superficial, it really is anything but.
So what would be a more accurate definition of Bulimia?
Probably something like this:
Bulimia is a repeated and highly addictive bout of self-torture expressed out of self-hate.
Or to put it in simpler terms:
How Do You Get Out?
There is one harsh truth that you’ll need to come to grips with:
Battling an eating disorder is sort of like climbing a never-ending mountain. There is no mountain top, there is no end to the climb, and there is no easy way up the ladder.
You will never truly cure your disease. Bits and pieces of it will always be left over. There will always be habits, scenarios, and instances that you’ll need to be cautious of.
The climb to recovery is steepest at the bottom.
And at the beginning, the difficulty is intensified. Every slip up results in a harder and faster fall, every step upward is harder and slower, and it will all seem like the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
Which it probably will be.
But here is the silver lining:
You can, in fact, climb your way out of the pit.
Things may never go back to normal, but they do get better.
Things may always be hard, but they do get easier.
At least, if you want them to.
And that is the key: Wanting it.
Because if you don’t truly want it, then none of this matters. It is often said that any life change is predetermined by one’s willingness to change. And for many occurrences, I’m sure that is spot on.
But, this is not one of those times.
Your ability to change will be determined not by your willingness to change… but by your eagerness to. Because if you want things to get better, you’ll have to make it happen.
Truly want to change?
Let me show you how.
For those suffering; Keep Reading.
For those who are not; Share This. So that someone who needs to see it… does.
Identify Your Trigger(s)
-Something that either sets off a disease in people who are genetically predisposed to developing the disease, or that causes a certain symptom to occur in a person who has a disease.
Triggers within disorders are nothing new, and as such, the topic has been addressed various times.
Somehow though, there are a few things that have been overlooked in the process.
When addressing bulimia, triggers are usually attributed to one of two things:
- A particular food that elicits a reaction.
- An overly restrictive diet or lifestyle that initiates insatiable cravings.
And while both of these things are absolutely true, at least on the surface, it’s really not that simple. Sort of like the public misconception of bulimia, it goes much deeper than that.
People are missing the layer right under the surface.
Most triggers are not tasty foods or crash diets.
The trigger usually lies within a habit loop that perpetuates you into the cycle.
I’m more likely to overeat when I overeat.
Let me explain.
For a long time, I thought my triggers boiled down to a few basic foods. Like peanut butter, for example. So to remove that trigger, I simply stopped buying peanut butter.
No peanut butter meant no trigger.
No trigger meant no binge/purge cycle.
Very quickly after that, I found myself binging on various types of foods. Protein bars, oatmeal, nuts… hell, I even lost it over a salad once.
That is when I stumbled across one very important realization:
My trigger was not any particular food, but rather ANY food I had not planned on eating.
It always happened the same way.
I would self-justify something extra into my diet– an extra handful of almonds, one more protein bar, a little extra rice.
I’d eat the extra food that I had not planned on eating, assuming I’d get fuller, and then I’d stop eating.
This all happened… except the stop eating part.
While planned eating never bothered me, eating “extra” only made me want to eat more.
It’s kind of like telling an alcoholic to just have one unplanned drink. The inherent act isn’t necessarily anything bad, but the relationship with that act is. And this poor relationship is what causes things to spiral out of control.
You need to find your trigger.
Everyone will vary slightly when it comes to what sets them off. It may be the same as mine, but it may be something different entirely. Whatever it is, it will probably be something easy to overlook.
Maybe being offered specific foods from friends and family is what gets you going. Not because of the temptation of the food, but because of an underlying reluctance to say no. Fearing judgement or an inability to please them.
Maybe it’s something else.
The possibilities here are endless and will be extremely individualized.
Take the time and find them.
Otherwise, you won’t be able to progress to the next step.
Break the Cycle
Bulimic tendencies tend to go in a very particular cycle. One that gets revolved over and and over.
The picture above is overly simplistic, but it does a good job of illustrating the spinning wheel that is Bulimia. On this wheel are various spokes which hold it all together and keep the cycle rolling.
The quickest way to break the cycle?
Break the wheel.
You have to find where the cycle begins.
Hint: The cycle begins at your ‘trigger’.
Your trigger is the Big Domino, it is what causes everything else to fall apart. But simply knowing what your trigger is won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to stop it.
Remember mine? The whole, “eating foods I didn’t plan on eating” thing.
Conventional thinking may tell me to “never eat off plan again”.
But how realistic is that? Not very.
I needed to find a realistic alternative, one that I could stick with long term.
This took me awhile to figure out.
Until, I came across the biggest “duh” moment of my life.
“Why not just plan these unexpected foods into my program?”
It really was that simple. Whenever I ate something I hadn’t planned on, I would pull out my plan, budget those foods in, and adjust accordingly. The simple act of adjusting for slip-ups gave me the inward satisfaction of staying on track.
That is all it took.
All of a sudden that slippery slope and urge to binge disappeared.
You need to break your “Big Domino”.
Or, the one thing that will keep all the others from falling.
While this cycle is a big circle, there is a beginning and an end. Your job will be finding that beginning (your trigger), and breaking it at that point.
No Trigger=No Repercussion
The trick here is to find a realistic way of breaking it. If grandma’s cooking is your down fall, it may be unrealistic to just never talk to her again. In this case, cooking for her or suggesting certain meals may be a better idea.
The first few times you try this, you’ll fail. But like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. The more often you break the cycle, the easier it will be to do so in the future.
Realize This Isn’t Easy
“Practice makes perfect, but perfection isn’t easy.”
So you’ve identified your trigger and created a realistic plan to break the cycle.
What comes next?
You’ll realize it is way harder than it sounds.
And then… you’ll fail.
This stuff isn’t easy.
If it was, you wouldn’t have been stuck here in the first place. This disease is an absolute addiction– a habit that has become deeply ingrained within yourself.
And as such, it’s going to be a fight every step of the way. Because the only way to truly break a habit is to replace it with another. Sadly though, that is much easier said then done.
Eventually, somewhere along the line, you’re going to run out of motivation or you’re going to slip up. The first time this happens will seem earth shattering, as if everything you’ve worked at was for nothing. Will power is not an infinite source and it will run dry at times.
Luckily, this is NOT an ‘all or nothing’ scenario.
Your success is going to be completely dependent on a consistent effort over time. Not one single slip up along the way.
You’re going to fail, you’re going to get knocked down, and it’s going to hurt.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
This stuff is hard. But hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Don’t let go of that fact.
Don’t expect any of this to be easy or quick.
It is important that you plan to fail. But it’s equally important that you don’t fail to keep trying.
Without sounding too cliche’, practice makes perfect. Everything you do is a skill and abstaining from your disorder is no exception.
This is not an area in which you can solely rely on motivation or will power. While both of them can get you starter, neither of them will keep you going. The only way to do that is to take the time and build the habits until they are as seemingly automated as brushing your teeth.
Progress is the repeated cycle of:
Buy into the process of repetition and the progress will take care of itself.
This one comes last. Not because it is the least important, but instead to drive home a point.
We understand that Bulimia begins with the emotions tied to one’s self-opinion.
Ironically, that is also where it ends.
Love and Hate are most frequently perceived as polar opposites.
Fire to Water.
Hot to Cold.
High to Low.
The unconditional antithesis of the other.
Which can make the transition from hating yourself to loving yourself seem all the more difficult. How does one go about manufacturing such a deep emotion when they currently possess the exact opposite?
But here is a secret:
Love and Hate are actually much more closely tied than most realize.
Both of these emotions are based out of an intense emotional perception of something. Whether you hate something, or love it, you care about it. At least enough to feel something.
The opposite of love is not hate… it is disinterest.
The opposite of hate is not love… it is indifference.
The opposite of either of these emotions is not the other.
The opposite is a complete lack of emotion all together.
You hate because you care.
And the fact that you care means there is something worth caring about.
Which there is.
It can be painful to admit, but when it comes down to it… you’re all you have.
You don’t deserve the pain.
You don’t deserve the torture.
But you sure as fuck are worth saving.
You’ve just got to be willing to save yourself.
You’re Worth It.
Forsan miseros meliora sequentur
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