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It is with great apprehension that I write this post and confession.

Two weeks ago, I reentered a treatment program at the hospital, because I have relapsed into bulimia, and can’t fight this alone.

The treatment program will last at least seven months, involving multiple weekly visits to the eating disorder (ED) clinic at the hospital, where I will participate in supervised meals, various groups and one-on-one therapy. This is my third time going into treatment.

* * *

I wasn’t sure what to do about this blog.

The hypocrisy of preaching healthy eating while doing ED treatment fills me with guilt. Journalistic integrity and my general spirit of unabashed honesty leave me with two choices: either stop blogging until I’m healthy, and keep bulimia a secret; or, confess, and keep blogging.

So damn me, I have chosen the path of confession.

Let there be no mistaking my position: I am embarrassed, and fear your judgement. I anticipate a mother’s worried phone call, awkward looks from my roommates, and the likely occurrence of borderline hate mail and humiliating Facebook threads. I am prepared for the possibility that anything but support will aggravate my self-destructive behaviours.

Despite these fears and the temptation to recede into seclusion, I see this blog as an opportunity. An opportunity to be honest about what I’m going through, if only on behalf of the thousands (millions?) of women who battle eating disorders in secrecy.

(At least I didn’t call the blog “eat like a healthy person.” A perusal of google hits for “celebrities with eating disorders” I think disordered eating is in fact more part of the rockstar diet than not. Just another challenge, I suppose.)

* * *

People have many ideas about bulimia, and in my experience, most of these ideas are incomplete, if not utterly wrong. There is one misconception I would like to address immediately.

“People with bulimia throw up to lose weight.”

This statement represents a simplistic, and basically false interpretation of bulimic behaviour.

Binging and purging (B/P) – the rapid, compulsive consumption of an uncomfortably large amount of food, followed by self-induced vomiting or compensatory exercise – is an addictive behaviour that results in increased weight. Most bulimics are of average, or slightly above-average weight. It also causes visible swelling of the face, jawline, neck and stomach, and does irreparable damage to the teeth and digestive system.

I’m not stupid. (I probably know more about nutrition, fitness and healthy living than the average person.) I’m sick.

I want to be skinny, probably for the same reasons many people want to be skinny. The difference is I have psychological issues like low self-esteem, a history of abusive relationships and sexual assault, and poor emotional management that cause this common desire to become an obsession. When I feel sad, mad, or stressed, I tend to under-eat. Deprived of adequate nutrition, hunger eventually overwhelms me and I binge, feel disgusted with myself, and then purge. And feel even worse.

To be perfectly clear, I don’t throw up “normal” meals, and I never binge in front of anyone. Binging and purging is a private act that lurks in the shadows of my life, late at night, alone on a rainy day.

After ten years of on-and-off binging and purging, I am under no illusions. Even though B/P makes me gain weight, and I want so desperately to look beautiful and slim and healthy, I continue to do it.

Recovery from bulimia involves two components: eliminating disordered behaviour (B/P, compulsive exercise, obsessive weighing and body-checking in mirrors, associated behaviours of overspending, drug abuse and binge-drinking, etc.) and correcting the underlying thought patterns and emotional mismanagement that result in these behaviours.

In previous experiences with recovery, I have normalized my eating, eliminated self-destructive behaviours, and even achieved decent levels of confidence about my self and body.

But I didn’t go far enough. I failed to gain true insight into how and why I developed an eating disorder in the first place. As a result, when I was sexually assaulted three years ago, overwhelming negative emotions – rage, humiliation, pain – threw me into a relapse. The stigmatized nature of sexual assault makes it difficult to talk about, and so it was the perfect trigger for my persistent inability to deal with intense negative emotions.

Oh, the anguish! I had tasted recovery, possessed the knowledge, studied the roots, lived it. And yet when faced with a painful experience, I watched myself slip down the deep dark slope back into full-fledged bulimia.

So for me, an eating disorder is a coping mechanism. I go about my happy surface life, working one or two jobs, texting, blogging, teaching music, writing music, touring and performing, dating, making friends, running errands, and so on. Feelings like anger, sadness and pain stay deep inside, where they fester like fetid wounds. Rather than deal with bad feelings and memories the way normal people do – talking to close friends, having hugs and crying, doing good things for myself – I wait until everyone’s in bed, and I binge and purge until, exhausted, I collapse into a troubled sleep and wake up to face another day.

* * *

In the coming months, I hope for your support. It has been ten long years of a fight for me, and I am so, so tired. Tired of hiding, tired of doctors notes and being late for everything and staying up till 5 am. I’m tired of buying enough groceries for a family of three to sustain my horrible binge-and-purge cycles. I’m tired of nobody understanding why I take forever to order food at restaurants, and why I have so many special requests and substitutions. I’m tired of people assuming I see beauty when I look in the mirror. I’m tired of living two lives.

I am a musician, and a foodie, and writer, and so I will continue to blog about all things rockstar-diet-related. And now I may do so with a clear conscience.

Wish me luck.

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25 thoughts on “Coming Clean: The Biggest Challenge Of All

  1. If I may… credibility is based on more than knowledge. It’s based on honesty and integrity. Two traits you’ve shown here. No judgments will be coming from this quarter. Lots of support, and my admiration, but no judgements.

  2. Good luck! I’m sure after an honest confession like that you will get nothing but support. I don’t know you nor have I read your stuff before but Your regular followers will likely be your biggest cheerleaders! Xo hugs from New Brunswick, Canada.

  3. Love you, honey. You know you can always lean on me. Hugs. It takes a lot of strength to come out and admit this to the webisphere.

  4. When I first moved here I ended up at a house party. It was your house and you were such a great host. You were doing your hair in your bedroom while managing to make everyone feel welcome. I thought you were fabulous, and was more than slightly intimidated by you. Since then, I have seen you around the city – playing music, doing yoga – you’re on that list of super cool people whose faces stick in your head and whose names you know, even though they probably don’t know yours. So when a link to this post popped up in my facebook feed, I recognized your name and clicked on it, and I’m glad I did, you just got so much cooler. Your bravery and honesty are astounding and inspiring. Thank-you.

  5. I know exactly what you mean and have experienced some of what you’ve been through. Thanks for your courageous and honest post. HAng in there and be kind to yourself. You are beautiful just the way you are.

  6. Amazing. I took am in recovery from bulimia and have dealt with relaspe. You are very brave and courageous. Thank you for speaking your truth. Wish you well. Please continue blogging if you have the time.

  7. I happened upon your story tonight while waiting for my 17year old daughter who was out at a school dance.I worry about both of my girls so much….I just want to be there to support them. We don’t know each other,but I am now also supporting you. Any time you need to, email me. I’m a great listener and I have had similar life trauma. If need be,you can also have my phone number…we all have to help one another. You can do this,I feel it in your writing.

  8. This resonated with me so much it almost reduced me to tears. I loved your brutal honesty, and your explanation of bulimia as a coping mechanism rather than dieting technique was just spot on. As a fellow bulimic you have highlighted the challenges involved in momentous task that is recovery, and I wish you all the best.

  9. Thank you for your strength, bravery and openness. I hope in the coming months you will come to see how strong you are and how much stronger you can be. You may have suffered alone so far, but please know that with you are legions of women who have struggled with similar chaos in secrecy and shame. All of us have faith in you!

  10. Good luck on your journey – and remember it’s not just about getting from “A” to “B” as with any trip, it’s about learning to cope and appreciate with what lies in between. I think for many of us bulimics or former bulimics it’s never really over we just learn how to cope with life a little better. Don’t beat yourself up if you revert to your “comfort” zone. Change takes time – so take your time – and congratulate yourself you made it this far :O)

  11. Pingback: Coming Clean: I’ve Relapsed into Bulimia and Can’t Fight This Alone | Doohickey

  12. Amazing courage, I think your bravery and passion for expression through music, writing, and owning your truth will put you on the road to recovery and health. Many blessings sent your way.

  13. Good luck. You want help with the pain, who can not understand that? Please know EVERYONE has pain it just presents itself differently from one person to another. You WILL learn to manage yours (in a more healthy manner). I believe you will learn the tools and with those tools life will become more manageable and enjoyable. I wish you all the best.

  14. As a wise person told me …. Keeeeeeeep talking…. Talk and talk and talk even to yourself until the answers you come up with stick… you know everything you need to… you’ll eventually remember as well…

  15. Thank you for this post. I think the most liberating thing about bulimia is finally talking about it, taking away the secrecy is like lifting a weight. I couldn’t agree with you more the misconception of how “dumb” people assume you are, when you are actually SO conscious of the damage and lack of actual results.
    You have inspired me to write about my own battle, thank you.

  16. Dear girl, thank you so much for sharing this. I had just google-searched. “Help bulimia relapse” and came across your blog. Thank you for your honesty and courage. Thank you.

  17. I found this blog after relapsing and b/p today.
    My parents both died traumaticly in the last couple years. I am single, 38 and my last family member is on the other side of the country where I moved from a year ago. My sole best friend recently had an affair with my recent ex boyfriend- who I dumped because he flirted with her. A lot.
    So what better way for bulimia to sneak back in.
    I wish you the best and hope I can beat this with psychotherapy.

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