With the holidays around the corner, I notice a tightness in my chest as I find myself remembering celebrations of the past years, indulgences, and personal turmoil. Forewarning, this could potentially be activating.
If only I was skinnier
When I was 16, I decided to develop an eating disorder (ED). Everything is a choice. I didn’t fully realize this at the time, but I was feeling unsettled after a long day of school and my coping mechanism was food. My pattern was numbing out instead of being curious and learning about what was really there under the surface. I didn’t have the tools to support my inner investigation back then and I didn’t know how to allow myself to fully feel my feelings. I suppressed painful memories and feelings, repeatedly with my bulimia, unaware that I was trapping toxic energy inside myself.
It all began when I made the decision one day to stick my finger down my throat and make myself sick after comforting myself with after-school snacks. I was trying to start a workout routine and my digestive system wasn’t cooperating so I ‘handled’ the situation in this destructive way. Running on a treadmill after eating wasn’t a good idea to begin with, but I wasn’t in a place where I was ready to give up mindless eating and I also desperately wanted to be skinny. I honestly believed that my life would be better, and I would be more confident, if my waist was smaller.
It is truly terrifying how quickly my ED (or rather the thoughts driving it) took hold of me after that simple decision to purge once. I felt the rush of a high afterwards and I suddenly experienced this weird energy to do things. It never seemed to last long for me; just a short adrenaline-fueled spurt until my fatigue and hunger came back. I was quickly hooked. I could now eat whatever I wanted and get a bit of energy in the process. I didn’t yet know the number of negative effects that would come along later on. I didn’t know how cruel I was being to my body and mind. My days started to fill up with a hunter-focus, seeking any foods I could binge on – sugar was the primary source and I couldn’t seem to get enough.
The truth of the matter
In reality this was all happening because I didn’t feel connected to others. I was insecure so I never showed the real authentic me and kept surrounding myself with people who had different values because I thought they were “cool”. I kept stuffing away my feelings of loneliness because I didn’t think they were valid. I had what looked like friends. It looked like I had connection from the outside yet internally I never felt more alone. I really didn’t know how to just be myself and allow connection to happen with people so I kept using food to fill this bottomless void. I believe now that I was actually blocking connections because I didn’t think I was worthy of acceptance. This was a recipe for disaster coupled with the influence of media on what an ideal woman’s body should look like.
I remember weekends where I decided to stay home and watch TV with my ED instead of going out and spending time with my peers. I remember my ED coming with me to all outings, constantly scanning for food that will give me a high and fill me up so I didn’t feel so empty inside. I remember my ED relapses almost every holiday for years because I wanted to be eating instead of socializing. I remember it being so challenging to break the cycle once it began. I remember the constant cravings, secrecy, shame, stomach discomfort, constant criticism of my body, and overwhelming fear.
I didn’t realize how much the ED was taking away from my life because I didn’t know my life was enjoyable beforehand. I’ve learned that community and connection are crucial to my wellbeing and enjoyment, yet I didn’t know how to get beyond surface-level connection in my teenage years. I deep down believed something was wrong with me socially and food was always there to comfort me.
In moments where I regretted going down this path, I knew I couldn’t just quit food… I tried briefly not eating in a scared attempt to control my situation and to end it and remember how badly I just didn’t want to exist anymore. I don’t think I saw a future for myself in some of those darker times. To stop the cycle I really had to stop purging even if I binged, but the feelings that came up when I tried to course correct were unbearable at the time. I wasn’t ready to feel them.
I can did it on my own… but why?
My parents saw my weight drop significantly and attempted as best they could to intervene and guide me in a healthy direction. Through the rest of high school, I tried to change at times. I also rebelled and hid my actions. It was a confusing time but eventually I realized that I actually wanted to live instead of escape my life. I told myself that things will change when I got to college and a part of me really hoped that would be true.
In my freshman year of college, I was eager and excited to start fresh! This would be a new me, I’d say to myself. I envisioned myself doing amazing in school, in a prestigious sorority, eating healthy (and ED free), and attending great parties. A lot of that actually happened, with much effort and force, except for the ED free part. The thoughts plagued me in times when I was alone and hit me especially hard during Thanksgiving and Christmas. In reality, relapsing is a totally normal part of recovery but as a perfectionist this was not acceptable to me. Beating myself up for my actions or setbacks created even more internal emotional chaos, on top of my eating imbalances. I also had the added pressure of college courses, more freedom, and increased thoughts of comparison in the sorority I joined. I didn’t connect with any therapists I met primarily because I thought I was being judged if I needed outside assistance. So I gave up and told myself I would fix this on my own.
Looking back, it would have been a much smoother road with help. If I had continued to search and if I had known how important and okay receiving help was, I might have found some relief from the gripping thought patterns of my ED sooner. I really could have used assistance with internal awareness and reprogramming. I really could have used some help learning that I could forgive myself.
Where I am now
In reflecting on my past, I am amazed that I spent so many years absorbed in my internal food conflict and still managed to succeed in school and try new things. I suspect a lot of women do this: put on a happy face and look really successful when inside they feel like they are dying. This goes to show just how driven I was and still am.
What I was missing was the softness, grace, forgiveness, stillness, the ability to just be with all that is, and allow myself to feel all I was feeling. I am creating a healthier relationship with food each day now because I no longer beat myself up for what I eat and I love my body no matter what. I thank my food, as often as I can remember, before eating and take pauses now to check in with myself during my meals. I still love food and now also love deep connection with people. I fill myself up with love and I am grateful for all the tools I’ve learned that have helped me show up as me so connection can happen naturally.
What tools did I learn? Here’s one:
Speaking the microscopic truth
Get to the root of the experience! The microscopic truth is deeper than labels, explaining or analyzing, blame or victim mentality. It cannot be argued because it is your truth and it cuts past all the bullshit your ego likes to hide behind. Courageously voicing to others exactly what is going on for you can help you access your underlying feelings and tremendously increase your sense of belonging around others.
Sensations: “My notice a bloated sensation.” “I feel a knot in my stomach.”
Core Feelings: “I’m scared.” “I’m sad.” “I’m angry.” “I’m excited.”
Specific Thoughts: “I just heard a raspy voice in my head telling me I am fat”
Familiar Experiences: “This tight feeling in my belly is like how I felt at mealtimes as a kid.”
Do you resonate with my story? Are you struggling with feeling your feelings fully and stuffing it down with food, alcohol, drugs, work, or toxic relationships? Want to learn a different, more pleasurable way to live life? Comment below and let me know!
With love and light,
P.S. You can book an Intro Call with me and start breaking free from that which is blocking your unlimited love and pleasure! We can set up your Radical Pleasure road map and help you pave the way toward your deliciously authentic life.