Friday, October 2, 2015

just share it already!

I've written before about how *not* telling people about bulimia makes me feel like I'm lying. I've written before about how being open about bulimia reduces my shame and helps dispel society's stigma.

today I next-level-ed it: I let my undergrad sexuality class ask me about bulimia. (it was relevant; we were discussing the female sexual body, including body image.) I told them I wanted them to be exposed to it in a real way and encouraged them to ask anything they wanted.

I was scared to death.

I'm not sure of what. judgement? that they'd lose confidence in me as a teacher? that they'd lose respect for me? that they'd find it inappropriate and report it? --I don't think it was any of those. i think it was just the extreme vulnerability.

I planned to write a whole blog about this tonight. I wanted to unpack this a little more. but, as I sat down to write, I got an email: an email from a young academic across the pond. she has written me before, and I shared something she said to me in an earlier blog post.

"L" shared something so vulnerable with me tonight. her vulnerability in sharing this with me (when she has never shared something like this before) humbled my vulnerability in class this afternoon. L asked me if I was willing to share it with my readers, and I feel honored to do so. she didn't feel that she had another outlet, and she didn't feel like that she could post it for herself, but she wanted to feel heard in some way. I'm not posting all of it; I've edited it a little for length and I've removed anything that could be construed as "tips" or things I thought might be extremely triggering for someone in recovery. read as much as you can:

Today, I woke up with stabbing pains in my stomach shortly before 7am. The laxatives I took last night before I fell asleep were kicking in. I lay there for what felt like hours, until the pains become so strong that I knew I urgently needed to get to the bathroom. I stumbled out of the bed and made my way across the hall. The pain is always the same – so excruciating that I swear to myself that I will never again take another laxative. There were tingles all over my body and I broke out in chills. My insides felt as though they were going to implode and for a second I thought about the damage I must be doing to myself. I stripped off and gazed at myself in the mirror, sucking in my belly as hard as I could. I pressed my hand to my stomach, checking to see if it somehow felt as flat as it did yesterday. I breathed a sigh of relief - it didn’t seem like I gained much weight from the horrific 12 hour binge purge marathon I had yesterday. I looked at the scales and wondered whether or not to get on. I knew that I would be horrified at what I saw, so thought it would be best to wait until tomorrow.

In the shower, and felt so weak that every move I made was an effort. It felt like my bones weighed 3 times as much as they should. My arms were so heavy that it was difficult to wash my hair or my body. I always hate the shower; it forces me to confront every inch of myself.

I made it to my desk a little after 11am, and collapsed onto my chair, out of breath and completely exhausted. Two friends emailed to ask if I wanted to go for lunch later that day. I spent over an hour going back and forth in my mind: ‘you can’t eat today - you ate too much yesterday’…‘if you eat you won’t be able to stop and will put on at least another pound’…‘but one more day of binging and purging won’t hurt in the long run, ‘this will be the last day, tomorrow you can start again’…‘if you do this you are throwing away all of the work you’ve put into losing weight so far’…’you’re fat enough as it is, don’t eat anymore’…’fuck it, just today so, tomorrow you’re only having 100 calories’.

And that was that.

I met them at 1pm and ended up eating a pretty large dinner instead of a lunch. To my friends, I looked the same, I smiled at them and laughed at their jokes. But all the while my heart was thumping in my chest. It felt like my thighs and stomach were getting bigger with every passing second, and I wanted nothing more than for them to just leave me alone. As I ate, I was hunched over, embarrassed and ashamed of my body, worried they would think that I was getting fat.

I figured if I just kept eating until I was completely full, I could purge it all up in one go. So I ate more, I bought 2 chocolate bars and ate those at the table, left my colleagues and went to the nearest corner shop. There I spent $25 on snacks and ate it all, and by then it felt like I had ripped the lining of my stomach. Unable to stand upright, for the third time today, the pain was so sharp I had tears in my eyes as I tried my best to get to the nearest toilet. Although I have gotten pretty good at purging; it is still a difficult thing to do, especially when I’m crying at the same time. My throat was still raw and sore from all of the purging I did yesterday. With one hand down my throat, I punched myself in the stomach with the other as hard as I could to help get the food up. Even though I was sore all over, I could feel my entire body relaxing, the panic and the fear became less as I vomited. There is nothing scarier to me than feeling full. I purge quite forcefully, so I was gasping for air as I sat on the floor in the cubicle trying to gain enough composure to continue purging. Sitting on the floor of a public toilet cubicle crying next to a toilet bowl full of vomit was not how I wanted to spend my day.

I cried as I walked from the bus stop to my house. Once inside, I raided the cupboards. Anything at all that didn’t need oven time or defrosting, I threw into my bag. It was 5:30; I was so overwhelmed with panic that I started to hyperventilate. I slammed the cupboards and the fridge, took the stairs 2 at a time, sat on my bed, and ate, and ate, and ate. The pain was excruciating. It was a struggle to breathe because each time breathed in, the pain got sharper and sharper. The front door opened – my dad was home from work. All I could think was ‘I need to get sick!!’ I rushed to the bathroom, locked the door and turned on the shower. I couldn’t bare to undress and actually get into the shower; my stomach was bloated and undressing makes me feel even more ashamed and disgusted with myself. Sometimes sleep in my clothes and tonight was going to be one of those nights. But I didn’t stop there.

I went downstairs, said hello and closed the kitchen door behind me and began prepping food for another purge. I ate the additional food when it was ready. Having purged so much today already, I knew this time would be extremely difficult; my gag reflex was completely gone.

There are already 3 vomit stains on my carpet, now I have a 4th. I cleaned up as best I could.

It’s 10pm and I am completely wiped out. My entire body aches and tingles, and my heart is racing. I lie across my bed, and a voice in my head keeps saying over and over ‘what are you doing to yourself?’

for me, reading this was like a distant memory of a nightmare I had once had. the parts where she talks about the emotions and constant self-bargaining, the body-checking in every mirror, the accelerated heartrate, the self-loathing as she falls asleep. I haven't had a day like that in years. but most of her story was very similar to days I've lived through. they are days I've tried to put behind me and forget about. but I also think that there is value here.

there's value for me: remembering where I don't want to be again.
there's value for those who haven't experienced eating disorders: a tidbit of understanding.
there's value for L: she got something off her chest--and believe me, i know the value in that.

there's value for society:

talk about it,

share it,

and get it out there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

be bold

for some reason the word "bold" struck me today. i had read a blog post about the idea that the way that you tell "your story" shapes your life. the author mentioned that she was striving to tell her story in a bolder way. and i started thinking "would my story have a bold protagonist? would people describe me as bold? does pink hair equal bold? can i be bolder?"

one definition of bold is acting fearless. a course in miracles dichotomizes the world into fear and love. if we take that perspective, being fearless can be interpreted as living fully in love.

approaching difficult conversations, interactions, or situations with an attitude of love: BOLD.

i used to talk about "when i developed bulimia" before my lifecoach insisted i change it to "when i chose to start binging and purging." it took me a while to incorporate that language choice into my lexicon, but, when i did, it actually became easier to talk about. owning my behaviors put me in the protagonist's role: i was no longer a victim of circumstance; i was no longer "sick" or someone to be pitied; i was not blaming anything in my life on anyone else.

i hear people every day attribute their perceived failures, big or small, to outside circumstances. if we consistently think that our life outcomes are outside of our control, we are let off the hook of taking action. but if we recognize that we can take ownership over our pasts, of our decisions and choices, of where we are currently in our life, we can move forward boldly.

and the best part is that it is never too late to take that ownership. it is never too late to change your perspective on your story, or the way you convey it to other people. this week i had a first date with someone. during this date, i talked freely about my part in the ending of my marriage, among other things that could be interpreted as life-fails. my date listened to part of "my story" and then replied with "wow, i didn't expect to hear that; thank you for sharing that in such an honest way."

that whole marriage-ending story is one i haven't quite mastered all of the boldness in yet. i tend to say "when my husband left me" or "when my husband moved continents without telling me" because of the drama of these statements. but no one has never complimented me on those re-tellings. a few chuckles or embarrassed side-glances, perhaps, but nothing more.

the relationship stories can be some of the most challenging to own. because there is always another person there: there is always another person that can be blamed. so it can be difficult to take the words and actions that are ours within a relationship, and to own the effect they have on the outcomes. we have to let go of the hurts enough to release the want to blame the other person for the story's ending.

and sometimes we might not even know how we got to a relationship's ending. one of my friends recently blogged about the struggles of today's dating world. and believe me, i know. owning my story in unexplainable situations is very challenging--when i think that i have acted as a bold individual but feel that i have received fear in return, the boldness can feel worthless... but i think that knowing where relationship outcomes are not directly related to ourselves is also pretty bold.

i don't want to be let off the hook in any area of my life. i want to take ownership. the shift we can make and the power we create for ourselves through such boldness is impressive. we get to decide. we get to act. we get to create. we get to be the author. and fuck, i think that's all any of us want.

today, i choose to be bold.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

recovery is a long word

do you know what yik yak is? if you're not under 25, or one of my best friends, the answer is probably no. it's an anonymous twitter type app that i'm obsessed with--along with all 18-25 year olds. you can only see yaks that are posted in your immediate area, so if you're near a college campus, or in a big city, it will be super interesting. (if not, don't even attempt to download it!)

you can comment on people's yaks and up or down vote them. if a yak gets 5 down votes, it is automatically removed. which is kind of cool, because it is a little self-regulating. anyway, it can be a mean place (because it is anonymous), but it can also be a super supportive place (because it is anonymous).

point of the story: a young girl posted tonight about binging and purging. i replied, she replied, i replied, etc. she hadn't told anyone about her eating disorder; she kept it hidden; she didn't know what to do.

is how i felt. and i wanted to help her: i wanted to do all the things for her. i told her about how hiding it amplifies the shame, and about how admitting it (even anonymously) was a good first step.

that admission can be SO. HARD.

i've had other people grace me with their admissions in the past, both about eating disorders and other mental health issues. and every time i feel this intense yearning to soothe and nurture; to offer support; to provide forgiveness.

i know those feelings arise from the needs i have so strongly felt in my life. the needs that i was afraid to express, and afraid to have met--both by myself and others.

this morning i did an online yoga class with elena, and she said this:
the amount of energy that it takes to resist the expressions of our heart and recoil from our divine nature is exactly the same amount of energy it takes to surrender. this energy cannot do both at the same time.
when she said that, i freaked out a tiny bit. like it struck a chord inside me pretty deeply. i couldn't say for sure exactly why this morning.

and now, i feel like, oh, yeah. it's because all i do is struggle with how vulnerable i can be. how vulnerable can i be with exposing my sensitivities, my true feelings, and my insecurities? how vulnerable can i be with admitting TO MYSELF my sensitivities, my true feelings, and my insecurities?

seeing my struggle reflected back through a younger version of myself hurt. i wanted to protect her; i wanted to speed up her healing process.

not that i'm recovered.

not that any of us are.

from whatever.

but, you know, we're all ok anyway.

we're all on this journey of recovery.

which is actually just life.

so keep recovering. keep remembering that true nature. keep forgiving those who can't yet. keep supporting them. and put all your energy into the surrendering: to the vulnerabilities, sensitivities, feelings, and insecurities. i swear it's fucking worth it.

now watch this. #love

Monday, August 31, 2015

the light at the end of the grocery store aisle

i was mopey all weekend. apparently i was being a "mopey mopey babe." last night one of my friends was trying to cheer me up and he dragged me out with him to pick up a pizza. as we were walking toward the pizza shop, it started raining. i almost broke down in tears, being in the mopey mood i was in. he pushed me into the grocery store we were next to, and told me to wait in there for him to get the pizza. as i walked into the store, a sad song was playing, and tears started streaming down my face.

and then, a small panic swept over me: i realized i hadn't brought anything with me--no phone, no money, no keys. i didn't know what pizza store my friend was going to, and now i had been deserted at this grocery store in the middle of a storm. i thought, "i could yelp close pizza stores... oh wait, i don't have my phone. i could go back to the house... oh wait, i don't have my keys."

i walked helplessly in a lap around the store, and then just walked straight back out, sure that i'd never see my friend again.

as i walked outside, my friend walked up and i collapsed in his arms saying i thought i was going to have to spend the night at that grocery store. he laughed a bit maniacally and said that he would never do that to me, though it would've been a brilliant plan--especially considering my level of mopey-ness.

well that whole thing showed me i kind of needed to turn the corner.

what was before the corner? saturday morning i woke up and found that someone i cared about deleted me from their life without any explanation. it was pretty jarring. i'm grown up enough to know that this wasn't my fault, and i reached out via text message to this person and offered compassion, hopefully offering a safe space for this person to respond back to me. they haven't yet. it left me feeling a little small. i was shrinking into myself with fear about the situation.

luckily my friends distracted me most of the weekend.

they are the most lovely friends in the world.

and then this morning i went to yoga. the teacher taught a theme of expansion: of expanding past our physical boundaries. on the mat, i reached my arms wider than i ever had before. i stretched my legs further apart. i cartwheeled my arms bigger, i radiated my heart with more passion and energy than i thought possible.

and i BREATHED. so deeply. so fully.

the feeling that emerged as i did this was overwhelming: i felt myself shattering the shell of fear i had encased myself in over the weekend. i felt myself thinking "i'm bigger than this. i'm bigger than this feeling of fear. i'm bigger than this mopey-self. i'm bigger than all this shit!"

i left the class with a knowing that i'll be ok. a knowing that i turned the corner: i made it out of the grocery store, and i'm making it out of this.

and to the person that evoked all of this: i'm also big enough to handle whatever is going on. that's an offering and a promise.

love, compassion, peace. and expansion. so much expansion. outside and inside.

Friday, August 21, 2015

rose-colored life

i live in new york city, so i've heard a few car horns. ok, i've heard a lot of car horns. this morning i was walking with a friend and he screamed back at a car stuck in traffic "why are you honking? what do you think is going to happen?" i laughed and said that the people honking in the cars were likely very upset about a lot of things, and that they didn't know how to express those emotions in their lives. so? they honk.

"honk" is my new shorthand for "wah wah wah, i don't know how to properly process this!"

we're all guilty of this occasionally, of course.

what's funny about my response to the above story is that i immediately replied with compassion to the people polluting my environment with noise. but when i fail to process something well, i rarely reply with compassion toward myself.

last night a friend told me that they were dealing with some depression/anxiety issues. i replied with compassion. but when i think about my own issues? i reply with the opposite. "why do i feel this way today? what's wrong with me? why can't i feel this way? why can't i act this way?"

mid-blog writing, i paused for dinner. i ran home while listening to a podcast and then over to a friend's to watch a tv show while eating pizza. in those two instances of media mid-writing, i heard two instances referring to the saying "rose-colored glasses." i've never particularly liked that phrase, because i thought that it kind of makes fun of optimists, and i consider myself to be one most of the time.

in the latest freakanomics podcast, they interview dan gilbert (a harvard psychology professor) about some ads he helped prudential with. when he discusses happiness, and people planning for their hopeful futures, he stated the following:
I love the metaphor of rose-colored glasses. That’s the way to view the world. They’re rose-colored, meaning there is a tint. You are seeing a rosier future than we will really experience. But they’re glasses. They’re not opaque, right? They’re not blinders. You actually are seeing the world. And if there’s a train coming, it’s a little bit rose-tinted, but it’s a train.
i really really liked his interpretation of the glasses. it made me feel hopeful.

and then, mid-pizza, i heard another reference to rose-colored glasses on bojack horseman. a character on the show said "when you look at the world through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags." ...and then i felt compassion for that character. it was a potent line, but it didn't dissuade me from wanting to be optimistic about the world. perhaps cautiously optimistic, but still optimistic.

and all of this rose-colored talk reminded me of the compassion i was trying to cultivate toward myself. what if i just slightly altered my perception of myself instead of something more drastic? practicing on others has given me the tools; i just have to reflect the rose-colored tint back inwards.

a rose-colored mirror, if you will.

self-compassion. self-love. hands on heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

lies: little, white, and not-so-little, not-so-white

adi climbs in all kinds of boxes!
my 4-year-old best friend adi got into a cardboard box last time i was visiting with her. she wanted to play jack-in-the-box and then asked me to close her inside the box. as soon as i began to fold down the second two flaps, she squealed, "maybe this isn't a good idea; I can't breathe!" it was kind of cute; it was kind of hilarious.

and that's kind of what i felt like today: a little trapped, a little suffocated, a little scared... and a little like i brought this all on myself... and i just wanted someone to open the box right back up for me.

sometimes i lie to myself. the one i tell myself most often is: "i don't know why i'm feeling like this!!"

i do. i always do. i just sometimes don't want to admit it.

i told my mom about my eating disorder a little over a year ago. i hadn't told my dad yet, but i didn't feel anxious about that. i reasoned that mom was the "hard" one to tell--she is the dietitian and tends to take things personally. last week i told my dad. it was one of the hardest conversations in recent memory. and then i felt very "weird" for a few days. i tried to deny the emotions that were all still bubbling. i tried to pretend i felt the same as always. but i finally called a friend and talked about some of the emotions i was feeling.

i lied to a friend this weekend. in protection, of course, but a lie all the same. the last few days i've been obsessed with exercise. and i made myself throw up--just a tiny bit--last night. today i kept thinking "why on earth is my eating disorder voice screaming at me? why do i feel so crazy?" but i denied the knowing.

i texted a friend in australia a casual question this evening and he immediately said "are you ok?" i was like "yeah, of course." but a few hours later i replied that i wasn't--and how on earth could he tell from that one question?

apparently my behavior admits things before i do. while i was with my husband, i once kissed another man while out of the country. when i came back from the trip, i apparently acted differently... FOR NINE MONTHS. because nine months later he screamed in frustration "what the hell happened on that trip?!"

oh. i'm not a good liar.

i've also felt this behavior admitting something to my world before i'm ready to admit it. but i'm still really fucking good at ignoring it. today, when i was feeling very very guilty about the purges i've been engaging in, i finally faced the source and decided to take action and un-do the lie. i'm about to untie the knot--both the one in my stomach and the one between my friend and i--and i'm scared as fuck. i don't know how he'll respond; i don't know how he'll react. but i'm finally ready.

i read this in a morning email i received the other day:
My friend is really into this man. But last night she got a text from him that he isn't really feeling the spark between them. She was crushed.

I sat with her for a while. We cried and grieved and got angry and felt sad. Toward the end of the night I said, "I know this is so painful right now, but what if rejection is God's protection?"

What if exactly the right thing is happening right now? I know you want HIM, but he is clearly not your man right now. What if he is keeping you available for a love that is moments from surprising you?

When was the last time you felt rejected?

Can you see now that the rejection that once hurt was probably the best thing to have happened? How did it redirect your path?

Like water in a river, when it hits a rock, it doesn't stop. It doesn't complain that the rock is in its way. The water sees the rock as a redirection of its path and simply keeps flowing.

When we have perspective, we can see that we were being guided by the rejection. But when we are in the middle of it, it just plain hurts.
all types of rejection hurt. whether it is real, perceived, or even anticipated. but, just like ryan says, there's always another way to look at it. and today, with all things, i'm choosing the light. because light is everything.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


sometimes i feel broken.
sometimes i feel like i cover myself in armor.
sometimes i feel like i'm the only one.
sometimes i feel crazy.

and then today happens.

i hear a young man say "everyone's a little broken; we wouldn't be people if we weren't."

--i feel some armor slide away.

i get an email from someone i don't know telling me that she read my blog and mentioned "I had a particularly bad day today and am feeling quite alone, and although there is no purpose to my email other than to tell you that I really admire your courage, typing this out makes me feel a bit more connected to the universe."

--i don't feel so crazy.

the email i received was from a young woman with an eating disorder and talked about how she felt alone, about some of the shame she carries, and about how she didn't feel courageous enough to tell some of the people in her life--specifically those at work.

the email made me feel so many things: empathy, sadness, admiration, gratitude... and kind of like i was a fake. yes, sometimes my blog feels courageous. but sometimes it feels like i get to hide behind it because i'm being so open here. like i have built some armor up through all the baring.

she complimented me on my career status and about how open i was with my eating disorder. it's true that i talk about my struggles and recovery status with people at work i barely know. but there are also things i don't tell them. like when i'm late to a meeting because i had to run a little longer to make my mind feel sane before i was allowed to shower and go to the meeting. or like when i schedule things around a yoga class i feel like i just have to get to or my soul will freak out. these things could be termed "taking care of myself," or they could be termed "selfish," or even, dare i say it, "characteristic of someone with an eating disorder."

there's STUFF. there will probably always be stuff. i've let go of a lot--and i am very proud of that. but there's still the little broken pieces i keep finding under the rug; the little shells of armor stuck to my skin that haven't all chipped away. and finding them can be hard.

in some ways, i don't know where this blog is going. am i trying to build up more armor for later? am i trying desperately to feel as courageous as this lovely reader portrayed me to be? what am i trying to do?

i think it's the shame that really gets to me. i carried so much shame about binging and purging... for so long. i still do. and there is so much stigma around so many mental health issues, and about seeking help for them, that i get angry at that shame. i get angry that it even exists. and when i read this email with the words "embarrassment and shame" included in it, i felt that familiar stinging in my heart.

it's only talking, sharing, and giving a face to a health issue that can de-stigmatize it. my shame disintegrates when i don't give it any power. when i told my mom about bulimia, when i told my co-worker about my bulimia, when i told my yoga class about my bulimia, when i post a blog about bulimia on Facebook, i lose the shame. it disappears with the broken pieces under the rug, it hides under the small pieces of armor still remaining.

i can't fix the world; i can't even fix me. but i also know that i don't need to. i can let go of the armor; i know i'm already whole. and i have hope that the world is ready for that.

and, to every blog reader, but especially L: the world is ready; i believe in you.