I can’t focus on anything other than the pain from my lower back teeth in my mouth. The ache is a brutal reminder that Bulimia comes with consequences and after eleven years those consequences are no longer things you hear about, but real.
I have recently had dental work done on fourteen teeth within the course of a few months. Some of the teeth were in much worse shape than the others and it’s a miracle they were able to be saved. Due to my eating disorder my teeth are very sensitive from enamel erosion and when ever I binge/purge even if it’s only for that one day my mouth suffers for it to the point where my teeth ache. In reality you may think you can out run everything, but eventually consequences will always catch up to you just to prove that you aren’t not as invincible as you once thought.
I am drunk. I am lost.
Really I’m just melodramatic and tipsy stuck between a rock and a hard place. Over thinking life and no one next to me is a deadly combination that leads to instant sadness. The type of sadness one can not shake. The sadness that feels like a bottomless pit growing inside your stomach that gradually takes over your body until you can not breathe. The type of sadness that would make me tear at my skin creating marks of madness or purge myself into oblivion. Parts of me wonder if recovery is possible or if I’m stuck forever? Doomed to a binge, purge, and restrict cycle followed by brief periods of recovery that are filled with urges and eventually lead to spiraling relapses. Eleven years in the making of kicking and screaming just to find myself drowning in regrets and wishful thinking.
My head is pounding not because I haven’t eaten, but because after deep consideration I took myself off of my stimulant that I have been on for several months perscribed to me by my psychiatrist. Stimulants in a way worsen my Bulimia. I crave sweets and various processed carbohydrates constantly to the point I end up binging and purging or occasionally my appetite is nonexistent. This is not only extremely difficult, but also confusing for me because once the stimulant wore off I would become so hungry to the point I would once again binge and purge. A huge part of recovery for Bulimia revolves not only around noticing how you feel, but mindful eating as well. This means being able to follow hunger ques, to tell the difference between when you’re actually hungry or simply in emotional mind and want to manipulate food and being able to nurture your body without harsh judgement. I found it difficult to do any of those things while taking a stimulant. Now finally being off stimulants for good I can continue practicing mindful eating and following hunger ques. However I can not place all the blame fully on the stimulant; I know there were several times I found myself in emotional distress and instead of distracting myself or delaying the binge/purge by using distress tolerance skills I chose to binge and purge instead. Constantly I am looking for quick fixes for my Bulimia. New diets, different exercise routines, food restrictions, moving to a new place and so much more. Instead of acknowledging that these quick fixes are not going to be permanent, but are just a bandaid, I throw myself in denial and say “this will cure everything.” Often the only cure for pain is pain because no one said addressing that pain and looking at yourself would be painless. If this all was painless and easy everyone would be in recovery. All those suffering from an eating disorder would jump right into treatment if it was completely painless. Sadly it’s not. Facing your demons and learning to love yourself despite the years you spent attempting to destroy yourself is not easy. You were searching for a peace of mind only to discover you were at war with yourself. You were destroying your own temple. To love yourself fully after spending years of drowning in self hatred is ultimately one of the hardest lessons to learn. The second is believing you’re worth it. And maybe it’s time I tell myself I am.
Sometimes things are great and I can see the progress I have made and other days I wonder what the hell happened to all that “progress” and where the hell is it hiding. Lately I have been struggling with extreme **“splitting” and **“paranoid ideation,” at least this is what psychiatrists, therapists and psych majors of all sorts would call this. Which in reality is just a fancier and more professional way of saying “fucking bull shit with a cherry on top” so to speak. Both these behaviors are having an impact on my work and relationships with others. I don’t know how to snap out of it and to see things as a whole. Good and bad qualities, instead I see it as one. If my boss is displeased or upset with me I begin to think I am going to get fired, that I need to find another job, that her and other employees are talking about me and that they all have a grudge against me. Especially one particular employee, I constantly think she will do anything in her power to get me fired, that her and her friend that works there are always making fun of me and are talking bad about me. In other words, my thought logic is, “the cleaning ladies that work at the restaurant I work at are secretly planning to get me fired and are sabotaging me because they don’t like me and are always talking bad/making fun of me behind my back and my boss hates me and everyone knows it too. She’s looking for any excuse to fire me” This then leads me to think badly of them and it escalates into disrupting my work performance. A similar situation has been an on-going occurrence with my boyfriend as well and I struggle to look passed some of his behaviors and will even blame him for my work issues and that he’s part of the problem. It is extremely challenging for me to accept everyone has flaws and negative qualities. Just as I struggle with the reality that the chances other people along with my boyfriend are “out to get me” or “want to sabotage me” are small. Instead of fully accepting this I withdrawal from work, choose to isolate and become passive agressive. I withdrawal from my boyfriend and put a wedge between us. I lay in bed curled up on the edge making sure my body doesn’t touch his in any form as I face away from him. I can not understand this at all. Parts of me want to scream at my therapist and blame her for all of this, but in reality what would I even be blaming her for? Convincing me I was cured? She never told me I was, but I took “improved behavior” as “fully cured.” I took “progress” as “perfection” and ran with it thinking I’ve reached the finish line only to discover it was a rest point. Except I don’t even know why I began running in the first place.
**Paranoid Ideation: when one is under the belief that they are being harassed or persecuted. It can also refer to beliefs of general suspiciousness regarding the motives or intent of others
**Splitting: a term used in psychiatry to describe the inability to hold opposing thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. Some might say that a person who splits sees the world in terms of black or white. It is a distorted way of thinking in which the positive or negative attributes of a person or event are neither weighed nor cohesive. Splitting is a common term that is often used to describe a defense mechanism used by those with Borderline Personality Disorder. This behavior/defense mechanism can lead to unstable relationships, intense mood swings and self destructive behaviors. A person who expierences “splitting” will typically frame others or events in terms that have no middle ground for discussion Things are either “always” or “never.” Often these beliefs may fluctuate and shift from one extreme to another. Examples:
- People can either be “evil” and “crooked” or “angels” and “perfect.”
- Opportunities can either have “no risk” or be a “complete con.”
- Science, history, or news is either a “complete fact” or a “complete lie.”
- When things go wrong, a person will feel “cheated,” “ruined,” or “screwed.”
If I had to explain to you what the true meaning of “stuck” was or at least paint a picture of it, I would paint a picture of me at 1am in the morning in bed staring at a ceiling. Perhaps even a picture of 2am where I lay restless and gradually reach the conclusion that once again I will be getting barely any sleep as I look over at my lover on the floor sleeping off his drunken night. Maybe the picture wouldn’t be of 1am or 2am, but of me the day before instead. Where I spent the morning wondering from cafe to cafe on a binge/purge spree and spending money I don’t have on food I am only punishing myself with before entering work. Maybe I’d paint a picture of a girl who has no clue what she’s doing and keeps wishing she could at least go forward instead of always taking several steps back. Maybe fast forward passed the Bulimia or rewind it to the time it didn’t exist. Eleven years backwards is alot of rewinding, but maybe it’s also a long time to stay stuck. To suffocate and drown alone. To hide and keep secrets. Maybe the definition of stuck is the moment you find yourself crying because you read in an article that there are some people that do not recover from their eating disorder no matter how much treatment they receive. Stuck is the moment you read that article and want to scream because you don’t want that to be you. Stuck isn’t just not moving forward, but also it’s being afraid to do so because you’re so scared of letting go of what you know and replacing it with everything you don’t. I am stuck.
Nothing is as simple as it seems. There’s no black or white, good or bad. There’s various shades of grey and many forms of “okay” that exist in between both these things. Ideally this is the same with a beautiful painted picture. Behind it is dirty paint brushes, messy hands and stained clothing. These are simple examples that can be used in a sense to briefly underline an eating disorder. It is not as simple as “eat normal again,” “well just don’t purge” and “well just stop.” Nor is it as beautiful as media describes it. Behind the “pro-ana,” “pro mia,” “skip dinner to get thinner” and all this other bullshit is complete misery. What starts off simple becomes complex and this eventually leads to an on going addiction you can not rid yourself of. Maybe earlier in my Bulimia Nervosa I could tell you stories of the pure bliss I found in my bulimia. I could glamourize it and paint a gorgeous picture that anyone would want. Until they truly can not escape it; until they know the ugly truth.
The past eleven years for me have been filled with various treatments centers, several attempts at recovery that would last for several months or up to a year periodically, slips that transformed into cycling relapses, severe dental problems, follow by physical and mental health issues and so much more. It’s a hell I won’t invite you into and a hell I still struggle to fully get out of. This isn’t “to lose weight” nor does it only have an impact on those of a certain size, gender, sexuality or race. Eating disorders are one of the few things that won’t discriminate against you. Make no mistake as weight is not even the actual issue let alone food truthfully. An eating disorder is a pure form of control and a way to manipulate food in order to not deal with the current issues and/or emotions. It is a cycle that in the end can and will happily break you. Most importantly it’s something you can not out run because it follows you wherever you go. Even into a new home you moved into with your boyfriend. So when I tell you nothing is going the way I need it to and I can’t control it so I look for something to control and it just so happens to be food in excessive binges that lead to the compulsion to get rid of it, believe me when I say it’s not as simple as just “stopping.” Would you believe me if I told you I spent countless times crying after purging simply because I no longer want to do this, but feel I have to? If I told you I am currently in the process of treatment once again and that each time I purge I actually end up hating myself a little bit more? How bizarre is it to do something to gain control only to discover it controls you and how bizarre and sinister is it to discover that your addiction literally lives and sleeps within your stomach? How the demons so to speak crawl up your throat periodically and escape out of your mouth? That hell and all those demons exist within you and this sinister addiction isn’t something you hold, but a part that sleeps inside of you? Is this the definition of irony because it screams “at it’s finest!” Nothing is ever as simple as it seems nor as beautiful as you may believe it to be. Hell is often not what we expect it to be especially if we created it. There is no uncreating hell, no running from it and the only way to fully get out alive is to finally face it. Often this is where the problem sleeps; after all how does one face hell if gradually they’ve grown use to living in it? If after all they are the creator and the demons that lay sleeping inside them? Certainly not alone and certainly not right away; only progression, only within time.
I want to begin a discussion, then again maybe I don’t. After all is there truly such thing as beginning a discussion with one’s self? Probably not and I am not going to spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes pondering my mind for an answer. However, what I do want to discuss or at least acknowledge the facts to are a lot more complex than one would think; loving an active addict who refuses treatment. This doesn’t just apply to a spouse/lover, but also a family member or close friend. The reason why I think this is relevant and crucial to discuss is because addiction doesn’t just hurt the addict, it hurts their loved ones as well. That being said a lot has happened to me over the course of several months that have left me stressed and emotionally drained to the point I had to step away from those situations and focus on myself. I will bring up two real events then go farther into depth and explanation after about the things I’ve learned on a personal level.
For a brief time I was dating an active addict who I thought was in recovery, but later discovered he lied to me about his clean time. Originally he told me had eight months clean, but then that changed to only a few months which I later learned was his own personal translation for relapsing. He was not in recovery and though fully acknowledged he was an addict still participated in various addictive behaviors revolving around substances. This took a strain on our relationship and his mental health as he did suffer from bipolar disorder and refused treatment for that as well. The sad part of this whole situation was he had full access to treatment not only for his opiate addiction, but his mental illness as well. Thoughout our relationship I felt emotionally abused and absolutely frightened. Things began to spiral out of control when he was intoxicated on a regular basis and ended up stealing my medication. I confronted him on this and he immediately began to use his drug addiction/mental condition as an excuse and blamed me. “I am an addict you should hide your things better I can’t help myself and you should know that.” At that point I felt awful and blamed myself thinking it truly was all my fault and caused my boyfriend to abuse my medication. Sadly it did not end there, the relationship spun out of control and I felt as if I could no longer trust him. Resentment built a castle in my stomach as his behavior worsened and eventually the relationship was put to an end. However this wasn’t the final straw as he began to constantly harrass me with angry threatening voicemails. This behavior went on for two whole months and half the time his extreme drinking or drug use would cause him to have these episodes to the point his behavior would become out of control. He eventually told me that I made him use and that he was injecting heroin right in my bathroom. In the end this whole situation took alot from me and although I felt I couldn’t walk away, I did.
The second situation hits a little harder so to speak as it revolves around my best friend’s alcohol and drug addiction. We’ve been together through thick and thin and have known each other our whole lives. She was there for me through all my difficult times and when she began to struggle with addiction I thought it only made sense to be there for my best friend. The only difference is her difficult times became my difficult times. When my friend finally went into rehab I was so proud of her. I was convinced that in the long run this would fix everything and she’d be okay. However, this is not the case even though in rehab she was clean, telling me how happy she was and so forth things changed when she came home. At first it wasn’t major until she said “hey it’s okay if we go have a drink. It’s fine if it’s only wine or beer.” This deeply confused me because I personally thought a bar/any place serving alcohol would be a huge fat “hell no” and that drinking in general was off limits for obvious reasons. At first I was very uncomfortable with the whole idea, but eventually came around and she seemed okay. This was only the calm before the storm as close friends of hers began to tell me she was using drugs again and how she is going to the bar at least three times a day even during her work shift. This completely frightened me and I began to notice how out of control she was when I literally had to tell the bar tender to no longer serve her and then had to practically carry her up her porch steps. Soon every time we would go out, she needed to go to a bar. Even if we were just casually shopping it would later turn into a bar. I would try to keep her away as long as possible. I even told her I didn’t think it was a good idea, but I missed my friend and wanted to see her so we could catch up on lost time. Eventually, I became annoyed; I didn’t want to put up with her behavior anymore and confronted her about the issue in a calm subtle way. This lead to a heart breaking discussion about her going back into treatment and family issues. We continued to walk back to her mother’s art studio and although my friend’s face was a little blotchy she calmed down and sobered up. However when we arrived her mother was the complete opposite and her medication when intoxicated made her very hostile and aggressive. I watched her and my best friend argue, except it was more so her mother screaming at her and threatening her. I was so scared I debated on calling the cops, but refrained. However things went from bad to worse as she then began to blame me and state this was my fault even though she takes her daughter drinking on a regular basis. I should have not engaged with her, but eventually did when she began to accuse me of selling her daughter drugs and the reason her daughter has so many issues. I was dumb founded and completely confused. I tried to remain calm and the conversation ended when she said, “I no longer want you to see my daughter” after I said, “your daughter has an alcohol and drug problem she needs more help.” That night I said goodbye to my best friend, but continued to stay in active touch with her and genuinely thought she would improve. This was not the case as a week later she contacted me stating she was drunk and needed a ride home. I told her no and in a sense that ended our conversation. Our friendship in my mind altered and I just felt so much stress, guilt and sadness that I gradually kept my distance as my work schedule became much more hectic. When I moved in with a close friend/now boyfriend she reached out and asked if I needed help moving. I politely decline and told her with my schedule its just so hectic and thanked her. In reality I did not want her knowing where I lived because it was a 20 minute walk from her favorite bar and did not want her to think it would be acceptable to sleep off her drunken nights at my house. I later discussed this with my therapist and we both agreed that the decision I made was the best choice for me. As although she is clean from drugs, she still actively drinks and it’s not something I want to be held accountable for.
With that being said throughout both these situations I’ve learned alot from them.
- You can not save or change an addict. Ultimately it is there choice to change.
- You can not make an addict recover, they choose to.
- You are not selfish if you want to continue living your life or want to take care of yourself.
- You are not a horrible person if you make the decision to take a step back from the relationship because emotionally it is draining.
- You are under no obligation to stay with the loved one if you two are in a relationship, they are not your responsibility.
- You are not responsible for the choices they make. Do not blame yourself.
- It’s okay to change the locks on your door, hide your things or even ask your loved one to not come over until they are clean and sober for however long. Ideally this may be helpful in the long run if you are a parent or live with others and do not want to expose younger children to this behavior. Yes there is concern if the loved one will use drugs in the house, anything can happen and you should not become a liability.
- You can say no to allowing them to spend the night or giving them money. If you’re worried about your loved one using your money on substances/dangerous things then saying no is crucial. If they need groceries/food etc offer to buy them.
- Do not offer to pick them up from the bar, dealer’s house, jail/police station or buy them alcohol/substances. Do not let your house become a “crash pad” for them to sleep off their drunken nights or drug binges. These things are not your responsibility. In a sense this is enabling behavior. It’s showing them that they can do these things and you’ll be there to bail them out/help continue their destructive path.
- Yes your loved one may try to manipulate or lie to you. If in contact it may be best to keep the conversation short and sweet and end it with reminding them how much you love them etc.
- Alanon and Narnon meetings may become your best allies along with a therapist or other support groups.
- Don’t be afraid to encourage recovery especially once they are out of a treatment facility. Offer company to meetings, go out to lunch at places that do not serve alcohol.
- Do not mention drugs or alcohol let alone parties or concerts that are known for this. Face it no addict wants to know about how “fucked up” everyone was at a party they could not be at.
- Telling your loved one “hmm I don’t think doing that is a good idea,” and being honest can be helpful.
- Do not continuously tell them how mad you are at them or how much they hurt you or continuously attempt to make them feel bad. They know and hopefully will make amends to you when they’re ready.
- Do not expect your loved one to not struggle. There is no cure to this. It is a life long condition, offer patience, but also boundaries. You can love someone from a distance if need be.
- Do not just cut your loved one off with no explanation and ignore them. Tell them that you feel it may be in your best interest for there to be distance between you two for the time being as you are going through alot and it’s overwhelming.
- Do not believe in things such as “oh I’m cured now,” “I’ll never do it again,” “I can drink/use this because it was not my substance of choice,” “it was just a slip and won’t happen again,” etc. These phrases are troublesome.
- If you are a parent to an addict and your child lives at your house you can take action and set limits. Stating there will be no drug use in the house and any drugs found will be confiscated immediately along with either going back into a treatment program or kindly leaving the premises. Ideally this is easier said then done, but when your child is 18+ you really can not force them to do anything, but you can make it clear that drug use will not be going on in your house and that you will not enable this behavior by giving them money or dropping them off at bars and so forth. It is your house and you can set a curfew along with not supply them with money. Saying “if you need groceries, toiletries/necessities I will pay for them. Just make a list or come to the store with me.” -Refer to #8.
- You are not a horrible person or mean if you set boundaries your loved one doesn’t like. These are your boundaries and limits if they cross them that is not your fault.
- Hold them accountable for their actions without placing guilt. Yes they have an addiction but they can choose if they want to get help or not. They are responsible for their behavior just as they are for their recovery; you nor anyone else is responsible for what they choose to do.
- Do not hold others accountable for your loved one’s decisions. Just as you are not to blame, neither are others. The huge issue that occurred with my friend’s mom and I was the blame placed on me. She not only blamed others for her daughter’s addiction and problems, but also expected me along with others to keep her daughter clean and sober. When ideally her daughter is an adult and although I offered support and told her that she can reach me anytime this was not going to keep her away from substances if she didn’t want to be. No one can control your loved one and don’t be shocked if your loved one is also manipulating and lying to their friends, spouse or other family members as well. I did not know until later that on multiple occasions both my boyfriend and my best friend behaved this way.
- Saying things like “look I love you, but this is hurting me too and I need time. I know you know this behavior isn’t okay, so I just don’t want to enable it” can really come in handy and are ways to put your foot down in a non agressive/hostile manner.
- Talk, talk, talk it out with others (as mentioned prior) and take time to treat yourself and show yourself love, you need it!
- This is crucial: you can address the addiction even if you are a recovering addict/in recovery. I did not address my friend’s issues because I felt I would be seen as hypocritical. I did not set boundaries because I didn’t want her to think I felt like I was above her. I thought it wouldn’t be fair for me to say something because I went through a difficult time and struggled with substance/alcohol abuse several years ago. However I got help and I actively see a therapist and developed a relapse prevention plan with my therapist. I should not be ashamed of feeling this way and I have a right to talk about my feelings and concerns about my friend’s well being. I also have a right to look out for myself and my well being and do what is best for MY mental health and recovery even if that means keeping my distance. You have that same right as well.