On my son’s 26th birthday….I released my shadow self. No longer do I feel the obsessive urges, the anxiety that can only be quelled through binging and purging. It’s over. In the past I have been in recovery…during my two pregnancies and until my babies were weaned. Yet I struggled every day, became obsessive over every nutrient I consumed…not really free, only a temporary vacation from bulimia. And again when I wrote LoveDance. For exactly eight months I obsessively wrote—420,000 words—yet as soon as the muse left me, bulimia found me.
At my women’s retreat, I created a mask of my shadow self—Bulimic Deb—then danced with her before casting her into the flames…such a difficult thing to do. I mourned her death for weeks. I felt so profoundly afterwards. Every emotion I had not let myself feel—came in profound waves. Yet I was amazed at the underlying peace. I rode the waves of my emotions with a new found ease. I was at peace for the first time since I was 14. After 35 years on and off the bulimic wagon, I was free.
What does that mean? To be free of bulimia. Well, I no longer obsess about food. I feel hunger and then I eat and for the first time enjoy each bite. . I have my former trigger foods in my pantry. Not because I’m testing myself, but because I could not use all the chocolate chips I bought from Costco for my holiday baking. And I forget about them until the next time I feel like baking and am surprised to find a pound of chocolate chips…silent, no longer tempting me. Just me and chocolate happily co-existing. Not that I don’t crave dark chocolate every moon cycle and I do indulge, gratefully consuming each luscious piece feeling my serotonin raising with each bite.
I’ve always associated eating disorders with addictions. Such a horrible addiction because you cannot abstain from food, like you can from alcohol or drugs. And when I was bulimic, I had to abstain especially from my trigger foods. Over the past few years I desensitized myself by ritualizing my trigger foods. I started with dark chocolate. I ate it ceremoniously on fine china with a glass of red wine on a table set with lace under candle light while watching a feel good movie. All my senses were engaged in pleasure and from then on (that was in 2008) I have been able to consume dark chocolate in moderation without it triggering a binge. Not so milk chocolate…so that’s why forgetting about having chocolate chips in the house amazes me.
I do have one regret. When I cast my mask into the flames (and I was the last to do it…reluctant to let Bulimic Deb go) I felt the smoke was carried elsewhere. So two months later at Thanksgiving, I was not surprised to see one of my nieces bone thin and stuffing her face…the family curse, my sister calls it. An unresolved karmic imprint, I believe.
I do not feel guilt or shame related to food or my body. In fact I love my body. I am so grateful for this beautiful healthy body that has taught me my greatest lessons, protected me from my greatest fears, blessed me by being the most perfect vehicle for my transformation. After seven years in a cocoon of my making, I am emerging as a butterfly.
And I no longer feel like purging my emotions. Now I feel them, really sit within my heart to be with my emotions. And I have found a profound gratitude for my rich passionate emotions. So powerful they seem to control the weather. Or at least the climate of my relationships. And with this awareness, I have learned to ride the wave of my emotions…and let them go into the ocean of feeling that makes me human and connects me to all that is.