I celebrate everything from poop to mistakes to accomplishments. And I share my celebrations publicly to encourage, lift up and normalize out in the world. I realized one of the celebrations I haven’t really shared is the anniversary of my recovery.
Why haven’t I shared my recovery? In my mind, I’ve been sharing about my bulimic recovery for so many years I figured everyone knew. When I focused on that thought, “everyone knew”, I knew that was BS. I felt fear around it and I hid. I recognized that old pattern. And I said…nope that “ain’t” me anymore. I don’t hide. I meet people everyday sharing a ton though it isn’t the first thing I share with people. “Hi my name is Marni. Did you know I’m in recovery? I was bulimic from age 8/9 to 25.”
Breathe that in for a minute. Almost 20 years of secrets, hiding, unhealthy thoughts, unhealthy actions and unhappiness and discomfort throughout all aspects of my life: my body; relationships with me, other people and money; career; experiences….
So I decided to be bold and share the story of my recovery. I was already in the working world as an Advertising Exec when my boss and I were going head to head regularly. I worked with my parents and their partner. Not easy for any of us. One day she’d had “ENOUGH” and told me either go to therapy or find another job. You see I had so much anger inside me. Anger about things that had been done to me (so I thought). And it eked out easily and often. I had a biting tongue and was super reactive.
So I found a therapist and with my arms folded over my chest thinking “I’ll go and sit here to keep my job, but that’s it.” I went. It was a few years before I saw this PUSH as the biggest gift. It was the catalyst to me changing my life.
Dr. Lamb was quiet and calm with a lovely smile. I would answer her questions each visit watching the clock tick the time away. And then I went back to my life of secrets, hiding and emotional stuffing. Every worry, anger, discomfort was stuffed by me. I didn’t acknowledge or deal with it. Instead I’d binge. I’d order take out for 2 or more. Rush home. Eat so fast so I wouldn’t feel, as I learned later, and would then throw up once I felt full. Sometimes doing it over again and again that day or night until I was numb and worn out.
One day a couple months in, Dr. Lamb called me with a situation which would change our relationship. My parents had called and scheduled an appointment through her assistant to talk about my therapy. I wasn’t telling them anything and they were concerned. Dr. Lamb saw it on her books for that day and called to let me know. She explained that the choice was mine and she would honor my decision. I could say NO- don’t see them and she would cancel the appointment as she was my therapist and would honor our relationship. Another choice , say yes, then she would meet them, talk to them and share nothing of what I had told her. She would ask questions of them and it could help her help me. I was shocked and felt empowered. And in that moment she began gaining my trust. So, I gave permission.
My parents were not super happy as they didn’t learn much of anything as I discovered. Yet, I trusted Kay, Dr. Lamb in a new way. She was my confidant. And so one day I came clean and I told her I was binging and purging. There was no judgment. The way she spoke to me that day made me feel seen, heard, and understood without any shame. And actually, a bit of celebration in revealing myself. And I left feeling lighter.
Things got worse before they got better. I was avoiding getting the mail at my apartment because I was binging so much I was strapped for cash. And I was having blackouts. I’d binge, purge and sleep. When I woke I’d have empty containers, no food in the fridge and no money. So avoiding the mail, was avoiding the few bills I had because I didn’t know what I was going to do to pay them. HIDING to keep me safe, but it was just an illusion.
The universe had other ideas. One day I received a note on my door from the apartment office my mail as it wouldn’t fit in the box anymore. I felt I had no choice so I went to the office and brought home a giant Post Office tub of mail. I was super freaked out, but somewhere in me knew I had to go through it. So, I did. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I envisioned. Most of the mail turned out to be advertising. I sat down with the bills. I went through my balanced check book and realized I was several hundred in arrears. PANIC ensued. From “freak out land” I called my parents who were packing to leave for vacation. They asked me to come over with the information. I don’t know what they saw when they reviewed it, but they said “we’re not going to bail you out”. There are ways for you to figure this out and they made some suggestions. TOUGH LOVE. I was scared and angry, yet turned out TOUGH LOVE gave the best outcome for me. I hurt my credit, had to pay some deposits and it took me a few months to catch everything up. I learned my lesson. I learned and committed to get myself help and NEVER experience this financial pressure or self-created problems again. More on that in another article. I also shared about what I had done and how I felt plus what I intended for the future in therapy with Kay.
Kay encouraged me to go to group therapy in addition to seeing her. I only went a couple times and wasn’t sure I liked it. I would learn why very soon. I also decided to share a little with my parents about being bulimic, but wasn’t sure how. I wanted to, but I was afraid. Then the group had a speaker come, representatives of a treatment facility. So, I gathered my courage and invited my parents to come with me. This helped me bridge the fear of being more open with them. I couldn’t even look them in the eye when I shared. I assumed they’d be disappointed, disapproving and ashamed. They were definitely surprised, sad and wanting to help. We sat and listened to the speaker and as he spoke something inside me began screaming YES, YES, YES! I need to go here.
I will never forget my Dad driving me back to my apartment that evening. We had a good talk. He seemed relieved and almost happy to know what was going on with me. So, I summoned the courage and told him I wanted/needed to go to treatment. He told me “you’re thinking it’s the FIX. It’s not going to solve your issues.” And I was outraged. I went from zero to 90 in 2 seconds. My voice remained somewhat calm-ish as I explained I knew it wasn’t a “fix”, it was a 30 day head start to healing my life so I could focus just on me. He disagreed and I left the car pissed. That anger fueled me, positively this time.
I went to the office the next morning determined, checked to see if my insurance covered the treatment hospital and when I found out it did, I made the arrangements to go to the Western mountains of GA near the NC border (note this for later) within a week. I chickened out telling my parents and asked my boss, their partner, to tell them. It was the 2nd big gift she gave me and it cost her because my parents, while supporting me, took out their anger or discomfort on her telling them. Yup, they shot the messenger.
Once decided, I felt excited. That may sound weird. Something inside me was so happy and relieved. Secrets and hiding are exhausting and bring so much tension. I didn’t realize how much until I began sharing. So, I then opened up to the entire office what I was doing at a company meeting. Oh yes, I ripped the Band-Aid off FAST. Most were surprised. And some were quite compassionate. I think for most people they didn’t understand exactly what it was I was dealing with and what I told them also made some people uncomfortable because of their own issues. I didn’t really know what treatment entailed either, but I would learn very soon.
Within my advertising work, I communicated with sales reps all over the country and thought being gone for 30 days or so, they’d ask for me and so it would be easier for me to learn while I was away, then dealing with questions upon my return. So, I gave permission to my office to share the information of where and why. I learned later my parents comfort with my sharing, not so great (I’ll save that for another article). I felt freedom of letting go of secrets and transparency. The ease felt so good. I didn’t think of consequences. Still reactive yet working it in a more positive manner.
I checked in October 29th and spent my 25th birthday in treatment. What a way to spend a milestone. Journey to get to treatment filled with challenges. I flew to Atlanta nervous and by myself. The airline misplaced 1 of my 2 bags and said they’d “get it to me”. When you’re uncomfortable in your own skin and you carefully select your clothes because those are the ones you feel good in, to have them “lost” feels like a chaotic unfair crisis and definitely affected my stress of the unknown of treatment.
When checking in, the nurses take EVERYTHING. You empty even your pockets in front of them. I filled out a few forms. They instructed me to open all my bags for them to go through. They took anything with medicine or alcohol from perfume to mouthwash as the facility was treatment for addiction: drugs, alcohol, sex, and food. They took baby scissors I used for cross stitch too. I followed the nurse to my room and met my roommate. Before leaving my room, the nurse went over the rules. In addition to the general rules, Bulimics received specific instructions. Beginning with taking food at meals: when I took food for meals, a nurse must verify all food on my tray and it would have to meet specific guidelines (number of veggies, fats, etc). I must show them my tray and plates before discarding them. Finally, I must be accompanied to the bathroom by a nurse for the first hour and a half after a meal or snack. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Awareness unfolded as I met more people.
It never occurred to me that other people had my disease or had similar feelings causing their own addiction. But you learn this fast just in conversation getting to know peeps and definitely in group therapy. I clearly recall feeling anger that someone else was describing in detail one of MY binges. And how sick it made me feel to realize I felt violated by the sharing.
It was in this place with these people that I would truly FACE myself, warts and all, for the first time since I was 8. All the secrets came out. From things I’d done, what was done to me, to realizing how awful I felt in my own skin. I couldn’t even look in the mirror and find something about myself I liked say it out loud, let alone LOVE. I had no confidence, no self-esteem. I felt unworthy of love for me let alone someone else. I was hiding my body, my personality, my voice and I had used sex to gain likes, be included and feel better. I saw food as good and bad. The “hits” kept coming. I felt overwhelmed by the hurricane of realizations and it felt like it came at me 24/7 at times. Yet, I faced it. I embraced it. I shared and shared and shared. I cried every day.
Funny thing happened, I began to feel hopeful. I learned “relaxation therapy” which I know now as mindfulness/meditation and began rewriting my beliefs and my feelings began changing.
I learned about addiction and how the hormones and body chemicals affect the brain. It took me more years to learn the GUT Connection. I learned the power of secrets and sharing. I learned how to find calm through breath. I learned doing art projects soothed me. I faced my parents during family week with honesty like never before. OY, I “hit them over the head” with it. I remembered again how much I love the trees, the mountains and the lakes. They are so healing and it’s such a powerful pull for me. I took many walks losing myself and gaining myself with the trees.
The 30 days I spent in treatment put me on my path today. Did I leave treatment “fixed”? No way, I’m still working on my development. Growing and Loving me. Recently this Spring, I discovered a deeper way of loving myself unconditionally and that’s after 29 years of loving me unconditionally.
Those 30 days changed my life. I reconnected with ME again for the first time consistently since I was 8. I began to like me which lead to me loving me, even the parts I want to change. And so now 29 years later, yes, 29 years later, I am celebrating another year of recovery. I celebrate who I was and who I am. I celebrate EVERY experience on my journey even the ones that sucked!
I am in the midst of divorce and feeling free in a new way. That’s not to say it’s been easy or without fear or angst. I feel it in some moments and some days. I allow myself to feel it and then remind myself I am where I am. I am not afraid. I’m doing the best I can. I’m grateful for every person and experience as I grow from each. And I’m working my way towards living full time in the Western NC mountains, a dream come true, eventually raising Nigerian Dwarf Goats and learning to make cheese and yogurt, growing lots of my own food- living life sustainably near the trees and lakes.
I celebrate that 30 days and the gift I gave myself then and all the years after. The 30 day gift introduced meditation which reminded me of my intuitive abilities putting me on the energy healing path. It’s how I know the power of mindfulness down in my soul. That path lead me to learn how to help myself heal which helped me with my son after trauma and to help other people. That 30 days set me towards the path of helping people like me heal and THRIVE! Best decision EVER!
I’m grateful you stayed with this and read all of it. I hope you’ll celebrate with me and let me know your thoughts.