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My Long Road to Recovery From a Severe Eating Disorder

I have struggled -- and I mean struggled -- with an eating disorder for over 12 years. No one could have conveyed to me how extremely hard it is to give up severe bulimia. But then, no one told me how easy it could be. Every day, many (up to 10) times a day, bulimia took care of me.
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I have struggled -- and I mean struggled -- with an eating disorder for over 12 years. No one could have conveyed to me how extremely hard it is to give up severe bulimia. But then, no one told me how easy it could be.

First, the hard part: how do you give up on such a reliable "friend" as bulimia? She, "Mia" (buliMIA) was always there for me, a ready distraction from life's stresses, both positive and negative. She celebrated birthdays and holidays: "I will celebrate with you! Eat this good food! Bring it back up and eat some more! It's a holiday, isn't it?" She was there when I did poorly on a test or felt awkward socially: "I will console you! Eat! It will comfort you! Bring it back up! You will get that adrenalin rush!" Same for boredom or "feeling fat," as well as being overworked or "feeling thin." There simply was no situation Mia could not promise to take care of for me.

And so, every day, many (up to 10) times a day, Mia took care of me.

"Hello, Darkness my old Friend. I've come to talk with you again." These Simon and Garfunkel lyrics ran through my bulimic brain every time I hunched over that white toilet. Friend. Darkness. The "talk... again." When would I ever be able to hear freedom?

I spent several months in a residential/hospital treatment program (Discovery/Vista through St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver) for eating disorders in 2008-2009. It was so draining, so intense with group therapy, individual work, dietician consultation, and structured meals. Still, I struggled, to the point where I was having "planned" binge/purges; nothing was working. In addition, I gained over 20 pounds. I was devastated and felt hopeless. But by the end, I was able to come away, and stay away, for the six follow-up months. I was cured!

Still, I was struggling to keep well and it was probably unsurprising that I fell back into Mia's waiting arms. Bingeing. Purging. All the secrecy, lies, shame, and disgrace. Darkness, my Friend.

That period lasted another three years.

Then, one day it was gone. Poof! Magic. I could hardly believe myself. It didn't happen out of any intense effort; I simply suddenly realized that Mia was mysteriously absent. I was not bingeing, or even trying not to binge. Purging too was missing. What had happened to me? Mia! Where were you?

That was over six months ago. Strangely, there has been no struggle this time. Why did I have it so easy when others put their heart and soul into healing their bodies of eating disorders? I have gained weight, but I honestly don't care very much. I would rather be a few pounds overweight than have Mia knocking on my door. What? I don't care about gaining weight? Where did that come from? I thought my be-all and end-all was my weight.

How did this happen? Without "work"? Did I lazily win the recovery lottery?

No. The planets aligned, though.

You know, every so often some of the planets align, such as last May (2013) when Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury aligned in a narrow (three degree) line-up on the sunset horizon. Conjunctions of these three planets are somewhat rare; it won't happen again until 2021. That is my best analogy. That is, something simply moved into position and there, visible even through the light pollution, was an awesome sight.

The essence of the alignment, though, is the existence of each planet. Where did my planets come from? Oh, yes, the months in treatment. The years in therapy. Trying, trying, trying. Failing, vowing, falling, fighting. Unbeknownst to me, I had been building planets!

And, as in nature, these "planets" aligned. I didn't know it. It just happened.

That's my best explanation. The seemingly facile transition from Mia to Life had years of work behind it, without which I would never be free. Those planets were so difficult to build, but I couldn't see the work. Often, the times I "worked" hardest seemed to be fraught with Mia's appearances.

Hope is what I want to leave the reader with. I can't prescribe a regiment but I can say, "I know." My case is not simply one where the eating disorder was easy to recover from. Up to 10 binges, 10 purges a day for years is not an easy case of Mia. For more than a decade, I worked hard and long, over and over and over. Even when I didn't see an end, even when I felt hopeless and unsalvageable and even severely apathetic (but I cared that I didn't care) I did not give up trying.

Then, the unexpected alignment, and I feel free. Is Mia gone for good? After all, it has only been six months. But I'm not going to try and answer that question. Mia is absent now, and, after all, the now is all anyone ever has.

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