I will never forget the day that I stopped binging and purging. I have talked about hitting my “rock bottom” moment in previous blogs. That was when I realized I had a problem and although I wanted to stop, I couldn’t completely quit. Three years later (I was 24 years-old and had moved to New York), I decided to attend a seminar about eating disorders at Hunter College, where I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology. The lecturer, Sondra Kronberg, talked about eating disorders and the gap between how people with eating disorders feel and what they actually do/how they act in reality. She also talked a lot about how important it is for people suffering with an eating disorder to learn how to express their needs and how, along with therapy, it is possible for someone to overcome their problem.
For whatever reason, the things she said and the timing all added up in my head and from that day forward, I never binged and purged again. The day I stopped binging and purging I thought was the day my eating disorder evaporated from my life. Little did I know back then that while I had stopped abusing myself in this way, the road to my recovery was still very long. It included many more days and nights of suffering and self-hatred. That day, and that lecture, were huge for me, but understanding that there was a gap between what I thought and what I actually did was only the beginning. It took months and years of practicing expressing myself and learning to say “no” for me to become the woman I strived to be -- a woman with her own strong voice.
Soon after I stopped binging and purging, I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) and I had to find new coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety and insecurities. I missed my family back in Israel terribly and I thought I couldn’t share this with my boyfriend because he thought that I wanted to live in the US with him. And while I did want that and I loved him and his family, I also wanted to return to my country and my family. This inability to express those feelings and thoughts and gain control over that sadness and anxiety definitely stood in the way of my full recovery.
So once my bulimia stopped, I dealt with those feelings in a different, but still destructive, way. I lived in fear of overeating and gaining weight. I shifted my thoughts from obsessing over buying food and eating and purging to obsessing about what exactly I was eating and making sure it was 100% healthy. I became fixated on only eating organic, non-GMO, low-calorie foods. While my battle with bulimia had stopped, my struggle with eating disorders was far from being behind me.
During this time, I worked hard in school and found comfort in my books and in psychology. Understanding the human mind and what stood behind the various disorders gave me great insight into my history and allowed me to have more compassion toward myself and my family.
I was finally able to complete the missing pieces and the question marks of the vicious cycle I was stuck in for so many years through mindfulness and affirmations. What I realized I had to do was to step back and give myself the space I needed to feel and observe my feelings. To be attentive to what I felt and understand that I can have control over these feelings, I had to learn not to allow the feelings to control me and make me do things that were disruptive to me. I gradually understood that the only way to break the vicious cycle was to accept certain things about my life and myself as a person.
Now, at age 44, food no longer plays such an important role in my life. I find so much joy in working with people and helping them overcome their challenges that abusing myself and my body is no longer something I want to do. I want to be healthy for myself and for my family.
A few years ago, I told this story to Dr. Judith Brisman, who is my dear friend and one of the top eating disorder specialist in the world. She asked me if I ever called to thank Sondra Krongberg. It occurred to me that I had never reached out and I didn’t know why. I knew her at this point, as we’ve shared mutual clients over the years, but for some reason I didn’t think of reaching out to her to thank her for that day. After all, it was 19 years ago. I ended up calling her the next day to tell her that I never binged or purged again after hearing her speak. She was touched that I had told her my story and seemed grateful to hear that affirmation, which just reiterated for me how important it is to continue to talk about my recovery process.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who knew me at the time and later found out I was anorexic and bulimic because they say things like, “I always thought that you were Mrs. Perfect. You seemed to have it all together always.” No one is perfect. There is no such thing as always having everything all together and getting rid of that notion is one of the best ways to help your mental health.