[TW: Eating disorder]  A writing submission by S.G. about her eating disorder and how she isn’t letting it rule her life.

Page 345 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes the symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa as such:

A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (eg, within any 2 hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger that what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.

2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (eg, a feeling that  one cannot stop eating or control hat or how much one is eating.)

B. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

C. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.

D. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight

But those are just the symptoms; the diagnostic criteria that I qualify for, the research based, scholastic list of manifestations that are very real, and plague my every day life. What’s missing from page 345 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, however, is how it feels to have bulimia.

My eating disorder is seductive. It beckons me forward with promises of safety and comfort. It seeks to keep me numb, keep me weak, and keep me in its grip. If I’m numb, then I’m safe from pain, and the ED kept me numb. I never learned to regulate my emotions or deal with overwhelming feelings.

When I first walked into therapy on September 17th, 2014, I couldn’t even say the words “eating disorder.” I knew, of course, that there was something ‘off,’ something ‘wrong.’ I knew the obvious: I knew that I binged, I knew that I purged.

But the knowing was surface level, and the deeper understanding came when I was able to understand my eating disorder as separate from myself. I continued my exploration of myself, and learned to see things through my eyes, externalizing the ED and what it had led me to believe. I did so, only with the helpful guidance and empathetic understanding that my therapist provided me.

With that externalization came the realization that the things I felt incapable of doing, things that were possible for others but impossible for me, were lies that my ED told me in order to keep me seduced.  And I’ve discovered that I can do a lot of really cool, amazing wonderful things despite my current weight, and despite my lacking, although improving body image and self-concept.

I’ve made a lot of progress, and I have changed immensely as a person and made huge growths in the last 7 ½ months. As the list illustrates, I’ve been able to check a lot of things off of the list. There are still things left to complete, there are still things on the list that I have not been able to accomplish. But I acknowledge and celebrate the progress that I have made as I continue to see and define myself as an autonomous person, and not as a person consumed by a disorder.


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