Yesterday was the first anniversary of “Beautiful in the Moonlight,” the Big Strong Yes episode where things got real. When I go back and listen to BSY #3, I can hear little glimmers of what the show—and its courageous hosts, and Chipperish as a whole—would eventually become.
Yesterday was also the anniversary of my last purge. Today, I am one year purge-free. Or, in the language of the tricky, magical, interconnected Universe:
I am in bulimia recovery because Lani Diane Rich got real personal and real vulnerable on a podcast.
On July 5, 2017, I was listening to this new podcast that my partner had suggested while running on the elliptical. I was doing penance for some caloric sin the night before: I had binged. I was “undoing the damage.”
I lived in this headspace for years, regularly binge-eating large quantities of food in secret, and then exploring all manner of compensatory behaviors—except self-induced vomiting. I made myself throw up water once, when I was a young teenager, but was never able to make myself vomit again. I used to mentally bemoan the fact that I couldn’t purge “for real,” and used this to prove to myself that I wasn’t “that sick.”
But I did purge “for real.” I had a real subtype of bulimia nervosa—somewhat confusingly called “non-purging type.” I hid that fact from myself for years, because I was so invested in remaining relatively thin.
My first eating disorder, as I’m sure I’ve written before, was binge-eating disorder—no purging involved. I was a little kid, and BED wasn’t in the DSM. Mental health professionals weren’t diagnosing people with binge-eating disorder yet (because it “didn’t exist”), but looking back, that’s pretty clearly what was going on with me. As I got older, my ED took on various forms: after I got married, and was totally in charge of my own nutrition, I could do all kinds of unusual and extreme things around food—most of them in the name of being healthy.
Even though my ED has run the gamut, I always think of binge-eating as my “core” eating disorder. As long as I didn’t fit the diagnostic criteria for binge-eating disorder, I was “good.” As long as I didn’t regain the weight I originally gained from binge-eating, I was “okay”—even though every “slip up” was followed by one compensatory self-punishment or another.
Last year, I thought I was recovered because I wasn’t binge-eating…much. I also looked great, by societal standards: lean and “fit.” I was the picture of “health.” But I was controlling every bite, and every movement, and when you’re dieting hard, or when you’re exercising to compensate for the food you’ve “over”-eaten—because you are absolutely TERRIFIED of gaining weight—your body will send out all kinds of urges to find highly palatable foods and eat as much of them as possible.
I don’t remember what Lani said that was so profound for me in that moment. She was beginning to open up about how it felt to be in an abusive relationship. She talked about lies, and gaslighting, and she was so courageous and beautiful speaking her truth, that something clicked in me. The hard, sharp click of a key turning in a lock.
She didn’t so much connect the dots for me as number them, so I could connect them myself.
This woman with her beautiful voice (and I mean that both in the “perspective on life” sense and the “sound of” sense) described a kind of pain I knew. Except that for her, that pain came from another person. I have never had an abusive, manipulative, cruel partner.
My heart simultaneously broke for Lani and soared for her, but I couldn’t acknowledge her clarity and courage without opening to my own truth: I was in an abusive relationship with myself.
I would never let another person treat me the way I was treating myself—even then. Even at the height of my insecurity, when I was the most eager-to-please-at-any-cost, if someone had screamed at me and forced me to run because I’d eaten half a jar of almond butter mixed with maple syrup… If someone had done that to me, had called me the horrible things I called myself…I might not have fought back, but I would’ve known it was abusive.
Lani’s vulnerability about having been lied to enabled me to see how I’d lied to myself.
I finished my “workout,” but not as ferociously as I’d started. When I stepped off the elliptical, I remember looking down past my swollen belly at my aching feet, and silently telling my body, “I will never lie to you again.”
I don’t know that I’ve made good on that promise. (What does it really mean to tell one’s body the truth?) But I never purged again.
And as grateful as I am for this aspect of my recovery, I’m exponentially more moved by the fact that the openhearted, fiercely kind, badass podcaster who inspired it is now among my closest friends. I’m so grateful that I was able to text Lani on the morning of July 5, and tell her about being purge-free for a year. It’s overwhelming, but not ridiculous to imagine that Lani telling her story saved my life.
Your story matters, whatever experiences it comprises. There is immeasurable power in “me, too”—seeing it, hearing it, saying it.
But in order for that cascade of affirmation and confirmation and connection to occur, someone has to stand up and say, “Me. This happened to me.”