I’m Angela. I’m new to the Recovery Warriors community, but boy oh boy, am I a veteran to bulimia. Ten years served, to be exact.
Ten years. A third of my life. That is a long-ass time to be bulimic. I know I don’t need to tell you that…but I’ve realized that I just might need to tell me that.
Let me explain.
Two weeks ago, my kick-ass team and I independently released Binge – our microbudget ($1.5K) self-produced comedy pilot inspired by my decade with bulimia – on YouTube.
[Please Note: Behaviors such as binging and purging are shown in this video.]
When I wrote Binge with my writing partner Yuri Baranovsky, I didn’t set out to validate my bulimic experience. I wasn’t seeking catharsis or some beautiful legitimizing of my pain. I just wanted to work as an actor. So I wrote myself a role in the most obvious story I could think of: my own.
Reenacting the darkest, grossest, most embarrassing moments of my life.
I’ve always been pretty open about my eating disorder. But in the past, I presented it with a shiny little I’M TOTALLY FINE DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME!!! Bow: Yes, having an eating disorder is challenging, but I’m working with a therapist. And it’s not like I’m dying…bulimia isn’t really that big of a deal.
Undermining my eating disorder was strategic when I was in it. If I could convince myself and everyone around me that I was okay, then I wouldn’t have to let it go.
But that minimization continued throughout my treatment. I’d find myself sitting in group sessions, with no clue how to even begin to eat normally, scared out of my goddamn mind, thinking: Do I really need to be here? I’m fine, right? I’m pretty sure I’m totally fine. And it’s not like I’m dying…bulimia isn’t really that big of a deal….
Trivialization of pain is a common theme I hear in the ED Community. We feel we haven’t earned our suffering, or that our struggle is somehow less-than. We minimize our pain, or deny it exists in the first place.
Trivialization of pain is a common theme I hear in the ED Community.
I think this happens for many reasons. For one, mental health is undervalued in our society. Women, LBGT, POC, and non-binary individuals are also undervalued in our society. And men aren’t even allowed to have eating disorders. So we start self-evaluating from a pretty low place.
Additionally, although they very clearly aren’t, eating disorders can feel selfish. Our lives become extremely small. Interacting with others and tending to our relationships is nearly impossible because we simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth to give. We’re in too much pain to look beyond ourselves and that’s a really shitty feeling.
To make matters worse, eating disorders are often inaccurately perceived as stemming from vanity. It’s hard to get much sympathy from the outside world. The slight visibility EDs do have in mainstream media tends to be over-sexualized, or stereotypically privileged: spoiled skinny rich white girls who just want to be pretty.
These assumptions create a deeply damaging cultural narrative about what it means to have an eating disorder. It’s a narrative I internalized, and so I’ve had difficulty registering the validity of my own struggle.
It’s a narrative I internalized, and so I’ve had difficulty registering the validity of my own struggle.
But if I won’t take my own pain seriously, who will? And how can I move beyond it if I refuse to acknowledge it’s presence in the first place?
Thousands of people now have witnessed my bulimia. They’ve had varying responses to it: some have been disgusted, some offended. A few have been disinterested. But the vast majority, I’m humbled to report, have been moved by it. They’ve seen themselves in Binge, and felt validated.
But regardless of reception, the very fact that this pilot is out there, swirling in the jungles of the internet, has made me feel seen. No one has questioned the legitimacy my pain or denied the value of my journey. And so for the first time — despite being a feminist, struggling for years, and attending two separate treatment programs– I no longer doubt the validity of my eating disorder.
My pain was real. My journey has been tough. And my recovery is a triumph.
Yours is too.
I hope that, unlike me, you’re able to value your experiences for what they are. But if, like many of us, you find yourself questioning your pain: don’t. It’s real. Look at it. Acknowledge it. So you can move beyond it.
If you’re feeling safe and secure in your recovery, I’d love to know your thoughts on Binge. Perhaps it can help you, like it has helped me.