Fix. That has been the theme of my life, ever since high school, when I realized that I had developed an eating disorder. It happened quietly, truly unbeknownst to me. I simply started eating less and less, while helping to pack my younger siblings’ lunches more and more. A few pounds turned into 10 and then turned into 20 until a size zero dress was too big for my 5’6″ frame.
Then, on the night of prom, I went over to a friend’s house and her parents had prepared a lavish spread of food, so that their four-foot-long table was filled end-to-end with savory and sweet treats. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by how much I had been starving for months upon months, and, that night, it became too much.
I began to eat. Slowly at first, then quickly. Too quickly. I wanted to taste everything, and the moment I put anything in my mouth, my taste buds demanded more. I piled seconds onto my plate. Then went back for thirds. Soon, I was hovering by the table unable to move very far away, as though the food tied an invisible leash to my waist, and all I could do was keep coming back for more.
Throughout the next few weeks, I gorged on every type of food I had been abstaining from, as though I were a prisoner released from solitary confinement fleeing in every direction, afraid I would be pulled back into darkness. I was terrified, because I couldn’t stop eating, no matter how hard I tried. Then, one afternoon while watching television, I came across an afterschool special about two best friends, one of whom was bulimic and encouraged the other to throw up, too. The movie was meant to send a message was about the dangers of eating disorders, yet, for me, a light bulb went off in my head.
“You can eat everything you want without gaining weight?!” I thought, excitedly.
From that point on, bingeing and purging became my fix. Bulimia is an extremely violent disease, and I had enough pent up anger and rage to do it right. Unfortunately, doing it right meant that I also tore up my esophagus, screwed with my hormones, wore the enamel off my teeth, and, most devastatingly, broke my own heart again and again. I lost the ability to trust myself, as for every time I vowed to “never do this again!”, I’d slip into another addictive fall shortly thereafter.
When I finally entered therapy 13 years later, I hit trenches below bottom. My fix had gone from shoving as much food as possible into my body and getting rid of it even more quickly to feeling like there was something devastatingly wrong with me that needed to be righted somehow. I sat at the edges of cliffs, wondering how to end things.
For a year, I diligently went to group and individual therapy. During that time, I came across a wonderful psychologist-in-training, Alison, who pulled me aside one evening.
“Judy,” she said softly, and like the teacher’s pet I had always been, I yearned for her affectionate attention. “You are one of the special ones. I believe in you.”
Eight years later, I’ve finally arrived at a place where I believe her. From where I stand now, my life is dramatically different in ways that I never could have comprehended. I’ve gone from being a copywriter to a marketing strategist to an international editor to a travel writer to a blogger to a yoga teacher to a Reiki energy healing practitioner to a creative life coach of sorts to an amazing friend. Every day, I am humbled by the opportunity to make an impact on people around the world in affirmative ways.
This isn’t by happenstance, it didn’t happen randomly. It happened because I persevered. I never gave up. And, it happened because I finally realized that there was never anything to fix about me in the first place.
I frequently teach in yoga, “There has never been, since the beginning of time or ever after, another you. So, be you. Be all of you.”
This you is made up of every experience that has happened up until this moment. If it didn’t happen in the way it did, you would not be who you are. Lonny Jarrett, a well-known Chinese Medicine practitioner said, “There is nothing that pains us as human beings so much as the meanings we attach to the experiences we have — we cause our own suffering.”
We all have a choice in this moment to define ourselves, to change the meaning of everything that’s happened to date, to move away from the suffering. There will always be forces beyond our control (even within ourselves), but the more that we surrender, the more that we can release the illusion of control to return to the truth that we’ve always been okay.
By learning how to truly let go, I continue to open my hands and my heart to letting life happen in ways beyond measure. The more I get out of my own way and become a personal champion rather than an intimate adversary, the smoother things begin to flow. As I practice being vulnerable, I grow my trust in the Universe, in baby steps and soaring leaps, to let in a good kind of love.
Now, I have friends with whom I forge ahead in the world as part of a phenomenal tribe, women and men who tell me that they are simply reflecting the brilliance they see within me. All of this brightens my heart and fills my soul in ways that bingeing and purging never could and never will.
And that’s never felt so right.
Photo Credit: Judy Tsuei