When I was a student at university, I participated in a complimentary counseling session with a therapist. During the introductory assessment, I indicated that I had purged the night before.
My therapist scheduled a follow-up appointment.
At the end of the semester, as I was cleaning to go home for Christmas break, I found the appointment reminder in my desk drawer. I tossed it in the wastebasket under my desk and cleared my answering machine with a request that I urgently reschedule my missed appointment.
Sunday, November 27, 2011—the First Sunday of Advent—would be the next time I saw a therapist at an inpatient facility. It marked the beginning of my sacred story.
The painful, abusive memories that had been jolted awake by my father’s death six years prior were no longer buried deep in my memory. I had started experiencing flashbacks of them almost every hour. Thanksgiving a few days before with my family had been my breaking point. By noon of the following Sunday, I wanted to end my life. I checked into an inpatient facility in a nearby town to salvage my 29-year-old life.
During intake, I gave the nurse my cell phone, shoestrings, a dishonest psychosocial history, and freedom in exchange for observation, a set of mental health diagnoses, three square meals, and a new beginning. A week before Christmas, I was released.
I spent most of the next year ordering self-help books from my wishlist and trying out new trauma-focused therapies. During my 200-mile round trip to Memphis, TN for therapy sessions, I started binging on the way home and purging as soon as I got home. I tried to restrict myself to one or two food groups with the “raw vegan” fad but that only caused me to lie in bed for weeks at a time with no energy.
On the PTSD front regarding my father, flashbacks did become less frequent and not as intense. But as I said goodbye to my intrusive past through trauma-focused therapy, I uncovered my deepest secret.
I was a bulimic.
Outside of one obscure therapy appointment back when I had control of Bulimia, I had never told another living soul that I lived with that kind of eating disorder. It was my sickest secret. Sure, I was overweight from stuffing my feelings of childhood abuse. But an eating disorder? Me? It couldn’t be.
In 2014, I went to graduate school because I wanted to help others struggling with a past similar to mine of abuse. But my last semester I was burnt out and met with a therapist. At the time, I told her I had a perfection problem.
Looking back, though, I was really telling her that I had bulimia, though I wasn’t saying it explicitly. Perfectionism had been a hallmark of my disease. I wanted to control my feelings, my body, and yet I never felt good enough. I was a hamster on a wheel, spinning. I continued to purge my way through graduate school, and it landed me an executive position on a state board of directors, three job offers, the best internships, academic honors, and exhaustion.
The summer I graduated, I went on my most restrictive diet yet. When I found out that my husband was addicted to pornography, I went deeper into my eating disorder. As I studied for my licensure exam, I damaged my gallbladder by severely restricting my caloric intake and had to have emergency surgery.
Strangely, it was my husband’s addiction that turned me more fully to my own recovery.
In 2015, I came clean to my husband about my bulimia and slowly built a treatment team with a dietitian, physician, therapist, and psychologist. I started the road of recovery, but I was still very hesitant that I could actually stop binging or purging.
Little by little, though, recovery started to happen. But it wasn’t until I found my primary 12-step fellowship group in October 2017 that I started to live life on life’s terms. That’s when I stopped hiding from the world and started living in it again.
I got sober that October after living in a cloak of denial for many years. During the completion of my first-step inventory, I realized that my purging began, ironically, after watching a made-for-TV movie promoting awareness for teens of eating disorders. I also learned that I had my first disordered eating thought when I was four years old.
I attended every meeting I could for the first year. Then, in April 2019, I joined the Catholic Church largely due to my journey in 12-step recovery and the Sacrament of Confession. Around the time I joined the Church, I picked up a copy of a book titled The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments. The book made a lot of sense to me and I used it to help me understand the sacraments as a new Catholic.
Over a year later, I joined a virtual Catholic conference on the topic of healing to hear my friend, Devanie, speak. I flipped through the other speakers and one of them, Scott Weeman, looked familiar. Then I realized why: he was the Catholic-in-Recovery guy from the book!
Since the Monday after that virtual healing conference I have been a member of Catholic in Recovery. I feel the same way about Catholic in Recovery as I do my primary fellowship group—it’s like water for my thirsty soul. I need to connect with other Catholics in recovery like I need to connect with those in my primary fellowship group—on a daily basis.
I have had many full-circle moments in recovery. I have also received many gifts as a result. I am hopeful because I know Jesus today. I am hopeful because I have a Mother in the Blessed Virgin who guides me through recovery one bead at a time. And I am hopeful because I have a family of saints who each pray for me.
I am hopeful because come the First Sunday of Advent these days, you will find me singing as a cantor at my parish during the evening service and, afterward, moderating a virtual meeting in my fellowship group.