Book Excerpts

Here are some excerpts from my book, just to give you an idea of what to expect. It is not a how-to-recover book, it is simply my story. One big share. I believe that through identifying with what I went through and finding similarities, it can help you find the courage to tread upon the path to lasting recovery. It is proof that it is possible, even for someone as wretched as I was. (To see the book, please click on the link Diary of a Recovered Bulimic.)

It all seemed normal enough (1972)

My journal began December 31, 1972, the day I bought my “Diary.” It was a slim volume, providing 5 lines for each day, and had the word “Diary” embossed in gold on the cover. I was ten years old, in the fifth grade. My New Year’s Resolution was to obey my parents the first time they tell me to do something. I went to Pioneer Girls (a Christian youth group), believed in God, prayed, went to Sunday Mass and had a crush on the altar boy. My older brother, John, played on the basketball team and I usually went to watch the games with my friends. My little brother, Max, was a pain, but we played a lot together, since there weren’t many kids our age in the neighborhood. I read a lot, drank warm milk before going to bed and noted bedtimes and what I watched on TV. I played clarinet in the school band and practiced fairly regularly – or irregularly and then much too long. We went on field trips and it was always important to decide well in advance who would sit with whom on the bus. I also made a note of what chores I was supposed to do, and whether or not I did them. I was a pretty good cook – preparing family dinners as well as baking goodies. These diary entries give an accurate portrayal – I was grown up, helped out around the house, cooked and cleaned, and had my first boyfriend. But I also still played with dolls and enjoyed my world of make-believe.

I grew up in a small town (around 2000 people) I have called Bachville, located a few hours north of New York City. We lived in a house on the outskirts of the town, so my living situation made me feel like an outsider. The cool kids lived in town. There was a nice town around an hour or so away that we used to like to go to, called Woodstock. It was kind of a hippie/alternative set-up, with interesting shops and people, art exhibits and classes, and music. It had a great poster store next to the pizza place bordering the village green, and an antique clothing store where I later purchased a few prize pieces. Things seemed pretty normal at the time. My mother was a model housewife and my father brought home the money. I guess what was bad in their relationship was exacerbated by my father’s bone cancer and my mother’s going back to school to get her Master’s Degree in Fine Art. Stress can make things worse, but it is also an invitation to change.

… all appeared to be well enough. I was normal, food was normal. The only problem, which I don’t mention, is that I had been the tallest girl in the entire 4th grade – and I think only one boy was taller. We got weighed and measured every year in school, and since I was about 5 inches taller than most, I obviously weighed more. Those 10 pounds more, combined with not being cute and blonde, definitely planted a seed of discontent. Generally, I think children should not be weighed in school – it is little more than an unnecessary source of competition, embarrassment and humiliation, and subjects the less fortunate to teasing. When I look at pictures, I was a tall, lanky kid. And yet I also got teased for weighing so much!!!

29. January: Today school was cancelled because of SNOW. I changed my room around. Mom took the bookshelves & desk and made me a library.

15. February: I have a library and Max won’t pay his 4 cents overdue money. While I was practicing my clarinet, I knocked my flowers over. Ugh!

20. February: John popped the ball that Katie Lane gave me for my birthday. I was crying! I took good care of it but, BAM, POP! That had to happen.

March 1: Daddy came back from Fairville today. He left Tuesday for a medical check-up.

March 7: We had gym class today and I practiced my routine on the balance beam. We were very badly behaved in art. Mrs. X (the teacher) called us babies!

April 9: Guess what? Alex likes me! I really like him as a friend and I promise not to get serious.

Slow Descent into Hell (Age 13)

29. December: Mom and I went to look at the Town Apartments. They’re all right, and at least it’s in town. I just can’t bear to leave this house! It’s like taking off somebody’s arms or legs. It’s a part of me. If I do move, after this I’ll be able to move any other time, except for the bother of packing. I’ll tell Dad on Saturday that I won’t eat until he gets a job to support us decently in this house. He’ll think I’m kidding, but I can prove it to him on that day because I’ll be with him over the weekend. I won’t tell Mom because she’ll get really mad at me and tell me not to. I really am going to think more of other people. I’ll try to be so sweet and loveable that they’ll just have to like me. I won’t complain to anybody. But! I will pester my father about the house.

I’ll do all of my complaining by means of writing it down. That way no one will hear me, but I’ll have some type of outlet to my feelings of anger. I always feel so happy, excited and satisfied after I’ve written in here. I can fall asleep much easier now. [I had no one to talk to, found it agonizing to discuss personal things and would usually burst into tears. The weight of worry about our financial situation was an incredible burden. It’s no wonder I had trouble sleeping. To vow to do my complaining in writing and not communicate it is a dangerous undertaking – widening the gulf between the world and myself.]

23. January: When I think very honestly about how I was brought up, the only thing I would change is my parent’s divorce. Doing chores for so long has given me a sense of responsibility; cooking so much and being in the kitchen so much with Mom has made me a good cook. Little things like that help so much. I’ll adjust much easier to that big world than if I had lived a sheltered life. I know you have to work for something you want, and if I misbehave or don’t take my responsibility, I can’t go to my friend’s or do something special. I really think that I’ll bring my kids up just about the same as I was brought up.

20. July: Scott gave me a nice compliment. I said something about me being fat and he looked at me and said, “I still don’t see why you think you’re fat. Well, you’re not!” It made me feel guilty. Here he was being so sweet, and I was dreading sitting down next to him because of his wandering hands. Some pictures were just developed today. Boy! Now I’m convinced that I look fat to everyone. I look awful. I think I like Bob, Christian, Stephan, Lucas, Chris, Scott and Tom. I wouldn’t want to go out ever with Tom because I like him too much, but maybe the others. I won’t though, because except for Scott and possibly (though I doubt it) Stephan, none of them would probably even want to ask me out. I feel so down in the dumps.

If I Could Just Get Skinny Enough (1977)

The following year was marked by loss – continued suffering due to the separation of my parents, including massive loyalty conflicts, and the death of my cat in January. My love life didn’t change and could be summed up so: I only desire as long as you don’t desire me. If that should change, the conquest is complete, and I am ready to move on. After all, only a fool could fall for me. Needless to say, that presented quite an obstacle to a satisfactory love life – even at the tender age of 14. Then along came this guy, Doug, who was new in school, a few years older than me, and in my journalism class. Slowly but surely I fell hopelessly in love with him. He managed to keep a distance throughout our acquaintance, which of course kept me hooked. I was physically attracted to him like to no other guy. Up until then, I’d made out with boyfriends, but only to be “nice.” With him, it was the first time I actually felt desire stirring, though I didn’t really understand it. He dominated my life and thoughts for several years.

In retrospect, I suppose the development of the eating disorder occurred as a way to transfer my feelings of helplessness from the familial situation onto something over which I thought I had control. I had set very high expectations on myself – having taken on the responsibility for keeping my parents’ marriage together – and had failed miserably. Thus, through the eating disorder, I could keep punishing myself. I do believe that it actually served a good purpose. It was a coping tool that helped me get through an impossible time of life, at an age when I really did not have control over important aspects in my life. Unfortunately, when the time had passed and the necessity for that coping tool had receded, I was stuck in the addictive aspect, and could not find a way out for a long time. Although I rarely mention it, at this time I began to binge with the purpose of throwing up. The first year or two, it was just to get rid of too much dinner. I gradually proceeded to throw up after other meals, and then to binge and vomit in between mealtimes as well.

23. April: The only thing worth mentioning is that I spent Easter Vacation at my cousin Nan’s in Ridgeport. I went there Friday. We went to a club that night. I had a Tequila Sunrise. We smoked first & went to a bar. The club was our “finale.” Saturday was pretty much the same; although, we went to a different bar. We only had beer that night, because both Nan and Jack were broke. Sunday, which was Easter, we went to Sharlene’s (my older cousin) for dinner. On Tuesday I went to stay with Ginny & Carla. They don’t live very far away from Nan. It was a pretty good vacation; I came home Saturday. It was 100% better than staying in this town, that’s for sure. I have $185 in the bank now. In around 2 months I’ll be packing to go to Chicago! I can’t wait! I’m finally going on – and sticking to – a diet! As of right now! I am so fat. I weigh 140 lbs. (give or take a couple).

25. July: I thought more about not wanting to “latch on” to anyone. The biggest thing is that I desperately want someone to really love & care for me. Someone who’ll listen to me. I know I’ve got Mom. But that’s a problem in itself. Sure she loves me, but it’s an obligational love. I know she loves me & is only too willing to listen, but I want someone to love me for me. I feel so old. I often wish I could be any other carefree 14-year-old. Sometimes I do feel that way – perfectly happy & content. I wish I didn’t have to analyze & think so much. It isn’t really bad; it’s good to think about things, but I wish I could accept things as they happen, without searching for a reason. Of course, if I did, that wouldn’t be me. I realize that. But I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world to dream of having a different personality. I do like Doug, but I think the biggest thing is that he’ll listen to me. And, human nature being what it is, it is simple for me to fantasize and pretend that he likes me so much. Oh! Remind me to tell you about my phone call with my father the next time I write. You’ll be surprised & proud of me. ‘Bye!

5. August: Well, I’ll say good night because my mind is confused and I want to think. I’d write except for 2 reasons: 1) my hand is sore, and 2) I think I’m boring you to death. Either that, or I’m—I take that back. I am NOT going to put myself down. If my feelings and thoughts bore anyone, then they aren’t worthy of hearing them. No person in the world should feel boring. How each individual feels about & reacts to things is important, and not to be belittled. From now on, I’m going to try to like myself. I really do dislike myself. It dawned on me the other day. I realize that it’s my biggest problem, from which so many others stem. That’ll be my goal. Maybe I’ll even get to the point of loving myself. I really believe that a person can’t truly be loved & love back, until they learn to love themself.

New Adventures, Hopeless Love, and Continued Self-destruction in 1978

I continued to be unhappily in love with Doug, obsessed by him, though we never really spent much time together. When we did, it was usually because I sought him out. With Chris, Tom and Leroy, there could have been more, but it actually never occurred to me that they could be interested in me in any other way than as a good friend. And if I happened to find out otherwise, I was quite surprised. I had my various flings and adventures, but managed to preserve my virginity (despite a few close calls) throughout the end of the year, waiting for true love to stumble into my life. In 1978 I discovered Patti Smith, and her music saved my life.

The vomiting increased at this point. A more aggressive phase of weight-loss began, and the numbers on the scale kept going lower, as did the goal. Although I had always been an avid reader, the loss of concentration from excessive vomiting and starvation took its toll and I found it difficult to read much. Where books once served to distract me and help me escape dire reality, bingeing and vomiting became my distractions and means of escape. I was underweight, exhausted, starved, and looking to external sources of stimulation (such as coffee and nicotine) to keep me going. I was up for anything and everything. I was also very appreciative of the numbing-out aspect that I derived through alcohol and other drugs. I wanted to tune out the miserable facts of my life. I thank God that I was not exposed to more seriously addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin. Although, I was actually never interested in either of them. I believed that they were addictive and knew instinctively to keep my hands off. One major addictive self-abusive disorder was enough. My later experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs was based more on mind expansion than numbing out. Although I did derive some good insight, I don’t think it was worth the physical damage. I believe I could have achieved the same insights through reflection or meditation. Since those days, my memory and concentration are not exactly optimal.

6. January: Guess what? As usual, I have a very different outlook on things in general (and some specifics, too!). Right now I’m in a great mood. I’m baby-sitting, not eating anything, weigh 127 lbs. I’m happy about that. I’m fasting tomorrow and have to baby-sit again tomorrow night. I’m learning to DO things instead of eating. I haven’t puked (how sick) for the past 2 days. That’s really gross, but it’s also psychological. I get some kind of sick pleasure from it. I guess I feel “glad” to be able to eat and eat, then get rid of it all, and no one will know. But, I feel mentally and physically much better when I stick to a strict diet. Although, I keep having slight black-out spells. But, they’ll pass. I want to get down to 110 or less and stay there. Wow, I didn’t mean to write so much about that.
On to better stuff. Doug. I was supposed to talk to him yesterday, but didn’t see him, so I left. Today, he said he’d waited for over ½ an hour for me and why didn’t I show? That made me happy. I thought he forgot. I rambled on about ice-skating and going crazy. (I’m doing both.) I was in a really crazy mood after a few minutes and acted so strange. I hate it when I do that. I make a total fool of myself. Oh, I can’t wait to ice skate tomorrow. I’m going to start walking more, too. Although, I don’t know when I’ll have time. Definitely do exercises right after work. Doing them before bed keeps me awake. Okay, Martha. This time you’re really going to lose weight. Eat right, or nothing, and not too much when you do eat. Please. I don’t want to puke anymore. It makes me sick. [Unfortunately, it took almost 11 more years before this prayer would be answered.]

2. August: Who’ve I been fooling all this time? Myself – or at least trying. I’ve finally cracked and cried. I’ve been so normal about everything, trying to be bright, cheerful and dependable – and not depressed. A whole new me, the whole bit. Then I would diet – but instead starve, then overeat and puke my brains out. Then I’d manage to fast for a day, think I was going to make it, but fall back the next day. I’d try to get myself psyched – all that bullshit. I had all the confidence and enthusiasm, but I didn’t believe in anything or myself. I feel so lost and alone. Nobody can like me – the ones that do are assholes – they don’t know any better. I’ve fooled them too well.

Everything’s so polite and happy – forced. I just don’t care anymore – about anything. I’d include myself in that – but, I never did care. I thought I did. Now I have a good job – I hate it. Not it in particular – just everything. I hate everything. HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE is such an ugly, filthy word. Hey, yeah, we should love everything. Bullshit. Nobody really loves me. It’s all so cold and unfeeling. Nothing even is real – not even this stupid pen or paper. These are intense feelings I have – I’m crying – but none of it is real. Just a pain I feel – that’s all it is. I’m still listening too much and conforming too much. It’s horrible. Yet I can’t tolerate anybody. Nobody notices me – except the idiots who whistle or comment when I walk to town or home. Only the jerks. Nobody just sees me for me and encourages, nobody says, “Hey, that’s pretty good. You’ve done o.k. for yourself.”
I don’t understand how I’m supposed to survive anymore. I just can’t talk or think. I’m so absent-minded, constantly spacey. But really I’ve been crying – crying to get it all out – to be heard – but even I ignored my own pleas for attention. I want so much for someone to love me. Not the me everyone sees, but the me who is me. But that’s impossible, because I don’t have the confidence to really be me when I’m with people that I like. So, the wrong kind of people are attracted to me.
On the one hand, I want to be understood, desperately. But on the other, I don’t want to make the effort, don’t even give people a real chance. I guess I don’t want to be rejected. But I make myself rejected anyway. Nobody wants to hear all the depressing things I have to say. I probably would kill myself, except that that doesn’t mean anything anymore – death ends nothing. You can’t run away from this. It’s not real, yet seems so at times. The pain is real, but it’s ALL nothingness. What’s wrong with me – am I freaking out or what? I’m so impatient. I want the whole change to occur over night. I don’t want to work it out. I hate to work, unless I feel like working. I guess I’ll just have to take it all slowly. That’s pretty hard for me.

26. December: I went to the clinic today to see Trish – it was a really good session. The root of my problem is my rejection by Dad. I really trusted him, and he left me. It was funny – I started out talking about how wonderful everything’s going. Then, we were talking about being thin. Which progressed into: want to be thin & light = child. I am heavy and serious (in presence). However – how thin? Today, I off-handedly said that I wouldn’t be thin enough until I died of starvation, most likely. I believe that death = freedom = no more pain, hurt, loneliness, rejection.

Neither Love Nor Running Away is the Answer (1979)

The year I actually had a boyfriend, turned 17, and went away for a year as an AFS student.

4. February: Good talk with Desmond. He said I used to have a good figure “did justice to a sweater” – and I thought nobody noticed me!! So, I’m going to not worry about food – my weight. I’m going to eat when I’m hungry, try not to be plagued with guilt and the necessity to puke, and try to be active. I’m getting into old clothes. I got a gorgeous old dress in Woodstock. I want to get a peacock blue shawl to go with it. It would be perfect. Maybe I’ll wear my dress and hat Friday. But I really want to get that shawl first. It is so nice to have my own room again. Oh, camping out was really good. Everything went according to plan.

The school nurse suggested small snacks at several intervals during the day. That’s a good idea (I guess). It’s so fucking hard to justify any weight gain. It makes me feel like crying. I’m so miserable – trapped in that self-imposed cage of starvation and guilt, gorging and puking. I hate it – but it’s a habit I know. My insane cop-out. I won’t bother with false hopes and spiritual uplifting – that’s for the birds. I wish I could go back and have the figure Desmond liked. But now I don’t want to. It’s too late. Too late. How can one say such bull? Easily. It’s too late.

The anorectic does not die from thinness, but from the inner fuck-up. Today Desmond practically pleaded with me to start eating. I guess I will, since somebody finally cares. Shit! I was supposed to get together with my father this week – therapy assignment. Well, I was busy.

6. March: Will I never be satisfied? Now I puke more out of habit than necessity or desire. I like the attention – “god, you’re so skinny.” Want more effort towards getting better. If I get a job offer, I’d like to be prepared to end therapy. Trish asked me if I’d thought about it. I’m beginning to feel so much better. But why stop when I’m just beginning? So, maybe I’ll go out and be honest with Mom. Have to puke first. Ate when I got home. But not much. Need to talk. Really starting to bug me – especially the $ and restaurants. Ought to talk to Trish about that.

7. March: An important lesson to learn: there are times when we must force ourselves to do things we would not ordinarily choose to do. There are eventual results which make the distasteful times worth it. As in the balance of good and evil, there is also a balance between giving and receiving. It’s easy to block out and abandon all hints of responsibility. But that’s like trying to create a personal Eden. Disappointments in life are inevitable.

Leaving Home (1980)

The first half of the year was still my AFS year. After that I went home. Then I left home.

2. March: Overate again today. Shit – two weeks ago I weighed 132 lbs., and now I’ve shot back up to 152 lbs.! Tomorrow I start over – and I intend to lose weight just as quickly. Big blue pants are nearly bursting again. Tomorrow same questions in school: have you gained weight again? Obviously, why then bother to ask. I don’t know, I guess it’s just to humiliate me.
Seems like I’m always eating – without letting self get hungry. Saw Jane Eyre on TV – in German, of course, but I understood almost everything.

7. March: Slept late – went to 1st class, then hitched home. Am going swimming this afternoon and ice skating in the evening. Hope to be sick tomorrow – have a French test. I think I’m sick from eating too much sugar and meat and bread. Looking forward to time away from home. Then I can diet better – going away next week for a group AFS meeting. But I can’t do it all too drastically – that’s unhealthy. [I find it rather amusing how time and again I mention my concern for health – despite the obvious destructiveness of bingeing. The concern was genuine, but I lacked real concern for myself.]

11. September: Fluctuate between wanting convulsively to be with Desmond this instant (and anger that I’m not), and desire to never see him again or have any more romantic complications. Am lonely. Want to begin again. Stop being scared! Lay it on the line! Get it? I’ve really had enough. Stand up for your rights, or what you believe them to be. The worst that can happen is someone will knock you down (maybe around). Am looking to hear that I’m really wonderful – but in such a way that I believe it. Who can I write to? Not a single real friend in the world. Modern times and mobility are killing me! No, I’m killing myself. You still have so much going for you, but you won’t use it.

12. September: Jimi Hendrix died on my 8th birthday (1970). He was only 27. I keep getting great opportunities, just to fuck them up on a larger scale. Want to be a hermit. I’ve had enough.

17. September: Don’t know if I really want to stay here. I am getting so frustrated. And I think my inside feelings are expressing themselves by fucking up in just the little things that I do. I put one of my shirts in with their laundry and turned everything green. Seems like I do everything wrong – and make all the wrong judgments on purpose. Why, why, why? What am I doing here?

18. September: So, I’m 18 years old. Golly, gee.

Hitting Bottom I (1981)

1981 brought several changes. After living with Aunt Judy for a bit, I enjoyed a series of sublets, thus being almost on my own. Then the big deal: my own apartment with my name on the lease. I was so thrilled that I didn’t notice anything wrong with the apartment when I looked at it. The superintendent felt sorry for me I guess, and pointed to the broken kitchen window, the broken bathroom window and the broken refrigerator. The puking did not stop, but it was total freedom in a way. I was alone, not under surveillance. Nobody knew what I was doing, and that was good. It took a couple of months to get a phone, get it hooked up, and get a bolt lock on the door. At first, I didn’t think it was important, as I had nothing to steal. Then, people made it clear to me that there was something to protect: me! That was enlightening!

During the time I lived alone, I enjoyed rampant bulimia, with no roommate or family member to stop me. After a while, though, I knew I really needed help. And it began to dim light that I wanted to stop – that there really could be more to life than food problems. I began to talk to people, tried group therapy, tried Overeaters Anonymous. Both were of some help. The lasting treasures were my best friend Stacey, who I met through therapy, and the motto “Take what you need and leave the rest.”

16. November: Took a shower – finally have hot water – and dolled myself up. First, I wrote the work proposal I’ve been talking of for the past 2 weeks. I should have it all ready by the time Warren gets back. Really beginning to think and feel more professional. I am the only one who makes age or lack of education an obstacle at this point.

I get frightened – am I going to survive? I really wonder. But, up to now, I’ve only continued with habits, feeling safer without change. As I write, I feel so exhausted. My bones are so heavy. Exhausted – what with all these wonderful plans that take so much energy. It takes energy to actively live. But – I’ll have that soon enough. Not smoking will be a help, too. That takes away a lot as well. I really FEEL each cigarette. Body is sore and full of break outs and bruises that never went away – ugly and yellowish. But, time heals all wounds.

I am so afraid of drawing too much attention to myself. For fear of being noticed! I have a callous on my finger from holding the pen so tightly! Nerves! Relax. Relax and dream of opening the doors of your life – and a new world in that. It’s going to be okay. I just have to trust myself. Live in me and stop being the ever-critical third person outside myself. I am going to be okay. If I choose, I can binge in 22 days – after the three weeks is over – but I have to get through the next three weeks. To prove to myself that I can do it.

Flirting with Recovery (1982)

There began a time of exploration, first spurts of recovery and having my own apartment. I quit my secretarial job at the publishing company without any real plans or prospects, but providence brought free lance work into my life – at the same company. That worked out well. My work included word processing, proofreading, editing, secretarial work (filling in for people on vacation), as well as occasionally covering symposia as a reporter. I was kind of with Desmond but not really, basically living alone and being alone except for work. The big excitement in my life was going to see Lenny Kaye’s band, which played fairly regularly. After quite some time, and weeks of hesitant smiles of recognition, I got to know a young woman, Emily, who also went to every gig. She was the kind of literate friend I was looking for, but my bulimia and physical weakness prevented me from doing as much as I would have liked with her. Nevertheless, we had some special times.

It was generally difficult to establish/maintain real friendships, as I was too busy with bulimia. Too restless to just enjoy company. A little time spent with others was nice, but soon my mind wandered to food and how soon I could get away to eat. Still, the first steps toward health were being taken..

During this year I went to the movies a lot. I loved to get lost in a film, to become part of it. I read a lot and experimented for a while with mind-expanding drugs. I was thoroughly convinced that they would provide enlightenment. What becomes clear through reading is, I had a lot of good ideas and thoughts, but underlying fear or depression often kept me from taking real action. It’s saddening to see how incapable I was of making the most of the opportunities during that era in NYC. The key is to flow with it and to trust in one’s self. Go for it. The disappointment of not having made the attempt is far worse than failure.

20. May: Emily called – we’re going to see a Fellini film tomorrow. Really getting professional. Ordering personalized invoices and calendar refills, plus going to buy file cabinet and office stuff. Also going to rent a typewriter – then use that and part of the rent as deductions. That way I can be really professional and not be screwed by taxes. Also to keep all earning in order – as far as legit and off the books. Imagine that – I made $100 today for 7 hours’ work – and one hour waiting because Ben’s bus was late. Fixed schedule so that I can attend Samantha’s voice workshop. Work at 10 am tomorrow. I am going to jog before then (in the morning). Yay!

24. May: Feel wonderful! Bought a sewing machine today for $200. Also bought two nice – simple – dress patterns and material for my trip to Washington. Yes, I am flying to Washington, D.C. as a reporter, to cover a medical symposium. Am baking some bran bread, and I made some tea – so I’ll just relax. Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan is tonight’s inspiration. He claims that we are capable of picking ourselves up, that we can end our self-destruction.

16. June: Even opening up to people is measured and holding back. I want to scream. To bash/smash my head against the wall. To have a real temper tantrum. Kick and yell and cry and be absolutely abominable and really loud and obnoxious. To throw a fit – to stop being so fucking nice and accommodating to everyone else. All these lies. What can I offer as even the remotest trace of encouragement? I find none, I have none. Yet somewhere there’s a little voice – a guardian angel – willing me to go on and make the best of it.

Puke, puke. Barf. Blah. Blah. An entire day comprised of an endless binge-barf. I don’t even recall the food. So drugged out and numb from it all. Headache, dizzy, lifeless. For whatever reason, this is what I was born to endure. Immobilized. I want to run – until I drop from sheer exhaustion. I suffer exhaustion. People keep building me up to be better than I am. I resent that – then they expect it – and I inevitably must disappoint them. Says who? No one but me. I am capable of doing many things well. But it’s so hard to break through that initial barrier that says I can’t. Just saying I can do something is half the battle.

Under the blue light I crawl for water. So sad – I didn’t take care of myself, and will die soon. Is it punishment – or freedom for a being not destined for the physical plane? So sorry to leave – never intended to hurt you, never wanted to. You loved me too much – more than I could bear, for I knew that, like a cool blast of air, I wouldn’t last long. Weary, not just from fasting, but also ages of suffering. Before you were born, I was a wandering soul, lost on this planet. Timeless, I’ve always been. I’ll still be here – even when you can’t see me. My spirit will be with you always. Never will it be that I’m completely dead – there’s so much still to learn. It’s a long, long way to where I’m going. I’m happy to have met you on the path – but don’t try to hold on – for I’ll only drift further. We’re all drifters, even you. You surprise me at times with your own struggle. I can’t hide mine any longer – it’s all here. Must seek relief, but I’ll be back. Will the planet be here still for the reception?

I stood once more and walked, to follow the reflection of the blue light – into the startling brilliance of the sun. Death is a temptress, for I plan not for a future. How easy she seems, but I sense her deception. For what is not yet accomplished must only be dealt with later – plus one must pay for having consciously run away once … from the truth. But truth will seek you out – so don’t attempt to elude it, as it then searches more thoroughly. I speak of experience. The sadness now is partly surrender. I can run no longer.

The Rocky Road

15. July: Went to an OA meeting. Spoke at length with one woman after the meeting. Thank you God for answering my prayers for help. Met a recovered puker. Need to surround myself in positivity. I have this incredible urge to live – springing up from the heart. I have experienced “one day at a time,” as I need to do, and renew my pact to live each day. It is an utter sense of relief yet, even more, an excitement which has long been lacking.

16. July: Feeling sad about Max’s leaving home. It symbolizes the end of so much. I’m afraid to let Mom live alone, but I can’t run her life. Having some serious thoughts. 1) Join the military – get free college; 2) just take off and move; 3) do drugs until I’m dead; 4) kill myself. Lots of variations. I think what I envy most about Max is his will to live.

21. July: Incredible meeting. One woman sparked off the discovery that my illness makes me a victim and encourages love, attention, sympathy. I’ve been using it because I feel inadequate – puke addiction serves that purpose. [Now that I’m healthy, I still get love, attention and sympathy. I still have my worries and other difficulties. Just because I no longer have a problem with food doesn’t mean everything else is perfect!] Must go to sleep! I have to work tomorrow morning, but only for a few hours. Then I’ll have the afternoon to myself. There’s a discussion meeting at 1 pm on –th Street, which I want to be at. Ah, relaxed. But, yes, I must acknowledge the tinge of fear that it won’t last. But it doesn’t have to – it’s only for tonight that I’m living. Tomorrow is an unrealistic abstraction. And I say fuck it all. That shadow must pass. The light. Now I see – the shadow will always be there, but the brighter the light, the less chance darkness has to prevail.

It’s early – because I wasted no time on food games. Tonight I wanted to be high and read instead. John and the blue light were with me. Indulging in my dinner – knocked full romantic ashtray off the table – butts whirling with soot on the floor. Not afraid of losing my mind – it’s not mine to begin with.

Longer Stretches of Recovery (1983)

6. April, 5:30 am: Finishing up at work. Put in 10 hours today, which I’m glad about. I’ll return later this morning. Feel good – very productive. Had the most wonderful day yesterday. Greg called around noon, and we decided to meet for breakfast. Afterwards we went to the park, and sat for a time on the steps by the fountain at Columbus Circle. Then we caught the last part of Albert Owen’s act (the comedian). We hung around after he’d finished and spoke with him and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I was happy to have an opportunity to share my appreciation for what he’s doing, and to tell him that seeing him Monday afternoon really made my day.

Then Greg and I went to my apartment. We talked about music, then I brought out my clarinet and played some Beatles songs and he sang along. Then we both sang. Then I sang some Patti Smith songs. He was very encouraging and admired my voice. I shared some journal entries and poems, which he complimented as well. His praise was very rewarding. During much of the time we spent together, I felt extremely vulnerable, yet free.

Jumping in Before I Can Swim (travelling in Europe in 1983)

14. May: The morning was a wreck. Why do I do this? Now sitting in the sun – why didn’t I start here today? Drinking juice and writing. Saw a wedding procession earlier – horse drawn carriages going down the Limmatquai – it was so pretty. Want that with Desmond. I could picture us with little kids running around. But maybe I’m not destined to have that with him – he wants to go off and serve our country. Don’t want to fight him on it – he is free to make his own choice. But, neither should I keep my mouth shut – especially if it’s something which I’m not comfortable about living with. I guess it’ll just take more discovery before we figure out what we’re doing, what we want, and, possibly, with whom we’re doing it.

12.05 am: Almost ready for bed. Bought a Tribune today. And wouldn’t you know it – right on the very last page was an article on David Bowie, complete with concert listings!

Instead of rules, focus on being integrated – on what feels right. It is unnecessary to plan it all out ahead of time. For now, forget about next week, about impatience, about Eurrail. I am here right now, in Zurich at the Rex Hotel, on an early Sunday evening. Yesterday I was aware that it just began to get dark between 9 and 9:30. Today I saw several swans floating on the river, and they looked so pretty, swimming and playing as swans do. Forget about going home, about the big deal of writing the book. Forget about freckles, and the fear of cancer. None of these things are real – until I do them, or when/if they occur. Forget the focus on what may be – the speculation. Forget the few things I pretend to be sure of – they’re just desperate illusions. The birds chirp like crazy all day – so I can’t judge the time from them – morning or whenever.

23. June: Sitting atop the fortress Palamadi. It’s stunning – overlooking the clear blue of the Bay of Argolikos. Desmond would love this. It’s huge, and we went into a dungeon. It was small, dark and smelly – kind of creepy; I wouldn’t want to get stuck here. Amy (a girl I met) said it was used as a prison up until a few years ago. There are so many steps and passages. It’s really neat.

25. June: All the girls in my room left yesterday, and by evening it was filled with French girls – one too many, in fact. Two of them were talking, trying to figure out what was going on; both speaking a broken English. I sort of wondered about it; then one asked the other where she was from. Turns out they’re both from France. We all laughed. About all I did yesterday was read the book that Suzy lent me – I like it.

Love is Also a Distraction (how I fell in love and lost myself)

5. October: “Then shall your light rise in the darkness…
And the Lord will guide you continuously.” -Isa. 58:10,11

“God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” I Cor. 3:17

Spent some time with Mom, but was irritated, close to tears. She gabbed and gabbed and kept interrupting me. I was so critical of her, and couldn’t take it after a while. We need to very gradually get used to each other. At the office, several people remarked that I had gained weight and look much better. Funny – they surprised me.

Do you really know what I need
Is it time to listen
Our ideals are the extreme
You want me to help you
For the price of my freedom.
Where yesterday there was no fear
Suddenly you bring me to question
The aim of pursuing dreams.
The presence of a safety net
Another obstacle to truth
Intuition prevails and I risk it.
Your successful life of riches
Brings the laziness of comfort
To insulate from the world’s pain
So that there are only distant glimpses
Of unreal people beyond your reach.

Part II: The Road to Lasting Recovery

If I had listened to my heart, and trusted the inner voice, I would have stayed in New York City until I was well on the way to recovery, with at least a year of abstinence. However, that is not what I did. I chose an overseas relationship and the move to Europe, afraid that by staying I might make the wrong decision and give up perhaps my last opportunity for love. It was a very difficult adjustment, and through the situation of being in a foreign country, my tendency towards dependence, helplessness and inappropriate relating was strengthened. I had found a man who pushed all my buttons, made me feel totally insecure, and offered all of the conflicts from both of my parents which hadn’t yet been resolved. What a coincidence! What a mess, you might think! On the other hand, made wise by the insight I have gained over the past several years, perhaps that dramatic relapse was what I needed to really comprehend that I wanted to get it over with, to put the whole bulimic misery behind me. And I realized that I could not do it without help.

This story is about full recovery, about learning to live, to eat normally, to enjoy food, about learning to love and accept myself as I am. I don’t know why that insecurity is there, but it has haunted me for as long as I can remember.

Recovery is like having a baby – the story isn’t over after the baby finally is born. That’s just another beginning. Thus, I have chosen to include the first five years of health. These include graduation from the German high school, beginning my studies in Psychology, marriage, pregnancy, the birth of my daughter, and the first year of motherhood. I feel I owe it to the reader to include information as to what happens after recovery is “official,” yet I am reluctant to wander too far up to my recent past, as I prefer to keep that separate.

Further Chapters:

Being in Love (1984)
Recovery & Relapse (1985)
Living Together
Hitting Bottom II (1986)
Looking Forward (1987)
Passage into Lasting Recovery in 1988
Life in Recovery (1989)
Life After Recovery from the Symptom (1990)
Ups and Downs of Normal Life in Recovery (1991)
Becoming a Mother (1992)
Adjusting to Motherhood (1993)
After 1993….

Please let me know if you want to


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