Bulimia and the ACA
by Lisa A. Romano
Eating issues are symptoms of something much deeper. Let's stop calling it a disorder.
Dysfunctional homes come in all shapes and sizes. Contrary to popular belief, DH's are not exclusive to projects and graffiti-riddled neighborhoods. In fact, DH's are sometimes the neatest houses on the block. They often are two-parent homes with fancy cars in the driveway. Dysfunctional caretakers can be athletes, lawyers, CPA's and neurosurgeons. And this folks, is part of why so many children from DH's are bulimic, anorexic, overeaters, and exercise compulsively. When the dysfunctional home is hard to notice--the children absorb the angst from the home--and act it out in subjective forms.
Their lives are mirrors to their family dynamics. Just as an outwardly lean, blonde cheerleader would appear to be happy--inside she may be riddled with angst--just as her home--may look perfect--it may not be. The key is the contrast between what the child sees--and what the child feels.
Although it is healthy to encourage a child to do well in school, or to eat right, or to exercise--there is a line a caretaker must never cross when approaching subjects such as these. Any time love, affection, and acceptance are used as weapons to bully a child into doing what a parent wants them to do--a violation of the child's rights has taken place.
My home looked perfect. My dad owned his own company and my mother was a stay at home mom. She was also his secretary. In addition, my mother kept our home as neat as a pin, and as sterile as a hospital operating room. She cooked amazing meals each night, ironed every article of clothing that passed through her washing machine, took us to all of our doctors appointments, and showed up for all of our parent teacher meetings.
My parents were and still are an incredibly handsome couple. They dress well, are always together, and have saved ridiculously well for their retirement. From the outsid,e these would seem to be good things, and while they are--the belief systems that have fueled their behaviors are not.
Both of my parents are adult children of alcoholics--and thus adult children from dysfunctional homes. Back in the 1940's when both of my parents were children, they swore they'd never drink when they had children and presumed by doing so--they would create the perfect little family when they got married and had children. But because neither of my parents ever truly healed their childhoods, they sadly raised me and my siblings under the same types of dysfunctional rules that governed their childhoods--and live in denial about it.
In our home, the no-talk rule was huge. It was not acceptable to cry--to complain--to ask questions--to express how we felt--or to need--or to want--anything. The goal was control at all cost--and that went for money--emotions--and even food. It was the norm to be asked, "why are you eating that?" and "are you really going out looking like that?" It was the norm to be told, "be nice--or no one will like you" and "if you have nothing nice to say--don't say anything at all" and "what do you think money grows on trees--you can't always get what you want you know."
In our hom,e we feared our father--his anger--his criticism--his disapproval--and his shunning of us when any of us acted up like innocent children do from time to time.
My mother was a critical woman--of us--and probably more of herself--although this was never brought to the light. She too feared upsetting my father, telling him how she fei/UUUuuuult, and did all she could to minimize her own wants and needs.
My dad is a perfectionist, and so is my mother. Living with two adult children of alcoholics--who are in denial--who are ruled by an insane neurosis to control what they cannot control--is like living in a petri dish that is being misted by with acid rain. My siblings and I were quite actually programmed to believe that control is the key to happiness--to success--to safety--and security. And although my parents intentions may have been pure--their unconscious belief systems were totally f***ed up.
So many of my clients suffer from bulimia, exercise compulsion, anorexia and fear of food. All of them without exception have come from dysfunctional families. As children they felt stifled, ignored, criticized, pushed too far, unworthy, and as if their parents approval was conditional. To be accepted by their parents, my clients had to smile when they felt like crying, agree when they truly disagreed, stuff their feelings when they felt like screaming their heads off, and for the sake of white picket fences, needed to not rock the boat--ever.
As adults, their unconscious programming is much like their own parents--they just don't always see it at first...which is where I come in as their coach.
Bulimics, anorexic's, overeaters and those of my clients with exercise disorders are unconsciously trying to stay in control over the emotions they just do not know how to ALLOW themselves to feel.
Because their unconscious programming has taught them--since they were children--to push down negative emotions--and to stuff their negative emotions--asan adult some beings become bulimic--and literally gorge themselves on food (emotions) and then purge their food (emotions). Anorexics--deprive themselves of food (emotions or nurturing) because they feel unworthy of real nurturing. Exercise neurosis--are trying to flee their stuffed emotions, and by doing so buy themselves some time before the emotions they have forever stuffed surface.
The key to healing is knowledge. Until we make the unconscious conscious--we will be creating lives we think we never would--but we are--because we keep running from the emotions we were taught to stuff, stifle, deny and control.
Feeling our feelings won't kill us. Yes, we might feel, really, really bad, but it passes.
When I first started my recovery--I was literally ill for weeks at a time. Years of stuffed emotions had to surface, for me to ever learn how to finally let go--and re-wire my brain so it could think in a more healthy way. Understanding that every thought I thought was wrong--at times seemed impossible to face...But I knew that if I just never gave up--one day I would get well...
Yes, you might feel like staying in bed for a few days when you start this healing process--and you should. You might need to stay away from family members who trigger your anxiety--and you should. You might feel like you need an Advil to help with the headaches that come when you begin detoxing your emotional body--and yes you should take it. And yes--you may need a few boxes of soft tissues--and yes you should buy them now :)
But--but--but--if you hold on--and NEVER give up--IF you keep striving to feel--YOU CAN HEAL.
I BELIEVE IN YOU.