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Binge Eating Disorder: An interview with a friend in recovery
by TeenHelp June 1st 2019, 11:55 AM

Binge Eating Disorder: An interview with a friend in recovery
By Frankie (_Headphones_)

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is categorized by binges, or consuming larger quantities of food; more food than the body needs to function, without purging it (self-induced vomiting) afterwards. Like many issues, BED is unfortunately misunderstood. I did this interview with my friend to refute some of these misunderstandings, and give people a look into what it is like to live with BED.

Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of your eating disorder:
My name is Bonnie. I love creating whether that is sewing a new outfit out of a thrift store sheet, crocheting, choreographing a dance for a burlesque performance, a collage from recycled magazines, or creating a new vegan recipe. My passions are animals, swimming, sewing, dancing, cooking, being an advocate for queer issues and breaking down mental health stigmas. My dream is to be a therapist and work with others who have eating disorders and those in the queer community.

When did your eating disorder start? How long have you had it?
I can't remember life without my eating disorder. I don't think I knew it was an eating disorder when I was younger. I just used food. I used it when I was happy, lonely, sad, mad, excited.

When was it diagnosed as BED, and was it hard to get the diagnosis from a doctor?
I was diagnosed in 2014 when I was 29. It wasn't hard for me to get a diagnosis. I think the hardest part was finally realizing I had an eating disorder and then asking for help. Once I did that it was pretty obvious that I had BED.

What types of treatment have you received for your BED? Which seemed to work and which ones didn't?
I have gone to a residential treatment center, PHP (partial hospitalization treatment programs), and IOP (intensive outpatient programs) plus regular therapy. I've been in therapy for my BED since 2014. For me I feel mostly everything has helped.

I love one on one therapy because we focus on ME. I share about current struggles, new triggers, old triggers, and things I need to process.

In treatment I was connected with DBT (dialectal behavior therapy). I really love DBT and the skills learned. Before DBT I did not realize that I was not present. Learning to be more mindful has really helped on my journey.

Art therapy. I don't know where I would be without art therapy. I always loved to create and do art but never connected it with my eating disorder and mental illness. Art helps me say what I can't. It helps me put my feelings and thoughts into a visual representation. It helps me get it out. It also helps me to distract myself if I am having an urge or obsessive thoughts.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding BED, have you been affected by any of them?
Yes, I believe that I went so many years without ever learning about BED because of my size. Everyone just thought I needed to make lifestyle changes not that I was using food to cope with life. Those are very different things. This affected me because I went so many years without knowing the biggest reasons for my issues around food.

Have people undermined your eating disorder? Or told you just not to eat? If so, how did you respond to those type of things, and how did it make you feel?
Yes. Thankfully I am almost always surrounded by positive people who do not say things like this but I have gotten this from my parents. It hurts. I used to not stand up for myself. During my recovery I realized that it was important to stand up to those who are hurting me even if those people are my parents. Now I'll say things like "I'm following my dietitian's meal plan" or something like that. It's still a work in progress. I process my feelings around my parents and my eating disorder with my therapist.

What are some things you wish people would stop telling you that surround your ED?
I think it would be if you just "diet and exercised" or "used self-control" or "just don't eat it" or "just have one". Those things infuriate me.

What are some of your triggers? And how do you deal with them?
Men saying and doing inappropriate things. I seek support from friends who are safe and I create art.

My mother. I try to distance myself from her. I no longer share my successes because she almost always knocks them down. I keep myself guarded around her. I process a lot of this through therapy.

Do you have any other mental health issues? If so, do you think they effect your ED? If so in a good or bad way?
Yes, I have ADHD, anxiety, and depression. I feel they all go hand in hand. When I was in my most dark space my ED, anxiety, and depression snowballed together. They formed this giant bond and it was so hard to break through from them. My anxiety would cause depression which would lead to a binge which would lead to more depression which would give me more anxiety. My untreated ADHD affected my ED negatively because I lived in impulse and chaos. ED "helped" calm me down or at least I thought it helped.

Now that my ADHD is treated I find it helps me distract from thoughts and urges. I enjoy creating and I am now able to focus on a project and enjoy following it through to completion. Typically, by this time I forgot about the urge and I am so proud of my accomplishment that I no longer want to binge.

Have you ever engaged in other types of disordered eating? If so what?
I have not.

What are you feeling when you are in the middle of a binge? What thoughts are going through your head? And how do you feel after?
In the middle of a binge I typically feel nothing. Binge eating allows me to numb and escape from life. It's the time in my day when, even if it's just a few minutes, I don't have to think about anything but me and my binge.

Pretty much immediately after, I feel lots of shame, guilt, and disappointment. I almost always regret the binge. Sometimes I feel alone, scared, and like there is no hope for life without binge eating.

Fortunately, I know now that I can have a life that does not include binge eating. That this life is so much more incredible than the one that includes my BED. I deserve this amazing life I dream of and each day I work towards making these dreams a reality.

What's one of the hardest things about suffering from BED? Is there anything you want to say to others who are suffering from this as well?
For me it is that I wear my eating disorder on me all the time. My size is a result of my binge eating. For many years I hated myself and hated my body. Thankfully, through my recovery journey I have grown to love myself. Including this body that I am in. I tell her thank you and am grateful for all she does for me. My body did not ask for this and we are working together to make changes and continue in recovery.

To others I would say that I know it's hard to love yourself right now but the more you love you, even if you aren't exactly happy with where you are at, it makes the journey less challenging.

If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of disordered eating, know that you can live a life without it. It takes a lot of hard work, but it is possible: Bonnie is living proof of this. I hope reading this interview gives you a better idea of BED.
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