Stalkers and Eating Disorders Certainly not everyone with bulimia acts out their disease as I described. But many do match the scenario in tmy last two posts and many are worse. At least in the descriptions I gave, the woman got home. I wrote the full bulimic episode description to make clear that bulimia covers a territory far more vast than eating behaviors.
The Stalker and Early Eating Disorder Recovery It is not unusual for a new patient to begin her work with me by voicing her concerns about a stalker. Often we begin work by discussing the details of a relationship that has soured. The relationship began when she was fully in her bulimic life. When she is speaking with me she has already completed some of her recovery work without realizing how much she has accomplished.
1. She moved past her denial and despair and allowed a glimmer of hope for healing.
2. She put effort into finding her psychotherapist.
3. She arranged her time and finances so she could come to regular session.
4. She became committed to her recovery work.
5. She began to tell the truth about her real lived experience.
6. She began to put action into creating a better life for herself.
These are not the actions of the person she was when she developed the relationship with the stalker. She was then fully in her bulimia. Now she has begun recovery. She has more self awareness and a changed agenda.
Attracting a Stalker The symptoms of her illness made her a match for the man who needed a woman who would go blank or numb rather than feel pain, fear or disgust. A bulimic woman, deep in her symptoms, needs kindness and caring. She will often misinterpret an exploiter’s need of her as love.
Recognizing a Stalker When my patient begins her therapy work she starts on her road to health and clarity. The man she was involved with doesn’t look so good. As she becomes more healthy he may fall out of her life. But often, he wants her back as she was.
He will make demands. He will be angry at her attempts to be well and to expand her life. He will attempt to undermine her efforts in work or school or developing new friends and certainly, her therapy. Her recovery work involves not only the psychological work of eating disorder recovery but also the practical and highly emotionally charged work of pulling herself out of the world she inhabited as a bulimic. Unhealthy exploitive relationships have to end.
Benefits of Feeling Bad When a man she thought was a friend, boyfriend or lover becomes desperate to keep her in his life she is often amazed, disgusted and then frightened when she realizes he is stalking her. He wants the woman he could use. She is becoming a feeling woman who wants to climb out of the dark and into a life of health and meaning. She may try to deny her feelings. But the very feelings she sought to numb are the feelings that help her recognize her true situation with this man. Her disgust and fear show her clearly that this man must not be in her life.
Genuine Self Care In her fledgling state of recovery she must find ways to protect herself from a predator. Learning how to take care of herself is vital for her survival and is a key element in eating disorder recovery. She has to develop resources within herself to meet the challenges in her life and not rely on food to give her a false rescue her or take her consciousness out of this world.
From Being Lost to Being Found The woman in my last two posts was raw and vulnerable. She had no access to inner strength and no ability to recognize healthy, kind people who might guide her. At some point we can hope that when she wakes up, she will feel her usual guilt, shame, fatigue, loneliness and, maybe, for the first time, a determination to not go any lower than this. If she hits her bottom, she’ll look up, for her way out. And a way out exists.
Once she is open to recovery, she will ask the questions and see some hints of answers that will lead her to her recovery path. Many people in my profession devote their lives to eating disorder recovery work. See Academy for Eating Disorders and International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. Overeaters Anonymousprovides help and support all over the world for people who are willing and able to move on their recovery path. We are here for her when she’s ready to call.