My name is Astrid, I am a student in Nutritherapy since a few months, and bulimia, I know well. Not so much to have studied it, but especially to have lived it. As for many bulimics, it was never marked on my forehead, nor on my body for that matter: I was never thin or overweight, I always had what we could call “all -to-be-happy “(with some blows and wounds of life, of course, but nothing more serious than the average). I looked normal, and I did everything to maintain that appearance. In fact, I never felt in my place anywhere, and I felt as if I was going crazy for no reason, no hunger, no end.
Addiction: How, Why?
Bulimia, we often know that the “sensational” side: the binge-eating with, sometimes, the passage through the toilet to be vomited then, phenomenon as spectacular as incomprehensible. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg, the symptom of a much deeper dysfunction. In fact, bulimia is not a nutritional problem. Bulimia, as I know it, is a form of addiction. We are toxicos of the food (see note 1.) However, the food, it is still not a dangerous substance! – will you tell me?
I remember reading somewhere that addiction is the encounter between a personality, a substance and a moment. Remove one of the three, and there will be no addiction.
Bulimics have particular personalities (see note 2.) From a psychological point of view, the majority of the population, the “normal” people are neurotic. That is to say, they went through the Oedipal stage and they integrated the separation from “mother”. For bulimics, it seems that this is not the case, that we missed the march of the Oedipus for one reason or another.
Disconnection from the Self
We then become perfectly developed people intellectually and physically, but emotionally, we stayed at the stage of the baby. It is thought to be one with his “mom” but growing up, the “mom” is not only the mother. It can also be the companion / companion, the friends, the boss … in short, the others.
The paradox of not having been able to separate is that with our “baby” brain, we take ourselves for the center of the world – we take everything for ourselves, or rather against us – while not having not been able to build a Self (differentiated from the Other).
This explains why bulimia is almost always triggered in adolescence: it is a crucial period of self-discovery and self-affirmation. So, if we do not have a Self, we have nothing to affirm. Nothing but a huge, frightening, devouring emptiness, somehow trying to hide from others by constructing a borrowed personality, a false-self (See note 3).
Most of us are doing very well at this game. We learn to appear, because we do not understand how to be. But in vain, the interstellar void is still there. Then the unconscious will find a way to fill it, at least temporarily. This is how people, seemingly “normal” find themselves emptying the fridge, raiding all the closets, eating full meals for 5 or 6 people, to get up at night to…eat. Then restrain yourself or vomit before starting again.
How do we get out of this schema?
Our unconscious – that’s good for everyone – is our best survival kit. Even though the solutions he finds to our problems can sometimes be far-fetched and impractical.
As painful and inappropriate as they are, binge eating is a lifesaver that allows us to survive in our ocean of emptiness. As you would need to learn to swim in order to let go of this buoy, you need to learn how to live so you do not just survive.
For me, “learning to live” was with the help of a group psychotherapy: a therapy framed by Catherine Hervais, a benevolent but confronting and authentic psychologist, who does not let itself be had by our “scratched records” on our crises or our misfortunes, and that does not let us flee in the complaint or aggression (because in these cases, it is the false self that speaks). On the contrary, it forces us to work with the Other, to consider it as a subject instead of using it as an object to which one either knocks or clings. As a result, we ourselves become subjects, first of all facing the Other, then for ourselves.
Therapy does not change our mental structure, we do not become neurotics. But we learn to build, to empower, to “feed” in the relationship with oneself and with others. Little by little, we do not need to over-eat to feel filled.
1. Title of the book by Catherine Hervais, The Toxics of Food.
2. Some people, however, may experience “bulimic episodes”, out of boredom or depressed without entering into this personality pattern. This was the case of Elizabeth Taylor, for example.
3. Formula used by the psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott.
Poem from the Author
Monstrous, my nothingness exults,
Dark prison, vague and occult.
Infant in an adult body,
I struggle in my tumult.
And I only appease when I eat,
Almost until choking,
My fear in my stomach, my fear of people,
Painful flight forward.
Hollow image, negative,
Among the others I am,
When I am alone, I am nothing.
Fill me to deny emptiness,
Destroy myself, explode the belly,
I’m not in my skin,
I am only housing my troubles.