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Perspective | Ask Amy: Long-ago struggle with bulimia reemerges decades later – Washington Post

Dear Amy:When I was in my early teens, I had bulimia.

I was 5-foot-5-inches tall and weighed 79 pounds. I vomited every time I ate.

I am now in my mid-40s.

Lately, I can barely keep any food down. I am disgusted to eat food in front of anyone else. I abhor the sound of people eating. If I do eat something, I feel ashamed and cannot control myself from vomiting it up. I am not underweight now, I’m actually overweight. I eat one meal a day and try to keep it down.

I’m not sure if there is any help for people like me. Usually people with these problems are underweight and become hospitalized.

Who would consider that I have an eating disorder?

A friend I confided in asked if I had food allergies. No, I don’t think so. I just hate food.

— Starving and Fat

Starving and Fat:Relapses of eating disorders are unfortunately common. This is one reason eating disorders are so challenging to treat. Stress, anxiety, work furlough and isolation related to the pandemic might have been triggers for you.

You may remember this idea from your previous therapy: People trying to recover from an addiction (drinking, smoking, etc.) can succeed by avoiding their trigger. But we all have to eat to live. You are forced to confront the source of your distress every day.

Any competent physician, disorder specialist or nutritionist would very easily understand that someone who is overweight has a serious eating disorder.

You should see a physician immediately. A medical problem could be the underlying reason for your symptoms. A medical condition or allergy could have also triggered your eating disorder, so you might be dealing with a complex combination of causes and symptoms.

The important thing is for you — as an adult — to use your insight and instincts to bravely confront something that is hard to face. This is the essence of self-care, and the journey should start in your doctor’s office. Be completely honest about your history and your current symptoms, and be open to treatment, including talk therapy.

The National Eating Disorders Helpline offers a variety of ways (phone, text and chat) for you to connect — immediately — with a volunteer counselor. CheckNationaleatingdisorders.orgfor more information. You can also text NEDA to a volunteer at Crisis Text Line (741-741), for immediate text support.

Dear Amy:I am a happily married man with a child in college. My wife and I have been married for 22 years (my second marriage, her first). We have a healthy relationship that has gotten progressively better over the years. We both will retire soon and look forward to that.

Way back, 15 to 20 years ago, I had a few “encounters” that did not involve sex, but did involve kissing, etc.

I am very embarrassed and disappointed in myself, and experience guilt about this. My wife does not know about any of this, nor do I see any reason to disclose it, but how do I deal with my guilt?

— Guilty Party

Guilty Party:I think a little justified guilt can actually be a good thing. Guilt reminds you of your humanity. It reminds you of the harm even “good people” are capable of. Guilt humbles you and can endear you to the vulnerability you see in others.

However, you have to decide how long your jail sentence should be for things you did two decades ago. You should review your behavior, try to decode the reasons behind it (insecurity, loneliness, fear, arrogance — and/or simple blind stupidity), acknowledge your own faults and failings, and make a choice either to forgive yourself — or extend your sentence.

The goal is NOT to believe: “I have nothing to feel guilty about,” but to understand: “I am flawed. I did something I regret. I’m lucky the damage wasn’t worse. I’m a better person, now.”

Have you seen the movie “Frozen” lately? “Let It Go” is an anthem of liberation.

Dear Amy:Thank you for your thoughtful response to “Hanging On,” a young woman who had been raped but had not reported it.

I shoved my assaults down inside me until I was 37 and could no longer take the pain. I started working with a wonderful woman who guided me through healing. It was hard, but oh so wonderful not to have the rage and anger boiling inside me.

I am 68 now, and I am free.

— Grateful

Grateful:I hope that “Hanging On” gets the quality of counseling that you received.

2020 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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