False Control in Bipolar Disorder: My Bulimia Story

October 28, 2015 • Body Image, Eating Disorder, Inspiration, Mental Health, Recovery • Views: 3939

I don’t remember the day a psychiatrist told me that I was bipolar.

It was more of a slow realization. After years of feeling like a ragdoll in the wake of my own turbulence, it took time to fully grasp my diagnosis. Bipolar Disorder, Type I, rapid-cycling.

Suddenly, unknowns in my life made sense. In this new clarity, however, I realized just how out of control I was of my own life and emotions. I questioned what parts of myself were me, and what parts were side-effects of a disorder. I felt out of control.  In my hurt, I turned to a tried-and-true comfort: food.

It started out harmlessly enough during my freshman year of college. My roommate would know I was in a bad mood, so we’d run to some fast food place to “eat our feelings.” Then, I found myself running to the drive-thru by myself and parking in an empty lot off campus, scarfing value menu chicken nuggets with a side of shame.

I knew was bulimic from the first time I purged. I also knew I was addicted to the rush of false control I felt every time it happened. I was drowning in my own over-achievement, juggling internships with a heavy course load and a long-term relationship with my high school sweetheart. I thought I needed this control, however false it was.

In therapy, I couldn’t admit I had an addiction. I talked lows and highs, but my rapid weight gain was just an elephant in the room.

My sophomore year, I finally talked. I told friends, who ended up being lifelines. I told my boyfriend of 5 years. I told my therapist. And then I told myself I’d be fine. I quit. I relapsed. I quit. I relapsed. It became a cycle as defined as clockwork.

Then, my boyfriend decided he couldn’t do it anymore. Just after our 6th anniversary, in my junior year, he ended things. I felt lost at first, but then decided to focus on thriving.

After moving 500 miles away from home, Kelly Rivard set up the resources she needed in her new city to maintain recovery, health and happiness for the long term.

After moving 500 miles away from home, Kelly Rivard set up the resources she needed in her new city to maintain recovery, health and happiness for the long term.

I spent my last summer of college living in California for my dream internship. I came back and had an incredible senior year. Two weeks after graduation, I moved to a new city, 500 miles from home, and began recovery in earnest. I started running. Shortly after, I met the love of my life.

That fresh start was the best thing that ever happened to me. If you’re looking to start a new chapter in your life, here are a few pointers:

  • Discuss it with your healthcare providers — including your mental health professionals. My “back home” therapists and doctors from college knew my intentions to move away, and they helped me work toward that level of independence. They can also help you pre-emptively arrange healthcare options if you’re moving.
    • Note: A new chapter doesn’t mean you’re moving. It could just mean major lifestyle changes, or a new job, for example. But looping your caregivers in a vital regardless of big of a change you’re making!
  • Find a tribe. When I first moved, I joined a volunteer organization and a church within my first two months. Even if I wasn’t ready to let people in on my struggles right away, being able to tap into the social interaction helped, and many did become close enough friends to trust with my difficulties.
  • Go on adventures. Change is rarely easy, but if you treat the change like a journey and work to enjoy it, it’s better. I discovered amazing things about my new city while I ran – I’m not sure my fresh start would have worked if I hadn’t enjoyed the adventures along the way!
  • Don’t ever, ever, ever neglect self-care. Always leave time to take care of yourself. Build a routine of self-care, including things like personal hygiene, healthy meals, physical activities, and hobbies.
  • Set some goals. Obviously, I like to avoid number goals. My goals tend to be experience-related. What are fun, attainable experiences you can achieve during this chapter to enrich your life and build your confidence along way? For instance, I picked out some running races that would mean a lot to me, and made a sight-seeing to-do list for my “new hometown.” They weren’t make-or-break goals and were always flexible, but gave me things to work toward!

Though my bipolar disorder will never go away, I’ve been in full-time recovery without a major relapse for nearly 4 years. In that time, I’ve lost the weight I gained as part of my binge eating and bulimia – the right way – and ran my first half marathon on October 17, 2015. I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been, and in an odd way I’m grateful for the journey. While I still have the urge to relapse when things get hard, I wouldn’t be who I am today without these ups and downs.

Kelly Rivard is a 20-something digital strategist living in Kansas City with her boyfriend, two dogs, a bird, a lizard and several fish. You can follow her on Twitter or on her Facebook page Crazy Fit.

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