Me: “I hate that I’m like this.”
Kyle: “What, human?”
This conversation followed a panic attack I had after getting an unexpected call to work a 14-hour flight to India in the middle of the night. I panicked because I had trouble eating lunch earlier that day and I knew the flight could possibly push me into relapse, or at least somewhere close. Disordered thoughts about relapsing into restricting, binging and purging flooded my head as I sat across the table from my boyfriend while he ate lunch at a local Cuban restaurant. I’m a reserve flight attendant in recovery from bulimia and the thought of working at 14-hour flight sent me into a state of panic. Working international flights without much warning have historically caused me to binge. almost. every. time.
I’ve been in recovery from bulimia for 3 years. However, my job as a flight attendant has caused me some anxiety which has caused me to revert back to my old friend – food. I haven’t purged but I have binged countless times since I’ve started working as a flight attendant over the past couple of years. It’s no where near the amount of binging I used to do when I was in the throes of my bulimia, but thoughts of relapse over the past 6 months or so have raised quite the cause for concern. My bulimia bottom was binging and purging for 10 hours a day, and I refuse to go back to that mental space.
I tend to be extremely hard on myself. It’s hard for me to forgive myself after I’ve made a mistake. I have even recently confused struggles with mental health as “mistakes.” However, I will say I’m better than I was 5 years ago and in five years, I’ll be even better about this than I am now. My boyfriend’s reaction to my negative self talk was exactly the thing I needed to hear. I am human. Yes, I am in recovery and yes, I also struggle sometimes with thoughts of binging and purging. For someone in recovery and dealing with a lot of stress, this is normal. Fifteen years of mowing down neural pathways associated with bulimia will not change over night. Recovery takes time, professional help, a lot of support from friends and family, and above all, patience.