Today's Tears Water Tomorrow’s Gardens- Katie Beecher
I still vividly remember the day I started to release my fear and allow my authentic self to emerge, with the help of what I am convinced is divine intervention. This was the first time I felt truly connected to my intuition and decided to trust it, though I had no idea that was what I was doing at the time.
It was winter during my senior year in high school, and I was struggling with bulimia. I had also recently found out that I received a scholarship to George Washington University. The thought of being able to move away from my parents and live six hours away from my dysfunctional homelife in Connecticut was exciting and gave me hope for the future. I hadn’t felt hopeful in a very long time.
I’m not sure exactly what gave me the courage, but I came home from school one day and picked up the yellow rotary wall phone in the kitchen, my hands shaking as I dialed the number of our family pediatrician, Dr. Merman. When I told him that I was eating a lot and throwing up three times a day, he initially said that he thought I would be fine, that it wasn’t any cause for concern. In 1983, not very much was known about eating disorders. I even used the word “bulimic,” which I had never used before. I had never been so afraid to make a phone call in my entire life, and I’m so thankful that whatever gave me the courage and motivation to call also made me fight to make sure that he listened to me. I didn’t tell him that if he didn’t give me the name of a therapist, I was considering ending my life by driving my car into a wall. I thought he might tell my parents, who would put me into a hospital, and then everyone would find out how really screwed up I was. Fortunately, he took what I was saying seriously, and he gave me the name of a therapist: Jean Sutherland, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who was trained in Jungian psychology.
Two months after making that call, after repeatedly telling myself that I could stop on my own, I mustered up the courage to phone the therapist he recommended. She asked if my parents would be coming, and I said “No, just me. Is that okay?” When she said that I was old enough to receive treatment on my own, I was so relieved. There was no way I could explain what I had been doing to myself or the incomprehensible thoughts in my head, in front of the people I knew had contributed to my eating disorder and who would deny any responsibility, much less make any effort to change their behavior.
The only time I felt really recognized by my father was when I gained or lost weight. I hadn’t even noticed the twenty pounds I gained after going through puberty at age twelve, until my father made a comment that I “didn’t need” the ice cream I was getting out of the freezer. Sitting in judgment at the kitchen table, with his ever-present large belly, he was hardly someone who should be giving nutritional advice. I didn’t say very much (and never did then), dishing myself a few scoops anyway, but I secretly vowed to start dieting the next day. By the end of that summer, taking in only a thousand calories a day (because why do anything in moderation?), I had lost all of the weight I had gained. Soon after, I returned to my normal way of eating and gained it all back, starting a vicious cycle of gain and loss.
As the number on the scale increased, I spiraled deeper into the pattern of self-hatred and failure, and the weight loss became even more difficult with the damage I was doing to my metabolism. Eventually, I resorted to desperate measures: first bingeing and fasting on and off for days at a time, using laxatives and diuretics. When these “weight loss” methods didn’t work, I turned to bulimia. I ate more during the binges than I threw up, so I didn’t lose weight doing that, either, but by then it wasn’t about the weight. It was about trying to push down my feelings. It had become a full-blown addiction.
Bingeing and purging are a way of removing yourself from your body, going to a different place, where there are no feelings, other people, pressures—anything. It’s an escape from real life and from yourself. It’s a way of letting go of all control, expectations, and fears—saying “fuck you” to life with the binge, then vomiting up that temporary courage. I was ready to find lasting courage.
On my first day of therapy, I had what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience. I felt the presence of a force that had always been a part of me but that I never recognized. It was an inner strength and an inner love. It was making me fight and telling me I could win. It was telling me that I could beat this.
The concepts my therapist was describing were completely foreign to me. I had never heard of Carl Jung or Jungian psychology, the collective unconscious, archetypes, the Shadow, alchemy, or most of the other things the therapist talked about, but I loved that our work was based on connection to intuition, acceptance of the whole person, and self-love. I loved that Jung developed most of his most important teachings and theories during active trance states in which he communicated in writing and through artistic images with his intuitive guides. They are based on and have influenced mythology, archaeology, religion, art, astrology, anthropology, and the occult. His views and the tools he created made sense to me, since they encouraged empowerment, connection to intuition, and the belief that we already have the answers to our problems and questions inside of ourselves. I just needed guidance to help find them.
I inhaled everything my therapist gave me to read and attended appointments every week until I went off to college that fall. While I was engaging in eating-disordered behaviors less and less, I still had a long way to go emotionally. I continued with therapy at school, and within a couple of years, I had stopped the bingeing and purging and other eating-disordered behaviors completely, but the desire and body dysmorphia remained. I was prescribed the antidepressant Prozac toward the end of my therapy. Knowing what I know now, I may not have chosen that route, but at that time it truly changed my life for the better. I became less sensitive, saw myself and life through a clearer lens, and became much more outgoing. As a bonus, I no longer felt the desire to engage in bulimic behavior.
I consider Bulimia to be one of my greatest teachers and greatest gifts. If I had not gone through that experience, I would not only still be engaged in dysfunctional family relationships and be struggling with self-worth, but I would also not be doing the work I am today.
Excerpted from Heal from Within: A Guidebook to Intuitive Wellness by Katie Beecher, MS, LPC and published by St. Martin’s Press.
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Katie Beecher, MS, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Medical and Emotional Intuitive with over thirty years of experience. Her book, Heal from Within: An Intuitive Guide to Wellness, will be released by St. Martin’s Press on February 15, 2022.