Bulimia nervosa (BN) is an eating disorder and mental health condition that commonly co-occurs with depression and anxiety.

The following is a brief outline of my experience with this condition for thirteen years.

I now understand my long-term anxiety and the ensuing self-esteem issues were complexly intertwined with B.N...I continue to experience the lasting damage to my body. Though it was subconscious at the time, I’ve learned that eating activated my parasympathetic nervous system, which provided the very brief sense of relaxation, and reduced stress that I craved, despite this release it was almost immediately followed by intense guilt and the need to purge.

Being unable to face the stigma associated with Bulimia and risking a discredited social identity, I remained ‘in the closet’ with my closely guarded secret. There was never a diagnosis or treatment. This was the late 60’s; medical help was not available as Bulimia Nervosa was not identified or named until into the 70’s.

Fortunately, in the early 80’s I encountered a program of ‘free expression painting’ combined with the brilliant research of Dr. Marian Woodman. Dr. Woodman spent her life exploring the mythic, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of women’s relationship to body image and food. Her remarkable insights and publications began breaking the taboos concerning eating disorders. I remain in her debt.

Very recently a close friend shared over dinner, her daughter was undergoing treatment for Anorexia. She sadly explained the family had been told eating disorders are lifelong conditions with little chance of full recovery. To hear a prognosis being proclaimed by professionals, which completely contradicted my experience was upsetting. I felt compelled to reassure my friend and spontaneously ‘came out’! This was a shocking revelation to my family which we are processing.

Publicly sharing my work is taking a step I could not have previously imagined. But thankfully, an awareness and a language that recognizes the challenge and complexity of eating disorders has developed. Finally the compassion, skill and understanding needed, to diagnose and initiate treatment is emerging. It would now be possible to address B.N in a public conversation, particularly as these conditions no longer exclusively effect women, but occur across the gender spectrum. This exhibition is an example of the degree of change that is occurring.

The pieces in this exhibition were milestones on my healing journey.