Hi folks! I’m nearly finished with an excellent book by Kathryn Hansen. Here’s the precise title of the book:
Brain over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn’t Work, and How I Recovered for Good.
Now those of you that know me know, of course, right off the bat, just reading the title alone why such a book might appeal to me, Julie Greene.
First of all, I have had first-hand experience with binge eating, that is, I have done this act. No, I’m not one of those therapists that makes ridiculous claims based on tons of reading and study on eating disorders that can cure patients without ever having starved herself or ever having lived in an emaciated body.
I do have what we former patients call “lived experience.” So yes, I do know what a binge is like. I know what a gigantic, terrifying binge is like and I do know what it’s like to have to keep it all inside. I do know what it’s like to finally go for help, absolutely terrified, not knowing what the reaction will be, and then get the variety of responses that either make us laugh, cry, or kill ourselves. Rarely do any of us “recover.” The statistics that state that binge eating is “highly treatable” are completely wrong. Dead folks can’t fill out those surveys, after all. And some are just too sick or discouraged to hold a #2 pencil.
Secondly, I you guys know that I have now totally rejected the mental health system, which I often refer to as the System, yes, capital S. So I love that Kathryn Hansen managed to stop binge eating without conventional therapy. I saw in the title that she did this, so for sure I’ve wanted to read the book for a while now.
Today, my health plan called me and again offered me a “therapist.” First, they offered two of the ones I’ve already “tried out” and I said, “no thanks.” They offered a third. I said, “I need to speak with this person on the phone first.” I got excuses and was told to look online at the person’s smiley, photoshopped face. I wanted to say more. I wanted to say, “Do you know that three of your people turned me away last summer when I was clearly starving, physically weak, barely able to stand up, and my kidneys were on the verge of failing? Instead I was poked fun at and threatened. Put off and trivialized. Told to go elsewhere. Am I going to take my chances with the mental health people at this health plan again? Or take charge of my body?” But no, I kept my mouth shut.
I never phoned the “therapist.” I have no intentions to do so. I don’t want more abuse. Kathryn Hansen speaks in her book about how therapy did more harm than good. I’m getting to this part now. She was lucky. She rejected therapy after only four years of that baloney.
In a nutshell: One day, Hansen picked up a copy of Rational Recovery. Have you folks heard of this? It’s a cool book and program that’s designed for alcoholics as sort of an alternative to AA. It’s not religious or spiritual. What’s cool about it (in my opinion) is that RR completely rejects the disease model of alcoholism.
In other words, we are not damaged. We are not defective. Not that I know anything about alcoholism. I’m not an alcoholic. I totally don’t get why anyone would drink it in the first place, and although at odd times I’ve attempted to swallow the stuff, I think it’s rather disgusting and it’s a struggle to consume it. I’ve told you folks that now and then I’ve attempted to turn myself into a habitual drinker and I simply can’t. I lose interest. It’s boring. It’s even more boring than the worst of Julie Greene’s blog posts that you end up x-ing out. I’ve got a bottle of cooking sherry around here I think I’ve had for two decades. Anyway, RR is very cool. Kathryn Hansen doesn’t just talk about RR, she incorporates tons of research into her book, as well as her own original ideas based on lived experience with her own binge eating.
One thing you do need to know: Brain over Binge is geared specifically to tackle binge eating. The thesis is that purging behavior happens because the person has binged. However, I do know people who purge not because they have binged, but because they have eaten something they aren’t comfortable with. Therefore, if you are seeking a solution to purging behavior and this is your main problem, I don’t think this book is for you. If your purging is purely a reaction to binge eating, and solving binge eating will in turn solve the subsequent purge, then by all means, pick up this book.
I don’t throw up and never did. Hansen states that she, too, attempted to vomit many times but was unable to do so. She used exercise to “get rid of the calories.”
I didn’t do overexercise, and still don’t. There are many reasons for this. Hansen does a brilliant job of describing her binges in vivid, gory detail. I believe for the most part, over the years, mine took more of a physical toll on my body and by all means, I couldn’t get up the next day and go jogging! Perhaps people’s bodies are just different, or maybe my quantities are larger. Or maybe it went on for more years and decades for me. I would be in so much physical pain from massive binge eating that I could barely move or breathe. I was afraid I’d aspirate my food, choke, or my stomach would rupture, even half a day after the binge. To get out of bed was painful. Sitting in a chair, walking across the room…geez…I have been quite ill from this…so in that way, our experiences of the aftermath differ. I do know of people who have taken themselves to emergency rooms following episodes of binge eating due to physical consequences that for me, sadly, are everyday occurrence.
So here I am, having stated that “I am going to review this wonderful book once I finish it” and have already yapped on and on, far more than I had intended.
I do want to say this: I intend to study Kathryn’s theories further and I do want to implement them. She’s definitely onto something and WE need to pay attention to what she’s saying.
I also want to say that the book is a quick read and it’s not at all difficult or complicated to grasp her ideas. No hocus-pocus, no gimmicks, nothing to purchase. No pharmaceuticals.
Hansen was originally helped by Topamax. What happened was that the Topamax stopped working. So she told herself that she was going to have to find anther way to stop binge eating. The brief success she had with Topamax served to help her realize that therapy is ineffective by comparison and a complete crock of shit.
My own experience with Topamax is that Topamax works. It does. Currently, it works so-so for me. Not 100%. Due to my kidney disease, I’ve been taking a lower dose of it than I did previously. I know that if I didn’t take the half dose I’m taking now, the binge eating would be far more frequent. I’m terrified just to imagine it. I’d say I binge slightly more often than once a week. What I go through is extremely disabling as it is.
I’d say binge eating was the main reason I had to give up writing my Nano book this year. Following each binge, I was just too physically sick to get any writing done. It was happening too often. I knew this, deep down inside. There wasn’t much I could do.
So…one more thing I want to mention, and then I’m going to go mail some things and then go read Hansen’s book some more….
Hansen talks about “habits.” I thought a whole bunch about stopping an activity that’s harmful. When did I do this? When did I walk away from a very, very bad habit that was generally thought of as “addiction”?
Bingo! Smoking. Yeah. Butts. That was simple, wasn’t it? And yet others found it a bitch to quit smoking. Joe could never do it. Most alcoholics say it was tougher to quit cigarettes than it was to quit alcohol, and they smoked like fiends after stopping the booze, compounding the issue.
But me? Nope. Just walked away. I need to look back on how I did that. I do know that I smoked like a fiend. I do know that as I awoke and felt that I absolutely had to have a cigarette before I could even arise from my bed! In fact, I had to have two! I’d fall asleep with the cig lit, right in my bed, cuz I was too drugged on antipsychotics. Then, I had to have two cigs right before going to sleep at night, right in bed there with my journal. I’d watch the tube and absolutely had to have a cig during each and every commercial. If I went to a “day program,” I absolutely had to have a cig during breaks. If there was ever a break between anything at all, I reached for those cigs. If I didn’t get the right brand, or I ran out, I’d throw a fit.
I know I quit cold turkey. It wasn’t hard, and I know I didn’t “white knuckle” it, either. I know I no longer want a cigarette or have cravings. If there was withdrawal…I’m sure there was something but I knew that this would last a certain amount of time, and this I accepted as MY BODY TELLING ME IT HAD BEEN ACCUSTOMED TO CIGARETTES and now it was not receiving them on schedule. So my body was saying, “Hey, where are they?” After a while, my body realized it wasn’t going to get one, and quit asking. Done. It wasn’t physically or emotionally painful. It shouldn’t have to be. I wish that it could be so easy for anyone who desires or needs to quit smoking for any reason. Unfortunately, most aren’t that lucky.
I’m totally positive that quite by accident I used the exact same process to quit cigarettes around 1991 or 1992 (I don’t know the date) that Hansen used to walk away from binge eating around a decade later.
I need to use my “card catalog brain” right now. Search and find and remember. Read and study further. And write, for you folks. It is a gift. I love you all so much, and I want us all to be well. Are you with me on this?