Well, sort of. Maybe.
Let me explain.
In the memoirs of recovering addicts, there is a lot of talk about ‘rock bottom’. This magical, mystical place where (while drowning in life’s deepest piss barrel) you’re given a beautiful, simple moment of clarity. You look your pathetic, broken self in the mirror (and shudder, and cry, and scream in agony into the great beyond, and then cry some more) and vow to change. And by some miracle, you fucking do.
It wasn’t that simple for me.
By 2013, I had been in a committed, deep-rooted relationship with bulimia for nine years. I was in my mid-20s. I had a Master’s degree (from Harvard, but who’s bragging?). I was generally considered “attractive” (bite me). I had a job, parents who loved me, strong friendships… “the world at my fingertips”, if you will. People who met me saw a put-together, intelligent young woman who liked to cut loose now and then, but for the most part had her shit together.
Boy, were they wrong.
See, what started as a crash diet in 2004 had morphed into a life-consuming shit-monster, controlling my every thought, action, feeling, and dream. I knew only four ways to deal with what life threw at me:
Hey Angela! That dude you’re crushing on…what are you gonna do about it?
Stave. Binge. Purge. Repeat.
Hey Angela! You didn’t get cast in that role you wanted! How do you feel about it?
Starve. Binge. Purge. Repeat.
Hey Angela! Your roommate is pissed that you’re eating all of her expensive, specialty vegan food in the middle of the night like some regurgitating kleptomaniac cashew-butter-loving cookie monster. How are you gonna handle it?
Starve. Binge. Purge. Repeat.
I knew it wasn’t normal. But I didn’t know what to do about it. And I’m honestly not sure I would have ever broken the cycle if I hadn’t added a fateful fifth step into the mix:
A lot. Like, a lot, a lot. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
Starve. Binge. Drink. Purge. Repeat.
Starve. Drink. Binge. Drink. Purge. Repeat.
Drink. Starve. Drink. Binge. Drink. Purge. Drink. Repeat.
Things got real fuzzy around then. My friends stopped inviting me to dinner. My roommate (the vegan one) hid her booze from me. I missed days at work. I got sick a lot. I chased pizza and chips and ice cream with beer and wine and vodka and it always ended up in the toilet. My life was one, blurry electrolyte-imbalanced hangover.
I’d wake up to find my computer littered with crazed, intoxicated searches:
Doi hve an eassg disorer?
How istop thrwwing ipp?
LA eatng disorder tretment pleces helppmeeeeeee
I’d slam my computer shut and pretend it never happened. Because today was the day I would break the cycle! Except that today was always the day I’d go back for more.
And then one night, in early February 2013, instead drunk texting my ex (as was the norm), I drunk dialed an eating disorder treatment facility. Yep. That’s right. I drunk dialed rehab. How proud are you, mom?
And it turns out, that unlike ex-boyfriends, rehab calls you back. Rehab calls you back until you fucking answer.
“Please stay on the line, Miss Gulner.”
“God, stop calling!”
“You called us again last night (Again? Shit.) and we’re very concerned. Please come in for a consultation…”
Ugh. Fine. But only to make you stop calling.
My intake therapist was an Iranian woman with a soft voice and a warm smile. Her eyes welled as I sobbed uncontrollably on her purple couch. She looked me in the eye. She validated my pain. She understood my struggle. She saw me. And she promised she could help and I believed her.
“Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll do therapy.”
“…Wait just a moment. I’ll be right back.”
I sat, blotting my tears, feeling a deep relief I didn’t know was possible. Therapy. Yeah, I could do therapy. One hour a week, with this kind woman, on her nice purple couch. It wouldn’t be so bad.
She came back into the room and handed me a stack of papers.
“Good news. Due to the severity of your case, you’ve been bumped to the top of the list. You start tomorrow. You’ll arrive at 11am and you’ll stay until 6pm every day but Sundays.”
“This is a Partial Hospitalization Treatment Facility, sweetheart. Did you not realize that?”
I ran out of there like a bat out of Hell. Which, side note; to the best of my knowledge, bats don’t run. Why do we give them so much credit for it?
If things were bad before, they were disastrous now. I won’t go into detail, but I drunk dialed rehab almost every night for the next two weeks. It wasn’t until I was in San Diego, on a film shoot, as an actor, getting paid (this is rare for us), did I realize…I couldn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t enjoy my life. The only thing I’d thought about since I arrived was food. Not the job, not my character, not the amazing people I was meeting or the beautiful places I was visiting. I was miserable. I was always miserable and I didn’t want to be fucking miserable anymore. All that alcohol, all those internet searches and drunk phone calls…that was me trying to save myself because myself had grown altogether tired of me.
I started treatment the following week. Seven hours a day, six days a week. Four months later, after ‘graduation’, I walked out of that clinic being a person I could actually like and I can proudly say I haven’t relapsed since. The whole thing was a crazy journey — this story is just the tip of the iceberg – and I realized soon after, with my brain now getting proper nutrition (it’s crazy how much that helps), that I should turn this journey into a story.
Shortly after I left the clinic, I wrangled my good friend Yuri Baranovsky into helping me turn my journey into a script. Two years later, we shot the first episode of the series with his production company, Happy Little Guillotine Studios. It’s called BINGE and it’s all about the miserable and hilarious battles I had with my eating disorder.
Today, we’re sharing it with you.
I was bulimic for 10 years. Today I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. If you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder, you understand how big a deal that is. I never thought that kind of peace was possible.
If you’re struggling now, please know, it is. It’s possible. I believe in you.