This emergence transcript is excerpted from a brief exchange between a young bulimic woman and myself. As you'll read, she wrote very desperate and asking for help.
Sunday, May 15
My name is Diane, I am currently in a extremely intense and despairing view of the world, my situation, and my place as a person worth living.
My mother and I lost our home and have been floating around from relative to relative and dejected by all but my aunt and her family. They are wearied because of our situation that is focused around my own personal demons along with the background noise of everyone else's issues.
We are a family of four adults and two adolescents. There is an abundance of support that we all have for each other except for the effect we afflict on each other. Unfortunately I am the focus because of my history languishing in bulimia, anxiety, seizures and severe despondency!!!! Everyone in the household is focused on my 'Gordian knot' and it leaves me hurting for tenderness and respect. As it is I feel like a leviathan.
I know they care for me but I am fully aware of the areas they wish this endemic I have would just die and go away. This has always seemed like such a simple and rectifying illness but I still struggle every day. I have been hospitalized, been to so many therapists it's defeating. When my aunt came across your web site my Mother and I absolutely identified with all your research and consummation on mental illness and human suffering.
I have been desperate to discover a method of treatment that would address all of human response that would result in behaviors that are actually a natural expression of self protection and preservation. I am writing to you specifically to request help in finding therapists in my area who practice your therapy or at least have studied and utilize your concept in there method of treatment.
I am very fearful of therapy because I have been seriously crippled from past experiences. I would be happy to discuss all that I can through e-mail address, and thank you so much for you web site, because it has given me an understanding, forgiveness, and hope for myself.
that evening, I wrote back and said ...
Thank you so much for writing. And for asking me for help. I know asking for help to be generally hard, more so for those whom the helpers have repeatedly failed to help. Know, like you, that I am one of these people whom the helpers failed as well. Perhaps this is one of the things which pushed me into enduring the pain of looking so deeply for my own answers.
I am also glad you are, like me, still looking. And if you hear nothing else in what I write, please hear this; it's always all right to give up. Temporarily. But don't ever give up permanently. Not ever.
If the problem exists in our world, then there is an answer. Maybe not a cure. But at least some better way to face the problem, starting with not facing it alone.
The trick is, you must know how to emerge from the terrible burden of aloneness which accompanies all illness. As you know, this aloneness is like a leaden weight which exhausts even the most steadfast of hearts. And the hearts of those who love the ill person.
Here again, I know this burden all too well, from the inside. I myself spent some ten years lost in suicidal aloneness, searching for my own answers after the answers of others repeatedly failed to heal me.
My mother never did find these answers. She died at 48 of anorexia. But having been there with her in her last moments; having watched her die, a desperately alone, 5' 7", 70 pound skeleton, I vowed to never give up. Permanently, that is.
And I haven't. That I'm now ten years older than my mother was when she died reminds me of this daily.
Reading what you wrote about your painful life affected me a lot. In fact, reading it overwhelmed me at first. And as one whom has faced much pain in his own life, that's saying a lot.
Even so, I'm not sorry you wrote, Diane. In fact, as I've already said, I'm glad you wrote. I am sorry for your hard life though.
So what help can I offer you?
To begin with, I am very sorry to say there are no Emergence therapists near you. We are, at this point, very few. Even so, I have seen people with problems even more severe than yours sometimes heal themselves, given they have the right guidance and encouragement.
Completely? No. Not completely. But certainly enough to reclaim the joy in life. And the joy of helping others who could use your help.
Can't see this ever happening to you? I don't blame you for being skeptical. Know, though, that I am one of these skeptical people whom, despite my doubts, has healed enough to be able to help others to heal. My site is but one proof this is possible, even for a man as ill as I once was.
So where could you begin?
Well, if you can hear what I write and offer as the words of a good soul and fellow sufferer and not as the advice of a therapist, then if you wish, you could begin by putting to paper and sending to me a somewhat more detailed description of your troubles.
Know this process often provokes even more pain than you've already faced.
Know also, though, that this "legitimate" pain; the pain of healing; is always worth the struggle, while the "illegitimate" pain which we go through to our avoiding suffering is never worth it.
Where should you start?
If you want, you can begin by writing a detailed description of the first time you can picture throwing up, even if this picture is the most recent event.
Please know, when I say "picture," I mean this literally. Thus, please omit anything you cannot picture on the screen of your mind, even things you know to be true.
What will writing "what you picture" do for you that you haven't already done?
It will begin the actual healing process, by separating "what you can picture" from "what you cannot picture."
What good does this separating do?
In a very real sense, "what you can picture" about your bulimia is like the ragged edges around a bullet hole; the injured flesh adjoining the wound. And "what you cannot picture" about your bulimia is like the bullet hole itself, this "hole" being the actual wound.
Thus, by separating what you can picture from what you cannot picture in and around this particular part of your life, you will, in a very precise manner, define the actual wound itself. You will find the literal "hole in you" which has been causing your suffering.
More important, believe it or not, this defining process is what heals the wound, no matter what discipline or healing modality a healer practices.
Eventually then, what will happen is, as you begin to be able to picture what has been visually blocked in you, a miracle will happen. What I mean by this is that, as you continue to practice this separating process, this separating process will evolve into a creative process, as things you've never pictured before begin to emerge in you. These visual images will then begin to fill in the hole which has been unnoticed in your consciousness.
Then, as this hole fills in, you will begin to feel better. A lot better. And not just temporarily, but permanently.
Still not clear how any of this could help you?
If this is how you feel, please know, your skepticism is healthy. More over, Diane, please remain skeptical, that is, of course, unless and until you see for yourself whether what I'm describing can help you.
But please do try it anyway.
And then write me again.
Finally, as I find stories much more hope producing than theory, allow me to close by telling you the story of a woman who also suffered from bulimia. Let's call her, Terry.
Terry lived several hours from my office. Thus, I never expected her to actually come in to see me. Despite this distance though, a close friend who had been through therapy with me had recommended she come to me anyway. Knowing this, when Terry called, we spoke for almost two hours.
Of course, I began by asking her to tell me what had been happening. She told me that she had been bulimic for going on twenty years. Intermittently. But steadily. She had, in fact, on several occasions, been hospitalized for it, usually during holiday seasons.
I then asked her to tell me what she had tried as far as help. She then told me in detail all the things she had tried, all the therapies, and all the hospitals. Everything, she said, had ended in failure.
Finally after we had spoken for more than an hour, I asked her the same question that I just asked you; "Can you picture the first time you threw up?"
She told me it had happened the year her mother had died. When had her mother died? A week before Thanksgiving.
"How did you do that Thanksgiving," I asked her?
She told me her family had bravely decided to celebrate anyway. Can you imagine how they all must have felt as they sat down to that Thanksgiving meal? And as she went on, it began to dawn on me what had happened.
So when did Terry first throw up? Minutes into this meal, when she suddenly felt sick and ran to the bathroom to throw up.
And when did Terry's relapses into bulimia happen each year?
As I've already said, always around holidays.
So what had actually happened?
In the week in between her mother's death and that Thanksgiving meal, Terry, and probably her whole family, had gone into shock. And when had she come out of shock for the first time? In the middle of this meal, when she had eaten enough to bring her out of shock. Eating food can do this.
And so what happened in this moment? In that moment, she realized she would never again celebrate a holiday with her mother.
So did this discovery actually change anything? All I know is, the one time Terry actually came in to my office after that, she reported her symptoms were gone. Even so, we spent much of that hour exploring what she could and could not picture of that scene, working hard to make visible whatever moments still lay hidden.
Did Terry's progress last? I never knew beyond her friend's report almost a year later, when I was told Terry was still OK. During a holiday season, For the first time in twenty years.
Does it now make sense why I would ask whether you can picture the first time you threw up? More important, can you see how you do have reasons to have hope.
Please write soon.
Warmly and with hope for you,
P. S. Please know, what I write to people, I often post on my site, while what people write to me, I never post without permission. And even then, sans identifying info. But please don't let this prevent you from writing. I only do this in the hope that what helps one suffering person may help others.
Know, finally, I will remember you in my prayers.