I've suffered from various EDs on an off for over a decade. I'm sending you a giant e-hug as I know how exhausting it is.
Two things that have helped me:
1- This book: https://www.amazon.com/Beating-Your-Eating-Disorder-Cognitive-Behavioral/dp/0521739047
CBT didn't work for me with a therapist, but this book used the cinema analogy
that has been life saving for me. I've never seen my ED described in this manner anywhere else. Stay away from ED memoirs- they ruin people. You are carrying your own burden, do not read someone else's ED journey because it is double the burden. Stick to books like this one that focus on why you are triggered and how to cope.
Back to that analogy that helped me: basically it says that those of us with anxiety/depression/EDs are watching our lives as if we're watching a movie (dissociation) alone in the cinema. The ED is like another person who walks into the cinema and sits right in front of you
When life is okay, we are a little irritated that someone is blocking our view (attempts at recovery) but when life is hard we are grateful
for someone to be blocking our view of the scary parts of the movie!
So, when you're struggling, you use the ED as an emotional crutch because you want something to block your view of the movie of your life. It's too scary or upsetting to look at. The ED behaviours are a distraction from reality when reality is too hard to face up to.
It made so much sense to me. I always wondered why I kept relapsing, why nothing was helping, why I needed
the ED as much as I hated
it. This explained my own behaviours to me. I needed the thing I hated because it blocked my thoughts from all the bad stuff I couldn't deal with.
Now, when I relapse- and I have in the past year- I ask myself, what part of the movie of my life do I not want to be watching? Why did I allow another person (the ED) into the cinema to block my view?
It's so hard to face up to those questions and find the emotional triggers but if we can search within ourselves about what is upsetting us to require the use of an unhealthy coping mechanism, then we can focus on the cause of the upset
instead of focusing our attention on the ED.
For example, since you mentioned bulimia specifically....the process is ideal to busy your mind and not deal with the real issue:
making mental lists of the food to binge on
thinking which route you'll use to get to the stores
how you'll pay for it all when you don't have the money
where you'll binge without people seeing
what you'll eat first, then what you'll eat next
where you can safely purge
cleaning up the evidence after....
it takes up all your time and attention even before you've put one bite in your mouth.
If you weren't going through all that, you would have spent that time and attention being upset by whatever it was that triggered the urge to engage in the bulimia. Now, you've spent several hours engaging in the behaviours and you're exhausted so you go to sleep, or you start on your plan to purge over the next days (fasting/ exercising, etc.).
This process is the same when you're anorexic- deciding on safe foods, picking up safe foods in a supermarket and deciding what is okay and how much to buy, checking and re-checking the food labels and ingredients, finding distractions from hunger, exercising, avoiding social situations with food, making up excuses to keep people unaware....it all takes up so much mental time and energy that you can't even begin to think about whatever it was that triggered you. It's a tall person sat in front of you in the cinema that conveniently blocks the view.
After understanding this I started to go for a walk with a notebook and pencil when I get triggered. I ask myself what happened right before I got triggered- what did I see, what did I hear, what am I feeling. I walk and whenever I get an important answer, I jot it down in the notebook. I come home clear-headed, calmer, and with a game plan for how I will deal with the issue of what has upset me. I deal with the actual issue no matter how hard it is, instead of crouching behind the ED ignoring the problem.
2- The second thing that has helped me immensely is understanding that I have a choice. I choose to allow someone into the cinema. I also have the choice to tell that person to get out! This is my private cinema, this is the movie about my life, I don't want anyone blocking my view. I am strong enough to face up to the scary parts of the movie and process my feelings around what I'm seeing. I know I am strong enough because I have battled my EDs for a decade and I am still here! So no matter how weak I feel, I have proof that I am, in fact, able to cope and survive.
Personally, at the lowest points of my ED, I felt helpless and like there was just no point attempting to recover I was so deep in. Now, I realise it is always my choice whether I eat or not, what I eat, how much I eat. Even when my ED brain says I have no choice, I argue that I do and I will make the right
choice and find an alternative way to cope with stress that will help me, not just numb me temporarily. <--- this is also important to note. Our Eds only help temporarily! They never resolve our issues; in fact, they extend the issues because we get caught in the ED cycle and can't get out!
It's a process. Sometimes we are okay and sometimes we're not. A therapist who specializes in EDs when you can afford one should be your first stop because EDs can seem to go away, only to resurface later when life gets hard. You've already had so many years controlled by this, don't lose any more. You want to fully recover and reclaim your life, not be battling with this emotional crutch that looks like it's saving you- but actually cripples you
- for the rest of your life.
Good therapy can be life saving. But make sure that you are ready for therapy at that point. It's not just about having the money, it's also being in the right frame of mind to want to recover. If you go into it when you're not ready it will only trigger you further (from my personal experience).
I hope this helps a little. You're not alone and you can beat this. Stay safe. Please make sure you're replenishing electrolytes regularly.