With this interview, I am honored to share Angela Gulner’s story of her recovery from bulimia. She is a young actress who just recently released her TV pilot BINGE what is inspired from her struggles with bulimia.
Angela is now fully recovered and was happy to share some of her best advice for those who are trying to recover and get better. I hope you can feel encouraged and inspired by her story and experiences.
1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
Hey! I’m Angela – I’m an LA based actor, writer, and recovering bulimic. I earned my MFA in Acting at Harvard, and my BA in Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Theater at St. Olaf College. I’ve recently started producing my own work. BINGE is a passion project I’ve been developing with my writing partner Yuri Baranovsky and his team at HLG Studios (www.hlgstudios.com) for over two years.
2. Can you tell us more about the BINGE comedy pilot you just released?
BINGE is a dark comedy inspired by my decade-long struggle with an eating disorder. I wrote it with my writing partner Yuri Baranovsky about 2.5 years ago, and this summer, we shot the pilot together, with our friends at HLG Studios. We decided to shoot it and release it independently, because we strongly believe in the story, and in the need to see strong, complicated, messy women and honest depictions of mental illness in mainstream media. We know there is a passionate audience for our series, and our goal is to harness their voices — via views, shares, likes, tweets, etc — to gain the attention of the ‘gatekeepers’ of the industry.
We released the pilot just two weeks ago (as of this interview on 12/13), and we’ve had a great response! We’ve had 19.5K views on YouTube, and write-ups in Refinery29, IndieWire, Elite Daily, Bustle, The Establishment, WhoHaHa, and many more. Most significantly, we’ve received incredible feedback from the eating disorder community. I’ve gotten countless personal emails and messages from men and women all over the world, sharing their experiences with eating disorders and how BINGE has touched and inspired them. It’s been incredibly moving.
We’ve also gotten some exciting bites from industry folks here in LA. So in the meantime, we’re trying to continue to build that buzz, and reach as many people as we can with this pilot. Now, more than ever, we are determined to make a series happen.
Watch the BINGE pilot on Youtube and leave your comment: https://youtu.be/aN9syJfWp8U
3. What is your experience with bulimia? How did it begin and how was it like?
I first developed an eating disorder toward the end of high school. It began as anorexia and quickly morphed into bulimia. I got treatment twice — first in Minnesota, and then again, about three years ago, in Los Angeles. Anorexia snuck up on me. It was a diet that went too far, and I found myself addicted to and consumed by it. When my body could no longer handle the starvation, bingeing and purging set it. For those of you who’ve dealt with it, you know just how terrible that cycle is. My world became very small — my thoughts revolved primarily around what I was putting in and out of my body.
It was a diet that went too far, and I found myself addicted to and consumed by it.
But I was a high functioning bulimic. I earned by Masters degree, had relationships, and preformed on stage around the world while I was in my eating disorder. Yes, it was all consuming, but it wasn’t WHO I was. Human beings are incredibly resilient — I was able to compartmentalize my life —- ED Angela, and Non-ED Angela. It was shitty and stressful and embarrassing and awful, but I also had some really wonderful experiences during that time in my life.
But ultimately, I knew I couldn’t achieve the life I wanted — or most importantly, ENJOY that life — if I held on to my eating disorder. It was stripping me of my energy, my creativity, my joy, and my spirit, and I couldn’t take it anymore. My ED was holding me back as an artist, a girlfriend, a daughter, and a human being. Ten years was more than long enough, and I needed to figure out how to let it go.
4. How did you recover from it? What helped you the most?
I needed structured, formal treatment in order to recover. I had my ED for ten years, and completely lost sight of HOW to eat. I’d look at a plate full of food and have literally no idea what to do with it. I needed intervention. I needed nutrition lessons. I needed anxiety medication. And I needed comprehensive support.
I went to a PHP (partial hospitalization program) Program — 6 days a week, for about 7 hours a day, for nearly four months. We ate two meals and a snack together every day –and that was CRUCIAL for me. I needed consistent nourishment and I needed someone to tell me how to get it (and watch me, to make sure I ate, and did not purge). Eating disorders are incredibly cyclical — breaking that cycle and establishing new patterns are key. For me, I needed structure to do that.
Eating disorders are incredibly cyclical — breaking that cycle and establishing new patterns are key.
The emotional, group, and family therapy sessions were also incredibly useful. I worked with a really compassionate, loving therapist who helped me deal with the discomfort of letting go of something that had been in my life for so long. Recovery is like a break up. I was in a relationship with bulimia, and there was sadness and grief in letting it go.
I put most of my life on pause during the first few months of my treatment. I went to bed early, didn’t go out much, and communicated with only those people who really lifted me up. I needed to shut out the noise and chaos of my daily life in order to focus on my healing.
5. Please share some of your best advice for others who want to recover.
Ask for help. It’s out there. Insurance can be stressful and time consuming to figure out — but this is your LIFE. You deserve to live it fully. I never thought I’d be able to exist in a place where 90% of my thoughts weren’t about food — but today, I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast. I am living proof that recovery IS POSSIBLE.
Ask for help. It’s out there.
I’d definitely recommend therapy, at the very, very least. A nutritionist and a meal plan are also key. Your emotional health can’t heal until your physical health is back on track. You need to re-set your brain. Be gentle with yourself, and kind to yourself. Surround yourself with people who love you and understand what you’re going through.
Wear cozy slippers. Cuddle your dog. Take a bath. Do things that make you feel good, and do them frequently. Recovery is HARD, and the more you can be kind to yourself during it, the better.
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