Sunday, October 28, 2012

Don't ask if you don't want to know: I have an eating disorder

I don't really recall right now how much I've written about this subject, so feel free to ignore any of this. Or, you know, maybe you shouldn't, because chances are pretty good that if your reading this you care about me.

I have an eating disorder. You wouldn't know it from looking at me, or spending any time with me, but I do. The only real way anyone really knows about it is if they get inside my head at all - here's a big reason why it's so hard for me to let people in. I fall mostly in line with the clinical definition of bulimia, but there are some dalliances from that. I don't purge (anymore - I used to), but I do often fast for long periods of time, which lead to bingeing, which leads back to fasting because eating makes me feel like a disgusting slob. More than 50% of the time, I feel like I'm not in control when I eat, even if it's just a little bit. I suffer from anxiety and depression because of this, and it affects my self-worth by damaging my pride without ever affecting the number on the scale like it's supposed to - which makes me feel like a failure and then I fast and purge harder. 

This has been an issue since I was 12. I would intentionally skip meals because I was the girl in the health class who, when she heard about people intentionally starving themselves (or bingeing and purging) to lose weight, thought it was a suggestion. But the true root of this goes back farther to an abuse that lasted, I don't know how long, that took away my control over how I related to food. (The details don't really matter, so I won't go into it.) As I grew up, this loss of control was solidified in my mind, and the only way that I could control my food was to fast before a meal, or purge after it; I would still lose control when felt hungry, and snacking felt like weakness, and even though I would only eat a small amount it was a personal failure for me.

I continued to grow up in multiple environments that taught me to feel shame about my body and my relationship to food continued to be hostile. When I was in college, it was even more hostile because I had to be on food stamps, and this increased my shame, but certainly gave me an "out" as it were for skipping meals. What was even more of an out was alcohol. Even before I was old enough to drink, I would intentionally drink so much that I would vomit. The drinking was fun, but I knew what I was drinking had tons of calories, so I would make sure to make myself sick so that I wouldn't metabolize all of the fun I was having. There were even a few times when I made myself sick off of other substances combined with what I called at the time "over indulgence" but was really a binge. 

Around junior year of college, this all started tapering off and I became a little more okay with my body, (either that or I was still experiencing symptoms, but I decided to ignore them), and a little more okay with food, but the thoughts of needing to lose weight, watch what I ate, and control every aspect of my diet never truly went away. I relapsed a few times, purging for what I hope was the last time in the fall of 2010 after a fight with The Emperor. The continuing thread throughout all of this, though, has been skipping meals in order to feel like I'm in control, even though I don't feel that way.

When someone tells me they're on a diet, I feel inadequate because I can't diet. I fail at the exercise part of it because I lose interest, don't have money, or feel too weak to keep it up on a regular basis. Then I fail on the eating part of it because I'm apparently an all-or-nothing kind of gal in that respect. I sometimes feel resentment toward people who work to lose weight, because I can't figure out a way to control my weight, and I am obsessed with actually trying to do that. Or maybe I'm obsessed with failing at it, I don't know. 

What really gets me though, is food restrictions placed on me by others. If someone criticizes my food choices, I lose my shit. The digestive issues I've been having lately have been especially troublesome as doctors orders are to eliminate specific foods, and EAT ON A REGULAR BASIS. Even several small meals is okay, but the problem that no one seems to understand is that when someone tries to tell me that I should or shouldn't eat something I go nuts because they're taking my power from me. 

It all boils down to power and control, and it always has, because when I was a small child who had just developed sovereignty over her eating it was wrested from me by idiots who continued to abuse their station of authority over me until they no longer held such authority - but by then it was too late. Those tapes had already been recorded ("you're too fat", "eat it or else", "suck in your gut", "you should lose some weight", "all you have to do is restrict your calories", etc) and the damage was done. Up to this point, I haven't intentionally dealt with it, because I thought I could ignore it when it came up and just move through the cycles that various points in the year held. 

But then came the Celiac. Then came the need to be fastidious about one item of food. And it built back up. For a while, I felt comfortable in the control I took in eliminating gluten from my diet, but it still built. And then I had a gluten exposure that made my insides explode apart and got sick for two months. It's especially easy to fall back on old habits of fasting for control when I don't feel well; easier when the emotional turmoil of the battle between me and food is played out inside my body. There's so much guilt and shame going on in my body that I really can't handle it and I don't know anyone who can help.

My doctor is looking into a couple of options for me for therapy. The Emperor and I are talking about constructing a juice fast which will give me something to have power over (other than denial of food) while giving my insides something to repair whatever damage was done when I first got sick. I'm taking some steps on my own toward recovery, but goddamnit I wish that people would quit looking at me weird when I try to tell them what's going on.


Tracey Warren said...

Thank you for sharing this Rachel. I pray your journey is one of true healing and FREEDOM! Love you!

Daye Salander said...

Powerful. Brave. Strong. I'm really proud of you.

Ollie said...

Thanks for writing and sharing. I hope it was cathartic in some ways to "come out" to the internet.