Food and what I forgot

I re-discovered a half finished post in my drafts box. I wrote it, a month or so ago, in response to an email asking how I dealt with the sense of deprivation from giving up bingeing. I decided to reply with a post because it was a fear that I remembered particularly well.

* * *

This is a secret. It is a secret that I also keep from myself. I like food. I particularly like food that I don’t feel comfortable eating. One of the reasons why I found it so hard to challenge my bulimia was that it seemed the only way I could imagine allowing myself to eat. I thought I’d miss the pleasure that I got (albeit on a decreasing basis) from the bingeing, and that, after gorging myself so regularly, it would be impossible for ‘normal’ to feel like enough.

The body is a miraculous thing. I found that, as my body got used to eating regularly and as I slowly gained the weight back, the cravings started to lessen and I was able to feel satisfied eating the things that would have been a starter for my binge.

It is impossible to realise this when your body is starving – sated – starving – sated and your mind is craving food, and emotion, and relief. It is impossible to disprove the fear when you give up bulimia without making sure that you are eating enough. It is impossible to maintain the stability if you don’t deal with whatever’s going on underneath.

* * *

Shortly after writing this, I slipped, and I am now experiencing the same fear that I was trying to placate. I am back in “just one more time” territory, and had forgotten how difficult it is to face this challenge when the trust has gone and food has become divided into safe – and unsafe – again. It is hard to disentangle yourself when the physical effects of bingeing, the chemical highs and lows, really take hold –

Because there is nothing to hang onto. Nothing to suggest that the experience of food might be anything else.

A few weeks ago, I read an article that relates to this chicken and egg situation. The interplay between the physical and the emotional that I sometimes lose when I am busy being analytical or trying to think myself out of the situation.

The article was about the need to gain weight in order to recover fully from anorexia, and it reminds me of the leap of faith that you have to take around stopping bingeing. The knowledge that it is impossible to see the wood from the trees when you are submerged and trapped in the behaviour, and your mind is so consumed by the physical effects of the food.

This passage, particularly, struck me –

“for the anorexic, gaining weight is the prerequisite for mental recovery, rather than vice versa. Put another way: you can’t make an anorexic want to put on weight until he or she has begun to do so. Put yet another way: the mind may make the body sick, but only the body can help the mind be well again”.

- and, whilst there are differences in the processes of weight restoration and stopping bingeing, the initial step into the dark is not dissimilar.

And so, I am reminding myself now of the words that I was writing to someone else. That even though I can not imagine it being okay, it’s hard for me to see clearly at the moment. And even though I am hoping for the lightbulb moment, it is unlikely to come.

But if I give myself a chance, it will.

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9 Responses to “Food and what I forgot”

  1. Katie G says:

    This is so true Melissa. I’m sorry that you’ve found yourself in that strange world of having ’slipped’. I think there is a chicken-egg situation around ending those behavours too. For me, the bingeing didn’t end until the emotions that were causing it were resolved. But equally its very difficult to deal with them when you’re in the kind of confused state that bingeing creates. It took a lot of trial and error and so-called slips, and in the end the behaviour faded away rather than switched off. I know, given time, it will for you too. Just don’t beat yourself up over it please!

  2. Becky says:

    Give yourself a chance — it will come.
    If complete strangers are willing to support
    and give you a chance… it must mean you’re worth it. :-)

  3. Jenjens says:

    Completely agree. When I was at my worst – and I was a purging anorectic- there was no way I could think normally but there was also that weird bit of my intellect that was trying to -as it felt *literally*- shake me and say “see sense!!”. That was impossible until I went thru the recovery process, I actually remember the point, 7 mnths into an inpatient stay at YCED, when I realised I was starting to think differently ~ and could actually sign up for the ‘eating out’ group, and stop obsessing. And it would have been impossible a year before. And indeed became impossible again when I relapsed 18 mnths later. And now I’m ok (after another year or so of intensive therapy). So the pattern emerges again … And I am of the belief that the pattern CAN stop at the right place, it really can. Bloody hell, I couldn’t EVER have imagined letting go of my obsessions, but I have, and if they come back to haunt me again, I can. Well done, Melissa, your story is an encouragement to everyone who has been through ED hell xxx

  4. Afterglow05 says:

    You inspire me. Your courage to speak out about you struggles speaks volumes. I am at the point where I try to continue to ‘play the game’ and pretend to recover, while still holding onto the restricting and subsequent bingeing. From this post and previous comments, I believe that there may be a way out but it’s the leap of faith that I lack.

    Thanks Melissa! Nice to hear from you! :)

  5. Evan says:

    That quote is really striking, thanks. I think the idea applies much more widely probably – thinking about that.

  6. Nina says:

    I completely agree that the “body is a miraculous thing”.
    Think abou thow you did it before and it can be restored to balance again – very quickly.
    I was amazed that I was able to restore the balance after 10 years of disordered eating.
    There is that healthy, sane part of us that wants to recover. We just need to tap into it

  7. Melissa, I can so relate to that leap of faith. I came into recovery for bulimia 11 years ago and relapsed once about 6 years ago. I’ve found that taking a three-pronged approach of physical, mental, and spiritual treatment has been incredibly effective for me, because those three things give me all the tools I need to hang onto my faith and trust that everything will be okay without the binge. Hang in there!

  8. Melissa says:

    Thanks so much for the responses to this post. I nearly pulled it at the last moment as I thought it might be too food-focused or feel too exposing, but I’m really pleased that I didn’t.

    Katie – you’re right – the emotions are key and I think I’ve been black and white thinking a little. I know that things will improve and it’s a mix of opening up to what I’m feeling – and also giving myself the room (away from the behaviours) to do this.

    Becky – Thank you. Really touched by your comments and trying to give myself a bit of a break. xx

    Jenjens – thanks for sharing this. I had a really similar experience. It wasn’t so much of a lightbulb moment – more like a gradual realisation that because I was healthier, things didn’t feel quite so hard and the panic/anxiety wasn’t so gripping. I guess I just need to keep holding onto this happening.

    Afterglow – Thank you. It wasn’t easy here and it makes such a difference to me, to know that there is value in writing about it. xx
    Evan – I hope so. Food is often a metaphor for me, and I didn’t want that to get lost here.

    Sanabituranima – thanks ;)

    Nina – what a great way of thinking about it. I love your comment – and am trying to tap into the positive.

    Heather – Thank you so much for your comment and I will. I love your approach and would also add a fourth prong – the social connected bit – which has made a huge difference to me.