I did a lot of shop-hopping when I was battling with bulimia. I’d go out, with the best of intentions – and then the desperation would take over and I would find myself spiralling out of control.
There is a financial implication to bingeing that I haven’t talked about. It didn’t seem relevant, now that I’m not living on credit – or maybe it’s just that I’m still incredibly ashamed.
You do not worry what the next bill will look like when you’re bang in the middle of a binge. Or rather you do, on occasion – but it just drives you on (because this is the big goodbye and tomorrow, I promise, I will finally stop).
Only it was never that simple.
And so I lived, for years, on credit; working crazy hours around my study – only to spend any tips or earnings on the way home. Sometimes my parents bailed me out; other times I had an unexpected windfall (like a Birthday, or an extension on my credit limit) – but all my money ended up in the same place.
I never got as far as stealing but I ate leftovers, from work and, later, off hospital trolleys and out of bins. And I maxed out credit cards – and store cards – and loans from friends.
Which doesn’t make you feel very good; in fact, I still feel slightly queasy now.
Only I’d like to write about this, because the guilt was indescribable (when people are starving or going without, and here I am, just throwing money away); and the fear of living on a financial knife-edge still brings me out in a cold sweat.
So, for anyone else who wakes up, heart racing, to the sound of sirens (because the guilt makes you think that they’re coming to get you); or emerges, post binge, feeling sick to their stomach, wondering how that could happen and knowing that it can’t keep going on –
I understand how scary it is, and how hard it is to separate out from your sense of self; or it was, for me, anyway. How easily, also, the real problem gets lost under the one that it has caused –
But this is part of the trap.
I didn’t find a miraculous solution. I tried cutting up credit cards – and going out with no cash – and extending my overdraft. I attempted changing the routes that I took – or sleeping at friends’ houses – and doing lots and lots of positive self talk (because it was hard to keep believing a single word that I said when I kept proving myself wrong).
I ended up, in the final years when I was strong enough to work, budgeting for bingeing, which reduced the debt, but meant that I had no money for anything else and the problem still persisted –
Because the only real solution was addressing the cause; and I spent quite a lot of time – and money – trying to avoid this.
P.s. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months now. I wrote it because otherwise there was a big gap in the story and a whole chunk of experiences that were unsaid -
But then, the time didn’t seem right to push ‘publish’ and I couldn’t quite see the relevance of what I was trying to say.
This link on ED Bites Sunday Smorgasbord caught my attention. It’s to an article on how hunger effects financial risk taking; and, even though I can’t quite marry up the findings and my experience, it opened up the consideration again.
The article begins “The hungrier an animal becomes, the more risks it’s prepared to take in the search for food.” That one sentence is enough to add in a new perspective.
This is what I have found in my recovery: that you don’t necessarily discover reasons and the explanations that you find are not excuses – but there’s room to fill in some gaps and build up the picture. There’s a new space for compassion, or understanding that, for me, was very absent when I was immersed in the behaviours or unable to see beyond myself.