I have an eating disorder. And not in the “I gained 10 pounds in college” way. There is nothing more discouraging for someone with an eating disorder to hear than someone who has a normal relationship with food try and co-opt the disease for themselves. When this happens to me, it’s hard to know what the right reaction is.
Part of me wants to say “never mind, let’s talk about something else,” and part of me wants to scream in frustration. Or better yet, shock them into silence with the details of one of my binges. I don’t usually do either. I usually listen and try and appreciate the fact that the listener is trying to understand by connecting it to their own experience.
The reality is that the function that food serves for me is very different than it does for most. For most people, food is a way to have energy to live, work and play. It is a source of pleasure. It is a way to connect to other people. It is the most basic ingredient to life aside from oxygen and water.
My relationship with food began to change when I was about 12. My parents filed for divorced and my way of dealing with my feelings was to eat. Sit in my room, read books and eat. Food had always felt good to me, my family celebrated with it and we enjoyed it. It seems natural that it was an appealing way for me to deal with feelings of loss and abandonment. Side note: not my parents fault, I made choices about how I dealt with life.
It has waxed and waned but it has never disappeared. This year I was hospitalized for it. For me, food is akin to alcohol for an alcoholic or drugs to a drug addict. When I am uncomfortable, food can soothe my feelings. When I am upset, food takes it away. It is my way of dealing with the world.
And when I come face to face with these truths, I am ashamed, scared, angry at myself, humiliated and defeated. I often disappear at the most inopportune times. Anyone who has known me for any length of time can give you examples.
So why write this? I guess to get it out. To be more honest about what’s up with me. To own it and change it. I’m tired and want to change but this is how I have lived and who I have been for a long time. There are demons inside. I’m hoping to call the demons up and dismiss them one at a time. I know it’s possible.