For the Love! Why Can’t I Just Eat?

So I haven’t blogged in over a month, and I woke up this morning with an unquenchable urge to pour my heart out to the internet.  Actually, I don’t think this is so much the case but rather my head is all over the place, and writing is a healthy way to center myself.

Let’s talk about eating.

Let’s talk about anxiety.

Let’s talk about how I just ate three boiled eggs, which is probably a good thing since I haven’t ingested much more than crumbs in the past forty-eight hours.

My anxiety is through the roof.  Strangely, I feel better when I’m not in my house.  Everything feels like chaos.  I feel guilty admitting this because I have two adorable, precious, active little boys who bring joy to my life that I couldn’t comprehend in my pre-children days.

I also have Gil.  He also brings an element of joy, but honestly, more chaos than anything these days.

I feel like the lost female.  This morning as I was preparing to teach the youth at my church a lesson on courage, I got up to use the restroom and when I returned, Wallace, my four year-old, had completely disassembled my printer.

I live in a world of remote controls that I can’t operate.  Once I think I have them figured out, one kid or the other removes the batteries, jacks up the whole system, and I’m back to square one.

These kids take shoe laces out of shoes and then tie up their toys.  They used to tie up each other until we made a house rule that no one was to tie up bodies.  Geez!

When my mom visited last she decided that the boys might enjoy playing with one of my old Cabbage Patch Kids.  I was excited at first.  I imagined my sweet, caring boys pretending to care for my childhood friend.  The reality was quite different.  One day after the boys had spent the afternoon playing quietly in their playroom, I found poor Roberto, the Cabbage Patch Kid, completely naked and hanging upside down by his ankles from the closet door, with, you guessed it, the shoestrings from my sneakers.

Let’s get back to eating.  I’ve had enough therapy to understand that when I’m anxious I don’t eat, which in turn, makes me more anxious.  I know.  It doesn’t make sense, but I’ve sort of examined the situation closer and I think there’s more to it than just basic old anxiety.

My house smells like boys.

When things stink, I can’t eat.

I need to insert that Piers just came into my room and immediately began dissecting the paper shredder.  They’re supposed to be helping Gil with “yard work” outside.

I have to get a handle on this eating thing.  A couple of years ago after some nudging from my therapist and lots of accusations from various family members, I agreed to join an eating disorder support group.  The group met for close to a year, and it was truly eye-opening. When I joined, I was struggling to keep my weight above a certain level, and my eating was limited and sporadic.  I learned so much in the group, and before I attended, I absolutely did not believe I had an eating disorder.

Now I know that I do.

My discomfort with the term “eating disorder” comes because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not overweight.  I don’t think I look hideous.  I have no interest in losing weight.  I suppose it’s my own ignorance, but when I think of someone with an eating disorder, I think of people, especially young women and girls who obsess about their looks and fitting into a certain size.

I think of people who are VAIN.

There, I said it.  I know this is not always the case, and intellectually I understand the complexity of eating disorders and I absolutely know that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, but I feel like there is an enormous lack of understanding about people with eating disorders, and quite frankly, it’s one more area that I really don’t care to be misunderstood.

And by the way, I’m not crazy enough to believe that I am in no way vain.  I am, to a degree, but I realize there’s much more to me as a person than just the way I look.

I guess I’ve bought in to the media’s depiction of a person with an eating disorder, usually a pretty  and already-adored celebrity.  I think I’m most disgusted by the young women who buy into the idea that one has to be thin and beautiful to matter.  I don’t want to be that person, and I don’t think I am.  But, my fear is that if I admit that I have an eating disorder, people will roll their eyes, try to convince me that I’m not overweight and stick me in the category of vain, insecure, and ridiculous.

I did struggle with feeling this way in my teens and early twenties.  I don’t know many women in these age brackets who don’t struggle with some sort of body issue. Yes the degrees vary.

So what is up?  Why can’t I make myself eat like a normal person?

I do think a lot of it is sensory related.  There’s the smell thing, and the fact that my boys are learning to eat without getting food everywhere.  They’re more successful than they were at two, but dinnertime around our house is anything but attractive.  It’s messy and painful, to say the least.  I also feel like my throat is closing up when I’m presented with massive quantities of food, like at a buffet, which I only go to if I’m dragged.  I’ve also been known to have panic attacks in the grocery store.  Thank you, blog readers, for allowing me to pour every ounce of my crazy onto this page.

Not eating is my go-to coping mechanism.  In other words, a bad habit.  I’m so much better than I used to be, but the truth is, the last few months have been stressful.

But life is stressful.  Some people handle that stress better and in healthier ways than others.  I like to think of myself as resilient, but recently I’ve felt like I’m crumbling.

I also feel very misunderstood.  I received a critical and upsetting email from my mom after her visit last month, and ever since I can’t get a handle on my delicate emotions.  Gil just gets put out with me anytime I try to talk about any of this with him — the eating or my relationship with my mom.

Now my closest friend is moving away, and I just feel very alone.  My therapist is no longer my therapist, and when I talk to her I feel the need to portray myself as relatively together.  I’m fortunate that I have lots of friends, but I don’t feel comfortable discussing my eating disorder with any of them.  It just feels very fucked up, for lack of a better term.

Writing about this stuff does help.  I use this blog as a form of therapy.  I’ve been avoiding it lately. Thanks for listening.  It’s nice to be back.

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18 thoughts on “For the Love! Why Can’t I Just Eat?

  1. I’m a bad girl, I didn’t read through all the comments. So if this is redundant, please forgive. I kinda know where you are, and as you said, there are all kinds of eating disorders. I didn’t know until 2003 that there’s such a thing as grief anorexia, when my dad, my father-in-law, and my husband all died in a period of eight months. Someone said it’s a control issue — it is. When all hell is breaking loose around you, sometimes all you have any “say” about is whether or not you’ll eat … even when you’re on the verge of passing out from sheer lightheadedness. And it isn’t age-related — I was 56 when I found myself becoming a skeleton. I’d like to go about halfway back there … but I never want to face those same circumstances again in order to be really skinny. Isn’t life just a bitch and a joy all at the same time?!

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    • Interesting. I would say I’ve had “grief anorexia” though this is the first time I’ve heard the term. And I can certainly see how a person would want to control something after experiencing that much loss in such a short span of time. I am so sorry, but I’m glad to see you survived and are doing well. When all of my grief hit, I didn’t necessarily realize that I was trying to gain control by not eating. I
      was just getting through each day in survivor mode, and eating seemed like one more task. Thanks for sharing. My FIL had a saying that I like and your last sentence made me think of it– not
      sure where it originated. “Let us joyfully participate in the sorrows of life; celebrating that which was will see us through our grief and pain.” Yes — life is a bitch and a joy!

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      • I think AWARENESS of the control thing and the issues behind it is rarely present until much later. Like you, eating was just one more exhausting task that I’d rather avoid. Then later, with assistance, I understood some of the underlying factors. Grief has a way of taking on a life of its own!

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  2. Hugs to you as you deal with these challenges. Boy can I relate! As the mother of two ADHD boys, my life until recently (they grew into teenagers and calmed down) was always utter chaos. Once, as I cooked dinner, my son disassembled the computer. Another time (he was 8 at the time) he took the car seat out of the car, drilled holes in the sides and stuck on wheels from an old lawn mower. He put his 6 year old brother in the car seat and attached it with a rope to his bike. I was in the middle of cooking when I saw him riding down the street with his brother dragging in the carseat! And this was about 20 minutes worth of me just trying to make something decent for dinner. I agree with blogventer – my measure of parenting success for my boys was always if they were alive at the end of the day. One of them convinced a babysitter to let him on the roof to assess “hail damage” one time, saying, “My mom always has me do this after a storm.” What?? So, I get you. Boys are into everything and have no concept of what’s safe, nor do they care. It’s a wonder we moms of boys get through it alive ourselves! Anxiety is completely understandable. And if you don’t have a supportive mom to turn to, it’s really hard. Having your friend move away is another blow. I’ve experienced all those things too.

    Is there an eating disorder support group in your area you could find? Sometimes it’s so helpful to talk to people who are experiencing the same things. Have you found a new therapist?

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    • OH MY WORD!!! I just laughed so hard at this. I can seriously relate, and with my two only five and four I know I’m in for a lot more “fun.” I’m having a much better week, and I have been looking in to a new ED group. I just have to stay on top of it. Thanks for the comment — always helps to hear from people who have been there and have survived. I love your blog and look forward to reading more. I’m a true believer in the power of gratitude, but your blog was a pleasant reminder that my thankful muscles are a bit weak these days and could stand a trip to the gym. 🙂

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      • Ha, ha. Yes, you are in for more “fun!” And you definitely need support. So finding it definitely needs to be a priority! One way I coped was doing something only for me while the kids were at preschool. If you’ve ever heard of The Artist’s Way, that’s one thing that helped me. The concept of artist dates was helpful to me in reminding me to spend time doing something new or inspiring for an hour a week. Also, you said that your house is chaos (of course!) and so was mine, but I had one little room that was off limits to the kids – it was basically a closet. And it was just for me to write in and I got to keep it very orderly and nice! I don’t know if you have a space just for you, but it can be really helpful. Even if it’s just a small corner. 🙂 Hang in there!

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  3. Do you ever just get so effing tired of your eating disorder you could scream? I do. I totally feel you on this one. My eating disorder is the opposite – I eat to extremes at any little emotion, and so far the only way I’ve ever been able to get a handle on it is to be on medication. Anyway – enough about me. Thank you for being brave enough to share this, I wish your mom was nicer, and sometimes I’m so glad I have a girl-baby instead of a boy-baby! 🙂

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    • Yes, I do get tired of it, especially because I think I’m over it and then it shows out at the most inconvenient times. I’m sorry you struggle with eating stuff, as well. It sounds so cliche, but once I was able to view my eating disorder through the lens of “progress, not perfection” I got better. When I first went off to college, I went through a phase of binging followed by starvation, and I was ruthless with myself when I would overeat — “you’re a loser, you suck.” It was so ugly & I left myself no room for error with food. In my sick head, I either ate “perfectly” or I told myself I was a big, fat, gluttonous cow. I should do another post on this, but it took working with seriously overweight people (usually women) and hearing the awful ways these beautiful people talked to themselves for me to recognize that I was doing the same things — tearing myself apart for not being perfect. Learning to be kind to myself is an ongoing journey, but I’m slowly getting better. I see myself a lot in your writing. I beat myself up less about my food now, but I critique my parenting harshly. Man, perfectionism really is a beast. Now let’s both go and be nice to ourselves. 🙂

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      • Yes! That’s why I like your blog, because I’ve often thought “hey, that’s me!”. I have a feeling this problem will be with me always, but I can learn to live with it and like you say, be nicer to myself.

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  4. The first part of this post was hilarious! Boys DO stink, and they’re MESSY!!! (Teenagers are worse — brace yourself. And your nose.) I gave up on the “neatness” front a long time ago. It’s enough now for me to know that my house is clean (i.e. sanitary), even if it’s a perpetual mess b/c they disassemble order within a half-hour of any tidying I do. I adopted the attitude that if the kids are alive by the end of the day, I’ve done my job. This is the only approach that helped me maintain sanity.

    The second part of your post made me sad. I’m sorry your mom manages to be a force of chaos and destruction in your life. (Why do they do that? Why do they have that power over us?) But it does sound as though you have a healthy handle on food — once you stop and pay attention to the fact that you haven’t been eating. Yes, please do eat regularly! I like having you back in the blogosphere. 🙂

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    • Oh my gosh! SO true — the day has been a success if everyone’s alive at the end of it. I know you’re right that the teenage years are gonna be rougher and smellier. That’s partly why I feel pressure to get a handle on this eating stuff. I should really give myself a break and just live in the present. As for my mom, well, just ONE BIG SIGH. I have to let go of my expectations there, and I wish I knew the answer to why they have such power over us. You’ll be happy to know that my eating has been much better this week, so hopefully I’ll be blogging more regularly. Thank you, Blogventer, for always putting a smile on my face. Now go do something nice for yourself, sweet mother of SEVEN, for Mother’s Day. 🙂

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  5. I’m commenting to say ” I was here friend”…….Love ya, hope to talk again soon. I’m here when or if you want to talk. Thank you for having the courage to share in one form or another.

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    • Thank you, dear, true friend. I’m coming out of my weeklong funk, so if I can survive the last week of school, we should definitely Skype or at least talk. I miss you and want to hear about your life. Thank you for everything and for being one of the few who really understands me. You’re the shiniest jewel I know!

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  6. Ugh, I am so sorry. You sound like an intelligent person so you probably already know that “not” eating is a form of control. I get that. I don’t have an eating disorder but sometimes I just can’t be bothered to eat if the food isn’t really fresh, tasty, healthy. The thought of putting some random processed cracker into my mouth… well… Anyway, you have a right to be stressed and everyone deals with stress in their own way. Namaste.

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    • Yes! You hit on something else — thank you. I need food to be fresh, tasty, and healthy — extremely important for me. However, I do have to understand that the people who care about me are afraid that I’m “starving” myself when they see me not eating and really haven’t analyzed everything about my situation to the degree that I have. As much as it stinks, at times I do have to force myself to eat food that might not be ideal or my first choice, but I still have to do it. When a person’s weight drops to a dangerously low level, physiologically it becomes a true danger. Wow! I guess all those hours of group therapy really did help me. 🙂

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  7. I think you’re amazing for being able to say all this stuff out loud. I have my own food issues, which are not helped by participating in sports with weight divisions. I don’t think eating disorders are about looks or being desired; I think they are usually about control, and denying oneself or trying to fill an emptiness due low self-worth and self-acceptance. Actually, I think they’re a lot more complex than that and eating disorders look different in every person that faces them.

    Again, I respect the hell out of you for being able to talk about what you experience. I hope that writing can bring you some peace.

    Take care,
    Lori

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    • Thanks for the kind words, but I don’t know that I would call myself brave since this is an anonymous blog that only one person in my real life even knows about. It’s funny you mentioned the difficulty of participating in sports with weight divisions. I had a real epiphany during the course of my treatment. I was able to trace the origins of my eating disorder back to my days as a high school basketball player. Long and lanky, I felt extreme pressure to “put on weight” in order to compete in our division. At the same time, others in my life warned me to not “bulk up” as it was “terribly unfeminine.” I couldn’t win. What I did internalize was that I was fine as long as my BODY was the right way — for whomever was critiquing it at any given moment.

      I agree that so much about eating disorders has to do with control. Society is ruthless when it comes to women’s physical appearance, but I find it interesting that female athletes are still highly susceptible to body/food issues. I do think that my experiences as an athlete have helped in my own healing process — I have a relationship with my body as what it can DO rather than merely how it LOOKS.

      Wow – this could be it’s own post. 🙂 Writing and talking about my experiences has been extremely helpful. Maybe it is brave and I just can’t quite see that yet. Your posts about Judo are super-intriguing but I can imagine the weight-class bit can bring about some food challenges. Thanks again for another thoughtful response. You are always encouraging and you make me think!

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      • Although you wrote anonymously, what you write is true. To me, that is brave. I reveal a lot in my own writing, but there are certain things I’m still too afraid to put on paper. You probably have things you can’t write about yet. For me, I still don’t know if I’m ready to reveal my issues with weight and food, since the base of my readership are people I know. So from my point of view, you are very brave!

        Judo attracts obsessives and perfectionists, so it can be an incredible outlet and positive form of structure, but it can lead you down some pretty dark paths if you don’t keep it in check. People cut weight all the time to compete and half the time I don’t even understand why they do it. Just fight the weight you are. It especially makes no sense for women since it’s a male-dominated sport. You could cut to fight down a weight class, show up, and there’s no one in your division, or maybe one other girl.

        During one of my last research projects for grad school, I was shocked to find that there was such a thing as “clinical perfectionism.” Treatment was first tested with athletes with eating disorders. The desire to meet one’s own impossibly high standards in addition to the perceived standards of our culture can cause paralyzing anxiety. At least it does for me.

        I love reading what you write, and the same goes for me. You always make me think!

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