TRIGGER WARNING: Eating Disorders
If I never had to eat again, I’m sure that my life would be simpler and without quite so many struggles for my mental health. Take an addiction of another kind. I was addicted to alcohol and have the choice of whether or not I will drink now that I am in recovery. For a drug addict they can (and hopefully will) choose to not touch drugs again. But when you’re addicted to issues of food and weight, regardless of your means of recovery you have to keep pumping 2,000 odd calories into your body each day. You see the difficulty is that having had Anorexia and now ED-NOS (Eating Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), I can’t give up eating food and so the internal battles that exist over weight, food, nutrition, control and self-care continue.
We’re just over a month past Christmas, and even aside from my slight bah-humbug attitude to Christmas, I am glad it’s over simply because so much of the celebration of Christmas centres around food. It’s impossible to get away from it. As it is I still have here a biggish box full of chocolates and sweets (candy) given to me for Christmas. Sigh! And on that note, would you give an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey for Christmas? Hopefully not. But those of us with food-related issues often get inundated with gifts of food.
Recently my doctor told me that I don’t have an addictive personality. Hmm. I sat there and thought how little he knows me. It’s true that I haven’t had spectacularly public scenes of self-destruction due to addiction. One thing my ex did well was to guard my privacy, although in hindsight, I seriously wonder whether that was such a good thing. My current doctor is not the doctor who fought with me through those addictions. At the time it was really only my current doctor and my ex who saw and heard the mental battles (as well as the vocal battles I constantly had with the two of them. My doctor at the time was a saint!).
Not everyone would agree with me, but I believe that my Anorexia was a type of addiction. No, I wasn’t addicted to standing on the bathroom scales, and I wasn’t addicted to minimal calorie diet food. A common belief is that Anorexia is about losing weight but that was just a welcome plus that came from what I was really addicted to, and that was control.
My life was seriously out of control. I had been diagnosed as depressed at that stage, but I wasn’t responding to any treatment (perhaps because the wrong thing was being treated). I was seriously depressed and chronically suicidal. And let’s not forget self harm. I was in a relationship that I wasn’t exactly convinced on, but I was going ahead with a marriage anyway. (Yeah, stupid. I know.) I had no idea what had become of the successful career girl I had been seen to be. It didn’t help that while the outward signs of success were there, I didn’t exactly believe I was successful. I thought I was a total fraud.
Inside was turmoil, and as I felt less and less control, I reached for something I could control… how much food I put in my mouth. It was something tangible. I had no understanding of my feelings at the time, but the more food I left on my plate uneaten, the better I felt. Others might love to have that last piece of carrot cake, but I loved that strength I had to not take the cake. I had more control than others. So it felt, anyway.
As I reached for more control I discovered laxatives (a really dumb move). I searched them out like a drug addict would, literally because of the quantities I was using. They made me so sick that at one stage I really thought I was going to die from laxative poisoning. But they gave me more control and while laxatives really aren’t that effective, I took every drop on the scales and smaller clothes as a sign that in spite of my feelings of despair, I was in control.
All that said, don’t believe for a minute that having Anorexia is a good feeling. It’s not. There was a constant battle going on in my head every time I was faced with another meal or even a coffee. The cost of control was that internal battle as well as the battle with those around me who wanted me to eat.
I eventually recovered (that’s the short version), but I admit the battle goes on. Even nearly ten years on from dropping the Anorexia diagnosis there are still days when the enticement of taking that control again is great. I am now overweight (although not obese) and that comes and goes as I have gone through stages of over-exercising (another addiction), medication changes and depression. My weight, my size, my self-beliefs about my own body continue to tempt me toward that control I had.
The difference is that I don’t want to be Anorexic again, and that is enough to fight that battle. But having to eat on a regular basis doesn’t help. If I never had to eat again, it would be so much simpler.
But instead on my table is that box of chocolates and sweets given to me for Christmas. It’s not that I don’t like chocolates and sweets, even food for that matter, but gifts like that are overwhelming and unwelcome. Perhaps it comes from the privacy my ex defended for me all those years back. People don’t know how much of a battle it might be. But then mostly people just don’t think, and certainly don’t understand an eating disorder. That’s not their fault, there is so much to understand. I was getting such gifts at the time that I was at my dangerously lowest weight.
They thought it would encourage me to eat. Somehow they thought if someone just put the right food down in front of me, I would start eating again. But it never was about the food.
© Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cate Reddell and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.