Do you think you ever really let go of old habits?
It’s no secret I struggle with food. I’m pretty open about it and people look at me as if to say “it’s just a choice, make it”. I know what I should do, I’m aware of how it works. Sometimes it feels like my brain has its own opinion on the matter.
When I was a kid I hid food. I’m not entirely sure why. Money was tight, life was chaotic, who knows what goes through a 3, 4 or 5 year old’s mind when they decide to hide a bowl of cereal in their dresser drawer or half of a sandwich in their closet? I became cognizant of the “issue” when I was in the 3rd grade and our weights were put up on the weight chart to show how we’d grown. There weren’t many kids who came close to my weight.
My dad would tease me by calling me Miss Piggy, and the kids at school were not much better. In the 6th grade my teacher joined the banter by referring to me by a name that combined mine with that of an animal that a boy in class came up with. When my mom complained after hearing me crying in my room one night. I was further ridiculed for not being able to take a joke.
I remember standing on the pitcher’s mound of the kick ball field while one of my classmates ran through the list of my flaws while he praised his girlfriend as she sat on his lap and smirked at me. Ooooo, what a sweat victory that must have been. Why I stood there and listened, I couldn’t begin to explain. Yeah, yeah, it was 25 years ago let it go. The problem is that I still stand there and listen. Only now, sometimes the asshole sitting on the kick ball is me.
When I was a junior in high school the Air Force recruiter told me I would be put on a special diet for fat girls and everyone would know about it and I would be mocked openly until I dropped the weight. (What I wouldn’t give to be that weight today. Okay, there are some things I wouldn’t give.) I never joined the Air Force but I did learn how to purge. It started with laxatives but they complicated my evening runs and I’m not sure my friend’s moms appreciated me stopping by for those kinds of visits. I moved on to a favorite spoon handle or my toothbrush. It felt so amazingly awesome to have control over something in my life. It lead to controlling the food I put in my mouth…or didn’t. I loved to feel that ache in the pit of my belly when I went to bed. It meant success. Because I cycled through phases, the weight loss was never alarming so no one got concerned. I got a pass.
I yo-yoed through the cycle into college. One of my dorm mates brought up at a floor meeting that she’d heard someone throwing up in the shower. It lead to the discovery of ipecac syrup and drives out on the back roads behind the college and strategically planning my days so that I missed food service hours. It turns out that she had heard one of the girls who would later be one my best friends.
I’m not sure what happened. What switch flipped. I was befriended by a girl in health and development who was recovering from her own even deeper version of my struggle. I wonder if watching her and hearing her story made the light come on. Her sadness about being infertile because of the abuse she put her body through and how she had to monitor the amount of miles she walked in a day because her impulse was to not stop walking. I started seeing a counselor at the school.
During the chaos in those days I would eat then release it. Now I just eat and it never releases. It sits there. It reminds me. When I see myself I see all my failings. All of the things I can not control. All of ways I’ve been hurt and disappointed. All of the things I will never be or didn’t do. On a bad day the urge is front and center in my mind. Poking me. Pushing me.
I wonder if it will ever go away. The struggle. The stuffing of feelings and emotions. The hiding. Even if I lose this weight and run these races, will I ever see myself differently?
I wrestle with how to explain it to my 11-year-old son who told me about a group of girls at his old school who would gather after lunch and purge. He asked and I was honest and then he looked at me like I had 3 heads. Why would I do that?! If you’ve never been there will you ever get it? What if you don’t get it even after being there?
Today I attempted to over restrict my diet. In the end I ate poorly when I finally gave in. I made a comment regarding something I had eaten on a friend’s Face.book page as a joke. It got a response from someone that brought up my defenses. Not because she was attacking, she wasn’t. Her comment made complete sense and it’s something I know. I deleted my reply to her comment because to other people it’s all excuses. Maybe at the heart of it all, it is. To me it feels like a battle that on most days I’m not sure I’ll ever win.
This post makes me feel really vulnerable and completely exposed. It is not a space I feel comfortable in. Maybe it will help a few of my friends understand my crazy when it comes to this “thing” I’m trying to do and my defensiveness. Maybe in the end it will help me. My brain will spin wondering who will discard it because it’s all stuff I should have moved past, who will try to figure out the name my teacher called me and who will remember it…and will they laugh? Who will take a step back because all they see is crazy, who will be mad because I posted it at all, and who will nod their head because they know ? We all have struggles, this is one of mine.