There are two things in my head at the moment, and I’m not sure which one I want to talk about first. Well, they are at least marginally related, so maybe I’ll segue somehow… Here goes.
Here’s what “normal” people don’t get about having an ED – keeping in mind that not every fat person has an eating disorder and not everyone with an eating disorder is fat – it isn’t just the eating that’s disordered, because my thoughts about eating are also disordered. For all of these years I have been CONSUMED with thoughts about eating (pun kind of intended). And I’m not talking about cravings, or at least not just about cravings. I have had a constant dialog going on in my head about eating – Am I hungry? When did I eat last? Do I deserve to be hungry yet? What time is it? What have I eaten today? Did it have too many carbs, is that why I’m hungry already? When can I eat again? I should eat more protein. Haven’t we already been to the Chinese place this week – will they be suspicious if we go again today? Is that weird? I shouldn’t have that, it has sugar in it. What should we have for dinner tonight? What should I order? Is anything thawed out at home? What’s wrong with my tummy – am I hungry or sick? I ate fruit for a snack, so that was good. I shouldn’t order the cheeseburger, what will the waitress think?
That was my normal, every day, all the time. These weren’t just occasional thoughts, like someone might have while say, actually contemplating what to do AT dinnertime. It was constant, day and night, if I wasn’t actively thinking about something else, like work or school or taking a cat to the vet. I would even wake up in the middle of the night, itemizing every bite of yesterday and wondering what I’d do about tomorrow.
I sort of realized that it wasn’t normal a couple of years ago – that probably most people didn’t walk around constantly analyzing and criticizing their hunger. See, out of all the times I’ve ever taken cold medicine, twice (and only twice, ever) it has managed to suppress my appetite. Driving home one day (with cold medicine brain) I happened to notice the time and I was hit with the realization that I ALWAYS know what time it is, because I ALWAYS know how long it has been since I ate and how long it will be until I can eat again. So I realized that I hadn’t been thinking about eating. The voice track was gone, or at least sluggish and quiet. For the first time I realized that I HAD a voice track. And that NOT having a voice track was better. I felt free. I felt… normal.
So that’s what “normal” people don’t get. You just can’t explain obsession to someone who doesn’t have that voice track. I don’t think about eating all the time because I’m fat, I think about eating all the time because my brain is effing broken. It’s stuck in a loop. I don’t think about food because I have insatiable cravings, and I don’t always crave junk food, and I don’t binge every single time I eat. But I do always, always, always have to think about eating. Because my brain won’t shut up.
And that sucks.
Of course, you might have noticed that I said, “That was my normal…” I’ve been in recovery for a year and just recently, that voice track has gone. Mostly. I’m thinking about it now, because it came for a visit today. I’ve been depressed for a few days here lately, and that’s a time when old habits try to creep back in and take over. It’s easier to do what you are used to doing, harder to hold on to new things when the grip is less certain.
But… I HATE that voice track and I don’t want it back.
This recovery thing, it’s hard. I know that some people try to do it on their own, and I sincerely wish them luck. I tried that path, and it didn’t work for me. So once again, I want to encourage others, if this stuff sounds familiar to you, to get help. Get a support team. I know that not everyone can afford therapy and insurance doesn’t usually cover much or any of it. But at a minimum… please see what might be out there. Join a support group, read the books, join a website, and LISTEN to the people who have been here before you.
You can’t wake up every morning and just decide that you aren’t going to binge anymore. That’s just like starting a diet. You can’t depend on willpower alone. It isn’t about your will, or mind over food matter. It’s you fighting every neuron, every hormone, every instinct, every thought, every emotion, every voice track, every jackass, every “helpful well meaning” stranger, every bite, every scent, every craving, every setback, every panic attack, every disaster, every slight, every phone that never rang, every phone that did ring…. Well, you get it.
You can’t fight every minute of every day without something, someone to back you up, to help you find and USE new coping mechanisms. It’s exhausting, and eventually you get fucked. Because you are fine and good, and you don’t deserve this pain, and you are capable and strong, but you are not SUPERHUMAN. You need to talk to someone else, someone who can physically talk back to you and help you figure out what’s real and what’s not, what matters and what doesn’t, what can change and what you have to accept.
Because believe me, when all you can hear in your own head is some broken voice track, it will never tell you anything new.