I have always been someone who expresses myself well in writing. I am no novelist…I don’t have ideas bubbling up of stories that I need to write, and I don’t have the patience to develop something as involved as that. However, when I feel like my thoughts are kind of stuck inside my head, it’s always through writing that I can work things out. Despite this, I have never identified myself as a writer. It feels like that title gives me too much credit.
And now I am in grad school, and I am doing a LOT of writing. And my writing is getting favorable reviews from my professors. In fact, the director of my nursing school, in my interview for the MSN program there, told me she recalled from my time in the BSN program that I was a good writer. So I guess that I am going to call myself a writer…a good writer. I am going to give myself a little bit of credit!
Anyway, the title of this post is a statement that someone made to me about a week ago. I was discussing maladaptive behaviors with a group of people and talking about how, even if you are actively working to escape from your maladaptive behaviors, there might come a stressful point where the only thing you know how to do is to reach toward that old, familiar, yet maladaptive, behavior and do something that you perhaps hoped you would never again do. That is how my compulsive eating is for me.
If my life is going through a very neutral, sort of flat, not overly stressful time, I can stay away from most compulsive eating behaviors. Unfortunately, there has not been a neutral period in my life in a very long time. Many things in my life have been stressful. My marriage was stressful. My divorce was stressful. Starting over was stressful. My job is stressful. Therapy is stressful. School is stressful. And some things in my life are amazing. Starting over was amazing. My job is amazing. Therapy is amazing. School is amazing. However, there is not a lot of flatness in my life. And that means that I often find myself engaging in those old behaviors.
Someone who knows well the addiction to food that accompanies compulsive eating said, after that discussion and after sharing with me that she understood what I was talking about, “You are never more hungry than in that moment after you binge.” My response was something like ::blink, blink:: staring at her ::blink, blink:: ::thinking to myself, “Oh, my God, she is SO RIGHT.”::
Let me say something about what I have been able to identify about my binge eating patterns…discoveries I have made or have been led to about myself that I think must be common among those of use who struggle with food addiction. There are many moments in my life that I feel like I am lacking something. I am not smart enough. I am not good enough. I am not thin enough. I am not able to express my emotions enough. I am not fit enough. There are also moments in my life when I feel like I am too much, when I find myself thinking, “My God, Mary, STOP TALKING. Stop! Talking! You are over-the-top! You sound like an idiot! Stop now before you really make a fool of yourself!” And that leads to rehashing, over and over again, what I said, what I could have said instead, what I should not have said, what it meant when the person I was talking to sighed or frowned or fake-laughed. Being not enough or being too much causes an intense, visceral discomfort with myself, and the best thing to do would probably be to stay with that discomfort and work through that discomfort and stop overthinking and come out the other side and go on with my life.
However, as I said, my behaviors are maladaptive. So I seek out something that I always think is going to make me feel better. One such thing that I seek out is food. And that first bite? It’s AMAZING. The first bite of ice cream…BLISS! The first potato chip…crunchy, salty goodness! The first square of chocolate…a delight to savor. That first warm bite of bread…comfort right there is my hand. However, the “high” is just a flash, a short moment in time. Each additional bite fails to recapture that initial moment of “relief.” However, I keep eating, keep trying to feel “better.” SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t ever feel better.
And that brings me to that moment after I binge. In that moment, I am hungrier than I ever have been. I am hungry for all the things that were missing that led me to binge in the first place. I am hungry for a feeling of peace, a place to belong, a comfort with myself, a connection to others. I am hungry for the knowledge that I am enough, just as I am right in that moment, and although I might sometimes be a little over-the-top, that doesn’t mean that I am too much.
For now, I can put these words to it. I can write. I can share. I can reach out, in an attempt to make some sort of connection, in the event that someone is reading this and nodding and realizing that she (or he…men have eating disorders as well!) knows exactly what I am talking about. It’s not a feeling I would wish on anyone…but if it’s a feeling that you have experienced, I want you to know that you are not alone.