Posted by: innerpilgrimage | January 1, 2011

Welcome to 2011! Congratulations, Jess, You’re an Anorexic?

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 1 Day

      I’m sure I said this last year, but there is a reason I consider January 1 to be one of the eating holidays–there are bowl games on. Another day of feasting, surrounded by friends and family, as we (okay, they) watch college teams battle it out on the gridiron.

      This is more a day of snack foods and hors d’oeuvres. For those of us who are susceptible to grazing, today is a pretty big grazing day if we’re in a position where food is readily available without a discrete time limit.
      Tomorrow, however, people will assess the damage that the holidays took on them and turn toward diet companies and gym memberships and even OA to minimize the damage of a nonstop social meal from Halloween to New Year’s Day.
      It’s been two months of parties, traditions, and celebrations. And now . . . we face the price.
      What I planned to write here was all about recovery, and a little bit about the challenges I faced yesterday. Today, however, has brought me face-to-face with a reality that I am anxious about. I have slid from being a compulsive overeater with anorexic tendencies to a compulsive undereater with binge-eating tendencies.
      What happened? I got into a pair of size 4 jeans snugly, potentially able to zip, with a shit tonne of dunlops, a pair of size 2s. And that scared the living crap out of me. I still see myself as a Lane Bryant 18/20. The loose 10s make me wildly upset, both because I once was deliriously happy with that and both because I am pissed off that it’s not enough. It is never enough.
      It will never be enough until I am enough. And somewhere inside, that recovered self is saying, “You were enough when you were a 26/28. You were enough as a 22/24. You were enough at every size between them. And you are a beautiful, vulnerable, empathetic woman.”
      I hate how my cheeks have lost the round apples, but I long for being thinner in the waist. I hate that I look at my thighs, which do not touch except at the highest point, where I have extra skin, and I long for matchstick legs. I want to be airbrushed, a lie. An illusion. I want that round face and the tiny waist, but reality is that I can’t have that. I feel the looseness of my skin and say, “It’s fat because it feels like it did.” Yet the gauntness shows itself to me in the shadows and angles of reflection.
      Last night, I wore a dress that I could not zip when I was comfortable with my body size fifteen years ago. Instead of recommitting to eating a normal amount, I am obsessed with quick-gain the only way I know how–give in to the cravings and disrespect my body’s needs in order to quick-fix the other direction. Try to comfort myself with food I don’t actually want. Return to a place I don’t want to be. Eat to stop the physical gnawing hunger and the emotional gnawing hunger.
      That is a life of longing, of constantly looking toward the other, the outside, the future, the past (with a fantasy that it can be changed if I will it hard enough).
      If I believe what Geneen Roth said, that perhaps I used food as love in order to at least have something to hold on to and give me some semblance of pleasure in my life, and that I took it almost vengefully from the people who I wanted love from desperately (“You will give me something, even if it is not, actually, love!”), then I had control over the pain of longing for freely-given constant love and not receiving it. But how could the people around me give it, when they did not know it for themselves?
      This is about control. This isn’t about size 8, 6, or 4. This is about fearing that if I examine my past, I will find nothing or a source of complete evil. Or a fear I am simply made up of longing, that I can never get away from the desire to martyr, martyr, martyr to get love that cannot be given. I have this fantasy (Woop, woop! Warning alarm!) that at least one of my sisters got love and I didn’t. Not really, since she has coping mechanisms and acts like I do. Both of my sister do. But my parents chose to commit to her self-esteem as best they could . . . by giving her time, attention, and resources. And if I really look back, they did the same for me. Mine were different because I was not headstrong, I was the eternal follower, the shrinking violet, the sensitive child who (when overwhelmed by pain) lashed out wildly. And they did what they could–walked me into a therapist’s office and learned that I was depressed. In other words, that I was not grieving losses in a healthy way and I was grabbing on to everything to feel like I was not drowning. They committed time and money to try to heal my mind, which I honestly felt was breaking under the strain. If I could not learn because they, themselves, were unsure of their own love, perhaps, someone else could teach me. I felt the chasm sitting there. Be a good girl. Try harder. Give up because even being better-than-perfect is still failure. They wanted me to push myself to succeed, and I fell apart under the strain, patched together by weekly visits to weep at a therapist because I could not grieve the loss and keep the family secrets at the same time. Fear, fear, fear. Terror that I was broken, that I was the reason that the chasm was there. She got love from Dad; she got love from Mom! Where is my love! If I cannot have yours, I will take the love and acceptance you want from your own parents. Nya-freaking-nyah, Mom and Dad! They love me more than they love you!
      And it is possible they did, for I received acceptance for my quiet and attentive ways. I returned again and again to where I felt I was wanted, and I grew up deciding that my mother’s parents were more my parents than my own. But perhaps . . . the hard touches from my own parents, the neglect of my mother and the physical pain from my father, were what they knew from their own parents. And I never saw it because my grandparents encouraged that gentility. They, perhaps, wanted my mother to be sensitive and loving, to be filled with the desire to make them happy. To fight with their own pain that perhaps my mother received the same gentility from her own grandparents. I do not know; I wasn’t there. But my grandparents attended to my sense of being acceptable, even if they turned on my parents because my grades weren’t good enough. If I was a reflection of my parents’ ability or inability to parent me properly to my grandparents, it is entirely possible the abuse cycle kept going–parent to child, parent to child.
      I never felt too fat to my maternal grandparents (or my paternal ones, to be truthful). Never. I never felt my presence unwanted there, for when I arrived, they were happy to see me. The time I spent learning to play Canasta and Cribbage, the time I spent listening and admiring. I was not a reflection of their mistakes; I was a clean slate. My mother’s mother liked that I had a strong sense of fairness, that even though I sometimes would choose an unintentionally destructive manner in which to do it, I believed sharing was a cornerstone of living. My natural tendencies were encouraged there, even as I was separated from my parents by a wall of their own compulsions. My mother and father did what they could and escaped the lives they felt trapped in. Just like I did throughout my older son’s childhood. Perhaps it was my personality they could not handle, that unwillingness to push myself into the cultural definition of success. I didn’t want to be the best at whatever I chose as a career; I wanted to be happy in it and not worry about the money. My two strong-willed sisters seemed to maneuver through the household better than me, though I know they struggled with escape because I know of their experimentation with means of escape.
      And all this? This has no value, because I cannot change the past, nor can I begin to assume what was going on behind the eyes of two women who grew up alongside me. Who dragged me, unwilling, into the reality I could not be a little girl forever. They couldn’t see into the eyes of the permanent child, hoping that the march of time could stop long enough to earn my parents’ love before it was too late–to find the alchemical formula to turn the lump of pain into pure, golden love.
      I consider the abrupt education I had may not have been grieved because I only saw it as an end, leaving me floating out into the void. Yet my recovered mind says that although childhood ended, adulthood began. I may not have been ready for it, but it was inevitable.
      With each bite of knowledge, I walked eastward from Eden. I longed for the safety of having something greater than myself care for me completely. And as I longed to return to paradise, I neglected to see that I was growing stronger in that world I had been cast into. I longed for Eden, for perfection in the eyes of G-d . . . my parents. And as I walked reluctantly from it into adulthood and the challenges of taking responsibility for my own choices, I kept my eyes backwards toward that place of perfection, of satiety.
      Choice. I can choose to put Eden inside me and carry it around, or I can choose to feel separated from it. Seeking a connection to my Higher Power from within, as is my choice when I turn toward faith, instead of seeking an external place and situation where I was kept safe. I was born, the first casting-out from Eden. I grew and learned about life, being cast from Eden again and again. I entered puberty, left home, became an adult, a parent. Every bite of knowledge I took sent me farther and farther east from that garden where I had to do nothing but was perfect nonetheless.
      Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, had a similar journey. The walls of the palace, however, did not stop time on his body. When he left of his own accord, he was faced with the truth of impermanence and pain. He turned toward martyrdom (ascesticism) and found it as unrewarding as excess. And then he sat beneath a tree and considered it. Binge or starve. Excess or denial. Neither conformed to reality, to acceptance of reality. There had to be a middle road, where one reaches fulfillment. One where the suffering of excess (for it is a form of suffering) and the suffering of denial could be sloughed off. And when he stood up from that time of meditative consideration, he was enlightened–whole.
      He accepted that ignorance is destructive because knowledge-seeking as part of the human condition–to stay ignorant was to deny one’s natural inclination to grow as all things grow. He accepted longing (greed) was destructive, for in excess one kept longing to drown in more excess and in denial one longed for the basic self-care we all need. He accepted that hatred, or non-acceptance of what is, closed our minds to greater possibilities. And he accepted that other “afflicted states” (like addictions) clouded the mind and kept clarity away.
      Ignorance. Longing. Hatred. Active addiction. These keep me from recovery. I pretend I have no choice but to be addicted. I ache to have the past change, to have what I want when I want it precisely how I want it. I stew in anger and resentment, not grieving and not letting go. And, I cloud my own mind with excess food or the self-denial of food, trying to avoid the pain that’s caused by refusing to grow, refusing to be grateful for what is, and refusing to release resentments.
      Being cast out from Eden was a gift, for without it humanity would not exist (if one follows Judeo-Christian teachings). Adam and Eve left as beings made in G-d’s image, therefore they took that piece of Eden with them and passed it along to humanity. Spirituality is a birthday gift; the soul cannot be removed from a person through any means but death . . . and that is simply a release of it, not the actual capture of it. The body ends, and the soul’s journey outside the body begins again.
      While yes, I consider both stories to be metaphors, I am finding their value in how they touch me deeply. Both express the process of natural human growth, of how we are endowed with something extra. I was once a denizen of ignorance, and my natural inclination to grow could not be halted. Slowed? Perhaps. Halted? Never.
      I just ate a piece of pecan pie at a restaurant. Pecans were good; shell was good; filling was industrial. Verdict? Gonna make my own from now on.
      My food plan has been made up of “anything goes, as long as they’re no’s”. That’s led to some cravings. But I ate the pie (had the calories) and things turned out okay. Not overfull, but the post-eating feelings aren’t too great; my stomach isn’t wildly happy with it. So, with the theory of “Try it and decide”, I have tried it and decided: Not worth the calories.
      And so, the anorexia is knocked back a little, because I honored a normal craving (based on two days of, “I’d like some pecan pie. Hm. Guess I’ll wait and see if I want it tomorrow.”). And I have diet anxiety, which tells me that I have been gripping to the diet aspects of my food plan and called it abstinence. But I also found abstinence, in that I don’t want a second slice. Or a third. Or the whole pie. I did want more just after I was done, but I sort-of didn’t, too. I ate it semi-consciously, thinking about the calories–I knew I was okay, but I was still anxious. Lots of self-education about my abstinence.
      I liked the carrots I had at dinner more than the pie. I don’t want a whole one. I don’t want to have dessert at that restaurant ever again. Hell, I don’t think I ever want to eat there again. And my stomach is making gurgly “I’m not digesting this right” noises, which means my body doesn’t like the pie. But I had to try and decide to stay true to the whole point of my personal abstinence, to turn my food plan from a diet plan to a way-of-life spiritual eating plan. Lots of lessons, like I said. And ones I will be taking with me into tomorrow’s next 24 hours–despite the diet guilt that I did not martyr myself on my food plan. I listened to myself, exercising the self-care necessary to see if I would enjoy that business’s version something I once enjoyed made by someone I once cared about. And I reinforced the recovered lesson that labeling everything the same in order to make it appear as though all things with the label are “good” does not respect that self-care. That it is a sure means for me to end up chasing more compulsive bites. I probably could have eaten half and been equally disappointed, but I decided the parts I liked were worth eating. And I ate imperfectly but within my food plan and within my growing concept of what abstinence really is–to treat food as food, not a love-substitute. Progress, not perfection. And honesty, for I am as sick as my secrets and not revealing the lessons learned in a middling piece of pie would have been yet one more secret tucked into my food plan–just like the martyring anorexia I have practiced in the name of “staying abstinent”. But yes, I feel food guilt for even eating it because I am terror-stricken that I will gain weight . . . and that, too, is a lesson for myself as I try to find a spiritual solution to a spiritual problem.
      Blecky. Not such a fan of fat and sugar any more, methinks. Fake love leaves a chemical taste in my mouth and makes my body feel off.
      And I am smiling, almost laughing, because I realize I am still eating that pie because I am writing about it. Just like the two ascetics at the river, one of whom carries a woman across a river despite both having made a vow not to touch women (sexually, of course, but you know how dogma evolves), then has to tell the second that he set the woman down on the other side of the river, whereas the querent has carried her the whole time (in his fretfulness about the conceptual breaking of the vows by the first priest in order to assist another human being–also part of their vows, I suppose).
      So . . . today’s wrap-up:
      I learned that my life-in-addiction has metaphoric correlation with the story of The Fall from Grace whenever I am burdened by my own perfection-seeking and lack of acceptance that I had to grow and change because that is the nature of all things; I learned that the story of the Buddha reflects my addict tendencies, and that I can use the lessons of the causes of suffering in order to leave the active addiction behind; I learned that the number on the tag of a pair of pants can trigger character defective behavior and serious body image issues; and I learned that industrial pecan pie can have pleasant elements, but my body doesn’t react well to it and to practice self-love in the future means to not eat it again.
      Pretty good progress despite a wobbly emotional day when I felt trapped by my addictions to food control and approval/love-seeking. It is all about the illusion of control, which I know is in my head because I get this determined look on my face and try to actively will things differently in my own head–to no avail. When the world doesn’t change because it’s happening inside my own head? Then I dust my hands off on my pants and start the real-world experimentation to manipulate things so I can achieve unrealistic goals using real world objects.
      In other words, I can’t take stones and wood and hammers and chisels and manpower and build a castle in the sky. However, if I want to live on a very real mountain where the clouds float past? That is potentially do-able. But a cloud cannot be used as a foundation, and to make plans to put a stone-and-mortar fantasy medieval castle on a cloud (as solid as it may look from the ground below) is insanity.
      Just like believing that my scale is going to be a spiritual slot machine, with lights and sirens and bells the moment I find the magical combination that turns me into the perfect person, changes my childhood, and brings me love from everyone. Oh, and billions of dollars to live on and a white unicorn to ride on as I live forever in a magical forest and dine with the faeiries every thing. Because those things are as real as believing that an external solution can fix what’s not actually wrong with me.
      My name is Jess. Still addicted to food control (both as a binge-eater and an anorexic), still looking for your approval and will martyr myself or manipulate you in order to get it. Which honestly doesn’t work, because how the Hell can another person respect someone who is selfishly trying to say, “I am your G-d, bow down to my will, already!”
      Yup. Addiction is insane.



  1. Wow. Amazing insightfull post.

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