Friday, September 28, 2012

Shame

Tuesday night I found myself sitting on the rug in my bathroom scarfing down any food that I could get my hands on. Previously, in between doing dishes I was opening the cabinets and searching for all of the forbidden foods that I don't normally allow myself to eat. I wanted everything and at that moment didn't want a single thing to stop me. I was hungry, starving actually after days/months/years of restricting yet I was so full of shame this felt like my only option.The fact that in that moment I needed help and more food was too much for me to handle. I was so hungry yet angry about the fact that I was hungry, that eating in secret seemed like the answer. I didn't want anyone to know that I was hungry or eating (two things that equal being needy, selfish and too much in my mind), so there I sat huddled on the bathroom floor in tears, eating all that I could, while John sat in the other room. After this I immediately went to bed. I had to. I was so full of self hate and paralyzed by shame and fear. I wanted to forget and pretend like the entire thing didn't happen.

The next day I decided that the solution to last nights "problem" was to go back to restricting my food intake and just keep the entire thing to myself. Even thinking about it brought up so much shame, that I couldn't imagine sharing it with anyone, even my nutritionist. Around noon I took my lunch break at work. I didn't plan on eating. I repeated over and over again "I don't need food", a very well known thought in my head, yet I couldn't hold back how I was feeling. I couldn't hold back the tears; the sadness that I felt for denying myself what I truly needed, the pain from all of the self hatred and the shame from all of the secrets. For a brief moment, in between a lot of negativity and eating disorder thoughts, I decided that I couldn't continue to live like this. I realized that my life was being destroyed and consumed by shame. It wasn't just around food, it was around everything. I felt ashamed for needing things, for wanting others to like/love me, for having an eating disorder, for struggling to take care of myself, for needing to ask for help, for being good at my job, for my personality, for having likes and desires, for being too much etc.Although incredibly painful and hard to swallow, this thought forced me to pick up my phone and call John, who was also on his lunch break. Through a lot of tears I told him what had happened the night before and asked if he could talk to me while I attempted to eat lunch. It was difficult but at the same time relieving.

Tonight I am writing this post and sharing this painful story in attempt to eliminate some of the shame. Although it was quite an eye opening experience, I have easily fallen back into the same patterns over the past few days. After restricting and not following my meal plan for a few days I was overwhelmed by hunger yet again. Although I followed my meal plan today, tonight I had the same urge to eat anything and everything, in secret. The entire night I have had the eating disorder screaming in my ear telling me that I am needy, selfish and too much for needing/wanting more food and being hungry and a failure because I can't even eat like a normal person. I have had many moments where I want to give in and not in a healthy way, yet tonight I refuse to allow shame to win.

Even though I can realize that a lot of my beliefs are illogical and even wrong, I can't instantly ignore or erase the things that I have been telling myself for years. I can't just "snap out of" using eating disorder behaviors to cope. My hunger and fullness signals are still very messed up and I have no concept of "normal" eating. I have no clue how much food my body actually needs and most of the time I am too scared to even begin to experiment to figure that out. I am constantly consumed by shame and anxiety for needing things and even more so for asking for help. I don't know how to separate my feelings and problems from my relationship with food. On most days I feel like I am stumbling around in the dark yet I am learning to use my treatment team, John and friends for guidance. I don't have all or many of the answers yet I refuse to give up. I have read stories and know personally people who have recovered from eating disorders. Although I can't even begin to imagine it, especially for myself, I continue to hang on to the possibility. Shame will NOT win.

2 comments:

  1. Hey, Daniella! I think I might have commented something similar on your blog or Facebook before, but I understand at least some of what you are going through because I developed an eating disorder (though it wasn't diagnosed officially ever because I never gave into my mom's wishes for me to seek professional help) myself starting sophomore year of college (during Phi Rho I was definitely well in its clutches; for example, I remember I had extreme anxiety about the sister's retreat weekends because I couldn't control what foods, when, in what manner, etc. I ate; it definitely put a heavy cloud over all my memories of college after freshman year and, though I wish it had never happened in one since because of how painful and destructive it was and how much it kept me from having the real college experience I could have had, God used that time to really draw me so much closer to Him and know Him in a way that may not have happened if I wasn't going through such an intense/hard/introverted time in my life). I wish I had a silver bullet of advice for overcoming an eating disorder, even though I wouldn't say my eating habits are entirely back to normal, but (1) mine was much different than yours it sounds like and (2) each person's road to recovery I suspect will look different. I think the main thing that helped me get a lot better honestly wasn't through sheer effort of my own (though the ever-increasing desire to get better was important to fuel even very small changes that were actually major battles being fought, because obviously your desire to get better has to be stronger than your desire to stay the same in order for change to happen), but it was through my living (and therefore eating) situation changing so often during that time (different apartment each school year, at home during the summers, interning in Texas after graduating for a summer, moving to England for a year for grad school, back home to finish thesis, moving to Boston to work, etc.) and each time I moved I *tried* to start fresh with better habits (which inevitably just turned into "different" habits, but as far as habits go, habits that continue to change are better than habits that go on for years).

    The two main things I would mention that I think were good for me to focus on were (though since the nature of my disorder was completely different from yours, perhaps this is completely nonapplicable ;P): (1) focus on things other than food that are good and that you like to do: fill your life with these things and try to let food be less important than them; a.k.a. "don't plan your life around food, but plan food around your life" (2) work on flexibility: ultimately my road to recovery has been very gradual and has been a matter of me becoming more flexible to change even if that change is only once in a while at first and becomes more frequent later; this is especially helped along when you are with others and eating according to someone else's food and schedule, etc. and goes back to (1) to focus on things other than the food and try to make yourself realize how food should just be this subtle fuel that you give your body every day to keep on living (though it's good to enjoy food, too, if you don't obsess over it, which I was doing and still sometimes do).

    Sorry, maybe that was both unhelpful to your particular situation and also t.m.i., but I just thought I'd comment anyways on the off chance that it would be beneficial to you in some way. If nothing else, you can know that you are not alone.
    ...

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    1. ...Just make sure you focus on the rest of your life and if you do that I think it'll be easier for the food issue to become more normal or at least less of a disorder and more of just a quirk (people laugh at me and tease me about how and how much I eat all the time, but I've finally gotten to the place where I can just laugh along with them and see it more as a quirk than a disorder, even though it is still a struggle and not as good as it could be ;P); the mental struggle was the worst for me (mainly the knowing how stupid and obsessive I was being and trying to tell myself to stop a million times), but tackling the problem directly was hard, so sometimes maybe a sneak attack is best haha. I guess Paul knew what He was talking about when he wrote Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." :)

      Praying for you! Let me know if you ever want to talk about anything or want to know more about my story: as I said I'm not completely "normal" in the food arena yet, but it's a slow-but-steady process of improving, and I'd love to be able to help anybody in the process however I can. :)

      I think your blog is great and very wise: I hope others with this disorder will read it and benefit from it. Also, reading your more recent post, I'm so glad you have channeled your anger towards the disorder instead of towards yourself: God and everyone else loves you and wants you to love yourself, too. I know with the mindset you have now you have bright days ahead of you, so chin up, girl! :)

      -Bethany

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