AKA HEALING MY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
Today was my first appointment with the dietician. Ambivalent as I was, having approached the GP with high hopes for a pill to stop me eating, I came out with a dietetics referral.
Having long since stopped feeling remorse for eating bad food, and telling myself I didn’t care, I loved my fleshy body, I was in a place of contradiction.
My initial push to do this was for my daughter. She’s 14 and I am a total hypocrite. I tell her the importance of what you eat and a healthy body, that she should be making wise choices whilst I’m tucking into a 200g bar of whole nut and expecting her to choose fruit. It’s a needs must scenario, it’s about being a good Mum.
But today I felt something. Very real raw emotions about this. I cried last night, I cried at home this morning and I cried on the way there. I cried whilst waiting and I was tearful in the session. I realised I do care about me. I do want to do this. I want to change. It does mean something. It actually means alot.
It’s brought about a great deal of reflection. I’m far away from saying “I can do this”. Because I don’t know if I can. I am living with Bipolar Disorder, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, on a wait list for specialist trauma therapy. And I am a Mum and all that entails if you do it well. Finally there is a long standing and deep rooted dysfunctional relationship with food.
BUT I AM GOING TO TRY.
I’ve been thinking about how food is the fundamental source of nurturing. We feed babies constantly not just to help their brain and body grow but to comfort them and connect with them. We make eye contact and release Oxytocin the happiness chemical. We give and receive love. Food is the building block of both life and of self care and a connection with others.
I eat and my choices cause harm. But perhaps within me I’m trying to replace or avoid unmet needs. Nonetheless, I harm my body with too much fat and sugar and I harm my self esteem by gaining weight and fat. I don’t like being fat.
Food has also become an immediate way to deliver comfort as I don’t have to think about or feel all the difficult things when the bad food is assaulting my senses or I’m in the afterglow of a sugar high/chemical release. But it’s an immediate way to deliver harm too. Intentional or not.
I know it is an agent of harm. But I have a well developed ability to put that back in the recesses of my mind and fill my basket with cream slices, custard tarts, chocolate, mousse, ice cream whatever is that days fix.
And I harm myself like this every single day. There is no blood, there are no questions to answer. Things to make up about the cuts on your arm. It is a secret. But for me it holds more shame than a bleeding wrist. And it’s visible and uglier every time I look in the mirror.
When I had music therapy sessions recently, I became acutely aware of my need to be mothered. How I wasn’t nurtured and my emotional needs went unmet. That I have a deep need for care, for nurturing.
I’ve always had to look after myself but right now being so vulnerable with the post traumatic stress disorder and being taken back to memories of abuse, particularly those of my long term relationship, it’s a struggle everyday to look after myself. I’d like to have a functioning mother.
Even a partially functioning one would do. Mine offers me nothing. She only has the capacity to take from me and it’s always been that way since I was a little child. I’m tired of supporting her. I have needs now and cannot meet them.
I realise of course, that there is no perfect mother around the corner to take care of me and at my age I need to do that job myself. Well I need to do a better job, I have been doing that job for myself already but am clearly not up to scratch. I am good at doing it for my child and I need to extend that. Maybe my first job is nurturing myself with food. Doing this.
It was a groundbreaking moment last night. There are a couple of mother figures I have attached myself to in the past 20 years. They are supportive, they will send me a few messages. Then I will overstep the boundary and over communicate having never been heard, never supported like this and so I’ll want more and they will stand back for a while. They don’t abandon me but they step back. They have their own lives. They are not my mother.
Last night feeling emotional about the appointment with the dietician and having nobody to share it with, my instinct was to message one or the other. I have no-one to hold me, no-one to talk about things with. If I spoke to them I would have the attention of another intelligent human, be metaphorically ‘held’, cared for, soothed, reassured, encouraged, understood. Like a mother does. I suppose people with a partner reciprocally meet each others needs with things like this too.
But some how I thought it through. I left my phone on the table. I listened to my own pain and tried to care for myself. I tried to make sense of my own experience alone and I realised that a few text messages would never be enough. It would never replace what I am missing and what I didn’t have and don’t have. No-one can give me that now. What I need could never be compensated for in a couple of messages and would leave me wanting more. It’s just a quick fix.
I was going to have to ride this out and do it for myself. And that is what I will have to do EVERY SINGLE DAY. But as well as realising that it’s not a helpful way to carry on anymore, I realised that I don’t need to. It may be harder and not as instantly gratifying but it is possible, it is self affirming and it is of itself gratifying once you get through the moment. It put me back in control and I felt proud.
The appointment was good. When I went in I made an announcement. “3 things; 1 this is a big deal, 2 if you are going to give me some advice sheets and see me in 6 weeks it won’t work and 3 if you can help me eat like a normal person you will deserve a pay rise”.
As I suspected that is the way she works due to high caseloads. She said I could take a Psychologist in conjunction or go to the Eating Disorders Service. At the time I said to refer me to the EDS.
But by the end of the appointment we liked each other and she said she could be flexible and try and fit me in as close as her next available appointment time and that considering my needs she wouldn’t need to rigidly stick to the 5-6 weeks rule or have a rigid cut off after 6 sessions. The deal was cemented for me when she found she could see me in 2 weeks.
My goal for the first two weeks is to eat lunch. That is the focus, a simple healthy lunch as most of my bad eating happens in the day instead of lunch. In the email she said the goal was 3 meals a day but I mostly have the other two with my daughter anyway and she knows that. I just need to secure that.
Apart from that I am allowed to carry on as I am.
There is probably alot beneath my relationship with food. Sexual abuse, a thin mother that encouraged weight loss and thinness as the ideal. Who paid for my appetite suppressants as a child. Even though it was me that asked. Having no-one to communicate my feelings with in childhood and now as an adult. The effects of being with an abusive partner for 11 years. On top of some out of control reactions to medication and not forgetting the drive to avoid the way I feel which is beyond comprehension at times.
But I’ve decided I don’t want the EDS. I don’t want to start delving into the multiple traumas and history of abuse in the context of this. Sitting in a circle with other people with an eating disorder.
I want to wait until my specialist trauma therapy. So, I will be eating lunch and seeing what I can do here overseen by a keen but overworked Dietician. And I will be my own therapist and my own mother.
LIKE IF YOU LIKED IT, HIT FOLLOW TO FOLLOW MY JOURNEY.
Thanks. Alice X
“If you hold me without hurting me, you’ll be the first who ever did”
LANA DEL REY
I love Lana Del Rey. I really like this line in the song Cinammon Girl. She repeats it many times as it’s part of the chorus. It came to mind that my Dad is the only person who fits this criteria so I recently had “Daddy” tattooed on my wrist under the name of my daughter.