Can food be seen in the same light as any other addictive substance? If we think about the chemicals released from our brain and the physiological changes to our body which can be created, then probably yes. I have felt intoxicated, numbed, ready to sleep. I have used food to numb me and had the fear of lost control around food. The rush of sugar, followed by the crash of energy levels as the body tries to process and digest the overload. Sugar is one aspect but the feelings of numb can similarly be created with carb overload, or for that matter any kind of overindulgence in food stuffs.
So whilst not designed as a mind altering substance, the ability to self medicate, numb and block out feelings, thoughts and emotions using food is very real. This alongside the feelings of failure for succumbing are all part of the mental and physical self harm.
Very similar to any other addiction and part of the lock in process, which keeps you coming back through that virtual cycle of numbing self harm, shame and self loathing. So like any addiction it’s about learning self love and not being heavily self critical when you fall off the wagon. It’s about learning to care for and not judge yourself. Take each day as it comes. Yet unlike other addictions it’s not so easy to follow the path of abstinence and in fact the abstinence element has in its own ability to create chemical and physiological effects.
With anorexia and bulimia being closely linked and the whole body image distortion that plays out in your mind. I still struggle with feeling full and over indulgence - hence I can be quite particular about the kind of foods I eat and act a bit weird around food choices at times.
But I’ve learned to cope and I’ve been able to eat mostly 3 meals a day for a couple of years now which after 30 years is quite an Achievement. I’ve had some blips (which highlight just how easy it is to fall off the wagon), but I think I’ve learned the damage caused by the self loathing that used to always follow when I’d ‘failed’. I think this is the biggest weapon in my self defense - the knowledge that I might have had a wobble, but I don’t need to fall in to that cycle of self loathing for failing, leading me to fail again, leading to further self loathing. I think like any addiction you have to be kind to yourself in order to allow yourself to have a healthy relationship with whatever the trigger is. I guess at the end of the day it’s all about mental health and well-being. I sometimes miss my ability to numb out the world.
I used to be pretty Titanium in my ability to take things on my shoulders, my ability to hide away and block out fears or worries because I would be more focussed on food with the feelings of failure meaning that none of the other stuff really affected me. I think this may have meant I was pretty resilient to whatever life would throw at me.
Like a suit if armour through bulimia, ready to take on and deal with the world and all it could throw my way. To the outside world always upbeat, positive, energetic, etc... making the feelings of shame even greater in holding the public face against the backdrop of chaos and inner turmoil. Learning to feel rather than numb has been hard, especially with dark feelings.
Support to recognise that we often create feelings through our own thoughts has been hugely helpful. I have a huge propensity to ruminate, over think and stress. I sometimes feel like I’m having some kind of panic attack. The feeling of heat rising in my chest and my quickening heart beat.
This can happen for work issues or when I’m stressed about being late for the kids or something that isn’t really the end of the world but can sometimes feel like it is... Mindfulness, meditation, laughter and self love is I think the best medicine.
Took me 30 years to find a semblance of peace around food. Getting to a place where three meals a day was ok, where I wasn’t tempted to just lose control at each and every meal, snack, bite... in the past I had days, where I could spend from breakfast till sleep in a cycle of eating myself to a feeling of numbness followed by ridding myself of as much and then repeating the cycle.
Exhausting and I’m sure physically tortuous (with acid indigestion the norm) and mentally feeling like a prisoner to bulimia. The new found freedom over the last couple of years has been much welcomed. I think I feel more now than I have for all of my adult life and life feels pretty hard sometimes. But it also feels amazing sometimes. I am learning to remember that I am worthy of love, self love, self care and kindness.
I still have much work to do, I know I can bury myself in work or busyness to avoid feeling. I know I need to practice patience with the kids more. I know I have way more issues of lack of self confidence in relationships (I think the ice maiden didn’t really ever allow true emotional connection because she was so disconnected from her own emotions). It’s a bit scary, but it’s all learning and learning is good.
And Everyday is magical in whatever way we want to make it to be.