Ever since I can remember I have not had a normal relationship to food. When I grew up, one of the biggest mistakes I could make was to help myself to food that was in the kitchen. I could have what I was given, but nothing more, and I believe I learned very soon that food could be dangerous and that food was something I needed to “earn”. My mother used food as a punishment, saying I didn’t deserve to eat what she bought if she was upset with me. (She called it buying, but it was food stamp food.) My stepfather used food as a reward, bringing home things like chocolate bars, candy or other treats for me, and often they would be the prelude or sequel to sexual abuse.
It took me a while to link my current eating habits (lol, well, struggles) to my childhood experiences, but once my therapist F brought it up, and I spoke about it with mom, I think those experiences probably left quite a deep mark on me. One of those trauma related things that have been etched into my brain and are hard to get rid of. Maybe because those stuff was so relevant back then. I don’t know.
Anyway, I’m diagnosed with an EDNOS – an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. For me it’s anorexic symptoms with occasional binge eating spells, but none of them have much to do with body image. I don’t usually care what I look like or about my weight. I’m not afraid of certain foods and I don’t monitor my caloric intake either. When I ate normally, I don’t feel bad about it either. It’s not the food itself that matters to me. I don’t care what it does inside of me once I’ve eaten it. It’s not about looks or weight or health.
But what I struggle with often is the eating itself. I think my eating disorder falls into a self-harm category. Especially if I feel bad about myself, I feel like I don’t deserve to eat. That I must starve myself as a punishment. I aim for the misery of feeling terribly hungry and the torture of looking at food, right in front of me, and not having any. And while one part of me, the part that is hungry, would like so much to eat, the part that’s in control of my mouth refuses. Even if I have the food in my mouth, like because someone persuaded or forced me to have a bite, I can’t swallow.
The opposite can also happen: that I feel like I want to eat anything I can find. I usually do it in secret, and once again I go for the punishment factor. Getting discovered and punished for taking everyone’s food (it doesn’t happen here, with my family, but my imagining the scenario fuels the behavior). Feeling disgusting for having eaten like a pig. Feeling full to the point of “pain-full”. But this kind of binging happens far less often than the restricted eating. Maybe once every three or four months. Unlike refusing food, which happens several times a week, or lasts several days at once.
When I feel okay I don’t have any such issues and can eat normally, like it’s no big deal.
At the moment I’m struggling with the restrictive eating and even when I know it’s really silly and that I CAN eat just fine, every meal is exhausting. My mom doesn’t usually put too much pressure on me if I can’t eat, but when I’m not eating for several meals in a row, she doesn’t just tolerate it. In a way I’m glad she doesn’t, but even so, many meals end in tears.
I wish I could just rewire my brain.