An Eating Disorder That is Not About Food

I sit down for breakfast. It’s a routine. It’s what I do when I enter the kitchen in the morning. Always.

„Cereal?“, mom asks.

She’s standing in front of the kitchen counter, her hand on the cupboard door. It’s only a pro forma question, my bowl is already sitting on the counter. It’s what I have on most mornings. But seeing my bowl, my throat tightens. I shrug. Shove the problem her way, make her decide, make it be her fault.

She doesn’t take it.

“Take your time. Let me know if you made up your mind.”

I glance at the bowl, look down at the tabletop and shrug again.

“Nothing. I’m not hungry. I’ll eat later.”

Mom takes her own breakfast over to the table and sits down. Strokes my shoulder. Smiles.

“Having a hard time eating?”

I nod.

“What’s up? Do you want to talk?”

I shake my head. Don’t want to talk. Don’t want to think. Just want to not eat. I know she’ll let me. For now. I have one free shot. And we start the day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lunchtime. Mom made a salad with chicken. I’m a tad hungry. Which makes me upset. I don’t want to be hungry. I don’t want to eat. I don’t deserve to eat. So instead of finishing setting the table like mom asked me to, I sit down with the table half set and start to cry. Glance at the fork and get mental images of stabbing my forearm with it. Of dragging the tines across the scars that are already there. For a moment it takes my mind off the salad.

It takes my mom about five seconds to notice.

I hate her for it. I hate that she comes over. Hate that she let’s the salad be salad and sits down with me. Hate that she cares. Why can’t she just let me be, only for once?! My life would be way less complicated if she didn’t muck around in it all the time. But at the same time I want her to be there. Had she not noticed, I would have made her.

When she reaches out, I shove her hand away. Twice. Three times. But she gets a hold of me anyway. Because I let her. Because it’s all part of the ritual. Like it is part of the ritual that she pulls me onto her lap and puts her arms around me.

I curl up. Make myself small. And cry more. Angry tears, because the whole world sucks, because it is difficult and unfair and has salad with chicken in it and because my stupid body betrays me by being hungry.

My anger eventually leads to sadness. Mom knows and waits me out. She talks when I’m done being angry and start being sad.

“What is going on, kiddo? What is giving you a hard time today?”

I don’t reply. Don’t know what to say. There is no single thing. Just a bunch of crap. I don’t deserve to eat. But she already knows that’s what I’m thinking. That’s always what I’m thinking when I don’t eat. She strokes my hair, kisses the side of my head and with her really gentle and warm mom-voice speaks into my ear.

“What age feels appropriate, baby?”

I have an easier time answering this one. The question is familiar. It feels safe. She is asking for how old I feel, emotionally. I close my eyes and after a brief internal evaluation raise four fingers. Mom takes my hand, kisses my fingers and nods.

“The world is a one scary and exhausting place when you are four and have to deal with all those big, tricky things, isn’t it?”

I nod.

“Does it feel like you can’t do it good enough?”

I nod again.
Mom strokes my wet cheek.

“I can imagine that that’s just how it feels. But you know what, baby? You are doing mighty fine for four years old. It’s simply a bit big a task for a little girl, dealing with all those things. That’s why I’m here to help you.”

A pressure within my chest, one that I hadn’t even noticed being there, eases. I feel like I can breathe a little better. Like maybe I’m not doing so bad, after all. I stop crying.

“You’ve been trying really hard, haven’t you?”

I become aware of how exhausted I feel and nod. Mom cuddles me and smiles.

“Yes, I can tell how hard you are trying. You are doing a really good job. You have not had a major breakdown in quite a while. You are holding yourself together admirably for a four-year-old, even when it’s hard. And if it gets too hard, you let me know. That’s just what you are supposed to be doing.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greetings from the land of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). I had salad with chicken in the end. I am going to have dinner. I am feeling better about myself again, remembering that even when I’m struggling, I’m doing good for where my emotional development is at.

I am also making the millionth mental note about allowing mom to talk about my not eating with me the first time around already. Or heck, even tell her. But it’s difficult, so I don’t know how many more repeats I’m going to need until I manage.

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What Having Boundaries is All About

What boundaries are NOT.

What boundaries are NOT.

Okay, so finally I have found a topic on which my thoughts don’t continuously scramble away like a bunch of scared chickens the moment I try to reach for them! Three cheers for that!!

The topic my thoughts seem to stay together for is that of boundaries. In my post Dealing with someone who has BPD – dos and don’ts as I see them, suggestion #8 was: have reliable boundaries.

I just realized that what I mean by “having reliable boundaries” is probably not self-explanatory. Especially as there seem to be many weird ideas around regarding what boundaries are or are not.

Quite often I have encountered people who understood setting up boundaries to be synonymous with “I make rules you have to stick to”. For the longest time that was what I understood boundaries to be, too. And for just as long I had trouble respecting them. For example the so-called boundaries other people put on me included:

  • Don’t self harm!
  • Eat properly at mealtimes!
  • Don’t verbally abuse people!
  • Don’t run away!

See a pattern there? They’re all rules that tell me what to do or not to do. That’s often what people consider having boundaries to be: Making up rules and enforcing them. But guess what?!

  • I self harmed a LOT.
  • I didn’t eat properly.
  • I was extremely verbally abusive.
  • I ran away.

All those so-called boundaries just begged for that. They beg for someone to say “well, make me, if you can!” and finding ways to sneak around them. Because they all have an implicit “or else” attached to them. Which makes the Borderline part of me feel incredibly insecure. Or else what? Or else you won’t like me anymore? Will kick me out? I just NEED to find that out and know for certain. So I crossed all those lines people drew in the dirt and called “boundaries”.

It was only after I moved in with my family and lots and lots of reflecting and talking that I finally understood that that was not at all what having boundaries was about. Those rules were just that: rules. Artificial rules set up to control my behavior. But that’s not a boundary. That’s a dare.

So what ARE boundaries then? In my family I learned that boundaries are something people *have*, not make up. I’ll give you an example of my mom’s true boundaries on the same subjects that the above rules covered. They are:

  • I will put you under supervision and investigate if you self harm without letting me know beforehand. If your destructiveness gets out of control, I will do what is necessary to keep you and everyone else safe. If that means that I need to physically restrain you until you can control yourself again, I will. If that means that I need to call in help, I will.
  • I don’t tolerate not eating. I will investigate if you don’t eat.
  • If you can’t help verbal abuse of yourself or others, I will want to find out what’s up.
  • I take the liberty of temporarily locking the doors if I can tell that you are emotionally upset and at risk of running and I will want to learn what’s up.

Notice something about those boundaries? They aren’t telling me what to do or not to do. I can not possibly break them. My mom’s boundaries just tell me what she will tolerate or not tolerate and how she will react to certain behaviors on my part. If I don’t like her boundaries, we can talk about it, and she can explain why she has them and why she enforces them. But I can not possibly break one.

I can openly say that I don’t like all of her boundaries all of the time. The eating boundary, for example. On some days I dread mealtimes because I know that if I won’t eat, she’ll want to talk. And beforehand it often doesn’t feel like talking would help, even when it usually does in the end. But even when I really hate her boundaries at that time, I can not do anything to break it, because they are not MY boundaries, but hers, and she is sticking to them.

So what are boundaries? They are statements about what you will or will not tolerate and how you are going to react to situations. Others have no choice but to accept them or live with what you will do if they don’t. They don’t tell others what to do, but tell others what YOU will do.

People who have healthy boundaries make me feel safe, because there’s no element of threat there. Just certainty and orientation that lets me know where I stand and what I will meet if I do x, y or z. Rules feel like others want to control me. Healthy boundaries feel like they care.

Happy Saturday everyone! 🙂

On Comfort Food, an Eating Disorder and Exercising Moderation when using Symbols

Comfort food

As I am writing this, my mom is getting ready to make me a bowl of Cream of Wheat. All day long the stupid Cream of Wheat has been on my mind and the longer the day went on the more I craved it. So much that I eventually started to cry because we didn’t have any at home, like the world was going to end because of that.

Cream of Wheat is a comfort food for me. It’s what I used to eat when I still lived in my childhood home. It’s one of the good memories. On lucky days my mother used to make it for me when I was little. Nobody else ate it and she made it only for me. Probably only because she had to keep me fed somehow and it was cheap and quick to make, so when we had it, that’s what she made, but the reason didn’t matter to me. It was special. It was the best thing in the world.

If I could, I’d still be eating it way more often than I do. It’s what love tastes like to me. Love and being cared for and being lucky. And looking back on my life, there were times when it was the only thing I would eat. (Hello, eating disorder.) The staff objected a lot. But there were entire months where I rather starved than have anything else. And I mean anything.

I don’t have it nearly as often nowadays. Am not allowed to, because of the fine line between using and abusing something. I am prone to tilting toward the latter.

Unsurprisingly, comfort food is less about the food than what it stands for. It’s a symbol. In my case it’s a symbol for being loved and cared for, for a lucky day and being special. So you might wonder “well, those are good things?! So what’s wrong about having it? Treating yourself to good things ain’t bad, right?! After all Cream of Wheat is hardly bad for you!”

And I suppose that’s true. I guess the problem it is that it remains a symbol.

Symbols are nifty things. The best thing about them is that we can make them our own. We can be in control over them. I believe that is what temps me so much about it. I have the power to make Cream of Wheat, if I want to. I can determine when it happens, how it happens and in what fashion it happens. It’s safe. It’s independent. It’s controllable. Those are darn tempting things for me. I happily settle for that if I can.

So much, in fact, that I tend to reduce to it. And that’s where the bad comes in. While it is a good symbol for sure, it is, at the end of the day, only a symbol. It’s only Cream of Wheat. It’s what it stands for that I crave. What it stands for are the real things: Love. Being cared for. Feeling special to someone. Feeling lucky. Those are relationship things. All of them. So in reality relationships are where to look for them. Because while a symbol is better than nothing, the real thing is were true satisfaction and fulfillment comes from.

It’s easy to forget that, because the real thing is also scary and unpredictable and more intense and holds the power to harm or go away. That drives me toward the symbol. But at the same time I understand why it’s important to resist the tug and turn toward the real thing instead.

I guess that is why my mom insists on making me the Cream of Wheat, instead of letting me make it for myself. To get the relationship back in. And why she insists on my not having it too often. Like, every day. So I don’t pseudo-satisfy my emotional needs. And why she insists on figuring out what’s stressing me today. So I can learn to solve that, instead of blanketing it with porridge. Reasonable, I suppose.

But first I’ll have Cream of Wheat now. After all moderation doesn’t mean to dispense with it altogether. 😉  Yum!!

Struggling with my Eating Disorder

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.

Coping with good stuff and BPD

Earlier today I wrote this:

“Dad just came home for lunch, like he sometimes does if he sees a client in our area, and he gave me bracelet. Said he saw it in a store on his way back from the client, and it reminded him of me, because of the black and pink beads, so he bought it for me.

The day was fucking fine until then!!

Been crying and screaming like crazy over the stupid bracelet. Still crying. I never asked for it. It’s not my birthday. I didn’t expect to be given anything. I didn’t ask for it. I feel overwhelmed.

I’m afraid to have disappointed him by not managing to be happy enough. I’m angry that he never even asked if I wanted anything. I hate myself for not being able to handle it better. For not being someone who even deserves the fucking bracelet. For feeling suspicious and upset in the first place. I have thoughts of self-harming. Considered to open a door, put my hands in the doorframe and kick the door shut. But mom is watching me. She knows I want to hurt myself. I don’t want her close, but she’s watching me. So I don’t, because she wouldn’t stay away if I did.

So I’m writing this. Letting her read it before I publish, because I don’t care. As long as she stays away. If someone was around to fuck me I’d let them, but if she wants to hug me now I’ll slap her. I swear I will. I don’t want a fucking bracelet.”

Mom didn’t let me send it, because we had agreed that I use the blog to think out loud when my mind is calm, not to rant and rave and vent and escape real situations by turning to the screen when I’m emotionally upset. After all I have real people around (or, well, her, because dad had to go back to work) to help me cope.

That was some hours ago. After I wrote that I had a meltdown and felt like I wanted to die because I couldn’t deal with the ugly feelings. Still wouldn’t let my mom touch me. Finally dissociated and didn’t care anymore. Didn’t feel anything anymore. Fuzzy fog.

When I started to come out of the fog mom was holding me. Talking to me. I felt close to her and miserable and cried, because it’s not fair and I’m so sick of struggling. She said it’s okay, that it really isn’t fair, and a hard struggle, but that she’s there. Then we talked and she kept on holding me and I ended up feeling better. Not good, but okay.

And now I’m wondering why it is that even small stuff – or for me, especially small stuff that I don’t expect – can throw me so. Good things that happen can be worse than crap. I half expect crap anytime. But good things… they cause so many emotions that can be so hard to deal with. And what I find makes it even more complicated is that I always feel like everyone expects me to be happy instead of a mess when something good happens, so I don’t feel like it’s even justified to feel the way I do.

But one step at a time. I messed up today, but maybe manage better the next time. After talking with mom I feel like maybe I’m a little closer to managing better. She reminded me that good stuff can cause strong and ambivalent emotions and that those can be hard to deal with. That she’s proud of me for not self-harming, even when it was because she was watching. But that never used to keep me from trying, so I guess I’m getting somewhere, even when the overall picture is still a mess.

Ah well, whatever. I feel drained now and while I’m hungry, I don’t have any appetite. Bad day for eating. My eating disorder agrees. I guess I’ll cut it some slack today. Anyway, I originally had something else in mind to post today, something happier, but it will have to wait. Mom suggested we get some cuddles in me to make up for the disappointing day and I feel like I want to curl up and call it a day, so maybe that’s not the worst plan. Be well, everyone.

My first blog post!

 

Hello and welcome to my blog! Blogging is really new to me, so I’m quite nervous about it.

Me, that’s Lola, by the way.

I made a page where you can learn more about me and you get there either by clicking on ‘Me, Lola” up where the pages are, or by just clicking here.

Just a little collage to symbolize how much my perception of my world can change – often without notice – which makes for challenging crap happening.

This blog is going to be about how I experience my world. My world, which is tinted and sometimes distorted by BPD and PTSD, both of which you can read about on my extra pages, too. I hope that blogging will help me put my head together some. Just the same I also simply want to make my own voice heard, too. My mom, you know, is writing about life with me from her perspective, because the journey we are on together has been quite an eventful one since we met. But it’s all her point of view; which is fine, but not the whole picture. So here is my way to share my part.

I’m likely to blog about various big and small things concerning mental health and mental disorders, especially borderline and trauma, but also eating disorders, self harm, attachment, family life in general and probably some perfectly ordinary stuff, too, like Pink’s new album. (“The Truth About Love” – love it.)

If you want to comment on my thoughts, please do so! I’m always nervous about feedback – why that is so is probably going to be the topic for a separate post – but I’m also curious and I’d love to hear what you think! Just remember to stay nice and friendly, whether you can relate or not, agree or disagree! 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for now. Have a look around my site so far, and stay tuned for what is to come!

C PTSD - A Way Out

A place to check in daily

The Serenity Game

Marriage- The Final Frontier- Humor is the Key

Creative Liar

Because the truth makes me cry.

ladyswan1221

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Simple Pleasures

Visual Poetry, Photography and Quotes

scienerf

So many MonSters so little time

silence of silence

i took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: i am, i am, i am.

We're All Mad Inhere

Life as it is: Surviving Insanity

Raison d'etre

There must be more than one...

Cupcakes and Anguish

Ramblings of a crazy creative ninja

firefliesandfairies

The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land!

Love—Life—OM

Support for survivors of domestic violence, rape and fraud

Beauty from ashes daughter

Words of hope from an abuse survivor

Tackling BPD

My story of recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, depression and anxiety through self-help. How I learned to like myself and live a happier life.

The Bottom of a Bottle

Trust me, I've been there, I've looked, I've searched and I know now, that there are no answers to be found in the bottom of a bottle or on the edge of a blade! Fighting Hard, Recovering, Rebuilding, REBORN. Moving on from addiction to a new life.