In which I attempt not purging, and why binge-eating is my most shameful secret

Cheese. Cheshire cheese. White bread. Real butter. Full-fat milk.

I should be asleep; instead I’m nursing an uncomfortably full stomach and feeling the pangs of binge-regret wash over me. Guilt over losing control. Anger at myself for giving in to the cravings. What exactly am I playing at here? What emotion am I trying to feed? I’m not sure I know anymore. It’s just become such a bad habit.

Against my better judgement, I’ve made a descision to not purge. That includes slimming pills, laxatives and any other bizarre form of punishment I can find. Laxatives is a very easy option right now; I have a pack right next to me in my dresser drawer and could swallow a handful in a couple of seconds if I really wanted to. It’d help with the bloating, and the full-up feeling, and just generally relax and comfort me (strange words to say about laxatives, really) until I feel ready to try eating healthily again.

It’s 4.46am. I’m sitting up on my bed, waiting for the stomach pains to start. It’s my own fault; I truly can’t go on like this. Why do I have such a fucked-up relationship with food? What is it that makes me sneak downstairs in the night and grill cheese on toast, sorting wildly through the fridge for precious fat and salt?

Perhaps now is the time to admit defeat, and ask about some sort of therapy for the binging. I’ve held back because of waiting lists and shame, but I’m not sure I can beat this on my own. I know the steroids are partly to blame, and hopefully it’ll get easier when I come off them in four weeks (I’m dreading it, truth be told, they help enormously with my joint and muscle pain). I don’t know what sort of therapy to ask for – CBT was the biggest waste of time in my life – because there’s just not enough available in my area without going private. I’d have to start walking the streets to afford private therapy.

I need to be asleep, but the more I think about it, the worse I feel. I have to go to town with my mother tomorrow/today, and I don’t want yet another clapped-out zombie walking around shops experience. The people who live in the house opposite my bedroom are awake; at least, their living room light is on. It’s often on at night, perhaps there’s a fellow insomniac in the area. Or maybe they just don’t care about electricity bills.

I need to remember to get a few things in town. Hair products is the main priority; I don’t know what’s happened to my hair lately, but it’s turned into a mane of orange frizz. I’ve got a hairdresser appointment on Friday and it can’t come quickly enough. I’m far from impressed by what’s perched on my head. It means I’ll have hardly any money for the weeked, and S is also out of funds, but I need the confidence good hair gives me. Try growing up with frizzy, uncontrollable ginger hair; you soon learn to spend money on fixing it.

Okay. The urge is passing. With luck, I might get three hours of sleep if I calm down soon. It might seem a little strange that I’m typing away on a blog in the middle of a shit-don’t-purge freak out, but I suppose it’s a big enough part of my life (one of the biggest) to merit some sort of detailed mention.

I have been a binge-eater since puberty. Given that I entered puberty at nine years old, that’s a long time to be trapped in the cycle. Bulimia and anorexia took over at times, but binge-eating has always been one of my closest friends and worst enemies. I can’t remember life without it, and the idea of it not being  there is a frightening one. I simply don’t know how to cope without it; and I want to, dearly. I want to be free from the need to stuff my face every time I feel the slightest emotion. I need to stop beating myself up and using calories as punishment. Somehow, binge-eating feels more shameful than anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia has that cool aloofness; a purity. Bulimia is raw and visceral. Binge-eating though… it’s just bad manners. It’s clumsy and out of control, associated with greed and a supposedly ever-growing obese society. It’s unhealthy and unattractive. Binge-eating needs to be secretive, and the feeling when you’re caught shoving cake into your mouth is like no other.

And it is so easy to let it spiral out of control.

I confess; I often long for anorexia. I don’t consider myself cured, although it’s been a long time since I truly starved myself, and I miss the feeling of utter power and control. Allthough I’m somewhat on the ‘other side’ now and can see that rationally there is no control where anorexia is concerned, there is a part of me who wants to have that ability again. The ability to ration food and memorise calorie contents. The ability to lose 7lbs in a week. I know I can’t allow myself to go down that route now; I have too much to lose. Still, I miss it. It’s like a long-distance friend I haven’t seen for too long.

Okay.

Sleep.

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23 Comments

  1. i have never had an eating disorder, so please forgive me if my comment seems odd at all. I know you type a lot about not having willpower to stop yourself, but in all honesty you have so much willpower!

    You haven’t elf harmed in a long time – that alone is willpower. you have also just stopped yourself from taking anything now – that is willpower…

    As a suggestion, write down in a diary all the times you DO show some willpower – even if it is just a tiny tiny little thing. It is an achievement. Perhaps then you will be able to start reducing your binging when you have confidence that you do actually have the ability to stop yourself binging on junk…alternatively find some healthier binge foods…carrots, smoothies or something??

    I hope you managed to get some sleep.

  2. Cut yourself a little slack. This is not to say you are supposed to not give a care about the aforementioned binge. But in the last few days you’ve been grappling with a whole heap “messedupidness”.

    I know someone who when she broke up with her lover, she began to binge eat, I remember her telling me, “I can’t see to stop eating, I am trying to fill the empty. I want to stop this open gash, plug it up until the only thing I can feel is the push out the voice with the outward compression of my stomach.”

    Obviously your reasons for binge eating are far more complex that my story above. It seems to me you are trying an alternative medication of self. Albeit not great, but certainly not the worse of things.

    You are being handed the crappy end of the stick with so many things. You’re angry and overwhelmed, you are allowed to feel the way you do about your circumstance.

    I hope you get some rest tonight/this morning.

  3. Oh I feel your pain.
    I used to go to OA and I remember this lady talking about this moment when she was binging on chocolate cake in her kitchen and her husband walked in and looked at her with that shocked/shamed look on his face. That image has always stuck with me. So painful.

    It is so hard to understand and control binge-eating. My advice would be to try to figure out the underlying reasons you need to numb yourself. Easier said than done. It’s a damn difficult thing to manage. As far as therapy – maybe mindfulness type stuff or A.C.T? Or maybe DBT might help given your other diagnoses? I’m so with you on the CBT front. I sometimes do a bit of it with my clients but it’s so BORING! I tend to switch back to my usual method of speaking in bizarre metaphors pretty quick hehe.

    It’s awesome that you aren’t purging though. I reckon that’s a pretty big step in the right direction.

    Thanks for posting on this topic – it doesn’t get discussed enough.

  4. At least you know it’s not right! You know it’s a problem and you KNOW you need to get some therapy. If you’re getting the urge to purge (oh, that wasn’t meant to be a rhyme) stop and think about how that’s hurting your body. You don’t want to do that. You’re not going to get fat eating a grilled sandwich. It’s actually not that bad for you. Eating 7 of them, yeah, that might. Don’t feel bad about it. But think about your poor body having to extricate it. Try to do something else to take your mind off it when it happens. I know, easier said than done. Take a step outside and have a cigarette or something or walk around.

    The sleep issue…if you were more active during the day, you might sleep better at night because you’re not burning any energy (you’re mentally exhausted that’s for sure). There are days when I don’t do squat and then lie in bed for HOURS, finally dozing (not sleeping, DOZING) off for about an hour at 3 or 4am. I know that zombie feeling. It sucks.

    But look into getting help in your area. Google it. Make a phone call. Sometimes just talking to someone on these help lines can make a difference. You’re such a bright girl with aspirations. I hate to see you held back by these issues. Take control and I think you’ll feel better.

  5. Binge eating is the most painful of ED. I swear. Bulimia is a close second. Erm maybe a tie. They all suck, anorexia too. I remember when i was younger everyone talked about wanting to be an “A” rather than a “B” — that is everyone with an ED. The eating twisted club.

    There are wonderful nutritionists who specialize in ED who are also sort of life coaches. They are so wonderful about looking at your situation of (a) where you are now; (b) and sorting out what you can do to KEEP eating what you like and (c) working on what you’d like to do.

    You don’t have to go whole-hog and stop eating cheese and yummy food … you can change your portions, etc.

    Sorry, i didn’t mean to be telling you what to do. You really have to reach inside and say “HEY, have i had enough, or what” … then figure out what you want to do. I love my nutritionist. Her name is Becky. She is so fun, and so light about the whole thing. I never feel like a sicko or ashamed with her.

    Anyway … i hope you got some sleep and you keep writing about your pain, and your victories!!! OK? xoxoxo melis

    • You’re lucky with your nutritionist, I have no idea what sort of hoops I’d have to jump through to see one. I did see a dietician once, but she was patronising and judgemental, so I walked out. The problem is, I know a lot about nutrition. One positive of anorexia is I became an expert on food, vitamins, minerals, recipes and strange things I’d have never eaten otherwise. I could probably be a nutritionist if I hadn’t been thrown a load of other shite to deal with.

      Don’t worry about telling me what to do; I need reminding sometimes that it’s not the end of the world. I’ve not binged at all today, so I’m counting it as a blip in the ol’ road to recovery.

      I know what you mean about wanting to be A rather than B – it’s a subject I’ve thought a lot about – and it’s a shame, because we shouldn’t want to be any of them.

      Thank you, Melis xx

      • I am an oldster in the field as well. I’ve done the lot. BUT, i’m in such a different place now, i find it hard to remember some of the pain that goes with being RIGHT SMACK in the food.

        ED’s have gone into remission for me, they’ve changed in type, but now, i’ve said goodbye. I don’t want the diseases anymore. How is that possible, right?

        All i can say is, I FEEL you! I know you! At least i know that pain. The only thing i can say to people is maybe, just maybe this ED poop will end for you sooner than it did for me. That you will make yourself whole — when you are ready, and when the disease gives you a break. It is very complex.

        The good news is there is a FULL LIFE for you and all us ED survivors. Not a perfect life … but you will write, paint, read, share, care, love, have dogs, whatever you want if you continue to fight this disease.!

  6. Pingback: He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called “The State I Am In” « Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars

  7. When I was “on a diet”, I would give myself 1 day a month to eat whatever I wanted. I didn’t understand at the time that these were “binge days” as I would eat literally all day anything I could get my hands on. I thought this would make me happy, but my stomach would be absolutely killing me at the end of the day and I felt like shit. I would often punish myself for the next week by eating next to nothing and very low-calorie meals in hopes of making up for that experience. I just saw them as “cheat” days though, everyone on a diet does those. I didn’t see it as binging.

    Soon I started going through these weird periods at night where I would just eat. Anything that was in the house. I didn’t even care what it was. I wasn’t even “craving” any sort of food in particular, just food. I would eat until my stomach felt like it would explode. I still didn’t really understand what these were. I would once again think of it as “cheating”.

    Then I started having nights when my husband wasn’t home and I was all alone. I would go out to the grocery store at midnight (since no one was around to judge me or ask me where I was going) and buy whatever I thought I could fit into my stomach that night. Half of what I bought would be gone in the car ride home. The other half I would shove into my face sitting in front of the computer. At that point I figured out exactly what I’d been doing. I made myself throw up one of these nights. 3 times.

    So I made a decision. From then on out, no more. No more diets. No more binging. And DEFINITELY no more purging. And that was it. I was free. I could eat what I wanted when I wanted without judgement. Without worry. Without that terrible over-full feeling. It took a while to understand my body again. To stop when I’m full. My “full-gauge” seemed to be broken, I had no clue when to stop. I’m getting SO much better. I can go to Chinese Buffets again and not fill myself to the point of popping. But I still have to listen very very carefully.

    The best part is that I don’t feel the need to binge because I’ve allowed myself to eat whatever I want. And since I know I can and am not restricting myself at all, I find my desire to stuff junk food into my face uncontrollably has diminished completely. Just knowing I CAN eat those foods whenever I want achieves this for me. I don’t have to restrict or have “control”, my body and my brain actually do this FOR me. Just like it did when I was a kid.

    I rambled a bit, but I want you to know how much I understand how shameful binge eating is and that I agree it’s definitely the most shameful of the three. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. Know that your body CAN and WILL control itself as long as you listen to it. You don’t have to do ANYTHING. It’s an amazing little machine and it knows what it’s doing. Just let go and allow it to do it’s job. YOU ARE AMAZING and you can get through this!

    • Miss Pistachio. I am so impressed. You are a miracle. Quick learner. The body (after being messed with for so long) can recover: Physically. It’s the connection of your “eating brain” and your stomach that takes MUCH work, and MUCH TRUST. But it can happen. I have better days than others. It’s never going to be perfect for me. It sounds like you’ve found utter peace and you’ve BOOTED ED out for good. Excellent, inspiring!!! xoxo melis

  8. Writing, tends to help me with the binge eating. Especially when it’s linked to emotions, I used to be really repressive with my emotions and then i’d stuff my face to try and take the pain away. Writing though, for me is a way to release and think about stuff and it just…helps. That and all the craft stuff i do :P

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