The Need for Numb
As I was waiting – ever so patiently mind you, for my blog’s server to summon their little elves on the issues surrounding why my post for the day wasn’t loading, I decided to peruse some of the other blogs I’m trying to get back into the habit of visiting on a regular basis. I happened to begin over at MunchBerry’s place and read her post as she described her relationship with food. She very matter-of-factly wrote her thoughts on what a binge consisted of for her; she dug around, got her hands dirty and came face to face with her relationship with food by intimately describing it.
Somewhere I started realizing something. I always seem to gloss over my discussions on this topic with words like ‘emotional eating’ or ‘binge eater’ I thought. But have I ever written about what it feels like? Could I put into words why I do it?
And so, began a train of thought that has led me to writing my own post on this subject – one that I do not enjoy discussing but feel the need to, if for no other reason, than to share a completely different perspective on a very familiar topic.
When I was 16, I had the unfortunate introduction and subsequent lifelong relationship with endometriosis. The pain would seem to worsen at times, and I’d find myself huddled on the bathroom floor against the cool porcelain of the toilet, while I moaned in agony, many times, for hours. There came a point during my junior year in high school where the pain was so debilitating, I’d begin scratching my legs with my fingernails – leaving bright red and sometimes bloody lines behind in the process. I would do this during bouts of pain many times in my teens, but for some reason I recall that particular night like it was yesterday. It was as if I were looking at myself through someone else’s eyes. The body is constantly trying to find ways to cope when under pressure. It’s capable of doing many things when it’s pushed beyond it’s limit.
I scratched myself because I was desperate for some relief from the pain. I’d found a detour that would allow my mind to focus on something else – to feel something else, even for a while.
My reasons for binging bring on a similar effect. Unlike MunchBerry, I do eat until I am uncomfortable; half-sick; miserable even – depending on what kind of pain it is that I need a release from. Some people do not understand this concept even when I try to explain it to them. ‘Why would anyone deliberately want to make themselves feel miserable?’ they ask. This is my answer:
Even though I’m left feeling physically miserable, my mind is relishing a release from worry, anxiety, or obsessive thoughts. In the moment, the only thing I can focus on is the physical sensation of being uncomfortably full. The stress, the anxiety, the emotional pain is no longer a priority.
Another alluring thing about this act of self-medicating is that it gives me a two-for-one bonus. Not only do I get to experience redirection (that feeling of unpleasantness) but I also get the high and pleasure from eating my comfort-foods of choice. In that moment of desperation, it’s a win-win situation.
Until the food digests.
And the scale exposes my secret.
I suppose I’m writing this now, because for the past few months as you have read, my anxiety has worsened. The little relief I’ve had has left me exhausted and frustrated. I don’t know what ‘normal’ is anymore, but I know that I miss it. And when I have a day that has been too overwhelming, too tiring, or just too hard to cope with, I find myself fantasizing about going into that new bakery down the street and buying one of everything in the case, taking my stash home, and just like that 16 year old girl on the bathroom floor, redirect that pain for a while.
I consider myself a pretty strong individual. I’ve had a life of joy, but a lot of suffering has taken up residence in this body as well. Somewhere amidst the strong, supportive you-can-always-count-on-me person lies a woman who’s shoulders eventually bear too much weight; little things add up, and it’s then that I feel the urge hit like a bolt of lightning. This ‘thing’, that while under normal circumstances would feel like something I have no desire to do, slowly becomes a need that grows.
Being in maintenance you’d suspect that I’ve found a way to keep that animal at bay. I wish I could say that I never have episodes like that anymore but I’d be lying. To be completely truthful here, if I had to guess, I’d say that on average I carry through with a binge like the one above 2 or 3 times per year. If these new meds do not work, you will find me going back to therapy for the second time in my life. Not for food-related issues, but for anxiety. This is the root of my problem. I’m confident that once I get control of that, I’ll no longer feel the need to self-medicate.
At any rate, I’m grateful for reading MunchBerry’s post on that particular day. That’s the great thing about you bloggers out there. Here you are typing away, describing your own experiences – working things through in your own mind and then out of nowhere - a quote, a sentence, or a paragraph sparks a moment of clarity in a reader’s life. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. You didn’t know that you pay it forward, I bet. Did you?
Have a good weekend everyone, and for all of my US readers, Happy Fourth of July Weekend. Do something summery and fun. I promise to write some lighter fare next week.