I was at a friend’s house the other day and she had some leftovers from an event she had thrown. I was talking to her, and without even thinking about it started serving myself some of it, and sat down and started eating. After about five minutes some other people came in and we all kind of were just sitting around enjoying each others company eating and distressing about our day. Suddenly my friend looked at me and said “Mel I don’t think I have ever actually seen you eat before”..wow I can’t believe how much you can throw down’. I froze and my blood ran cold. I got this lump in my throat and my anxiety level went from 0-10 in about 10 seconds flat. Everybody was starring at me and I felt like I was having that dream back when I was a teenager and I was walking down the halls of my high school with no clothes on. I just kind of laughed (my main defense mechanism) and said something to the effect of “Oh that’s because you are only used to seeing my mouth talk, not chew.”
Everybody laughed and then went on to another subject, but all I wanted to do was run home and cry. Besides my friend none of those other people even knew I had struggled with an eating disorder. Yet all these feelings I experienced my whole life of shame and guilt around the act of putting food in my mouth began to surface. I was actually surprised how strong they were. It probably didn’t help that I had had a very bad day at work and was very stressed. And I learned a long time ago my feelings around food and my emotions make a good couple. I felt like I should have a giant Scarlet P around my neck that stood for Pig. I felt like I had done something wrong and was embarrassed that so many people were aware that I was indeed digesting something besides diet soda. I knew in my heart and my head that I had come way too far in my life to let something like this effect me, but also realized that I still carry a lot of those feelings still inside of me.
Fast forward to that night where another friend was celebrating her birthday at a popular restaurant in town. I was there with my boyfriend and that same friend the one who made the comment walked up to him and said “Oh my god you should see how much food this girl can eat…I had to tell her to put the fork down.” Well, first of all, I know in my heart she was just being funny, and meant no harm. I knew I hadn’t overeaten and that I am only human after all. My goodness, it’s my god given right to nourish my body. However, I again wanted to run out the door and sob, feeling as though I had committed some terrible sin. Not to mention ashamed that my boyfriend might think I was a glutton or something. After that I just looked at my dinner and it was all I could do to eat it. I seriously had to just suck up every ounce of fight I had in me, because my Eating Disorder was trying to go to war.
I know my boyfriend has seen me eat countless of times, and the thing is I do eat. I wouldn’t be who I am, or couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t. As a matter of fact I don’t know how I ever did not eat because when I don’t I turn into the Wicked Witch of the West. I guess it just boils down to that I still in the back of my mind feel self-conscience about putting food in my mouth and other people seeing it. I didn’t really pay attention to it until the other day and it had me do some very serious self-examination and exploration to see why I feel that way. Well it didn’t take me long to figure out it a lot of it stems from childhood…God, what doesn’t with me right?
From a very young age my food was controlled by the hand of my mother and I secretly hated it. She fed me according to her own hunger not mine. As I grew older I quickly realized she wasn’t feeding my digestive system she was feeding a number on the scale. This made me start to sneak food behind her back. As a child it was more for hunger issues, as a teenager it was hunger tied in with emotional comfort. I remember waiting for her fall asleep and I would sneak into the kitchen and steal the toaster and bread or whatever else I could find. I would take it back into my room and eat it in the dark. I would also go to the store and secretly buy candy, cookies, donuts, potato chips, all the food I was NOT allowed to have. I would hide it in my room and then go in my closet and secretly eat it in the dark.
When I started my eating disorder I remember the more I started not eating the more guilty I felt when people actually saw me eat anything. Perhaps it also had to do with that they always made such a big deal of it like my friend. They acted like they had just seen a Unicorn run by, or the Baby Jesus buzz by on a motorcycle. I began being petrified to go out to eat because I felt like everybody was watching me. If I did consume anything it was by myself and if somebody walked in the kitchen I would turn my back to them. This also explains so much about my bingeing and purging. Bulimia is a disease that marinates in guilt and shame. My binges were always at night and in the dark. I felt safe because the world was asleep, and light couldn’t expose all the craziness that had become my life.
It’s interesting because now that I look back at all those old issues, I can totally see why I still feel that way when it comes to food. I couldn’t help at laugh because it made me think how when I am in the staff lounge at work all my Co-workers are always coming in and turning the lights on laughing at me for being in the dark. Finally somebody asked me..”Melissa everytime I come in here you are always in the dark, why is that silly girl?” I laughed and told her it was because my Grandfather was always turning off the lights when I grew up telling us to save energy. However now that I think about it, that has nothing to do with it. I am in the dark because I still have those thoughts about being seen. I mean don’t get me long I eat in front of people all the time, but sometimes I unconsciously don’t want any attention to be put on it.
I am very thankful that I am at a place in my life that other peoples comments like my friends don’t throw me into a tizzy and cause me to resort back to my old behaviors. I would be a total flutternugget if I did, after all I have put my body not to mention my mind through. Rader Programs saved my life and it introduced me to some normal eating habits. I was taught to eat in the light and in the open around other people., and that “By George!!” it’s an OK thing to do. Wow…who woulda thunk? As a matter of fact if it were not for that, I wouldn’t be able to live such a productive life. I am constantly being invited to social events, dinners, lunches, birthday parties, and yes date nights. If I was still afraid to eat in the light of day, I wouldn’t be able to ever have a life. Try going over to your boyfriends house to meet his Mother for the first time, and telling her that you can’t, or won’t eat the dinner she just cooked..ya not gonna fly. I actually see food as an accessory to the main event these days. I enjoy the company of who I am with rather than what I am putting in my mouth.
However, that being said, I am really glad my friend made that comment to me, as I know that this is part of life. The whole world cannot walk on eggshells around me because I used to have an Eating Disorder. I am not going to get all triggered because I believe everyday is a trigger. What I do have to do is realize that I should not have to feel guilty about eating, nor should anyone else. It’s something that makes life enjoyable and I guess I would be a lot more ashamed and embarrassed if I was still actively participating in my eating disorder behavior. So after all of that self realization I am proud of myself for being able to pick up a fork and put it in my mouth. Especially when the lights are on. Progress not perfection I say…THE END!!
I’m Only Human- The Parlotones