Monday, 11 August 2008

a portrait of compulsion from earlier today

I don't know much about blog entries being triggering myself – I can't say I've ever read anything that has triggered me – but I suppose it's possible that this could be one. So be aware.

I want to eat.

I really, really want to eat.

I'm not hungry, I had a perfectly good lunch a couple of hours ago. I just want to stuff food into my mouth until it crushes down all the things that I'm feeling because they're just unbearable.

I'm conscious of the fact that if I do that, I will then feel guilty and ashamed, like I do every time I eat in public, even if it's not crazy eating. At the moment, I don't care. I feel like the Hungry Tiger in the later Wizard of Oz books, whose hunger was never satisfied. Even when he was eating, he was never satisfied.

I just want to fill my mouth and throat and stomach and just keep on filling until my jaw aches and my stomach aches as though filling every hole in my insides will crowd out all the things I just don't want to feel.

It's almost as unbearable as the feelings I want to bury in it.

And this, I suppose, is the time when all that talking about feeling my feelings comes into play, and it would, except that I can't sit down and have a good cry right now, because I'm up to my elbows in work that I loathe.

I wonder what would happen if I just did that. I don't know that I want to find out. It's the kind of thing I could write a story about, one of those very modern short stories that doesn't really go anywhere, is like a snapshot of an event. Woman in office cries, and refuses to explain herself.

This is interesting, though, because usually I don't have this conversation with myself. I usually just zone out as much as possible and go looking for the nearest thing with which to stuff my face.

This is the part that non-compulsive eaters don't understand, and usually mock, and non-eating disordered fatties outright reject as fat person behaviour. I understand why they do that. This is pitiful and contemptible and, while from the inside it's just as painful as the desire to starve yourself until you don't feel anything any more, from the outside it just looks gluttonous, as though it has something to do with whatever you're eating, as though it was the same kind of luxurious, enthusiastic consumption of food that you see, for example, when my six year old niece is faced with a plate of pancakes, syrup and berries. I wish I could eat like her. I wish it was as adorable for me to eat like that as it is for her. I wish it had anything to do with what I was eating.

I remember years ago watching The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy, and at one point there's a supposedly hilarious scene of Sherman crying and pouring M&Ms into his mouth. I've never quite gotten over that scene, because everyone else in the cinema was laughing their heads off, and I was sobbing, because, oh God, it isn't funny. We don't do it because it's fun. Christ, I wish it was fun. I wish people understood that gluttony may be fun, but compulsion really isn't.

It isn't funny that this feeling, this desperate desire to consume, resembles most closely the urge I had years ago during a deep depression to take razors and slice up my arms. It wasn't even a desire for death, just the urge to make cuts because that was me making them, that was me taking what control I could in a situation where I felt there was no control.

So what's the difference if it's food, instead of a razor, if it amounts to a destructive physical urge to distract myself from something I just can't cope with? The difference is only that people pity the girl with the razor cuts on her arm (unless they think she's doing it for attention), and despise the woman with the bag full of Mars Bars.

One thing is that I'm writing, and while I'm writing, I'm not eating, and while I'm writing how I'm feeling, both the feeling and the urge to eat have died down a bit, if not completely.

I suppose this is what I was talking about in my previous posts, really. While I reject whatever I'm feeling – and I do that a lot – there is a need to manage that somehow, even if it's destructive.

This may not look like progress, but I assure you that it is.


Piffle said...

This post makes me want to give you a hug, so, only if you want one, here's a virtual *hug*.

I like washing dishes by hand. My hands often hurt now, as I get older; and the warm water just slides over them and feels so good. It was a chore when I was young, and a pleasure now. I do have to be more careful to use some lotion afterwards, so my skin doesn't hurt; but it's worth it. I hope it helps to know that someone, somewhere has a small pleasure.

I'm sorry you loathe your work. I do stuff I don't always like, but overall most stuff I do I either like to do, or I like the results of having done it, even if I don't like the process. For instance, my husband accidently broke our septic line with his excavator a couple weeks ago. I didn't particularly enjoy cutting out the broken bits and repairing it; but it sure was nice to have the septic working again. Smelly, yucky job overall though.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you loathe your work, too. I recently returned to a job I hate for people I can't stand. And it has certainly made me feel even worse. I wish I had a solution. Venting helps as does the prospect of the eventual vacation...

Once again thank you for courageously talking about something not a whole lot of people are brave enough to do. I do hope that writing does help because I know reading it does.

Oh, and please know that NOTHING you do is pitiful or contemptible!

Anonymous said...

As with Piffle, this post makes me want to give you a hug, but in all honesty, it makes me want to hug myself as well. I have the luxury of being at home, and able to succumb to the tears this post brings to me, because in all honesty, I've been there, and on a lot of days, I'm still there. I know what it feels like, and it is the worst feeling in the world. People say, "well why don't you just stop?" As if that's an option, or as if I choose to be this way.

I'm sending you pleasant thoughts while you're at work, and I hope it helps.

Eema-le said...

Big hugs from me as well. I've been there too, and it absolutely has nothing to do with what you're eating. Just remember how great it is that you can recognize that. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Cat said...

You are so courageous to write openly about something few people will ever truly understand. I wasn't able to articulate my thoughts that clearly for years into my eating disorder — when I finished your post, I read progress, I read strength, I read self-awareness and the conviction to fight for your well-being and the knowledge that others may judge you simply from their own bigotry or prejudices or ignorances, but that won't make you think any less of yourself.

Thank you for this. You've not only helped yourself but you've reached out to others. Never give up on yourself.

Scattered Marbles said...

Thank you for writing this, I thought I was the only person who struggled with this. So many FA blogs I read I feel so outcast because I deal with this often and the last week and particularly these last few days have been so hard. My whole family has been here at my parents house where I currently live. They are all naturally thin, and definitely not compulsive eaters and can't understand what it is like. The more I try to fight it .. the worse it gets. I can't eat in front of them .. and with all the family here the only access to food that I have is meals and the soda in the downstairs fridge. I hate having to hide my eating but anything I put in my mouth is scrutinized and judged. I just want to numb all the feelings you know.

I relate so much to this, I remember when I would want to start cutting myself in the hopes that THAT would numb all the emotions I couldn't handle and I wouldn't have to use the food. I knew I could hide the cuts, and could stop all the emotional pain the fat brought on. I get so frustrated because when I try to explain to people what complusive eating is like.. what a brain goes through I get the pat answers, "Well just eat less", "Try eating lettuce when you feel that way", "Just limit yourself to 3 meals a day"< and "Have you tried (insert some random stupid diet here)?"

Honestly really? It is that easy? I really wish it was. I try to explain it like putting a heroin addict into a house stocked full of heroin and telling them to only use one tiny dose a day or not at all. I can remember wishing I was addicted to drugs or alcohol because at least then I could just stop and never touch it again, and unlike my compulsive eating/food addiction it would be hidden people wouldn't know the minute they looked at me.

I hate feeling like this, I hate dealing with it, and I hate having such strong urges when I can't do a darn thing about it. I get frustrated when I reach out for help and find doctors and counselors who can't understand that it is more than just liking food. They don't realize what it is like and they treat it with another diet or brush it off as though I am making excuses. Yes they can see the effects but they don't take it seriously, instead looking at me with disdain only seeing a fat slovenly person with no self control, a failure who can't do something as simple as just losing weight (cause it is so simple right just shut your mouth and move more?)

So I try to deal with it on my own, hiding it when it gets bad and then feeling such shame and guilt from that, that I end up feeling worse which makes me want to eat even more. I get mad because I can't even feel comfortable eating in front of others, knowing that even if I ate 1 quarter of what others were eating it would still be looked on as bad.

Anyway .. ugh I am sorry I wrote so much I didn't mean to it is just your post was just exactly how I have been feeling and I guess my damn broke a bit. Thanks for letting me get it out and know that I understand and I am sending you hugs.

nuckingfutz said...


This is definitely a post full of progress. Any progress is better than no progress, right?

I also wanted to throw my 2 cents in regarding this:
This is the part that non-compulsive eaters don't understand, and usually mock, and non-eating disordered fatties outright reject as fat person behaviour.
I think it's because the compulsive eating behavior has absolutely nothing to do with being fat. You could be thin or average weight with compulsive eating, and your feelings and reactions to it would still be the same. Being fat and being a compulsive eater are two separate things. Of course one can have an effect on the other, but there's no hard and fast rule that says to be one you have to be the other. Unfortunately society in general has a tendency to blur the lines between them and assume that all fat people are compulsive eaters.

Anyway, that's my thought on that particular point. But what I really wanted to say was that you should be proud of yourself. So many people go through life not knowing why they do certain things - and not really caring - and here you are, trying to really get to the heart of the matter, which has absolutely nothing to do with food whatsoever.

You should definitely be proud of that. :)

Maddie said...

Piffle - thanks for the hug, it is appreciated. As for my job, it is boring and soul destroying, and I have yet to figure out a way to get out of it without ending up living on a park bench. But I'll get there. I hope.

Charlee - thanks, as always. :) Venting is helpful - just writing the post was helpful because it focused my emotions on themselves for long enough that the desperation mostly passed.

integgy - thank you for the hug too. I hope you gave yourself a big one. And yeah, it's really hard to be faced with people who think it's as simple as not doing it. Seriously, not doing it means writing this incredibly painful post five times a day. Not doing it means entertaining feelings I really, really don't want to feel, and sometimes am not able to feel because of where I am. I'm working on it, but it's goddamn hard. And it isn't a hobby.

Eema-le - and more thanks for the hugs! I am getting lots of virtual hugs here, it's great. Yes, as painful as this process is, I can see the progress as well. So that is good.

Cat - thank you. I'm really pleased that what I'm writing here is helpful to other people, because I know that it's bringing some clarity to my own life. And yes, I can see progress too. Slow and painful, but something's going on. Healing hurts, I think.

Scattered Marbles - you're the farthest thing from alone in this. FA blogs are great, but they are focusing on a different way of being fat, and when you know that you're doing the exact opposite of what a "good" fattie should be doing, it can be quite distressing. It sounds to me like you need to sit down with your parents and tell them that you know they don't understand how you feel, but they are causing you a significant amount of distress by scrutinising what you're eating, and they're actually making the problem worse, not better, that the problem you have is like an inverted anorexia and the fact that you're not starving to death doesn't mean you're not tearing yourself apart inside, and that, pure and simple, scrutiny of your diet will make you eat more. People are far too inclined to assume that overeating is a simple thing that can just be stopped. But really, if it was as simple as all that, wouldn't we have? I would recommend reading some books by Geneen Roth who has written a lot about compulsive eating, maybe suggest that your family does too, and if you see any more doctors or counsellors suggest that they do too. Even send them to this entry and let them see what you've said. They can't do you any good while they don't know anything about your problem. I'm sorry that you're in such an unsupportive situation. I hope you can find a way to talk to the people around you about it so that they at least leave you alone.

nuckingfutz - yay another hug! Thank you. :) Yes, progress is good. And yes, it's definitely true that compulsive eating and fatness are two separate things, but I think it's important to keep addressing them in the FA community, because we can't pretend that some of the people who want to be fat accepting also have enormous problems with their eating, and that can't be ignored in the face of being "yay fat". I've ended up writing a whole entry about this, so I won't go on now. But thank you for the support and encouragement. Hopefully I will get to proud soon. :)