Tuesday, 2 September 2008

anatomy of a conscious binge

Forgive me, folks, for I have backslidden. Backslid?

Except I haven't, really, because this is different.

For some reason, today as I was walking home from work, I felt the strong desire to stock up, go home and eat till I puked. This is the sneakiness of the beast. I'm doing all well and happy, lalala, and boom! I wish to binge.

So I went looking for whatever feeling it was I was trying to displace with food.

Nothing there, apparently. That's the weirdness. I'm not upset, I'm fairly happy right now – I don't want to die rather than go to work, our court case is finished, things are quite good. So why the need (and I say "need" deliberately) for the binge?

So I kept looking, and found only the monstrous dark shape of the binge urge itself, and that kept running off.

I chased. Finally, I collared it, and it swung around and turned out to be less of a dark monster and more of a teenage girl in a hoodie. (I know, this is all getting a bit surreal, just go with me.)

"What's going on?" I said. "Why are you bothering me? I was doing so well."

She pulled some of those faces teenagers pull when they're being asked how their day was, and finally came out with something along the lines of "it's just time, you're due."

Now, part of my entire plan at the moment is that I don't try to force myself not to binge if I really want to, because that results in worse bingeing, so I went to the shop and bought a bunch of stuff, and pondered this question of why and how I could be "due" for a binge.

Prior to today (which we'll get back to in a minute), I haven't had a binge in a couple of weeks. That is pretty amazing going. I've usually not even thought about it, and that really is amazing going. So what is this sudden need that comes from nowhere and nothingness and just says, it's time? Am I that regulated by bingeing? Is this just some kind of maintenance strategy? I need to binge just because I haven't for awhile? Seriously? What the hell??

So anyway, I stocked up. I decided that I could eat as much as I wanted, but I had to pay attention to it while I was doing it, because bingeing and distraction are like peas in a pod for me – you can only have the former wrapped up nicely inside the latter. I had some beef jerky. It was okay, but didn't taste that great, certainly not as good as it tasted in my head. I had a Turkish Delight, which has long been one of my favourite treats, and that was okay, but didn't taste quite right either. And all the time, the hoodie-wearing teenage altar ego of my binge kept muttering, "seriously, you need a book or something, this isn't not working for me."

She was right, it wasn't at all. But I gave it a game old try, and had some crisps. They actually were really nice, but there also seemed to be a lot of them.

And then I had three raspberry liquorice laces. Out of a whole packet, I had three. And now I have completely run out of steam. I still have a bag full of crap, and I just don't even care. I'm also very fascinated by what has just unfolded, so much so I'm not even feeling bad about having a kind of demi-binge. It was educational.

And now I'm sitting here typing this and pondering the question of why I cannot binge consciously.

The truth is, I rarely even eat consciously, but bingeing, dear God, how impossible is it to eat ridiculously large amounts of food when your mind is actually on it? Well, I don't know about you, but for me, it doesn't work. Actually, I think it's the same kind of process as sitting with my emotions. Actually sitting with my crazy sneaky teenage girl of a binge and saying "go right ahead then" resulted in her looking at me askance and sidling off, muttering "well, I didn't really want to do that anyway..."

So what is it about consciousness that changes the way things unfold? What is it about attention that does it? Why do my emotions start tapping their feet and looking at their watches when I give them my full attention? Why does my previously desperate desire to binge huff off when I don't allow myself to immerse my brain in something while I shovel food down my throat? Is it that my attention is that boring, or that all these emotions are kind of like cockroaches who want to scatter when you turn the light on them? I don't know.

I don't really understand this process. I mean, I'm pleased with it – half a binge is not so bad, especially when it ends the way this one has – but I'm confused by it at the same time. Stay tuned to see if I have any epiphanies about it.


Kate217 said...

This? This is a ^#@%^&!! brilliant post. Thanks for sharing it.

April D said...

Wonderful post; thank you for sharing! It is odd how focusing attention on something so sneaky can cause it to do a double-take and slink away. Makes me wonder about my own habits of eating while reading/watching TV and the age-old adages that you shouldn't do that. Might be more to those than I previously thought. You've gotten me thinking; thank you!!!

Devi said...

I _loved_ your personification of your urge to binge as a sulky teenager.

For myself, I sometimes find that I binge when everything is going too "right". I have a self-destructive personality.

Ai Lu said...

I loved this post!

As someone who has been through something similar, there are times when you have to recognize that the binge doesn't have any deep meaning behind it; I feel like it's just an old habit that has forgotten that you're already over it.

For me, learning to eat consciously -- including preparing my own food and cleaning up afterwards -- has made all of the difference in leading a life without binges. It also sounds like you are well on your way.

Ai Lu

Anonymous said...

first visit to this blog and am extremely impressed. such an awesome post! i often have that feeling that i am "due" for a binge. sometimes i think that is the hardest fight of all

wellroundedtype2 said...

I've re-read your post three times now, it's so good.
Thanks for putting it out there.

Marste said...

Wow, what a great post. I wish I had some brilliant insight to share about the whys and wherefores, but no. All I can say is that I TOTALLY relate, and I'm glad to hear someone else say it. :)

Scattered Marbles said...

Thank you for this great post. It was wonderfully written!! I know for me alot of times I eat to numb out and I have a feeling that if I was focusing on the whys and whats of the need to eat as well as facing it head on, even as I allow myself to overeat, that that wouldn't allow me to have that numbing out "high" that it can give me and therefore I wouldn't feel the need to continue on.

Also I wonder if it has become such a habit to me that my body and/or brain just thinks.. hey it is time.. get to it. Instead of actually it being triggered by a stress or hard negative emotion like it was in the beginning.

It is an interesting thought to start really looking at the behavior and figuring out why it happens, the triggers, and the feelings that go along with it. Interesting, but also scary, I know alot of that stuff is not stuff I enjoy facing or feeling.

Maddie said...

kate217 - Thanks! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

april d - Thank you. :) Yeah, it's a funny thing how much genuine attention changes what you're doing, or at least the way you're doing it. To be honest, it's a struggle to keep paying the attention, because my brain is so wired to think it needs the distraction, but it really does change things.

devi - That's an interesting point, and I think I share that. Certainly, the past few days have been a bit up and down on this. I had that happiness that I was finally getting somewhere, and OMG need to eat. I think it may partly be self-destructiveness, but it's partly (for me at least) that the story of Who I Am is significantly a story of Having An Eating Disorder, and there is a part of me that is really freaked out by moving away from that. No doubt we will meet up with her sooner or later.

ai lu - Thank you! Oh, that's definitely true. Sometimes it's just that the habit is so ingrained that if you're not feeling quite right and you want to feel a bit better, food seems the obvious way to do it. Learning to eat consciously is a HUGE thing. I am not there yet, but it is making a real impact.

anonymous - Thank you. :) Yeah, feeling like you're "due" is really difficult, because it's not like you can address it in quite the same way. If it's a sad binge, then there's a way to deal with the sadness. If it's "just because", well, I haven't cracked the way to manage it yet. Though confronting the process of eating head-on seems to help a bit. It's just so much WORK.

wellroundedtype2 - Thank you. :) You're very welcome. And thank you for reading.

marste - Thanks! I think it's hard to pin down whys and wherefores, because they're so variable. Even if you can pin down a point of origin, it's clear that that doesn't apply to every single binge. I do find that it's good to know that other people share the same kind of experience, though - eating disorders are a lonely business.

scattered marbles - Thank you so much. I think numbness is a key reason why I eat, and I have such a determination not to face the eating itself that, yes, if I concentrate on it, the numbness is removed. I think probably for most of us who have been doing this for a long time, part of it is habit. But that's not to say that a lot of binges don't have genuine stress or pain behind them. It's just that we've developed a technique for handling life and any feelings we're iffy about that has become very automatic. And I agree, it's very scary facing up to a lot of this. I don't enjoy having to put my book down and concentrate on the food going into my mouth. Hell, if I enjoyed it, I would've been doing that already! The thing is, though, I also don't enjoy having an eating disorder. I don't enjoy how I feel after I've binged, whether it's because I'm bored at work, because I'm distressed or because I just feel due. I don't enjoy having such an antagonistic relationship with my body or with exercise - I struggle to even do things I enjoy because I have such a contrary mindset about them. In the end, facing what I'm really feeling may not be pleasant, but it's less unpleasant than the disorder itself.

It's exhausting, though! There is so much work that has to go into recovery, and sometimes a very large part of me would rather just not be bothered and go eat instead.