Thursday, 2 April 2009


If recovery were a hill, and I had climbed to its pinnacle by the end of last year, I've managed, in the past month, to tumble halfway back down it again. This is annoying.

I'm not all the way back to the bottom, but I've still got to climb back up to the summit.

It's like this: my mother visited. Unfortunately, that's really about all it's like. I've had work-related depression and anxiety since early in the year, but that didn't trigger my eating problems at all. No, I was doing just fine till my mother got here, and then suddenly, food ceased to be fuel or pleasure and restarted being a great smothering need which both comforted me and suffocated all the annoyance and frustration I so often feel with my mother.

My mother is actually a very lovely woman – which is part of the problem. She is a very nice, very helpful person whose feelings are very easily bruised, and in my family there is a strong "do not hurt Mum's feelings" culture, which I had partly forgotten about because I've been living on the other side of the world for eight and a half years. And because I've learned in that time to be a bit more of a hardnosed bitch, and also to forget what my mother is actually like, I wasn't as sensitive to her vulnerabilities as she expected me to be. And then, of course, there was a certain amount of drama. And I, of course, apologised because that's the game we play.

The problem is, while I was no doubt a little short with her, there's just no space in this scenario for her to believe herself wrong, or even difficult, in her behaviour. I tried to express some of my frustrations and got a list of reasons why I was completely wrong about them, how she wasn't doing anything I said she was, and how I should be kinder. She might even have been right about that.

Regardless, though, of whether she's right or I'm right or both of us are wrong, I couldn't yell at her, I couldn't tell her that she was annoying me, and, in order to keep the peace for all four people present (my husband and sister were there too), I just had to shut up.

Whereupon I started to eat up, more than I have for months, more than I needed, in secret. I didn't go on an actual binge as such – it wasn't possible, because I was around people constantly for a couple of weeks – but I certainly found the time and the food to stuff down all that resentment and irritation. And the habits have re-emerged: buying too much at lunch time because I just really want to eat a lot, sneaking extra biscuits into my drawer, stocking up on secret chocolate, eating all afternoon, all the things I was so proud of myself for avoiding so neatly during my work-related depression and anxiety.

So clearly this isn't completely resolved yet. But I'm damned if I know how to deal with it. I can certainly start doing again all the things I did last year, and that would probably get me back on top of the eating for now, while my mother is thousands of miles away.

But that isn't really enough. My mother, bless her, isn't going to vanish from my life any time soon. She's also not going to change her whole personality at the age of sixty just because I relapse when she's around, even if she knew about that, and even if she could accept it had anything to do with her, which she probably wouldn't. Somehow I've got to find a way to circumvent this entirely so I can see her, not get annoyed with her, not say anything that upsets her, not get annoyed because she's so easily upset, not get resentful because she uses her hurt feelings like a bludgeon to get her own way, not eat because I'm resentful. (You can see how well I'm circumventing it at present.)

I do love my mother very much, underneath the current annoyance. She's a good person and a loving mother, and I've got to find a way to be around her without triggering the hideous lumbering beast that is my compulsive eating. I'm just not quite sure how to do that - how to find a way to deal with the feelings that there isn't room to express without just eating them.

Mind you, this probably goes back to the same old thing I've been drumming on about for months, in various ways - there always has to be space inside ME to deal with them, regardless of whether it can be expressed outside myself or not, because if there isn't, it'll come back to bite me on the ass. Or to make me bite something else on the ass. It seems so often to be the permission to allow things to be that makes them bearable.