Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

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