This is my confession
Friday, February 08, 2008
This morning I sat and started to watch the ever so lovely Morgan from Fatgrrl.com on The Mike & Juliet Show. I was looking forward to seeing what M&J had to say this time around after watching them with Mo Pie and Rachel last week. But I only made it halfway through the clip before I had to turn it off and walk away and try stop feeling so shell-shocked because it all hit a little too close to home for me. As I sat there listening to them tell their stories, I realized that my own stories sound remarkably similar. And that in turn led me to realize (finally, at last) that I am just like them; I am one of them.

I don't think I've ever really acknowledged to myself just how fucked up I was. How fucked up I am, still. I've made offhand comments about my disordered eating, sure. But before today, I haven't acknowledged even to myself that this is me. And when things are out of control in my life, this is me too. I have never confessed that the reason I am fat (because yes, I am still fat; like I've said before, I'm a more "average fat" right now but I'm still fat) (and that's okay, because this is comfy, but that's a whole other entry right there) is not because of my mother or kids picking on me or any other outside thing. It's because from the time I was a little girl, something inside drove me to eat without stopping whether I was hungry or not.

Food was never something I saw as sustenance or fuel. It was something I used to comfort myself, to stave off boredom, to beat myself up about all the damn time. I remember eating 4, 5, 6 slices of toast when I would get home from school as a kid, followed by a couple bowls of cereal. I would stop at the ice cream truck every day on the way home from junior high, then have a second snack when I got home. I would rearrange the contents of the freezer to hide the fact that I ate 2 or 3 frozen burritos between the end of the school day and dinner time; it helped that there was a teenage boy in the house too, because the moms assumed he was going through a growth spurt and the disappearing food was because of him. When I got to college, I had people to binge with; we would all eat crap when we were studying. Midnight runs to Del Taco for full meals even though I'd had dinner just a few hours earlier, milkshakes and omelettes after evenings of binge drinking at Hollywood & Vine, burgers and fries while debating politics. It wasn't all socialized binging, of course. My senior year in college, my then-roommate would go home most weekends; I would stay at the apartment by myself and order in vast amounts of Chinese food or make Rice Krisipies treats and eat the entire pan. Food was how I entertained myself through a number of lonely weekends that year.

I've often said I am an "emotional eater", but in reality, I am someone who medicates with food. At the height of my worst depression episode (which was really more of a nervous breakdown), I would eat an entire order of Papa John's cheesesticks and a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream for dinner. When my roommate noticed the plethora of pizza boxes, I started making sure to throw all the trash into the dumpster outside before he got home rather than leaving it for him to find. Eventually he moved out, and then my live-in boyfriend dumped me and I was all alone. Living by myself was both heaven and hell for me. I could make entire batches of cookies or cupcakes and eat them freely, without having to hide them. I remember wolfing down cupcakes in two bites, hovering over the trash can and wishing that I wasn't so averse to throwing up because at least then the food wouldn't end up on my body in yet another roll. I had a friend who would come over for movie nights, a friend who was a crazy ass black belt level athlete and could eat anything without gaining an ounce. We would order those insane P'zones from Pizza Hut, one for each of us, and we would eat the whole thing. And then we'd make alcoholic milkshakes to top off the night. I was miserable every time we did it, but it didn't keep me from doing it again and again and again. I suffered from chronic acid reflux that left me with a weird post-nasal drip and an addiction to Tums, but even knowing that I would wake up in pain in the middle of the night could not stop me from filling my stomach yet again with pepperoni and cheese and ice cream.

When my husband moved in with me, things got a little better but the behaviors never went away. I didn't binge in front of him, but the compulsive overeating kept going. I would obsess over Twinkies to the point where I would send him to the store to get them for me; I am ashamed to say that I used him as my food proxy, hiding at home so I didn't have to worry about a clerk seeing the fat girl buy Twinkies or ice cream or giant hunks of cake. His solo bowling night is Wednesday night, and if I didn't have other plans I was quite often at home eating everything in sight. I've never admitted that to him; I've never admitted that to anyone. Sometimes, if I was having an especially stressful day at work, I would start planning my binge before I even headed home. And other times, when the stress was too much, there'd be a binge in the middle of the day. I remember buying a foot long Subway sandwich meal for lunch (complete with chips and a cookie, of course!), and then stopping at the donut shop next door for a dozen donut holes that I ate before I even left the parking lot. I drove back to work in a sugar coated haze of self-hatred, but it didn't stop me from scarfing down the enormous lunch I'd also bought. And the reason I gained 20 pounds when I broke my wrist wasn't just because I couldn't cook; it was because I got myself through the pain and stress and upheaval with Sno-Balls and Taco Bell on a daily basis despite the fact that both of those things made me hate myself a little more every day. The crazy thing was that the only way to shut up the self-hatred and anger was to eat more food, until the coma-like crash that inevitably happened at the end of a binge.

I have a million more stories about this, stories and images that have been running through my head ever since I started watching that video clip. This isn't me trying to make anyone feel sorry for me; there's a part of me that worries that I will come off as jumping on someone else's train with this entry. But this is simply the truth of how I lived my life, truth that I haven't confessed even to myself before today, and I need to get it out of my head before I explode. Remembering all of these stories is leaving me more than a little horrified at what I put my body through. It makes me nauseous to think about it all now, to actually finally confront it head on and admit that yeah, that's me. I'm yet another person who has been struggling with an eating disorder for most of her life. Admitting that to myself has opened my eyes to another simple fact: whether I meant to or not, I chose to have gastric bypass surgery to treat my eating disorder. (Wow, that sounds a lot more fucked up on paper than it does in my head.) I wanted to lose weight, but I could not do it without a physical reason for binge eating to stop being feasible for me. Every time I dieted, I would eventually turn back to my old behaviors, the constant eating, the stuffing myself to the point of illness, the ongoing anger and guilt and shame over how much food I was filling myself with. But it wasn't until today that I even recognized the behaviors for what they are; apparently, I needed that physical disconnect in order to even begin to work on the mental side.

As I have said to people in the past, I've always known what to eat and if I could have afforded to hire a Marine drill seargant to follow me around and smack food out of my hand I would have done that. But I couldn't afford that, so I had an internal Marine installed. I physically cannot binge to the levels that I used to, at least not right now. I am made physically ill by my trigger foods and I no longer have the stomach capacity for a P'zone or a dozen donuts. And those two things are helping me break a vicious, ugly cycle that I was in for my entire life. The scary thing is, I am at the point where snacking is entirely possible. The compulsive overeating is already starting to rear its head again, and that scares the ever-loving shit out of me despite the fact that I am now able to recognize it and step away from the behavior before it gets out of control. On the good side, I now realize where the shame and guilt and frustration I feel towards myself if I eat too many carbs or dare to have some sugar come from. In my mind, too many carbs is a binge and is punishable. I still have to talk myself out of giving in and eating things that I know for a fact are going to make me sick; those conversations with myself really suck. And they are all coming from the compulsive eating/binge eating side of my life.

One thing is for sure though: today's realizations have shifted my focus off the weight loss and back onto straightening my shit out. And I'll tell you what, I am thankful every day that I have my Celexa and my support group leader (who is both a behavioral therapist AND a WLS patient, so she *gets it*) to get me through this, because I think that the journey I started back in July is about to get a lot harder for me.


12 Comments:

Anonymous Morgan said...

Melinda:

Feel free to jump on the train! You punched your own ticket when you gathered the courage to put together a post like this. Gutsy, woman. Very, fucking gutsy.

I used to wish, and wish, and WISH for The Food Police to follow me around and restrict my food, and give me only what was "good" and "allowed."

You're not alone in this struggle, by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm so glad you have a support structure in place. Where I go to for treatment, I've met several folks with BED that chose the gastric bypass route - and you're right - it may initially address the weight, but it doesn't do anything for what's going on in your head.

You're headed in the right direction. Go get 'em, Tiger.

.Morgan.

Blogger Melinda said...

Thank you, Morgan, for being so open yourself and helping me open my own eyes. And I'm not surprised to hear that there are bypass patients in BED treatment with you; I know now that at least half of my support group members would be diagnosed with it too. It's kind of a logical conclusion, isn't it? Ah, that's a whole other post, I think.

Anonymous Comrade GoGo said...

I just wanted to let you know that this post really touched me and I sincerely wish you the very best as you work on the head stuff that, it so often seems, makes the body world go round.

Anonymous JackieR said...

You rock. This was such a brave thing to figure out and even braver to share with us.

I've thought about these things in reference to myself lately. No WLS, but a whole bunch of therapy that has gotten me comfortable enough with me to admit some really hard things to myself. And one of those is that it wasn't just genes that got me to the weight I'm at.

So yeah. Good for you. And thank you for sharing it all.

Anonymous orodemniades said...

Wow, this post makes both my stomach and my soul hurt.

I'm so glad to see that you're working through it, although it is unbelievably difficult. Good luck to you.

Oh, do you mind if I blogwhore this post?

Anonymous Betsey C. said...

I am so glad I stopped in to read your blog today. I have always been adverse to the idea of WLS, believing that people should just diet and exercise, and not do anything so drastic.

I am currently 90lbs. overweight, and am having success with Weight Watchers. I am certainly an overeater, but not a binge eater, and now I know the difference between overeating and binge eating. I slowly gained my weight over a period of 20 years due to lack of portion control and inactivity. After reading your writing today, I now understand why WLS was the answer for you, and will be the answer for thousands of others like you. I really had no idea, and I am rather ashamed of my preconceived notions.

Thank you so much for your brave and honest post. You have enlightened me, and I will not look at WLS the same again. I wish you continued success with your weight loss, good health, and a long life.

Blogger Melinda said...

Thank you all, so much. It was really scary for me to open this up to everyone but I thought more good than bad would come of it and you're proving me right.

Orodemniades, feel free to blogwhore it...I'm all about paying it forward.

Blogger Dagny said...

What several of us in the webring are finding as we reach 2.5 and 3 years out, is that our eating disorders simply work in different ways now. The game changes. For me, I exercise compulsively and fear everything I eat, no matter how "correct" it is. WLS took the weight off me and now I live in fear of it coming back. So my compulsive behavior morphed into another kind of compulsive behavior.

Just listen to your body and mind. You have to figure out what the battle is to be able to fight it. I am sure you are doing that.
Dagny

Blogger Kim said...

I left a comment earlier but I guess it didn't stick. I quoted you over on my blog, and am working up the words to form on my own. Thank you for this extraordinary breakthrough-- thank you.

Blogger G.G. said...

This is just a wonderfully honest, gut-wrenching post. I recognize so much of what you've gone through; it's like you're reading from something I could have written about my own life.

It sort of boggles my mind when I start to think about how many other people have gone through this same exact thing, with the same feelings of guilt and shame. I don't know how many times I ate myself into a bleary-eyed stupor with the full-on knowledge that what I was doing was destroying my life, but AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME, numbing the pain with food was the only way I could deal with my life without choosing to end it. And I KNEW what I was doing, but couldn't stop it. I don't know if anyone who hasn't been through that can truly understand it.

A good thing you did for yourself, though--you didn't completely shut people out of your life.It's a special kind of hell to try to overcome that almost complete, self-imposed isolation once you've walled yourself into it.

Thanks for the post.

Blogger SignGurl said...

Like many of the others, I could have written most of this myself. I'm glad you opened my eyes to behavior that I was oblivious to seeing in myself. WLS has given me a way to stop the cycle. Now if I can just get my head together enough to end it for good.

Thank you.

Blogger bozoette said...

Love you, girl.

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