b) You say you're 'tired of looking for answers,' having looked in books/food/alcohol/sex, etc. At the risk of sounding incredibly corny, all the places you've looked have been places outside yourself...and maybe the 'answers,' such as there are ever answers, are inside of you. Which is, of course, an extremely scary prospect, or else we wouldn't spend so much time looking ANYWHERE but there for our answers.
I know my internal reasons why. I know that I learned about overeating by example from my parents. Both parents struggled with their weight, and continue to lose the battle. I looked up to my dad and adopted his eating habits - bread slathered in butter, ice cream, and rich foods. My mom has much more of a sweet tooth than I ever did as far as candy. Food was a big part of the family life. When My parents would make up after a yelling spell, my dad would bring my mom pizza and ice cream or cake and a movie. And we'd all eat. Fast food and take out were more common as I got older, but there were often home cooked meals. And I don't think they were too unhealthy - but the portions were pretty massive. And I think I never had a problem eating all my mom dished up for me.
I suppose I could blame her for not paying attention to the portions, but why - even at maybe 8 years old - did I not just stop eating when I was full? Maybe I did, but I don't think so. I had a weight problem when I hit 5. Anytime before that, as far as I can tell in pics, I was just a lil chubby, but it was "cute". Once 5 hit, I was noticeably overweight. And it was that year my cousins moved in with us and I saw a tyrannical side of my dad I'd never imagined. My mom, too.
OK, wait. These are facts. I am so good with them. But what about the feelings associated with the weight gain at 5? I imagine I was scared of the tumult in my house and it created nervous energy and I turned to food to distract myself. Maybe my mom kept me fed. Ya know, even now if she has made something and asks if I want to eat, I have to fight myself not accept if I'm not hungry. Why would I eat if I wasn't hungry as a little kid? Is there something about my early relationship with my mom involved with that? Something about feeling bad saying no to the offer she made. Maybe I felt guilty because I blamed her for the problems in my parents marriage and didn't want her to feel any worse, so I ate when she offered, because she had gone to the trouble. Yikes.
And when I was older? I remember staying home from school on numerous days through the school years and being so restless. Staying in bed and watching tv only kept me so occupied. I'd raid the kitchen. Bran Muffins, toast, bagels... (AACK! Carbs! lol) Nervous energy eating. I recognize that as the same thing I do now.
So why was I full of nervous energy then? Chaos at home. Dad yelling. Maybe he was unemployed then, or mom was, or they both were. At some point I stopped playing outside as much. I spent more time at home in my room. And those feelings had nowhere to go. I didn't even know what I was feeling. It was just a blur. A haze.
c) You write: "It feels as though part of me would rather die than give up the relationship to food that I have spent years nurturing." Which is an all-or-nothing sentence if ever I read one!! And I wondered whether you'd really, honestly sat down and thought about this question: what if you DID give up this relationship with food? What if you didn't nurture your relationship with food, but actually nurtured yourself instead? What would you lose, in emotional terms? What would you gain, in emotional terms?
What would my life be like without the dependency on food? Without worrying about my weight? Eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full, not being consumed with compulsion? It doesn't even seem fathomable to me, just a far-off, unachievable dream.
What if you DID give up this relationship with food?
I would have to discover/uncover how I came to have the relationship in the first place and heal. I have a general idea about it, but nothing sticks. It's all very slippery, somehow. And maybe it's my all-or-nothing attitude, or my belief that it really couldn't be possible.
And now for a less clinical response�
If I DID give it up�. I would hear my thoughts, my voice. I would hear all that I am trying to blocking out with keeping myself busy thinking about food (or doing things to distract or numb me). Thinking about what I will eat. What I should or shouldn't eat. What I shouldn't have eaten. Why I ate it when I am already unhappy with my weight, when I wasn't even hungry to begin with.
What if you didn't nurture your relationship with food, but actually nurtured yourself instead?
Until I learn to recognize what I am feeling when I am feeling it, this will be impossible. (I am re-reading Geneen Roth's "Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating" after about 5 years, and she has great suggestions for mindfulness that I am starting to implement.) Also, I am not used to having people I feel I can lean on emotionally. I do now, more than ever before, but I still and know I need to stop believing that I only have myself and when 'myself' isn't up to the task, I don't turn to food or something else.
What would you lose, in emotional terms?
The reliability of what food can offer. I know what feelings a binge or even a small indulgence will provide. There is safety in that, something you can't often get with people.
What would you gain, in emotional terms?
I can't know for sure, but I imagine a more complete sense of self, similar to what I've felt after kicking certain vices. An inner strength. A more trusting relationship with myself; really believing that I can and will do right by me.
d) It occurred to me that there might be an element of 'habit' in your behaviour - it's something you did as a child, you say, and are still doing. The thing is, eating disorders are habits (some people go as far as to call them 'addictions') and as such are very difficult to break...but I think that, as with all habits, you have to look behind the behaviours themselves at the reasons you need them: what are they protecting you from?
I don't even know. I've been wondering about this since you asked and having been able to resume therapy at an affordable rate, this is one thing I plan to look into right away. My first thoughts have been that although I don't need to be protected from the confusing and scary feelings I had as a child, it's become a habit to keep my mind busy. At 5 years old, what was available to me? I didn't have the means to express let alone understand what was going on. So I drew a lot, I got lost in the worlds of my dolls, I listened to music constantly, and I ate.
I couldn't concentrate in school. There's stillness in concentration, a mental stillness that opens a door to all sorts of uncomfortable feelings. I see now I did my best to not let it happen. I was always talking when I was actually in school. Several times in several elementary grades my desk was moved to the back of the class because I was always talking! This is funny to me now because I am pretty anti-social. For the most part, people drive me crazy, and aside from a handful, I want nothing to do with anyone else in person.
Writing this and thinking about this now is making me understand why, although I have never doubted my ability to achieve secular goals, I didn't push myself. Because there is stillness in concentration and in focusing. There is peace in it, and god help me if I have a still mind. For someone who has feared that, it makes sense that I would avoid pursuing serious goals. After the goals are reached? More stillness = more time to "think". So, why even get started when I'll end up in the same place�
You seem to say that your ED is a way of suppressing emotions, or avoiding dealing with things emotionally - what emotions are you suppressing? Where do they come from, these emotions? What would happen if you expressed them - what would happen if you got angry, or extremely sad, or told people exactly what you thought of them?
I am much more expressive than I used to be and have been able to develop more relationships where I can be me and say what I am feeling and thinking without someone getting all butthurt. Granted, this is easier to do with males, because women are just more sensitive and I frickin hate having to deal with someone's feeling getting hurt if they misunderstand me. This is still a problem, though, because I will keep my mouth shut and stifle my feelings to avoid hurting someone else's.
I think the relationships that have me suppressing things the most are my best female friend who can be way sensitive, and my dad. My dad says and does shit that either gets on my nerves, or pisses me off, or makes me ashamed that I'm even related to him. I almost never bother to say anything about it because if I did, I would always be telling him that what he is saying/doing is getting on my fucking nerves! lol Detaching has been hard. Learning to let him be who he is and accepting that he is not the kind of dad I would have hoped to have had growing up. Since I don't tell him, the feelings of frustration and irritation and sadness and all that just stay inside. He's not doing it on purpose, so I also feel guilty about wanting to say anything. He's annoying, but he means well, ya know? And I think, "Who am I to tell him how to be or not to be just because it gets on my nerves?" And of course, telling him makes no difference, cuz I have before, and it's the same thing over and over.
"Food is always there," you say, when you "suppress too much." Why allow yourself to suppress too much? What would happen if you didn't?
From the last paragraph it seems that I still have some dad-work to do. I need to find ways to express myself to him when appropriate so I am not hanging on to all these feelings and then stuffing them down with food.