My life eating compulsively was like an extended childhood. Not in a good way. I didn’t have a particularly enjoyable childhood. What I mean is that I didn’t really start growing up until I got my eating under control. Sugar made it possible for me to let my life slip through the cracks for the first 28 years. That was why I used it. Not because it tasted good. But because it made me not have to feel my overwhelming feelings. That was useful when I was small and too vulnerable to process them. But as I got older, it became a detriment. It inhibited me. It allowed me to be numb enough that I could refuse to look at issues and responsibilities that needed to be dealt with. That I needed to deal with. Until they became emergencies. And then I dealt with them by throwing them into someone else’s lap. Someone who loved me. Usually my mother. But anyone would do.
And the truth is that I would become so incapacitated by the time something positively had to be dealt with, that people would feel sorry for me. They would feel compelled to help me. Not help. That’s not the word. Because I ask for help now. In a healthy, responsible way. I love help! I am grateful for help. I can accomplish so much with help. But when I was eating compulsively and burying my head in the sand (really more like burying my face in a chocolate cake) other people were assuming responsibility for my failures and ineptitudes. And letting me off the hook without my having to live with the consequences of my actions, or inactions. At the time, this was a relief. Or it seemed like a relief. It wasn’t, really. It fed the thoughts that told me I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t capable. It reinforced my ideas about my worthlessness. But I didn’t have any other context. Neglecting my life until the looming consequences left me in a state of paralyzed terror, and then having my cookies hauled out of the fire by somebody else, was all I knew. It took the immediate pressure off, but it never made me wise. First, because I was selfish and couldn’t have cared less that someone else was being deprived of something (time, money, resources) for my benefit. And second because I was numb. Getting high on sugar made it possible for me to never feel the impact of my choices. Sugar made it so that I never had to feel anything.
There was a strange paradox to my life when I was eating compulsively. I was simultaneously disgustingly arrogant and pathetically low on self-esteem. I felt totally entitled without feeling like I should have to honor my word or my commitments. Because I “couldn’t”. Because that required being worthwhile and able. Which I “obviously” wasn’t.
When I got a handle on my food, it became a necessity to start dealing with my responsibilities. Not being numb from sugar meant actually feeling the pressure to maintain my integrity. It meant caring about my future. About my reputation. About my relationships. Having clarity made me feel bad about hurting and abusing the people in my life. It made me want to be someone I respected and liked, because feeling like the asshole I was being made me uncomfortable. And there was no more cake to numb the discomfort. And besides, being someone I liked was suddenly an option. And then I discovered that I loved it! It wasn’t just a relief. It was joy.
I am slow. Not intellectually. But personally. I change slowly. I need a lot of time to adapt to new things. I need to sit with things for a long time before I can integrate them into my thinking and actions. Before I can get acclimated to them. What to do in a situation is rarely obvious to me. Maybe this is the result of living in fear and stagnation for the vast majority of my life. But it doesn’t matter why, really. It’s what is so. And I have learned to accept this about myself. I am learning to be patient with myself. To be still and present and listen to my inner voice. With its long silences and pauses. With its string of I-don’t-know-yets. (How ’bout now? Nope, not yet.) I am learning not to rush, or to judge myself. Because when I look back at where I was, (not just at 19 when I weighed 300 lbs, or 7 years ago when I was bulimic and food obsessed, but even 3 years ago, or 1 year ago, or 6 months ago) I can see that I do change. That I am changing. And that it’s ok that it takes years. I have learned that there will never be a “done”. So what’s the rush?
I am not clear yet where this will lead or what it will end up looking like in the future. That’s still another I-don’t-know-yet. But I can be with the I-don’t-know-yet. I can trust it. And honor it. I can listen for the next thing I’m supposed to do. I can wait patiently to find out what that is. But if you’d like to help me share my work, feel free to share this blog. Or follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5