5. Food: What’s for breakfast? Dinner? Lunch? Or maybe you could write a poem about that time you met a friend at a cafe.
Ah, food. Food used to be one of my great loves in life. I ate A LOT. I never put on weight because I have such a fast metabolism, so I just used to eat whatever I wanted. I love Greek, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, sushi, Thai…and in large quantities.
Now my relationship with food has changed drastically. When I was out of work for a year because of my anxiety, food became one of my main triggers. I hated eating. I didn’t enjoy it any more. I’d put off eating for hours and hours. In the past I would always have a clean plate, even if I didn’t like what I was eating. But now I could barely stomach anything. I’d physically start gagging after a while if I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t be anywhere near full but it felt like my throat would just close up, refuse to accept anything else. I lost weight for the first time that I can remember since puberty. I’m back at my normal weight now but I’ve lost the podge I used to have on my tummy and I can’t seem to get it back. I can feel my ribs and see them and I’m sure I didn’t used to be able to. It always makes me sad.
I’m better now. I don’t eat as much as I used to, but I eat enough. But I can’t just eat. I have to be doing something else – watching TV or reading or playing a game. Because if I look down at that full plate of food then all of a sudden it feels like a giant task I have to fulfil and I can’t bear the thought of it. On bad days I still find the thought of organising meals, cooking, eating, too much. But I always do eventually, because I know it’s important.
I still don’t fully understand why it happened. My therapist said it was all to do with control. I had always eaten whatever was put in front of me whether I liked it or not, and the gagging I was now feeling was my body physically refusing to do it any more. I think she was right. There was a leaflet on the table of my therapist’s office, with a picture of a girl with paper round her mouth and on the paper it said “I won’t eat”. I used to look at it every week and think, “that’s me.” When I was anxious my panic attacks were caused by two extremes – either I wanted to be control of everything and when I couldn’t I panicked, or the thought of having to make any kind of decision or have any kind of control made me panic. I think the food situation is probably the same – I couldn’t bear sharing control over food with my mum (we weren’t getting on at the time and food was always a bone of contention) to the point where even the thought of a meal made me incapable of any decision. I remember reading that lots of eating disorders aren’t to do with being fat, but to do with the person wanting control over their life. I probably had a mild or small form of eating disorder, which is scary.
Writing this has made me realise how much I want my good relationship with food back. Even though my relationship with my mum is a lot better now, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it while I’m living with her. I’ll need my own space, be in control of my own money and food. But I’m going to try in the meantime. I’m going to try smaller portions so eating isn’t as daunting. I’m also going to try eating mindfully. I’ll get there.
(Featured image from deviantart)
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