Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘bingeing’

The fat and the furious

Trigger warning: self-harm

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I’ve had problems with food since childhood.  26 years of bingeing, self-loathing & dieting have led me to the point where I am the heaviest I have ever been and so ashamed of my body that even the school run is a self-conscious gauntlet that I dread. I know that there’s more to life than just physical appearance and that my self-consciousness is probably vastly disproportionate. But what is undeniably true is that my body, already damaged thanks to degenerative disc disease, cannot withstand many more years of abuse.

I’m furious with myself for letting things get this far. For losing control so badly, for ignoring the damage I was doing and for setting such a poor example to my children. They don’t see my bingeing, nor hear my sobs afterwards as I emerge from the fog and realise that I’ve lost control yet again. But I can’t hide this from them forever – I need to stop before they’re old enough to realise what’s going on.

In a way, I’ve been here before. I used to self-harm; I used to cut myself as a way of coping with life. When my daughter was born I decided that I needed to stop because I didn’t want her to ever think that it was normal or ok. It took almost 2 years but I managed it, and haven’t cut myself since March 2011. I’m proud of that. But now I seem to have come full circle and once again I need to fight against my urge to harm myself, although this time it’s with food rather than a blade. I firmly believe that my bingeing is another means of abusing my body in order to retain control, although it’s not a conscious desire the way cutting was.

A little over a year ago a psychiatrist told me that I have binge-eating disorder (he described it as being like bulimia but without the purging, and that’s definitely how it feels to me) but he didn’t consider it a big enough problem to necessitate referring me to anyone. Since my crisis a couple of months ago I’ve been seeking help for my eating problems but without success. My GP said she couldn’t do anything but to ask the psychiatrist I was seeing after admitting to suicidal thoughts. I spoke to the psychiatrist and she said she couldn’t help but to talk to my GP. I reached out to an eating disorders charity but they too told me to speak to my GP, who is still regretfully adamant that there isn’t anything she can do (it seems there are no appropriate services in my area). So I’m on my own.

Well, not completely alone. I have a very supportive husband, family and several friends whom I can be totally honest with. But at the end of the day, this is a battle that I have to fight myself. Against myself. And just as before I have to do it slowly, one day at a time. One hour, one minute at a time if need be. Having got through one day, I tell myself that I can get through the next. And the next. And the next. And I desperately hope that this is a fight that I can win because losing is no longer an option.

My big fat problem

I was always a very active child – dashing all over the place, climbing trees, cycling, digging holes. I took numerous dance classes including ballet, jazz and contemporary modern. I was a Brownie and then a Girl Guide (as they were known then) and loved the camping, wide games and hikes. In my first couple of years at university I did a lot of extreme sports including skydiving, white water rafting and bungee jumps.

When I was 15 I started getting occasional twinges of pain in my lower back. By 17 I’d had to stop dancing. By 20 I needed to use crutches every now and again. At the age of 23 an MRI showed that I had 2 prolapsed discs in my lumbar spine. I was told that surgery was not an option so I tried all sorts of treatment, from painkillers and pain management clinics to various kinds of physiotherapy and acupuncture. Nothing helped and I was starting to gain weight.

It didn’t bother me too much. I was still fairly mobile and active and although my pain was constant I was able to ignore it most of the time. However as I got older my mobility decreased and my pain increased. By the time I was 26 the only exercise that didn’t exacerbate the pain was swimming and walking. So I did those; I swam twice a week, a mile each time, and walked whenever possible. Still my mobility gradually decreased though, and my girth increased.

I am now 32. I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disorder; I still have 2 prolapsed discs but now my lumbar vertebrae are calcified as well. I use a walking stick most days or crutches if it’s really bad. And I am obese. Really, properly obese – about 5 stone over a healthy weight (according to BMI). I’m seeing a spinal surgeon next Friday and I know that one if the first things he’ll say is that I need to lose weight (as though anyone could be this fat and not realise!).

But how do you lose a large amount of weight when you can’t exercise? By eating less and eating healthily, of course. But (there always seems to be a but and I feel like I’m just making excuses) I can’t afford lovely healthy food and my mental illness is yet another hurdle. I comfort eat when I am stressed, unhappy, tired or in pain – so a lot. The psychiatrist who recently diagnosed me with cyclothymia and generalised anxiety disorder also said that I am a compulsive binge-eater. I merely nodded my head in agreement – I’ve been like this since childhood.

I know what I need to do. I need to stop bingeing, eat less and try my hardest to exercise when I can. And at night I lay awake plotting how to do this – I’ll only snack on fruit, I’ll eat mints when I get the urge to binge, I’ll stop baking with DD for a while, I’ll really cut down on portion sizes. Hopefully as I lose weight my pain may decrease, allowing me to exercise more.

But the next day I wake up and my first thought (after “Why is my 16 month old blowing raspberries on me at six in the morning?”) is always of food. I think about it all day. I think about what I want to eat, what we actually have to eat, whether I can bake anything today. While writing this I am mentally going through the kitchen cupboards to see if there’s anything I can snack on. I am obsessed with food and I have very little self-control. I know people who can open a packet of biscuits, eat one or two and put the remainder in the cupboard. I admire these people with something akin to awe. Because I can’t – I have one more, and one more, and one more, and then they’re gone. This applies to any junk food – sadly not to anything helpful like fruit!

I know what I need to do but I self-sabotage. You know the cartoons where someone has an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other? That’s me. I am constantly torn between what I know I should, must and need to do, and what my treacherous bingeing self wants me to do.

I can’t carry on like this. I am in constant pain, I struggle to lift and play with my children, I can’t remember the last time I cuddled up to DH on the sofa because it just hurts too much. I don’t want to have this relationship with food any more but I don’t know how to change. I don’t know how to quell the demon and let the angel win for once. I don’t know how to not be this person.

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