You’ll hear alcoholics say that booze wasn’t their problem – it was their solution. It worked. If it didn’t work, we’d have found something else long ago.
It’s the same for me and my eating disorder – for a long time food and weight, binging and purging, starving and calorie counting – those were my solutions to the miseries of life.
I hated my childhood and from early on, found comfort in food. I’ve always said I was born hungry, but the truth is I was born lonely and scared with no idea how to function comfortably in the world. Other people seemed to know how to fit in, how to find friends, how to know joy, but all of that proved elusive to me.
Food, however, was always available and accessible. It became my one true friend and constant companion, until it became my everything, including my enemy. I ate massively thru my childhood. At a very young age, I developed insomnia and consumed huge quantities all thru the night. I was a kid afraid of the dark. Food kept me company and kept me too busy to notice my terror.
This pattern continued all through the rest of my life. Eating became the answer to every issue. But all too soon, that became a problem.
As a kid, I grew fast and tall, with each growth spurt ridding me of the pudge that developed between those growth spurts. I wasn’t a particularly thin kid, but I was relatively average enough.
At 13, I stopped growing and really got fat. I believed I desperately needed that food. The years between 12 and 17 were the absolute worst of my life – far worse even than my later years as a crack addict.
And so I ate. I don’t know what I would have done without food to soothe and comfort. Compulsive eating kind of saved me.
When I got too fat for my taste (and for my peers who teased me relentlessly), I stopped eating. Starving became a new way to cope. It was an all consuming activity that kept me really busy.
Counting calories and weighing myself were my full-time commitments. If I found myself frightened or worried or unhappy and uncomfortable, I’d purposely force myself to start counting calories, which helped me forget about my troubles.
Later, when I just couldn’t starve anymore, I started bingeing again. But weight gain proved intolerable and I discovered vomiting as a new tool and coping method. Bulimia offered the added benefit of dealing with my insomnia – now i had something new to do all night when I couldn’t sleep.
Were these healthy, happy and good coping mechanisms? NO, they severely damaged me physically and mentally BUT they were trying to help me, in their own misguided way.
I don’t hate my eating disorder anymore, as I did for so many decades. I feel compassion. And that’s truly comforting.