I shared the beginning of my journey with binge eating and self-hatred in Anatomy of a Binge: The Beginning. This is the second installment of this series.
At age 19 and through my 20s, I found myself in treatment for my depression and anxiety, where I was prescribed a boatload of psychiatric medications. Interestingly, this was also the time where my binge cycle was at its peak. Taking intense drugs to numb my feelings wasn’t changing the thoughts I had about myself. In fact, the only real difference was a host of awful side effects. Food was still my drug of choice, even when I was taking a complicated and hefty cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs every day. And yet, an interesting twist occurred: with this chemical alteration in my brain, it felt like I could not eat enough to disconnect. I found myself eating more, desperate to fill the empty hole. I would order food to be delivered, pretending to have a group with me so as not to feel judgment for ordering so much. But of course, the shame was not coming from the delivery person. It was coming from me.
It can be hard to pinpoint exactly when and where the shifts of recovery really started to make changes in my life. When you are a part of the mental health system, there can be time where you are “in recovery” but may not actually be living. I was diligently following directions from others; taking pills, seeing doctors, showing up to groups and therapy. I was checking off the boxes that they wanted me to check, but I wasn’t living my life for me. I changed therapists, started to devour books about wellness, and study holistic health.
I grew, healed, and evolved in therapy for over a decade, which was an important foundation of my wellness today. Therapy was also a catalyst in my decision to work with my treatment team to remove medications from my life, as I knew that there was another way, for me. (An important note: Everyone’s path is different. I have my own experience with psych meds and opinions from that experience. You do you.) I had a few distinct moments of feeling like a veil was lifting from my eyes, and a voice telling me that there is more to this life than that which I had assumed I was worthy.
Over the years, I began to make a connection between my experience with both my mind and my body feeling awful. I started to acknowledge that my body was in pain from the lifetime of self-harm that I had been inflicting. I had worked through much of my trauma in therapy, so my brain was starting to capture glimpses of hope, but my physical body was still a big old mess. I was addicted to sugar, my digestion was a nightmare, my skin was so inflamed that my body was covered in sores, and my joints were screaming with pain.
While I was working hard to heal my relationship with food on the mental level, physically, I still needed to make some serious changes. As my awareness of the mind body connection expanded, I found myself at a new place in my recovery. I had successfully removed medications from my mental health treatment plan, but I still felt like my body was filled with some sort of poison. My view of the process of eating was growing healthier, but I did not yet understand how the food choices I was making were impacting me.
Given my decades of disordered eating, I have had a lifetime of trying anything and everything to lose weight. I counted ALL THE POINTS, quit sugar (often replacing it with sugar-free garbage), ate whole grains only, dove head first into the world of macrobiotics, existed on frozen lean meals alone, and lived off coffee, cigarettes, and Sour Patch Kids. My experiments in food wreaked havoc on my body, microbiome, metabolism, and self-esteem.
When taking the time to reflect on all of this, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with memories of all the feelings. I was lost, desperate, and sick. I read book after book about so many different views on health, food, weight loss, and healing. Sometimes, I took steps forward that seemed to be on the right path, but inevitably, I would find myself desperate again. Of course, in hindsight, I now see that I was seeking an easy answer, a quick fix. I was looking to add something to my life that would make it all better. And who could blame me? Growing up in a world where medications were the first line of defense meant that I did not look to the resources that have been available to me all along. I did not even consider that simply eating real, whole foods would be the start of my true recovery and sparkle awakening.
Read the third installment of Anatomy of a Binge: My Food Freedom>>