Sunday, March 20, 2011

What am I getting out of this?

I met with my therapist today.  We were originally scheduled for Thursday, but we had to move the appointment to today.  I had pretty much one of the worst weeks of eating ever.  Lots of jelly beans, Lofthouse cookies, home baked cookies, chocolate chips, etc.  Nothing good came of it.  I've gained a couple pounds, and I feel terrible about how I look and feel as a result.  So suffice it to say, I had a shit-ton of stuff to unload today.

First off, she reassured me that in this process, I should expect to have steps backwards.  Sometimes it might even feel like more steps backwards than forwards...  but it's an expected part of this process.  That did actually help.  I was already doing the negative self-talk, where I'm unhelpable, etc.

So we kind of dived into the WHY behind my eating behaviors.  I am getting something from these behaviors, or I wouldn't do them.  If they weren't serving me in some way, I would have stopped them a long time ago.  We wrote out a list, with advantages on one side (the stuff I'm getting from it) and disadvantages on the other.  We didn't touch on the disadvantages, because we both agreed those would be easy to identify.  We started on the advantage list...  I had a hard time getting started, because it's kind of hard to wrap my head around there being an advantage to these seemingly self-destructive behaviors.  So to get me started, she tossed out some things that she's learned about through her own journey to recovery, and by helping others.

First, I identified that stuff tastes good.  That was an obvious, easy one.  I never binge on carrots.  Or baked chicken.  Or rice.  You get the drift.  So we talked about this, and something I noticed earlier this week when I was shotgunning jelly beans:  I am drawn to things like jelly beans, M&Ms, skittles, etc.  I love looking down at a handful of colorful happiness.  I'm very drawn to color, and I shared with her that one of my greatest comforts, and favorite things to do, is to sit in my sewing room, surrounded by the fabrics I have picked out, and moving them around, pairing them up, enjoying the sight of colors.  It's relaxing, and it just flat out FEELS GOOD to me.  I noticed this when I looked down at a particularly colorful handful of jelly beans.  So a visually appealing, colorful bunch of sweet tiny objects apparently makes me happy for some reason.

Moving on from there, I told her that since the last time we'd met, I had started to think about the idea of not binge eating.  And because I tend to binge eat, or emotionally eat food that I really like, I definitely felt anxiety around the idea of not doing that.  I can't really explain it, because I desire, A LOT, to have a more normal relationship with food.  But the thought that I'd no longer do this, at some point, definitely made me feel anxious.  Which completely supports the fact that I'm getting something from these behaviors.  It's not like if I give up binge eating M&Ms that I will never eat them again.  It shouldn't have to be an all or nothing endeavor.

So then we really got into the heart of the matter.  She said many women eat to kind of just check out.  At first that didn't feel right to me (for myself) but as I talked a bit more, I heard myself saying words like "distraction" and "avoiding" so it became obvious that while I don't just zone out while I'm eating, I'm very much doing it to check out from certain feelings.  As we were talking about this, I could feel myself nearing tears.  She asked what it was about, and all this stuff came pouring out of my mouth, kind of to my surprise.  Anxiety around losing people I love, and how I worry, incessantly, and it is a hard thing to escape from.  I talked a bit about my past, which had a significant loss in it, and how this past year I very nearly lost my little brother.  I'm FUCKING TERRIFIED of losing the people I love.  There are many people whom I worry about, but the three that recur for me the most are my husband, my brother and my mom.  That doesn't mean I don't fear losing other people, but those three definitely crowd my thoughts.  It didn't help when my little brother nearly died.  The worry and anxiety is all consuming for me at times.  I can be doing something else entirely, and be overcome with it.  The worry is peppered with gratitude for the fact that I get to keep him in my life, but the worry never really goes.  I have told my hubby on more than one occasion, that I hope I die before him, because I can't even entertain the thought of how I'd cope with that.  And losing my mom would pretty much rip my heart out.  I don't know how to live in a world that doesn't have these three people in it.  So as I bawled my face off, this all came spilling out.  Apparently this bothers me from time to time.  When she asked me if I thought that eating gave me a way to stop the always present hum of worry, it really rang true.

She mentioned that in college, some of her worst binge eating happened when she was procrastinating school work.  Let's suffice it to say that I identified with this.  While I'm not taking a class this eight-week term, I finished one a few weeks ago, and I am fully aware that I eat to put off doing homework.  School is easy for me, and I always know I can put it off until the last minute and still get it done, and still get an A.  So even tho I know I should get things done before the deadline, I never, ever do.  If the deadline is Sunday at midnight, you'll often find me completing my work at 11:45 pm.  It's just how I roll.  We also talked about how I procrastinate difficult conversations, or tasks I don't want to do at work, etc.  It's really an all-purpose procrastination tool.

She asked me "If you woke up tomorrow, and this eating issue was gone, what would you have to do/face/talk about, that you are avoiding or procrastinating now?"  And while I don't yet fully have the answer to that, I hope to figure it out.

It's time for me to go to bed, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We talked about more than just these reasons, and I'll write more about these tomorrow.  I'm processing a lot of this stuff right now.  And my "homework" between now and Wednesday when I see her again is to finish my list, and think more about this stuff...  I'm not sure I could NOT think about it even if I wanted to.


  1. Courtney, when I read this post, my heart broke for you. I totally understand those feelings of panic and terror of losing the important people in your life. When I was in the middle of my 7-year relationship falling apart, I remember feeling consumed with anxiety and fear. It's debilitating. I handled it by NOT eating, and losing about 15 pounds in a few months, taking 3 trips to the ER for panic attacks (I thought I was having a heart attack), and sleeping a lot. It was the worst time in my life.

    But one of the things that I learned in therapy and from reading a lot really helped me and I'm going to share it with you:

    As human beings, we spend our entire lives trying to avoid pain. We live in denial that things end and change, that life will work out the way we plan it, and that the people we love will be loving and loyal to us all of the time. Unfortunately, this is not reality, and by not accepting that pain is an unavoidable part of life, we cause ourselves MORE suffering by fighting against the truth. The thing is, if you accept the above instead of denying it, you can learn and use skills to cope with change and loss, and be free from the worry.

    The key is to observe what you're feeling, to acknowledge it and sit with your feelings for a while, to evaluate why you are feeling this way, and then to accept the situation for what it is and move forward. This is a very hard thing to do, and I struggle with it constantly. But I do find if I go through the steps I just outlined, I FEEL better. I have to remind myself to step back and not get consumed by the worry ALL the time, but when I do it, it's very helpful.

    There is a book that I would recommend to you. It's called "The Five things we Cannot Change" by David Richo, who is a buddhist and a therapist. It's an interesting read. There are some explanations in there, and some tools to help you feel at peace.

    And I do hope that you find peace in this area of your life. Apart from the binge eating, the anxiety you are feeling is a brutal thing. I'll be thinking about you.

  2. annalissa, thank you :) I will look for that book. I'm the kind of person who likes to read about stuff, so this ideal.

    thanks for sharing and reading. I'm sure I'll come back to this and read it again.