After a binge, I felt I needed a little help from the angels- so here is the meditation they gave me to share with you. Thank you angels!
Whilst in one of my counselling sessions, I was trying to describe to my counsellor how I feel about my own identity. It dawned on me that I feel completely empty- as if everything outside of me is important and much more concrete, but inside me is completely unimportant and empty. I visualised it as an invisible human form, with the whole of life happening around them.
My counsellor said this is due to a lack of mirroring in childhood. Mirroring is when a parent reflects back to you the things you like, how you’re feeling, what your preferences are.
Sometimes parents project their own identity onto you, which means that we learn to be what others expect us to be. We learn to take our cue from the world around us, for other people to decide. We don’t learn of our innate power to create a life of our own- one that feels true and right to each of us individually.
Healthy mirroring might look something like this:
A child spends lots of time drawing and creating art work. Their mother makes enthusiastic comments: “how wonderful that you enjoy spending so much time making these beautiful pictures. You seem to like drawing butterflies very much”. This reflects back to the child what they are doing, what they are expressing as part of their identity and who they truly are.
A childhood full of healthy mirroring and guidance down the path the child chooses for themselves, gives the grown child a strong sense of who they are and the direction they wish to take in life.
Discussing this further with my counsellor we talked about how a childhood without mirroring can cause the grown child to feel very little sense of connection to who they really are.
In my case I had my parent’s tell me how I was feeling, what I preferred, etc. I wasn’t allowed my own opinion. If I made my own decision I would be criticised and warned about the consequences. If I was angry I was very bad indeed and on occasion was locked in my bedroom- anger was not an option. It was as if I didn’t exist when I was angry.
To survive in my childhood home I learnt to anticipate my parent’s reactions and to act in a way that kept them happy. I spent so much time and energy trying to avoid criticism and any anger on their part that I put little energy into finding out who I was- I was constantly scanning my environment.
Keeping my parent’s happy was so important to me as they both had traumatic pasts and suffered from depression. My paternal grandfather had ended his life due to mental health issues. I learnt this at the age of 11, and was terrified at the prospect of losing my parents, so I resolved to do everything I possibly could to prevent this from happening. So I became as “good” as I possibly could and tried my absolute hardest to make them happy.
Bring on the Food!
I’ve been putting this into the context of my binge eating and it makes so much sense! This strong sense of emptiness is filled with food. Food temporarily gives a feeling of fullness. It also gives a certain identity in that we have a relationship with food, the disorder itself becomes part of who we are!
So part of the recovery process from binge eating, for me, is going to involve getting to know myself and what my needs are.
I’ve recently started to accept the full extent of my binge eating and the fact that no amount of dieting is going to help me overcome the psychological basis for it. So I started counselling yesterday at a specialist eating disorders organisation. You don’t have to have an official diagnosis- which is handy as I don’t have one- though I’ve always seen it as binge eating disorder, as I don’t purge, or use laxatives, which would qualify as bulimia.
My counsellor is lovely and helped me to calm down as I was feeling panicky!
I chatted mainly about my experiences in childhood and as a teenager. There is a lot of rubbish stuff that needs to come out of me. I always wondered whether talking about abusive experiences would ever really help me, but now that I am ready to talk about them I feel that I would be somehow ridding my body of the toxicity of the emotion and energy attached. I feel a need to rid myself of this toxicity and this feels like the right way to do it.
I know Slimming World and Weight Watchers can’t help me with my psychological issues. I use food to soothe the pain of the past. I abuse my body as I have learnt that bingeing does temporarily soothe that pain.
But I also realised recently just how much time, money and energy I put into my binges. I worry about where and when I’m going to get my next binge stash. I worry about finding the privacy to binge, of being found out, of hiding food packaging from my housemates. I always wrap the packaging up in black bin-liners and take it straight outside to the main bin. I’m anxious about being caught amidst the shame of my lack of self control. The anxiety and effort of it all are exhausting!!! Lol!
But, do you know what? I really am starting to believe that I can overcome this. It is going to be about working on loving and taking care of myself. I really am starting to believe I deserve to have a great life and be happy! Food can’t take the pain away, or re-write an abusive past, but the more I love and care for myself, the less I will feel this pain. It will take patience as I think this is going to be an ongoing project, but I am loved and supported and for that I am truly thankful.
Dysfunctional Eating & Body Image
Today in The Sun Lucy Davis– known in the UK for her role in hit comedy The Office- spoke up about her eating disorder and how she has been in its grip for years.
I could really relate to the obsessive thoughts about food and body image she spoke about.
Since a teenager I’ve been absolutely fixated on how much I weigh and how I look. This has stayed with me through periods of mild restrictive eating, to where I am now, in over-eating-ville. Medications like Depakote and Olanzapine haven’t helped as I was totally ravenous on them.
Binge-Eating and Impulsiveness
Binge-eating is a common problem in people with Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and is an addictive pattern I myself have developed over the years.
With Bipolar I always think it’s the impulsiveness that is the problem. Binge-Eating Disorder (click here for a detailed profile of the disorder) is characterised by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, often impulsively. There is an out-of-control quality to the eating which can feel desperate.
It differs from Bulimia in that no purging or reversal behaviours are present. The impulsiveness of Bipolar and BPD make us particularly susceptible to addictions of all kinds. Some of us just choose food!
Interestingly I found a clinical study on Medscape that discovered the behavioural disturbances involving impulsivity in Bipolar patients were present both in manic/hypomanic and depressed periods.So we’re pretty much screwed all the time then!
I really do think it’s about time our government and the NHS would look into treating Binge-Eating and Compulsive Eating seriously. I’ve never been given adequate help, even when I’ve spilled my guts out about how I’ve felt to my GP. The usual line is “eat more fish and vegetables”. Thanks, like I didn’t already know that! Those of us with this kind of problem usually have full awareness of what is healthy and what isn’t. Control is the issue, as well as managing our emotions effectively. Please government- help us with these things!! We have a massive obesity problem in this country and it wont go away until someone important takes eating disorders and their treatment seriously.
Things That Have Helped Me In The Past….
I can’t really impart any words of wisdom on how to overcome such behaviours, as I still grapple with them myself. But these are some things that have been useful to me in reducing binge eating and improving body-confidence in the past:
– massage. Someone else accepting your body for the way it is really helps you accept it.
– Hatha Yoga. The physical relaxation gained can be very therapeutic and helps you feel comfortable in your body. Also the principle of working at your own level, and acceptance of what your body can/can’t do is very helpful. You can get to know your body with Hatha yoga and become friends with it, rather than enemies.
– exercise. I hate to say it, but exercise did help me with feeling good about myself.
– journalling and writing down things we’re feeling can help us become more self-aware and manage our emotions effectively. Seeing as bingeing most often occurs when our emotions are all-over-the-place, this helps to reduce the need to binge.
OK, just need the motivation to get exercising and yoga-ing again!
In the UK help for eating disorders can be acquired from B-EAT, who help all ages and also have specialised help for young people.
Lucy Davis on Bulimia- The Sun (UK)– really worth a read if you have eating issues too.
Pharmacotherapy of Personality Disorders With Impulsivity– Bipolar is included in this.
Song of the Day: No Light, No Light by Florence & the Machine
Really struggling with the binge eating at the moment. I feel so ashamed of my behaviour. I’m greedy and out of control. I hate the way I feel after I’ve binged- bloated and sick and guilty and full of shame. So why the hell do I do it?!!! Aaarghhhh!!
I hate that I can’t stop. I have no ability to delay gratification and my impulse control is virtually non-existent. I’m so worried for my health now. I was hoping going back to the gym would automatically help me to focus on health and nutrition, but it doesn’t seem to be working that way!! Guess it’s early days.
I don’t remember a time now when I wasn’t extremely preoccupied by how I looked. At school losing weight was more about avoiding any teasing. I guess a lot of it is STILL worrying about what other people think of me. Are they judging me as much as I judge myself? It’s quite narcissistic really to think that other people are focusing on how you look. I’m convinced that when I walk out of the house I stick out like a sore thumb, I feel so self-conscious and am only comfortable walking around Spixworth really early on in the morning when no one else is about. It’s not that I don’t go out, I do, but I just love knowing that nobody is there to judge me- it’s freeing. I am extremely harsh on myself. I don’t mean to be. Controlling the thoughts your mind comes up with is bloody hard: you’re a fat heifer, why would anybody ever find you attractive? You look like a kid, I hate the way you look- just a small sample of the pleasant things I say to myself. Don’t realize that I’m doing it half the time, which makes it harder to stop. But because I do this to myself, I assume other people are also thinking the same things about me.
As a slim teenager I actually thought I would rather be dead than fat! I was very self-controlled, maybe too controlled, and I guess I was guilty of judging larger people harshly. Now I am fat I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to die, just not to live life like this: waking up everyday hoping I’ve lost a few stone (!), feeling my stomach, how big is it today? Worrying about what I’m going to eat. Thinking about how I look every second of every day. It’s weird because even though I take very little care of my appearance in general these days, I’m still worrying about it, maybe more than I ever did! I honestly think my anxiety has never really improved, I seem to have a chronic level that always exists in the background. Suppose that’s Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I understand is a common co-existing condition with Bipolar Disorder.
Why is it so important to me for other people to approve of everything about me? And it really is you know! It’s almost the main point of my life, to make everyone like every little thing about me. Guess it all stems back to the whole keeping your parents happy thing. They were very depressed when I was growing up and I felt it was my job to keep them as happy as possible. If I came on the end of their wrath I felt so worthless. You don’t exist as a child without your parents- you’d be abandoned if they disapproved of you so badly, and my Mum & Dad’s reactions could be pretty devastating. I need to be gentler on myself. It is not my fault that I have learned these thought and behaviour patterns. But I am the only one who can change things. That’s a huge responsibility- taking care of myself. I want someone else to do it for me! It’s so scary to take responsibility, well, to me anyway. But I’ve got to remember I’m worth it (cue L’Oreal hair tossing).