Please note that the Stuffed With Emptiness (click for all other posts in this series) posts touch on detailed parts of my past experience with binge eating. If this could be a triggering topic to you in any way, please do not continue reading. As for the images in the post, I chose pictures of the fullness of my current life to remember I am not the person described below anymore.
I know I have talked a good bit recently about my strong need to find balance during the holidays and my slight anxiety over slipping back into old habits. I keep touching on these topics because it is a big deal to me.Why? Because “slipping back into old habits” for me isn’t simply eating a few too many cookies and feeling bloated for a day or two. It goes much deeper.
While I have certainly come a long way in my relationship with food, it still feels like a slippery slope. I have to consistently work on not viewing food as something to handle stress or emotions. I have to play a tightrope balancing act daily to make sure I eat enough to feel satisfied, but not so much that I trigger old urges. Honestly, I would say I get the niggling thoughts in the back of my head to binge at least once a week. I don’t act on it, but it is still there. And it’s still hard.
So, this time of year poses a greater risk for old feelings to lead to a knee-jerk reaction to binge. Which I must fight from happening because I always fear it will make it that much harder to keep off the next one. After all, my binges weren’t just a sporadic occurrence of feeling slightly over full. Oh, no. They were a full fledged addiction that overtook my entire life. For this Stuffed With Emptiness post, I will share a few examples of just how deep this addiction went and the disturbing actions I took to feed it.
One day I called in sick to my teaching job. I feigned illness to Peter. “A stomach ache”, I said. Yet I knew I felt fine at the start of the day…and the stomach ache would only come later in the day. After Peter left for work, I drove to the Walmart (because it had self check-out lanes so I could avoid the “judgment”) and bought two containers of Lofthouse Iced Sugar Cookies and a box of Reese’s Puffs cereal. I spent the day lying on the couch, eating everything, before driving around the corner to the gas station to dump the trash to hide it all later.
I had the urge to binge so badly one afternoon that I frantically pulled over to a grocery store. I went in and picked out my binge foods of the day – that time I chose a bag of fun sized candy and some bakery frosted brownies. When I walked up to the counter I realized that there were no self-check counters. I panicked. The cashier couldn’t find out this was all for me. Instead of realizing the disturbing quality of that thought, I rushed to pick out a birthday card and cheap bouquet of flowers. I then proceeded to make up an elaborate story of my friend’s birthday and her love of sweets as I spoke with the cashier. I even remember emphasizing how none of it was for me because I try to eat healthy.
I found any and every reason to “have to binge”. A good day? That called for a celebratory treat – in the form of two milkshakes and some fries. Stress from a tough day at work? I was at the store within minutes of leaving work buying whatever I could manage to eat in the thirty minute drive home – including a dozen doughnuts. Tired from late nights? I needed a pick-me-up. If I didn’t have a reason, I would “gamble”. I would tell myself that if I stopped at store X and they had product Y available, then I was meant to have it that day. Needless to say, I always “won” those little games.
These types of actions went on day after day after day. I knew it was wrong. I wanted to stop. Every night I laid down and felt as though I would hurl at any second because I could feel the pressure rising from an over-packed stomach. Every night that sensation sickened me just as much as it pains me now to think back on that feeling. Every night I vowed “never again”. And by noon the following day I was likely plotting when my next binge could happen. There were times I even couldn’t hold off at work and would raid vending machines and break rooms so I could sneak bites leaning over my desk drawers in between classes or during my planning period.
These actions immensely affected my health. They affected my self-respect. If I had continued down that path, I have no doubt they would have ruined my marriage, my family, my job, my faith…my life. I went through a LOT to finally break from that hell and praise God for helping to heal me. Yet I know I have to constantly remain aware of that time in my life, so I don’t go back. It’s not completely gone and that fact alone, makes me more sensitive to situations that bring those sensations back even the slightest bit more than normal. It also drives me to expose the dark side of this disorder so others don’t feel as alone. Now, I will get to sharing the steps on my journey to healing. I hope you stay tuned. Thanks for the support so far.