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The War Inside: Part 6

For the majority of people food is fuel for the body. It’s a symbol of togetherness, part of family life and the social rituals of celebration, of grieving. It’s one way we show love, and nurture each other and ourselves.

For me, it was far more. Food was a retreat. I went to it when I was happy, sad, angry, tired, enthusiastic, needing comfort or pleasure. Pretty much anything, really. After a while—although I didn’t see it at the time—eating became a substitute for living. A mask to hide behind.

A Mask To Hide Behind

The really crazy thing is that, even now (thirteen years post-surgery) reaching for food is still my default setting. I have to fight every day not to let that default setting in my head dictate my actions.  Sometimes I win. Sometimes I don’t.

Writing those last few sentences makes me feel more than a little … exposed. And worried about what people—strangers and acquaintances—will think of me.

But you know what? That’s okay. I’m not baring my heart here for people who know they have life sorted out. I’m doing it for people who feel the world doesn’t give a damn about their pain. For those who struggle every day with the simple actions of being human. Who feel humiliated and scorned by others around them because they’re different. Who feel alone.

You feel any of those things? Then I’m writing for you. 

You are not alone

Okay, moving on. 

First, imagine that food is the magic pill you use to medicate your way through life. To control your emotions.

No magic pills

Now imagine your stomach is no longer the size of a hand, but the size of a thumb.

Tum-Thumb

What happens when you can only eat 1 tablespoon of food every few hours, but your emotions are in a state of roiling flux 24/7? 

What happens? Let me tell you. You no longer have the capacity to support the constant “self-medication” you’re used to. The coping mechanism you’ve used for your entire life … it’s gone.

You. Are. Utterly. Lost.

Hopelessly lost

The temper you’ve managed to control by drowning it in ice cream flounders to the surface and bursts out of you like that thing in Alien. Then the anxiety you’ve always soothed into uneasy silence with chocolate roars into life like a blood-crazed vampire. Overnight, you become this complete mess of emotions and fury with no healthy ways of dealing with the fallout. What’s more, you have no experience in how to develop them.

It is absolutely terrifying.

The fact you know you’re being unreasonable (or just a downright bitch) to everyone around you—none of whom deserves your unreasonable bitchiness—simply adds fuel to your fire.

Outwardly everything’s going great. Your body’s slowly starting to heal. The weight’s coming off. 

But inside?

Cannot fix myself

You’re turning into someone you hate. Someone you can’t change. Can’t control. Can’t fix

Which I thought was bad enough. And then something happened to nearly tip me over the edge.

We all have entrenched coping mechanisms. Some are good. Some aren’t. If you had to pick one good one (you’re pleased to have) and one bad one (you wish you didn’t), what would they be? Go on. :-) Encourage us all by sharing in the comments!

 

 

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2 Comments on "The War Inside: Part 6"

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Louise
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said it before, but I’ll say it again…..you are a very, very brave woman……*hugs* I can so relate to everything you are saying. But for now I’ll relate my coping mechanisms……good first – keeping busy with ephemeral, inconsequential things to fill the time – crosswords, colouring in, dress making, reading, messing about on the computer, watching tv, sleeping – all help to fill the day, fill the silence, stop the brain from thinking beyond the surface. Now the bad – food – that seductive, easy, brainwashing, alluring, easily prepared, even more easily consumed, unable to refuse, incapable of denying, agent… Read more »
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