Some say those of us who use food are running away.
I used to agree.
So I was always looking and asking, “What is it I am so scared to feel?”
Am I uncomfortable with the full range of human feeling and emotion? Is my inner landscape too bright for me?
What is it I refuse to see?
In meditation, yoga, and therapy I would scour my past, present, and future and search for where I was damaged and where I was not owning up to inadequacy. I looked for story and demons. I found plenty.
For a while, I stayed there and breathed through it all.
Even though I was breathing, I still felt like I was underwater. My life continued to happen in spite of my inner conflicts. My business thrived, my marriage remained in tact, and my kids were tucked into bed with a kiss at the end of each day. Despite the normalcy and success of my life, I continued to function in weird ways; restricting, binging, over-exercising and eating standing up. I continued to loathe my body. My mind was uneasy and obsessed. I never felt thin enough, no matter my size.
Each morning as I dressed myself, I told myself I would not run away. Today I would confront myself and catch myself overeating and my private world of shame would begin to change.
It never happened. Instead of running away, I felt like I was running awry. Off of my tracks and into the mouth of a wolf. There were no brakes for me to pull. But I couldn’t find the wolf either.
And then one day a shift happened.
I realized I was not running from anything. That type of reasoning was something somebody else had made up to explain my behavior. I had never been running at all; instead, I was dealing. I was doing all the things I needed to. Taking care of my business, my marriage and my children.
The one thing I wasn’t doing was listening to what I needed. Plus, my continuous inner dialogue of telling myself how much I sucked was too loud for me to hear anything else.
Those of us who use food are coping; it’s a coping mechanism that is not working for us anymore. Instead of shaming ourselves for being cowards or out of touch, we should congratulate ourselves for showing up and dealing.
This change from seeing myself as someone who handles life instead of running from it has changed the way I view my disordered eating. Instead of beating up the messenger, I befriend her—I ask her what she needs.
Usually she doesn’t ask for a cheeseburger with fries. Usually she says, “Hey how about a nap, or a hug, or a cup of tea?” Mostly she tells me to take a break and stop trying to do it all. Accept tiredness, messiness, and let go of everything needing to be perfect.
“Be kind to me,” she says.
This weekend, on Friday, at the onset of hosting two out-of-state yoga teachers for a restorative yoga workshop at my studio (a workshop I looked forward to taking,) I decided it was okay if my house was not perfect.
This weekend, on Saturday, when one of my teenagers showed up with acute anxiety and my other one’s best childhood friend overdosed on pills, I stopped trying to be a host at all.
This weekend, on Sunday morning, when the kitchen sink broke and water gushed all over our kitchen floor, and my overworked husband had to spend most of his Sunday cleaning it up, I withdrew myself from the workshop completely and spent the day with my family, taking care of what I could. Giving out hugs, reassurance and cooking nurturing meals.
This weekend, I coped.
When I sat down on Sunday evening with my six year old curled up sleeping in her bed and my two teenagers safe at home, quiet for the time being, I asked myself, “Now what is it you need?” And when my inner voice asked for a cheeseburger and a glass of wine, I honored that.
In a local pub, joined by the two workshop presenters (whose workshop had come to an end) and my guy, I savored meaningful conversation and comfort food with the knowledge that I gave myself exactly what I needed.
Tomorrow, everything would still be waiting for me. This is how it is for everybody—this is the way of the world.
Was this clean eating? I don’t know the answer to that. But I gotta believe that whatever it was, in the scheme of things, its bigger than eating clean. Its about trust. For those of us who use food, we have to learn to know ourselves.
Eventually, we have to stop relying on the advice of others about what we need. We must trust that we have our own inner strength and wisdom and be our own best friend. And when life deals us more than we bargained for, we must see that we are not running away, but coping the best way we can.
We are not leaving but arriving. And we must learn to be kind—this is the only way in.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise