Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
I liked food, that’s all. It wasn’t as though other people did not enjoy food, they just did not like it as much as I did.
I liked it so much I would eat it when it was stale, dirty, frozen, or still sizzling from the pan. It was so enjoyable I stole, sneaked, and hid it. When nothing “good” was in the refrigerator I settled for condiments and sugar from the bowl.
Local delivery was my best friend, especially when no one else knew about it. Binges of pizza, wings, and chinese were not unusual. I used money intended for my family on extra groceries and trips in the middle of the night for fast food.
This was not addiction or even gluttony. I just liked food.
If a person stood between me and eating (the clerk at the store who was slow, the church member who took the last goody at the potluck, my children who wanted my attention), I grew angry. Most of them didn’t know I resented their interference. Anger unexpressed can lead to depression, and I needed food to feel better.
Questions raged. Why is my husband asleep so I have to deal with the children during “me” time? How come this church member won’t stop talking so I can get over to the casseroles? How dare anyone ask anything of me when it’s time to eat? Anger at friends, at acquaintances, at strangers, at family – it all made sense to me. After all, I liked food more than they did. They couldn’t understand.
Everyone who did not overeat, or at least did not become fat, were that way because they had easier lives. Their upbringing had been happy- or at least not as bad as mine. Their current families were near perfect. Maybe they were in denial! Yes, that was it. Normal eaters did not need support because they thought everything was fine.
Not me. I knew I was a victim of circumstance. Maybe some normal eaters had other vices. If they were good Christians they would not indulge in unhealthy habits. I thanked God I was not like them.
Interventions of any kind were viewed as personal attacks and prejudice. Oh, I knew I was overweight. However, well over 300 pounds wasn’t that heavy. Food was not my problem, it was my solution. All I needed was exercise and a good diet.
So I tried. On numerous occasions food was set aside and I lost weight. See? I could stop anytime I wanted to. Yet each victory was followed by regaining what had been lost plus more. Eventually it was clear that reaching 400 pounds only required one more diet.
I did not address the mental obsession.
Each morning, my first thought was, “What can I eat today?” All day long my thoughts centered on plotting the next snack, the next meal. Finishing a dish was a letdown, so comforting ideas around how soon to eat again took over. If no one was watching, it was seconds and thirds immediately. Otherwise I would wait. And resent.
Nevertheless, there is no such thing as food addiction… right?
Huge blocks of time and memory are missing. While some of that may be due to trauma or depression, I suspect a few stories are lost under a fog of food obsession. How can an addict notice the present when all he or she cares about is the next fix?
When loneliness hit, resentment covered the fact I was not reaching out. People didn’t love me well enough. Their failure was reason to eat. In response to feeling alone, I stayed home to eat. People were kept at a distance because I trusted no one, so I ate. Food was a faithful companion.
If you know anything about drug, alcohol, or other “understood” addictions, you recognize the description. Life was about the fix, the escape. Health was a low priority.
Finally, a therapist insisted I go to treatment. Rehab. For liking food.
My first days there I ate what ever was in sight. Then a thought changed my focus. Very few people can afford this opportunity. God has provided this once in a lifetime chance. Will I take advantage of his gift or throw it away in defiance?
In the treatment center I learned life does not demand overeating. Denial fell away. For the first time I admitted to addiction.
Dieticians introduced a food plan I could live with. Life changing decisions were made to end negative cycles. Once home, for the next year emotions challenged my ability to cope because my “drug” was gone. The food plan, basically a plan of eating developed by a nutritionist, saved the day.
Oh the payoff! Abstinence (not indulging in compulsive eating) means I do not have to think about food. My mornings can be filled with praise to God and plans for the day. No cravings demand my attention because meals and appropriate snacks are already decided.
I focus on conversations and am getting to know my friends better. Instead of eyeing the food at a potluck, it is people I think about and how to bless them in some way. I accept every interference to compulsive eating as a gift.
Abstinence, sobriety, staying clean – all depend on support from a Higher Power and others in recovery. This is why I turn to Jesus and attend 12-step meetings. History proves I am powerless to handle recovery on my own.
As surely as an alcoholic cannot have one more drink or the drug addict one more high, mental obsession will eventually return me to a hopeless state if I take one bite of a “trigger” food. No flavor is worth that. I like peace best.
Today’s Helpful Word
John 14:27 NIV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus)
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
– pic by bretz on rgbstock.com