Losing the illusion of control

Please note that this post will discuss self-injury and disordered eating.

Control is a tough subject for many survivors of abuse… I desperately search for control, as it feels as if my life has been so out of my control for most of my life. As I grew up, I thought that if I could just get control of things and make everything perfect, then the abuse would stop. In my world, control and safety became intertwined… if I had control, then I would be safe… but, I could never gain the level of control needed…

I’ve often thought that my disordered eating has been about control… this is supported by the inner dialogue that accompanies it – an inner dialogue that has mentioned traits such as strength and cleanliness. But, the events of the last week have shown me how little control I have regarding my eating…

It started last Thursday, and was triggered by a number of stressors… extra workload; a minor conflict with a co-worker; November 18 is my ex-husband’s birthday; and a psychiatric assessment with the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) on November 20… All of this left me feeling overwhelmed, and as if there was no way to escape. It also coincided with the idea that my weight was now “ok”, that I didn’t really need to lose any more, and that I needed to start stabilising. This last thought about my weight was seen as “weak” and a threat against the drive to control things through the weight loss, and towards the “end number” that comes from the disordered eating thinking… So, in what I now consider to be an addictive, self-injurous move; I started to binge.

I became obsessed with food. Periods between binges were consumed with planning the next episode… I binged at work… I binged with the curtains pulled… It felt so shameful and disgusting; but, this is what I thought I deserved… what I needed…

Looking back, it all seems so surreal. I can see some of the actions as making sense – as a response to the stress… but, so much of it was senseless.

I mention that there was a self-injurous aspect to it, and this was evident in the foods chosen… all of them were ones that were previously seen as “treats”. It was this “treat” aspect of the bingeing that gave me a clue as to the motivations behind it… As part of my early experiences of abuse, I was often given a treat afterwards for being a “good girl”. These treats were usually food. The treats were given to one in the system who was/is unaware of the abuse, so they were always accepted with a smile… Meanwhile the ones who had just experienced the abuse were there, watching the treats being gladly received…

This negative aspect of being given treats and presents is one that I’ve mentioned in therapy before… But, I only talked about it in a detached way, and only from the perspective of how “awful” it was to be given treats after the abuse… What I failed to talk about, or even acknowledge; was that in order for the treat to be given, something horrific happened before it. I failed to connect those dots in a meaningful way. I’m still not sure that I really have connected the dots… but, I’m more aware of them. I’m more aware of the ones within the system who hold the abuse…

I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that the final act of bingeing happened with potato chips and raspberry fizzy drink… It was like a final assault, and it worked…

On Tuesday things began to shift… I stooped to what I considered a new low, when I binged at work. Then, by Wednesday there was starting to be more internal communication about the bingeing. Since the previous Thursday I hadn’t been out walking, but decided to make an internal agreement… if I finished the walk by 11pm then another episode of binging was going to be allowed; but, if it was after 11pm, then I would draw.

The walk was “interesting”… internal chaos, at times walking faster to try to beat the 11pm deadline, at times walking slowly to make sure that the deadline passed…

I arrived home right on 11pm. It was agreed that this meant that 11pm on the dot had passed, and therefore drawing was the agreed upon plan of coping…

Abstract drawing

It’s been so long since I’ve drawn anything! I always think of it as being too messy, and pass judgements about my ability… I forget about how connecting and emotional it is…

On Thursday there was still a desire to binge, but instead I went out and took photos… meaningful, healing photos…

Ones representing direction…


Others representing the system…


It was emotional, positive, and what I needed to try to ground myself in the present. I’d become so immersed in flashbacks, that I’d lost all track of time, place, and location… These seemingly simple acts of creative expression eased that feeling… It was hard work, but worth it.

It’s now three days since I last binged. The desire is still there, but it’s manageable… The problem, is that the weight gained by the bingeing has ramped up the need for my weight to keep dropping… In the space of a week, I’ve gone from thinking that I might be able to ease the weight loss to a maintenance level, to having weight loss goals again. I know that this was going to be a possible reaction, but I still feel at a loss as to what to do…

So yes, the illusion that I had control over my eating, has been destroyed…

Now playing: Brooke Fraser – Scarlet


5 thoughts on “Losing the illusion of control

  1. Good for you in finding a creative way to deal with these issues…even if only momentarily. It is not an easy thing to do and the battle can be fierce. I had to deal with bingeing and then had to deal with a subtle form of purging. My heart goes out to you. I believe in you, hon. I believe that you WILL get through this and find victory.


  2. CG,
    So much of this is something I could’ve written. I think it’s good that you had even a momentary thought of being “ok” with your weight and wanting to stop the disordered eating. It can happen again. I also think it’s wonderful that you were able to identify not only triggers but also the reason behind the negative thought of treats.

    That reason also broke my heart and made me angry on your behalf. Both reactions I welcome because as your friend it’s right that I feel that way.

    I’m so, so, so glad you drew! And I think the work is exceptional. And the photos? Beautiful! And so meaningful! I’m so proud of you for choosing that route even though the other would not have been a failure either.

    These are all healing steps and victories. Try to remember them when things get tough.

    • Hi CI,

      Much has happened since I wrote this, so I’m going to try and write an updated blog post… Probably the big thing is that I think that the new round of disordered eating is due to the layers of denial that I’m going through as I approach my trip back to my hometown for Christmas. I’m spending 9 days there, and it appears as if the denial is ramping up as a consequence of having to be there for so long. I did some basic techniques to try and break through the denial today, and it seems to have eased things 🙂

      Yes, the whole “treat” aspect of the abuse adds all sorts of issues to an already complicated scenario… It’s all awful, no matter what…

      Thanks for the compliment about the photos – the ones of the flowers were particularly meaningful for me 🙂

      Please take care,

      • CG,

        The flowers were very lovely.

        The denial sounds like a logical coping mechanism to me. If I had to be in that situation….yea, I’d have to come up with a way to handle it and stay sane. Maybe you can use this time to plan out some safety measures and coping techniques that will keep you from harm while you’re there and when you get back home too.

        I’ll look for your updated blog post to read more.
        ((safe hugs))

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