Note: This post will discuss disordered eating thoughts, behaviour and issues.
On Thursday, I was assessed by Eating Disorder Services (EDS). To say that I was terrified, would be an understatement. I have so many conflicting views about the assessment, and the reality of my disordered eating… I constantly question whether I have an eating disorder, or not. I hold up the evidence that suggests what I’m doing isn’t a big deal… my BMI is in the healthy range; I eat three “meals” a day; and I don’t do many of the stereotypical behaviours attributed to those with an eating disorder.
Then, I stand back a little, and look at what I’m doing… I have lost a substantial amount of weight over the last 18 months, to the point where people I haven’t seen in over a year, no longer recognise me; I’ve had an increasing number of people telling me that I need to stop losing weight; my diet has become narrower, and narrower over time; and my exercise regime has started to become a little obsessive. Then, there are the physical issues… I’m losing hair; my skin is becoming dry; my fingernails are constantly breaking; fatigue hits me more frequently; I get sore muscles for little, or no reason; and my digestion is obviously compromised.
But, probably the scariest thing, is my eating disordered thinking. I never really comprehended what people were talking about when they referred to the all-consuming thinking of an ED… now, I understand it a little more. In the past, when I had issues with food, I would get glimpses of the odd logic and reasoning that I could come up with… I’d start to eat something, and then suddenly become repulsed by it… I’d look at food, and it would morph into something unpalatable and impossible to eat… or, just the thought of food would make me have a panic attack. Often there would be no context for these previous issues with food, and they seemed like random occurrences. I could attribute some of them to stress, but not all of them… Now, things are different, it’s like I’m living in that space all the time. I think of food, and become scared. I’m not even totally sure what the fear is about… yes, there’s an element of “food = calories = weight = bad” to it; but, that’s not the real story. That’s the veneer that is acceptable to describe, but there is so much more to it all.
I’m well aware that there is a mix of the past influencing my thinking… My father was a butcher during many of my formative years, which has resulted in me always struggling to eat meat of any kind. My mother has had many issues with her weight over the years… as part of her own issues, she would often make derogatory comments about my weight… My ex-husband considered himself a chef, which has probably triggered one the most destructive of my food issues… an inability to eat salad. Yes, I realise how silly that sounds… I mean, salad is good for you, right? But now, I find myself frozen in front of the salad aisle of the supermarket, totally unable to pick-up any of the healthy food in front of me… Part of the reason for this, is because my ex-husband made such a performance about making amazing salads; so there’s a negative association. But, a bigger part of my issue with food, is an inability to touch it in order to prepare a meal. To give you an idea, the last time I helped to prepare a meal from scratch, was last Christmas… I don’t remember the time before that… I’m not totally sure how this fear developed, but I think it may have to do with touching raw meat, and the feelings generated as a result… associations with my father, and the butchery… flashbacks… fear… terror…
It’s for these reasons, that when I told my mother that I was going to be assessed for an ED, she commented that she wished them luck as the things that I eat are so limited. It’s this sort of reaction that helps me realise that my disordered eating isn’t about trying to get attention from my family. When my oldest brother was in his early 20’s he developed Bulimia Nervosa… the comments he received from our parents were hardly supportive… my father called him a skinny wimp, and my mother ignored it. My brother managed to find his way through his eating disorder without outside help… but he still struggles with food 20+ years later.
With all of this baggage, I went into the assessment on Thursday… it was pretty much a disaster. It was meant to be a 90-120 minute assessment, but the nurse called it off after 45 minutes. I was at my tongue-tied best… staring at the carpet and becoming more and more anxious, despite taking medication prior to the assessment. The only good thing, was that because EDS are part of the Mental Health Crisis Team, she had my notes which outlined my abuse history and diagnoses.
There were some harsh moments leading up to the assessment… having an ECG was a reminder of the physical damage that I could be doing to my body… the fasting blood tests were an odd contrast to what was meant to be achieved… but, the worst thing, was the terrible drive to restrict food as the assessment approached. There were fears that if I wasn’t “serious/light enough”, they would call me an attention seeker; or, that they would force me to eat, so I had to counter that by going in as light as possible; and then there were the conflicting views about what being accepted, or not, by EDS would mean… all of these different reactions played out in my disordered eating.
I wish those fears, and behaviours had eased with EDS accepting me into their services… but, they haven’t. The assessment ended with me being given the diagnosis of EDNOS, and being asked to add some cereal and milk into my diet. The assessing nurse kept telling me that the changes would be slow, and about helping me to gain health, not weight. But, I’ve been looking at the cereal in my pantry like it’s the enemy… I wish I could just pour some in a bowl and eat it, just like they showed in those misguided made-for-tv ED movies of the 80’s and 90’s. I guess real life isn’t like the movies after all… stink!
Now playing: INXS – Beautiful girl