7 Magical Steps To Letting That Shit Go: A Raw and In-Depth Look at Binge Eating and Shame
"Information Left Unshared Becomes a Burden."
- Gail Larson
This piece was started over 2 weeks ago. It was abandoned and rewritten multiple times, so forgive any time hop confusion. It simply took me many attempts to regain composure, soften my shame, and free my voice about this specific leg of my ED (eating disorder for those of you who aren't hip to the acronym) journey. This entry may not seem like such a big deal to you, but herein lies my utmost shame. My goal is to unite, practice self-love, spread compassion to everyone (and I mean everyone), help us remember that we are all human, we all experience things and thoughts that we don’t want anyone to know about or talk about. I am here to tell you, you are not alone and it is so going to be okay.
Okay, take a deep breath.
Yesterday, I unknowingly fell back on, got lost in, and regressed into a habit that has never served to bring me anything but hurt. It's an action that reigns supreme as the oldest pattern my spirit knows. Saturday was the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, a time of atonement, sending love to those whom have passed, and fasting for quiet reflection. It is a sacred experience and a transformational one when respected and honored. I chose to fast, just as I had the year before in recognition of the tradition and support of my loved ones. What I realize now, with enough time having passed, having space and room to breathe, in retrospect, under those choices was a deeper decision, a subconscious and secret longing, that in fasting, I would be able to also reset my body and my hunger, restrict, remember my will power and my strength, and maybe, just maybe, be more in command of how I have been intaking food. Hello, once again, my dear friend, ED.
Talk about unraveling the marvelous self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love practice I've been cherishing for the last two years. It was not a pretty sight.
I didn’t mean to go there like this. I didn’t mean to restrict. I didn’t mean to let my ego take the wheel. But that is exactly what happened. I fasted. I exercised hard. And then I binged.
I binged hard. And the shame that enters, floods, and drowns you in a binge is some of the most wretched evil there is.
If you have never binged before, let me take you on a quick walk through what’s it’s like physically and emotionally. I do think everyone’s experience with their drug of choice and how they use it is different. But let me help you understand what it’s like in my world.
Saturday 9/30/2017 4PM EST
I haven’t eaten for about 20 hours. Something is going on below the surface, but I may or may not even know it. There’s some kind of misalignment, confusion, or pain that is scratching at me emotionally, but I have subconsciously already made the move to disconnect. I don’t even realize that I have disconnected. This is before the binge, maybe before the starve. It just comes so naturally that I don’t even seem to be aware. It is a total disconnect.
I haven’t eaten for about 20 hours. I am happy and clear and feel like I am on top of the world. I’m feeling even happier, joyful, and abundant than I have in awhile. Everything is so good. I am proud of myself for holding out so long, but simultaneously I am also having a below the exterior of my smile freak the fuck out. It’s a tiny anxiety attack in the back of my mind yelling, “what the fuck are you doing!!!??.”
And then it’s time to eat because I just can't wait any longer. And I’m alone. And maybe I’m too hungry to even cook. Yeah, that’s it, I’m too hungry to cook, to be patient, to wait, to be calm. I open the fridge and take out the first thing that calls to me. Peanut butter, yes, (I keep all nut butters in my fridge because I like them a little cold), (don’t judge...how hilarious is the thought of judging for cold peanut butter when I am just now sharing my biggest source of shame since I can remember..oye vey!)
Oh peanut butter how I love you so! You are just right. You are salty and just sweet and just smooth enough for me to smear on a crisp, perfectly ripe and juicy Gala apple! I dig into the jar with a spoon. I am standing at my counter top, not thinking at all. I have disconnected from my physical body emotionally. I am just moving like a puppet being controlled. I don’t need my brain, my hands and arms know what to do. I have experience with this. I am being moved. I am eating now. Chewing and eating and chewing and crunching and feeling the food and tasting the sweetness, but not really connected to the act. It is just happening. It happens for a long time. 2 apples down now and I don’t even know how many spoonfuls of peanut butter. Half of the jar is gone, but I can't remember how much was in there when I began. Did I just eat 7 servings of peanut butter? Fuck. I open the fridge again. Leftovers from yesterday. Mmmm yes, I remember that chicken. Protein I think to myself. Protein! Then it’s gone. I’ve eaten it so fast that I didn’t even get to really taste it. Shit. I don’t feel satisfied or satiated and I want more. I feel like I am a bottomless black hole of hunger and I can eat forever. My mom calls and I take 5 to connect, but my head isn’t in it and I want to get off the phone. I want to eat more and this is interrupting the process. I start eating again. On the phone! What do I care. Eating. That’s what’s on my schedule right now. I need to eat. I haven’t eaten in so long and I worked out so hard, I need to eat. I open the fridge. I find rice pudding. Omg yes! Perfect! Sweet, sweet, Sugar, my old friend who I ostracized so long ago, sugar, I never eat sugar! I need it. Eat. It’s everything I hoped it would be. It feels so good in my mouth. Mushy, perfect, creamy. Cinnamon, nutmeg. Perfection. Yes, eat this. I stop. I don't even realize what I've done until it's over and then...the dread sets in.
I know it’s time to stop. My brain has finally cued into my stomach. The signals are finally being sent. This is good. I know I need to stop because I can remember what happens when I fully engage in a binge. When I fully engage (or let’s call this disengaging) I am rendered completely useless. Dead. It’s like I’ve poured cement down my throat and it’s hardened into every limb and every cell. During times like these I feel like I am no longer human. Like the sweet, playful, courageous, and fun loving girl who once existed is now dead. It feels like she will never return and that life is over as she knows it. After a full binge I cannot move. I have to lay down, in pain, and wait. For the next day, or the next week to feel normal again. After a full binge I watch hours of television. Numb, useless. Dead to the world. If you know me, you wouldn’t recognize this side of me. The weight keeps me stuck, pulled down to earth, to numb out to whatever was creeping below the surface. After a full binge, I starve for a couple of days to find “equilibrium”. After a full binge I want to hide in shame forever. I want to die and when I was younger, that thought would seem like true bliss. A way out of the shame. A way out of being seen again. The ultimate hide. A way to still be accepted. "No one is going to love you ever," I would think to myself.
This was not a full on want-to-die kind of binge. But it was farther than I wanted to go and it felt like a relapse. Was it a relapse? After this experience, something in me shifted. I realize that I’d “lost control” and subconsciously put myself in a state of (undeserving) suffering.
For the next few days (3 to be exact) I see-sawed back and forth between feeling like a hopeless failure and knowing that I have come so far from where I once was, that I couldn’t and shouldn’t put myself through the guilt and shame that I was currently enduring.
I guess this is the reality of being human. There are mistakes we make that we learn from and sometimes we think we have learned a lesson, but it hasn’t been fully flushed out from every angle. There is still some piece of that lesson that is lurking, it’s a darkness in ourselves that we haven’t yet acknowledged that is still sticking around, waiting to be prodded and poked and stirred. There is still a piece of us that we have ignored and it wants to be heard. Like a sleeping bear that will eventually wake out of its hibernation. I will never forget hearing, “what you resist, persists” from my ED specialist nutritionist last year. It was both horrifying and relieving to hear. I had ignored my hunger, my body shame, and emotional trauma for too long and it was not going anywhere. I could not “pretend everything is okay” it away. I had to step up to my pain and confront it, head on, or it would follow me forever. We all have these lessons, these mysteries, and pain that keep showing up in our lives. Lessons we haven’t fully embraced. Pieces of ourselves we haven’t fully accepted that, when suppressed too long, will bubble up, surface, and demand to be heard.
What I know to be truer and more real than anything else, is that this darkness must be met with compassion. I’ve met the darkness with anger, guilt, and mistrust before and all that results is stronger, more intensified darkness. It needs light, it needs love, and it needs to be softly and sweetly accepted and heard. The darkness is pointing us in the direction we need to go. It is showing us places that haven’t been fully loved. When we don’t love and accept ourselves at every angle, the full spectrum of our own personal color wheel, we are met with a backlash from our soul selves. Our soul, the part of us that goes deeper than our surface aesthetics, our desires, our human qualities, needs to be honored and it needs to shine in order for us to embrace the full experience of our lives. We must show up in totality or it is like not showing up at all. The older I get, the more I am able to recognize that this is exactly what authenticity is. It is the human experience of not hiding, not shaming, but instead, stepping forward into your truth as painful and uncomfortable as it may seem. This truth is who you are and these lessons are what we came here to learn, understand, and heal because our personal lessons are also collective ones. We are not unique in the shame we have, oh no, quite the contrary. As much as we are “special” and different from everyone else, we are also exactly the same. We all have darkness and we all make the choice to hide it away for no one to see, to let it encompass us in its blanket of pain, or to come forward into the light with love, to instead be folded, wrapped, and held in the faith and warmth of the universe, to treat our shame with ultimate kindness, and in doing so, heal the collective consciousness. We are each other. We are not alone.
7 Magical Steps To Letting that Shit Go
- DEBUNK SHAME or it will control you. I learned something incredible about shame recently from watching a lecture from Dr. Steven Hayes at the Self-Acceptance Summit. Hayes explains that shame makes you hide and when you hide, you cannot heal. It is a cycle of keeping your pain secret. When you keep your pain secret, it has a nasty habit of growing stronger, becoming a bigger deal, controlling you, and making you experience worse pain! That doesn’t sound enjoyable to me! This is where the debunking comes in. Know that you are not alone. Let me say that again. YOU are not alone. Every single person on this planet has at some point (maybe even right now!) experienced these feelings and most of us are letting them grow, rather than letting them surface and be softened. Or maybe you are not even acknowledging it all all. Remember, the hiding makes the action or feeling seem worse than it actually is. When I share my story it is like shedding a layer of myself that was choosing to hurt me, it is like scrubbing the grease off a very dirty pan and making it shine again. I realize it wasn't even as big of a deal as my thoughts made it out to be! Having to look at a nasty, greasy pan everyday just seems to infiltrate every cell of my body with more layers of shame!
- Meet Your Shame with Compassion and Love: When I have done something I feel embarrassed about, I begin to talk to myself (silently of course) as though I were a parent talking to a child. I meet myself in this vulnerable and raw place with empathy and understanding. I would never ever tell a child that they are stupid, or ugly, an embarrassment, incapable, fucked up, pathetic, or useless. Would you? Use your mind as a tool in this situation. Don’t let the voices of hate run the show, they are not who you are. You are marvelous. Love on yourself the way you would your little one who has simply spilled milk. It’s okay, my dear! We all make mistakes! Sometimes, I even start writing a list of all my accomplishments ( I never want to do this, but it works) and when I remember how great I am doing, my whole perspective shifts.
- Here is something completely new that I am just starting myself and has already made huge shifts in me, it’s EFT. Emotional Freedom Technique. When you are in your bad place, find somewhere quiet, somewhere you can be alone...and do this. It’s free and it has given me freedom from the weight of what sometimes feels like being buried under boulders to feeling like I am human and breathing again. Check it out here. eft.mercola.com/
- I know you’ve read this from me before, but this is more crucial than ever. Get some paper and a pen and just start writing. No one will read this. Write and write and maybe cry. Do not think about it, just write. It doesn’t matter what you write. This process has become a sacred healing ritual in my life. It’s taken me through many confusing times and helped me wade through murky waters. It also helps you track your progress. There are many many entries in my private journal that I am now shocked to look back on and elated to discover how much growth has happened.
- MUSIC. Put on ANYTHING. LOUD AF. It can be super poppy happy, jump around like crazy music that maybe you really aren’t feeling, but allow yourself to jump around without abandon or inhibition and let that shit out and your emotions will shift. When you move your body, you also allow energy to flow through, into, and out of you. It seems simple because it is and it works. You might also put on music that ignites anger, passion, fierceness, or badass-ery within you. Music allows us to feel, to go all in, to just be. The last thing you want (if you are on the growth train like me) is to detach from emotions, so feel it all, boo.
- Get to yoga. Any yoga. Get back in your body. Connect and breathe. If it was not for yoga, I would not be where I am today in terms of self-love, compassion, and freedom. Here is some free and excellent yoga! www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene
- Rinse. and. Repeat. No literally, wash your body. Being in water has a purifying (deeper than your skin) affect and will help sooth you. Extra points for bodies of water outside and in nature.
I have come a long way from just surviving my pain. My secrets once ran the show. They kept me trapped and controlled my actions. My fear (literally) kept me small, it kept me from love, it kept me from me. I am no longer afraid of myself. I am no longer limited. I am no longer afraid to be alone. No longer afraid to trust myself. I have come a long way from starving and control and with every ounce of truth, I thank the universe for these lessons I was brought here to learn. I am only love. Love is my truth. Love is me and I will stop at nothing to shine as my authentic, real, food confused, childhood traumatized, curious, sassy, fabulous, adorable, and magical self.