I am working on recovering from a decades-long eating disorder. Primarily bulimia but I throw in stints with anorexia every now and then to liven things up. I am currently sober in my eating. Mostly. I do occasionally binge. This also does not mean I am eating well; my diet is primarily carbs. It means I’m eating three meals and a snack or two every day. It means that even when I fall off the wagon and binge, I’m not purging. I’m not exercising excessively. I’m not abusing laxatives. I’m trying to learn to accept my body size. All of the above is challenging.
It is shocking to me how much time not participating in my eating disorder takes up. How much specific and cognitive work goes into the process. I spend a lot of time having conversations with myself.
I try to keep my environment eating-disorder-recovery friendly. This is a challenge with other people living in the house, but since I do much of the food acquisition it’s mostly – save for the unexpected appearances of baked goods – fine.
I do not like having a surplus of food in the house. It’s just a thing. Surplus food makes me very uncomfortable. There’s a fine line between enough food to have choices but not so much that I feel I have to binge on it just to get rid of it.
I also do not like messy food. This is perhaps something I should work on. By “messy” I do not mean food like Sloppy Joe’s. I’m referring to the food in its pre-cooked state. I like the shelves organized. Everything grouped according to type and sub-type. All the cans facing the same way. All the boxes lined up. All the open internal bags folded and clipped. In the fridge, like should be stored with like and in an aesthetically pleasing and uniform way. My goal is to have the refrigerator look like the ones in sales advertisements. Clean, shiny, and a few appropriately-placed items. Definitely no surpluses or cramming. And unplanned leftovers are verboten. They stress me out. Do I have to eat them? When should I eat them? What if I want something else? What if I waste the food? It’s all very stressful.
Yes, this is an obsessive behaviour and yes, I need to work on it, but baby steps.
My kitchen and food supply are set up in a way that suits me and there are no “dangerous” foods around. I do not have chips or candies or cookies or chocolate in my kitchen. Sometimes, I’m okay with them but sometimes I binge. Perhaps avoiding them is giving up. I prefer to think of it as picking my battles. And, I’m working on getting used to having those things around without bingeing.
All of which sounds both good and neurotic. But I feel like I’m on the right track. At least in the kitchen. Now is probably a good time to mention the secret drawer.
It’s not actually “secret”. It’s in my office, in my desk, sitting there in plain sight. The secret part is what’s inside. I don’t keep chips or candies or cookies or chocolate around. I don’t keep binge food around to tempt fate. In the kitchen. But, for some reason, I’ve started hoarding these foods in a drawer in my office.
It is an old behaviour come home to roost again. I always used to have a secret stash. An emergency supply of all the foods I wasn’t allowed to eat. I didn’t binge on them. I just kept them, in case I needed to binge and I couldn’t get to the store or the fridge. It was like a fire extinguisher for bulimia. In case of emergency, open drawer.
I mostly leave the food alone. I know it’s there and that’s enough. Until it isn’t. Eventually, I binge. Eventually, I give up and give in and go to town. Then I beat myself up for being stupid enough to hoard. What did I think – that it would be different this time? I always give in. I always swear no more hoarding. And I always restock. It makes me feel safe. I know, if worse comes to worst, I have a fall back. I have something I can turn to. It’s like keeping my scissors in the bathroom. I don’t cut much anymore. But having them there, knowing I can turn to them if I need to, makes me feel oddly safer.
My therapist at rehab let me carry a tack in my pocket. I wasn’t allowed to use it; they were monitoring me for cutting. But she understood that having that potential outlet lessened the urges to a degree.
I don’t like having a secret stash of food or a supply of things to harm myself with. I don’t like feeling that I need them. This is close to the last step, I suppose. This is one of the last things I have to let go of, barring the thoughts. Behaviours are easier to change, however. But I’m afraid. It’s not logical, it’s instinctive. I’m afraid to make any changes that will upset the tenuous peace I’ve established. I’m afraid to get rid of the drawer stash. Sure, it might make things better. But with respect to recovery, I seem to be a glass half empty kind of person. I expect it to go badly. I expect to ultimately fail no matter that by a great many metrics, this time I am succeeding quite well.