I am bulimic. Not of the kind that eats and barfs, just of the kind that eats. You can say that now, I am a controlled bulimic. It means I have the habit more or less under control. I still eat compulsively, even binge sometimes, but I don’t go (usually) into these spirals of whole nights comprised of eating. I don’t make myself deeply sick with the food. I don’t (usually) gain more than, say, ½ kilo a day with this type of eating. But I used to.
It started when I was 14, even though I found solace and comfort in food for as long as I remember. But like many of my disorders, that just picked up speed and deteriorated when I was in my early mid-teens. That’s when all my emotional problems re-emerged in a new addictive form: bulimia, and on the other hand starvation and deprivation, to the point of even taking amphetamines a couple of years later to control my weight. By that time I had a substance abuse problem although I wasn’t aware of it. I didn’t call myself an addict because I wasn’t addicted to one single thing and I wasn’t physically addicted, meaning I was obsessed with filling my mind with almost any substance I could get my hands on, save for heroin, which was where I drew the line, and cocaine, which just wasn’t available. I only cared about getting drugs, but I would go for days without drugs if I couldn’t find them. Therefore I reasoned that I wasn’t addicted. I saw myself as a recreational user. But of course, I was also not functioning: not in school, having a lot of painful, casual, compulsive sex, depressive to the point of suicide and then manic to the point of aggression, although that aggression was mostly directed at myself. I spent days in a haze of daydreaming. In fact being stoned was just an excuse to daydream legitimately. These days turned into weeks, months and years. Things also escalated; they didn’t jut remain static. I mutilated my body and even my self. Underlying all these symptoms was a deep hatred for myself. There was nothing I detested more than myself, although occasionally, with the dodgy company I kept, self-preservation would kick in, and I did have my lines. I now believe that everybody has their lines, that can’t be crossed. It’s true that you have to hit a personal bottom to get out, but it’s also true that this is very elusive, because no addict is only an addict. All addicts have some type of self preservation which moderates the self destructive process, to a degree, and makes them and sometimes their environment oblivious to what is really going on and is really a battle of light and darkness within them. I think. The key I guess in treating addicts would be to appeal to the healthy side. Some addicts, like long-time heroin junkies or alcoholics, have completely lost touch with their self-preserving side and may not recognize it or believe that it exists. The irony that a lot of people use addiction to try and maintain some kind of (at least seemingly) normal life. So they make a pact with the devil – I will do my drug of choice and you will allow me to continue appearing more or less normal, you will allow me to look, for as long as possible, as part of normal society, or what I perceive as normal society. In my case, I was an alternative, pierced, tattooed, cool chick, and drugs were considered cool in my society to an extent, which makes it a lot more elusive. I think the social aspect of drugs is something that isn’t addressed very often, the fact that every addict yearns to belong, whether the bulimic who eats in secret after everyone goes to sleep and continues a shameful cycle of excellence and popularity laced by perpetual nagging thoughts of inadequacy and guilt and fear, or the hardcore junkie who roams the streets in a pack of prostitutes or burglars – all these people yearn to belong to something. People left to their own devices, people who think they have nothing to prove, and maybe people who accept their pain, will never be addicted.
I know exactly what triggers my bulimia nowadays. I know when it happens. I have restricted it to certain times in the day. It usually happens when I am already very tired and my guard is down, but instead of going to sleep I continue to torment myself, pick on myself whether with scary things (in the past, I have used internet forums where HIV+ people are bashed and ignorant posters repeatedly ask questions like “can I get HIV at the hairdresser’s if there were two bloody hairs on the seat?” and so forth; but I have become something of an icon on these forums, as well as on the love and pain forum where it took the users time to accept that a poz might actually be dealing with the same issues as them – fear of rejection, love that is tinged with fear; so now this type of self torment myself with these doesn’t work, as I feel people there are more accepting. Therefore I torment myself with reading the news, building up a knot of fear in my stomach about the war, about my parents aging in a war-zone, about my poor dog dying slowly [she is absolutely ancient], everything that builds up this tension and anxiety and yearn that can only be filled with finishing that pot of (very good and very fat) risotto and the 500 grams of grapes saved for desert which P hardly touched, before he left to sleep at his home. Now, I understand perfectly why he left – the week is about to begin, it’s the last one for both of us before we leave for our respective homelands, he wants to have an early start, and I will be sleeping with him from the middle of the week onwards anyway, because my brother and sister in law will be here. We both need a rest, and we had an absolutely fabulous weekend together. Why then am I clinging to him at the door? Letting him go, of course, but still clinging, drawing out more conversation, more affection. Why can’t I just say: OK, see you tomorrow (especially since we have already had this reassuring conversation on the couch), kiss him and continue reading the self-affirming, useful things I was reading, instead of using the internet to terrify myself and conjure up images of inadequacy combined with fear in a very similar way to the way I used and abused TV in the past, channel surfing, seeing in each one a testimony to my uselessness and worthlessness and inferiority in every respect, till finally there was no other way but to head to the fridge (or the packet of cigarettes, or both), which is maybe what I have wanted, what I have been hungry for, all along.
Yes, the war in the addict is between the fear and (self) loathing (I now understand why Hunter S. Thompson named his book that way), and the healthy side. And after a hearty, prolonged dose of the former, the existence of the latter can be completely overlooked, forgotten even. And this is just me with my mild, controlled addictions – I can’t imagine how it would be for real addict, with also physical dependency thrown it. No wonder they call it taming the beast. You can never kill the beast, but you may at least tame it so it doesn’t pose as terrible a threat as before (although ironically, you must never ever forget the terrible beast lurking in the shadows to come get you).
And just to add, I have binged at work. That often happens to me, when the office door is closed and I feel increasingly stressed and guilty over not doing any work, especially when I am alone in the office as I have been over the past weeks. So, I go for the muesli snacks, the cookies, whatever. Before I know it they are all gone and I have consumed what should be a normal adult calory intake for a day.
And how to resolve this? The only way is to stop the cycle. i already kow what's going to happen before I even start, so why do I go ahead and do it anyway? It's not a lifelong habit (the binging is, but the behaviour, such as checking certain internet forums, that triggers it, isn't). Why then is it so hard to lose? And where do I draw my lines, because I do draw them. It's not like I eat the way, say, a homeless bozo drinks. I mean, I am always aware of what I have to do next. I do it within limitations. Self-imposed limitations. Reservations. I do it as an excuse. for example, if I don't want to socialize with Ps friends tonight at a Japanese restaurant, I use the binging as an excuse to avoid this rendez-vous, instead of telling myself I'd just rather be home, resting. But I am also afraid of staying home alone, because, sometimes I feel I am out of control when alone, when isolating myself. That I need others, even P, not for their company, but to protect me against my own worse enemy - myself.