I recently started a regular meditation practice. When I say recent, i mean within the last week. I haven’t talked a lot about my eating disorder because I’ve felt a lot of shame. By avoiding thinking about the roots of my disordered eating, I avoided healing from it too. As an adult, I now realize that I was struggling with clinical levels of anxiety in childhood. It probably started when I was four or five. I would lay awake worrying about dying. I wanted to know what Heaven was like and I was terrified of going to hell. The anxiety was so intense that I had a hard time sleeping some nights. It was also around this time I started to rely on food to soothe myself. Whenever I was anxious, I would get a bowl of Goldfish. This was my comfort food for years.
This problem was only compounded as I got older and I felt that I had very little control over my environment. I love my parents and I know they love me. They did their best and were always present. I think, like any parents, they were overwhelmed with three children under four, then three under five. I needed a lot of soothing and they were only human. There were times where they told me either everything would be alright or remind me that as a child, I didn’t get a vote. I had these overwhelming emotions of anxiety and I couldn’t ever find relief, so I turned to food. Feeling emotions I couldn’t alleviate was too much. I started to stuff down everything I could with food.
As I got older and went through the waves of adolescence, I was repeatedly told I had a temper problem. Looking back, I was an angry teenager and I was angry because I couldn’t calm myself. There was no sense of peace or stillness in my heart, head, and body. I loved sleeping because I didn’t have to be “on”. There was peace in sleep that I could never find in the waking world. High school was overall a pleasant experience. I was in a stressful extracurricular activity for a year and I put on weight when the stress got to be too much from relying on food. I would have to spend hours in my room decompressing from the stresses of high school. I now know that I couldn’t find the peace I craved because I didn’t understand how my brain was operating. If I’d gotten therapy and possibly meds sooner, I feel like I would’ve felt so much better. I ended high school hoping that college would be the haven i’d long sought. College wasn’t a wholly bad experience but it was far from a haven.
Those four years were laden with anxiety and depression that was growing into a black cloud that would soon swallow me whole. There were bright spots of wonderful professors and kind roommates who helped me brave the darkening sky. I graduated feeling like I had no more structure. We can skip now to my jobs in senior living where I either knew people who died or saw people dying in front of me. I had fallen into a binge eating disorder when I was depressed because I wanted so badly to not feel anything. This continued as I worked in environments that broke my heart because I couldn’t alleviate suffering. My therapist recently,y illuminated why it was so distressing for me to witness suffering I couldn’t change. She said “ You suffered and when you asked for help, no one came”. I had never viewed my experiences in that light. In my mind, even though I never had the relief I craved, people were there. My mom and dad did their best to soothe me and help me cope. Acknowledging how hard it had been seemed like a betrayal of the effort of my parents.
Being an adult means reconciling opposing truths. Holding them both and not being consumed by the tension. My parents did their best and loved me well. I also had needs that they couldn’t meet and because they went unmet, I suffered. I realized recently that I can’t avoid feeling discomfort or pain. If I try to run, it bubbles up when it’s least convenient. I spent so much time burying the connection between head and heart that now I have to heal it. Meditation is helping me be okay with sitting still. My goal is that if I practice sitting with myself when I’m calm, it’ll be easier to sit with myself when I’m in distress. Trying to build new habits is hard. If I’ve learned anything in the past four years of rebuilding my life since my mental health crisis, consistency is key. I won’t heal overnight and am committed to practicing stillness until it’s second nature.
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