I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my brain, and how it works. About why I am not “normal” (not that anyone is), and how I became that way. I’ve never had straightforward answers to explain why I became the way I did. The so-called answers I do have are only assumptions I have come to after mulling over my feelings and thoughts for hour upon hour, and reading accounts from others that have been through a similar situation.
How can a baby be born, automatically seeking nourishment, craving its mother’s milk and grow up to shy away from the very thing that gave it strength to cry out at the wonder of a new world? How can a child go from eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese and crackers, toasted bread with butter and jam, and decide months later that for breakfast, they will have a peach? How can an adolescent find herself so mixed up and sad, that she decides it would be easier to stop eating regular meals, than to face the fear she feels when she looks at all of the options in the refrigerator at noon? This is the same girl who, when she was eleven, ate seven slices of frozen pizza just to see if she could beat her brother at a contest of who could eat the most pizza. A girl who ate slice upon slice of toast when her dad had a “toast fest” and made slice after slice of jellied bread, until a whole loaf had been consumed between her father and her siblings.
The conclusion I have come to is this: my disease crept in slowly. It was like a toothache that you don’t notice is there, or keep ignoring, thinking it is just a normal thing…until one day the tooth hurts so bad that it has become a problem you can’t ignore. I remember slight hints that I was becoming a girl with bad habits. Looking at nutrition labels way too often. Letting calorie counts dictate whether or not I would eat a food item. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Exercising excessively and obsessively. I thought I was being “healthy”. Making positive changes. But unlike lots of things that I would start and then give up a few days later, I kept this up. My little attempts to eat healthier and exercise became habits, which then became rituals. I started to get anxious if I wasn’t able to complete all of the tasks I had set forth for myself in a day. If I missed out on my walk for the day, I was a complete wreck. I had to make it up the next day. If I ate too much at one meal, the next meal would be smaller, or nothing at all.
How did this happen? Was something in my brain wired wrong from the beginning, to make me turn into such a weirdo? I am pretty sure I have the tendency towards an obsessive personality. I have anxiety, also. Mixed together, these things might just be what they are. But something was born from these two things. They saw an opportunity to wreak havoc, and took it. And so, here I am. I place the blame on myself, though most of it is psychological, and something that just seems inevitable.
Think about it this way: if a person is trying to lose weight, they might go on a diet, right? Ok, so they are probably going to make some rules and guidelines to help them out. One of them is most likely going to be: don’t eat as much. Or don’t eat so many sweets. Or eat more veggies and less bread…whatever their tactic is, it’s not that different from how my brain needs to work now for me to gain weight. For so long I had this “lose weight: mentality, though I never, ever needed to lose weight. My thought process looks something like this: Hmmm, what should I have for dinner? I could have pizza, that’d be yummy. Or I could have some pasta…or soup. I wonder which one has fewer calories? (Calories = guilt and anxiety) Probably the soup. Ok, so I ‘ll have soup. And bread! But no butter…butter would just make me feel anxious. All right, soup and bread. And for dessert I’ll have a brownie. A tiny slice. Or no, we have some frozen yogurt, I’ll have that. And then maybe later I’ll have some crackers or something. I can deal with that. You see? It’s this thought process, much like what I would imagine a woman trying to manage her weight would use, that I used to use all the time. I am trying to get myself to the point where I can do some positive self-talk, telling myself that what I eat is what I need. I can never eat too much at this point, because my body is really hungry right now, even if I don’t always feel hungry. My hunger cues have been shut off, and I have forgotten how to listen to my body and what it is telling me. Instead, I listen to the little monsters in my brain and they are what tells me that food is scary, and bad, and that I don’t deserve it and it’s so much easier to just not eat, than to fight with them.
I’m learning how to fight though, because just like any battle, I must fight to survive. If I just stand still , and let my enemy attack me, I will die. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…but sooner rather than later. I know this, and you know this. It’s obvious. And yet somehow, I push this reality to the back of my mind most days, because it doesn’t seem like a threat most of the time. The threat is real. The battle is on.