Today, I feel like I spent last night at a medieval castle — chewing mutton off the bone, drinking ale from a flagon, laughing uproariously, and tossing the bones over my shoulder to the hounds. Seriously, I was so full, I needed to force breakfast just to keep my blood sugar in line.
I spent the day cleaning around the house, and thinking about how much I enjoyed my dinner with Mom. I also considered all the millions of people who go to bed still hungry every night. I don’t feel guilty — please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Guilt is no longer a part of my life, and especially not a once-a-year lobster dinner. I loved that lobster, as I will love the one I eat next year.
But I did think about what a waste I’ve made of my body, and all the food I snack on through the day. I am currently heavier than I have ever been — even my fat clothes are snug. I eat my way through the day — I’m not thinking about food choices, except what I have in the house to stuff in my mouth next. I am eating for some other reason or reasons than hunger, and I can barely count all the different ways that is wasteful.
I have been addicted to food for a very long time. Food is my solace when I am sad, my celebration when things go well, my vehicle for expressing anger and frustration. My habit of drowning feelings of every sort in food goes back through the decades of my life to when I was a child. At 14, after waiting a day to hear from the doctor about my glucose tolerance test, I assumed that I needn’t worry about diabetes, so I grabbed a full package of Oreo cookies, and found a hidden spot to eat them all. What kind of celebration is that? And then, when the call came in the next day, I was more horrified. I don’t remember what else I ate that day, but I’m sure it was neither necessary, nor helpful.
I took a completely different tack later in my college years. I realized that I would lost weight, no matter what I ate, if I stopped taking insulin shots. From October of 1978 to August, 1979, I went blithely through my days without taking insulin, and drinking beer and eating pizza, and still losing weight. By June, I looked, to myself, like I always wanted to look.: slender, able to wear a bikini in comfort and pride for the first time in my life, sleeping through the daytime hours when I wasn’t working, and partying all night. I drank, I smoked pot, I even snorted cocaine a couple of times, though I didn’t like that kind of buzz — too intense.
I wasn’t paying for this on the salary of a diner waitress. A family of four men, 20-30, owned several of the restaurants along the strip in Old Orchard Beach; they adopted a whole pile of kids working in the area that summer, and I was in. I hadn’t ever been in in my life, and I loved it.
Food and drink and drugs weren’t the only way I went overboard that summer — any twenty-something in pants who wanted to have sex was okay with me. I have an idea of how many men I had sex with from fall 1978 to Christmas 1979, and it is a staggering number — not one I am proud of now, but certainly another layer of my unhappiness and addictive behavior. I know I was very lucky — I didn’t contract any sexually-transmitted disease, but not through any effort of my own did I avoid them.
By August of 1979, I surpassed the happy slender stage of my starvation, and gone into the skin on bones phase; I know I looked like an Aushwitz survivor, but I was still so happy to be thin. I stayed in bed, only creeping down the hall to the bathroom to fill my gallon water bottle, drink it half way down, fill it again, and stumble back to bed. Finally, my employer figured something was terribly wrong, and he called my father, who rushed to OOB, got me loaded on an ambulance, and whizzed off to Maine Medical Hospital. I remember waking a couple of times in the emergency room, but mostly that night is a blur.
This next part I am unsure of. I must have exaggerated it in my memory, because all I do remember clearly is being dragged back among the living. I think — I certainly remember my folks being angry at me. They sent me to start my sophomore year with no counseling, no intervention of any kind. By the time I arrived back at school, I had stopped taking my shots again — right back down the same road. I wish I had a recording of everything that happened in the week before I reported back to school; my memories must be muddled, at least a little — I hate thinking that my parents didn’t try to intervene, to address the obvious emotional malfunctions under which I operated. I feel like they were still operating under the mistaken notion, fed to them by my diagnosing doctor, that I needed to work this out on my own.
Fortunately, I came to my senses, sort of; that was the beginning of several decades of unhealthy choices about food, but I never came quite so close to death over issues of food and weight as I did in the summer of 1979. A lifetime legacy of strange ideas and misdirected goals — I am very fortunate that I am coming to understand my addiction to food a little more clearly.
Whew — a short post originally, but long and drawn out and emotionally draining. We just hit 6:30 here, and the time has come for supper. I wonder what I should eat?