I've talked more openly about my eating disorder as I've come to understand how it works and how to identify the symptoms. It took me a long time to find a name for it, longer still on how to address it. In my case, diet culture makes it worse, makes the strings inside my chest taut and twisted. The harder I try to control, to change, to fix, the farther the yo-yo dips and rises. I once told a former partner, "When I eat well, I eat really well. When I don't eat well, I eat really, really badly."
I distinctly remember moments with mentors that, looking back, were my attempts in asking for help but not knowing how to do that directly. I would talk at it the issue, express my frustration and helplessness, but pride kept the talk strictly cerebral. This was just an "issue" I was "working through," but what I really meant was, "I see where I need to go and end up but I don't know how to get there, please help me." I hoped they would understand. When that inevitably didn't work, I slowly became more pointed, trying to ask for help in more specific ways.
I was disappointed when my mentors didn't follow up with me. In retrospect, I think the people I reached out to didn't know how to help. Pseudoscience didn't help (what a shock). Positive thinking didn't help. I talked a lot of yoga-dogma bullshit while trying to dig at my issues with food and my body. I felt broken because I didn't have a normal relationship with food, and while I became a master at talking about brokenness I had no idea what to do about it. I had to stop teaching, stop practicing, and become pretty damned angry and disillusioned before I cut through the bullshit to make changes. I gained a lot of weight in those months, but my mental space was shifting.
I still struggle to trust I'll be believed or taken seriously when talking about my ED. Sometimes I am believed, sometimes I can tell people are just humoring me. I mean, it's weird, right? No one really eats perfectly. We've all eaten too much at dinner, reached for comfort foods. We all struggle to "be healthy," to "make good choices." Then there's that nagging voice that says, "It's not really an ED unless you're starving yourself/throwing up. You just lack control and discipline."
That last line is the killer. Remember the yo-yo? Higher rises, lower falls, my friend.
It's about the food, but it's not about the food. The reasons are complicated, the triggers are different for everybody and sometimes aren't even tangible. "Binge space," as I call it, feels like panic. It feels like my skin is too tight, noises are too loud/startling, small things feel overwhelmingly invasive. Chills along my arms and hands. I often don't crave anything specific in these moments, I just have a strong need to eat in order to escape the binge space. When I do eat, flavors are diluted and the food is very rarely satisfying.
I don't experience binge space as often as I used to, but it can still happen. Experience and observation have given me tools to figure out alternative coping mechanisms. If I do binge, it stops more quickly and I'm able to shift to another activity that allows me to safely "get out of my head." Once I'm calm, asking questions and checking in with people is INCREDIBLY important. I can't stress this enough. Having one or two people I can communicate with is vital. If I'm feeling shaky, I ask them to check in on me for a few days. If I binged, I let them know, and I tell them what I'm doing/not doing for self care.
For anyone who goes through something similar, these are questions I've found helpful: What can I do in the moment to diffuse the situation? What can I do to make the area around me safer while I "ride out" the episode?
While we can't always anticipate when it'll happen, having a game plan does help. Have a snack if I'm hungry, then decide if I need to wrap myself in a blanket and watch Netflix, or if I need to go for a walk, or put on some music and flail around to expel some energy. Those are some specific steps I wish I had known back when I was clumsily asking for help, so if this helps someone else, just know there are other people who get it. I get it. You aren't alone in this.
Best wishes, and much love!