It's not drugs, or alcohol.
It's disordered eating.
Whenever I get stressed, I stop eating. A lot of eating disorder biographies will tell you that it's about control, about being able to control one thing in a world that is completely outside your control. But really, it's about punishment. Things aren't going so well, you can't be as perfect as you think you should be, so you punish yourself. My therapist helped me see past the "control" lie. Because that's what it is. It's a lie people with disordered eating tell themselves so they don't have to admit that what they are really doing is punishing themselves.
It's an illusion of control that does double-duty by punishing you for your evil, unnatural appetites.
And I've had my problems with other things like drugs and alcohol. But when I'm stressed, I can avoid those things. I haven't done drugs in so long, I think I've forgotten how. And as for alcohol, I know that when I'm like this, I don't go near it. I don't even look at it.
But not eating, as a woman, is an activity that is praised in this society. People reward you when you're punishing yourself. They tell you how much strength and will-power you have, pretty much right up to the point your hair starts falling out, and for some people, they'll keep on with it even then. Or, even better, tell you that you still have a ways to go.
Honestly, giving up dieting and starving myself is still harder than any other addiction I've ever given up. Because there is so much positive feedback involved. And there is so much condemnation for not doing it. And because women who do not meet our impossible beauty standards are looked down on, particularly if they've decided not to play that game anymore.
I just remember being the smallest I had ever been. Eating next to nothing, working out compulsively 4-6 days a week, living on yogurt and white rice with the occasional bit of chicken or broccoli, and still feeling like a huge fat cow because I still couldn't wear smaller than a 10. And having other people reinforce this, constantly. I swear, the sentence, "You'd be so pretty if you lost some weight" still makes me want to stab people in the face, repeatedly.
And these ideas are so ingrained in our culture, that I can show someone an article about a study that finds, "Yes, indeed, when you diet and then start to eat like a normal person, not only do you gain back the weight you lost, but you gain more because you have borked your metabolism" they will point at the article and say, "But it says you can lose weight."
Head, meet desk. Repeat.
"Well, I just have to try harder." Why? Why do you have to be in a constant state of battle with your own body? Just so strangers can feel better about how you look? Fuck them.
"I'll feel better."
I don't know about you, but when I was starving myself to meet the ideal (and failing) I didn't feel better. I felt like hell. I was always tired, constantly sick, suffering from malnutrition, had recurrent cases of bronchitis. I was cranky, irritable, weepy (ok, weepier than normal).
It's taken me years to be able to eat in a fashion even remotely resembling intuitive, and to learn how to eat "forbidden" things in moderation. Once I gave myself permission to have chocolate whenever I want it, I find that a Chocolate XOXOX bar will last me about two weeks, if Ogre doesn't eat it first. When I allow myself to have chips if I feel like it, a bag of Lays will last weeks. And I'm healthier. Last year's little escapade with Whooping Cough following 5+ months of prescribed laxative use not withstanding. I haven't had bronchitis in YEARS.
When you are desperately craving something, that's your body's way of telling you that something is missing from your diet, something your body needs/wants. I'm still not sure what the every three to six month Pepsi craving is answering, but it's obviously answering something. And I don't have intense cravings near as often as I used to. It used to be that every PMS week, I would crave potato chips and chocolate like a crazy person. Now, I don't. I just don't, because my body already gets those things if and when it feels like it, so there's no need to kick my brain into overdrive looking for it. And I haven't gotten any of those formless, nameless cravings for a while, either. You know the ones, the ones where everything and nothing sounds good. I hate those.
Yeah, right now I could stand a little more exercise, and I'm working on getting back into the swing of that, with everything else that's going on in my life. Good Lord, am I busy. I'm starting back up with the bellydancing. I'm trying to walk more. I need better shoes.
But right now, what I really wanted to talk about was the relapsing into disordered eating. Ogre's good about poking me to eat occasionally, and making sure I eat with him when I get like this. I've had to learn to ask him to help me with it, to remind me that hunger isn't a booby-trap, it's a biological imperative telling you to take care of yourself.
Sometimes I forget that.