Wow, that was tough. I didn’t manage to post anything here over the holidays because I was too busy struggling with my ED to actually write about it. It’s hard to articulate just how difficult the holidays can be for people with ED, but it’s a time when I feel that we really do find ourselves bearing the weight of our culture’s bizarre relationship with food and eating.
For a lot of people the holidays mean leaving their home environment and entering a family situation in which they feel out of control of their food intake, and may be exposed to contact with family members who are, at best, insensitive and, at worst, abusers. If you don’t see your family during the holidays, you still have to deal with the huge social pressure to eat, and probably with people watching you eat and making comments on what you’re eating. The television runs endless cooking shows and food adverts. You will also be likely to see an increase in weight and diet talk, with people complaining about how much weight they think they are putting and discussing their plans for losing the weight in the New Year. You can end up feeling totally under siege.
I’ve had one of the most difficult holidays for years with my own ED. Bad weather and bereavement-related fatigue meant that I didn’t do as much exercise in the run-up to the holidays as I usually do – let me be honest, I usually make efforts to reduce my weight before the holidays to try and reduce my anxiety about all the food I’m going to feel pressurised to eat. Just before the holidays, I came down with a flu-like bug that rendered exercise impossible and then returned to my mother’s house where my mother remains oblivious to my food issues and likes people to eat with her in order to justify her own guilty eating.
As you can imagine, I felt out of control of my eating and my body. I freaked out a lot – we had full-blown panic attacks at three in the morning and as soon as my flu subsided even the slightest little bit, I started going out and walking compulsively, only to find that this made me feel ill again. The last family meal was on New Year’s Day and it was the worst, not because of anything that was eaten, but because I was under a lot of stress by this point. I got home and for the first time in some years thought seriously about making myself throw up, which was really upsetting because one of my biggest fears is a return of the bulemia.
What went so wrong this year? I think, for me, my eating disorder has always been about my anger and by New Year’s Day I was extremely angry: angry about feeling under pressure to eat foor I didn’t want to eat, angry about feeling guilty about not wanting to eat a meal that was important to my mother, angry about being sick, angry about feeling out of control, not to mention angry at my Dad for dying and permanently altering the nature of the holidays, angry at other family members about various things, angry at myself for not handling things better … and so on. My eating disorder both expresses my distress at all these things and distracts me from them.
Well, I seem to have survived and I’m very glad to be back home now in my own space and able to cook and eat my own food.