Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Unlearning for the perpetually stupid

The thing about bulimia is you can't ever completely unlearn it. You can't simply erase it from your mind and pretend you don't know about it, however much you might wish to. Forgetting dates, names, or numbers is one thing; forgetting a set of actions and gestures so ingrained they have become pure reflex is something else entirely.

So if you, for instance:

- were an "ex" bulimic in slighty shakier mental health than you yourself even realised;

- in charge of supplying chocolate snacks to an office full of eurodrones from a large bowl on your desk;

- and you had bought some new After Eight sticks for that bowl that turned out to be outrageously moreish and delicious;

- and if, in the space of ten minutes you ate 90% of the box of stupidly delicious After Eight sticks, mechanically stretching out to take another whilst still swallowing the last one until you physically couldn't force another down, blocking out any thoughts that might flit through your head;

you might find yourself toying with the restless feeling that you remember that there is a 'solution' to this kind of bingeing.

And within minutes, you might find you couldn't sit still, or concentrate, or do anything with this feeling in your gut and this persuasive whisper in your head.

And then, you might find yourself, without ever consciously making a decision to do so, ever so casually wandering along to the toilets at an studiedly unhurried pace. You might stop to get yourself a cup of hot water from the drinks dispenser, like you have so very many times in the past.

Then you might lock yourself in the cubicle and make yourself sick.

And you might, whilst doing this, be reminded that chocolate is not the easiest thing in the world to throw up. And consequently it might take you a good twenty minutes of stupid, horrible indignity. You might also find that those twenty minutes give you a lot of time to ask yourself what the fuck you think you are doing, but that apparently, they don't give you the mental strength to actually stop. You might also be reminded of all the hours you have wasted in toilet cubicles over your life.

When you had finished, you would probably feel like shit, but there might also be a tiny shred of satisfaction, at least momentarily.

You would wash your hands and look at your bloodshot eyes in the mirror over the sink, and try to fix your flushed, blotchy face so it looked a bit more normal. Then perhaps you would get another drink of water and quickly walk back to your desk, hoping noone noticed how long you were in the bathroom.

You would probably have a headache and a crappy throat and sore eyes and you'd be sad. You would be worried whether it would affect your temper tonight with your children, the way it used to. You might try and work out what 'triggered' you back onto that idiotic rollercoaster.

You might feel as if you had learned nothing at all since you were nineteen.

But how could you ever break free of it completely?


Titian red said...

Never - sadly, always the monster is there waiting to creep out and grab you...... buying a chocolate advent calendar 6 times because you just can't stop, having to go out and get butter at 3am because you still have half a loaf - and always the fear that it's all about to start again. Especially if you are feeling low. A very brave statement - thank you.

The Spicers said...

Belgian Waffle, I feel for you. Please try to stop before it becomes a habit again. You can slip up once without becoming a full-fledged bulimic.
I've been trying to have a normal relationship with food for 20 years, without much success.

Potty Mummy said...

That was a very brave post Jaywalker. Christmas is a rubbish time for anyone with a difficult relationship to food or drink. Thinking of you.

Red Shoes said...

{{{jaywalker}}} Wishing I could give you a hug.

La Belette Rouge said...

Hugs to you darling. I really know about this feeling. And, dear you, are not perpetually stupid and one or two or ten times does not mean you are where you were before. You aren't. Trust me,you are not. More hugs to you.xoxo

Marie said...

Consider it a useful alarm bell. I used to suffer greatly from panic attacks, to an extent that was completely debilitating - every few days, lasting several hours, keeping me up all night or out of work, etc. After years of therapy I almost never have panic attacks any more. Almost. But when I do, rarely, have one - or I feel one creeping up, which I manage to stave off - much as I loathe the experience, it is invariably because something in my life is wrong, and I have to stop, take stock, figure out what it is, and fix it, or at least face up to my emotions about it. So in fact the panic attacks are pretty useful, in their way.

Could it be that your bulimic lapse is giving you a similar message? In which case, thank yourself for the heads up, and go investigate what's wrong underneath. (I refer you, perhaps, to your shock at your child's school report a couple of days ago, but there may be other things too.) Good luck.

justme said...

I suspect the fact that you are writing about it here is a very good thing and a definate indication that you are not at all where you were when you were nineteen,. One lapse does NOT mean that you are getting back into the habit. Forgive yourself and move on. Xmas is indeed a crap time. Hugs for you!

Anonymous said...

good thoughts to you from san diego. food is not my issue -- nicotine is. so, i recognize the urges, and sympathize. this is a rough time of year -- so much to enjoy, so much to appreciate, that the need to be joyful and appreciative becomes its own source of stress (at least, if you're as neurotic as i am). be gentle with yourself -- i'm trying to be the same.

i know i only know you through your posts, but i think you're quite sweet. and wicked smart. and a good mom. that's a helluva lot of worthiness in my book.

Pearl said...

Ah. Dangerous behaviors. I have a couple myself, which shall, for the time being, remain nameless.

Chocolate is not your friend. Banish it.

One mistake is not a pattern. Nor are two mistakes. Think of this as a reminder, perhaps one you subconsciously set up for yourself. You've got a lot going on in your life -- this may be your way of reminding yourself that you have an internal self, outside of being a wife, a mother.

I send you a hug.


Grit said...

there are wise words here, from wiser ones than me. from me, good wishes and fond thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Every moment is a new chance to not do what you know you mustn't do, right?

At least that's what I tell myself.

Elsie said...

Yes, a slip into habit is not a pattern, and the fact that you could write about it in your usual bracing/blazing way surely is good. When you have more time for yourself, maybe you can begin to write that “perfect, acerbic, funny, cool novel” or find some other way to let loose your excellent wit and craftiness. I’m laying the foundation for your American book tour with some viral marketing: I’m teaching everyone to eat endive and flan with their fingers, to share their winter torpor with tortoises, and to wear fit flops to work (that’s my own flourish – I even wore them with socks). Take care of yourself, drink lots of water, and enjoy your boys.

nappy valley girl said...

Big hugs, Jaywalker, and much respect for writing that. It's a tough time of year - both stressful, and full of temptations food and drinkwise. But at least you are aware of the problem, and not in denial. I'm sure you will come through with flying colours.

Waffle said...

And yet again, you are all so much better than therapy. Thank you for your support and compassion and general loveliness. It makes so much of a difference. Truly.

Titian - thank you too. Is so good to feel a bit less isolated in the crazy.

It won't become a pattern ,Iheart. I won't let it - it's pernicious and destructive and I am not going back there. And that's because I am NOT in the same place as before , as you rightly say Belette, and thanks for helping me believe that. Thank god! And Justme, you are right that the mere fact I am writing about this is a sign of infinite, infinite progress.

Pearl - chocolate is indeed not my friend. It is an unhelpful bastard. Sorry chocolate, but it's true. You, however are. So thank you.

Elsie - I am puzzling over the technical scope for socks with fit flops. Are they socks with separate hole for big toe? Or do you just bunch them up? Also, thank you.

And thank you Potty Mum and Grit and Lisa and DCup and NVG for all your propping me up when I am sagging slightly. Seriously, thank you.

Er, fuck this is starting to sound like a piss poor Oscar speech. But I am truly grateful that you are all there.

Lisa, perhaps you could escort me to the San Diego margarita fountain now?

Anonymous said...

it would be my pleasure!

(now -- if you shut your eyes and listen carefully, you can hear the faint strains of the mariachi band playing in the courtyard where the margarita fountain flows.)

Pochyemu said...

It doesn't really matter how much we mess up today, tomorrow always comes and brings with it another chance to get back on the right track.

Mr Farty said...

Hey, if there's chocolate going spare, I'm sure I can find a good home for it.

Seriously, my DiL had bulimia when she was a teenager. Even now in her thirties, she just has to take each day as it comes. Oddly enough, I can't recall ever seeing her eat chocolate.

justme said...

Have nothing more to say but just want to send a few more hugs tonight, in case you need them..... You are my very favorite blogger , after all...xxx

SUEB0B said...

I'm not much of a Bible-thumper, but it always gives me some comfort to think of Paul's lament - yes, the St. Paul that so many churches are named after:

I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I do.

People have been wondering these same things for a long, long time. I have no solutions or advice.

Anonymous said...

I thought of a dozen useless things to say. Instead I will just say heres a

Ooh and also thank you for your honesty. You are braver than I.

Mrs. G. said...

I think you just try to start all over again tomorrow and be thankful that you aren't trying to delude yourself into oblivion.

expateek said...

Brave post, darling... and what they all said, times twelve.

You're a wonderful person and a brilliant writer. We all adore you. So don't be too hard on yourself. Life's tough enough as it is.


Anonymous said...

such a fantastic and moving post - you have no idea how i empathise.
iv generally found it as a sign that something needs to give in my life, and tried to find a way to make that not my relationship with food...
Maybe try and find some time to yourself? Or to spend with the family whilst not caught up in stress and angst and things?
I dont know.... its one of the hardest things in the world, but you have a lot of support - both in real life (from reading the blog you seem to anyway!) and online....

Anonymous said...

Very brave post. I fear those of us with addictive personalities are just waiting for chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol and even rogue men to trip us up. But as others have said, one lapse - or even two, three, more - doesn't mean you've lost the plot altogether.
Sending positive thoughs and bisous de Paris x

katyboo1 said...

I second, third and fourth everything everyone has said.

Marie is right. It is just an alarm bell ringing. You're brave and smart enough to listen and work it out.

You'll get through it.

mountainear said...

That was one brave post. I hope writing it down has been cathartic.
Best wishes.

Parisgirl said...

Sorry, should have been 'thoughts' not 'thoughs'...I'm having a bad spelling week.

Teena Vallerine said...

I blame the After Eights. Silly little insubstantial things that just vanish before you even know you've swallowed. Hope you feel better for telling us, your lovely, gentle and sensitive readers....I mean, of all the people to tell you chose US?! How brave was that!!!!! Lost in admiration. t.xxx

Anonymous said...

As I read this, I could only think, "Oh, honey." And wanted to give you a hug, or at least the pat on the shoulder I offer to anti-huggers.

What a hard thing to go through. I have my own struggles, as do we all; so I admire your bravery in writing this (along with your skill in writing it well).

[Apropos of nothing, my word verification is "sortleg." Sortleg? Really?]

Waffle said...

You are all again wonderful. Thank you so much for the thoughs and pats and suggestions and beautiful kind things you said. All hugely truly appreciated.

Juddie said...

Oh, please look after yourself! There are many people thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

You poor love - don't beat yourself up about it. As others have said, and better than me, one slip does not take you back to wherever you have been in the past. You are clearly aware of the danger and the fact that you are writing about it is a good sign. If you need help, go and get it, don't let it get on top of you.

Look after yourself, and remember how many of us look forward to reading your blog. I will be away now for a couple of weeks but hope to find you in a more cheerful mood when I return.

G said...

That was interesting. Fucking stupid though. I'd go for an OCD if I were you - I can totally see the satisfaction in making sure all the cans of beans are lined up neatly (which explains why I was such a good shelf stacker at the co-op), without having to confront your colleagues' toilet expulsions.

Waffle said...

G - "fucking stupid" - YES. Yes indeed. I think that to myself a lot; however I am too slatternly ever to get OCD, unfortunately.

CA - I'm plenty better already. And you are lovely.

Juddie - oh, thank you my dear. You lovely person on the other side of the world, you.

Katey said...

I just read this today after your link in the weirdness-with-visitors post. I haven't been reading your blog very long, and I know this post is months in the past for you now, but it struck me very forcefully. I feel the need to get all ancient mariner at you about my long and sordid history with this thing, because you wrote about it so well, and your pain comes through so strongly.

I'm 37 now. I was seriously bulimic from 14 to about 25 (purging every day, usually more than once), then got it down to one or two relapses a month, and eventually once or twice a year.

But after years of this relative food sanity, I started graduate school at 29 and had another serious bout. Got it under control, then got caught in something really nasty the next year and lost it all again.

I painfully cleaned myself up yet again, my petachia(ap?) cleared up and veins that I'd popped went back down (they do sometimes, really).

Suffice it to say, after all those relapsing years, I've been purgeless for 6 1/2 years now. Because I've made it this far, those six accumulated years keep my head out of the toilet. I do still binge--once in a while under great stress, say--but never like I used to, and I just don't purge, ever.

It's possible to beat it, and I bet you can. If I hadn't gone in and out of it so many times, I wouldn't know for sure. But believe me, you can nail this disease/compulsion/addiction/curse into a coffin and stake its little black heart and watch it sink into the ground and not effect your life. It may not be fully dead, but it's hurt bad and buried deep.

You are very brave and articulate and you seem really strong. I think you will win over this someday. Good luck.

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