the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero


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Binge eating — one of the last of my dirty little secrets

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The Lines Project

jak-lines

When I did the Lines Project back in December with my wife and my daughter, I was reluctant to put a yellow line on my arm for eating disorder. I thought, “It doesn’t count!” A little voice said, “Yes, it does.”

I enthusiastically participated in The Lines Project last December, as my daughter and I deal with self-harm issues.  It was hard enough drawing some of the lines- but as I had come to an understanding of my cPTSD, and some of the very real dissociative episodes I had sometimes when the stress got to be too much, I figured I could count the orange and teal stripes.

Several others I thought were pretty self-explanatory, although purple was something that was also self-realized relatively recently- I mean in the past decade or so.  (I’ve written a little on my issues of sexual orientation, but not at great length.  I’ve been burnt by polarized discussion.)  By contrast, bullying, suicide, and such were very much a fixture of my childhood.

The yellow one was hardest to draw.  Much of the resources I read on eating disorders were mostly about anorexia and bulimia, and they seemed to suggest they were women’s issues– and only recently, did they start addressing men, but again, much of what I read was limited, as in the cases of men were effeminate gay males.  (How did I come to that conclusion?  The resources didn’t really talk about body image from what I thought was a masculine man’s perspective, especially as there was little talk about exercise, i.e. “Fitspo” ideals.)

I learned about binge eating in middle school, incidentally (late 1980’s) with a classmate and neighbor conducting an anonymous survey about eating disorders, but all the literature I read on it was virtually dead silent about it.

But at about the same time I was participating in The Lines Project, someone I greatly respect had something interesting to say:

We talked about it more, in public tweets and private DMs.  We’ve actually had a lot of discussions on Twitter about men’s issues– especially as I said I was aware of the men’s movement of the 1990s (Robert Bly uses a lot of Jungian archetypes, which dovetails with many subjects I blog about here).  I would dare say we’ve been virtual brothers-in-arms, discussing male vulnerability, sensitivity in men, and honest plans to address such when social norms and politics du jour seem to discourage a lot of it, or twist it in directions we feel are disingenuous.

Of course, I have yet to meet Rick face to face.  It’s also another matter to discuss a painful topic (such as binge eating) with someone in person, someone with some authority, and also someone who is a woman.

I don’t mean to sound glibly sexist– it’s not like that.  It’s that some of the people that were so instrumental in my abuse– some of the matriarchs of my family– gave me a lot of really unhealthy attitudes about food.  Food was part of the abuse.  And so I explained such in measured amounts to my nutritionist.

I was in for a follow-up appointment.  It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a nutritionist; this was my third.  With the first nutritionist I had, I lost almost 100 lbs. walking 3 hrs every day, dumbbell weight training 1 hr weekdays, and following a fairly strict diet.  My physician was worried about my obesity and possibly an onset of diabetes.  Pre-diabetes did come this third time around.  I lost around 30 lbs. this time following a counting carbohydrates diet, and lowered my A1C from almost 7.0% to 5.1%.  But no more weight was coming off.

So she started asking me a number of questions to figure out why.  It wasn’t the carbs- my blood sugars and A1C seemed to suggest otherwise.  So she started asking about portions and such.  The more she asked, the more I felt an emotion of panic and fear.  That sort of “oh shit, I’m about to get into so much trouble here.”

Don’t get me wrong.  She’d seen me in distress before, and at that time, I didn’t have a therapist.  She referred me to a contact with the Mental Health ombudsman, because I was loathe to get back into therapy, after 30 years of mostly failure, and dealing with so many arrogant and cowardly jerks for therapists.  That wasn’t an easy start, either- my first counseling placement didn’t work out.  My current arrangement came after contacting RAINN and the local SARC referred me to a therapist who is the Director of Counseling at the MH agency I’m at.

I’m not sure what more to say.  She spared me giving her all the details, although in the past, I was prone to spilling them all.  I felt very uncomfortable sharing as much as I did.

To be honest, I’m quite terrified.  I live in a community that treats domestic violence and eating disorders as primarily women’s issues.  There is slightly more visibility on orientation and gender issues, but… I’ll be honest, it’s not much.  I bristle at folks calling my hometown area backward, but, in a certain way, it very much is.