My therapist said that this week and although the shift was abrupt, it was welcomed.
When she said that, I felt a sense of gratitude because we’ve done nothing but go in circles with me talking about food and her talking about food, and me talking about why I can’t change and her talking about why I should, and just coming to no consensus because we are both firm in our beliefs.
So, the change was welcomed and needed. Internally I felt even more gratitude that other issues would be given attention instead of the food getting all the attention. As we talked I also felt sad that we had wasted so much of the session on food before the subject was changed.
My therapist wanted to get at what’s behind all of this and I think she was changing tactics. Instead of trying to talk me out of my disordered thinking, which had been unsuccessful, I think she decided to attack the problem another way in hopes that the eating issue would be resolved because we figured out the why.
She asked me where all this was coming from and I had no answer. I have a done a minuscule amount of reading on eating disorders this past week and had only come up with the conclusion that I don’t have one because I don’t fit the requirements for either anorexia or bulimia. On a side note my therapist said EDNOS would be my diagnosis. Whoopie.
Anyway, I told her that in my brief reading, it would seem that if I was going to develop some sort of eating disorder, it should have happened when I was younger in response to my abusive upbringing, not now in my 30’s. And it also made no sense to me because I don’t recall ever going without food, so why would I develop a food issue at all? I find it all very confusing.
My therapist’s suggestion was that I had various coping techniques or distracting methods as I grew up and that perhaps this is only one in a long line of things I’ve done to survive. But she also believes that there’s always a reason behind behaviors like this if we can look deep enough or far back enough. One aspect she mentioned was control, which is kind of obvious but we’re looking for more. She asked me to think back to my childhood but again I was stymied because I didn’t have food issues growing up. We were poor but I never went hungry.
The only situation that I can think of where food might have been an issue when I was a child, was when my mother left me at home alone at night while she did whatever she was out doing. During those times I talked to my imaginary friends to get through it and I pretended to be someone else’s child, in a family with two parents who loved her. I even made up some siblings to take care of me and talk to. I honestly don’t remember eating during those times or being allowed to use appliances to heat up things. But I’m not saying food was an issue, only that I can’t really work out any other time when I would have been more neglected physically. It could be that I ate before she left and therefore wasn’t hungry later. I don’t know.
There was also the time when I visited my biological father and his (then) new wife, seeing him for the first time in what was probably 7 years or more. I’ve written about this before but I view this time differently than my “childhood”.
My father’s wife left me at their apartment with no food for hours and no idea when they were coming back. I got hungry but there was no food. They came back eventually and my father’s wife gave me a some fast food to eat. As I gratefully took a bite she smiled and said that I was eating my father’s food. I was immediately horrified and mortified. I was so embarrassed that I can’t even describe it. I stopped and apologized for eating it because I thought it was for me. She smiled in what I now know was malicious glee and after letting me squirm briefly she said that she was kidding and that it was for me. I found it very difficult to eat that meal.
The reason I view that situation differently though is because I was no longer a child. I was at least 12 years old or possibly going on 13 years old if not 13 already. I feel that I was old enough to not allow something like that to affect me so severely. I honestly don’t see any connections to that past and now.
Going back to this week, my therapist said that one thing I should do is figure out what emotion I’m trying to distract myself from by doing all of this. She has four categories of feelings in order to keep things simple: sad, mad, happy or scared. She says that everything can fit into one of those categories. So her question was: which of these emotions am I avoiding? That would be the key to why I started doing this.
She said that an exercise could be to think about which of those emotions am I least comfortable with? Or which one am I most averse to? Whichever one it is, that’s the one that all of this distraction is actually about.
She said to imagine if someone asked me how I was doing, which of those four emotions would I never admit to?
I was also supposed to think about my childhood and find the thread there. I asked her how I was supposed to do that when I can’t remember anything about my uncle, apart from the one incident? Her feeling was that whatever thread I found in my time with my mother, I would also find it further back with him.
At this point in the conversation I brought up (again) my worry (or fear) that I’m just making up stuff about my uncle. I said what I was most afraid to say to her which was: ‘When you said that it would be unlikely that his kissing me between the legs would have been his first move on me, perhaps I ran with that and made up a whole bunch of scenarios for whatever reason.”
She asked, “For what reason?” with a tone of absolute puzzlement as if she couldn’t imagine why I would do such a thing. She has a lot of confidence in me doesn’t she?
Then she said to me, “Are you that open to suggestion?” in a tone that was ripe with “Yea right!” She described the type of personality that would be more prone to suggestion, which according to her, is the complete opposite of who I am; a fact that she was aware of when she first said what she did. She said that she has to be aware of who a person is at their core and I’m assuming she said this because she believes that I would never respond to a suggestion by just going along with it. I like to think that she’s right. In any other circumstance I would say that I know who I am but in this….it’s just harder.
I told her that I could not deal with a realization that I made this up. I couldn’t. It would destroy me and because of that I wondered if that was my fear.
And no, I’m not easily influenced by suggestion, but knowing that doesn’t make me accept everything I’ve seen either nor does it cancel out the doubt. My saving grace in this is that she never suggested anything else like where anything could have taken place, or when or how. Her only thought was that my uncle wouldn’t have done that in a house full of people as step 1 in abusing me. I came up with the “hallway”, the “room”, lying on the floor, etc. all by myself with no input from her. And of course she puts a lot of stock in my “feelings” and gut reactions etc. I’m also reminded of all the reactions I had before any of this was ever mentioned or before I even met her.
So, I am now tasked with the lovely job of thinking about my past and delving into my emotions. Two of my favorite pastimes. Hurrah!
I haven’t done any deep thought yet but I’m pretty sure the emotion I’m running from is either Sad or Scared. Right now my gut is telling me the emotion is Scared but I need to think about it some more.
At least I can think about something else for a while…