Food makes me hate myself.
Through sleep-crusted eyes I wake every morning and remember
that I must eat breakfast.
It is 08:33 and I’ve already woken once and fallen back to sleep
partly because I know that I must eat today
and I don’t want to.
I wonder what “breakfast” really is.
The first half hour of my day is spent
poring over memories of what I had the day before
so that I can find inspiration for the morsels I must end my hunger with.
I can’t remember if I even ate breakfast yesterday.
Walls in my brain erected from thoughts of eggs on toast,
cities built in seconds,
cement paste measured from
two parts breadcrumbs, one part tears.
It takes a lot of work to knock this network down
and in doing so force open the hinges of my jaw
to allow food in against my better judgement.
Two rows of white knights standing ready marching in a rhythmic beat
in time to up and down as mastication transforms bacon pieces into guilt.
Maple-glazed disgust dissolving in the chaos of a bite-sized slaughterhouse.
The Unholy Trinity of Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
make the walls of my castle tremble.
Take their name in vain and–
–they will eat you alive.
I find Hell in streaks of ketchup,
traces of my sins in upset stomachs caused
by eating three whole meals in a day.
I wash myself clean but I can still feel oil in my pores and as I scrub
I shed a layer of my skin but I can still feel the salt in my veins
and I scrub harder still until I’ve carved away enough to expose my bones and then…
My friends ask why I cover up my mirrors.
I tell them that I’m superstitious.
Purple shame hangs heavy under eyes that can’t and won’t make contact with their own reflection,
afraid of what they might see staring back at them.
I’m terrified of laughing in front of people because,
when I laugh for real, my teeth reveal secret snacks snuck in
when nobody is watching.
I live in a nightmare woven from threads of my sanity.
I am a slave to food.
When I wake up I think of food.
At breakfast I think of food.
Before lunch, food.
Snacks food dinner food
dessert food food food
fucking food fat fat fucking fat!
I fell in love with the pangs that struck me
hard inside my abdomen.
I guess I’m just waiting for it to break my heart.
I really hate being hungry.
For those who know me through this blog, you may have seen me write about my issues with food before, and for those who know me in person … well, you’ve seen it firsthand.
Since I was young I’ve had an unstable relationship with food. I find it difficult to even cook in front of people. Eating in front of friends and family is a piece of cake (pardon the pun). But strangers, work colleagues and even my housemates? That’s where it gets harder.
If I had to pick one moment in my childhood that ruined me in the healthy eating side of things, I know what I would choose. That one defining moment that, like a bad dream, has never faded from my memory. Though the specifics may be gone I can still feel the shame of it. It clings like a bad smell.
I was eight years old, getting ready for school and it was time for breakfast. My older sister had recently become obsessed with Weetabix, so my mum had bought a load and decided to try me out on it. I didn’t like the texture, the little oaty bits floating in the milk in my mouth seemed like the worst combination you could invent for a morning meal. So, obviously, I said I didn’t like it and was about to go on my way. I was happy enough to last until break time when I could spend 20p on a warm bread roll from the Tuck Shop. I didn’t see the harm in turning it down.
That is, until my mum poured it over my head. I don’t know if she was in a bad mood prior to this, or if it was me who had sent her over the edge. All I remember of that moment was her anger, and my head covered in Weetabix. Thick, gloopy wheat slid through my hair. Honestly it resembled something more akin to baby sick than edible food, part of the problem when I tried to eat it. But I hadn’t eaten it, and so there I sat at the breakfast table, pink nightie and slippers still on, coated in my own food.
And then she made me go to school.
I really don’t like to think about this. It makes me feel like a horrible person, making my mum out to be some cruel bitch who treated me like shit. She didn’t, she just wanted to prove a point. She just wanted me to eat my breakfast and be quiet about it, but she never intended to cause me any harm. It did, but that’s beside the point. I forgive her … forgave her a long time ago. That doesn’t stop it hurting when I look back though, especially when I see the correlation between the way I felt then, and the way I feel every time I try and eat now.
So off I went to school; eight years old, pink nightie on, Weetabix now congealing in my hair. I was sent off to class like nothing had happened, but obviously it didn’t take long for people to notice. I was late as it was. I entered my classroom and all of my peers, one by one, turned and looked at me.
I was mortified.
I don’t remember much of the aftermath of that day, just the voice of my headteacher as she washed my hair as best as she could, and dressed me into my uniform behind a sheet she’d found in the fort in the corner of the room. I have never forgotten it: the feeling of being utterly humiliated.
I think that’s why I struggle so much now.
Almost every time I think about eating food, I feel like I don’t deserve it. I tell myself I don’t need it, that I can manage without. When I’m eating I’m not enjoying it; I’m wondering who is watching me, what they’re thinking, are they judging me? I’m covering my mouth so no-one can see me chew. Sometimes I’m screaming at myself for being a fat cunt who only ever seems to shove food down her throat and then is too much of a pussy to puke it back up again after. Because yes, I tried that. But I’ve puked too much in my lifetime through travel sickness to pull the proverbial trigger.
The bigger problem shows itself however when you look at the direct correlation between my eating, or lack thereof, and my mood. If I don’t eat enough in the day, my mood takes a severe dive. It’s why I get myself into so much trouble when I don’t eat at work. Sometimes it can be a simple thing of there being too many people in the room at once, sometimes it can be a case of being in a bad mood before lunch begins which transfers into an absolute lack of desire to force food into my system. It means some days I wake up at 05:30 and don’t eat until late afternoon or evening, where some days I eat at 12, maybe 13:00 at the latest and won’t eat again that day. And if I let it happen more than once, it spirals to more than once a week, then creeps up to more than half of the time. It’s unbearable. Sometimes lunch break is pure torture.
I am also infamous in my team at work for not accepting food from people. Bear in mind there are around 12-13 of us, including my manager who adores baking of all kinds, and on top of this a senior team who want to make us feel better about losing our jobs by throwing us all pasty days and the occasional lunch buffet. Any time food is offered around the desks, it gets to me and people will either skip me entirely, or offer out of mere politeness. In the case of the latter, I have lost count of the amount of comments – not hurtful I should add, that’s important – saying “don’t bother, she won’t accept it”. Whilst this is true, I almost always will turn down an offer of food, of chewing gum even, it is also true that it hurts that I can’t accept it. Maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s fear. Personally I think it’s both. That’s why I’m trying to break that habit and hoping with it so too will the fear dissapate until I can just … eat.
I know of a local place, or more I know of a local website, that offer courses, classes and in-person councelling sessions for eating disorders. I don’t know if what I have is a “disorder”, but I think they can help me. I am thinking of contacting them. I’ve had this for years. For 14 of my 22 years I have lived with this. It is crippling. Do you know how many panic attacks I’ve suppressed in restaraunts trying to have a nice meal with my family? How many hours I’ve spent crying because I’m so hungry but thinking of food is too excrutiating to remember how to breathe? At it’s worst I can go into total shut down just trying to pick up my fork. And all the while the voice in my head is verbally battering me with cries of “pick it up, you twat” and “just fucking do it” and “it’s only food; what’s wrong with you?”
I’m trying to make sure I eat lunch every day. So what if there are four people in there? There are more than four chairs, and I need to eat too. I have also discovered there is one person at work who can get me to accept food. Mostly I feel guilty for not accepting because he asks so nicely, but I think it has a lot to do with trust as well. Trust in him that he won’t pressure me into taking it, just encourage. But perhaps trust in myself that nothing bad will happen if I take it. Public eating is still hard, but it’s a start. I still can’t comfortably sit in a restaraunt and eat a meal, only time and practice will help that.
I want to get better. I’m sick of it. Food has held this power of me since before I hit double-digits and it’s time to stop. Time to kick the unwanted house-guest from the bedroom of my brain.
I want to be free.