Meeting Myself, Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind
By Brenda J Wood- COPYRIGHTED
“Half of life is simply accepting what is.”
I didn’t know I wasn’t me. How could I? As long as I could remember, I’d never been anyone else. That’s what abuse did to me. Parts of me lay buried so deep that at first glance they seemed not to be there at all.
Feelings? I don’t have any. My life happens in the third person while I watch from afar. Experience teaches me that my feelings aren’t safe. They repeatedly get me into trouble. Self-preservation stands between me and them. For safety’s sake, they are sectioned off and twisted into plaits tighter than a seven-year-old child’s pigtails. I want it to stay that way.
I met these startling words from my journal with shocked surprise. Where did they come from? Apparently, somewhere deep in my being lived a part of me I’d never confronted, let alone embraced. Long-buried memories lived a life sentence there with no parole. I’d seldom visited, but when this journal entry surfaced, it demanded dominance in my mind. I didn’t want to look that locked place in the face. It was too big to handle. It tripped me up, threw me down, and made me powerless. It turned my short-fused temper into a chocolate frenzy, a gluttonous binge or a bulimic episode.
I know friends and family didn’t understand me or my attitudes, or even my actions. Why, I didn’t even understand them myself. I’d come home from a function wondering why I’d said or done a certain thing. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew I flew on a different wavelength than the rest of the world. How is it that so many people lived inside my brain? Why did I see funny things as tragic and tragic things as laughable? Why on earth would I eat a full course meal, plus dessert, and then come home and eat a loaf of bread? Why was full never enough for me?
My problems looked a little different each time, but to me they could all be solved if I lost some weight. I consistently blamed everything on my eating habits, and the inevitable outcome. Fat. Forget the niceties of calling it overweight. Fat is where it’s at for me.
Have a bout of cancer, or even two? No doubt they stemmed from my bad eating habits. The first one took me by surprise. An innocent mole on my hand turned out to be stage-two melanoma. Two surgeries later, I found myself joining the sunless generation. No more sitting out with the family on pleasant days. No more picnics in the park. No more traipsing to Florida for a few weeks. No, now I clung to the inside of the house between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and wore sunscreen, sun-repellent hats, and clothing the rest of the time. Fun.
The next year, I developed a tumor in my parotid gland. The parotid glands are the largest of all the salivary glands. They secrete saliva into the mouth that helps with chewing, swallowing, and starch digestion. Apparently, mumps actually happen in the parotids.
This second cancer surprised me, but it terrified me, too. Who am I kidding? It terrified me a lot. The diagnosis included warnings that I’d be disfigured, lose my ability to speak clearly, and perhaps even be paralyzed on my left side. The word “cancer” is scary enough, but I was a motivational speaker with her own company and TV show. What on earth would I do?
As it turned out, after surgery I had only two residuals. The first is a great profile which lets me look ten years younger on my left. This is the side I like to present to the camera!
The second is Frey’s’ Syndrome. I spell it “Fry’s Syndrome.” Only a foodaholic like me deserved something with a fat name. My symptoms include redness and sweating near the ear. Here’s how it works. When I eat something really tasty—or even dream, think, or talk about it—my face leaks. I try to be discreet. I really do. However, if you see me swabbing at my dripping face, you can tell the meal was really great. The family loves to tease me with comments like,
“So, I guess today’s meal was superb. Mom is leaking.” Or worse, “Gee Mom, if I’d known you hated my cooking that much I’d have ordered pizza.”
The correct name for all that wetness is “gustatory sweating.” As it was explained to me, the parotid nerves have to go somewhere, so they heal to the outside of the face. Just when you thought that was too much information, here’s another tidbit for you: sometimes just smelling a particular food makes your nose run!
Can you follow my thinking? Fat person gets cancer on the hand that feeds her. Fat person gets cancer in the mouth area. Fat person gets Frey’s Syndrome, a fat name if ever there was one. Fat person now displays her obsession with food by leaking water in every direction. Oh, if the fat person wasn’t fat, fat person wouldn’t get “fat” disease.
I knew where lots of our cash went. I spent a ton of money on my secret eating binges. One time, my husband Ron went away on a weeklong business trip. I dropped him at the airport and headed for a takeout place. Because I had two toddlers in the car, I justified buying three adult meals. Yes, of course, I ate every bite. Else why would I buy them? And I told myself that thin people never did that kind of thing and since I was fat… well, I had to.
House disorganized? Obviously, I ate too much and too often and didn’t vacuum enough. Parents need full-time care? If I were thinner, I could lift them easier and we wouldn’t need nurses. If I were at a healthy weight, I could keep them at home, take care of my own family, and even keep my full-time job. Instead I resigned them to a nursing home. Guilt. Everywhere, guilt.
If only I slimmed down to size ten. If only I didn’t eat so much. If only I could lose weight. If only guilt didn’t hook me into a deeper eating disorder. Fat. Fat. Fat. That’s me. I knew I was a compulsive eater, but I didn’t know it had a name. Ed (eating disorder) and I dated on a regular basis. I saw food as the problem, but Ed married me and moved in long before I cared to admit his presence.
My parents hardly ever showed their feelings. Consequently, they didn’t care to allow for ours. When my dog was killed on the road, I heard, “Stop crying over that stupid dog.” That stupid dog annoyed Dad, but to me it seemed that Sport was the only one who ever listened to me.
When bullying continued at school, it was “Get over it. That’s life. Stand up and tell them off.” I was in Grade One. The bullies were in Grade Eight. Not likely.
This foodie discovered the soothing calm of food when my younger brother and sister disappeared for a morning. I ate, and then I ate some more. The relaxation that followed taught me that food could soothe any anxiety. It instantly became my coping mechanism and my available drug of choice.
Stress relief lay just out of reach in the kitchen cupboards, but it was captive to the rigid control of my mother’s hands. I soon found ways around that. I needed a coping mechanism for the trauma of abuse, exams, conflict, dating issues, and all other childhood angst. I had no money, so those cupboard contents became my lifesavers. This wasn’t as easy as it looked. Mom even kept count of the cheese slices. I began to sneak food under my mom’s very nose. This involved considerable lying and manipulation, and I adapted quickly to my new lifestyle.
Don’t have a date? Then eat your way to relaxation and peace. Studying hard for a history test? Pour your soul into a bag of chips. Every event or non-event needed a food source, and I continued to believe that if only I were thin… I’d…
By the time I figured out that Ed owned my hands, he’d already determined to possess my heart, mind, body, and soul. He gradually reel me into the deep, and then deeper and deeper still.
I silenced Ed’s public image by eating tiny portions in company and only stealing food for my secret binges. I tormented myself with thoughts of self-hate, especially after a binging and purging episode. I avoided social contact as much as possible.
Because my weight numbers stood foremost in my mind, I always believed I would be a better person if only I were thin. I glared at life from an emotional standpoint, not a logical one. Sadly, I wasn’t able to recognize that I was the only one preventing me from enjoying my life. Why couldn’t I see that?
I teased myself into half-believing statements like, “Food eaten while standing up has no calories because it runs right out your toes onto the rug.” That’s why rugs need cleaning at least once a year. (This excuse worked better when shag carpet was in vogue.) Or how about these: “It takes a lot of energy to chew celery, but when you do it cancels out dinner’s calories. Foods eaten on holidays are calorie-free. Your friend will love you more if you eat her meal down to the last forkful. Have diet pop with your triple burger so that the drink can displace the fat. Ice cream is non-caloric if served with chocolate sauce. Food on the verge of spoiling is obviously fair game. Burnt food is a given and eating off other people’s plates doesn’t count if you only eat a forkful. Food eaten while lonely, sad, or afraid is washed away by your tears. Items imbibed in a holy setting are calorie-free if you are a member of the Church. Charity eating is for the good of the organization and therefore akin to the holiness rule (see above).”
Of course, I also believed that left-handed eaters lack dexterity, and since some of the food misses the mouth, it’s a freebie. (Feel free to reverse this law if you are a right-handed eater).
On and on they went. “Stuff swallowed while you’re in physical pain is a necessary comfort and may lower your blood pressure, something your doctor would surely recommend. You never keep track of stuff eaten beforehand, ‘just in case’ they have nothing at the party, or in case you get hunger pains or even homesick. Uneven edges must be cut, smoothed, and straightened. Serving jagged pie or sloppy cheese bits destroys your reputation as a homemaker. Mock Potato Salad, Pretend Pumpkin Pie, and No Noodle Lasagna are of no account because they aren’t even real.”
Why would you even consider counting a teaspoon of crumbs or a finger full of peanut butter? Why leave leftover children’s food on a plate when someone is starving in Asia? I don’t think so.
And here’s a big one: “Diets must begin on Monday.” Starting every Monday, I sincerely promised to stop swallowing my own saliva and drip-dry the coffee.
Starting on Monday
Starting on Monday, I’ll eat oil-less tuna.
Starting on Monday? No more French fries.
Starting on Monday, I’ll be righteously honest.
Starting on Monday… it’s no more food lies.
Once I even convinced myself that January 1 was the only decent day to start a weight-loss plan. I primed myself up for the year, ready to tackle my pounds with wild abandon. Unfortunately, the hostess at the New Year’s Eve party didn’t serve her culinary delights till 12:15 a.m. I ate. Surely you understand that it was just too late to lose weight at all that year…
Diet Spree by Me
It will not be too hard at all. This diet’s going to be a ball.
I clear the morning table of goodies once galore.
I swallow all the leftovers and hunt around for more.
A gaping hole lies barren in the peanut butter jar.
I search about for chocolate. It surely can’t be far.
High in cupboard where no one sees, I find my stash of jujubes.
All is fair game in love and diet, till Monday when the scale riots.
It stands to reason that I got fatter. Subconsciously, say the experts, being overweight serves two purposes. It keeps men away and gives an illusion of strength and power. That may be true for some, but I can’t say that I thought it to be true for myself. Over the years, my body rebelled by taking on everything from sciatica to gall bladder, hiatal hernia, and heart scares. Oh yes, you guessed it. If only I wasn’t fat, I wouldn’t have this problem. (And by the way, you can die from basic Ed.)
The journal knows.
Grief and anger rush over me as I think about the little girl I’d been before my abuser took myself away from me. Did I say my abuser? No. I will not let him own me in any way. Let him own himself, his evil, his sin. Let his tentacles untwine from my soul. Physically, he’s done just that. He is dead, but not to me. Emotionally, he lingers on, stacking fear into every fraction of my life. Even in his absence he leaves fear—absurd, irrational fear.
Fear dictates my life. I cope by eating until fear, loneliness, sadness, and happiness, (name feeling at will) calms me. I stuff down every emotion before it escapes. If I trust my emotions, I’ll experience the abuse all over again. I fear the outcome of that. I don’t have the strength for it. In spite of my determination not to feel anything, I am a place of living terror.
Occasionally, the evening news relays the story of a deer jumping through a plate glass window or a bear forcing its way into a neighborhood cottage. I always thought those made for a charming news story, until it happened to me.
Our farmhouse stood in a bush-like setting of almost fifty trees. (We’d planted them after my granny bemoaned their absence.) Anyway, after a few years of growth, such a grove attracted abundant wildlife. I loved them all, especially because they were outside and I was not. The location cried out peace, safety, and protection. At least, it did until “the thing” broke in.
I made the children put on every piece of protective gear we owned. Picture three cowering people huddled in everything from hockey helmets to high-top rubber boots, and armed with baseball bats, hockey sticks, and brooms. As if that weren’t enough, I insisted we perch on the second-story stairs, because on the television news, wild critters don’t climb stairs.
I left the outside door open. Perhaps that four-legged horror would leave on its own. Did I mention it was winter? We spent a long, cold, hungry, and scary –22°C day arrayed on those steps. Our conversation was sparse and our tummies rumbled with hunger, but I remained ever vigilant, ready to flee at any moment should the animal make for us. I couldn’t call for help, because the phone was out of reach. The bathroom, too, remained at a distance. When nature called, I marshaled the children into a small but obedient army. Then we marched our way to the facilities and back, all the while screaming and stamping our feet so as to keep the monster at bay.
I was terrified. I was responsible for my kids’ lives. How could I explain their injury, or even death, to their dad? My kids were only annoyed. They were young enough to think they could face any danger and live. To humor me, though (and because they were more afraid of me than they were of the critter), they stayed on those stairs.
Hours later, my unsuspecting husband came home from work to find his wife screaming from the stairway though the open door.
“Help! Watch out! Be careful! Get the weapons! This critter has been in here all day!”
Hubby went for the big guns. He grabbed the appropriate weapons while our teenagers welcomed their dad with open arms. They sighed in relief at being freed from the bondage of the stairs. Then they helped their dad set the mouse trap.
See what I mean? A mouse kept me prisoner in my own home. A mouse! As a child, I entertained a family of pet mice. I found them in the wheat field after Dad had combined the crop and I kept them in a child-size wheelbarrow on a bed of straw. I played with them long after they died. Give me a break, I was only six. Anyway, a century later, after being abused, the adult Brenda panicked at the mere glimpse of a mouse.
That’s the kind of craziness my husband and children lived with on a daily basis. Any change of routine increased the strain on my already chaotic mind.
I recouped from that terrible day by swallowing half a roast, a quart or two of congealed gravy, and some cold-boiled turnip. I don’t particularly like turnip when it’s hot, but binge eating does not demand quality ingredients.
An idea in my head becomes a deed done. That’s how I live. That’s how I eat. Some past thought crosses my mind and, without examining it for common sense, I binge. Taste is never an issue. Cold mashed potatoes, ice cream, and dry bread are all the same to me. I never choose raw or crunchy foods, because they refuse to be rushed. They take too long to eat. They don’t drown emotional pain fast enough. They are a waste.
Soft drizzles mist through the air,
Dancing life into delicate petals below.
Do those petaled beauties accept this generous gift?
Extending their stamens to catch and swallow?
Or do tiger lilies flounce their jaws fiercely,
Fighting off life-giving sustenance?
And lilies choke as their cup-like shapes
Gag on more than their share?
Will marigolds bristle with complaint?
At the inconvenience and bother,
While pansies stir their faces
Into frowning, fighting attitudes?
Have they threatened the heavens
With fist-like leaves and an angry cry?
No! They understand, far better than I,
That though life rains, it need not reign.
Will I ever learn that, like my flowers,
I can soak in all that life brings
And see it for the growing necessity that it is,
Rather than letting rain reign over me?
TO PUCHASE MEETING MYSELF
|Meeting Myself, Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind-is now available for sale to the general public through many websites and also on this blog or in ebook form at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/170938 )
Bookstores, schools, churches and ministries may purchase copies directly through the distributor, Word Alive Inc., by calling customer services at 1-800-665-1468 or through their website: https://www.wordalive.ca/store/product_show/9781770694446
REVIEWS OF MEETING MYSELF
by Carley Cooper
I couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it. I read it straight through in one sitting. Brenda Wood has been someone in my life who has given me advice, supported me, taught me, and encouraged me; and with this book she continues to do just that. She has done a remarkable job of letting outsiders have a glimpse of what it’s like to live trapped inside the dark world of addictions, abuse and eating disorders. Even though my addiction wasn’t bulimia, and my story isn’t hers; the negative thinking, lack of self esteem, self destructive behaviour, the need to hide it, guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear of others finding out; all are part of my own story. I wasn’t even finished reading chapter one when I said to myself “Wow, she gets it. She really and truly gets it! Someone actually understands. It’s not just me. I’m not alone“.
Brenda shares her struggles and lets us into her life in a way that not many people could do; or would be willing to. I am awed by her capacity and courage not only to tell her story, but for surviving it with her strength and faith in hand. I found myself giggling at times with her wonderful sense of humour. Then, on the flip side, at other times with tears in my eyes; feeling like I wanted to hug her to let her know that she is safe and loved.
Click on this link ( https://www.greatcanadianauthors.com/authors/113 )and find all the latest about my new book…Meeting Myself, Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind.
I am blessed to have comments from award winning authors, Nikki Rosen and Michael Bull Roberts on the back of the book! Meeting Myself will soon be available in several types of E books as well!!!
Excellent, simple writings to challenge the soul! From simple words which challenge our faith to heartfelt insight into our unbelief, Brenda connects the dots for us in moving from bondage to freedom. A must read!
Enjoy Louise Aspden’s words and sign on to her blog. LIFE: The Flip Side -A look at life on the flip side of FIFTY
My review of a great little book… MEETING MYSELF: Snippets of a Binging and Bulging Mind by Brenda J. Wood
At first glance the cover of this book tells you it is about someone who has an eating disorder. Which is true. But what it doesn’t tell you is how intimately Brenda reveals her struggle with her own self loathing and how she slowly is able to find her way back to loving herself and healing through her faith. Her sense of humour and clever use of metaphor gently carries the reader through her painful and inspiring journey. I received many gifts from this book that either enlightened me or reinforced what I already believed.
Gift Number One: Eating disorders of all kinds come from a place of self-loathing. Mostly, self-loathing comes from a history of physical or emotional abuse. Brenda journals “I always believed I would be a better person if only I were thin.” Cognitively we know that thin people are not better people nor are overweight people unlovable. But in the self-loathing mind, creating a flawed exterior provides a false sense of security. Without that mask, they have to look at and deal with the “why” which is the pain that got them there. There is much less agony in the moment to just keep binging.
Gift Number Two: In her struggle with her faith in god she writes, “He must not love me. That is why I am unable to love him back.” I am beginning to believe that true faith (of any kind) will only be achieved if you feel you are loveable. Even a glimmer of the beautiful light of love or worthiness can be the impetus for change. Brenda sees that glimmer through God and the shift begins to take hold.
Gift Number Three: Even after conquering the bulimic beast, the suffering still continued. Brenda writes: “God started to point out that total freedom involves forgiveness.” This is something I firmly believe and try to live by. Forgiveness is a selfish act. Without it you will never be able to shed your past and live fully in the moment. Gift Number Four: She realized that “He (God) was seeking righteous fruit, not a religious nut.” I am fortunate to know Brenda. I admire her in many ways. One of which is her quiet and steady faith. I was raised in the midst of a family that included some confused, judgmental and disingenuous church goers. I think that they confused the “doing” of being a Christian with the “being” of a Christian. Brenda’s wisdom and humour is a true gift to any reader. I encourage you to join her on her journey of courage and enlightenment. You won’t regret it.
Meeting Myself is available on AMAZON & GREAT CANADIAN AUTHOR. Bookstores, schools, churches and ministries may purchase copies directly through Word Alive Inc., by calling customer services at 1-800-665-1468 or through the website: WORLDALIVE.CA More from Brenda J. Wood: Heartfelt Devotionals
Your book struck quite a few chords with me. And after reading it, I’ve turned over my eating to God. Although I may not be “fat” just “pleasantly plump” by the worlds standards, I realized I’m obsessed with food. It controls me. My weight goes up and down like a toilet seat. No more. Yesterday was hard. After church we had a “social”. The table was loaded with goodies. Eye candy. I resisted because I wasn’t that hungry as I’d eaten breakfast. So I ate a plate of veggies. And I noticed the last couple of nights I thought I was hungry but I was thirsty. So I drank water and was able to watch TV without eating. Oh, yes. Did you know the word HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired? And that’s usually when I eat. mostly when I’m tired.
It is so hard for me to understand the eating disorders or the assault problems as I have never known anyone who has gone thru this. To be able to discuss them and to make people aware of the problems and how they affected you and your family, and more importantly, how you (and God) have dealt with them, is so remarkable. You are to be commended for your strength and your frankness to share with others. Bernice Brown
Hey Lady!!! Read your amazing book, cover to cover when I got home and have been trying since then to find a way to express my multitude of emotions. First I want to tell you how brave I think you are to be willing to share your journey. My heart aches for the child you were and the adult that you became as a result of the abuse you suffered. I cannot imagine the strength it took for you to survive the pain you must have felt. I remain in awe of your faith and the courage it must have taken to let go of your pain and anger. The testimony this book provides must surely be a blessing to everyone who has the privilege to read it. Thank you for sharing it with me. Lynn Marnie
Word Alive Press author Brenda J. Wood recently had her book, “Meeting Myself: Snippets from a Binging and Bulging Mind” reviewed on a blog. “I have to admit I found reading this excellent little book, very hard. Why? Because it is telling the story of a dear lady battling through a real-life tragedy! An eating disorder!….Brenda shares her battle and her eventual success over her illness with gravity and a light spirit – and it is definitely a story of inspiration.” To read the full review, please visit this link: http://pattersmatters.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/meeting-myself-snippets-from-a-binging-and-bulging-mind-book-review/