Saturday, March 01, 2008

Common Sense - Part 4 of ?

*Note/disclaimer: I may refer to people who have been abused, who suffer from eating disorders, and other related issues/circumstances in the third person throughout these posts, but that's mainly a device. I'm mostly talking about myself, other people I know, and the results of research I've done in the furtherance of my own understanding of what the hell is wrong with me. I am by no means attempting to make blanket statements that apply to all (or even a majority) of people who are or have been in any situation I have been. Also, sexist though it may be, I'll be using "she", "her", "the girl(s)" and other feminine pronouns/references for my writing, though anyone with any sort of understanding of EDs and abuse knows that males are also victims and sufferers. I'm simplifying things for my writing, that's all.

*** Warning – potential trigger(s) for abuse survivors and/or ED sufferers ***

File this post under "massively overdue". More than a year. Yes, I'm that much of a procrastinator. I meant to write about it back then, but then a bunch of bad shit happened, followed by more bad shit, and I didn't want to write about anything, let alone this subject. But since I'm back on it, I guess it's time.

I'm not big on interacting with people in the "real world" for the reasons detailed in my previous "Common Sense" posts, but I love talking online because I am exposed to so many different backgrounds and perspectives that I learn new things all the time, often from unexpected people/places. And this breakthrough/whatever is exactly why I feel this way. In this case, I was talking about my bulimia in a yahoo group that isn't eating disorder or abuse related, and it was mostly as an intellectual discussion about what does and does not constitute mental "health". One of the members there, out of the blue made a comparison I had never considered that makes an amazing amount of sense: purging is like smoking a cigarette.

It was like a freaking lightning bolt went off in my head! That's pretty much *exactly* it! And I should have seen it before - lord knows I've analyzed this thing from every angle I can think of, alone and with books and websites and other people. Pretty much any source available, I've used. It took a stranger with no real investment in the issue to see it from somewhere new and also true.

Once I started thinking about it, all kinds of parallels started jumping out at me. I started (as most girls do) b/p-ing around the same time that most people take up smoking. Some people can quit easily, others can't kick it no matter what. Some people can limit themselves (b/p-ing once a day : someone only having one or two cigarettes) while others get totally consumed (b/p-ing 10 - 20+ times a day : smoking 1 - 2+ packs per day). People who have quit still feel those urges, and often "fall off the wagon". And, like smoking, there is a definite physical/chemical dependence on the bulimia. From what I've heard/read, the feelings people get when they smoke (relief, release, calm, etc.) are very similar to what a purge does for me. God knows both things are addictive and compulsive. And they're both pretty darn bad for you! I could go on and on comparing these things. I feel like such an idiot for not seeing it before!

So now I kind of understand how it is people take up smoking as a habit/addiction, even though the first few cigarettes are awful. I've tried cigarettes twice in my life, both times when I was drunk and in a horrible mood (which in and of itself says something), and couldn't get past the pain in my lungs. But I have asthma and especially sensitive airways, and I'm pretty sure that I'm overly sensitive to smoke if not downright allergic. If I wasn't, though, I can now see how I might have become a smoker. Lord knows vomiting up your food isn't pleasant. But I kept doing it, didn't I? And people keep smoking.

I know this is a lot of gabbing, but this is/was such a lightbulb moment for me. I feel like I can finally discuss my ED in terms that a larger number of people might be able to wrap their minds around. And it makes it a lot simpler for me to think about, and I actually feel a lot less guilty about it this way. Less like a freak.

Not that I am trying to minimize or act like either behavior is acceptable. Neither is good, and neither should be undertaken by a rational, healthy individual. Period. And I know I'm going to sound like a hypocrite now, but I think smoking is a truly nasty habit. Not that bulimia is any better (it can certainly kill you quicker if you're not careful and is probably more destructive overall to the person doing it), but at least it isn't polluting the environment or endangering the health of those in close proximity. Or irritating me. Heh. So comparing something I have come to live with and accept to something I find truly abhorrent feels strange to me, but I understand (intellectually, at least) that most people feel the same way about the behaviors *I* engage in, while understanding smoking at least somewhat. And there are a number of people I know and love who are smokers - some casual, some serious - so this isn't a rejection or embrace of any one group of people. I'm hoping that this post - and idea - can bring people together in a greater understanding of these things that we do to ourselves.

Now if only they made some sort of *patch* to help me quit...

Questions? Comments?


mireille said...

I came to say Rabbit, Rabbit ... and stayed to read about this, I think, valid comparison. The point that leaps out at me is "both can kill you" and I'm hoping you're taking care of yourself in the ways you need to. It's courageous to take hard looks at what's going on but please tell me you're working on this terribly difficult part of your life, T. I'm not sure I believe in cures of anything anymore, just the day to day, every day decisions that make life more positive than negative. My thoughts are with you in that struggle. xoxo

Trina said...

(((M))) Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

I am working on this stuff, though not as diligently as I should be. I have a lot of knowledge and tools at my disposal, some of which I'm using, but in the spirit of honestly I have to say I'm not trying very hard at the moment.

That's part of the problem with this issue - when things get bad, it goes from being a problem to being a solution/coping mechanism. And since I'm still working though my most recent loss (and some other stuff I don't talk about here out of bizarre superstition), it is currently more of a help than a hindrance. I know that is twisted and wrong, and probably should be addressed in more detail, but I don't know how without being overly specific and possibly upsetting people more than I already do.

If it helps, I'm not purging more than twice a day. I'm making sure I get adequate nutrition. And I'm not doing anything that sends my electrolytes plunging. Certainly not into anything resembling a territory that makes a heart attack a possibility.

All this sounds like excuse-making, and I know part of it is. I need to post on what I do that works, in terms of eating without needing to purge. And I maybe should address why some of the "dangers of bulimia" aren't as much of a problem for me. I just worry that it will skirt that "pro-mia" area, when the last thing I want to do is *encourage* people to engage in this sort of thing.

In case anyone is reading these comments and I haven't been crystal-clear, if I could do it all over again, I would *never* have started down the road to bulimia. Ever. I don't know what might have happened instead, but I cannot state strongly enough that ANYthing would have been preferable to this.