Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Recap (more "Common Sense")

I've been thinking about revisiting the food/ED stuff for a while. It's not like I ran out of things to say, more like I was worried it would take over here when that hadn't been my original purpose. But a family member recently started a blog on food issues, which reminded me that I might want to think about this issue again in light of our impending planned move and family expansion. And re-reading those old posts, I'll admit that they make me sad because I fell off the proverbial wagon in times of pain and loss, and am now back at square one. But I do want to get better and plan to do so, especially if we have a child. I will NOT model my current eating on a child. ANY child.

And then today Jezebel posted an article that highlighted a lot of my points on correlation vs. causation: Things that supposedly cause eating disorders. I know what Jez was trying to do, and I salute the effort, but they missed a big opportunity to embark on a serious discussion.

So now I have several reasons to get everything I've written together in one place, and straight in my head. Without further ado, here are my former posts on this subject:

There may well be more to come on this topic. Part of me wants it, part of me dreads it. I know friendship issues are something I never explored and now I feel motivated to do so. Hopefully I won't drop that ball. It's a painful subject for me, but what isn't? And given that the subject played a major role in the eating issues of a family member, I would be remiss in ignoring it. Please let me be better than that.


Kyahgirl said...

I was bawling my eyes out while rereading the posts on this topic from years ago. You shared so much of the pain of your ED.
You know Trina, you really are a good communicator. It wasn't until I read your posts, years ago, about your own struggles with bulimia that I even came close to understanding it. I obviously missed the last two so am glad I went back and read them just now.

Your lightbulb moment about smoking caught my attention. I smoked for 10 years and spent 5 of them trying to quit. I quit 26 years ago and periodically still have a dream/nightmare where I'm smoking. I wake up, freaked out because I will never forget the difficulty I had in kicking the habit and the horrendous feeling of being caught in the clutches of an addiction like that. If that addiction is what your relief due to purging feels like, I truly have some insight now into how mightily you struggle!
I know this is a horribly painful and uncomfortable topic for you but I think the world of you for continually striving to face it, examine it, understand it, and deal with it.
love and hugs,

Trina said...


Thanks so much. Re-reading through all my old posts (especially these) to figure out what went here was hard. These posts were painful to re-read for me, too, but I also had to revisit a lot of other posts (especially the fish things, that most folks wouldn't think twice about) that twisted the knife all over again.

Since I have highly reactive lungs that have never been amenable to more than the whiffs of outdoor smoke, my analogy is drawn from the suggestion of someone whose brain I admire immensely, and refined by discussions with a dear friend who is a smoker and who has spent years now trying to understand what it is I'm dealing with. She and I had lengthy discussions before my pal gave me the comparison, and she is my co-signer on the idea.

Obviously, I can never understand smoking, and I pray that most people reading this will never be in my shoes. But I know how hard it is for people to kick the smoking habit, and I know that I haven't yet been able to quit my own. There are only adjectives between us all, none of which suffice.

And honestly, I'm afraid to look for the person who bridges the gap and can compare the two "habits". No matter what he/she might say, I have a feeling I'll end up feeling terrible. Because in the end, I always do.

But better to dissect it all and feel bad about the situation than to live ignorant and feel vaguely unhappy about my life without anything to inform the unhappiness. I hold the keys to a better feeling about my life, and I'm not letting go of them.

Ragde said...

My wife of 5 1/2 years is bulimic. She has had "bouts" with bulimia on and off throughout our marriage. We have two little girls (5 years and 10 months). She was doing "well" after our 10-month old was born but is in the midst of a serious "relapse" for about 2 - 3 weeks now. I never previously bothered informing myself, other than to suggest she go to a therapist in the beginning of our marriage. I've now come to accept and realize that I did not take her problem seriously; am uninformed; and am ignorant about the whole issue. Yours is the first personal account I read regarding bulimia. Wikipedia and those other sources don't enlightened or provide real understanding. The patterns and similarities between what you've described and my wife's personality/history are unmistakable. There was abuse as a teenager, but I don't know if there are other incidents she hasn't disclosed. I'm concerned obviously about her mental health. I'm also concerned about physical toll the disease has (e.g., gastrointestinal damage, tooth decay); and I'm concerned about the affect on our 2 daughters. Although I think I'm the only one she will readily tell if she's purged on any given day, she detests talking about her bulimia. I don't know how often she purges, but know that she's consumed a lot of "junk food" in the past week or so. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can begin to start having a meaning discussion with her about this? (she's a stay-at-home mom so therapy sessions may be difficult but not impossible to schedule, assuming she's even inclined to go). What can I "do" to minimize the effects/triggers/purges/disease? What resources (books, websites, etc) do you recommend? (I know this is a shot in the dark but thought you could shed additional light for those whose loved ones are struggling with bulimia)

Trina said...


[blogger is making me split this into 2 comments]

Thank you for reading, and for caring enough about your wife and girls to go researching on your own! It's something my husband struggles with too - he wants to help and wants me to be able to talk to him about it, but it's such a tricky and difficult subject. And while I can't speak for your wife, I will admit that depending on where my head is at, sometimes talking about it is the thing that triggers it. Really, it's almost ALL about where my brain is on any given day. Which I know is no help to you at all.

Practical advice: I don't know how you eat or how health-conscious you and your family strive to be, but the best thing you can do to help her avoid episodes is to NOT bring up junk foods as a meal option. I'm highly suggestible when it comes to eating badly. All it takes is my husband saying, "I could eat some pizza for dinner," and my brain locks in on it and I HAVE to have pizza. Or burgers or Chinese or whatever. It is in no way his fault, and since unfortunately I'm not doing so well right now, I am often glad when he's the one to bring it up so I can have the bad foods I want without feeling 100% guilty. Just being conscious of the way her brain might take this as permission might help you avoid inadvertent enabling (and by this I mean from how HER brain works, not that I think you're enabling her the way other disorders label it). Hands-on practical: if you go food shopping, don't bring home chips or sweets or whatever her favorite binge-foods are. Don't offer to stop and pick up dinner on your way home if it means fast food or take-out. If she's anything like me, she won't say no to any of the above, even when she knows she should.

In a similar vein, going the opposite route and taking a hard line about not eating any junk at all ever is also a bad move. When I try to do that to myself (my husband knows better and would never think of it lol!) my inner brat comes roaring out and I end up on a purely self-sabotaging binge that makes me feel worse about myself than ever.

So from a food perspective, aiming for healthy while not restricting is the best option, though it's not easy or clear.

I know talking about bulimia is hard. The best thing that happened to me when I started wanting to seriously work on it was talking to a family friend with a psych background. She didn't work with me too much because eating disorders aren't her area of expertise (and I have to warn you - it's HARD to find a therapist who is willing to deal with them) but we would have a weekly check-in on the phone, and I'd tell her how many purges I'd had each day in the week before. We didn't talk about the circumstances or my feelings or any details, I just reported the numbers. Just keeping track and having someone "neutral" to keep me accountable just to myself helped a LOT. I reduced the number of purges significantly, and have never gone back to the frequencies I'd been hitting before.

Even if she doesn't tell you (or anyone), you might want to suggest to your wife that she keep a little cheap calendar somewhere and just write her total number at the end of the day. If it will help her, she can tell you - or someone else - once a week or two, or monthly, whatever works. Keeping tabs while removing the pressure of *immediately* owning up to my behavior mad me feel a lot more in control, and took away pressure and guilt. If she wants to keep her info locked away somewhere, make sure she knows that's fine too. Confessing, even if only to yourself, is a powerful act all on its own.

... continued...

Trina said...

... comment reply Part II ...

I've only read a few books on the subject because I quickly found a book that spoke to me strongly: "The Secret Language of Eating Disorders: How You Can Understand and Work to Cure Anorexia and Bulimia" by Peggy Claude-Pierre. Because her personal experience focused a lot more on anorexia, there is a good bit that doesn't apply. But when I started reading it, I did so with a pencil to underline the passages that spoke to me. I stopped underlining about 3 chapters in because I was underlining about half of the content and it was obvious that the book was worthy in its entirety.

I do have to add a couple caveats - the author sees anorexia in particular and eating disorders in general as a form of slow suicide. I strongly disagree. I also take issue with the notion that eating disorders can be "cured", or that anything even approaching that can be found within that book, especially for adult sufferers. What you will find in this book is a more in-depth discussion of how a person can arrive at this condition (some of which will look familiar to you after reading my posts, since they're informed by it to an extent). And if your wife is open to self-analysis, this book is a great place to start in terms of realizing how this happened to her. There are likely better books out there, but once I read this and it put me solidly on the road to figuring out specifically how and why *I* became bulimic, other books were redundant or just wrong.

If she does want to learn more, you can always point her here. I'd be happy to delete your comment and these responses, if that is the case and if you want, so she won't feel like she was being "discussed". That has always been a kind of phobia for me - that people will feel the need to "help" me without my knowledge or input. Honestly, I feel a bit guilty that I've even done this much (I'm the Guilt Queen though, so that's all me). But I know her pain, and if I can do anything to lessen it I will; and I understand the helplessness of being the person who wants to help and has no way of even figuring out how or where to start.

I hope this has at least given you a few ideas. Thank you for caring so much about your wife and your children, and for being proactive on an issue that is sadly far too easy to sweep under the rug. I wish you and your family all the best.

~ Trina

Trina said...


Sorry I've been wrapped up in other things and not on the ball here. Whatever you want that you think will yield the best results for you, your wife, and children, I'm happy to help. And if it turns out I'm not the resource for you, that's fine too. My only real goal in life is to NOT impede the happiness and health of others.