I’ve been trying to take good care of myself over break, which has also meant trying to get my health situation in order. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain directly related to chronic stress since…for ever. We don’t know what it is, just that something is there.
Additionally, I haven’t stopped losing weight since starting testosterone. So I went to talk to my PCP about why my cholesterol is so high when I keep losing weight and don’t eat meat and the working theory is that my body is in starvation mode since HRT has made my metabolism skyrocket but my diet and eating habits haven’t changed to match. Pair that with being unable to eat when I’m stressed and forgetting to eat because of untreated ADHD and we have….where I am today.
The soonest time I could see a nutritionist is March so my therapist helped me come up with some plans, and then today my family took me to CostCo and now I have a drawer of snacks for the semester, and extra staples that I can freeze so there’s always a backup.
I realized while talking to my therapist how many layers of complicated my relationship to food is.
First, there’s resentment. A lot of resentment. As the surrogate mom I was eventually the cooker of all meals and I hated the feeling of how my entire existence revolved around preparing meals, serving meals, and cleaning up after meals, for.ev.er. When I feel like I always have to cook or think about meals I start feeling trapped again, like I’m in a wheel I will never escape and I can never escape because for some reason bodies need food even when I get bored.
(I’m realizing now that I read this back that a lot of this is also similar to the ADHD thing of not being able to do things that aren’t interesting. This also explains why my desire to bake bread has come back with a vengeance but the thought of cooking 3 meals a day 7 days a week makes me hate life.)
Second, is fear of scarcity. My family gave so much to the church that we were often in short supply of food, especially as the family grew. As the eldest and the one with responsibility to make sure all the other children had their needs met, I always ate last, often after I’d dished out seconds to the other kids. When food was tight I ate less than I wanted or should have because it was more important that the younger kids ate (they were growing but somehow I was not). It got to the point where when the fridge was empty I would stop going into the kitchen because I couldn’t deal with the anxiety. I still do this.
To this day I have to always have ingredients for peanut butter and jelly available, and when I don’t I turn into a huge anxious ball until that’s fixed.
I also do this thing where, when I start getting low on something I’ll stop eating it so I don’t run out. I do this because I never felt secure in knowing there would be more later. The part where this gets me is that it’s often still my reality. I’ve spent a lot of time this semester trying to grapple with the fact that since getting bumped off CalFresh (which I’m re-applying for now) I have been food insecure and that’s contributed heavily to my lack of actually eating. Feeling like if I run out of something I can’t replace it means I will try not to run out of it, even if it means rationing or saving it until I’m at a place where I can replace it.
When you’re poor as fuck and your bills take 80% of your income, not eating seems like a smart, money saving choice. It’s just a really really bad one.
I think the food scarcity fear is the hardest obstacle because it’s escalated significantly by the reality of being poor. I know people have my back and will not let me starve (this is literally why my kitchen is stocked to the brim right now) but that anxiety, paired with the capitalist pressure to not spend money, and the lack of funds to even buy food anyway, just converges into a mess that fuels and justifies this eating disorder, and reinforces that I deserve this (I don’t).
Third, it’s self harm. It’s a way to take out anger or disappointment that doesn’t negatively impact anyone except myself (or that’s what I tell myself anyway). This is also often paired with the Scarcity Implosion, but sometimes I’m just angry, and when I’m angry or disappointed at myself (because I don’t know how to be angry at other people) I take that out on myself by not eating, because it’s somehow what I deserve for fucking up or not being good enough already. I also know this is bullshit but tell that to my brain when it’s livid.
Lastly, I just get distracted or don’t have the executive function to stay on top of it. Making food is boring when I’m working on literally anything else. Sometimes I’m just exhausted and I need food but I don’t have the actual capacity to choose a food to make or put into my face. When I get back from a day of having new information dumped into my brain, I’m not…in a state to prepare or even think about cooking a meal. I’m just exhausted.
What happens most often of course, is that all of these intermix and collide in a bunch of really exciting ways at any given point throughout the day, so all I really know is that I need help, but I can’t actually give much direction on how that isn’t “please move inside my brain, thanks, the galley is downstairs.”
My therapist suggested I get “more food than I’ll think I’ll need”, and one of my friends shared the idea of having a backup stash, so I always have that backup and don’t have to worry about getting low. Something I also have a hard time with when I’m low spoons and tired is just coming up with something to eat, so the other day I sat down and made two lists: one for meals, and one for snacks. All things that are really low spoons or easy to make in bulk for heating and taking to school later.
I’ve also set reminders on my phone to eat every day at 9am and noon, I downloaded the Streaks app just so I can check off eating meals (because my brain loves getting points for shit, so if I can gamify something it will help). I also downloaded a food-diary app that also has a health/meds/activities log called mySymptoms. Because my Raynaud’s has been in a flare since May I added a Cold level to the symptom options and that’s been helpful. This doesn’t work super great because I suck at remembering to log things in the apps, but knowing that there is a log helps me remember to do things?
I’m also gonna try to make a sensical description of my income/expenses and apply for CalFresh again this week. If I can afford groceries without worrying a lot of the other things will be less intense.