When Sugar is Love…or at least it feels like it…

It’s me! I’ve been MIA from updating/accountability by writing at least once a week here–which is the purpose of this blog. Reminder, if you’re new here: the reason the blog is called “The Biggest Liar” is that my eating disorder IS “The Biggest Liar.” And I don’t even care if anyone else reads this thing, because it’s making myself accountable that is making a difference.


Amazingly…

I’ve eaten this stuff for dinner more times than I’d like to admit. I ate an entire container of it once when my husband was out of town.
Two bags? A box with 2 bags? I say to you, “Hold my iced tea and I will show you how quickly I can scarf down 2 bags of this stuff.”

The good news is, I’m NOT coming to you from beneath a vat of Blue Bell Cookies & Cream ice cream (although I’m fairly sure Halo is the devil and I could easily fall into that trap if I allowed myself to do it…), and I’m also not poking my nose up for a gasp of air from inside a washing-machine-sized box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

This stuff reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry & Elaine believed they could not gain weight because the frozen yogurt they were eating was fat free. This Halo is dangerous for me because, well, yeah, I know I’ll regain weight and I can’t regain ANY weight, AND because of the emotional baggage I have with ice cream type stuff.

I’m hanging in, even though the holidays are in full-swing.

I haven’t updated, but it’s not because I’m curled up in a food coma in the corner, in too much pain to move. It’s because between my day job (finishing the semester and all that entails with grading grading grading,) and becoming a family with 2 Nigerian Dwarf Goats but not having time to prepare for them properly (i.e. building a fence to separate them from my dogs), plus prepping my house for family to come home for Christmas, I have not had time to update here. And that’s not okay, because with every day that has passed without me kind of checking in with myself by writing here, my anxiety has been ramping up and I’ve been wondering if I could make it another day without a binge.

I’ll be completely honest: I’M AMAZED that I haven’t slipped and fallen into any of my “drugs of choice.” Refusing to do so has caused me to really become aware of automatic nature of The Biggest Liar, and the years-long deliberate indifference to the truth that caused me to regain roughly 75 pounds of the 100 I lost around 2004-2005.

So, this will be a long one. It’s been rolling around in my mind for a while. There’s a little navel gazing goin’ on here, but I’m writing this for me, not you. (No offense, ha ha ha.) I’m working through a book, Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating, by Leora Fulvio, and part of it is writing one’s history with food.
NOTE: It has taken me a good three days to write this blog post. I want to say so much and say it in just the right way. What you are reading is heavily revised…
At this moment, I am sitting outside a McDonald’s, using their Wi-Fi, because my Internet at home SUCKS SO MUCH right now! And I want to finish this and have it uploaded prior to diving headfirst into cleaning my house and de-goating one daughter’s bathroom….and training goats to go into another daughter’s bathroom…more on that later…


Why It’s Important to Remember Why It’s Important Not to Forget
If I allow The Biggest Liar to run the show, it sends me careening into the numbed out, zombie behavior of consuming my trigger foods, which are sugar & processed carbs. I went through treatment & recovery many years ago, and The Biggest Liar (TBL) and I were not on speaking terms for a long time. I had, essentially, “blocked” TBL as if saying, “Talk to the hand.” I had control of my eating disorder–I told myself that–and, like any addiction left unattended to, I fell into complacency.
Then, slowly, insidiously, TBL began whispering in my ear…when I had to stop running, became very depressed, and went through consecutive summers of foot surgeries; when I had other surgeries that kept me from working out for weeks at a time…and, most of all, when the headaches I’ve had for years exploded into full-blown, “you-can-look-at-my-face-and-tell-I’ve-got-one” debilitating migraines, I ignored the person I’d become and relapsed into a person who uses food as a drug.
I listened to The Biggest Liar.
You can go back & read “When I Made Up My Mind” to know what changed, to figure out how I got to here.
With my resurrected commitment to living without bingeing has come a heightened awareness of just how automatically TBL-thoughts spring to the forefront of my mind when I’m triggered by stress, sadness, rejection, and anxiety.
And, y’all, rejection and anxiety are the collective Big Kahuna of emotions that trigger those thoughts.  People who know me now and perceive me as a really strong, tough-minded person have no idea how vulnerable I am to feeling abandoned, rejected, or as if I am under threat. I have a hard time shaking that stuff off. Takes lots of self-talk & remembering lessons learned in therapy long ago to get through it.


Teach Your Children Well / Their Father’s Hell / Did Slowly Go By
I can connect the foods that act like jet fuel for my eating disorder. When I was a child, I was alone a lot, and many times, I was alone even with other people. My relationship with my bio dad was non-existent for the most part, but my keenest memories of him when he and my mom were still married were of being maybe 4 years old, us sitting at the dinner table, me forgetting sometimes to chew with my mouth closed, and him yelling,  “Pig! You’re a pig!”–and it’s like I have muscle memory of that feeling–and I can still remember the realization of shame associated with eating. It’s like I’m there, inside that 4 year old’s mind, going from laughing and a feeling of belonging—kind of excited, actually, that my dad was with us again–to lowering my eyes to the table and being enveloped by that hollowed out, empty space in my center as whatever was there before was replaced with shame and self-hatred. His angry face is scalded into my brain. I was self-conscious and aware of being watched and criticized by this man I barely knew; this man who, anytime he was at home with us, seethed with resentment and anger. He wasn’t around very often, and when he was, his presence was irregular and punctuated with my mother being grief-stricken and inside herself. And, although we have a different relationship now, my brother’s favorite thing to call me when we were children was “Pig.”

A bit of trivia: I was so unfamiliar with what my father looked like that when I was itty bitty, I used to stare at a Robert Goulet album cover and tell myself, “I think he looks like that.”


Specific Foods and My Emotional Connection to Them

Bread and butter with sugar on it: I’d get home from kindergarten, which was like Hell on Earth for me because I had such huge separation anxiety about being away from my mother. When I got home, she’d feed me bread-butter-& sugar sandwiches for lunch as I watched Cartoon Carnival after the noon news on Channel 11. I was so freaked out by changes at home that when my mom started kind of pushing me out on my own more–using a car pool and not always taking me or picking me up–that if my school went on a field trip, I had to ride in the teacher’s car (I went to a private kindergarten). I didn’t know how to make friends and I did not relate well to other kids since I’d only been with my mom.When I first started kindergarten, I even locked myself in my parent’s bathroom and refused to go out to the car pool lady when she came to pick me up. After my mom took the doorknob off and got in, I was dragged, screaming, out to the car and shoved in. For years, my mom joked at what I looked like with my face pressed against the car window.
Not long after that, I began first grade, and my mom went to work because she and my dad finally divorced.  My brother and I walked home from school every day–we lived like a block away–and I wore our house key on a piece of yarn around my neck. I was adjusting to her not being home when we got home from school.
To this day, if I start eating bread-butter & sugar, it is a gateway to a binge. Just thinking about doing it, I feel the memory of spacing out.

Ice Cream and Approximations of Ice Cream, i.e. Halo, and other Creamy Sweets such as Pudding and Pie…
I was maybe 6 years old. I know I was in first grade. My brother and I left school for the day and as we exited the back gate of the fence surrounding the playground–our exit to our neighborhood–we were met by a lady my mom knew. The lady’s name was Pat R.; she was one of my mom’s good friends, but I also knew her name well because I heard my mom talk about Pat’s husband drinking every night at a bar that was by a big drive-in-movie screen. I had absorbed the information that he was scary, and he beat her.  Pat met us at the back gate and told us that our mother was gone and that we were staying with her.
Mind. Blown.

Anyway, Mom was gone, and my brother and I were never told where she went. She was not even talked about. She never called. I can remember having a feeling of hope every night that she would call, and she never did.
And every night when Pat’s husband came home, I was frozen in fear, sitting at the end of a sofa bed in the living room. I had no connection to these people, my brother and I were not close, and I was the only one of us freaking out, at least outwardly.  The only other person I was attached to, my grandmother, was not contacting us, either.
My brother seemed to be having a great time with Pat’s son, Lee, who was one of his best friends, but I was scared shitless, not only because my mom was gone, but I had my head full of negative impressions of Pat’s husband, who I knew only by what my mom told me of him.
We lived in Richardson, Texas, a suburb a little northeast of Dallas–really, there’s not even a separation of them anymore–and there was this drive-in-theater off Central Expressway. I think it was called The Gemini(?) and there was this shack of a bar in the shadows of the drive-in. Every time we’d go by, or at least it seemed to me, Mom repeatedly pointed it out and told us that that bar was where Pat’s husband spent every night before he’d go home and beat her. Oh, and that Bonnie and Clyde hid out there, back in the day. So I had a pretty good negative impression of what it must be like at Pat’s house, (and a little gossip about a possible connection to famous Texas criminals of the 1920s…)

My brother and I were left with Pat, and we were never told where our mother had gone, or when she’d be back, and when she returned, she refused to tell us. Years later, after I was married, I learned that my mother left us like that because her father was believed to have had a heart attack in San Antonio, and he was with another woman. He was still married to my grandmother, and to keep her from finding out, my mom left us with these people to be by his side.
That incident created within me a fear of not seeing my mom again. I carried that fear within me until I entered recovery and for a long time afterward, too.
When I fear loss of relationships, or loss of security for any number of reasons, my urge to binge is like a tsunami of panic.

Soooo, how does this fit into the whole ice cream thing?
The only food I could eat that whole time was ice cream. It was orange sherbet, actually, but the ice cream thing stuck in my head and became my go-to-food when I was too upset to even consider anything I’d have to chew. Who knows?

Maybe I’d discovered that I was able to eat ice cream in a way that was acceptable to my father; maybe my steaming turd of a sperm donor; maybe a man in his mid-20s did not deem it worthy of bellowing insults at a 4 year old from across the table, if she didn’t have to chew.
Jesus, but that man hated me, and I knew it from the time I could comprehend his body language. He left Mom the first time when I was 3 days old, came home intermittently (when his girlfriends and he broke up), and told me when I was older that he left because “he just didn’t want to be there.” His pattern of coming around stayed true into my adulthood: he only seemed interested in being my father when it was convenient to him. We have no relationship at all now, and that is fine with me. When he dies, I have no interest in attending his funeral. He is not my father.

So there was a set pattern with Bio Dad, and Mom was also setting up a pattern of protecting and choosing men over her children, damn the fall out.

I’m in my early 50s, yet that hollowed-out empty feeling in the center of “me” is just as overpowering today as it was back then. It’s the same feeling I get when I feel rejected, abandoned, or sad. I think that’s the feeling I’m trying to fill up with the same kind of stuff I turned to as a little one.

Vanilla Sandwich Cookies A.K.A. Vanilla Oreos A.K.A. Vanilla Duplex Cookies A.K.A. The Bricks in a Misguided Attempt to Build a Wall (of Fat) Between Me and the World

After I began being sexually abused at age 8, getting home from school was a trigger–the anxiety when I got home had to do with not knowing what was going to happen next. My mom bought huge packages of the off-brand vanilla sandwich cookies, and I gorged on them.
I still carry this trigger in my nearly 52-year-old brain. It’s the same feeling I sometimes have when I’m on my way home from school even now–this untargeted, undefined dread–and I talk myself through it and tell myself it’s just my anxiety disorder talking. For a long time, I did not do more than just think, i.e. follow it up with action, such as distracting myself instead of acting on the urge. I started mapping out my binge on the way home. After enough doing that, I stopped trying to argue with TBL. I willfully ignored what I had learned to about my eating disorder and what I need to do to live with it in a way that it does not destroy me.

Christmas Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing, Millionaire Fudge, “Noël” cookies, Crumb-topped Coffee Cake, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Crescent Rolls…

The holidays used to be, and to some extent, still are, a hard time for me because of the loss of connection to my mom. It’s a period ripe for numbing out with food that makes me feel some sort of connection to her and/or that dulls the ghosts of abandonment past. It’s like… my family was so fucked up in so many ways, but one thing that was consistent was Christmas traditions.
Decorating the house–more than the tree–putting up decor throughout the house–was one of them. I do that for my children, too.
But cooking–just like every other American family that embraces the “food” aspect of the holidays–man, that was the centerpiece of everything. Every one of the foods listed in the subtitle above represent a connection to my mother. These were our traditional holiday sweets, and the sweets were all that mattered to me. I spent time with my mom making these and when I think about Christmas food to prep when my kids come home, these are all on my mind.
Especially.
Cut-out.
Sugar.
Cookies.
With Buttercream icing.
I can fool myself into thinking that these are a requirement for celebrating the holidays, and that if I do not make them, I am somehow not creating the climate and experiences my kids deserve. (I know, it’s fucked up thinking. I have told you from the outset that Binge Eating Disorder is a Mind Fuck, and it is, and ever it will be.)
When my kids were little, I made cut out sugar cookies with them, and we used to have an all day cookie decorating celebration at my mom’s. That is, I know, a memory they carry with them. The cookie day at my mom’s was an annual tradition that might even still be going on if things hadn’t changed.
But they HAD TO CHANGE.

But I can’t keep up the baking tradition, and I don’t think my kids really care, but I sometimes feel as if I am failing at Christmas because I’ve had to let go of so much they grew up with.
I didn’t bake when I was in recovery/therapy, then I fell into making cookies again for the last several years–told myself I could handle it–I wouldn’t eat any–but that was, of course, a LIE, and I always made so many that it was guaranteed I’d have plenty to binge on. I was AMAZED at how naturally/automatically I fell back into a behavior after not doing it for several years.
The cookies were also a problem for my daughters–talk about teaching your children well– and they even grew to resent me for having all this stuff around that they realize is a problem for them, too. Making those cookies is not okay. They are toxic to me because the trigger binges, and they make problems for others, too.

This year, I am not making any of those sweet foods. I am making one or two recipes from the Hungry Girl site but I will not make 6 dozen of anything, and none of what I make will be cookies. Or fudge. Or coffee cake. Or rolls. There are a couple of pie recipes I’ll check out, but I’m not even sure about that. Making my grocery list and having a plan in place is on my to-do list for today, when I finish this blog post & leave this McDonald’s parking lot and it’s FABULOUSLY FAST WI-FI.

Given what I know about my mom and the events beginning in December, 2004, when our relationship shattered and I experienced the darkest days of my entire life, then her subsequent amputation of not only me but my husband and children as well, I’m sure it’s hard for anyone to understand how deeply I still miss the way she created holidays for us, and the amazing grandma she was to my kids.
But I do. I miss it, even though it’s nothing but a ghost now. And I think about her, and I wonder if she still decorates her house, and I miss the feeling, the illusion, that…I’m not sure how to say it except, the illusion that I was loved the way I love my own children, in spite of all the history suggesting that I was not at all loved that way.
I love my children with a ferocity that I was not loved.

I think it’s a monumental step to recognize that every Christmas since I relapsed, I have been trying to recreate the feeling of being loved, and the way I was close to my mom was tied to memories of creating food and eating it.
From the bread-butter-&sugar sandwiches to sitting on the counter and her handing me the beaters to lick when she was making icing, sugar was and is inextricably linked to feelings of love and soothing.

And it was a lie.

Subtitle to Subtitle: Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing were Weights Anchoring Me to My Memories of Christmases Past
Nothing to add. It’s all been said.


Other Updates…

The Sleep Apnea Olympics
I met with the doctor for my follow up. I have moderately severe sleep apnea; the biggest problem detected by the home sleep study was that my oxygen level dropped too low. I have my C-Pap machine now– I call it my “snorkel.” I have used it 2 nights now, and both mornings, I have awakened with NO HEADACHE. I have been waking with headaches for YEARS. I have gone to work with headaches for YEARS. I’m also no longer snoring, gasping, or choking for air.
I’m so encouraged by my headaches already decreasing–apparently caused by lack of oxygen to my brain during the night–that I am starting to try to lower my Gabapentin dose–it’s the med I take 3x a day to prevent migraines from starting. It has a side effect of making me feel draggy, so between the problems with my sleep and taking a medication that causes fatigue, my frequent exhaustion is understandable.
I have hope bubbles percolating that I will eventually have a life that does not include so much headache pain. My next Botox for migraines is on Jan. 2.

Goat Rancher
So, my husband was given a Nigerian Dwarf Goat for Christmas. Goats can’t be alone and be happy, and we would never have an animal without providing it the best life we can give it, so Daniel went back to the guy who his friends bought the goat from, and bought the sister. So now we have Onslow (AKA “The Gift”) and his sister, Daisy. These names may be familiar to anyone who watches Keeping Up Appearances on PBS. Onslo and Daisy are the brother-in-law & sister-in-law of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounce it Bouquet!), and they are essentially white trash. They spend a lot of time in bed watching TV and they go to bed whenever they please, including the daytime. Thus, when Daniel and I are exhausted and find ourselves in bed on a Saturday afternoon, snoozing & watching TV, we joke that we are Onslow and Daisy. The names were his idea.
Daisy the goat is believed to be pregnant– but Onslow, her brother, is NOT the daddy. When Daniel bought her, she was in a pen with another female goat & a male. The good news: female goats can only get pregnant once a year. The bad news: Onslow the goat is so well-endowed–like, ridiculously well-endowed–that attempts to “band” him to neuter him were unsuccessful because the tool & band cannot fit over his well-endowed self. Thus, it looks like we’ll be setting him up with a vet to be castrated.
All of this has come about in the past 10 days or so. Our dogs are a threat to the goats. We did not have a separating fence built when the goats came home, although we have an adequate shelter for Onslow and Daisy- a dog house constructed with an iron frame, metal roof, and Hardie-board (siding made of concrete), hay, and a heat lamp. But the fence, that would permit us to simplify life so much, is not up yet to separate the goats from our dogs. Thus, until the ground dries up and Daniel’s work schedule permits, we are having to switch out goats & dogs whenever the dogs want to go out.

Side note: The goats are now trained to come into the house by being called, AND, they go immediately into my daughter’s bathroom.

Side-side note: This morning, they discovered that they have the ability to jump up onto the toilet AND the sink.

Side-side-side note: Next time, guys, a gift certificate to Chilis or something like that will be an adequate expression of your appreciation and affection for Daniel…the goats are adorable and we know this will work out, but…maybe a little heads-up instead of having the auto parts guy deliver the goat with an order?
Well, they were originally going to give Daniel a goat OR a pig, so thanks for choosing the former.

Next Nutritionist Appointment & Weigh-In
January 2nd, I have my next weigh in, consultation with the nutritionist, and lab work done. I’m supposed to be giving up my one and only daily Diet Coke by then, and also working on not drinking anything 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after I eat, in order to be prepared for the changes coming in March.

 

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One Reply to “When Sugar is Love…or at least it feels like it…”

  1. I still miss the holidays she created for us and the grandma I remember, too. I love the traditions we’ve created for ourselves in its place. I don’t even consider whether or how she does things today because I can’t imagine her life as being anything other than a shell of what it was given the choices that she’s made. In contrast, our lives are so much fuller because we choose to live in the light of truth and authenticity.

    I also remember how she has been gone for some of the most important milestones in my life and will continue to be absent for them. I treasure what I do have (and what I may have in the future) — those who actually were there for me over the past 13 years and have witnessed me grow into the strong woman I am today.

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