When I first started turning to food to comfort
There are certain things in life that change us without us even realising. Things out of our control that sort of just happen to us and we don’t even know how they have affected us until years later. We all have them, particularly from times in our childhood. This is what I want to share with you today as it was this particular situation for me that set my relationship with food for most of my life.
I grew up in an idyllic situation – in a warm, tropical climate, going to a great school, I had lots of friends, fun outdoor activities, a loving family with a younger sister and brother who I liked enough ;-) and awesome holidays to visit family abroad. It was a very privileged, dream childhood. However, things changed when I turned eight as my mother got cancer and passed away shortly afterwards. It was one of those turning points where everything changes overnight and life as you know it won’t ever be the same again, it can’t be.
I remember it being one of those things that you don’t really talk about, it had just happened and that’s the way it was. I don’t really remember ever crying (at least not to anyone else) and it wasn’t something that you could easily bring up. I was so young at the time, I think people sort of just assumed you would be okay and get on with everything. When people asked about my family I’d just brush off the fact that my mother has passed away as though it didn’t bother me in the slightest. It was just a fact, and that was it.
My dad, whilst being the kindest man in the world, of course found it hard and had started drinking to cope so wasn’t really able to be there for us emotionally. So I found myself taking on this role to try and be there for my younger brother and sister. I felt I had to do it all alone, that I didn’t have anyone to ask for help. I became an eight-year-old adult.
I remember finding relief at school as I could be a child and had friends who I had fun with. But it also felt very confusing as deep down inside I felt different. I was in pain. But it had to stay inside. I couldn’t and wouldn’t let the pain out. I didn’t allow myself, or even really know how, to process the changes, so life just went on and I had to adapt. At the same time, I found that food made me feel better, so I started to use it as my source of comfort.
I ate away my pain. Sweets, chocolates, anything which made me feel better with an instant high was my go-to. I became addicted to it. We weren’t really allowed candy at home so I’d find ways to sneakily buy it and hide it in my bedroom. Never for very long though as anything sweet lying around would be too hard to resist for me. I remember the rush I got when I had something sugary, I’d feel full, satisfied and buzzing. It would last for a few hours but then I’d inevitably want more. I also numbed my pain as I usually ate until I was so full I felt so uncomfortable I needed to lie down.
I then started to use food for everything that happened to me in life where I didn’t feel able to express my feelings. This led to years of dieting and purging to feel better. I’d feel so much guilt, I’d hate myself and wish I was stronger, that I had more will power. Wish that I could do better. But when I was hurting inside food made me feel better. It gave me a sense of security, comfort and happiness for the short moments it lasted. This then turned to alcohol and dabbling with drugs when I became an adult.
It was a vicious cycle that lasted for many years.
It has been an ongoing journey of self-development work and processing, but today I’m in a place where I feel calm in myself, I allow myself to feel things as they happen. I still get sad for the little girl inside myself that went through so much and I didn’t allow her to feel it. She was so strong and resilient but also so young and inexperienced. I am proud of her. I am proud to be her. I want to support her, be there for her now in the best possible way.
If we don’t feel our emotions and feelings, where do they go? Do they stay with us? Do they lodge themselves in our bodies? It’s so much healthier to let them out. Feel them. Sit with them. Comfort them even. They’re never as bad as you think they will be. Then once you have done that you can move forward, thankful to yourself, proud of yourself even, that you’ve allowed yourself to process them.
My question for you this week is do you allow yourself to feel what you are going through? Or do you numb and block the feelings that arise? Perhaps you could allow yourself to really feel what is happening for a change and see how that goes? Be honest with yourself.