TW/CW: Mental Health, Self-Harm, Depression, Eating Disorder

One of the things that has helped most with lasting weight loss is unpacking the behaviors that led me to relapse and how it got so bad in the first place. One of the most prominent is my relationship with food and pain.

In my teenage years I was not very good at dealing with stress and what was undiagnosed depression. Months would go by where I would feel nothing, no positive emotion. Just this constant sense of tension and anxiety. I did not see life in days, somehow I would wake up and it would be another month, another season. The feeling of having your life slip by while struggling with depression is not a combination I would wish on my worst enemy.

Cutting for me started when I was doing the dishes.  A slip up while looking for a plate in the dish water, instead finding a knife. The physical pain manifested and validated the emotional pain I was feeling. It was something I could look at, and say “I am feeling something.” My worries and fears went from what the next few years had to how do I stop this physical pain I am currently feeling.

It was unfortunately not a one-off thing. After months of feeling nothing but a crushing emptiness the feeling of pain became something I chased like a high. It drove a deeper wedge between friends and peers, something changes with you and your personality when you open your skin to cope with daily stress. It became a control thing, I could not control how I felt but I could control whether or not I was in pain.  That misguided sense of control was something I clung onto until I left for college.

With college I had a roommate, and for me cutting wasn’t an attention thing. So continuing to do so was not something I wanted to do for fear of discovery (even though looking back I know that pretty much everyone knew it was a thing.) So with the advent of the 24/7 cafeteria I started a new method of self harm, binge eating and compulsive over eating.

One may look at food, a thing that is meant to nourish and sustain and scoff at the idea that it can be a tool for self destruction.  That a fork could have the same impact as a box cutter. But it served the same purpose as cutting, it temporarily filled that void that depression had left. But only for a short while till I found myself looking for the next meal.

Back then food wasn’t about nutrition or macros, it was quite literally how much can I consume before I am in pain. It was keeping my mouth moving so I couldn’t hear the intrusive thoughts over my chewing. I remember sitting down for full meals and not feeling hungry since I had been eating all day, yet still cleaning my plate.

I remember eating so much, and being in so much pain that I had to throw up to feel comfortable.

I remember isolating myself in my dorm room and buying groceries because I didn’t want to be seen in my ill fitting clothes. The shame of constantly wanting to mindlessly eat.

Instead of bright red cuts I was left with bright red stretch marks. Angry and itchy, they mocked any delusions I had that I wasn’t putting on weight, that it was my clothes shrinking in the dryer.

I still have to take inventory of myself before eating. Asking myself “Am I hungry, bored, or emotional?” The desire to use food as an escape still is a persistent issue for me, one that I try to not beat myself up over. I still have periods where to call it a cheat day is a lie, its a binging spree. My tendency to go into a frenzy in regards to food makes it difficult for me to cheat on my diet, as a cheat day has a tendency to turn into a cheat week. Ending with me using the scale to climb back on the horse.

I’m sure that I can look at my work out habits, and point to my constant need to be sore the next day as a hallmark sign of self-injury. I can look at my logs and tell you what days were my worst, with maxed out weights and extra cardio. Sometimes the mindset of those days is to burn of the stress, others is to punish myself for my shortcomings. I try to keep working out a positive tool for coping, instead focusing on celebrating my triumphs rather than beating myself up over any failings.

Self-injury is an addictive behavior that I always have to stay wary of. Very easily I could let my workouts be fueled by self hatred and the feeling of the “big empty” washing over me. To run and lift until my limbs fail me, then hate my fallibility. But I know that to do so would damn me to burning out and quitting. And I refuse to quit, I refuse to let my past define my future.