How long have you been trying to recover from your eating disorder? This episode is for those of you have tried everything and wondering if recovery is even possible. When a complicated relationship with food includes trauma, loneliness, and pain recovery may seem out of reach. Listen to this latest Love Food Podcast episode with guest expert Daralyse Lyons. She’s an activist, actor, and advocate and host of the Demystifying Diversity Podcast.
This episode of The Love Food Podcast is brought to you by my PCOS + Food Peace Course. It is 30% May 16-24th using coupon code ‘birthday’ at check out. Grab the details at PCOSandFoodPeace.com
Thank you for you supporting the Love Food Podcast!
At some point in my teens, I started restricted and using my vegetarianism to always choose the salad option at school. But it wasn’t controlling, it wasn’t overwhelming; it felt more like a natural reaction to being at an all girls school in the society that we live in – an image-based thing. Sometimes, it was reactionary, in spite of my (well-meaning) mother who would always tell me that ‘soup is a starter not a meal’, and check if I was eating enough despite her smaller portions. (I later learned she had a struggled with anorexia for years, and would still struggle to eat in times of stress.)
I developed anxiety and depression by age 16, which ruled and ruined my sixth-form life. Perhaps it was the exam stress, the family troubles – growing up with a drug abusing brother who was in and out of school, in and out of home, in and out of hospital (not that I was always told straight away). We had a complex relationship with my father, who always vied for my brother’s attention and allegiance against my mother. I tried to be always neutral, always loving of all parties – because I was, and couldn’t not be. But with this came a lot of pain, a lot of confusion, and the earnest desire to always tread this precarious, and often punishing line. Of course, when I couldn’t – and can’t today – there is guilt. I was a straight A* student until the slump during my sixth form years, when my energy broke, and I scraped my way through the last 2 years. I used to be, and still feel like I should be, the person who was able to succeed at anything and everything without dropping the ball – but suddenly I could do nothing, and have struggled ever since. Around this time I realised there was probably something wrong – a cause. Through an explosive conversation with my mother, I was pushed to a consultation with a therapist and given the diagnosis – anxiety and depression – but didn’t receive further help.
In my first year of uni I tried to access help myself, but was turned away by the uni counselling services after a few sessions, saying they didn’t know how to help me as I had already thought everything through so much myself. It was in this year I had a few episodes of bingeing and purging. This continued around occasional periods of stress, such as exams, but not as a regular method of coping.
In second year, my mental health worsened. Restricting, binging and purging became a secret indulgence, but never something I saw as a problem as it was so sporadic. I had difficult relationships with my flatmates, though I had stronger friendships elsewhere, I felt alone. I became so ill I had to defer my exams. I worked towards the summer session, hoping I could somehow manage. But two weeks before I was due to take them, I was raped.
Utterly broken, I moved back in with my parents for a few months, during which time I tried to use food to console myself while I tried to process what happened. But when a close family member was admitted to hospital with terminal cancer, I began majorly restricting. When they passed away and my family fell apart, I moved back to my uni town and started a new job, trying to get my life back on track. Pretty much all the friends I thought I had were no longer there for me. I managed to access CBT for 9 weeks, but developed bulimia in an dramatic way, binging and purging at least 3 times in a day, at one time losing X in a month. This continued through another exam deferral, and another.
I fought for a year to access treatment, being passed from waiting list to waiting list, rejected for being too symptomatic, too complicated or not fitting criteria. Along the way, I met someone who truly loves me and cares for men and helps me through these struggles. When I am with him, I eat normally and don’t purge, but will find myself in tears most evenings because of food. My weight is stable at a healthy BMI, but I am miserable in my skin, mentally exhausted, and absolutely terrified: of this relationship with food that dominates my life. I cannot have food around me and resist it, regardless of whether I am hungry – I am so anxious about when I might need to eat, that I am constantly aware of a hunger, and I cannot discern the emotional from the physical. I know I use bingeing and purging as both a means of occupying myself when I am alone, as an emotional control and as a form of self-harm. And what started as a tool has grown like a weed to something that I am constantly aware of, and bothers me even when I am happiest. I love to cook, and often cook with my boyfriend, but cannot enjoy a meal without resenting myself and being overwhelmed with frustration as a result.
In a month, I will finally be starting treatment (psychotherapy with a trauma focus), but I am worried about managing my relationship with food during this time, as I know it will be a gradual process, and not the focus of my treatment. Additional private treatment isn’t easily an option for me. I am also worried about the strain I place on my boyfriend, who is always there for me, but who cannot fight the battle for me, no matter how much he may want to try.
I am trying to keep the willpower to fight for myself, to maintain the relationships I have left and succeed in my final chance to pass these exams in just a few months. I desperately need peace with you food, so that I can have more energy to make peace elsewhere in my life.
- Julie Dillon RD blog
- The PCOS + Food Peace Free Roadmap
- The PCOS + Food Peace Course
- Link to get latest Food Peace Syllabus.
- 6 Keys To Food Peace
- Demystifying Diversity Podcast
- Daralyse Lyons website
- The book: Demystifying Diversity: Embracing Our Shared Humanity
- https://twitter.com/daralyselyons https://www.instagram.com/daralyselyons/
- Submit your Dear Food letter here or https://forms.gle/pepKRGPC8JbHLHHn8
- Julie on Instagram: Instagram.com/FoodPeaceDietitian
- Find Eating Disorder Dietitians near you.
Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to LoveFoodPodcast@gmail.com.