on binging

I haven’t felt well the past few days. I’ve experience several ups and downs, including one period of depression where I thought I’d have to binge in order to bring myself back up again. Fortunately, I kept control and didn’t binge, and eventually my mood brightened and I began to function again.

It’s really strange that something so destructive (my binges) can make me feel whole again. I like to call it a release while my therapist calls it avoidance or suppression … regardless, I feel so much better after I binge. Actually, I want to step back: I want look a little closer at what happens before, during, and after a binge (because I just love breaking things down into tiny, manageable pieces). Without going into too much detail, before a binge I’m low–really low, obviously. My body, my mind, everything aches. There’s tension, there’s stress, there’s negative thoughts. Usually, I’ve stirred up some feelings or memories that I haven’t touched in a while. My brain feels mushy; there’s no other way to describe it.

When the actual decision is made (most of the time I feel like it’s already made for me beforehand) to go out to get food or alcohol–whatever I’m feeling like at the time, depending on the time of day (I never drink during the day, except maybe on the weekends or some holidays … ), etc–shame and guilt hit me. Before I even go to get the food, there’s guilt for what I’m about to do. But not enough guilt to stop me from doing it in the first place. At the store, when I’m picking up the ice cream or burrito or beer, the shame only increases. I feel like the cashiers know me by now. When they’re all together at some bar after work, they talk about me, referring to me as the “binger” or “loser”, that sort of thing. They know exactly how sad and depressed I am, because I wear my feelings on the outside. Everybody knows, for that matter.

After the food is obtained, my heart starts racing and my mood begins to lift. I have to get home as soon as possible. I race back, running up the stairs two at a time, and then consume … and consume … and consume. In all, it probably takes me less than thirty minutes to eat a burrito and a pint or quart of ice cream (my staples). If I’m drinking, though, I like to spread out six beers over a period of three or four hours. I hate getting drunk. My only goal is to get rid of the feelings.

The actual consuming is all done unconsciously. I usually plop myself in front of my computer, watching an episode of Star Trek or Seinfeld while shoving the food down my throat. There are no thoughts, the feelings disperse. Sometimes I’ll catch my reflection in the computer screen which causes me to pull back a little and assess the situation. I begin to feel shame, regret, remorse, anxiety … but before the feelings can take a hold of me I return to the food, unconscious once again.

When I’m done, the feelings begin to return little by little, but they’re different. Less tangible, and more abstract. They’re probably deeper in my body, too. Then, they start to grow again and I feel worse and worse, but, again, they’re still different. I’m not depressed or hopeless, but I just feel so much shame and regret. Eventually, those feelings disperse and I’m left with just a sense of contention. What’s done is done, my mind says. Pull yourself together. You have a future, you have worth. It’s like I have to hit some sort of rock bottom to see things clearly. When you’re down, the only place to go is up.

On Thursday I really felt giving into the temptation. The triggers were there, the environment was just right. But rather than giving in, I pushed through using a combination of awareness and cognitive techniques. I caught the thoughts before they could take control of me. I then distracted myself, and, finally, I replaced my negative thoughts with positive one’s.

It was a minor victory, but I learned something extremely valuable–I learned how to take back control. In the end, though, it’s not about controlling my thoughts or feelings or urges, because they may always be there; instead, it’s about not letting them control me.

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3 responses to “on binging

  1. Just wanted to say that I came across your blog through your postings about the Social Anxiety Institute on the forum, and I’m finding it very interesting! I struggle with so many of the same problems, and it’s interesting to read someone else’s take on binge eating. I do the same thing–it’s like sending myself to rock bottom once a month or week so that I can have the experience of pulling myself together, brushing myself off and being “good” for awhile. That’s gotta change! I’m very appreciative that you’re blogging about this–looking forward to reading more of your blog!

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’s strange to go back and read this, because I am able to control myself better now. I haven’t binged in like three weeks. Instead, when I’m feeling low, I exercise. I go for a run, I do push-ups or sit-ups. But the urges are still there. I’m also not getting as low anymore because I’ve found techniques to distract myself, so I don’t get caught in the negative thought cycle. Anyway, thanks for coming by and commenting!

  2. Hi Mike,
    I hope that you are still doing well and are recovering from your depression and binge eating/alcohol reliance to deal with depression/anxiety. I would be very very very grateful for any advice you may have or for any support we can give to eachother if this is a problem for you again. I am finally admitting to myself that I have a problem, I cannot deal with stress or negative feelings and use alcohol and binge eating to deal with emotions. My life on the outside looks great however I am a sensitive person and also aim for perfection, I feel really screwed up at the moment I cant think clearly and think I am going mad so I just stuff myself with food to achieve the ‘unconsciousness; that goes with binge eating, or drink alcohol to the escape the uncomfortable feelings. It is helpful to see that someone else has dealt with these feelings in the same way as I thought I was just messed up. I would love to regain control of my life and me a normal person.

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