I haven’t posted for a while,you probably noticed. I am, as you might know, studying, and my parents were over for Christmas and then right about everybody in the house got sick… so I took a break, but it’s time to get back to work.
One of the things that have kept me entertained during this period of ‘rest’ has been Rupaul’s Drag Race. If you don’t know what it is, well, it’s a combination of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway with a hint of Lip Sync Battle, but with drag queens. It’s a fantastic show, great fun, displaying men who transform into women or female characters and who, mostly, look better than most of us born with both X chromosomes.
It is also a show where all these men, mostly young, but occasionally older, get to talk about the difficulties they’ve had because of their sexuality or even their ambition to be drag queens. Understand me well, some of them have great supportive families, but other had it much harder, some of them having been asked to leave their home, or bullied and even abused. There is a lot of crying involved in this show too, but overall is good fun. In any case, it wasn’t until one of them made the revelation that he was HIV positive that I started paying more attention to the individual cases and thinking back about the other participants I had seen before tell their story on TV and the different reactions they got when coming out, etc. And it got me thinking about how hard it is to speak about things that are so private and personal as sexuality, health and, in my case, BED.
I lived a prime example of this difficulty not that long ago. I went to see a doctor for an unrelated issue and he mentioned my weight and how I should see a dietitian to ‘watch it’. I’m not going to lie, that threw me, which is silly, because I am aware of my excess weight, but I had come to a stage of acceptance of my body as part of my recovery and that literally pushed me off the tightrope I was balancing on. So I explained to this doctor about my BED and that I had gone to therapy, etc. He looked at me as if I was talking Mandarin. Now, I appreciate it wasn’t his specialty, but to this day, BED is still very unknown, even by the medical profession, although my GP assures me they have referred several people for therapy – some patients, apparently, don’t get accepted into treatment, which makes me glad I went privately.
So if your doctor doesn’t even know about BED, how can you feel comfortable talking about it with friends and family who are, naturally, less educated about mental health issues?
And family and friends don’t necessarily understand it. Even when you explain it over and over again, and you are tired of doing so and then time passes, and you feel like they’ve finally got it, there is a likelihood that something will happen, a comment, a conversation, even a fight, that will make you feel like they never really had. I experienced this quite recently when my parents were over. Although my mother knew I ate more than three times a day to control my hunger and blood sugars (see more about this here), every time I ate something ‘out of hours’ she asked me ‘but you’re hungry!?’ The thing is, she probably didn’t do it with any judgment although my mother, admittedly, has issues understanding that other people might be hungry when she is not, and it was a very simple, genuine question. And yet it bothered me. Because the intention with which people say things and the way we perceive them are two different things.
When somebody says something, it goes from their thought process into words (with or without filter) and then goes through our own filter. And that filter has any sort of built in prejudices, like ‘fear of being judged’, ‘fear of being hurt’, ‘I already know what you’re thinking’, etc. And you could fall into the trap of thinking, well, it’s my fault if I understand things like this.
First of all, ‘fault’ is not the word for it, but most importantly, you’re the one who is recovering from a problem – or trying to. You’re the one who needs help and, no matter what the intention was, the way you understand what is being said is what will ultimately have an effect on your recovery.
This is why is so important to ‘educate’ your family and friends, or at least those you decide to talk to, about how to help you (see some recommendations here).
But what if, as I said above, they don’t listen? Or they forget? Well, it is also important to remember that they have their own frustrations and anxieties and that sometimes they can’t control them either. They do it, they say, because they love you, but the truth is they do it because of their own feelings, and that’s understandable. It is vital to remind them what you are trying to achieve and why you need them to help you and be your support system.
Ultimately, what you need to understand is that you need to help them help you and, in order to do that, you need to talk about it. Be brave, like those men in wigs and fabulously padded asses, and talk about it, even if it’s only with one person. Tell them how you feel, why you feel like that and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, because you’re not. It takes immense strength to grab the bull by the horns and lead it where you want it to go, in this case, to an existence of normal eating and freedom from food obsession.