Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cutting the Connection

Another busy day. Just got back from my appointment with Dr. K., and I talked a lot about IE and how it's going for me. I told her about this past weekend's binge and uncovering its causes, and I also explained how I was beginning to get a handle on my emotions through analyzing the beliefs behind them.

For example, last night everyone in my house was cranky. Mabel was in full Drama Queen Mode, and Hubby was in a foul mood. The latter really affected me at first, and I started to get all upset and anxious and wanted to escape. But then I thought about the Food and Feelings book and went over my mental notes to see if I could deflate it. And then I got it: this situation was triggering memories and emotions of how I used to feel as a child when dealing with my father. I knew that if he wasn't home by 6 o'clock, it was best to quickly eat supper and run for shelter in my bedroom. Dad's work day was 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and was always topped off with a stop at the bar. If it was a "good" day he'd be home by 4 or 5 and be happily buzzed and in a good mood. But if it went past 6, he would get way past buzzed, and then his mood was a crap shoot: sometimes he'd come home completely anesthetized and out of it, but in an instant he could get nasty. Never physically violent, but definitely angry and full of verbal venom.

You could say living on eggshells was a normal way of life for my mom, sister and me. In the worst periods, Mom would prepare for this time of day by hitting the liquor cabinet and "bracing" herself for whatever was coming. Like I said, if the 6 o'clock news came on and there was no Dad, my sister and I would eat our supper in front of the TV and hightail it to our rooms to do homework, listen to music, etc.

Unfortunately, both my sister and I wound up recreating this scenario in our relationships as adults. Life with my Ex was definitely strewn with egg shells. While he wasn't as heavy a drinker as my dad, his diabetes would greatly affect his moods, and his OCD tendencies led him to blowing up at me over the tiniest imperfections in my housecleaning. So he would drink too much on a Saturday night, then Sunday morning when he was hungover and his blood sugar would go all out of whack, he would blow up at me. One weekend I got the announcement that he couldn't live with me anymore because the couch cushions weren't properly fluffed. I got a sticky note telling me to "Clean up after yourself, you pig" when I left some grains of sugar on the kitchen counter. After he felt better he would calm down, but it left me strung out and in constant fear of the next explosion. Unlike my mother, instead of hitting the whiskey bottle waiting for my man to come home, I'd escape in the food.

As for my sister, her ex-husband not only would drink too much, but from my observations he shared my father's bipolar disorder. His wild highs and lows and paranoid thoughts were way too familiar. When I went to visit my sister for a week, I could see our childhood repeating itself once again. As for my sister's drug of choice, every afternoon before her husband came home she would sneak off and smoke to calm her nerves.

I realized the anxiety I was feeling last night was triggered by my memories of my evenings as a child, in addition to my life with my ex. Even though my husband was completely sober and not verbally abusive, his bad mood immediately took me back to those days of living on egg shells and wanting to eat and hide. I informed myself that this situation has nothing to do with those bad times, and it was senseless to connect what's happening today to the past and get myself worked up over someone else's emotions. (I believe that's called transference!)

Suddenly the anxiety and fear was gone. I did kind of keep my distance until he calmed down, but later on we talked and everything was fine. And I had no need to inhale a box of cookies or run down the street and get a big sundae to cope with it. I did have one cookie last night, but hey, it was a couple hours after dinner, I was craving it, and I was completely satisfied with it and felt great. I think that's called normal eating!

It feels so good when I have a moment like this when I can put what I'm learning into practice and see immediate results. Each time this happens the urge to binge gets a little smaller and the desire for food to comfort and console me decreases. I know there are no instant cures with IE, but as long as I continue to collect these positive moments, I will continue to recover.


Tree Lover said...

Wow, you have been through a lot! I'm so happy for you that you have a happy and sane family life now. It's so hard to break out of those kinds of cycles. And great job figuring out where your anxiety was coming from. That Food and Feelings book sounds like it must be really good.

Joc said...

You did so well figuring out what was causing your anxiety instead of eating your way through it. This post has given me much to think about.