One of the reasons I was so drawn to Glennon Doyle in the first place was because of her struggles with both food and addiction. She was so open about her reliance on these mechanisms to dim herself and her emotions and hearing her story made me realize why I struggled with the same things.
When I was 16, my doctors said I had EDNOS - Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Which basically meant I went back and forth between starving myself and binging and purging. I had a terrible relationship to food and even today I have to remind myself to eat when I’m stressed and pay attention to my emotions when I think I’m hungry.
I had never learned how to cook healthy and wholesome food, so everything I did know how to cook - alfredo, baked potato soup, cupcakes & lasagna were (are) my specialities - was comfort food. This didn’t help my cause when I tried to learn how to listen to my body when it needed food since I only knew how to comfort it, not nourish it.
Reading Glennon’s book Love Warrior came at such an unexpected time in my life. It had been on my must-read list for ages, I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I had seen her speak online and enjoyed her but didn’t really GET it. I didn’t get why she was such a force to be reckoned with until I read the book.
I was so unprepared.
Let me just say that I’m a book hopper. I LOVE to read, especially non-fiction. I also enjoy reading fiction, but my thirst for knowledge is greater than anything else in my life. Except maybe my wanderlust… but that’s another post. ;p
I read anywhere from 10-20 books at one time. Sure, sometimes I realize I need to dive deeper into a book and fully commit to reading - or listening - to it. But most of the time it takes me months to finish a book - if I even finish it in the first place. Not because I get bored, but because sometimes I get what I needed to learn from it quickly! And then I implement it and shelve it until it catches my curiosity again.
But that didn’t happen with Love Warrior. I can read a fiction book of about 300 pages in a day. So I can read fairly fast if there is a good story, but I don’t remember the last time I did that because learning has been my focus more than escaping to a fantasy world for a day.
I started Love Warrior on a Sunday afternoon and by Tuesday morning I sat back in my bed, stunned by the impact of this book. Well, that’s not true. I read the first chapter on Thursday and realized this was not a book I wanted to read half ass. So I came back to it from the beginning a few days later. :p
As I read, the struggles she talks about with her self image and the lengths she would go to to battle with food were hard to digest. (Ha - no pun intended.) I felt my chest constricting as I felt all the feelings I had when I was 13 and I made myself sick for the first time. The self hatred. The shame. And the satisfaction. The control.
When everything in my life exploded and I was kicked out of my house the one thing I could control was how much, when and what I ate. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to numb myself. I expressed my emotions in how I ate - or often how I didn’t eat - lunch.
In a weird way, this helped me prepare for when I didn’t have food and I was drinking water from my hands in gas station bathrooms, pretending it tasted like French fries. It wasn’t too hard since I only did this when I was desperate and the smell of the fried food from inside the gas station mingled with the salt from my tears made it very convincing. Well, almost.
When Glennon talks about drinking and using these mechanisms to numb herself, to bury the hard parts of life - especially all those pesky feelings - I felt like someone had turned a key in my mind. Numbing. How fitting. I finally understood why I had issues with food and self harming.
I knew it was because I was hurting. Because I wanted to disappear. Because I was feeling too much from this life. Not because I wanted attention, which is what my mom accused me of at the time.
All these years later, I still hadn’t reconciled why I turned to cutting and starving myself as a means to control my life as a teenager. As a means to feel - real pain and hunger pangs - without feeling - depressed, abandoned, disposed of. Not easy feelings, but still feelings.
Today I still have so much to relearn from when I was a kid. Don’t we all? But it wasn’t until I read Love Warrior that I felt… I suppose it would be permission to feel.
Permission to fully feel it. To sit in it. To own it and question it and it’s truth. I’m not disposable. And as my friend, mentor and depression coach Sam Howard would say - you can feel depressed without being depressed.
Now I question everything. Am I upset or hungry? Tired or sad? Is this feeling justified? If not, where is it coming from?
And perhaps best of all, I accept and allow myself to just feel it. As Glennon says, “We can do hard things.”
It may not always feel great (it usually doesn’t), but I know it’s temporary. It’s okay to take a nap when you feel like shit. It’s okay to not know why you don’t feel okay right now.
And if Glennon can write about it… all the hard stuff and cracks in the facade of perfection we all try to build up - I can write about it too.
Because I can do hard things.