I was at my therapist appointment the other day. I call her “M’lady” when referring to her, because the words “therapy” and “therapist” annoy the crap out of me. I was chatting to “M’lady” about the moment I heard a ‘POP’ sound in my head, and I became an eating disorder victim in the span of a second.
Of course there were many thousands of moments and experiences which had let up to this ‘POP,’ but I remember this one day so vividly. I was standing in the middle of a road in Ireland, where I was an exchange student, and I was in the middle of eating a Mars bar. Half way through my bar, I thought, “This is a very very bad thing for me to have. And yet I want a thousand more.” From that day on, not an hour has gone by without a wheel of thought spinning in my mind, “Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I? Should I?”
After musing and digging around in my childhood with many different “M’lady’s,” I had come to the conclusion that because I was left to rot in the mountain desert with my nasty grandparents, I was looking to “stuff” myself into safety. Food doesn’t really have bags to pack in the middle of the night.
But then: I was recently reading some dumb “Strawberry Shortcake Sleepover” book to my daughter, and Blueberry Fritter tells her friends that she is afraid to join them because she might become so lonely for home that she can’t stand it. And worst of all… what if she wakes up in the middle of the night?
I remember my first night in Ireland. I was 15 years old and had just taken a godawful plane trip which included 3 changes, one hotel stay, and one eight hour stint between 2 smokers. You could smoke on planes and the U2 members were 20-something years old. I finally arrived at the host family’s house and was struck by terror; a homesickness so fierce that I thought I would implode with pain. This was before email, or Smart phones, and a call home would cost money. Moreover, it is my suspicion that they were hosting me for money, because they certainly did not seem pleased to have me there. It was one of the most painful feelings I have experienced, and I only just remembered it the other day with M’lady. It makes all the other abandonments seem like my mother had just taken a trip to the store without me.
I don’t know if this knowledge will help me heal, or if the reason I am addicted to food is just because I am addicted to food, but it seems significant.
M’lady then told me about her own father, who was left in a London orphanage when he was 5 years old with his younger brother. His mother had died and his father had gone to America. A year and a half later the child’s father returned to bring him to his new home, with his new mother – a crippled, angry woman – whose role was to be a caretaker to the children. The boy was forbidden to speak about his real mother and yearned every day for her.
When he grew up, he became a merchant sailor, and travelled to London and back to America, to America and back to London, over and over again searching for his mother’s grave. His father had refused to tell him what her maiden name was. The boy found the grave when he was 63 years old.
Abandonment is not to be minimized.