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How the Toxic Home I Grew Up in Affected My Struggle With Disordered Eating

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Eating is a nightmare for me.

While I don’t technically have an eating disorder, I definitely struggle with disordered eating. Here’s why.

• What is PTSD?

I happen to be “blessed” with the wonderful combination of complex PTSD and food allergies. I grew up in an incredibly toxic home, where everything I did was criticized and belittled.

We also grew up on disability. The food on our table came from our local church and from the kindness of our neighbor’s hearts.

Some of that food was not very good. As most smaller children do, I would tell my parents when I didn’t like something. At least at first.

My dad put a quick end to that.

Instead of trying to help me understand that we didn’t have the money to buy food, he would yell things at me like, “You ungrateful child, there are children in Africa who would be happy to eat what you have in front of you.”

Every meal was a guilt trip.

It didn’t help that when I started developing food allergies, he didn’t believe me. When I told him that something made me feel sick, he told me I was just making up an excuse to get out of eating what was in front of me. I was even threatened with punishment if I didn’t eat what was given to me.

So I did. Even though it often sent me to the bathroom for the rest of the night, being incredibly ill. Unless I went into anaphylactic shock, I had to eat what was given to me.

As we got money, and were able to buy more food, this happened less and less. But by that time, the damage had already been done. Eating induced a huge state of guilt. I had learned to be shameful when eating. I had also blocked out my time to plan around the hour or two that I would have to spend in the bathroom after I ate foods I know would make me sick.

Now, I’ve been out of that home for nearly eight years. But I still struggle with eating every day.

This isn’t something I can just come back to, or work on when I have the energy. I literally need to eat to survive. But every time I do eat, I struggle with that huge sense of guilt that threatens to swallow me whole.

To be honest, I’m still learning to work with it. I think it will take a lot of time to learn how to eat without feeling absolutely guilty for doing so.

But I’ve learned a couple of ways to work around it.

If I’m eating with someone, it’s a lot easier to quiet the voice of guilt that tells me I am wrong for eating differently than everyone else around me.

I also find it’s a lot easier to eat when I’m distracted watching YouTube or a movie. If I’m not thinking about eating, then the guilt is a lot less likely to come up.

But there are still times when I can’t shut it out. And when that happens, I have to talk myself through eating.

I remind myself what my dad did was wrong. That my body deserves to be nourished with foods that don’t hurt. I remind myself my allergies are not my fault, and that I am not bad for having them.

Sometimes, I have to lean on my friends. Those closest to me know about these struggles. They know I have a hard time eating. So when I ask for encouragement, they remind me I am not bad for eating in a specific way. They help me to see I have needs, just like every body else.

Going through this has helped me sympathize with those who struggle with eating disorders. I know my experience isn’t exactly the same, but I can imagine the guilt they feel messes with their entire lives the way it does mine.

To those of you out there who feel guilty for eating, know you are not alone. Know you are not alone, and that you deserve to be nourished and fed just like everyone else around you. I think you are beautiful and amazing, and so so strong for fighting this battle every day.

We’re in this together.

Getty Images photo via Archv

Originally published: June 14, 2018
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