I don’t know how many of you struggle with disordered eating, but let me tell you – it is my very least favorite thing that I/we’ve ever had to face. It is a demon unlike any other and it has a way of permeating every moment of your life in a way that feels very similar to drowning.
For the system, our eating issues are mainly present in a teenaged part, River. She developed an eating disorder when she was the main fronting part back in the mid-late 90’s. In fact, our very first hospitalizations were centered around eating disorder recovery. It was seemingly the worst between the ages of 13 and 16. But being hospitalized and essentially forced to eat pushed River back inside and left room for another part to figure out how to get through this crazy life. This is around the time Julia took over as the full-time fronting part and our coping skills switched from starvation to self-mutilation. Not ideal, but somehow less deadly.
The severe distortions and behavior patterns around eating remained mostly dormant for a long time. I now know there were issues of purging in college, but I’m still not clear on what exactly was going on. And I’m fairly certain there has always been an underlying theme of “food is bad”, but it presented itself in less serious manifestations.
That is until five months ago.
I’m almost 100% sure that the exact moment River reappeared as a fronting part was the day my wife lost her job. I think that experience was intensely triggering to a system that has spent a good amount of time homeless and without proper access to food. Since River has started fronting again, I’ve also realized how truly fucking nuts my parents were around food. I now have memories of myself as a kid foraging for food and only finding packets of pudding to eat. In the powder form. Or the powder mix for corn muffins. Or dry pasta. Or plain mustard. It’s awful and devastating.
Then, a week later, when we were preparing for admission to a residential trauma treatment program, Zooey had to fill out this form to fax in. Although we hadn’t experienced truly disordered eating in a while, Zooey said she was going to check off “eating disorder” because of the unresolved nature of River’s issues around food. Then she asked me what I weigh (required on the form). I told her and it didn’t really bother me. But it bothered River a whole lot and I think that was the final trigger for her. Since that day, she’s been almost 100% controlling our food and liquid intake.
Not fun. And nowhere near enough intake.