Making Peace With Food and Sensitivity Battles Fought
The warmth of lights at only 5:45pm signals the time of year I, unlike many others who enjoy basking in summer’s glow, come alive. Memories flow of wine glasses clinking quickly and sharply with the exuberance of holidays starting early.
It’s only November 13th, and yet I smile at the darkness outside, feeling the cozy energy of candles, bulbs covered by glass holders that probably came from IKEA but nonetheless feel a bit like Italy…no Spain. I sip a glass of Chardonnay, one I debated on whether or not to order, though I easily went for the Angus burger made from natural Carolina beef with a side of incredibly thin shoestring fries.
I thought yesterday, or the day before, about one of those years (there were several) where I couldn’t partake in holiday fare, or at least I didn’t let myself. Or, I wouldn’t let myself for a couple of weeks and then would binge like crazy at a party, where I gave into the red wine, which led to the chips and hummus, which led to the chocolate cake, which undoubtedly led to whatever was left at the end of the night made up of sweetness, stuffing it quickly and not so gently into my mouth.
I thought about my battle with every meal, how I wouldn’t eat things I wasn’t supposed to, and then later how I would eat things I wasn’t supposed to, feeling shame, guilt. Or, I’d generally stuff it all down to deal with later. My split personality of loving large, bountiful meals, the European part of my blood that craves the bond made with others over plates of food and bottles of wine contrasted with the seemingly sick-because-of-food existence, where everything I ate, or at least a lot of it, made my body hurt.
I thought about how much that sucked.
Right now, I’m taking a class that is helping me to fine-tune looking at my beliefs about myself. Sure, the idea of what you put out is what will be your reality has floated around my world, particularly over the last few years. But there is something quite different about the general idea of “hey, I’m gonna think positively!” and really paying attention to the automatic assumptions I make about how I move through the world, a system so deep that you really need to be constantly vigilant in order to catch it.
When I mentioned in class a couple of weeks ago about my ever-shifting sensitivities to certain foods, my teacher said, “I hope you don’t take offense to this, but often people who are over-sensitive to food are over-sensitive to life in general. It’s as if life is too much, there’s too much bad, and they have to go sit in a corner and cover their heads. I’m not saying this is you, but it’s something worth looking at.”
I wasn’t offended, mostly because I agreed. I have no doubt that part of getting sick so young – in my 20s – had to do with the fact that I’ve been extremely sensitive my whole life. I can remember in 6th or 7th grade, when hitting each other hard on the top of the arm near the shoulder became the popular thing to do. I was the only one left with real, physical bruises, and the ever-present, “You’re too sensitive” response from those who hit me.
That was about the same time where I began to be taunted by lyrics from “Man in the Mirror” because of my broken-out face when my mom was slacking off on buying me face wash. Every morning I would get to school with my shoulders up around my neck, prepared for battle, only to find group jokes I was a part of, ones where I was allowed in. By the end of the day, though, it was a different story – MJ’s song had been recited behind my back, literally, in class, followed by something more sinister than a giggle. It only got worse when for some reason, the cute boy in class began to like me.
Every one has a story of being teased, of being hurt by kids. A lot of people also have another story similar to mine, in that I moved around a lot in my pre-teen years, and it just became harder and harder to be open. A few less might have also been an only child like me. But really, truthfully, personality is set differently from experience, and my personality was shy and sensitive from the get-go. So it’s not a large jump to see my body was predisposed to sensitivity, too.
I say this not to give myself an out, but rather to see my life in context. Recognizing my sensitivity (and the good that it has brought into my life), and maybe more importantly, knowing that I don’t have to fall into that sensitivity, has empowered me more than just about anything else.
Yep, it’s my natural inclination. I also now know I don’t have to get wrapped up in it, let it take me down. That I have choices in how I let things affect me. That something may sting, but I can just as easily let that sting go off into the, er, night. That everybody else has crazy shit going on in their lives that is a bigger part of their actions/reactions than I am.
I have come to see my gut as a compass of sorts. When there’s reaction, which for me tends to be less in the stomach, and more stemming from the stomach, like an enlarged tongue, or a few painful joints, maybe most likely, a flare of rosacea, I still look at the food that I’m eating. Too much sugar recently? Usually a check. Need some probiotics? Maybe. Feeling less energy or a bit depressed? Hmm, thyroid supplement time.
Sometimes, I still blank on these things, thinking what I’m going through is more dark, sinister. Then I remember I’ve always liked to think things are more dark and sinister. And if that’s what I’m going for, that’s what they will be.
On the other hand, if I can remember this is a moment in time, a call from my body – “Um, hello up there? Yeah, you need to cut back on some of your shit for a few secs” – that having reactions to food doesn’t define me or the rest of my life, then, you know, it’s not all that bad. It’s kinda good, kinda keeps me in balance even when one of the extreme sides of my personality wants to take over.
That way, these lazy lights of the coming winter can continue to mean love and good food, instead of battling and wishing it would all just be over soon.