Have you ever found yourself sitting on your lounge with an empty packet of chips/chocolate/lollies (insert your food weakness here) and suddenly you are wondering how it happened? You have zero recall of how or why the empty packet got to be on your lap, and you feel zero satisfaction for having consumed it. And then in another 5 seconds flat the guilt rushes in. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you are SO numb that the guilt doesn’t even consciously register? Maybe eating the food has numbed the guilt too.
Throughout my childhood I was never allowed to express anything other than surface emotions. Vague annoyance or happiness. But no real excitement, joy, anger, hate, or anything else that had depth to it. So, rather than express them, I ate them. We celebrated with food, we commiserated, we comforted. I snuck it. I stole it. I’d offer to clean up the kitchen after dinner and take forever to clean because I was busy sneak eating food out of the open fridge while the rest of the family watched TV in the lounge.
I spent so long doing this as a kid I continued it as an adult. My entire adult life has been spent eating my emotions, regardless of which ones they were. Most of the time they barely register on the scale. I do it so habitually that the guilt of having eaten all the crap doesn’t even cause a blip on my radar. Even as recently as a year ago I was so much in denial of this pattern that it continued unchecked.
It’s amazing what even slight awareness can do. Becoming more mindful has helped me to become more aware of my emotions. I can now acknowledge when I feel irritable, angry, annoyed, happy, ecstatic, excited, or even depressed or anxious. It definitely takes practice though. I still find myself falling into the trap of burying those emotions and not acknowledging their existence. But as I continue the practice, it becomes easier. And I am finding a natural tendency to stay away from the crap. The more I acknowledge, the less crap I feel the urge to eat. Funny how that works huh?
I have found that exploring my emotions has really helped. Talking about the things that bother me helps. One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself is to see a psychologist. She has really supported me in uncovering those emotions. It’s helped me to realise that I DO get angry after all (who knew!). I also feel scared. And anxious. And sad. And lonely. And of course guilty. The realisation of that little gem was like a slap in the face!
Diarising/journalling (love homework!) and mindfulness practice have also helped me become more aware. It’s strange how the simple act of noticing what your breathing is doing can assist in recognising those thoughts and feelings that run around in your head. I need to get back to doing that regularly.
And with all these lighbulbs has come more freedom. To acknowledge, to talk about them, to FEEL them. And of course to EXPRESS them! Now THAT is freedom!