My relationship with food: Full of food (part two)

My apologies again. Part two is just as long as part one. Thank you to those who make it all the way to the bottom and to those who only manage a glance. This really is a therapeutic journey for me, and I feel privileged that I can write it down here, let it go from my grasp and move forward.

The last year of my university degrees stretched out in front of  me. Only a year left  and I would be free to get a job, travel, and discover what I really wanted from my life.

Only a year. A year filled with practicum placements at hospitals, community nutrition centres, and exercise physiology clinics.

I was a wreck. Our university lecturers had warned us that this was the most important year of our study; one false move, one failure, and we would have to complete the whole year again. I was already uncertain about my skills, and I have never taken feedback very well. I walked into my clinical hospital placement a shaking, nervous mess.

Every day I scurried around the halls from patient to patient clutching my folder stuffed full of information. Every week I sat at the desk with my supervisors and received feedback on my progress.

Every evening I studied, and stuffed myself with food – anything I could get my hands on – and every night I cried myself to sleep.

Hospital wards require special people to walk the floor and care for those in need of help. It takes a certain kind of spirit to touch a patient’s life and share their hardest moments without letting it tear a hole in your soul.

I admire those people because I am not one of them. I have chinks in my armour, places where other people can get through and the heartache becomes my own. I am not one of the special spirits who can walk the halls of a hospital.

My year in the oncology wards of the hospital revealed those chinks in my armour. It tore my soul wide open. I didn’t know how to deal with it, I couldn’t process the pain I saw everyday that I couldn’t do anything about.

I was young. Life had lessons to teach me and I was tender.

This hole inside me, the shadows of pain and sadness that cast themselves over my mind, the feeling of helplessness. I numbed it with food.

I would eat anything I could. Peanut butter became my best friend. Not a healthy amount spread on bread, but spoonful after spoonful coating anything I could find. Digestive biscuits dunked in cups of tea. Bowls of ice cream. Bars of dark chocolate. Nutella – by the jar. Leftovers from dinner eaten in the darkened kitchen after everyone had gone to bed.

I filled the hole with food, and yet it never got any shallower. The more I filled myself up, the further I moved away from myself, the emptier I became.

Ironically, I also worked as a weight loss counsellor during this time – selling shakes and bars for a chemist. So, I put myself on this restrictive plan. I tried, I lost a few kilograms. I cried from low blood sugar and an empty feeling that just wouldn’t go away.

I broke. I made cookies. I ate the whole batch. I cried.

Then, I passed my internship at the hospital.

I walked out the door that day and felt a little different.

I started my placement at community nutrition centre close to home. I had an amazing supervisor who recognised that I was broken by my time in clinical practice.

He helped me see where my real passion for health and wellness lay. He nourished me with ideas for what life could be like if I owned my future. He told me to get my shit together.

So, I did.

Earlier in the year my parents and my darling Casey had tried the same thing. They went behind my back and organised a trip to a psychologist for me. They were trying to do the right thing. They could see that I was slipping away from them, retracting into myself, and blanketing out the good things in my life.

I was so mad at them. I felt betrayed and singled out.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Now, I see that they were right. I was just too mired in pool of pity and doubt to see it at the time.

So, after my supervisor told me to get my life in order I went back to the psychologist that I had seen earlier in the year. I learnt about the way I responded to stress and turmoil in my life. I learnt what to do about my poor sleep and the way I used food to numb myself.

I took the advice of my supervisor and applied for a job that was somewhere between clinical practice and community practice: research into healthy lifestyle change. I started paying attention to the way my body responded to food. I started moving my body.

I stopped stuffing the holes in my life with food, and started to realise what a nourished life was about.

No longer was I full of food. Full of sadness. Full of self-pity and doubt.

I was moving towards a nourished life. The journey had just begun.

13 thoughts on “My relationship with food: Full of food (part two)

  1. As always so eloquently written. From one who knows the dark night of the soul, I understand the need to fill a void that continually wants for more. Your determination to defeat the destructiveness is an inspiration. XXOO

  2. 1) every SINGLE word in this beautiful essay is worthy of inclusion so don’t for a moment apologize!! 2) such wonderful insights and if only so many people had as much self-awareness as u do. i think it just goes to show how incredibly deep the link between food and overall life happiness is. anyone in an unhappy living situation is bound to look for solace somewhere…i’m just SOO happy u got out of that stress ball and unhappy brainspace so that u could live life and then stop looking to food to band-aide that unhappiness. cuz u, my dear chickpea, deserve only to be happy and getting love from things that love u BACK…food can’t love u like that. 🙂 XOXO

    • Sitting here, my heart bleeding, for you, all over again, my beautiful, darling girl. Never beat yourself up like that again. I am so proud of who you have always been. Just remember that. Mumma Chickpea xoxox

    • Thank you my lovely Cait! You are so right, food can’t love me back. Now that I am older and a little wiser I know when I am eating from hunger, and when I am eating from loneliness. In those times I am lucky enough to be able to reach out to gorgeous family and friends and get real love 🙂

  3. this is beautiful dear friend. i love to read your writing. i can get lost in it! this is something i think so many people can relate to. i know i can. i always turn to ice cream. good things. terrible things. the first thing i want to fill those things with is ice cream. i have been trying to realize that there are other activities and even foods that would give me just as much of a way to fill those emotions with and that would be healthier!

    • Thanks Julia.
      Sometimes even when you recognise the patterns in your own behaviour, and know what you should be doing, it’s hard to change…especially where ice cream is involved…

  4. Oh wow. Apart from your wonderfully expressive writing, this reminded me so much of my last year of nursing school and grad year when I first started – so stressful with shift work, not understanding where I belonged in the working world and dealing with seriously ill people as a 20 year old (ridiculous when you think about it, I certainly wasn’t prepared, I don’t think anybody is).

    So glad you are happy now. A lot of us women can have bad relationships with food but as you get older it becomes more about being healthy and less about being perfect. How it should be.

    (and honey, maybe some people who work in hospitals are special but the rest of us just try to get through the day the best way we can)

    • Emma, thank you so much for your comment. I completely agree with you: focusing on health rather than perfection has healed my relationship with my body more than anything else.
      I still think hospital workers are pretty amazing though 🙂

  5. Pingback: R U OK Day? | Thoroughly Nourished Life

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