Updated: May 18
I don’t know how to help the people in my life understand the depth to which food is tied to trauma for me.
So I'm writing about it. Trauma can regulate how, when, where, how much or even if I eat at all. I have many times gone extended days of not eating. It is a trauma/neurodivergent response. I've written about it before. Lifelong. I cannot stop it. I am learning to work with it and modify what can be modified. I have improvised and learned tricks and hacks over the years.
For instance, I have powdered instant breakfast in my cupboard at all times. If I’ve found a snack or smaller meal item that I’ve consistently craved I stock up until the next eating disruption shows up. Realizing that last one was a short term fix has helped a ton, btw. And then about a gajillion more hacks and routes I’ve patched together over forty two years.
The BIGGEST change I’ve made for myself is to allow my body to dictate my eating. Do I want ONE bite of something? Without judging myself or the world impact *"You are solely responsible for all that is wrong in the world" echoing in the background* I allow myself to have one bite. If I want three of something, no matter what it is I let myself have three. If I cannot take a single bite, I no longer force feed myself. Have I made brownies and eaten the whole pan? Yes. And then I kindly comforted myself through the freak out after and reminded myself that I was safe to make whatever food decisions I wanted.
I have been learning to listen to my body no matter how silly society has programmed our brains to think my food needs are. (Our food needs. I see you, friends. I know I'm not the only one.)
I’ve been practicing this for so long now that FOR ME it’s become second nature. You don’t see the patches and work arounds I use to be able to function around food in public (or on my own). You may not care or you may notice and think it's weird, rude, unhealthy, etc., or whatever but I’m pretty positive you don’t understand the work that goes into dealing with food in public for me. Cultural exchanges are built around food. Love and community are built around dining tables and coffee dates or late night food binges.
I wonder if anyone close to me has considered how much work I have to put into even sitting at the table with the smells, sights, and sounds of food and people, and everything, let alone attempting to even consider putting the food in my mouth. (And yes, food has sound. Fucking fight me!!!) Let alone accessing the ability to enjoy the company.
Family, friend, group dinners and parties are supposed to be enjoyable, right? Like, SOMEONE is enjoying this, right? I'm not killing myself to try to enjoy something NO ONE is enjoying, right? I jest. I've enjoyed them myself so I know they are which means they can be even when I'm in active trauma. (Hi. In case you were wondering, having court garbage come up over and over again and everything that surrounds that is active trauma. It is abuse. It is violence. Active trauma.)
I DON’T CONTROL THESE NEEDS. THIS IS A TRAUMA/NEURODIVERGENT RESPONSE. I am actively working on healing and recovery and the fact that I can put any of this into words is proof that I am succeeding in rewiring my trauma responses. This isn’t a one and done fix, friends. I’ve been working at this for decades and probably have decades more of work to go. Please see how hard I’m trying. Slow down and see me.
The problem is helping those around me understand that, for instance, when I ask for a small soda and I receive a large because you wanted to treat me and be kind, trauma often triggers. I don’t get to choose that, AND NO, IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT!?!? Nor do I get to choose my initial response which will be some combination of fawn/freeze/flight.
What that has looked like in the past is not eating for days after forcing myself to drink the drink so I don’t hurt your feelings. Or you thinking I'm weird because I say, "Can you please make sure it's a small?" Meaning the rest of the visit has to be recovered from awkwardness. This has prompted many overshares.
It could mean walking away from a budding friendship because the brain glitches wont let me tell you, "When I said I needed a small it was deliberate and I wont be able to drink this. Is it possible to put it in a smaller cup for me and you or someone else can have the rest?" but then I’m weird and ungrateful and wasteful so... fawn/freeze/flight. glitch. recover. and repeat.
Food isn’t simple for me. Nor are a lot of other things. I need help and compassion. I don't expect the people around me to mind read. When I've asked for what I've needed so far I've been largely dismissed and left to using my recovery skills on my own. Asking for what I need isn't always safe either.
Believe me when I ask and care enough about me to follow through with what I've asked, or state your own needs and boundaries. Communicate. Feels simple to me.
I want to be around people that experience loving and caring for me as simple. I’ve been misunderstood for too long. I’m ready to be seen and appreciated. It's time.
Image: White background. Black, handwritten text, "Loving me is simple." Artist: Alisa May