For someone who rarely blames others and easily forgives, I’m remarkably consistent about blaming myself and never forgiving myself.
Two things I tend to blame myself for:
- my eating disorder (anorexia)
- and my functional gut disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
I’m ashamed to admit that I took such poor care of my body for such, in retrospect, shallow reasons.
And I tend to believe that if I hadn’t taken such poor care of my digestive system by feeding it so little, I would never have developed IBS. After all, a few studies have suggested that there is a high correlation between eating disorders and IBS, and, at least according to one study, most of the subjects in the study developed the IBS after they developed the eating disorder.
Since reading this study a couple of years ago, it’s easy to blame myself for the intense bloating, the cramps, the *cough cough* lack of regularity, the nausea. Its easy to think, if I’d never let myself starve and purge, I never would have messed up my digestive system so badly.
A couple of awesome fellow bloggers, Kate of the Domestikated Life and Cayanne at HealthyEzSweet Life, got me thinking in the past couple of weeks about the relationship between GI issues and eating disorders, and how easy it is for those of us with eating disorders in our past to blame ourselves for GI issues, from pain to dysfunction to celiac disease. I could so, so relate to these ladies’ thoughts.
I actually had my first IBS flare-up in high school, long before I lost significant weight, before I exercised or ever thought about the calories in my food. The sudden nausea and discomfort, I believe in retrospect, was caused by mild panic over a terrifying prospect: having to kiss a boy onstage in a production of The Crucible.I know, I know…in retrospect, such a dumb thing to be worried about. But for a week or two during that production, I hardly wanted to eat anything, and my stomach would cramp a few bites into most meals.
Throughout my undergraduate years, I remember having these flare-ups periodically, for no particular reason that I could identify. They certainly weren’t the “norm,” weren’t a constant in my life, but they were frequent and similar enough that I recognized them as a pattern of familiar symptoms. “Here goes that thing again,” I would think.
I noticed a slightly different bloated feeling (feeling over-full after only a small serving) more and more toward the end of college. If I ate a heavier lunch, I often still felt, not just a lack of appetite, but downright discomfort by the time supper rolled around. My response to this was to assume that I was overeating and eat less, skip snacks, go to the gym more, and make my meals even smaller.
I had an extremely painful, downright debilitating flareup right at the beginning of the summer when my weight took a dramatic turn, and I remember feeling very uncomfortably bloated–even by my own standards–for much of that summer. So, logically, I ate less. But the feeling didn’t go away. So I ate less. And less. And less…Therefore, I might conclude, my IBS, in fact, caused my undereating. Following this line of thought, it’s tempting to tell myself (and others) I never really had anorexia nervosa at all, but merely a reduced appetite and as a result, slowed metabolism.
On the other hand….
It also makes sense to me that, if I had a predisposition for IBS somehow naturally or genetically, my eating disorder aggravated the IBS all the more.
For instance, you remember how I said that the bloated/stuffed feeling became more and more common for me in my later years of college?
That’s around the same time that I really started eating smaller portion sizes, started adding up calories in the back of my mind, started refusing to snack even though I was hungry, started getting to the gym at least five days a week. I ate more and more super-high-fiber foods like Grapenuts, Kashi Go Lean!, extra-high-fiber wraps, popcorn, split peas, and avocados, as well as replaced solid snacks and drinks with iced fruit tea and artificial sweetener.I wouldn’t be surprised if, as a result of being underfed and forced such a difficult-to-digest diet, my digestive system slowed down and became more finicky.
So which is the cause and which is the effect: the IBS or the eating disorder?
And, more importantly, why do I care?
The first question is both very difficult and very easy to answer: I don’t know.
As for the second question: I care for a simple reason that I imagine any reader who’s been through something difficult will relate to: I want to know why these two very unpleasant things happened to me. Specifically, I want to know to what extent these two unpleasant things are my own fault.Of course I know that’s not a healthy way of thinking about all this. That’s my blame-myself brain at work, when I should be letting the past be in the past and forgiving myself for my mistakes.
Shit happens, after all.
I just watched Forrest Gump on Monday night! First time I’ve seen that movie since I was a little kid. One of the big themes of the film is the idea of destiny: does stuff happen for a reason, or does stuff just happen by chance? Forrest, when he’s talking to Jenny at the very end of the film, suggests the idea that perhaps both things are true.Sometimes we make poor decisions, and we suffer the consequences. Sometimes shit just happens. And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud today!