I binged on food last night at around 11pm. It worked just like drugs do sometimes–numbing and calming me down enough to help me fall sleep without without the anxiety and the loneliness. And like a drug it also doesn’t work. There is a hangover.
Today I feel sick to my stomach. Today I canceled my first four patients (so that big bag of crisps I hid away for over a week cost me $400). Today I woke up late on a day that I HAVE TO get to the grocery store so that my father and aunt have food. Today I am afraid to leave the house because I have so much shame about what I did and what I look like.
Somewhere along the way life became less about living and more about managing and surviving. I protect my little world from interference not because it makes me happy but because it reduces the risk of something throwing me off balance. My boring, colorless little universe is created to keep me upright. And that universe has gotten even tinier since COVID because of how detached I am physically from other physical beings. I can’t recall the last time I strung together more than two or three days of feeling serenity and a sense of really wanting to live. February? January? Last November?
Sunday I began fantasizing ,while on a walk, about being in an inpatient facility. I caught myself and asked, “Well, what is it that you’re really after? Why this fantasy?” I realized it was about having some other entity care for me while I care for nobody. Food appears three times a day and a healthy snack can be requested. There is no laundry or washing up. The goals you make for each day are as basic as “I will eat today” or “I will attend a session today”. People are checking in with you and you don’t have to take care of them. You can just let yourself be fragile in this cocoon and it’s like…being in a protected bubble where you don’t have to work to keep it protected. It’s like…hiding in a cushioned place where you don’t have to make excuses for why you’re gone. You can just let go and rest.
What is my goal for today? To go to the grocery store so that I have food and, just as importantly, so that my family does. What is a secondary goal? To have a stroll. And what if I don’t do the latter? I will plan to to it tomorrow and I won’t be mean to myself. That’s it. I am in an inpatient facility. It’s just that I’m the only staff.
I had this intake Monday with a fellow therapist. Or, put another way, my new patient is also a therapist. I saw them come alive during the session. I watched them connect with themselves. When I checked in with them they told me that they hadn’t known what therapy could really be; that in one session I seemed to provide something they had missed out on with their therapist of eight years.
Last weekend X. told me she carries me in her heart as a way of feeling less alone in the world. I’ve had friends and patients tell me some version of this for over a decade now.
Apparently I have this gift (and I don’t think it’s exclusive to me–there are others who have it as well) to help people feel understood and loved. But I have this curse of being unable to feel understood and loved. Or that is, to let it absorb into me. And so I frequently feel alone. And it seems to be the sticking point in my life. And part of why it feels so colorless most of the time. I can’t seem to be fed in the way that I feed, but it’s not because people don’t offer it to me. I just can’t let it all the way in.
And so I binge. I stuff my face with food in the hope that the void will feel…full. And it works. For a minute. But it doesn’t work because here I am crying and writing about my pain instead of really living my life. Because I’m here wondering if I can get out of my two or three weekend plans so that I can hide from my three friends. Because I’m wondering how I’m even going to do my two sessions tonight. Because I struggle with the most basic life tasks. Because I’m wondering how I’m going to get myself into my car and to the store.
Time to pick myself up and try this survival thing again. Just one day at a time. Here I go.