Digesting the Indigestible
TRIGGER WARNING: the following material may be triggering for some individuals. Please read with caution.
Everyday life comes to us in the way of a “meal”, asking us to digest and metabolize the daily events, excreting what doesn’t work, and assimilating what does.
What happens when the life event, is too heavy, too big, to digest in a day, month, year or even decade?
I was diagnosed with a binge eating disorder by a psychologist when I was 19, and while perhaps finding clarity through naming it was helpful, having the label of ‘binge eating disorder’ also became a great source of shame and confusion. The tools I was given weren’t very helpful, even though everything appeared to be put together on the outside, on the inside I swung back and forth like a pendulum for many years between feeling desperately broken and out of control, to very tight and controlling with food.
Whether I was tightly restricting the foods I ate, or having wild binges where nothing was off limits, either way I wasn’t free. Either way it felt like food and my eating issues were consuming my life. The day I found out that binge eating can often be a placeholder, a bookmark, for undigested life events, my life changed.
‘Undigested’, meaning, swept under the rug, not talked about… akin to a heavy lump of food sitting in the stomach that, if left the unattended long enough, eventually will become toxic to our system.
4 months prior I had been through another sexual trauma, and while the first few months after the event I had felt quite numb, almost immune to the situation (vowing to ‘put it behind me’), by the 4th month my binge eating had never been so rampant. While I was trying my best to keep my food issues under ‘control’, that wasn’t the only thing I felt I had to tightly control: I was going through emotional turmoil inside, and it took real energy to keep it all in as I went about my day, pretending things were fine.
At the time I didn’t put the connection together that perhaps the repressing of my anger, grief, and fear were linked to my binge eating. In our culture we are asked to keep our emotional displays within quite narrow confines of expression. Over expressing our grief, anger, or even excitement isn’t the norm. And further, there isn’t always time in our day to day lives, or the safety, to go fully feel into the emotions arising. Sometimes we truly do have to put a bookmark, ‘dogear’ the page, and come back to digesting it when we are ready.
In the realm of violence against women, or trauma, so often we think of trauma only as the event itself, forgetting that the way we adapt, cope, and the thought patterns and beliefs that form thereafter are also a huge piece. On a greater spectrum, everyone on the planet has experienced trauma in one form or another, and a disordered eating can stem from many places.
Know that at one time, maybe even today, binge eating, or any other way of coping you’ve adapted with, was the truly the most intelligent survival strategy your body could come up with at the time, and so in this way we can begin to find compassion for, and even thank ourselves, for coming up with such an intelligent strategy! Eventually we may find our current ways of coping are no longer working for us, the impact is too great on our wellbeing.
It is when we find ourselves in this place we can ask what else is out there? How does one digest these seemingly indigestible life events?
This is a question that can be mulled over, munched over, chewed on, for years.
The first is to view our unwanted habits or symptoms are not a sign that “something is wrong with you”, rather a doorway, an invitation, to growth, evolution, and healing. While there are universal ways to ‘digest’ any big trauma (womens circles, sacred spaces, journalling, ritual, counselling-- with the right counsellor-- , or spending time in nature to name a few), this is also an extremely individual process, and not one to rush. Though individual, we are not meant to do this alone. Find your people, find your community. As you gain insights, share those with others, and in this way you will help to heal the world as you heal yourself.
As you reclaim your trust with your gut, with yourself, and with your connection to the body wisdom that we all inherently had as children, also trust that you can and will truly find a way to digest the indigestible. Vitamin T (time), and L (love—for self), are 2 great enzymes for this.
Lindsie Boyes is an Eating Psychology Coach and Yoga instructor currently residing in Calgary, Canada. Her life changed on her personal healing journey when she began asking the questions ‘what do disordered eating habits or unwanted symptoms of our body really mean?’ ‘Can they be a pointing to a deeper healing that needs to happen?’ As she began using her symptoms as doorways to growth, healing, and evolution, her outer world began to shift as her inner one did as well. She is honoured to be a witness, guide, or simply hold space for people going through their own healing & personal awakenings. Lindsie’s website is in the process of construction, but you can find her on instagram @boyes_will_be_boyes.