It was almost all me talking, but hey, if I hadn’t set aside the hour with her I wouldn’t have worked some of this stuff out.
I started with a question that someone on Tumblr asked, I think cuntymint: what is mental health in an unhealthy destructive society? What sense does it make to not worry when things are so precarious globally and locally? How do you forgive yourself for a human mistake when that mistake loses you your job or has you flunk your class? I said our lives are so unnaturally regimented–down to the minute–that there’s very little room for human variation or for being allowed to listen to our bodies.
I gave examples of when I knew that pain or abuse showed up on people’s bodies, especially when there wasn’t access to help or a conscious realization that there was a problem. (People in abusive relationships feeling anxious or icky and not knowing why, for example, or eating disorders, or self-injury, or suicidal ideation.) I know that stuff can really affect us physically even when the invasions or attacks are psychic (see black women, racism and miscarriages.)
I remembered that when I was very young my parents (not yet divorced) discovered that I had hidden a lot of gum and gum wrappers under my pillow. My dad, I think, was irritated, but my mom said that maybe it was time for me to have a goodies stash and that’s what ultimately happened. I was surprised that I didn’t get in trouble. I also remember being a little older on Halloween night after all the trick-or-treating had been done, we were in the living room together watching TV and all of the bags of candy were in the kitchen. I circled continually around from the living room to the kitchen and back, and each time I went into the kitchen I ate a piece of candy from someone else’s stash. I remember trying to take from different people’s each time so that it would be fair. They caught me that time and I did get in trouble. These things happened when I was really young, too young for me to remember what might have been going on that would cause me to want to sneak food. So there’s no key I can find in my past, it’s just a behavior I’ve had for a very long time that I get to decide what to do with now.
OK. So tying this back in to mental health and what meaning can mental health have in an unhealthy culture. What I said was I don’t want to stop overeating. I don’t want to stop overeating. All I want to do is be aware of when I’m eating and not hungry. I don’t want to put any pressure on myself by saying “oh, I’m healing, so that means I should stop eating when I’m not hungry” or “oh, I binged, that means I’m doing badly on the mental health front today.” All I want to do is, when I feel the urge to eat even though I’m not hungry, I want to say “OK, I want to eat but I’m not hungry. Now I get to make a choice about whether to eat or not.” And then, whatever I decide, THAT’S OKAY. Being aware of what I’m doing is the sole goal I have re: overeating right now. Subverting the compulsion, and making it a choice.