For the first time in our addictions and dependence section, you will discover a story... The story of an addict, revealed through a personal story, which is punctuated by difficult, trying and often repetitive situations, leading to a state of dependency, which in turn leads imperceptibly to risky behaviour, which is more commonly known as “addictive behaviour.”
Valerie's story reveals what happened to her and how she is now. Dear reader friend, this authentic story can push the boundaries. You will understand that the mechanisms of addiction are not "only" psychological.
Valerie developed her illness at the heart of a terribly dysfunctional family, and had to learn to live with her demons.
What is an ED for you Valerie? And what ED do you suffer from?
We are not just "the dirty fat things" who gobble everything up and who would do better to go on a diet." We just have an ED, that is to say an eating disorder! Hey, that surprises you, huh?
These are classified into several branches. Anorexia and bulimia are the ones everyone knows about. But there are others, compulsive eating, undereating, binge eating etc. Binge eating is the disorder I have.
As I like to say to my psychiatrist, which makes her laugh a lot: fortunately I'm not bulimic, because at the price that food is, if I made myself vomit, it would really be a waste and I’d be throwing money out the window! A touch of humor, to hide my suffering!
This disorder consists of ingesting a VERY VERY large quantity of food in a VERY VERY short time, at VERY VERY high speeds, at a very specific time between meals, until total discomfort is reached.
There is a ritual: I hide – I generally eat products of the same ilk (for me these are sweet products, chocolate spreads and so forth). I either put on background noise (tv, music) or I calm right down, into a kind of state of trance. I blame myself terribly after a binge. I am disgusted, I hate myself, I feel a total aversion to my body. A large majority of us have a new attack sometime after. We have a total loss of control.
Overeating leads to being overweight, to obesity. It is usually detected in adulthood. It affects between 3 and 5% of the population. But the most severe forms are detected at a young age, even at a very young age. Note that for the most part, binge eaters make themselves normal and balanced meals.
Could you tell us how you became binge-eater?
How did I become binge eater? … As a child? As a child, between 6 and 14 years old, I experienced what a child should never experience, namely, acts of paedophilia.
Between the ages of 6 and 8, we spent the day at my mother's sister's house every Sunday, and every Sunday we had supper there. Every Sunday evening, I went with my uncle to his mother's house, to get a piece of bread, a bottle of wine or something. I talked to him, he was interested in me. One Sunday evening, it was different. He asked me to walk in front of him. I was pressed against his stomach, his arms around my shoulders, Keeping me very warm. That evening I felt important, I had the impression that he was protecting me because he felt that I was afraid. And it was from this Sunday evening onwards that it became a habit. But his attitude would change over time. His hands began to descend on my pseudo-chest, my fat, I want to say. I don't remember if he was kneading or just brushing, I just remember his hands, his hands on me, his hands and me. I felt a lump between my shoulder blades. All I know is that at that time, I started eating more. And yet, every Sunday despite my fears and anxieties, I continued to go with him. In addition to his hands, he gave me kisses on the head. My whole body and my whole being cried out for help. But there was no one to hear! Why didn't my parents understand?
Then overnight, no more Sunday meals, everything stopped. Did the family argue? I don’t know. I just knew that my ordeal had stopped. But not my daily gluttony. I was 8 years old. I weighed 65 kg. What a number! I filled myself up, emptied myself, filled up to empty myself again. But I continued because it reassured me. It was not a programmed ritual; it was simply a reaction of my body when it had too much. You need to understand that food had become an addiction, which, 42 years later is still present. It falls asleep to wake up when I lose my footing, when I don't understand why, and more. A kind of self-defense mechanism that does not protect me but screws me up, it destroys me.
My binges have always been from 4:30 pm onwards, and with sweet food. Mainly biscuits and chocolate. I stole packets and bars and bought them with my pocket money too. I even stole money from my grandmother's purse to go to the store to buy chocolate biscuits.
Then, I changed schools and spend all my Wednesdays, all my evenings with my paternal grandparents. For 6 long years, I suffered from the actions of my uncle, who is just 4 years older than me, who, on his side, had discovered puberty. At the beginning, he caressed me then he started to go further, until the repeated rapes happened. I have never been able to talk about it except today via a book, which I am finalizing and which, I hope, will be published within a few months.
I gorged myself, filling myself up, hoping to disgust him. But then my emptying stopped. I couldn't do it anymore. It disgusted me to put my fingers down my throat, and you can understand why; as my trips to and from the toilets were impossible because people became suspicious.
The hide-and-seek of addictions can one addiction hide another?
As said, at 14, I was delivered from my executioner because my parents bought me a moped so that I could go home instead of going to my grandparents. At that point, other addictions arrived (drugs and alcohol) and from the 90 kg that the scales had displayed, my weight dropped down to 45 kg. My binges disappeared overnight for 12 years. For what reasons, I can't say, but they disappeared, as if by magic!
Then one day, after a desire for withdrawal from cocaine, the wicked binge fairy said: Val, I'm back!
Could you prevent your binges? Do you know the mechanisms?
I remember the Dutroux affair, the Belgian paedophile and serial killer, who raped and murdered several girls. And at that moment, bam!! The gorging resumed. My withdrawal from cocaine began, and my sweet and salty binges in secret from my ex-husband began. I didn't have my children at the time. So it was very easy for me. Croissants, jars of spread with large pieces of bread, lasagne, crisps, and so on. All this in 30 minutes. Then in the evening, aperitifs with aperitif biscuits, then dinner, then desserts (because 1 was never enough for me). I filled this gaping abyss. Never satisfied. I was screaming. The scales now showed 107 kg. The binges only left me during my pregnancies. The binges were more or less violent, sometimes they even stopped for a year or two, but a song, a case of paedophilia on TV and bam, they reappeared. Today, they are still there. Less certainly, but they are there. They stick to my skin like my tattoos. They are not as strong, but they are there. They are my friends; I love them as much as I hate them.
As Valerie explains to us during this interview, there are different lessons to be learned, however hope does exist for many addicts or poly-addicts. We approached many people to write the end of the story in order to open the door of possibilities that I like to call hope. YES, hope and recovery do exist. For many of them, the so-called CBT or cognitive behavioural therapies and anonymous discussion groups have been a great help, not just permitting healing, but also recovery.
Our closing sentence: Just for today, I'm fine, because I made up my mind to be so.
One of the solutions: you are no longer alone!
Whatever your problem with food...
Compulsion to eat, undernourishment, addiction, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, compensation through sport or laxatives, etc.
OVEREATERS ANONYMOUS is an Association of men and women who share their personal experiences, their strength and their hopes, in order to recover from compulsive eating.