November 22, 2010

Food and Coping

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 6:10 pm

photo by Linea JohnsonCoping with a mental illness is hard. Living with the thought that this is a life-long thing is painful. And sometimes, even when we are happy and “stable” we find ourselves trying to cope with this fact.

I am about to admit something big. I, as many of you readers know, am very open and honest with the public and even strangers, but this one is very hard for me. In my past I didn’t know what a mania was. In the depths of that hurricane, when everything was whirling around me I tried to find my own ways to cope. I found that my doctors kept giving me the wrong medications leading me to get sick or manic and I decided I would find ways to soothe it myself. So I tried alcohol. I tried drugs. I tried self-harm. And eventually I altered my relationship with food to an unhealthy place thinking that it made me feel better.

That was five years ago. But today, this month, I find myself struggling again. As you know from my last post I have hit a bump in this bipolar ride. I have at this point finally found a way out of the hurricane, but my coping habits have yet to return to normal. Today I once again find myself struggling on the line between disordered eating and an eating disorder.

Why is this the hardest thing for me to admit? Why do I hold such a stigma to this and not to my other symptoms and diagnoses? When I was young I didn’t understand eating disorders. I didn’t know that they were deeper and different things than vanity and our culture’s influence. Though these may play a part in my relationship with food it is something stronger. It is, as many people who are well-versed in ED know, much about control. Control of the changing climates of bipolar. It is also, for me, about punishment and anger. Punishment from an extreme perfectionist for not being able to “fix it” and anger for not being able to control my mood swings.

I find it very important to address eating disorders because I find these very misunderstood in our society. I feel that I am even hesitant to write about it because I still don’t fully understand the jargon, the reasons, and the power they hold. But I do find it crucial for us to have a conversation about healthy coping skills.

So here is what I am doing to try to find my way back to health: I am trying to take life one step at a time. I am trying to eat at least three meals  a day and sit with the anxiety that comes with this process. I find that even eating a slice of an apple is painful. I am trying to make a healthy schedule for my life so I can balance work and play. I am being open and honest with my family, my friends, and my medical team. I am using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) with positive self-talk and challenging the negative and illogical thoughts in my head. I am trying to breathe.

What healthy skills do you use when you feel your life is out of control? How do you take care of yourself when life is not treating you kindly?



  1. Generally, when I am in the depths of depression, ‘Team Kaiser’ helps me through a lot of it by asking me to attend I.O.P. “Intensive Outpatient Program” where I can meet and see other professional people who are dealing with some of the same issues. My doc at Kaiser is, indeed, a Godsend, and I have also come to realize that eating certain foods can exaggerate and activate symptoms that are not beneficial to my health and well being. For example, I do not drink caffeinated coffee after noon, and I limit myself to one to two cups in the a.m. I also have cut most sugar out of my life (always a challenge at this time of year!) and limit my wheat intake. Rarely eat any animal product any more, and make sure that I exercise, even if it is a half hour to an hour walk with my B.F.F. (Best Fur Friend) instead of the Zuumba, Machines, etc., that I generally use.

    Learning to love myself and accept myself has been paramount, and to just pretty much realize that we ALL have mental health issues, in my opinion. Hate, prejudice, war…..that just doesn’t fit my perception of ‘Mental Health’. As far as the medication, if it helps me sleep through the night, so be it.

    As an individual who has dealt with annorexic, bulemic, and other issues such as anxiety, depression….I would rather deal with my health issues than not, and I do reach out to those whom I know actually love me and can help me past my ‘points’ when I am there…

    Hope this helps all of the other individuals, including our U.S. Military, who deal with said issues.


    Comment by Elizabeth Edwards — November 22, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  2. Greetings
    I feel for you, I am bipolar myself, it can be so overwhelming when our moods swing by themselves out of control as we stand by helpless.

    This is what I do: I journal, I sit down at my computer and I write, write, write. I cry, I ask myself why and just write it without censoring, ask why without reservation. I ask myself why do I hurt, what pains me so badly? Once I get the pain out of my system, I feel so much better!! It really is amazing how much better I feel!

    That helps me inmeasurably and when I see my therapist, we talk it over. I hope that something I have written helps you.
    Best Wishes!

    Comment by Landon Clary Eason — November 22, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

  3. Elizabeth, thank you for all the wonderful comments. I know that it will help all who read. Exercise is so helpful for me, so is knowing when to do it. At this point I have decided not to run unless I eat three meals a day. However, doing lite stretches and some yoga is ok. Wish I had a BFF to take walks with! Sometimes I go with my friend and her dog so that is good too.

    Landon, I can’t tell you how spot on you are with journaling. It has been a lifesaver for me. Being able to get it all out uncensored in a safe place is so helpful and healing. I also find it useful to look back at to see if my moods are following any patterns. That self-questioning is so important.

    Thanks Landon and Elizabeth!

    Comment by BringChange2Mind — November 22, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  4. Sending Prayers Dear Woman! I respect your honesty and candor. I have struggled with depression and an eating disorder almost my life. I have actively managed the eating disorder and have kept over 200 pounds off for over 7 years. Yet my relationship with food is still a barometer for how I am feeling.

    I use Overeaters Annonymous to provide me a place where people know what I am struggling with. I know I am not alone and able to be truthful with any of the madness that runs through my head…

    I honor that I need to be conscious each and every day , as I approach my food and life…

    Comment by Florence Haridan — November 22, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

  5. Thanks for your honest posting. I wish you didn’t have to go through all this suffering and frustration. I cannot imagine what struggles you have with food and bipolar.

    Thanks for explaining ED’s to me. I remember reading a book about eating disorders long time ago called “The Golden Cage” by Hilde Bruch . At that time I don’t think she realized the connection that can occur between ED and bipolar disorder.
    I can see in my own life that I struggle with control and independence issues still and I am 46.

    I am bipolar and find when I am manic or hypomanic I don’t eat as much which exacerbates my problems. Also certain foods caffeine, chocolate, sugar make my mania worse. Then there is the hormonal cycle which I think adds to my problems. Then when I am down I use food as a substitute for interacting with folks or to handle stress.

    For years I have hid from my bipolar issues especially not working on the CBT, positive self talk,positive talk and regular visits to my therapist. Not good. It’s rough to take things one day at a time. (This from Ms impatient 1982)

    You have inspired me. Seems like your determination, persistence and taking control with the help of professionals did help in the past so perhaps things will get better again. I will remember to say a prayer to my higher power to help things get better.

    Sometimes I find getting my mind off of everything for a while helps me… music, movies, reading a novel, playing a silly game,calling a friend, visiting a child. Or meditating or yoga (I’ve never tried yoga) But meditative prayer has helped me a few times.

    Thanks again,

    Comment by Susan — November 22, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  6. Thank you for posting this. As a recovering bulimic with a bipolar husband, I think about this issue a lot. My eating disorder developed as a way to cope with depression, but I know that my mother-in-law’s alcoholism (which killed her last year at 59) was an attempt to treat undiagnosed bipolar. I am so extraordinarily grateful that my husband got the treatment he needed immediately after the onset of his symptoms. I know that this has saved him a great deal of heartache, unhappiness, and failed attempts at self-medicating.

    I can so relate the the punishment and anger aspect of your eating. I got a weird kind of pleasure out of eating until it hurt to stand up straight, and purging until I saw blood. I hated myself, and I didn’t think I deserved any better. Learning to accept myself and my faults through a Twelve Step program has alleviated that for me.

    In fact, the Twelve Steps have helped me stay sane around food for 11 years now. No binging, no purging, no more obsessive thoughts about it. When things get tough, I have a sponsor to rely on, friends in my fellowship to talk to, meetings that give me hope, and literature that inspires me. The Twelve Steps have also taught me how to live a more balanced life, and shown me that feelings aren’t facts, and they pass.

    I’m so glad you’re able to be open about what’s going on. Acknowledgement is the first step toward change!

    (I wrote a post a couple months ago about using food as a way to regulate mood. If you want to check it out, the link is:

    Comment by Heather Whistler — November 23, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  7. […] marathon, perfectionism, running — Linea @ 12:00 pm As many of you know from my last post, Food and Coping, I have been having some issues with an eating disorder. The anxiety induced through my bipolar has […]

    Pingback by Refocusing Your Goals « BringChange2Mind — December 6, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

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