February 7, 2014

The Mother-Wound and Food Issues

I threw two eggs away this week. 

This was a major victory. Throw your hands in the air, wave 'em like you just don't...............oh never mind. I want you to care.


The two eggs in the trash really have do have something to do with adoption.  

My husband cooks breakfast for me, a lot. Sometimes he even brings it to me in bed. Yeah, he’s a keeper. I’m not talking about  a cup of coffee and a Pop-Tart.  He makes a lot of different things, but most times it will be eggs my favorite way (over easy, cooked just right), toast, bacon, hash browns and coffee. 

Yes, he seriously makes all that.  

I don’t even have to “do” anything for him to make breakfast. He just does it. He calls it, “tending to me.” No, he doesn’t have a brother.   

I would post a picture of him cooking breakfast but he's normally half dressed while doing so. Here's a recent photo of him preaching. Picture him screaming something like, "There's a miracle in this house, right now!"

Okay, so one morning this week he made breakfast and I proceeded to dip the crispy bacon in the egg yolks, savoring it alternately with the toast. Then I nibbled on the hash browns, drank the entire coffee let's not get foolish, here and threw the eggs and remaining hash browns away in the garbage.

Him:[puzzled]  “Were the eggs okay, babe? Is something wrong?”
Me: “Everything was perfect. Thank you so much…”

So what’s the significance of this?

I don’t remember a time that I haven't struggled with emotional eating.

According to my adoptive mother, I was already eating insatiably when they brought me home from the Children’s Home Society.

She says I would have eaten jar after jar of baby food if they let me. I would just keep going and going. I finally moved on years later from Gerber to Utz BBQ Potato Chips.  Best Chips Ever. So as a baby, after my parents fed me a healthy, reasonable amount of food, she and my dad would just stop feeding me. But, eating to soothe has been a struggle from day one. There are several ways I have compensated for the loss I faced as soon as I was born -- binge eating being one of them. If you've read My Story, you know I've overcome everything from nail biting to bed wetting to workaholism, perfectionism and approval addition. [Insert Holy Ghost conga line, a.k.a. Jericho March, here.]

And then there's emotional eating, the struggle I've faced the longest and the hardest to break through. It's what I call the last hurdle. 

I’m blessed that my therapist, Melissa Richards, specializes in adoption issues and eating disorders as well.  

  One thing Melissa assigned to me as part of my therapy was to read some books by Geneen Roth. The first one was, Lost and Found. This book profoundly affected me and I’ve read several books by Roth since then, the lastest one being, When You Eat at theRefrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. 

I no longer go to therapy, as Melissa says I have progressed to the point where we do not need to schedule sessions. She is confident I have all the tools now that I need to move forward. I continue to pursue all that all that we talked about during our time together, determined to live spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally whole.   

In reading Roth’s book this past week, one chapter affected me so deeply I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. It is from the chapter, “Food and Your Mother Go Together.”

 Roth says:

“We first knew we were loved by getting held and fed by our mothers. In those days, food was love. Mother was love. Our whole life depended on one person and her ability to feed us. And although we are grown up now, these ancient connections are still stored in our bodies and minds.”

Roth explains that during times of feeling despair about mother-loss issues including abandonment or the longing for unconditional love, she gets an intense hunger for sweets. She explains that mother issues and food are connected – for life. 

She goes on to share about her friend Daisy, whose mother has been deceased for ten years. Daisy recently uncovered some things in relation to her mother which brought about strong feelings. What was the first thing Daisy – who usually doesn’t struggle with food issues – did? She sat down and ate an entire Rhubarb pie and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. 

Roth says, “Food and mothers go together even for people who haven’t habitually turned to food for comfort…”

So what did all this mean for me, and why did it lead to me throwing two perfectly good eggs away?

My natural mother gave birth to me and I was immediately removed from her presence. I went from the hospital nursery to foster care for a short while, feeling the intense loss although I was too young to verbalize it other than crying. Eating was one way of soothing, as was rubbing my feet on the sheets softly to soothe myself, as went to sleep. (I still do this, if I'm away from Larry overnight and don't have skin to skin contact.) 

When my adoptive parents brought me home, I continued this voracious quest for comfort and soothing.

My adoptive parents fed me well.

They held and rocked me, for hours.

But a mother-wound remained. 

No matter how many good things they did. 

An adoptive mother can't heal a mother-wound.
Adoption itself is void of that ability as well.

Although I've been on a bazillion diets, the issue was never addressed properly until 2013. 

This isn’t something Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers can take away. I’ve done both programs,  and lost 40 pounds on both. 

And put it right back on. 

Because it was never about the food.  

Addressing an issue you’ve had since very shortly after birth isn’t resolved by a program, or overnight. 

Since addressing the problem for what it is, I’ve lost 10 pounds. Others may think that's a relatively small amount since I stared this journey,  but to me they are the weightiest ten pounds that have ever left my body. They have left more deliberately than any others that have exited before.

The pre-therapy me would have eaten the eggs just to make sure my husband knew how happy I was with his gesture of making breakfast. Now I am more secure in my husband’s love and know his approval of me doesn’t rest on whether I eat or throw away two eggs.

I’m not a therapist. And, so many people are grateful.
But I am an expert on me. On my experience.

I'm discovering how to find what I call a healthy comfort level with people and things. There's a balance when it comes to comfort and I've never achieved it prior to this, so it's all new to me.

To say I will NEVER find ANY comfort in a warm bowl of soup on a cold day, or a morning cup of coffee is as ridiculous as saying I will never find snuggling with Max with our favorite blankets and pillows comforting.

Or the embrace of my husband. 

Or the sound of my children's voices.

All of these things are comforting to me.

But there’s a difference in finding a healthy level of comfort in something vs. using it as the source.

While I do find comforts in certain people or aspects of life, I have found there is no replacement for the "source of all comfort,” as scripture declares God to be.

It's the difference between temporary relief and long-term satisfaction.

For so long Christians have tried to present adoption -- the institution -- as the adoptees’ comfort. They frame it as the solution. 

In the uninformed and unaware person's mind, it goes like this:

Child has been relinquished.
Child is in need.
Child is adopted. 
Child's problem is solved.

Millions of people really think it's this simplistic. 
I wish for the sake of all concerned that it was that simple, but it isn't -- or that there were easy answers, but there aren't. 

And when faced with that complexity, some of us self-medicate. 

And we always need more. 

More food or alcohol or drugs or approval or whatever it is that we're using to soothe that unrelenting ache in our soul. 

The ache that started before we could verbalize what was wrong.

Adoption as an institution (vs. adoption as salvation) never cures anyone.

What helps?

One of my assignments in therapy was to ask myself:  "does this bring me abundant life?" when facing daily choices. 

I used to think I knew what "abundant life" meant since I had read and preached from John 10:10 countless times over 26 years.

I see it in a whole new light, now. 
It speaks to every choice I make, every day.

Actual conversation with myself, and God --  inside my head before I threw the eggs away: 

I am feeling full. But I want to keep eating. Does this bring me abundant life? Am I still hungry for these eggs right now? No..... I am really not.  Then why do I want to push and eat them anyway, when this is not really best for me? 

Okay let me think about why I'm doing this. Well, right now I want to do it because feeling fuller helps me momentarily feel better, which is nice for a few minutes. But then once I eat them I know I am going to feel sorry I did it. After a little while I will feel the need to stuff something down again to quell whatever has me on edge. Because it's what I do to feel emotionally satisfied.

Okay, okay, okay. I am wanting to do this so I can feel -- or not feel -- something.  God, please help me to get enough. Enough of whatever it is I'm needing right now without looking for two eggs that have no ability to give it to me, to do so. 

Or -- give me the courage to feel whatever it is that's making me uncomfortable. Help me to stare the discomfort in the face and give me wisdom on a healthy way to respond to it. 

Please help me with this soul-ache that believes two eggs are going to do anything at all to emotionally improve my life.

Alright then...I don’t have to make the same choice I’ve been making for 47 years. I can make a different choice...

[Eggs get tossed into trash can.]

Pretty awesome, this abundant life.

Love so deep it enables you to throw away two eggs and be totally okay with it.

*Photos other than Deanna's personal photos, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.