I didn’t need to go to Walmart this morning. We’re not completely out of cereal; I just bought underwear; we have enough small bowls. But maybe the cereal that was sold out has been restocked; more underwear wouldn’t hurt; I use those bowls for everything. I had to go.
I had to go, because I had been obsessing about getting a double-chocolate donut at the Dunkin’ Donuts just inside the main door. No big deal, right? Not exactly. I have celiac disease, and for the past ten years I’ve stuck strictly to the gluten-free diet that I need to stay well. Until last month, when I bought a donut on my way out of Walmart and ate it in my parked car, there in the parking lot where no one I know would see me. Feeling like a criminal.
Since then, I’ve had three more donuts, counting today’s. I confessed the first to my husband, but have kept the rest secret. I sneak the bags into the trash when I get home. There’s no one to notice. Just me. I don’t complain about the stomach aches I have afterwards. I blame the migraines solely on the weather. And the deep depression? Well, that’s always been mine alone.
I know that I’ve gotten myself into a horrible cycle. Depression makes the sugar cravings worse. The gluten cravings too. The donut is everything. Nothing about my behavior is fooling me: I’m harming myself. On purpose.
I ask myself why, and the only answer I get is, “Why not?” Two words, six letters—that’s all it takes to sum up what feels like a lifetime of anguish. Why not? No one will notice. Why not? Your health doesn’t matter. Why not? There’s no one to stop you. Why not? You need to feel something.
Or to feel nothing. To replace the bad feelings with a rush of sugar and fat and flour. Because all those justifications come down to the same problem—I feel alone. Entirely alone, even though I’m not. I have a husband, children, siblings. But I don’t feel close to any of them. I’m the drowning swimmer in a crowded pool. No one notices, because the drowning don’t actually thrash around, making noise, calling attention to ourselves. We sink quietly. We go under and never come up. Sometimes I wish there were a lifeguard on duty for my life. Other times I wish I could get out of the pool. And then there are days like today, when I load myself up with rocks to see if whether I’ll sink faster.
I’m not sneaking donuts because I love donuts. I could eat sugar or chocolate in safer forms. They’re not good for me, but they’re not as actively harmful as gluten. And I’m not acting out so others will see and stop me. I know this isn’t their fight. I’m unhappy with myself for failing myself. I’m not taking good care of me. Wanting someone else to swoop in, and care more than I do, is one of the big themes in my life. The struggle is with myself, with choosing to love myself the way I want someone else to love me. The donuts are an expression of self-loathing. I’m unhappy with who I am, what I’m doing with my life. Who I’ve become.
Why act out like that? I’m not sure. I used to write more, journal my feelings. I haven’t been lately. I haven’t been happy with any of my writing. Instead of stopping altogether, I’ve been playing with forms. But that leaves me writing from my head more than my heart. It’s a fun exercise, but it’s not helping steady me in this world.
I don’t know how to free myself from this trap. I know that exercise, eating right, and getting enough sleep would help. I just can’t seem to push through the feeling that it’s not worth the bother. I’m not worth the bother.
So I make my lists, and pretend I need to shop. For some reason, I can do that. They were still out of cereal; I didn’t see any underwear I liked; and they didn’t have my bowls. I can try again next week.