I have a problem. One that I suspect is making some of my conditions more difficult to handle. It’s food. Not diets, or weight loss types of food. Simply the act of eating food. I want to try to explain why this is such an issue for me, and to understand how I can make changes to improve things.
I have always had issues when it comes to food. From typically autistic behaviours like disliking certain textures and not liking wet food to mix with dry, to more complex things like struggling to eat at the right time or forgetting to eat entirely. I have all the equipment I could need, from rice cookers to a George Foreman grill and plenty in between. It isn’t as though I lack for ways to cook food. I realise food is important, just like air and a decent cup of tea (don’t mock me for living up to the British stereotype), I just find myself struggling to actually make any. It’s tough to explain, I have tried many times before while discussing this with friends and family as well as various medical professionals, but I can’t seem to explain it in ways that others understand. So, let’s try explaining it here instead.
The first part of this is motivation. Motivation is a big issue in my life, it comes in bursts with no warning and leaves just as quickly. A great example is my dishes, they will stack up for days, and suddenly I’ll get an urge to do them. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4am, I might be exhausted afterwards, but I can’t ignore the urge to do them. Not due to the need to, but because of the motivation. This is a huge issue, there are days when there is no urge to do basic things, let alone cook a meal.
Forgetfulness. Ok, forgetfulness is probably the wrong word, but it’s what I call it. It’s those rare times when my stomach says I’m hungry and my brain is actually listening, but I forget to follow through on it. I usually get sidetracked by a game or a cup of tea. It gets to a point where my stomach gives up hope and I stop feeling hungry. Literally, either my body stops sending or getting the messages. It is too easy for me to disregard the occasional pang of pain after that, especially when it is approaching bedtime.
Next there is how I react to food. This is very much a self-inflicted issue. I am at a point where I am put off by food, because my body tends to react badly to it. The stomach acid that accompanies meals, the nausea after eating too much (a normal amount for most, but my body doesn’t realise that), the various digestive issues that happen later down the line. It puts me off eating, despite me needing to consume food to live. By failing to eat, my digestion has changed how it processes food. My stomach is smaller, making it more of a challenge to consume a full meal. More stomach acid is being produced when I eat. I often become dizzy due to low sugar, interfering with my ability to prepare and eat a meal.
Finally, there is fear. Preparing and eating a meal, is frankly terrifying at this point. Will I be able to cook? Is this meal going to cause me to be sick? Will I even like the food I have made? There is too much fear surrounding food for me now that I get terrified at the thought of food. Actually, writing this paragraph has caused me nausea.
If you’re like me, it is clear that there is a cycle here that needs breaking. Forgetting to eat food, causes my body to change and struggle to eat in the future. These makes fear a core part of the process, and in turn, makes me more likely to forget to eat. And repeat… The important things is how to break the cycle?
I have been given various different types of advice about how to approach this. Some are more useful than others. Forcing myself to eat is not practical, as it will just cause me to have more negative reactions towards food. A schedule is also very difficult for me to maintain. Snacks aren’t an option as I tend to just eat them all within a day and preparing multiple meals at once just confuses me, I struggle to eat one let alone prepare multiple.
Usually I finish on some kind of positive note. That isn’t going to be the case with this post. I have found it draining, and it has brought up a lot of stuff that I don’t fully understand. In fact, while I have been writing this (over the past week), I have become aware that I may have an eating disorder (I display most of the traits of Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder). I had always disregarded this as a possibility, largely putting down issues to my own behaviours. I am not sure of the cause or how best to overcome it, but I plan to contact my GP (as soon as they answer the phone) and discuss matters with them. Talking to my GP is always a challenge for me, I often feel disregarded by them as if I’m little more than an inconvenience. However, I need to have this conversation with them. I need to get to the bottom of it, in order to get the support I need to overcome it. I’m sorry that this is a less coherent post than usual, it has been difficult to write and even more of a challenge to come to terms with some of the implications of how it actually impacts me.