The fit hits the Shan #6: Purging Control

Shan is here today to share with us her first post of 2012. It is honest, raw, and beautiful, like always.


Shawn Smucker wrote something recently that’s had me asking myself an old question in a new way.  Not “Why do I do what I do?” or “What do I believe?”.  But what is it that I believe that results in me doing what I do?  That’s becomes particularly important when what I do is hurting me.

I have struggled – embarrassed and annoyed – for years with the ups and downs of an eating disorder.  I’ve wrestled in dark bathroom stalls and the bright lights of restaurant tables with an itchy-gripped hand tugging at the base of my skull.  I’ve dropped dramatic amounts of weight in relatively short amounts of time, starving myself or purging as I went. I have gained larger amounts of weight, recklessly and intentionally eating whatever sounded like the best way to calm that nagging itch in my head. I’ve dealt with frustrating physical side effects from both and stubbornly ignored them.

Like all addictions, it’s about control and how-I-feel.  Which really means it’s just about one thing, doesn’t it?  Because at the end of the day, all I want to control is how I feel.
To be honest, this “control” issue has confused me, though, because I would not otherwise characterize myself as a control freak.  My Type A friends and I joke about it, because I tend to take a decidedly “Eh … whatever you think.” Or “Let’s just see how it plays out.” type of roll in most everything else.  If you ask what movie we should see, I’ll likely ask what you want to see.  When I want something in any type of relationship– no matter how deeply felt – I will say it quietly every so often, but then I will leave it in a corked bottle on a shelf for later or forever.  I’m not likely to try to compel someone to engage.  If I’m sabotaged in a work interaction, I may quietly make sure it’s noted somewhere, but I’m just going to keep going as quietly as possible.   I don’t want more drama. I don’t want the reins. And may green in all its verdant shades preserve you if you ask me to make a list of what needs to be done.  I don’t want to plan ahead or make an itinerary. I want to get in the Jeep and see where the road takes me.   Hell, I don’t even need to drive –  I’ll ride shotgun or scrunch into the backseat and sing off key made up lyrics along with whatever tunes you decide to play.

Some of that is good.  I’ve found myself in some fascinating places in life and love and art and work because I just went with it and watched the view unfold.  I marvel over some of those things, huddled under a blanket on the front porch in the middle of the night with a hot mug of coffee between mittened hands.  There are deep, cool waters I’d have not tasted by marking their location on a map and going after them.

But some of that is downright insidious.  There’s “I don’t like drama” and then there’s “I have a hard time believing you really want to hear what I think, so I’m just not saying anything.”  I think tamping down some keen feelings of exuberance, hurts, hopes, fears, angers and “what I really think”s has lead me to feel compelled to control how I feel in this other area.   By owning the endorphins of starve/purge or glut, I can control the most basic of physical feelings I’m responsible to myself for.   I can produce feeling good this way.  But pouring endorphins on an itchy skull can’t satiate a desire to be known for who I am.

Did I say when I started this that it’s embarrassing?   It is.  I’ve believed that no one should have to be bored, annoyed, depressed, distracted or subjected to hearing what I really think or feel for a long time and as a result I’ve “fixed” the problem by abusing my body.  Writing for D’s blog, though, has been an act of belief since the beginning that I’m allowed – and welcome – to say how I really feel about all the mess and mystery and incandescence and mud.

There is no skull-ectomy to dig out that nagging whisper, but Shawn was right to point me towards asking what I believe.  I see the triggers.  I’m ready to believe new things.

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15 Responses to The fit hits the Shan #6: Purging Control

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Amen. Right there with you. What an amazingly hard journey. I keep trying though because part of me really does believe it can be better some day. That I am worth it. So are you.

  2. Great post, Shan. Being ready to believe new things about ourselves is an incredible step. All the best.

  3. Great post, Shan. I can relate to it on a lot of levels, though eating disorders wasn’t my schtick… alcoholism was.

    The nagging itch in my head? Yup… right behind my right ear. (Seriously, sometimes it feels like the ‘seat’ of my soul is centered there… it’s where discontent dwells, but it’s also where peace comes when peace comes.)

    The “afraid to ask for anything in a relationship”? Yup. Except I usually only state the need once, if at all, then shelf it forever.

    Similar to you, recognizing the triggers helped me overcome them. That, and a fear of hurting those I’m closest to (wife initially and now kids), plus a feeling that God was calling me to something better combined to give me the impetus to quit drinking, and I’ve been on the wagon for 22 years now. (I didn’t start saying “I’m going on the wagon forever” though — I would’ve crashed and burned if I tried that.)

    My one encouragement to you would be that it does get easier. Recognizing the triggers and believing new things helps you overcome, and once you overcome a few times, it’s easier to continue believing new things, and that helps you overcome…. and a new cycle is born. A cycle of you controlling the triggers instead of them controlling you. I still feel like having a beer fairly frequently (ie, the itch is still there), but the gun is in the holster and my finger is nowhere near the trigger.

    Good post!

  4. HopefulLeigh says:

    You are most welcome “to say how I really feel about all the mess and mystery and incandescence and mud.” In fact, we all must come to that place. I’m so grateful for your words, as always, Shan. Thank you for sharing the how and the why and the what.

  5. Lee Ann Jurczyk says:

    Shan, your soul is so beautiful. xoxoxo

  6. Tasha Lass says:

    Shan, I wont share in detail now….but I have struggled with control and have made several big mistakes in the process….I thought I was in control of everything in my life..and was convinced in my mind that I was in control of my life..until one day recently I was knocked flat on my face and had no choice but to look up and realize who was really in control…and unless I let go of my own life and grabbed onto Him (God) I knew I was never going to get up…Giving up my control and giving Him control is a daily process…But WOW!!! what a relief…what a good feeling to know I can do ALL things through Him because He gives me strength…I can’t accomplish anything but with Him I can do the impossible…!!!!!! This is the first thing I’ve read of yours…but I understand….believe me I do….If you ever need to talk I’m available…just one down to earth, real person to another…

    • shan k says:

      Thank you for sharing. We’re all looking to find grace in the back of the small caves we take shelter in, aren’t we? I hope you peace on the journey.

  7. .~mama~ says:

    “But pouring endorphins on an itchy skull can’t satiate a desire to be known for who I am.”

    Oh, shan,how I’ve longed to understand what you were going through, and how you were handling things.and to really know YOU…I want to be there for you,but I don’t know the right words or how to convey them in a way that sends their true meaning….

    I love you, dear daughter….

  8. shan k says:

    We are all trapped inside ourselves to some extent, aren’t we? Spend our whole lives trying to be pulled out and understood, even though it is so damned hard to figure out how to know and how to be known. It is enough to start with I love you. We shall keep trying from there, eh? 🙂

  9. jennkinney says:

    Facing one’s on mortality (on whatever level, whether by trauma or age or illness), forces you to realize that if you were gone, who would really have known you well enough, who would have been such a witness to your life that the story, the essence of you would live long after you were gone? I’m struggling to find the same courage to unabashedly be who I am and share what is most tender and vulnerable, even to those whom I love in the deepest part of my soul. Thank you again, for allowing me, us, to walk this journey of living honestly and openly. You are one of the few completely real people I know.

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