DID Posts: Working through food issues with my alters

Background

Something not often mentioned is that different alters (or parts) have different experiences in the same body.  It’s why doctors and medical professionals could have trouble diagnosing illnesses or interpreting lab tests.  Or why nurses have trouble finding veins to take blood or give IVs.  This can even explain why one person can be sick with the flu, but not exhibit any physical symptoms except through a blood test.  Sometimes, it also changes physical appearance and healing rates.

Personal Experience

For me, some of my alter personalities don’t have to eat.  Other alter personalities (mostly my child parts) love eating meat, dairy, poultry, fish/seafood, and eggs (aka animal products) because they bring back good memories with family.  Most of my adolescent and adult alter personalities (me included) prefer a nutrient-focused, vegetarian or vegan (whole foods, plant based) eating style.  None of us really enjoy eating processed or fast food except for a treat once in a while; usually it tastes too salty, too sweet, or too much like chemicals.

The nutrient-focused, whole foods path works because plants are easy for our body to digest, bring a variety of pleasurable flavors & textures to meals, and are fun to cook.  Eating animal products and even some processed foods

  • When I eat meat and animal products, the vegetarian and vegan alters don’t get involved in digesting those meals.
  • When I eat plant based meals, everyone except the alters who don’t eat help with digestion.
  • My child parts and adolescent parts (up to mid-twenties probably) were anorexic and still struggle with triggers and the possibility of relapse.
  • My adult parts struggle with weight fluctuations and finding a diet with a label that helps the system stay healthy, tastes good, and limits potential triggers and small lapses.
  • We all struggle with making good food and hydration choices about 4-5 times a year when these triggers appear.  Past experiences with shaming and lack of support make this more difficult than it has to be.

The Challenge

Right now, the challenge is maintaining an interest in eating and hydrating.  I feel frustrated with my food options and hydration options.  I do not feel hungry or thirsty or interested in eating.  And by “I”, I mean everyone in my system.  No one wants to cook or get delivery or visit a restaurant or purchase takeout.

The first internal conflict: is the choice to eat mostly plant-based, whole foods style

  1.  rebellion against family
  2.  the beginning of a relapse for anorexia
  3. A personal choice that makes everyone in the system happy?

The second internal conflict: is the choice to animal products

  1. A self-harm compulsion triggered by obsessive thoughts about having to eat according to family and cultural/societal rules
  2. A self-harm compulsion to hurt myself and make myself sick as punishment for feeling happy and getting healthier
  3. A personal choice that makes the minor discomfort manageable because it helps younger alter personalities feel grounded and connected to happier times?

Side note: I use hydrating because “drinking” can sometimes trigger negative feelings – something I hope to avoid for any guests who read this post – or be misinterpreted.  Maybe it’s over-explaining, but that distinction is as much for my benefit as it is for the readers’ benefit.

Epiphany

Part 1

The first week after my dental surgery, I ate 100% whole foods, plant based meals.  With the exception of serious gas and constipation issues from the anesthesia and first few days of antibiotics, my digestion was fine.  I am grateful for acupuncture and food medicine for that turnaround.  What surprised me most was:

  1. how great I felt physically in spite of the pain
  2. how emotionally stable I felt in spite of the triggering experiences
  3. how rapidly my body healed with minimal pain killers with lots of rest & minimal activity
  4. how well I slept in spite of the pain and anxiety that came from flashbacks and food triggers
  5. the root of my food triggers centered around
  6. fear that this choice is based on PTSD food fears and anorexia nervosa relapse symptoms
  7. food and diet shaming
  8. lack of support from past medical and mental health professionals along with family members and friends

Part 2

  1. all alter parts feeling frustrated by these conflicting internal thoughts and feelings
  2. fear that that each time I ate animal products was giving into self-harm compulsions because of obsessive internal thoughts
  3. we all justified eating those meals as experiments to help child alters understand and experience the negative reaction our body has to eating animal products
  4. helping our system make peace with the conflict by explaining that eating animal products is fine as long as we are willing to accept the consequences – gas, constipation, slow digestion, nausea/stomachaches, backaches, lethargy – for a limited time
  5. acknowledging that the frustration stems from wanting to cook and eat a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle 90% of the time
  6. acknowledging that nothing is being excluded – we can eat animal products & processed food any time as long as we are willing to feel physically ill for a little while afterwards
  7. Alcohol is not included here because it’s in a different category – none of us like the taste of alcohol, but we do enjoy drinking once in a while with close friends.
    1. Problem is: we metabolize alcohol fast like with most other drugs and get drunk really easily.
    2. So 1 alcoholic beverage drunk over an hour = a drunk me for about 2-3 hours.  Then I’m fine except for the hangover headache.  If I fall asleep within the 2-3 hours, I wake up hungover.
    3. Very perplexing and makes drinking hard to enjoy…
  8. Processed foods are something I happily live without most of the time because they do not satisfy my hunger anymore.  When I do make an exception, it’s because of a craving for comfort food.  And then we all can enjoy the treat.

Conclusion

I and everyone in my system feel conflicted still.  It’s going to take a long time to sort out.  This time around, though, I have a mental health and a medical professional supporting me in the transition.  I also have many friends who support me as I try to stay healthy and make good coping strategy choices.

With knowledge comes power to make informed choices.  With trust comes the benefit of a real support network that can/will/does lift me up when I fall, encourage me when I doubt myself, and kick my ass when needed.  As for coping strategies, I’m not sure what to try or what will work.  If I find anything that helps, I will share in a future post.

If any of you are struggling with food choices, food addiction, or an eating disorder, I encourage you to learn more about different kinds of nutrition and diets, explore eating styles, and ask lots of questions.  Then (and I know this can be triggering) if you feel ready, listen to your body and how it feels before, during, and after you eat or hydrate.  My body always finds a way to tell me if it likes or dislikes something; maybe yours will too.

Thanks for reading

Back to Basics: Nourishing Myself

There are times when I feel so sick that I can’t bring myself to eat.

It’s not that I don’t want to eat.  Or that the alters don’t want to eat.  Solid foods are just plain unappealing and hard to digest.  Drinking my food is an option. Soup usually does the trick.  Something savory and a little sour helps clear many things up.  Other times a smoothie or juice with pulp does the trick.

Only thing is, I don’t the texture or flavor of many pre-made soups and smoothies.  Nor do I appreciate the cost per drink/soup or the ingredients in the most commonly available options.   They have a hard time meeting my personal requirements

  • Pleases my senses: taste/smell/texture
  • Ingredients
  • Cost per item (I am frugal)
  • Ease of access (delivery, grocery stores, pick up, storage, make it myself?)

So I started creating my own recipes for homemade drinks, soups, and smoothies.  They are nutritionally dense, tasty, smell good, easy to make with a few key tools, and require easy to find ingredients.

Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes with options:

Basic Green Smoothie:

Ingredients

  • High powered blender with or without a smoothie option
  • 8 ounces of water, milk, or non-dairy milk (almond is my favorite)
  • 1 handful (or more) of leafy green vegetables – spinach and lettuce do not add to or change the flavor of your smoothie
  • 1 Apple cut into chunks (size depends on power of your blender)
  • 1/2 of a 10 oz bag of frozen mixed berries
  • 4 ounces (approx 1/4 container) of silken tofu

 

Cooking Instructions:

  • Add ingredients to the blender in this order: liquids, cut fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables, ground/powdered ingredients & seeds, frozen fruit or ice.
  • Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides or push down ingredients between blending as needed
  • If the blender gets too full, start blending the liquids and fruit first.  Then slowly add in the rest of the ingredients until fully mixed.
  • Makes between 1-2 (up to 3) servings

Extra Info:

  • Optional ingredients: 1 tsp of ground flaxseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, etc. for extra vitamins/minerals/fiber
  • Alternative ingredients A: add banana, avocado, yogurt, or ice to thicken the smoothie.  Or add less liquids
  • Alternative ingredients B: can substitute any apples and mixed berries for any fruits.  Can substitute almond milk for any other liquids.
  • Alternative ingredients C: I don’t recommend meat or eggs for protein.  Whey and soy proteins have a weird aftertaste.  I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but there are affordable, neutral tasting protein powders that work great in smoothies

Rice porridge aka congee in a slow cooker:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 8 – 12 cups of liquid (vegetable-based or meat-based broth)
  • 2 stalks of green onions chopped fine
  • 1 lb of marinated protein (seafood, fish, chicken, pork, tofu, etc.) chopped or diced into medium-sized pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated or sliced fresh ginger (or 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger)
  • Add ins: sesame seeds, peanuts or other nuts, mushrooms, sliced vegetables, salt to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  • Add the rice, broth, meat/protein, ginger, & half of the green onions to the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Rice will look like a thick soup and take on color of broth.
  • Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls.  Add sesame seeds, mushrooms, vegetables, and fresh green onions on top and serve.

Extra Info:

  • I prefer to mix everything together and then eat, but it’s a personal preference.
  • some people cook the meat, fish, or other protein separately and add in just before serving**
  • I am lazy and often throw everything into the slow cooker at the same time.  It tastes just as good, but veggies tend to lose their crispness and meat can taste overcooked.***

Hot flavored water (makes individual servings):

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz mug or larger
  • Water of choice (I use tap)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Honey (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice or 1/4 wedge of fresh lemon
  • Frozen or fresh fruit of choice (I tend to use frozen berries, mango, cherries, or pineapple)

Cooking Instructions:

  • Add honey or lemon to cup
  • Add frozen fruit to cup (fill 1/4 of cup max.)
  • Boil 6-8 ounces of water
    • Electric kettle needs a minimum of 2 cups
    • Boil water on stove top and pour into cup
  • Pour hot water into the cup and mix with honey/lemon/fruit.  Let cool down and enjoy
  • Pour water in cup and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.  Or use the beverage option.  Take out and mix honey/lemon juice/fruit with water.

Extra Info:

  • Microwave option A:  Add honey or lemon or both and water to cup; microwave on high for 2-3 minutes; take out and mix
  • Microwave option B:  Add frozen fruit and water to cup; microwave on high for 3-4 minutes; take out and mix
  • For multiple servings: Bring water (best to use 4 cups min.) to a boil in medium-sized pot.  Add ingredients to taste.  Bring back to a boil, stirring lightly, until water changes color or flavors mix.  Turn off heat and pour into mugs.
    • If you prefer a drink without pulp, separate liquid from pulp using a strainer.
    • The pulp is great in smoothies, fruit bread, muffins, etc.

 

I hope the recipes, if you try them, bring you as much comfort as they do me.

 

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Mindful Cooking

Warning: Potentially triggering and detailed content in this post.  I tried to insert a “read more” tag after the “And yet…” subtitle, but please do not read past there if you feel uncomfortable

Background

I love cooking.  As a child, one of the ways I got personal attention and approval was through the cooking process.  There was a wealth of knowledge handed down to me as I sat or stood in the kitchen with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and yes parents learning basic food preparation and storage skills.

When I think of the smells in my grandparents’ kitchen, I feel safe.

When I think of standing on a chair stirring sauce in a pot with my uncle, I feel loved.

When I try to remember how to “properly” marinate meat to get the tender, melt-in-your mouth feel, my mind draws a blank.

When I try to chop common vegetables like carrots, celery, onions, or broccoli, my hands start to shake.

And yet…

Read More »

Coping Challenge: being emotionally supportive to other family

Since Christmas, I have been struggling with really bad anxiety.  Flashbacks, nightmares, changes in sleep and eating patterns, etc.

The body pain increased too.  That made me wonder what exactly triggered this round of escalation?

two things: letting down barriers and being emotionally supportive of an aunt who is still stuck in the abuse cycle I walked away from.

the barriers: I opened my heart and friendship to a neighbor whose little dog wrapped himself around my heart with one look at his big, dark eyes and some very loud barks.  I walked him a couple times last week to help my neighbor out.  She needed some help since her second job required a schedule change.

This brought back fond memories of when I used to exercise without pain and enjoy it.  Also memories of my puppy from a disastrous attempt at service dog training s couple years ago.  From there, came a tumble of other memories and feelings – some good, others not so great.

Emotional support: I reconnected with family on my father’s side this year.  It has been slow and careful because I don’t want to get sucked back into the toxic system that still exists.  They know that and (for the most part) respect my boundaries.  But I have an older aunt who still gets targeted for the emotional and verbal abuse/bullying/scapegoating by the rest of the family.  We had a conversation about that when she called earlier this week.  The call brought back other memories and familiar pain in my back the next day.  I want to be supportive, but not much else I can do until she is ready to take the steps to protect herself.  Where and how to I set boundaries to protect myself and support her?

I don’t know.  But yesterday was hard to concentrate at work.  I missed my deadline here by falling asleep 1 hour after work finished.

Today, I am taking a mental health day.  Have to because the anxiety is so bad I need to do some serious self care.  Sleep is #1 priority.  Followed by real food and hydration.  Getting outside for the first time in 4 days.  And trying to regain my sense of safety through grounding, soothing, and DBT strategies.

thanks for reading