I sat in the support group, glanced down at my health food store protein bar made of plant protein and zero dairy.
There was a third of it left in the wrapper.
I typically eat a large breakfast, filled with healthy fats and fiber, in a soup. It’s ultra healthy because of my digestive disease. I eat it without thinking.
This morning all I’d eaten was a small pouch of applesauce. And now two-thirds of my protein bar.
Sitting there, reaching out for my next bite of the protein bar… I realized I wasn’t hungry.
I was full.
I felt full.
It stunned me.
I am an emotional eater.
I overeat (which, having a digestive disease, is unhealthily easy to do) and I eat the wrong (read: unhealthy) foods.
I sat there, realizing what I consistently thought of as “hunger” was an urge to fill myself up because I was so empty.
I already knew this. But to see the proof of it, that blew me away.
To feel the truth of it, that made me pause.
I’d already shared (spoken during the meeting).
I’d taken notes on what I felt and what others’ shares inspired in me. I always do this. I want to soak up, absorb, and store the truths they so easily share among the group.
These moments of grace. Where I am filled up with the peace I crave but don’t normally know how to gain.
These moments of grace. Where I accept that food is what I try to fill up on – when I’m not hungry. Trying to fill myself, fill myself, fill myself until finally, finally I feel something other than this terrifying numbness, this void, this empty abyss of nothingness but pain and worry, anxiety, depression, and shame.
So afraid that I won’t get enough food into me. So afraid I will remain empty. Feel nothing but a gnawing monster of never satisfied, never filled, never enough.
These moments of grace. When I find myself, real, solid, completely who I am. Vulnerable and alive and visceral. Safe. Filled with a peace, a harmony with who I am, that I cannot explain in words.
These moments of grace where I write down, “I can choose what to fill myself with” in the little notebook I keep in my purse. In case there’s a fluttering butterfly that I need to capture with my pen, preserve in ink between the pages.
I can. That’s it. That’s the secret.
Fill myself with truth. With self-love that I can then spill over and share with others. With acceptance of what I feel, who I am, what I want, what I need, the secrets I wish to hide from myself but don’t need to. Acceptance that I am only as sick as my secrets. Acceptance that what I resist, persists.
Fill myself with creativity, nights spent typing until the clock tells me staying up any longer would cause me pain, and joy spills over onto my pillow because I never used to feel this, never used to want to be awake.
Fill myself with pillows on my bed, comfy in the middle of all these plushies, eating the words on the pages of a book I love.
Fill myself with hugs and smiles and tears and more hugs. With daydreams and nightmares, conversations, and silence.
Fill myself with the strength to poke at the things I wish I could pretend away, the situations that I wish didn’t exist. Fill myself with the knowledge that looking at and feeling that pain, those memories, these realities – it is worth it.
I can choose to fill myself with prayer and scriptures, fun and silliness. With confidence and joy. Hope and knowing that I am purposeful.
I have filled myself with these things long enough.
Felt them in my bones long enough. Stored them in the hollow of my rib cage long enough.
Just long enough, compared to the years of abuse and neglect, self-hate and ignorance.
But long enough.
That I wake up, flinging myself out of bed so I can get to my writing. Wishing I didn’t have to sleep because being awake and feeling this, is what I want.
I have filled myself with healthy emotions and relationships and truths. To the point that I can see how different it is from the pain. The misery. How different it is from filling myself with food. Which always causes more hurt anyway.
I have filled myself with enough moments of goodness. That now I can have these moments of grace.
Sitting there in my support group, realizing I don’t need to fill up on food. I am already full. Filled to the brim with something new. Something better. Something real.