Why chocolate?

October 24, 2010 at 11:23 am (Mental illness)

A couple of weeks ago, I joined in a Bible Study discussion of anger, and the role it plays in forgiveness. People pointed out that anger shows us where we’re hurt and what we care about (especially righteous anger). Anger often indicates right from wrong – the yelled phrase, “You can’t treat me like that!” is really one way of saying, “I have worth as a human being.” Anger shows us something is wrong, and it gives us the energy to do something about it.

I have a friend who had a bad boss. A really bad one. He felt angry. He talked to his friends and wife about it, and made a complaint (which was ignored). He tried and tried to deal with the situation, and eventually he had a mental breakdown – it is years later, and he hasn’t recovered.

For his sake, I wish he’d followed the anger and quit – don’t we all fantasise about quitting sometimes? A lot of our angry fantasies are actually telling us something useful – generally, that things are not okay. But we (especially women and/or Christians) are taught to treat others better than ourselves. We’re taught that anger is impolite, and we shouldn’t indulge it. And sometimes that’s not the right thing to do. We either end up broken and/or bitter, or we leach away our entire personality and become Flanders. Ugh!

Anyway. . . that was a long introduction to my point: most of the time, my anxiety disorder manifests as anger (I’ve often said I prefer anger to depression, because anger is proactive). I think that anger is the main reason I feel the daily need to binge on chocolate. It’s pretty much the only way I feel able to express myself. (I sometimes express anger with crying, but I’m so sick of crying! And blogging, of course – but that is limited too.)

There’s other factors at play in my chocolate obsession. Our society is built on self-indulgence, particularly via chocolate. Social occasions run on wheels of either chocolate or alcohol (among my friends, it’s more often chocolate).

For me, chocolate fills in the gap between how much I should be enjoying myself and how much I am enjoying myself. For example, if I go to a party I feel pressured and threatened. If I eat a whole lot of chocolate, it feels like. . . well, like a party. I don’t seem able to process positive stimulus without chocolate. I often sit in a conversation with people I genuinely like, and start having a panic attack as I feel pressured to be pleasant and happy – that is, to pretend to be myself. Chocolate fixes it, and I’m myself.

It’s the one good thing I feel able to rely on – because it’s simple. CJ is a predominantly positive stimulus (yeah, I know, I’m a romantic), but he’s complicated, like all humans. He relieves a lot of my stress, but he also causes some. Chocolate makes me nauseous and then overweight, but that just makes it a more effective way of expressing anger. Because the expression of anger is meant to be unpleasant somehow.

I think if I was medicated for the anxiety, my anger would be cut by about two-thirds, and I’d have less of a need to express it via chocolate binges. But I plan to start a family in the next few years, and medication is a no-no during that time (and I know from experience it takes a long time to stop the meds).

Maybe in the future I’ll be able to use anti-depressants, and then chocolate won’t be such an issue.

We’ll see I guess.

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