Content Warning: This post includes mentioning of being forced to eat and nausea.
Earlier today, I fell to the floor in my kitchen. I’ve slept worse than usual for two nights in a row, and that made me physically weaker than usual. When I was preparing an easy snack, my legs just couldn’t hold me up anymore and gave out. It wasn’t a bad fall, I stayed conscious and could use my hands enough to avoid hurting my head. Luckily my partner was at home and could finish preparing the snack for me as I crawled back to bed. I could hardly speak but managed to push myself to say the word “cinnamon”. I needed my partner to put cinnamon on my yogurt.
Some people probably wonder why I made an effort to say something as seemingly unimportant as “cinnamon”. Why did I waste the little energy I had on getting cinnamon on my yogurt? The answer is that it wasn’t unimportant. Without it, I wasn’t going to be able to eat my yogurt due to the easily triggered nausea and queasiness.
I’m a picky eater. I’ve always been a picky eater. When something about food is wrong in some way, not only do I dislike it, but I get nauseous or actually throw up. When I’ve slept worse than usual, when I’ve experienced a sensory overload or when I’m in PEM (Post-Exertional Malaise) the level of constant nausea is higher, which makes me even more picky about food. I’m picky about texture, spices, temperature and even things like the size of my spoon. A big spoon for my breakfast yogurt leads to queasiness, and I will therefore not put a big spoon in my mouth. Today, my partner is the one cooking for me and he respects my needs. He doesn’t understand it but he doesn’t question why I can eat certain kinds of food when I’m feeling okay but an hour later it’s impossible. He doesn’t question my pickiness at all.
As a child, the situation was different and therefore food was a difficult part of life. Food and eating meant a fight and people trying to force me to eat things even though just the smell of it made me nauseous. I remember dinner at home as okay, my parents’ cooking was usually good and I was slightly less sensitive in the evening than earlier in the day. Breakfast and lunch was awful though. Lunch in school was mostly a horror: A big, noisy room with horrible lights, smells and a lot of people moving. I was forced to take a certain amount of food on my plate, and then I had to eat at least half of it. I couldn’t, so every time I didn’t manage to throw it out when nobody was watching, I had to stay in the canteen as everybody else finished and could leave. Not that it helped, I refused to eat and at some point my teachers gave up.
One day when I was around six years old, the canteen served an asparagus soup that was just as awful as most of the food, but this day I really didn’t want do the usual act of throwing it away or being forced to stay. I decided to try to eat enough to make my teacher happy. I wanted her to stop being so disappointed with me during lunchtime. I took a spoon of soup and put it in my mouth. Immediately my stomach turned and I was very close to throwing up in my bowl, but with a lot of willpower I managed to keep it down. I hade some sips of water. That was awful, but when I looked up I saw my teachers face and she smiled at me. Since she obviously was watching me closely now, I had to do it again. So I did. I managed to eat half of my bowl of soup, got to leave the canteen with my class mates and was praised by the teacher for behaving so well.
Today, I feel really sad when I think about this. I was praised for forcing myself to keep eating even though I almost through up. After that, I thought that behaving well meant to do as I was told, no matter the consequences for my well-being.