I Have Loved You Forever, But I Think You are Killing Me
In the 2003 article, A Concise History of Infant Formula (Twists and Turns Included), Andrew Schuman wrote, If you are over 40, there is a good chance that, if you were not breastfed as an infant, you were fed a formula created by mixing 13 ounces of evaporated milk with 19 ounces of water and two tablespoons of either corn syrup or table sugar.
If, as I suspect, my first meal came from a bottle, that means chances are really good I had refined sugar fed to me when I was hours old. And I loved the stuff. I have stolen for sugar, lied for it, gotten sick over it.
This is the first lie I remember telling: my mother was making chocolate chip cookies, and she announced to my brothers and me that the first one to see a robin (it was newly spring) could have the batter-covered spoon. We all ran outside, and as I looked at the bare branches of an oak tree, trying to will a robin to appear, I realized something: maybe wanting something to appear and something appearing was pretty much the same thing. What if the robin were there and I just wasn’t seeing it?
When you are adopted, anything is possible. You have another mother, another father out there in the world even if you have no idea what they look like! How crazy is that?! No crazier than seeing a bird that may not actually be there.
I got the spoon, and I ate the batter, the chocolate chips with a sick joy. Had I run into the house too soon? Did my mother know in her heart I hadn’t seen a bird? Did she secretly hate me now? The sugar went fast into my blood, and soon I was too amped up to worry. I was on top of the world for a good ten minutes, before the sadness, before the cravings kicked in. When I was a grownup, I told myself, licking the spoon clean, I’d have more than just a spoonful of cookie batter. I’d eat the whole bowl if I wanted. I’d eat until I was finally full.
I fear hunger. I fear I will fly off the planet and disappear. I fear I will get mean and low from sugar blues and tell everyone what I think about them. I fear I will die if I don’t eat. I am 5’10 and I weigh 151. I’m pretty sure I could go WEEKS without eating and I’d still be able to high five the guy bagging my cruller at the donut shop. It’s not about how much actual flesh I have: it’s about the messages my brain sends me which usually sound like this: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO EAT NEXT? WHAT CAN YOU EAT TO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD OR BETTER? WHAT CAN YOU EAT TO FIX YOUR LIFE? WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T EAT? YOU BETTER HURRY UP AND GET SOME FOOD. YOU MIGHT LOSE YOUR MIND IF YOU DON’T GET THAT LAST FRUIT AND NUT SCONE THERE IN THE DISPLAY.
And since nearly everything I eat is processed as I stopped cooking when my daughter left for college, chances are good there is some form of sugar in nearly everything I eat. Even the grapefruit juice I add to my tequila has…you guessed it. And so my eyes begin to shut almost as soon as I take my first sip, as my body tries to adjust to the changing hormonal and chemical balance in its system. It’s harder to focus, harder to think when I’ve been ingesting sugar, and yet I do it day after day, decade after decade. It’s the song of my childhood, of my very blood. Why would I let something like that go?
I stopped remembering people’s names a few years ago. Then I would look at my toothbrush and have no idea what to call it. My moods fluctuated wildly. I’d be so happy and then, out of nowhere, I’d be in a deep depression. My head ached. My eyes were puffy. I had belly fat. I couldn’t depend on myself because I was never sure how I would feel. It seemed as though everything I ate just made me feel worse. It was terrible to be hungry and it was terrible to eat. Both left me with a foggy head and a pained stomach. I felt like I was poisoning myself, but I didn’t know on what exactly: Worry? Eggs? Caffeine? Nightshades? What was wrong with me? How could I feel normal when I didn’t even know what that was like?
It has been two weeks and six days and I have had no refined sugar. There were three days in the second week where I lay on the couch at about 2 in the afternoon and could not move for hours. I felt carved out of wood. Leaden. I was so relaxed I thought I might die.
It happened again yesterday afternoon. The idea of doing anything seemed comparable to climbing a mountain in scuba gear and so I lay still for two hours and listened to guided meditations so I didn’t have to deal with my brain.
This all started when three weeks ago a friend with diabetes convinced me to see what happened when I radically cut back on the carbohydrates in my diet. She said the sugar in the carbs could really be messing with my brain, and since I want to be a body and mind that runs like a top instead of like a drunken squirrel, I went nuts with well, nuts, and eggs, and cheese and meat and almond butter and avocados and flax milk and kale.
(I have to tell you something funny. The computer just slid off my tilted lap because I got bacon grease on the keyboard as I was typing. Shhh. That’s just between you, me, and my Mac.)
It has been a strange two weeks and six days. I’m not even sure I know who I am any more. First of all, the crazy hunger is gone. I feel like a long road instead of a roller coaster. I don’t feel like I will fall apart or fly away when I think about food—the hunger is much slower now. It’s less of a screaming worry and more like a slow nudge—like: Some eggs might be good now. The tank seems to be pretty empty instead of WHEN THE FUCK IS HE GOING TO FINISH MAKING MY SALAD AND WHERE IS THE BREAD BASKET?
I feel as if the urgent button on my brain is gone and, in its place is the sound of waves gently breaking. This may not be true. This may well be wishful thinking on my part and my way of telling you I see the robin just so you’ll believe with me that cutting sugar out of your diet changes almost everything. But I think it’s really true. I think there really may be peace in my head.
I feel so calm without added sugar in my system. It’s weird. I feel as if everything is going to be okay. That’s also weird. I feel, frankly, like I’m on drugs.
And that is the best part of all.
Dr. Mark Lucas is a chiropractor who specializes in nutrition and high performance for athletes, and he’s going to help me figure out this sugar thing, help me to figure out how to keep this brain and body operating at peak mode rather than survival mode. I’m committing to nine months of no refined sugar, a gestational period, because the thought of living what might be seen as a severely restricted diet (NO REFINED SUGAR????????) can be overwhelming (BUT WHO WILL EAT MY BIRTHDAY CAKE?????).
Do you even know exactly what sugar does to your body? To, for example, your stress levels?
Me neither. But I’ll let you know.
This is my plan: I’m going to whip adoption’s ass. I refuse to live a life of trauma and grief and unresolved issues. I want to wake up in the morning and feel good and to go to bed feeling the same way. It took me this past year to realize just how deeply adoption had affected my body and mind. And now I’m going to take this coming year and find a way to start over.
The tracks are greased and I’m ready to roll.