In my ever present search for a decent doctor, the first thing I check on is her belief in the connection of food and wellness. If she doesn't understand the connection between mind, body and spirit around nourishing food, I'm out the door before she can take my blood pressure.
The origins of my relationship with food started as revenge.
I was 25 when I was having perpetual anxiety attacks. I hadn't slept in weeks. I was waking up with nightmares that would put Eli Roth to shame. I was blacking out portions of my life - like I couldn't remember how I got home from work. I was sure I was losing my mind.
One desperate Sunday afternoon, I called every Boston therapist I could find on the inter webs, and I left a long, rambling, desperate message for every one of them. One called me back within five minutes, and I begged her to see me that afternoon. Miraculously, she agreed.
Sitting in her office, which was filled with hopeful watercolors of bridges and stairs, her first question was: "What did you eat today?"
"I don't know. A bagel? What the hell does that matter? I need to tell you what happened. I need tools."
"You want to tell me what happened?"
"That's why I'm here. To talk about it. To get it out."
"To get out that someone hurt you."
"Okay, so now you've told me. You were hurt. It's 4:30. What else have you eaten today?"
I could not for the life of me understand why this woman was obsessed with my food. I mean, I was raised on Tuna and Hamburger Helper and canned vegetables which I would wash down with hormone-laden milk. Occasionally we'd have my Dad's world's famous spaghetti. But for 25 years, I had no relationship to food. I ate something every once in a while to survive, but the truth is that I know now that processed, sugar-filled food was killing me from the inside out, and certainly not helping with anxiety.
"Can we just get back to me getting hurt? It's just that I have a lot to say."
"We can get to the details later. I imagine it was pretty horrible. Do you want to get revenge?"
"I mean, I don't want to go to jail or anything, but sure I wouldn't mind this person getting hit by a bus."
"The opposite of someone hurting you, isn't to hurt them back. The opposite of someone hurting you is to nourish yourself. To give yourself what you need to thrive."
"Er. I don't know how to do that."
"You're human. You know how to cook. Sure, you may not be able to craft a gourmet meal, but you know how to put things in a pan and heat them up."
She told me that my first assignment was to go to the grocery store as soon as I left the office. She told me to go to the vegetable aisle. Look at all the fruits and vegetables. Touch them. Sniff them. See what looks interesting, and put them in your cart. Fill up your cart with as much as your fridge will fit.
Then after the store, go home and just start cutting and chopping the vegetables. "With every slice, feel free to think of who hurt you and say aloud 'fuck you. fuck you. fuck you.'
"And after you've cooked and prepared your food, and you're slowly and deliberately eating that food, feel free to think of the person who hurt you and say in your mind "fuck you. fuck you. fuck you," with every delicious morsel, eat it down."
"Er... this all doesn't sound very zen."
"Oh, it's definitely not zen. But if it gets the food in your body, it's a start. And Elizabeth, eventually, you'll drop the 'fuck you's.' Eventually, as the months go by, chopping, cooking and eating will only be a new habit of you taking care of yourself. Every damn day. Every damn meal. That nourishing will soon bleed into every action you take. And that's when you'll start feeling free again."
That night, while standing in my little attic apartment kitchen all by myself, chopping and crying and yelling, one would think I had gone mad. But that moment was the start of a journey back to myself.
I cooked up my vegetables and a little fish. I set my little salvaged table with the one fork and the one knife that I had at the time. I even lit a little tea light to set the mood.
To date - even after having eaten at the Biltmore, La Pergola in Rome, Dromoland Castle - that was hands down the best meal of my life.