I'll make it better

The Search for Relief

What becomes quite evident is how disordered eating practices and substance misuse use the young women’s experience of pain to their advantage. What gives these problems their strength is the young women’s relationship with uncertainty, ideas of comparison/not measuring up, pain, or a sense of a lack of control. The young women clearly are not resigned to a life of feeling badly and go in search of ways to feel better.

C: Did alcohol and drugs or disordered eating practices ever promise that it was going to help you out in any way?

A: Yeah, I would say like it helped me in—like feeling better. It helped me out in the sense that like if I got in a fight with my mom and it’s like after dinner or something like I can just go to the bathroom and stick my finger down my throat. Like ha ha, fuck you. You still can’t stop me from doing certain things.

C: Hmmm.

A: It helped me in other ways too, like when my Grandpa died I was free from drugs. How do I cope with it, don’t eat. It’s like ‘don’t eat and you’ll feel fine.’

C: How does not eating equal coping and feeling fine? How did that become a way to cope?

A: It’s showing that you have control over something.

C: And how did that make it better or easier to get through that period of time?

A: You can’t control other things like I can’t control my Grandpa dying. I can’t control my mom yelling at me so it’s like here is something I can control.

Alexa goes on to explain that this was not the kind of control over herself and her body that she preferred and that in fact she now believes that disordered eating practices and substance misuse controlled her.

A: Like when emotionally I felt like I couldn't control what was going on, when everything seemed to keep building up, and I had the sense of mental loss of control. I would revert to anorexia. And when I was severely depressed, that's when I would go to the drugs. They killed that pain.

C: Were there any problems that were going on in your life that alcohol and drugs actually tried to convince you that they could help you with? I don’t know if there were things going on in your life, that drugs showed with promises to help or make you feel better?

A: Oh, yeah. If I was pissed off, or if I wanted to make somebody pissed off. I knew if I did drugs it pissed them off and I would feel better at that moment.