The QUO - Sugar Craving is a Mourning Disorder
Angelina reveals how reading helped her come to terms with her addictive tendencies, her waves of nymphomania, her binge eating and her borderline personality disorder.
Sugar Craving is a Mourning Disorder

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Sugar Craving is a Mourning Disorder

24 August 2017
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They say books can help. When, like me, you’re suffering from panic attacks, body dysmorphic and binge eating disorders – among other mental illnesses – and can’t even close your eyes, not to mention do yoga exercises such as a “body scan” or what seems to be everyone’s Holy Grail today, meditation, without being tortured by truly scary visions of yourself – a mixed feeling of jaws dismantling, extreme imbalance and a loss of any point of reference as to the size of your own body – reading is a much needed digression to work on yourself. Not to mention it is far cheaper than therapy…

Although I wonder to what extent reading Sartre as a teenager didn’t turn me into a chronically depressed person; unless maybe my predisposition to depression – with an alcoholic father with anger issues and a bipolar mother who had suffered from infantile anorexia, my legacy when it comes to addictions, eating disorders and emotional instability isn’t questionable – was precisely what drew me to existentialist readings. Is Sartre responsible for my questioning every hour of every day the complete absurdity of my being on this earth, or is he the one who saved me from attempting suicide? The chicken or the egg…

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It was Paul Hawkins – yes, the one who wrote the page-turner The Girl on the Train (noone said the books had to be highly intellectual) – who made me realise I had developed a serious problem with my drinking, which also came with nymphomania. Although I realised it was unusual to:

- come round in doggy-style position just to discover that there’s a huge hole in the condom (note to myself: always double-check that the guy you’re about to hook up with is buying actual condoms from the 7/11 and not cockrings)

- arrive late to the office with the cum of a stranger barely wiped off my face, wearing his contact lenses because he ruined mine over no less than five facial ejaculations – apparently, I gave him no choice because I dared to come before him, so I wasn’t as tight as he needed anymore

- let a stranger finger me on the dancefloor of David Lynch’s private club on the night of a vernissage, surrounded by my colleagues and other professional acquaintances. 

Until I read the word alcoholism, it didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t actually having fun like any other thirtyish single woman, but I was suffering from a pathology. Borderline personality, although very entertaining for my friends and lovers, is fatal: I couldn’t admit to myself that I wanted badly to slice my wrists, hang myself, throw myself under the metro, so I was looking for death in festive situations. Ethylic comas and unprotected sex were my suicide attempts. No wonder no one believed the diagnosis: severe depression with generalised anxiety disorder. Symptoms of the manic phase that preceded the major nervous breakdown had been so fun for everyone…

William Styron’s Darkness Visible helped me believe in what my relatives couldn’t, my own depression. How soothing had it been for me to read that he shared an idiosyncratic form of my depression, my hatred and apprehension of the afternoons! In my case – our cases, the relief came from knowing I wasn’t alone in this – I was unable to mourn the day, the loss of the high hopes nurtured in the mornings. I felt like a love of decadence was my indelible birthmark: born the last child of soon-to-divorce couple on the afternoon of a fall day in the late eighties, my troubles with loss- which he says is the origin of all depression- seemed inevitable. 

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Was it the reason why Francis Ponge’s La fin de L’automne has been my favourite poem since my teenage years, why I systematically can't recall the end of any story – my denial of finitude going as far as amnesia even when it came to the most trivial subjects such as films or novels – why I couldn’t stand to see the – single – dessert coming and had to multiply it, as if I had to do myself the favour of a miracle, as if I needed to believe that the multiplication of desserts was going to stop time?

I don't seem to have lost much in recent times though, apart from weight – up to ten kilos. I sometimes wonder to what extent finally getting the body I dreamt of didn’t rush me into depression, having lost the one thing I’d always blamed for making me miserable. I ending up realising I still wasn’t able to reach happiness – self-esteem or any sense of self confidence thanks to the moral harassment of my boss; bodily sensations whether it be orgasm or pain – I’m still looking for readings linking depression to S&M - fatigue or rest, envy or disgust, hence the manic and morbid hyperactivity I developed before I broke down.

What I most couldn’t stand to lose, though, was food. I couldn’t bear to watch a meal come to its end. My anxiety used to swell throughout the course of meals: if the starter was a joy, gloom descended during main course and dessert was frankly a panic attack. They say orgasm is a “petite mort”. Well, so is dessert. The melancholia that used to take over after dessert found only one escape: binge eating, an intake of food disconnected to any bodily sensation such as hunger or satiety, that would end only when my jaws ached so much they couldn’t chew anymore. I admit I didn’t understand much from Soleil Noir by the psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva but still, it freed me from the guilt of having become frigid while I had developed this soothing yet punishing frenetic oral activity after my (nympho-) manic phase. 

Going through books in coffee shops during my sick leave for burnout, I fell in love with a server, a “garçon de café” such as the one described by Sartre in L’être et Le Néant. His choreography soothed my sick soul from absurdness, uncertainty and hopelessness; he might have epitomised bad faith, but he was still curing my pain of living and reconciling me with Eros – one cannot end a piece, even one about mental health, with the words “anal/vaginal activity”, right?

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Mylène Charon

About Mylène Charon

Mylène Angelina is a researcher on contemporary Aboriginal Australian arts. She is currently a PhD candidate at Université Paris-Seine in Comparative Literature, working on the representation of intersectionality in the fiction work of contemporary Aboriginal Australian woman writer Alexis Wright...

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24th August 2017

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