It started with wanting to lose weight. I was a teenager with an eating disorder and this was another tool. The first non-food item i swallowed was detergent. I'd pour about a finger into a glass and spend 10 minutes psyching myself up to down it in one. It was nauseating, but i kept it up everyday for a year. I didn't have the discipline to be a real anorexic and starve, and i hated myself for it. So I had to destroy the unbearable hunger, and murder my stomach!
Thirty years later i'm still doing it. Though not with detergent. No way! I'm a normal weight and don't have an eating disorder (at least none that i know of). Over the years i've consumed paint, ink, drain cleaner, slug poison, toxic plants and seeds, dirty water, mold, bacteria that i grew in a petri dish, nails, pins, screws, and needles. Mostly i did this when i felt fat and my desire to eat conflicted with my desire to be thin. Plus i despised healthy food and refused to be just another rat, trapped an entire lifetime in the diet maze, depriving to stay thin, followed by a slowed metabolism, only to get fat again, and repeat with even more deprivation. Endless deprivation. Just another sad and predictable human life. I was going to find a way out, so that i could enjoy something sweet every single day. Because screw diets! And screw Mother Nature!
Eating harmful items also gave me something else. Power. Or perhaps the illusion of it. This is a deeply private behavior, so I wasn't getting power from outside, rather I was getting it from within. It made me feel powerful, and helped to control negative feelings. When i felt like a failure, i swallowed something harmful and no longer felt like a failure. When i felt unseen, i swallowed something harmful and no longer felt invisible. When i felt powerless, mediocre, stupid, ugly, weak, lonely, empty, or bored, i could make those feelings vanish with this one act of self harm.
Nobody wants to be powerless. But most of us are. There are 7 billion people on this earth and very few of us matter. Most people tolerate it by living in denial and telling themselves that life has meaning and they do matter. That sort of denial didn't work for me. I needed a stronger antidote to my own humanity. And acuphagia was what i found.