I recently received a bunch of pictures from my grandma. Looking through them [especially the cluster on the right] churns up a lot of feelings. From 6th grade forward, many years were lost – nine to be exact. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for nine long years and the eating disorder consumed my life. It left me stunted emotionally, unable to cope with emotions/problems/daily living any other way. It colored every decision I made, tainted every relationship, and prevented me from being the person God intended.
Free. Healthy. Whole.
Aside from a bit of drama, everything appeared “normal” to those outside the family. I worked hard to keep up appearances. Inside, I was dying. Eating disordered living was all that I knew, how could I ever change? Did I really even want to change? Part of me rationalized that the eating disorder was the thing that fueled my creativity – without it, I would be nothing.
But that was one big lie.
The eating disorder not only lied to me but encouraged me to lie to others. I lied to friends, roommates, boyfriends… and my parents. In fact my parents were paying thousands of dollars for me to attend college and instead of paying tuition, I used that money to cover bad checks I’d written. I wasn’t even attending college! I’d been suspended – and in my shame, told no one.
What most people don’t understand is that eating disorders are about so much more than food. The behavior (dieting, preoccupation with food, exercise, cycles of starvation/binging/purging) was about control and being unable to cope with boredom, loneliness, stress, fear, insecurities, sadness, and rejection in any other way. Instead of processing circumstances and emotions, I sought escape.
This is dangerous, dangerous territory whether your escape be food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, shopping, gambling, Internet surfing, gaming, pornography, gossiping, or an extramarital affair. If you find yourself emotionally “running away” from problems instead of working through them, let me share this word of advice:
Too many times I’ve watched others fall into the same trap that snagged me. If I could speak to the younger me – or anyone else out there struggling right now – I would say:
1. Tell someone. No more excuses, secrets or lies (this is critical).
2. Seek professional help. It is a wonderful experience to have an impartial, outside perspective when you are struggling with any sort of personal issue. As painful as it may be, DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU TO DO. Surrender is key to healing.
3. There is hope, there is hope, THERE IS HOPE! It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve screwed up, doesn’t matter what you’ve done, doesn’t matter how big or bad your mess is – there is always hope. Take it one day, one hour, one minute, or one second if you have to… baby steps.
4. Life is so much more exciting when you are able to fully embrace it. I remember an interview with James Hetfield [Metallica frontman] when he talked about sobriety:
Every breath I take becomes deeper, and [I become] more confident of myself without my crutches. The lies I’ve filled my body and soul with aren’t needed anymore. They’re not welcome. I choose to live, not just exist.
He spoke of how the partying and substance abuse numbed him, that the real high came with being sober. Love that.
5. Who you were does not define who you are today. Let go of the past and start living! You were created for so much more.
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are HIS. Praying for anyone who needs to hear this today.