Eating Disorder, Emotions, Faith, Friends, God, Recovery

Eating Disorder: Sickness or Sin?

“Lane, I’m going to give you permission to just go all in.  Do whatever you want.
You want to throw up 72 times in a weekend?  Do it.
If you call me miserable and dehydrated I’ll pick you up, take you to the hospital, get you an I.V. and you can start all over if you want.
Do it.  See what happens.”

***

Sitting at Panera I sipped hazelnut coffee and chatted with a priest friend of mine about how burned out, lonely, and depressed I felt.  I had come to the realization my job definitely didn’t suit my gifting (I am NOT an admin person), I greatly missed my husband who was away at work in Mexico, my best friend and her family just moved to a new town 90 minutes away, and I was just downright sad about all of it.  I had asked God to provide a full-time job with benefits because that is what I believed I needed to help take care of my family and I thought sure working more would take my mind off not having my husband home or my best friend in the same city.

I was wrong.

Talking to my friend I admitted to purging a lot in recent months to cope with the stress of being lonely, my job, and any other small issue that popped up in life.  When my best friend and her family lived in town I would spend time with them as a “safe place” to feel less alone and loved. Once they left and my husband went back to work, I struggled to feel as if anyone cared for me and found myself, once again, spilling my emotional guts to someone else, telling my priest friend about the eating disordered behaviors and all that entailed.

Listening to my story, surprised by my full-disclosure and full-admittance to what I was doing, my priest friend suggested going “all in” with the eating disorder.  He had never met anyone who wasn’t in some degree of denial that what they were doing was wrong, horrible for their health, and continued to do it anyway.  I nearly choked on my coffee at his suggestion to “puke as many times” as I wanted.  Never in my 18 years of living with eating disorders had anyone ever told me to “just do it” before.  No one had ever given me “permission” to starve, purge, and wholly & completely engage in eating disordered behavior.  Not that I ever needed permission, but obtaining perceived permission to not sneak around strangely excited me.

For the next three days I did exactly what he suggested: I went all in and puked way too many times.  I was miserable.  Not only was I lonely, but now I was truly miserable and lonely.  With a raw throat, dehydrated, exhausted, and waving the white flag, I told my friend that was the worst thing I had done in a long time.  I wasted an entire Saturday on the couch with a headache and realized I was CHOOSING to live like this.

I was choosing to sin.

The first time an eating disorder was presented as sin to me was before I even went to the Center for Balanced Living and, at that time, it absolutely was not sin.  It was an illness.  I didn’t think I was that sick, I didn’t think I needed or deserved intensive help. I was wrong.  At that time I wasn’t choosing anything, I was stuck and being controlled by a chemical imbalance and faulty neural-pathways in my brain.  My life was not my own, I completely belonged to the eating disorder.

This time, laying on the couch in my self-made misery, it dawned on me…I was sinning. I was CHOOSING this thing that leads to misery. I was CHOOSING something that hurts my body, this gift from God, and at the same time CHOOSING to turn away from Him.  As I began to explore the idea that the eating disorder is a sin in certain light, I realized for me, in that moment, it absolutely was a sin because I knew exactly what I was doing.  I knew it was wrong. I knew it was unhealthy, dangerous, and went against caring for this temple for the Light of Christ.  The eating disordered behaviors have always been comforting in times of stress, struggle, and sadness; they provide security when my husband is away and, in the perverted part of my mind, I believe the behaviors cause people to care for me.  In essence, I was using the eating disorder because it made me feel loved.

It made me feel loved? 

If this was love, the eating disorder could have it back.  Sure, when I was engaging in behaviors while my husband was away the people closest to me would show concern and love for me.  In the midst of loneliness, feeling loved by others becomes a craving, an obsession in itself and the behaviors offered me a door to feeling like someone in close physical proximity to me cared.  The eating disordered behaviors had made me manipulate the hearts of others while it manipulated mine. This wasn’t love and while the love and concern friends showed was genuine, it was based on manipulation.  The only real love, lasting love, is God’s.

I am loved by God.

God’s love is everlasting, all encompassing, and can shut out so much of the loneliness I feel.  As I stood in my living room singing praise and worship songs earlier this evening, the song Good Good Father came on and I began to truly listen to the words.  Singing in the church praise band, I’ve sung the words to this song many times but tonight I truly listened:

And I’m loved by you.
It’s who I am.
It’s who I am.
It’s who I am.

I am loved by God.  It’s who I am.  I am not loneliness; I am not sadness, or hurt, or an eating disorder.  I am loved by God. I am His.  When I turn to Him when I begin to feel those haunting, empty feelings I am instantly filled with the warmth of His love & the joy of knowing my identity isn’t found in being cared for by others, my job, my status as a wife or mother, but in Christ alone.  As I’ve come to this realization that I was choosing the eating disorder and it was a sin because it was an active choice with the knowledge it was damaging and manipulative, I apologized to my dear friends who were always there for me.  I repented of my choice and I’m strongly marching forward in my identity:

I’m loved by God.
I’m wanted by my Heavenly Father in my times of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, stress, and fear.

And so are you.

When I turn to Him as those feelings descend upon me I can turn my loneliness into love and my sadness into joy.

 

With Body Love & in the Love of Christ,

Lane