I went to the doctor today for the first time in three years. A new doctor.
And it sucked.
***Now before you give up on this post, keep reading — my “Negative Nancy” talk will turn around here soon. I promise — I’m just setting the stage 🙂
But going to the doctor legitimately sucked. Why? Because I had to talk about my ED history.
But wait a second…you’re working on writing a book on anorexia…how was talking about it difficult for you?
Well, frankly, it was in how it was received. I won’t go into too much detail, but the doctor disapprovingly called my history a “checkered past” and was very judgmental in his words and actions. When I mentioned that my mom had a heart attack during my anorexia, he even went so far as to snicker and say, “Tsk, I bet you feel guilty!”
So I got home, and I was pretty upset. Actually, let’s be honest here, I was fuming. Angry. Hurt. And I had a good cry.
I felt judged. I felt full of shame. I felt looked down upon. I felt worthless.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, today was a reminder for me that there will be people in your life who just make you feel…small.
Allow me to expand.
There will be people you run across who will focus more on your having had an eating disorder, than on the fact that you overcame an eating disorder.
What do I mean by this? Well these people will not care that you’ve recovered or are in recovery from an eating disorder. All they will hear, and all they will judge you on, is that you had an eating disorder.
What they are doing is defining you by your eating disorder.
And what else can I say, other than….those people suck. 🙂
But, no, seriously. That doctor today was one of those people.
And here’s what I have to say about that:
You are so much more than your eating disorder. It’s in the past. And it does not define you.
Is it a part of your history? Yes. Was a cause of great suffering and despair during that time period? Yes. Does it dictate your worth? Absolutely not. Does it make you any less of a person? Hell no.
You know what? Yes, I do have quite the “checkered past,” thankyouverymuch. But you know what else? That dark history — that woundedness and brokenness that I experienced — has made me into the woman I am today. That suffering and those trials have taught me so much about myself and about God and about love. They’ve taught me how to take care of myself, how to be a good friend, how to love myself.
That dark history does not define me.
It has refined me.
There’s a popular saying, about being gold or silver, refined by fire. The gist is that we are the raw material, and God is refining us though the trials of life. Blah, blah, blah. It would always go in one ear and out the other, because it was such a cliché. But I never quite understood that saying until the actual process of refining metal was broken down and explained to me. And it changed me. So I’ll pass it along.
Here’s how you refine silver or gold.
1) BREAKING: First, the refiner breaks up the raw material. This is so that the valuable metal can be exposed to heat.
2) THE CRUCIBLE: And no, I’m not talking about the book. A crucible is a fireproof melting pot that is able to withstand extreme heat. The refiner places the broken raw material into the crucible and then puts it in the furnace to remove the impurities in the raw material.
3) THE DROSS: Dross is a fancy-shmancy term for the layer of impurities that forms on the surface of the melted raw material inside the crucible. The refiner skims off this layer of impurities.
4) MORE HEAT: After skimming off the layer of impurities, the refiner cranks up heat and returns the crucible to the furnace. This process of skimming the dross and raising the temperature to release more impurities is repeated until the desired purity is reached. It can happen up to seven times. Certain impurities are released at certain temperatures. The more difficult impurities are released at the highest temperatures, and result in a more valuable finished product.
5) THE REFLECTION: The refiner knows that the process of skimming the dross and reheating the raw material is complete when he looks into the crucible and sees his clear reflection because the raw material no longer contains impurities.
When I think back on my eating disorder, I can now see that it was indeed a fire that was purifying me. It’s hard to think about in the moment, but you are being shaped right now – You are being molded into the woman you’re meant to be. You’re being allowed to experience this suffering, this torture, this agony right now, because it is preparing you for something bigger down the road.
You may roll your eyes at that, and think, “Yeah, sure. I’m not capable of greatness. This is it for me. I will never get past this. I will always be enslaved to the prison of my mind.” But hear me when I say this: Those thoughts are ED talking to you. That doubt is trying to keep you from the incredible life in store for you.
Overcoming an eating disorder, is quite possibly one of the hardest things in life to do. Bar none. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but breaking the cycle of addiction and self-hatred is impossibly difficult. And it’s an every day thing. It’s not like drugs or alcohol, where you can just avoid it and never let it be a part of your life again. You have to face food multiple times a day. And you can’t just not eat. You have to prove you are stronger than ED three (plus) times a day. And those who do — those who overcome — are warriors. They’ve been to the depths of despair. They’ve lived in the darkness and have risen above and reclaimed their lives. They are champions.
They have been put through the refining fire.
But what the heck? The whole process of refining silver or gold is all about removing impurities. I wasn’t that bad of a person before. I didn’t steal or kill anyone. Come on. What did I really have to get rid of?
Well, finding the answer is a truly difficult process. And to be honest, it’s a bit painful. I can only speak from my experience. But there were really three different things that I was supposed to learn from my eating disorder.
1) BREAKING FREE OF PRIDE: When I look back at my past leading up to my eating disorder, I can definitely see where pride was sneaking into my life. I was allowing my image and my persona, and my social status to become a central focus in my life. Even though I may have been falsely humble on the outside, on the inside, I was letting those things become an idol that I worshiped. My eating disorder completely broke me of that pride. Not only was the state of my emaciated body absolutely humiliating and humbling in itself, but I had to completely surrender my longing for perfection. My eating disorder broke me of the big plans I had for my life. It completely knocked me down. I just envision myself standing on a pedestal (a self-constructed, false pedestal, I might add) and then getting hit by a wrecking ball and landing on my butt in a big pig pen and creating a big splash of slop and pig shit all over the place. The eating disorder stripped me of everything I had to be “proud” of: my body, my social status and relationships, my college plans, my sports career, my acting career, my singing voice, my hair. All those things were literally shredded to pieces by ED. Pride: broken.
2) LEARNING TO LOVE MYSELF: OK, from the sounds of that last paragraph, you’d think that since I “thought highly” of myself and had pride, that I was just overflowing with self-love. Wrong. I was suffering from perfectionism. I kept setting the bar higher and higher for myself. There was always a new level to achieve. Always something to work on or improve. I was never happy with just myself. I only found value in myself for achieving certain things or performing a certain way. For me, the most difficult aspect of recovery was learning to actually love myself. And the only way I’ve learned to love myself was to accept the love that God so desperately wanted to give me throughout all of this — To accept His love, that I had been rejecting, because I didn’t feel worthy enough to receive it. In short: I let Him love me.
Which leads me to my last point:
3) RELYING ON GOD: The main thing I was supposed to learn from my eating disorder –The Big Kahuna — The sole purpose for that suffering and hell that ravaged my body, mind, and spirit, was to draw me closer to God and learn to depend on Him. It sounds incredibly cliché, but when I really truly reflect of the lessons from my anorexia — When I get down to the nitty-gritty and think about how it’s changed me, it’s that I now completely rely on God for everything. And this encompasses both #1 and #2 from before, as well. I now have the true humility to know that I am nothing without Him — I know that recovery was not my doing, but His. I was so completely terrified of the weight restoration, I was petrified of facing fear foods and allowing my body to change. I only recovered by clinging to Him. Alone, I simply could not have done it. So there’s my broken Pride – #1. And now, I also know that I am so undoubtably loved by God, who died for me. I didn’t do anything to earn His love. I didn’t have to be perfect in order to deserve that love: He chose to love the broken me. And He has chosen to dwell in my heart. And since He lives in my heart, I have no choice but to love myself and to honor my body… because He is dwelling there! So there’s the self love aspect — #2. In the end, the main “take away” from my anorexia – what it all boils down to, is learning to rely on God.
And that’s the final stage of purifying gold: the Refiner can see His reflection in the raw material.
This may get pretty heavy, pretty quickly here, people. But just hear me out.
We are all reflections of God. We are all reflections of our Maker.
Not only were we created in His image, but He lives in our hearts, and shines through us. Just think about what makes you “you.” What makes me “me?” I know it might be hard to think about, because ED has been stifling the authentic “you” for sometime, and you’re fighting to find that girl again. But just think about what makes you unique. For me, I am incredibly silly. I love talking in funny accents. I like to pull fun pranks on people. I have spontaneous dance parties, preferably in outrageous costumes. I like to give gifts. I love to sing. I love to leave secret care packages for the people I love. These things are all reflective of God. I know you probably don’t imagine God bustin’ a move to old school N’Sync, or being goofy … but I’m tellin’ ya — God has a silliness about Him! He has a fun-loving spirit! Just look at the intricate flowers, or silly animals, or even some of the foods we eat, and tell me that God didn’t have a sense of humor!
But anyways, those things that make you “you” are all a refection of our Creator. He made you to be that way. And it is because He made you that you are precious. That is where your worth and my worth comes from. That is what gives us dignity. That is why we are loved. It’s not from our BMI, or if we have a thigh gap, or what the number on the scale reads. It doesn’t matter if we’ve eaten a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in recovery. Our worth doesn’t come from achievements we’ve done in the past. Conversely, our worth does not diminish because of a “checkered past.” (I’m lookin’ at you, doc). Our worth comes from one place: Him.
Gold didn’t become gold overnight. It was process of breaking down the raw material, heating it up until it melted, and then skimming off the impurities. Over and over and over. It had to endure the fires. It had to completely melt down to liquid. And only when the refiner could see his reflection in the melted raw material was the process of purification finished.
My eating disorder was a fire. Recovery is a fire. All of these trials are shaping me into the young woman I’m supposed to be. They’re changing me into gold. And they’re changing you too. This pain you’re in right now — this suffering, this agony — it has a purpose. Yes, it sucks to endure, but you will overcome it. You will become stronger and more resilient because of it. You’re being prepared for something down the road that is more amazing than your wildest dreams. Stay the path. Keep doing the next right thing. Because one day, you’ll wake up, and you’ll be gold. You’ll have learned what you’re supposed to from the Eating Disorder. And then you’ll be ready to go out and do what you’ve been shaped to do, as gold.