Father’s Day is upon us here in the US.
And every year, when it comes, I am full of just a mixed bag of emotions: love, gratitude, admiration, feeling blessed — those are all pretty common, and wonderful things. But since my anorexia, I have to be honest: in my mind and heart, this day also carries a lot of guilt, indebtedness, shame, unworthiness, and regret.
And to be clear, none of that comes from my father. He does not in any way, shape, or form make me feel like I should feel those emotions.
But I do.
You see, my eating disorder carried a lot of deception and lying, to say the least. It was a very dark and painful time for my entire family. And my father took the brunt end of all my fury.
My father has always been the most amazing man. The most amazing man. And I know we all say that about our dads, but I cannot even begin to express the heart of my father.
He is truly a reflection of our Father, God.
He is kind, loving, understanding, strong, intelligent, humble, and honest. He is good.
One of my favorite memories was when I was a little girl, he’d let me put colorful plastic barrettes in his hair and play “hairdresser” while he sat in his chair and watched Sports Center at night. He was a saint.
He taught me how to play poker with pennies while we sat on the living room floor.
He’d tell me a bedtime story every single night.
He never missed a sporting event, or a performance, or a recital.
He has always been my biggest supporter.
And during my anorexia, all he wanted to do was to help me get better. He tried everything under the sun. Literally. He researched weight gaining drinks from Scandinavia that weren’t approved in the US yet, and had them shipped to the house. He would encourage me to eat, take me to restaurants, pray for me – everything under the sun to help me get better.
But I abused that love. I lied to him about my anorexia. Despite how much I loved my dad, I let my anorexia come before him, and I wasn’t honest about my behaviors or the weight loss, or the fact that I even had an eating disorder. I had betrayed him, his love and his trust.
But you know what? He forgave me.
At inpatient, I finally came clean to him about my deception and about my eating disorder, and here’s what he said: “I forgive you.” He told me how Jesus was betrayed by Peter three times, but that Jesus still loved him unconditionally. And that he loves me unconditionally.
I do not deserve this man as a father.
When I think about everything that I have put him through, it breaks my heart and makes me feel that list of disgraceful emotions.
How could a measly Hallmark card even scratch the surface of how deeply grateful I am for his forgiveness? Or how eternally thankful I am and indebted I feel for his unwavering love and kindness?
So, this year, as this Father’s Day rolls around, I am trying to break out of those negative feelings I have, because I realize that they are coming from ED. ED is trying to once again, snake his way into my brain and make me feel not good enough, unworthy, and full of shame.
Those are not the truth.
Yes, my past with my father includes pain and hurt — but it was the result of my eating disorder. And he has forgiven me. And loves me.
The truth of the situation is this: I need to love myself enough to let it go.
This is really important, so I’m going to repeat it.
I need to love myself enough to break free of the guilt and shame and regret about my past, and accept the forgiveness that both my father on earth and Father in Heaven have so graciously given me.
That is loving myself.
Loving myself enough to let go of that burden of guilt I carry around so that I can embrace Father’s Day as a way to celebrate the wonderful, amazing man I have been blessed with as a father, instead of feeling like a failure as a daughter.
That is loving myself.
That is what I’m going to do.