I’ll tell you what, you can learn a lot from kids.
As many of you know, I’m an actor. And my “survival job” is being a nanny. Glamorous, I know. But ever since I started being around kids more, I have learned so. much. about myself and development and just human nature. And surprise surprise….how it relates to recovery.
One of the little girls I watch still sucks her thumb.
And while many parents look down upon this, I really have no stance on this action one way or the other. I’m not here to judge.
Because here’s what I realized: sucking her thumb is her way to self-soothe.
Being a kid these days — especially in NYC — has got to be hard. The competition in schools has never been more intense (hello Ivy-league-esq admittance rates for some preschools), the media’s portrayal of beauty and body image is at an all time low, and every aspect of our lives is filtered and broadcast all over social media.
So this sweet little girl sucks her thumb as a way to comfort herself. To self-soothe. It’s a coping method.
And to deal, we all have different coping methods. Ways of self-soothing that, if we’re honest, may or may not be the healthiest of choices.
Go out on a Friday night to a bar, and you will find every single person in there engaging in their coping method. I do it. You do it. There’s a reason why people drink to “let loose.” They’re coping. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But some methods aren’t so innocent.
For me, my anorexia was my way to cope. It was my way to self-soothe when the weight of striving for a standard of perfection became too much to bear. The way to control and alleviate my anxieties about life and my future and my body. It was how I coped.
But eating disorders aren’t the only less-than-stellar way people self-soothe or cope: Drugs and alcohol. Overdoing it with food. Finding “comfort” in the beds of strangers. Isolation. Looking at things on the internet that we shouldn’t. Binge shopping online. Violence towards another person – or yourself.
We try to cope – try to soothe ourselves in whatever way possible.
And in life, and especially with eating disorder recovery, learning to cope is the name of the game.
I wish I could sit here and tell you that if you take up yoga or knitting, that your coping-needs will be met. Or that if you go and buy one of those new-fangled, intricate coloring books, that your problems will be solved.
I mean, I am a firm believer that busting out Taylor Swift and having a dance party is a great problem solver.
They’re all just bandaids. And they’re not really getting to the heart of the issue.
Because at the core of these coping methods is one thing: we’re trying to fill a part of our souls that is that is bearing the weight of all our anxieties and fears in the world. A part of our souls that is empty – lacking something.
So I want to invite you to think about adopting a new coping mechanism: Jesus.
I know — I can hear the scoffs from here.
But if that’s you, ask yourself why?
Because believe me, I have been there.
Because I was ashamed.
I felt I was too far gone. Unable to be saved. Not deserving to be rescued. Not worth approaching Him.
And, I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think that I probably am not alone in that feeling.
Because here’s why: deep in my heart, even though I was so attached to my anorexia, I knew that it was wasn’t good for me. I knew that I shouldn’t be abusing my body, or lying to my loved ones. I knew that my coping method was destructive. And so I didn’t want to even face Jesus.
I didn’t feel that I could go to Him with my fears. I couldn’t ask Him to be my way to soothe — because I was unclean. Undeserving. Unsaveable.
But here’s the truth. Which, trust me when I say that I’m still figuring out and trying (usually unsuccessfully) to implement into my life. The truth is this: there is nothing that Jesus can’t handle. There’s nothing that can make you “unredeemable.”
Maybe you’re sitting there, thinking about your “coping method” and thinking, Yeah…I definitely don’t want bring that to the light.
He forgives you. He loves you. And He wants to be the replacement for your coping method, so that next time you get dumped or fired or feel emotional or are overwhelmed, that you turn to Him, instead of the bottle, or the fridge, or Zappos, or the treadmill, or the blade, or…to ED. He will transform you.
He will soothe you.
Psalm 23: He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside peaceful streams. He restores my soul.