I had been putting off writing this post for about a month and a half.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Feb 26-March 4
I had been dreading writing this post because, obviously BBB is an eating disorder recovery blog, so I feel kinda…obligated…to address the topic, but honestly, I’m kinda luke warm on the whole “awareness” thing.
It just seems a little…glorifying if you ask me. And I have a problem with that. Don’t throw around photos of healthy-yet-slightly-thin girls in stock photos pretending to be sad, or even worse, smiling and holding a piece of pizza, and gloat that you’re raising “awareness” or fighting the stigma. The theme: “It’s time to talk about it…” that’s borderline insulting.
Why don’t you ask the mother whose daughter died of heart failure due to anorexia, or my mother when I was 78 pounds and she was checking on me in the middle of the night to make sure I didn’t go into cardiac arrest. Why don’t you ask them how they feel about those photos.
But I digress. Perhaps there’s more to NEDA week than that.
I will say one other thing though. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have NEDA week overlap with the first week of Lent, and particularly, Ash Wednesday – a day of fasting, was a grave oversight.
But this is definitely a difficult post for me to write. For one, I actually developed my anorexia during Lent my Sophomore year. I gave up sweets. And well, the rest is history.
So there are a lot of mixed feelings about that.
So this time of year is always a difficult one for me.
But ED awareness.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I had a real sweet conversation with my mom tonight after we went to church together. She had spent the hour reading my inpatient journal. She’s pouring over it ever since I brought it home from NYC. I don’t know if it’s because of the stroke that she doesn’t quite remember it, but she just has this passion to read what I went through. It’s really quite touching.
But afterwards, tonight, we were the last two people in the room. And we just embraced in this crying hug for a couple minutes. And she just cried in my ear about how sorry she was that I went through that. And she said, “If I could go back, I would do it differently.”
A little surprised, I prompted her to share more. And she said, “I would try to talk to you about it.”
So, it turns out, that I have to eat my words. NEDA week’s slogan this year, “It’s Time to Talk About It” turns out to be quite spot on.
Standing there hugging my mom in church tonight, I finally realized that NEDA week isn’t about the girls. But for the loved ones. The same reason I started this blog. The same reason I’m writing my book.
Eating disorders are hard. There’s stress and emotion and anger and desperation and micromanaging and everyone is on edge around the issues of food and weight and calories and recovery. But at the end of the day, everyone is trying to navigate this scary and unfamiliar territory in the best way they know how. And sadly, that’s hard to know what to do.
Holding her, and telling her how she doesn’t need to apologize, the thoughts about NEDA week and its timing couldn’t get out of my head.
The fact that Ash Wednesday – the day that we literally wear ashes around on our foreheads, marking us and reminding us of His crucifixion – the crucifixion that paid the price for my anorexia – the fact that that day falls on the week that we’re also spotlighting eating disorders…that gives me chills if I’m honest.
That was what got through to me at inpatient. That was what broke through the walls and the barricades I had placed around my heart.
I was a scared, hurting, and starving little girl. And what set me free from that anorexia and the guilt I had, was to realize that I didn’t have to carry it anymore.
Jesus took it and nailed it to the cross.
Jesus died so that I didn’t have to be enslaved to ED anymore – I could be free.
Hugging my mom in the back of the church, there were so many unspoken words, words that healed. I wished that I could have gone back and undo all the hurt and pain and sadness I caused her. But she then turned to me and said, “But I wouldn’t change it. Because it brought about a lot of good.”
Reading my recovery journal, coming face to face with the raw, unfiltered reality that I was battling every moment in my mind, my mom finally came to understand things that she was never aware of. How could she have been at the time? I was shutting everyone out, isolating myself, and if anyone would try to broach the topic with me, I would storm out and peel out in my car and go take a power walk at the nature preserve. And then when I came home from inpatient, I didn’t want to go back and talk about it. I wanted it gone. Erased from my history.
She finally was seeing what I was going through.
She was getting aware.
Eating disorder awareness… it’s not a photo of a smiling, healthy girl in a cute hat looking down and thinking about puppies.
Awareness means seeing the disease for what it is – a battle for your mind. A girl paralyzed in fear, using her control of food as her coping mechanism to ease her tortured mind.
Awareness means seeing the girl as more than just a severely malnourished body, but a spirit that needs emancipation. Freedom. Rescuing.
But the even more important and exasperating thing…is that no one can do that for her, except herself. She has to want it. She has to seek it.
And the only rescuer that will truly save her, is Jesus.
I guess my trepidation with writing this post tonight was because I knew deep down that awareness hurts. Because you’re letting someone into the pain. You’re exposing the darkness that is the eating disorder.
It’s the line that once you cross, you can never uncross. Kinda like walking in on your friend’s dad on the toilet. There’s no going back.
So I thought I’d close with the final passage from my inpatient journal.
Let the words of that scared girl speak for themselves.
“Life is full of many unexpected twists and turns that we are unable to predict or control. Most situations are out of our hands, but it is comforting to know that the Creator knows all and that He knows what is going to happen and that He will take us in His hand and carry us through life if we ask Him to. I want Jesus to carry me right now because that is what I need.
I am scared because I am on transport and I am scared because my supplement was upped and I am scared that I am having an ulcerative colitis flare and I am scared that I have to have these injections but I am going to put my faith in God and let Him lead me because He puts this all together for good. And we may be in the top of a burning building, but He’s outside telling us to jump, and even though we can’t see Him through the smoke, He can see us and will lead us to safety.
Sometimes in life we can take a lot of things for granted. Including life itself. That’s what I did in the eating disorder. I took life itself for granted and when you do that, it is a very very scary thing. Life is so fragile and precious and when our vision is skewed by a filter such as an eating disorder, it is like we are playing with fire. And that is a dangerous thing.”
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