A young man was having a terrible year…. With nowhere else to turn, the young man finally decided to do the one thing he hadn’t yet tried – he prayed. He drove his car to his childhood church and found a pew in the back rows of the quiet chapel. He got down on his knees and he prayed. “Dear God, please help me win the lottery. I really need the money, so please help me win.” The young man waited several days and nothing happened. He returned to the church. “Dear God, I’m not sure if you received my last prayer, but I really need your help to win the lottery. Please help me out here.” Again, the young man waited several days with no results. He returned to the church once again. “Alright, God, I’ve asked you twice, but it really seems like you aren’t listening to me. I asked you to help me win the lottery, but I still haven’t won. Are you even listening to me?” What happened next truly shocked the young man. He heard a voice. Perhaps the clouds parted and God spoke from above, or perhaps a priest overheard his prayer and spoke up, but the young man finally got his answer. “BUY A LOTTERY TICKET!”
A couple of weeks ago I told the story of how I started to eat. I suffered long and hard and I pray someone will find hope in my story. There are so many things I want to share with those who are struggling but this may be the most important… this is the bottom line: You cannot recover without eating. Believe me- I tried. And tried. I kept waiting for some miracle, some new treatment philosophy, some deep inner healing to happen and then I would magically be able to eat without fear. I searched high and low. Maybe this treatment or that therapist. This intervention. Uncovering that hurt or rejection. I wanted to be well but I didn’t want it to hurt so much. Every time I tried, the fear would take over. Trying to recover without eating is like trying to win the lottery without buying a ticket.
Take a minute and imagine your greatest fear. Close your eyes and picture it. Try to feel it. Does your body get tense? Do you hold your breath? Fists clench? Do you feel numb? Want to run? Want to fight? Would you do anything possible to get out of the situation? This is what keeping food down felt like to me. If you asked me why it was so terrifying, my response would have been that I was afraid of weight gain. But it’s not really about that. It’s never really about that. It’s fear alright, but not of weight. More like fear of failure. Fear of being alone. Fear of rejection. Fear of feeling. Fear of what others think. Fear of growing up. Fear of being exposed. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of not being enough. It’s also shame. But I believe shame to be a deeper level of fear. Shame is fear that I am bad or worthless or unlovable. Fear of God not being God. Because if God is love and I am unlovable, then God is not who He says He is. That’s bone-deep fear.
But here’s the thing…. You can’t ask God to hold you and carry you while constantly rejecting him. You see, eating disorder behavior says I don’t trust you. It is taking matters into my own hands. A way of taking care of myself, albeit not so well. For many years while wanting to recover, I didn’t give God a chance. The fear took over and so I took care of it myself. The problem with this is that my way of taking care of myself just reinforced all the fear. I proved to myself over and over again that I was a failure…. I definitely wasn’t doing anything productive. I was alone… nothing is lonelier than an eating disorder. I was rejected…. I didn’t allow anyone near me long enough to be accepted. I could not feel… I was so detached and numb. I would not let myself be seen. If you don’t know me, you can’t hurt me. That goes for you, too, God! …I would not allow Him the chance to hold me and carry me through it.
So how do you get better? You EAT. No matter what. You surround yourself with people who can hold you accountable. Those people should also be able to show you a ton of grace because you will be angry. And sad. You cry a lot. Scream if you need too. You have to talk. Constantly. You have to get it all out through words and tears. You have to make a gratitude list. Everyday. You pray to be relieved of the bondage of self. All day long. You will want to crawl out of your skin. You will feel like you are going to shatter into a million pieces for about 70 days (more or less). And then one day- day 71 for me- it will feel a little less brutal. And then a little less. Until you begin to see that your life now consists of more. It’s bigger. It’s better. And…. you’re okay! So you start to trust a little. And then you keep going- hitting the ups and downs and gaining some confidence. Until it feels more normal to eat 3-4 times a day and have a job and friends. Until it feels more normal to talk about your feelings instead of act them out. Until you realize that life really isn’t all bad and scary- maybe there’s even some good.
And at some point along the way I realized that maybe God IS God after all. Maybe He IS a God of love and grace. And He WAS there all along. And maybe, just maybe, it’s best if I allow Him to do His job. Cause man… I really sucked at it.