Blurred vision, internal tremors, freezing cold, debilitating muscle weakness. By the sound of things, you might think this person was struggling with a drug habit, or maybe even stranded out in the wilderness unable to find their way back to civilization. In my case, either scenario wouldn’t be far from the truth. Only the addiction wasn’t drug related, but a habitual eating disorder. And the wilderness wasn’t Mt. Everest or the Mojave, but the deepest part of myself.
Now, it was time to face what I had spent a lifetime running from. Nineteen years of dodging my own demons; of trips to the emergency room—dehydrated and potassium deficient—shaking, fainting, afraid. Nineteen years of looking in the mirror to find the same enormous girl staring back at me begging me not to eat anything. The thousands of meals I missed were a sacrifice of love—the love of control and the power I felt exercising it. Yet this unique strength managed to carry me toward one extraordinary moment when I could no longer walk the length of a room without gasping for air. I couldn’t straighten up or take a deep breath. At times I could scarcely lift my arms to wash my hair. In the end, all the power I felt couldn’t out-muscle the decision I was finally forced to make.
It was time to choose: to live or to die.
It was a tough choice and one that took careful consideration. All I wanted was for the pain to go away. If I quit eating completely, how many days will it take for my heart to stop beating? My heart—that slow, labored pounding—hurt inside my chest to the point where I thought about ending my life. I just wanted it to stop… to be over. Death would be so much easier than living this way.
For those of you struggling with anorexia, I understand that the thought of putting food in your mouth is the scariest thing you can think of, and you would do almost anything to avoid it. I get it. Not because I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. It’s because I’ve stood on the very edge just where you are standing now; the cliff where your future hangs by a thread.
Right about now, you probably don’t want to hear that you’re out of control because we both know that’s the reason you’re not eating. It’s all about control. You enjoy the tremendous self-discipline and restraint it takes not to eat. The hollow sensation in your stomach hugs you with both arms until it feels like a friend. The piercing headache and cold extremities keep you company day and night. Even your heartbeat flutters a love sonnet. And you’re thinking this must be the best thing you’ve ever found. But starving yourself isn’t as “in control” as you may think. Will power may drive you forward for a few months or even years, but devotion to this sort of dysfunctional affair will only leave you broken and begging for more. No amount of self-control will fill you with security or stability—not now, not ever.
The fulfillment you’re looking for is going to take more than skinny legs and sunken cheekbones. It’s about climbing off the ledge—the ritualistic eating and self-loathing that has been imprisoning the real you. It’s about grabbing hold of God’s hand and letting Him walk you out of this hell that keeps you from putting food in your mouth. It’s about stepping into the life He is calling you to live. He has the plan. Not your friends, not your parents, not the Victoria’s Secret girls. And if you’re neglecting (dare I use the word abusing) your own body, neither do you.
There are so many people touched by eating disorders: those caught in the turbulent waves and those helplessly watching from shore. Maybe you have a daughter (or son), a sister, friend, or coworker drowning in a sea of starvation. The main objective of this blog is to supply a raft—a lifeline—to that person, and help them to solid ground. If you happen to be the one treading water and you’re growing more exhausted by the day, I can relate. I starved myself for nearly twenty years, and by the end of that downward spiral, I realized that no amount of stamina or determination would keep me afloat. That the illusive “perfect body” I wanted so badly would always be out of reach.
I hope that by reading this blog you’ll learn the same thing, and, ideally, take hold of the lifeline that could prevent you from being pulled under. For those of you who are anxiously watching without the slightest idea of what to do, I’m sure you have a few questions.
If you’re a parent of a child with anorexia, you’re wondering if you’ve failed as a mother or a father. Is there something you did or didn’t do that could have made the difference? If you’re a sibling, you want to know how you didn’t see this coming and what triggered it. And, if it’s your friend or coworker who is suffering, you may be trying to figure out how to approach the subject without risking the relationship. But no matter who you are or how you fit in, there’s one thing you should know.
Although each anorexic has a different reason for their disorder, there is a common denominator that binds them all together—trauma. For one person it could be the result of excessive peer pressure; for another, a sexual assault; for someone else the death of a loved one, or perhaps their parents’ divorce. But whatever the reason, you can bet it is the product of a critical circumstance. Something so emotionally devastating, the only desire left in them is to fade away. There is simply no answer to their troubles, which compels them to take action toward an end. It’s a slow suicide, but one they can find comfort in—no one else can control it. The disorder belongs solely to them. And though they may deny that they’re suicidal, it is still a desperate cry for help.
For those of you crying silently hoping to be heard, I’m not going to tell you that recovery is easy. In truth it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done: talking about the past, dealing with the anger, facing the fear, disengaging habits that had become a deep and personal part of me. Sadly, with numerous books on the market on how a person struggling with an eating disorder feels, there are few that provide the practical tools to help them find a way out. If you are serious about getting well, or if you are a person who has a loved one battling this dreadful disease, I think this is the blog is what you’ve been looking for. It’s been nearly eight years since I stood at the top of that cliff staring down at the water and said, “No, that’s not where I’m going. I’m not giving up. I want to live.” Today I’m standing on the shore safe and sound in the center of God’s plan. It’s better this way… away from the edge… away from that thin line. And, I want this for you too.