“You will not be running a half-marathon next weekend. I’d be too concerned you’d pass out long before reaching the finish line. Instead, you will leave this office and go to St. Judes Hospital to get an EKG. Then, you’ll go to Kroger, and your mom will buy you Boost shakes. Drink them in between your meals. You’ll come back and see me once a week until you’re back to life, Rachel.”
My eating disorder despised her, its loathing kept me enslaved, bound to denial. My brain was malnourished. My frail body, habitually cold, sheltered a lost girl with a faint heart. It struggled to beat at a normal rate. This all-consuming tug-of-war between deceit and truth raged war over my identity. Like a ping-pong ball—back and forth, back and forth. I had become a slave to perfection—held captive to an addiction that promised acceptance and fulfillment, but led only to bondage and self-hatred. Anorexia had made me a stranger, a bag of bones bystander within my own story.
The eating disorder told me they were all crazy—my doctor, my family, and the handful of faithful friends who cared enough to perceive the fraudulence in many well-crafted lies. Gaining weight meant nothing but failure. It meant surrender. Control freaks don’t do surrender. It meant admitting failure. Perfectionists don’t admit failure. It meant forsaking the skinny, “fit” body I worked so hard to attain. Women engulfed in a culture that equates a twig-like, magazine cover figure with beauty, they don’t typically strive to gain weight. Restriction felt safe. Food remained a familiar enemy.
Recovery was risky, like jumping off a cliff into the ocean, unaware of the precise depth of the choppy water below. Only senseless idiots do shit like that. My unrelenting doctor forced me to realize that I had a choice. I could, like a senseless idiot, choose recovery or I could live the rest of my life a slave, a resident of an inpatient facility. I wondered what life might feel like, free from the heaviness of the shackles that bound me. So I jumped—but not without a forceful push from my fierce mother who refused to lose her daughter to this disease. I did not jump alone. Courage and bravery leapt beside me. Thank God. My flotation device, named Faith, also came along for the swim. She was the only thing that kept me from sinking in those abysmal, scary waters of healing.
I believe in healing—that it’s worth the incredibly exhausting fight. Recovering from an eating disorder was excruciating and wearisome. It meant more weight loss and more weight gain, buying new clothes and throwing away old clothes, over-exercising and being pissed that I couldn’t run anymore. It was emotionally taxing, as I wrestled with names I’d been called since a little girl that made me believe that my worth rested in how well I lived up to the expectations to stay beautiful. I believe that true healing happens only when the soil is removed and the roots are exposed and the rain of grace comes to nourish our cracked and thirsty hearts. It is here, and only here, that healing begins.
Yes, I believe in healing, but I also believe that in our very broken human condition we resist the exposure of our stories and our struggles. We are a culture that belittles vulnerability, for we fear it. We are a culture addicted to shame, for we are hardened to it. Cynicism is easy, it’s safe. But hope—hope means faith and faith means trust. We are a culture of perfection and idealism, for we equate our worth, the very essence of who we are, by our performance—a laundry list of accomplishments. I believe that if this disease remains veiled, the statistics on eating disorders will multiply. Shame will win. Belonging will become fallacy, not a reality.
Through faith, I’ve been empowered to own my story and embrace vulnerability. Light has pierced the darkness. The voices that whisper degrading lies, ruthlessly fighting to steal my dignity, they are fewer. On this side of Heaven, in a deeply wounded world, I do not believe that they will ever completely vanish. I believe, however, that every day, I am given yet another choice. A choice to believe that I am beloved, worthy of affection, and created without flaw in His image. To believe that, despite a thirty-pound weight gain and feminine curves that I often struggle to embrace, I am still beautiful. I am worthy of receiving love and belonging. With unwavering conviction, I believe, healing befalls with a choice—a choice to grip the shield of faith with steadfast strength and to never let it go.