In 2005 I was a 35-year old, Jesus-believing wife, mother of two, and public school teacher. From the outside my life looked great, and I would have told you the same. But there was an emptying out. A seeping. It started in February with the startling realization that I weighed more than I wanted. What followed was a commitment to myself to exercise daily, for...life. I drove myself hard, and by the end of the summer I had lost ten pounds.
In the fall I started a new job - still a teacher, but at a new school. Away from my friends and with new curricula, I floundered. I was lonely, and all that made me feel better was losing weight. I felt exhilarated when the scale told me I was down another pound and panicked if my weight was up. I began to believe that the only worth I had was in thinness. I added to the daily workout a gross reduction in calories, and I dropped twenty more pounds quite quickly.
Here’s a piece of poetry I wrote that will give you a peek into my mind at the time. This is a retrospective piece. I didn’t/wouldn’t recognize that I was on a path of self-destruction, so I obviously didn’t write about it. I wrote this two years later. Ed represents eating disorder.
Measuring up/ IfeelsoFAT
ED speaks to me while I drive to work:
There are three people at church who are smaller than
There is one teacher at school who is smaller than
Twenty-two of the fifty girls you teach are smaller than
Your twin sister is smaller than
You’ll have to work harder to
I can workout this afternoon while
Hank is practicing
Chris is out of town so
he won’t know if I don’t
And if the kids ask about it
I’ll tell them I’m going to eat
After I workout
He’ll be gone for the week
so I think I could maybe lose five more pounds
Everything jiggles when I walk
My fingers are plump, pink sausages, ready to burst
Chris, my dear husband, finally spoke up. While I understood that he was concerned, i didn’t see it. Literally could not see the dwindled down version of myself. I wanted to eat well to alleviate his concerns, to get him off my back. And I tried. But the voice of Ed was strong by then, bulldozing aside any semblance of rational thought. I ate to appease Chris and spit food into napkins or purged to keep Ed happy. Another piece:
he could mean
how much I weigh
how much I exercised
how much I ate
how much I love him
there are alternatives to
I tell him how much I weigh with clothes and shoes on
I tell him I didn’t work out even though I made
13 trips up the stairs to bring in the groceries
I tell him I had a sandwich for lunch even though I only swallowed
I tell him I love him bunches even though
I love ED more
Eating disorders are not sins in and of themselves, but during this time, I was living outside the will of God. I was lying to everyone around me, and my obsession with weight had become a god. I saw none of this.
In late fall, I went to see my doctor, but just so I could report to my husband that there was nothing wrong with me. I didn’t get the report for which I had hoped. Being underweight is as bad as obesity; take an anti-depressant; let’s check blood; I want you to go for counseling; get back in here next week.... blah, blah, blah.
I continued to try to eat, at least when Chris was watching, but I just purged more. And spit more. I couldn’t do it in the frame of mind I was in, and Chris confronted me. Looking back I see how scary it was for him. And how frustrating. I agreed to counseling. So, the end, right? Got help, got better. Hardly. Losing the weight was the easy part. Gaining was excruciating. I had to learn to think again, basically. Chris and the mothers were in charge of my meals for the next seven months. A piece that shows what the first meal was like:
I’d rather be dead than fat
My husband, for some reason,
Wants me to live
So he fixes me
Two pieces of cinnamon toast
And a banana
More calories than I have eaten
in the last
three days, combined
I eat it
I guess there is a part of me that wants to get back to
I fought, cried, hoped, lost hope, worked hard, slacked off....I was unsteady, but my husband was a rock. And Jesus, although I didn’t recognize him, was there. Waiting for me to choose him again.
Like the emptying, the healing came slowly, too. A gradual movement into wellness - wellness of spirit, mind and body. Paul uses the word fullness three times in Ephesians. I love it best in Ephesians 3:18-19:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you MAY BE FILLED to the measure of the FULLNESS of God.
As Ed’s grip loosened, I began to understand that emptiness was nothing to strive for - not a goal, but a trap. And I finally allowed the filling. As Ed became less important than Jesus, family, and peace, freedom began.
I am recovered from anorexia, by the grace of God. Not that every minute, day, week, month is easy. There are times, hurting times, stressful times when I believe the lies again - that I will feel better if I eat less. It’s a coping mechanism I guess. But i have support - a loving faithful God, a strong husband, and a Christian counselor. I choose to live as much as it depends on me by Paul’s words in Philippians:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
A happier poem:
I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully
Your works are wonderful
I know that full
I believe this