Friday, March 27, 2015

What My Eating Disorder Taught Me About God

The other day, I realized it was March.

Which means that nine years ago in March, I started the eating disorder behaviors that lead me into the arms of anorexia
and then bulimia
and then somewhere in-between
called EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).

Which is a nice way of saying, "There's still something seriously wrong with the way you see yourself and your body and eating, but we don't quite know what to call you."

In short, I decided to make myself smaller and smaller, to be less, to be almost non-existent, but not quite dead.

But March also means, it was five years ago that I ended the eating disorder behaviors, which lead me into the arms of grace
and self-awareness
and peace
and somewhere in-between called "recovery".

Which is a nice way of saying, "You're healed, but unfortunately, you're still like every other woman on the planet who spends far too much time questioning her self-worth based on how she looks. Congratulations!"

In short, I decided I was allowed to take up space in this world, to live fully, to be alive, and to still be working on the "worthy" part.

March almost always takes me by surprise. Because I know I'm done with that season of my life and yet, it never feels that far away either. The process of healing continues today and will continue for the rest of my life. It's not a journey that's easily encapsulated in a sentence, a paragraph, or a blog, but it's one that I can try to summarize in this way: my eating disorder changed the way I see God.

When the anorexia started, a voice became painfully prevalent in my head. It said things like:
-"You're looking shitty today."
-"Work-out much?"
-"You're an embarrassment."
-"You're disgusting."
-"You used to be better than this."
-"You have more self-control than other people."
-"Eating is a weakness."

And I began to believe completely in this voice that seemed to be guiding me to a better, more-productive place. This voice was making me better and stronger, right? This was the voice that would take me to my goals.

But when I started counseling, she told me, "Those are lies. You're being brainwashed" which is a totally disorienting thing to hear--that your own mind has been misleading you. And with time, I learned to recognize that there were actually two voices in my head, I just hadn't been hearing the other one.

The second voice was trying to say things like:
-"You're beautiful."
-"You're worthy."
-"You're everything you need to be. Right now."
-"I'm proud of you."
-"There is grace."
-"You can do your balanced best."
-"You deserve food."
-"You can take up space in this world."

I gave these voices names.
The first: Helga.
The second: Grace.

Helga and Grace would duel in my head and I'd feel torn between them, like an abusive partner or divorced parents: unsure of who to trust, who to believe. Both seemed equally appealing for different reasons.

Helga promised me excellence, perfection, and thinness.
Grace promised me authenticity, peace, and wholeness.

Five years ago, I chose Grace.
And five years ago, I realized I was also choosing God.

That while I don't understand the ins-and-outs of spirituality and religion and how and why the world is the way it is, I can tell you that Helga wanted me dead and Grace wanted me fully alive. That the closer I get to Grace, the closer I get to truth and peace and kindness and generosity and life.

And still, I don't always like God. The illusiveness. The questions more than answers. The uncertainty. But I can tell you that, on this side of an eating disorder, Grace/God is just about the only things that makes sense any more.

So these days, I do the best I can while listening to Grace/God. And that journey make look different than yours and that's okay because I know where I've been and I know where I am now, and you just can't get there from here without some kind of miracle along the way.

Anne Lamott says it best in her book Traveling Mercies:

“It is, finally, so wonderful to have learned to eat, to taste and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, that I’m not uncomfortable calling it a small miracle. A friend who does not believe in God says, ‘Maybe not a miracle, but a little improvement,’ but to that I say Listen! You must not have heard me right; I couldn’t feed myself! So thanks for your input, but I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can’t get here from there. Something happened that I had despaired would ever happen. It was like being a woman who has despaired of ever getting to be a mother but who now cradles a baby. So it was either a miracle- Picasso said, “Everything is a miracle; it’s a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar”- or maybe it was more of a gift, one that required some assembly. But whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live- and deciding to live; and it is one of the most radical things I’ve ever done.
I know that you are working on a miracle. I know that you are counting on science and medicine and even statistics to help get you there. Perhaps learning to feed ourselves, whether it is literally about food, or it’s about enjoying a moment or two in the middle of a two week wait or it’s about feeling like you can move forward when you hear bad news, perhaps that is the miracle too.
I do believe in miracles and I do believe they can seem very small, even when they make the moment blossom and become shiny and vibrant. There is nothing small about the miracle that you are hoping and striving for; just keep those eyes open for the smaller miracles that happen along the way."


Bano Bhagwat said...

Hey that was great reading!! i think of you often and love your blogs. God bless.