My cheek, still sun-kissed warm from my picnic lunch, rests on the cool, curved porcelain. A mixture of tears and vomit swirl in front of my eyes while also dripping down my hand. I can feel my heart’s beat throbbing behind my eyes. My breathing is shallow and irregular. My knees, weak from osteoarthritis, tremble from kneeling for so long. I wipe my hands on some toilet paper and reach for my glasses. “This is the last time,” I say to myself as I toss the toilet paper into the bowl.
“You know damn well this isn’t the last time. Every time you’ve said, ‘This is the last time,’ you’ve come running back to me to save you. You’re weak, Rachel. You need me. You’re worthless without me. I’m all you’ve got” ED jeers.
Various iterations of ED had been a constant in my life since I was eight years old, and there I was, 28, and still fighting her. I’d proclaimed, “this is the last time,” so many times that the words had almost lost all meaning. ED knew this and used it to keep me stuck. It’d be another two years before I shook her off entirely.
But this time WAS the last time.
I’ve been lured many times by the siren song of purging:
“You ate birthday cake at a party? You’re such a fat ass. What idiot invited you, anyway?”
“You ate dinner after I specifically set your calorie limit for the day? You have no control! Get rid of it!”
“Have another bowl of cereal. It tastes good and you can just purge it afterwards. You know you miss it.”
“Your students had a hard time listening today? You know what will calm you down and make you feel better. Just once more, for old time’s sake.”
But that was the last time.
Recovery has been a series of consistent choices. It felt—and still sometimes feels—uncomfortable; like mourning the loss of a piece of you. After all, an eating disorder insidiously operates to make you feel like it is a piece of you; the defining character trait about yourself that you cannot—should not–change. EDs thrive on isolating a multifaceted person down to one singular title: eating disorder. Eating disorders want you to believe the lie that you are the ED and the ED is you. EDs make you feel that they are your identity, that you do not exist outside of the disorder, and that your sole purpose in life is to be controlled by ED.
But that is not the truth.
You were, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) by a God who created all things. When the ED attempts to convince you that you are nothing, know that God, “determines the number of the stars, and calls them each by name,” (Psalm 147:5) yet loves each of us so much that, “ the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). Let that sink in for a minute. The God who created each star and knows it by name, loves you so incredibly much that He even knows the number of hairs on your head. In Matthew 10: 27-30, Jesus reminds us that not even a sparrow falls to the ground in death without the Father knowing; reminding us that we are worth more to God than many sparrows. Between naming stars, keeping tabs on sparrow deaths, and knowing the number of hairs on seven billion heads, it sounds like God has His work cut out for Him. And yet, He took the time to lovingly create everything about you—from your dimple on your cheek, to the veins of color in your iris; from the size of your feet to your affinity for cheesy 90’s sitcoms. You are a miracle of creation and no eating disorder can tear that away from you. Nothing about you is an accident; you were made on purpose for a purpose. While I don’t know your purpose—and I don’t always know mine—there is a purpose for your life; a purpose that is not an eating disorder.
But if I’m not my ED, what am I?
Know that you, “are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Notice that the scriptures do not say, “You are an eating disorder. Your sole purpose is to engage in behaviors and obey the demands of the disorder.” No! We are the exquisite handiwork of God, created to do good works; “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1: 7). We are not timid—we have the strength to overcome the eating disorder. We have power, love, and self-control (that I often like to reframe as allowing God control of myself instead of letting the ED have control). I pray that you may, ”grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)
But why would God give me an eating disorder?
In short, He didn’t. Take a look at the story of Job. Horrible thing after horrible thing happened to him—his flock of over 4,000 animals was destroyed, his ten kids died when their house collapsed, his body became covered in sores, and myriad other events that were meant to challenge Job. These things did not come from God. No. Satan sent these to Job as a means to test Job’s faith in God. No matter what atrocity Satan put upon Job, Job never stopped praising, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:21b-22). Satan attacked Job because he doubted the genuineness of Job’s faith in God; believing Job only praised God because of the wealth he had amassed. However, Job persevered and endured the struggles in authentic faith because he knew, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Job knew that God would not attack him or cause him harm; unlike the eating disorder who exists solely to attack and harm.
Know that you are worthy, as is. There are no prerequisites to obtaining the love of God, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Even before you were born, God loved you, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4)
I have not purged for two years and I have gotten my restriction under control in the last few months. God can heal and God will heal.
2 Peter 1:3
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”