I recently had the honour of being published on the Good Women Project. I shared my story of finding my worth in a guy, which led to heartbreak which led to a decreased sense of self, which led to my eating disorder, which then led to finding a new sense of self-love and -worth in God's grace. Here is an excerpt. UPDATE 2016: Sadly, Good Women Project is no longer running, but my full article is still here below.
My Heart Was Broken at 17 When He Chose a Cheerleader Over Me
“Thus the end of the commandment is love, and that twofold, the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Now, if you take yourself in your entirety,—that is, soul and body together,—and your neighbor in his entirety…you will find that none of the classes of things that are to be loved is overlooked in these two commandments….When it is said, “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself,” it at once becomes evident that our love for ourselves has not been overlooked.” -St. Augustine
My heart was broken at the age of seventeen when he chose a cheerleader over me.
I assumed his decision was based on one thing: Me.
I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. And, most importantly, I wasn’t skinny enough. Never did I consider that maybe his choice had less to do with me and more to do with him. No, it was all my fault.
I would lie awake at night, praying, pleading with God: “God, if You love me, please, please just let me wake up skinny.” And usually I’d throw in the classic: “I’ll never ask for anything else again.” But despite my negotiation, my prayers weren’t answered. So I did what many of us do: I took matters into my own hands – I stopped eating.
And the self-destruction began: weighing myself, starving myself, over-exercising, cutting myself, weighing myself again – I was at war with my body and that is a battle one can never win.
A few months and too many lost pounds later, I decided to ‘smarten up’.
I started eating again, but mostly because I felt if I went on much longer my cover would be blown and my ugly secret would get out: I had an eating disorder. That couldn’t happen. So I kept on pretending that I was OK, painting over the wounds with denial.
I became obsessed with eating only ‘healthy foods’ and avoiding anything that years of diet commercials and ill-informed ‘health’ articles had convinced me was ‘bad’. I later found out the term for this obsession: Orthorexia.
As my disordered eating and compulsive exercise continued I would still flirt with old behaviours; when life got hard, I’d stop eating. When I felt fat, I’d stop eating. And when I felt guilt or shame, I’d self-harm; attempting to numb the internal pain by creating an external one.
This process went on for a couple of years; and then something happened: another heartbreak.
This is when Bulimia walked through my door, or maybe I walked through its door – I’m still not sure.
Bulimia became a lifestyle for me, a priority – I was in my second year of University and yet all I could think of was: binge, purge, repeat.
I was out of control.
The fear of purging led me to fear food; I couldn’t look at it, I couldn’t smell it, and I most certainly couldn’t eat it. I went three days without putting a single thing in my mouth. Not even juice. I asked my professor how long I could live like this. “Without food, a human has about thirty days.”
Thirty days? Thirty days was sooner than exams, thirty days was sooner than summer, thirty days was simply too soon.
I didn’t want to die!
It’s important to realize that with eating disorders, like with any form of self-harm, the goal of the individual is [typically] not to end one’s life; instead it is a way of coping with negative feelings and/or punishing one’s self due to low self-concept.
That’s what I learnt when I entered recovery; I learnt that my eating disorder behaviours were not the problem, they were the symptom.
And in order to stop the behaviours, I needed to address the source: I would need to learn to love myself.
As St. Augustine says, loving yourself isn’t just about loving your body, it’s also about loving your soul. It’s about loving who you are – inside and out – and so I began the journey to acquire self-love.
It wasn’t easy; a lot of emotions unravel when separating yourself from your eating disorder: guilt, shame, regret, anger… Everyone kept telling me I had to forgive myself. They kept telling me I had to love myself. I kept asking them why.
“Because Jesus forgave you, because Jesus loves You.”
It’s not that I didn’t know this – I’d heard the song, I even knew the actions to it – but my question remained: “Why?” Not why should I love myself, but why did Jesus love me?
“As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Genesis 2:7)
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
So there’s the answer; that’s why Jesus loves me. And that’s why I needed to love myself. He created me, ME, an individual, beautiful in my uniqueness. Beautiful in His eyes. And that’s the only beauty that matters.
I had been praying for the wrong thing seven years ago; rather than pray that I’d wake up and find myself skinnier, I should have been praying that in the morning I’d wake up and see myself the way Jesus saw me.
Recovery was a process, and it took a lot of physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. But I can now sit here today and say that it was worth it. It was so worth it. I can also say that, though I believe that self-love is an ongoing process, I do love myself – inside and out.
I want you to know that if you are going through an eating disorder, or disordered eating, or troubles with accepting your body the way it is, you can overcome this! And you can learn to love yourself. Recovery isn’t just for the ‘chosen few’; it’s for anyone who wants it, just like God’s grace. And recovery is possible: it has been 1.5 years since I last purged – and that is nothing less than a miracle. And every time I sit down to eat a meal, I am a witness of God’s grace and the freedom that comes with it. And that freedom, it’s a gift – for me, for you, for all of us.
I will leave you with this quote:
“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….So it was either a miracle…or maybe it was more of a gift….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.” –Anne Lamott