A few weeks ago one of the girls in my small group (Dry Bones) for teens at Holy Trinity asked if she could interview me about my experience with an eating disorder. She was writing a paper on society’s opinion of beauty, and wanted to spend some time on society’s effect on self-image etc. It was a harmless question on her part. For my part, it was probably the last thing I needed (or it was exactly what I needed) as it fell on the day of one of the hardest meetings I’ve ever been a part of and on the tail end of my 3rd relapse in 10 years. Since that evening was our weekly meeting for Dry Bones I decided to opt to open the interview to the group as discussion.
If a person ever wants to have a reality check, they need only to spend an hour with a group of teenage girls.
After a few very sensitive questions laced with apologetic tones at what they presumed was an invasion of my privacy, the cautionary sheet was lifted and they dove in head first. Let me first say that I can’t pretend I know the answers to all questions about eating disorders. I can, and usually do if asked, answer all questions as they pertain to my own experience with anorexia. The cool thing I find in answering these types of questions is I am forced to evaluate it myself.
Being asked to do this interview while simultaneously struggling with a relapse was quite the surreal experience. It’s hard to tell a group of headstrong, loving, caring, wonderful teenagers all the reasons you should never allow yourself to get sucked into an eating disorder while voluntarily succumbing to the pressures of one at the same time.
The first question I had a hard time answering was the most obvious question for them to ask: Why? I could go on for hours in a circle of random and evasive answers to this question. I usually do. The truth? A combination of being unsatisfied with how I looked, a lack of faith that I was loved regardless, and a strong reinforcement that being smaller/skinnier/cuter/prettier would ultimately make me happy above all other things. Even my own life, as biology and logic would prove that not fueling your body ultimately leads to death. (Enters Satan and his tricky ways)
A second question (or questions) from them that made me almost laugh and cry at the same time was: What is it like now? Is it hard? Can you ever get over it? Describing what it is like has never been easy for me. Especially when trying to be sensitive to my audience and not look like a complete crazy person. After 10 years of living it, the best example I can give for what it is like is to revert to a movie scene 🙂
In The Lord of the Rings Trilogy there is a scene where Gollum is having a full blown conversation with himself. Well, there are 2 of him, each one representing 2 different personalities. Obviously the two personalities are fond of each other, and yet in constant conflict. Their desires and goals are the same, but the means and motives to achieve those goals are polar opposites. One personality is more tolerant, slightly gullible, and eager to please. The other is impatient, verbally abusive, and unforgiving. At one point the two personalities are literally screaming at each other in what turns into Gollum physically putting his hands over his ears and asking the mean personality to shut-up.
That is an extreme example of what it is like. My logic tells me one thing. My eating disorder tells me another. It affects the reflection I see in the mirror. (Ray equates it to the mirrors at the state fair). It can dramatically affect my outlook on my entire day. The worst part is on the days that I cave and do something like skip a meal, rather than being satisfied I feel guilty. And then Satan creeps in and feeds off of that with thoughts of failure and being pathetic etc etc. There is even the low blow of “if you really loved God you wouldn’t do this to yourself”. It’s really a disgusting and painful circle. And illogical to boot. Long story short – I can’t win. I just have to be strong enough to tell myself to stop and hold on to what is real.
It’s a fight. Sometimes it’s daily. Sometimes I can go days without it. Sometimes it’s really freaking easy. Sometimes it is so hard I want to scream. Depends on the circumstances of my life. Unfortunately, it’s not something I will ever get over. I will beat it. Everyday. I’m too damn stubborn not to and I am loved by some of the most amazing people (God being at the top of that list). But it’s never going to go away. That is the reality I accepted when I started down this road so many years ago.
By the end of the ‘interview’ and group discussion I was filled with a lot of mixed emotion. I was feeling like an idiot because of the relapse. I was feeling guilty for not being stronger as I was staring the reasons why I need to do better in the face of my Dry Bones girls. I was feeling loved at their open-armed acceptance to my human weaknesses. I was feeling exasperated and annoyed at God for His OBVIOUS hand being at work at that particular moment. (exasperated and annoyed = acceptance and thanks…) And I was feeling exhausted from sharing personal information I never share.
Ah…the beauty of transparency.