An Insatiable Hunger
Few of us will remain untouched by the world of Eating Disorders and Mental Illness. With 1 in 3 now experiencing some form of depression in their life, we should be ready to offer up our love and fellowship to those who are battling.
Below is a story of how one girl found herself in the depths of Anorexia, only to find her way to the light with God's help.
Unfortunately, not all stories end in recovery.
However, Eating Disorders and Mental Illness vary from person to person. One girl's struggle will never be the same as another girl's, and that's one of the most important things to understand when dealing with illnesses of the mind - the stories are never the same.
My eyelids open, my stomach groans. Fifty sit-ups - it's habit. I sneak out the house and run. I run until my heart aches. I run from pain, run from pressure, run from people, run from breakfast. I jump in a freezing cold shower, scrub my skeletal body. I make an excuse and plaster on a smile... today is another day. Dark thoughts creep in, thoughts that aren’t mine. I see the stares and hear the whispers - you think I don’t know? I smile, laugh it off. Everything is fine... "I AM FINE". My stomach groans.
Three years ago I had anorexia. To be honest, I never thought it would happen to me. I grew up in a loving Christian family and wore the ‘Christian’ label all through school, but Jesus for me was just someone who, like everyone else, was someone I had to protect, impress and convince I was good enough.
I managed to keep this up until I was 16 and I have to say, I managed it well. I had lots of friends, was known for being responsible and kind. Most important to me, I was admired by my friends, teachers and parents for being the ‘good girl’.
But then I got tired. I got really tired of pleasing people, tired of the pressure, the fear of failure and the silent tears. I don’t remember the actual day that anorexia took over my life and stole my happiness, but what I can tell you is that the illness escalated at an alarming rate.
It’s hard to write down about the 18 months that followed, but it was dark... very dark.The number of habits spiralled out of control and my trusted identity of the ‘good girl’ was quickly replaced with awkward eye lowering, gossip and avoidance from my peers. This only made things worse and the number of times I wished I was simply dead are countless. I never felt as lost as I did in those months.
After countless days of shame, secrets, lies and fear, and when I had absolutely nothing left, something within me urged me to pray. In all honesty, my prayer was ugly and I doubted anyone was listening, but I pleaded with a God to help me... and to my surprise, he did just that. As I prayed that day, he took the weight of guilt from my shoulders, as well as the pain and self-hatred that I had been wearily carrying, and replaced it with an overwhelming sense of love and delight.
‘He will take great delight in you; in his love, he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.’( Zephaniah 3:17)
God uses broken people - he uses people with mental illnesses, addiction and those who are lost.
God chose to use Jonah for his glory and to advance the kingdom, a man in the Bible who asked God to kill him so that he didn’t have to endure his life. If you are reading this and are currently battling an eating disorder (trust me I know it is scary even to admit that) take heart, because God has overcome (1 John 5:4).
Recovery is terrifying. To recover is to do the one thing you and I fear most but first, know that your situation is not your fault. The bible says that:
"The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy but Jesus came so that you may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ (John 10:10)
Be assured that you are not defined by this hold, but instead are called a ‘daughter’ by the King of Kings and in his grace we are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3). Be encouraged that healing is promised to everyone, if not now here on earth then upon his return. We can look forward to a heaven where there is no such thing as an eating disorder, and we can feast with him without guilt and without fear. How I long for that day!
For me, on that day I prayed, I gave up control over the one thing that controlled me to a God that loved me so much that he died for me. God so graciously healed me of anorexia and led me through recovery, but more importantly, he welcomed me into his family and satisfied my deepest hunger.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have to take up my cross three times a day, but Jesus’ love his beautiful sacrifice spurs me on to honour him at meal times. I boast not that I am strong, but in my weakness, he is strong in me.
Right now, we need to stand up, as people of God, we need to not shy away from the stigma of eating disorders ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:15). There is reluctance from both society and the church to engage with this issue that affects 1 in 4 women and an increasing number of men. It breaks my heart. So here, I want to offer some support to anyone who knows or has a friend or a family member living with an eating disorder.
I am neither a medic or qualified in mental health but I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ to see past the illness and mimic our Lord by looking to the matters of the heart.“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). Eating disorders are often just associated with food, but they are far more complex than just skipping lunch. When supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, valuing their spiritual needs and treating them like any other person in this broken world is vital in addition to showing your love to them in order to create a safe and sensitive environment for you to discuss your concern sensitively with them in order to ask them how best to support them in recovery.
And to everyone else, let’s not be afraid to talk about eating disorders. The more we address this topic the less it is brushed under the carpet and the more we can shine his light upon this illness.