“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10)”.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).”
“I am forever engaged in a silent battle in my head over whether or not to lift the fork to my mouth, and when I talk myself into doing so, I taste only shame. I have an eating disorder (Jena Morrow)”.
Anorexia nervosa is the most deadly of all psychiatric illnesses, with the mortality rate 12 times higher than that associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old. Why would one purposely starve herself to death yet still strive to be thinner? One main reason this illness is so dangerous is due to the unending competition to be the thinnest—never satisfied until death is on the horizon, which for me was still not enough. Even though I was severely malnourished and my body crying out for nourishment, weight gain was my greatest fear because through my distorted eyes, I was not sick and didn't need help. To ED (short for eating disorder), I was never enough; he was like that of an abusive spouse yet I always seemed to come running back into his comforting yet life-stealing arms since I wholeheartedly believed I deserved nothing more. I must punish myself for imperfection, I believed, and soon the joy of living dissipated into the mists of the air, never again to be found. Unrealistic expectations consumed me, taking their place at the forefront of my battered and abused mind, convincing me to once again be inadequate. Eating became the greatest punishment and sign of weakness, as the convulsing hunger pains became my only source of comfort and stability in a world fighting to steal my identity. Watching the numbers on the scale continue to drop gave me an adrenaline rush and soon the number was never enough, since satisfaction is not a word in an eating disorder’s dictionary. In the mind of an anorexic, eating is the ultimate sign of weakness, so deception and manipulation became my best friends to avoid its manifestation, since nothing else mattered but starvation and the protruding existence of razor sharp bones; no matter how frightfully they pierced through my paper thin skin, it was never enough. Time and time again I lay in a hospital bed, connected to a myriad of tubes and wires camouflaging my neglected and abused body as it simply fought to exist. The hospital had become my home.
For years too many, this has been my life, or should I say mere existence, since it was not living at all. Anorexia nervosa had become my idol and nothing else mattered in my mind consumed by shame and self-hatred. The sensation of razor sharp bones piercing through my skin and hunger pains radiating throughout my entire body brought comfort to my disturbed mind, convinced I must punish myself for imperfection of any kind and indeed deserved nothing more than adamant and unrelenting pain. After years of abuse, I was convinced I’d never be enough, so life became a competition to prove my worth—that I was someone worth loving and fighting for. However, no matter how hard I tried, I always fell short of my ever-increasingly unrealistic expectations—once again experiencing the pain of rejection.
In order to de-throne my idol and walk in freedom, I have to face what has become my greatest enemy and foremost fear: food. Each time, as I lift the fork to my mouth, adamant and unrelenting shame takes over as I’ve given in to the unthinkable—weakness. I must retrain my mind to view food as my medicine rather than greatest threat and do what I’ve come to see as greatest punishment: eat. As the thought of even a single calorie brings absolute despair to my fear-consumed eyes, I must “do it afraid”, because there is no other way through. My body can no longer take this abuse, as I must learn to care for myself and accept imperfection. Essentially, I must become like a child and start over, asking God to transform my brokenness into beauty.
Since I could not start over in my own insufficient strength, I decided to accept help and headed across the world to North Dakota, where I’ve been for the past three weeks. Convinced I was not sick or in need of help, I refused to eat and just barely made it through the airport without blacking out; I was determined to prove myself, whatever that meant, once again embracing competition to be the best, however that looked. I must weigh the least amount possible—but it was never enough. No matter how low the double digit number dropped, it was never enough. As I entered the doors of treatment, convinced I was not sick, fear overtook my body at the thought of giving up control—my worst nightmare. As all sense of dignity was stripped from my being, I finally gave up and surrendered—putting my vanishing life into the hands of my Creator. For the first few days I was limited to my bed and forced to remain as still as possible in order to prohibit my abused body from suffering any more harm or losing weight. Food was delivered to my room and I was forced to do what I dreaded most: eat. In order to avoid the potentially life-threatening effects of re-feeding syndrome, which occurs in the most severe cases of starvation, I was forced to remain as still as possible—limited to my bed due to the inadequate amount of food slowly introduced into my victimized body. Every couple of days my calories would be increased but activity must remain the same—nonexistent, which was far beyond frustrating to my thrill-seeking mind. After many days of bed-rest and absolute boredom, I begged to be permitted to attend programming and socialize with the rest of the group, whom I hadn’t yet met. Slowly, I was allowed to leave my room and attend groups, but not at a fast enough pace for my adventure-seeking self. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, as daily if not moment by moment I must abandon my will, forsaking the things of this world and fleshly desires so I can one day walk in freedom. God has become my Refuge and under His wings I find shelter from the flaming arrows rigorously fired at my soul. Without His strength, I would remain utterly helpless and without hope. Each day is a chance to show God’s unrestrained strength, as He truly is the only cure for this absurd disease. The skills they teach us here may be temporarily beneficial but fail to solve the problem or answer the unthinkable questions. God is the only solution.
Please continue to cover me with your prayers, as I face my demons head on and de-throne all idols. This journey at times seems hopeless and unrelenting, but the support I’ve received is undeniably encouraging! Thank you for continuing to stand behind me as I fight for freedom and discover my true identity!