As I write this, one of my new friends is wrestling with anorexia. She is a beautiful, talented Christian girl who is a blessing to me and to many others. She knows it is wrong. She knows it is out of control. But she can’t stop herself. She’s been starving herself and exercising non-stop and taking slimming pills and laxatives. ECGs and blood tests show that she is now on the point of collapse. Her body is starting to eat itself.
But you know what? She’s one of the lucky ones. Because she’s been brave enough to get help. And many, many don’t make it that far.
Only yesterday we were talking and she admitted she didn’t think she had a problem. At worst, maybe had a few issues with food – but no more than many others. That may even be true. But today, she’s sitting, dazed in hospital, her world blown apart.
Eating disorders are serious. They’re not something you can dip your toe into. They will swallow you and everyone and everything you care about. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. And very few, if any, of those who have starved themselves to death planned to die.
That’s one of the hardest things about mental health disorders. They lie to you. They tell you, you’re not sick. Or that you are sick – beyond help, beyond hope. Here’s a few more of the lies;
Lie 1. I’m not like other people. My body won’t pack in. I am indestructible, superhuman, inviolable. The more weight I lose, the stronger I feel.
The truth: Your body is the same as everyone else’s. You are not a special case. Your muscles are wasting, your heart is shrinking, your bones are crumbling. It doesn’t just happen to other people. It happens to you.
Lie 2. I can get over this by myself.
The truth: You can’t. Even if you had the strength to start eating and stop exercising, you would need help to work out how to manage those horrible feelings. This thing is bigger than you. You need other people to pick you up, to encourage you, to say no to those desires when you are too weak. You are a person who has needs. That is what it means to be human. Those needs can be met – but not by you. The safety of self is actually a coffin that is shrinking your life.
Lie 3. I’ve got plenty of time to think about getting help.
The truth: There is never going to be a good time. You don’t drift into recovery. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets. Eventually this will take its toll on your body – it is doing you damage now, today.
Lie 4. I don’t want to worry people.
The truth: People should be worried. So should you. Being human means taking up space. People want to help – and the greatest pain you can cause them is not to allow them to share this with you and to love and help you. That’s what is really worrying. That’s what really hurts.
Lie 5. I will lose control.
The truth: You are out of control. This is dominating your life. It is no life. It is controlling you. It is isolating you. It forces you to exercise, to push your body far beyond what it can bear. To wander round supermarkets, picking up foods and putting them down, even stealing food. To spend hours cooking food for others that you will never eat. To know the calorie content of every single morsel. To be unable to go out, to share fellowship with others, to break out of routines. To exist in a world that gets scarier and scarier and smaller and smaller. To sacrifice your friendships, your health, your personality, your life.
Lie 6. I can’t recover
The truth: You can. You are not alone. Many others have trodden this path and come through. There is life and light and hope. But you can’t do it alone. The Lord will help you and there are many others who will be with you every step of the way. Recovery does not happen overnight. It is really, really tough. But it means more than just putting on weight and still feeling rubbish. Real recovery includes physical healing – but it is about helping you to be whole emotionally and spiritually too. To find other ways of dealing with all those emotions. To know real peace and acceptance and life and relationships. The Lord can bring you out of this. He will never leave you. He will be with you every step of the way. And He cares about all of you, not just the number on the scales.
Lie 7: It’s not worth it.
The truth: It is. I promise. Beyond your wildest hopes.
You’ve only got one life. Please, please don’t throw it away.