‘I will never date, let alone marry a vicar’
‘I will never leave Northern Ireland’
‘I will never work with children’ (four years as a Youth and Children’s worker)
‘I will not turn into my mother’ (Everything bar marrying my dad. And Glen’s not completely dissimilar…)
God’s plans are not my plans. Which, given my experience with ‘taking charge’, is just as well. (In a cunning move I’ve taken to saying ‘I will never go to the Canary Islands and float on a lilo with a Pina Colada’. Watch this space).
But the biggest promise I made was to myself. I was 16/17 and finishing treatment for anorexia. On one of the last sessions, I remember chatting with my counsellor about the future. ‘What’, she asked, ‘would you most like to do?’
There was no question in my mind. Writing. I would write.
She went on: ‘Will you write about anorexia? You know, maybe help others?’
It was like a cold hand grabbing my innards and squeezing.
Write about anorexia? Talk about this? Over my dead body. I was more ashamed of it than anything else (and there was plenty of embarrassment to choose from). Stuff helping others! I would deny it till my voice gave out. And then I’d lie in pictures.
To write about anorexia means confronting some of my deepest fears. But speaking about it is even worse! No chance for a re-write. No editor sifting out the chaff. No carefully constructed version of me in prose. Just me. Which is why I’m feeling a little stressed.
A while ago I wrote about recording a 3 min segment for Channel 4 on the issue of whether or not feasting brings us closer to God. Despite a few misgivings, I did it: and, on the day my brain emptied itself of everything (including my name). I hadn’t heard anything since the recording and concluded (with some relief) that they’d panned it. (I gibbered like a monkey and that’s not false modesty). Anyway. Today I got an email saying they’ll be showing it next Saturday night after the news.
I know that probably no-one will see it. But for those who do (including the folks from my past I’d really like to impress), I am now anorexiagirl. And that feels as pleasant as eyelids caught in industrial machinery. I do not want people knowing this stuff about me. Nor do I want others to think I’m the ‘Christian’ perspective on eating disorders. I feel like I’m taking off my clothes in a public space and my pants don’t match. I’d like to crawl into a little hole and eat percy pigs.
The other day I wrote about the importance of vulnerability. I did not expect the Lord to call me on it, quite so soon.
It’s not comfortable. And I really, really like comfort. But if I go with my feelings, I’ll never leave the house.
So here’s what I’m telling myself: just because things are scary, doesn’t make them bad. Just because life doesn’t follow our plans, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. God’s sense of humour may be wicked, but He is not.
Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of His Servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the Name of the LORD
and rely on their God. (Isaiah 50:10)