The illusion of control: one girl’s battle with anorexia

(thank you, dear Jaime, for this guest post…)

Somehow I have always been swinging in the balance of life and death. From getting hit by a car at two, to a nail going through my skull only a little older, to almost drowning at age seven. I feel like someone or something has always been trying to silence me. And with drug addicted, violent, abusive, and neglectful parents I had a lot to say.

So, at the age of about fifteen anorexia became my weapon, became my friend. Became the thing that listened. Became the one who talked with me, affirmed how I was feeling. Always comforting. In a world filled with chaos, the one thing I could control, the one thing that was constant. It became an opportunity for the girl who was silenced to scream, “Someone see me! Someone notice what these people are doing to me! Someone. Help. Me.” No one did.

I became mad at God. How could He let this happen to me? Why would He give me to those people? Why hadn’t He stepped in to protect me? If my own parents didn’t love me and failed to protect me, and God didn’t protect me then He must not love me either. I must be unlovable.

My life one day went in a different direction. Mad at God and mad at the world, I decided to take control. I left home at 16 and moved across the country. Far away from the ones who loved me so brutally. In a new world I had the illusion of control. Control of who I let in and who I didn’t, control over my triggers that I made go away.

Until one day, years later, the intensity of responsibilities, all of my relationships seemingly falling apart and feeling like a complete failure, anorexia stuck its ugly foot in the door. “You know your childhood was way worse than you ever even imagined? Now that you’re an adult you can see it for what it was. They didn’t love you. You aren’t lovable. You see these people around you? They don’t really know you like I know you. I’ve spent years with you. If they knew the real you they would leave you. You’re a failure. But I have a way for you to hide yourself.”

With everything out of the balance and out of control, I began the love-hate relationship with food. I began it with a vengeance. I though to myself: I may have failed as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, as a friend, and even as a child of God, but I would not be fat. If nothing else, I could control this. With every compliment, I cut out more food, I stayed on the treadmill longer. When everything around me was in shambles, I would throw myself desperately into the one thing that gave me affirmation of worth. I was now self disciplined. I was now an inspiration to others, and could teach them how to be successful in managing their weight. I now had a purpose.

Anorexia didn’t whisper in my ear often or even loudly at first. A little here, or a little there. Just enough to encourage destruction a little more each time. But when I had convinced myself that I had success, control, and something to offer, that’s when the “tapes” from my past played; that‘s when the voice of anorexia whispered louder, and longer, until it was a full fledged scream drowning out anything and everything else. “You’re going to fail at this, too. Look at the statistics. If you gain a single pound it’s a step towards being fat again. And then what will you have? What will you be? Nothing. You will have failed at everything you ever set out to accomplish. Except this time everyone will be able to see it.”

Restrict more. Exercise more. That’s what I did. The thing about eating disorders is it’s a small whisper in the back of your mind, barely audible. Where you think it’s your idea. You think you’re in control. I’ve walked around angry, confused, hurt and hollow. Comparing other people’s “strengths” to my “weaknesses” and always coming up short. I say things I don’t mean, I do things I normally wouldn’t do. The line between my eating disorder and who I am is blurred until I no longer can tell the difference. Another trick. Another way to keep me under it’s thumb convincing me that I am a terrible person-this ugliness is who I really am. In order to keep my illusion I have to keep this cycle of under eating and over exercising going so I can fool everyone into believing I’m worth something.

And once again my life swings in the balance. This acquaintance that I once used to shed a few pounds here and there, now has my hair falling out, my heart palpitating, dizzy and almost passing out. Yet I find myself oddly encouraged. I have triumphed, I am in control! My body can’t even tell me when to stop because I have mastered even that. This thing that was suppose to help me, to console me, to give me a voice, to get me recognized is the very thing that will take my life. The illusion of control finally came crashing down on top of me. I was no longer in control. It really did control me.

I’ve fought too hard, survived too much to be what ends me slowly, agonizingly painfully, for the ones I care about most to standby and watch. Somewhere deep inside of me there has got to be a fight left. For my adoring husband. For my wonderful kids. For those who have stuck around and called me friend. I’m reaching deep down for strength only God can give me. Some days are better than others. But it’s not about winning every single battle, every single time. It’s about winning the war. It’s about extending the same grace, same love, and the same realistic expectations I give to others, to myself. I am wholly human. I am wholly flawed. I am not perfect, and I’m finding that no one expected me to be. Yet I find myself running from the same unconditional love that I had starved myself to get. Incapable of feeling worthy.

Slowly, the truth God is whispering into my ear is finding its way to my heart. Slowly, I’m learning to find my worth in the Lord, and discover who He created me to be. Slowly, I am believing I am worth something more than I ever imagined. People around me are the fight on days I have nothing left to fight with. They say I have a story to tell; one of redemption, hope and love. Like puzzles pieces that are slowly being put into place I can see it unfolding. I’m excited, even if some days “slowly” feels like an eternity of itself. The voice of God whispers through His people into my ear a reminder that even “slowly” is progress. Everything comes in His time.


13 thoughts on “The illusion of control: one girl’s battle with anorexia

  1. Thanks, Kendal. It’s so nice to reach out to others who do understand. Feeling alone (and therefore crazy) breeds all the feelings that magnify the destructive behavior. At least, for me. 😉

  2. what a blessing for you to put words to those feelings.. thank you.
    this week i’ve realized in the midst of all the pain and lows, the hunger pain is the one pain I can control and safely allow myself to feel. all the other emotional things i can’t afford to let in.

    • For me I realize my restrictive/obsessive exercise is emotional as well. I feel so much internal pressure (and overwhelmed) and I’m unsure of what I’m feeling, why I’m feeling it and therefore have a hard time releasing them. That feels out of control and scary. I also realize when I’m upset I am ten times more likely to succumb to other triggers, or at least be more likely to “notice” them.

  3. Isn’t that exactly how ED sneaks up?!! I am a survivor also of anorexia. I also revisited the past from an adolence eating disorder. I brought it into my marriage, little did I know at the time, it would be one of the the biggest battle we would have to face. But it is a very slow but sure process to regaining health and right thinking. Now my upper most weapon is getting my eyes on Jesus and letting Him define who I am. I lost everything at one point but now I have discovered that was His mercy to show me that He is LIFE. I was stripped of everything thinking it was MY FAULT that I got in that pit. But I learned SO MUCH in the pit I don’t think I would have ever learned any other way. I just take one day at a time and find as the days go by little by little things that use to trigger me are less and less intense. I can let go of some of my compulsive exercise and instead of panic, feel a sense of release that I don’t make myself do that so much any more AND IT DOES NOT BOTHER ME !!!!!! I also let a couple of prayer warriors into my life of hell and they PRAYED for me intensly.

    • Reading this excites me! It gives me hope because I long to be whole as you describe. I can see it on the horizon and sometimes taste the freedom, and yet it feels so far away at the same time. Thanks so much for sharing this 🙂

  4. I am so sorry for the pain you went though, but amazed at how you put your experience into a story! I know many who read will understand and be helped also. Please keep fighting and keep sharing your story!

  5. This post speaks to me! I am in recovery and this passage particularly reminds me of the moment when I decided I REALLY truly needed to start recovery and commit: “This acquaintance that I once used to shed a few pounds here and there, now has my hair falling out, my heart palpitating, dizzy and almost passing out. Yet I find myself oddly encouraged. I have triumphed, I am in control! My body can’t even tell me when to stop because I have mastered even that. This thing that was suppose to help me, to console me, to give me a voice, to get me recognized is the very thing that will take my life. ”
    So true. I had to realize that the feeling of control and comfort was not what would keep me alive. In fact it was what was hurting me. I had to realize that to live a healthy life, I’d have to feel damn unpleasant.

  6. Jamie! Thank you so much for this post. I’m honestly in tears. It resonates so much with my story. Your final paragraph especially feels like what I’m going through right now in recovery. Sharing our stories is so important to finding freedom and motivation to keep fighting.
    Check out my blog if you want!

    • Thanks for your blog address. I most certainly will check it out. I feel like sharing is important. We feel so alone and so ashamed, which breeds those feelings that serve the eating disorder. Thanks for taking the time to write 🙂

  7. What you said, “I had to realize that to live a healthy lifestyle, I’d have to feel damn unpleasant.” is a key component to recovery! So often I want things to be perfect, to be a continual plateau of happiness. The little bit of sadness, anger, overwhelms me and I would turn to exercise as a release. I would turn to others to make me feel better about myself.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and respond. Keep up the good work 🙂

  8. Pingback: Funday Friday! « Strength in Freedom

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