Why, hello again wonderful friends! I’m writing from one of the best coffee places in the world (says she with limited coffee knowledge). I’m at Intelligentsia Coffee in the Windy City of Chicago, IL. I assumed it would be good, but man I had no idea! My decaf cappuccino was absolutely, fantastically creamy!
As I’m sitting here amidst the white walls and hipster crowd, I’m thinking back on the past five days, which feel like a year! On Tuesday I made the 12-hour trek here from Rochester. I have to say, it wasn’t that bad. I have been savoring sweet times with God spent in the car, and working my way through both ”Devil Wears Prada” and Beth Moore’s “Believing God” on CD.
Wednesday night I had the privilege of sharing my story and spending the evening with a super fun crowd – the Cru group at DePaul University. I even got a sneak peek of a video they are creating for their fall conference – awesome dance moves! Wednesday through Saturday I attended the National Music Therapy Conference, keeping up my certification as a music therapist, and on Saturday I co-presented with my former internship supervisor. We talked about music therapy in the treatment of eating disorders. The room was packed! People filling the seats, sitting up the aisle ways and against the walls, and even out into the hall. And the response was so encouraging! I hope it provided some practical tools for them to use in their own practices.
This week I’ve had some really cool divine encounters – just those random people you meet that really aren’t so random after all; they were like a “God set-up.” And I’ve been asked several times just this week, “How did you overcome your struggles with disordered eating?” So I figured I would do a short little blog post with my thoughts on that.
I never really know what to say in that moment. The answer is so different for every person, and there’s so much you could say, but at the same time nothing at all that is a magical answer. Sometimes I wish there was an “abracadabra” snap of the fingers to end the struggles, but when it comes down to it, looking back on my own journey, I would have missed so much if I’d gone straight to healing without the hard work. Why? Well, because it was along the roller-coaster, long path where I found who I was, who God was, His story for my life, and just this sweet, sweet intimacy in my relationship with Him. If I’d snapped my fingers to an instant recovery, I would have missed out on all that beautiful depth that comes only from walking together through pain.
While there were many practical steps that helped me, like coping skills and music (I talk about these more in my book: “The Insatiable Quest for Beauty”), none of those led to an instant freedom. The only thing that brought freedom was hard work – lots of it. Nothing about overcoming disordered eating is easy. You have to want to get better, and you have to want it bad. You have to do whatever it takes to get there. You have to work HARD.
When I was struggling with disordered eating, my weight was more important to me than anything else, and even though I knew I should let go, I didn’t want to let go. As much as I hated the struggle, I was simultaneously madly in love with it. So I had to decide that I wanted something else more than the disordered eating.
For me, that was my faith. I realized that as long as I was choosing my “quest for beauty,” as I like to call it, I wasn’t walking in the intimacy with God that I craved. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I was able to find an intimacy with God even in the midst of the struggle, which lasted for years. What kept me away from God was NOT the disordered eating itself; what was keeping me away from God was my unwillingness to surrender and begin on the long journey to freedom. For me, personally, before I surrendered it felt like this huge elephant in the room in my walk with God, like I could never get as close as I wanted to be because I was holding onto this “quest for beauty” as the thing I wanted more than Him. It took a long time before I was ready to surrender, but when I did, it began to propel me into a closer walk with God. That walk became so beautiful, and so much more beautiful each year that passed, that it slowly became the thing I wanted more than ANYTHING. Disordered eating wasn’t half as attractive as my walk with God.
Then I had to let the eating struggles pull me closer to the Lord. Instead of feeling guilty because it wasn’t an instant fix, or because I was still struggling, I had to let that struggle bring me closer to Him. It made me realize how much I need Him for every step, how I need Him because I can’t do it on my own. I can’t fight it on my own. So I had to press into Him. With every struggle, every trip-up, every breakdown, I used that as momentum to propel me closer to my Savior, to the One who could bring me to the ultimate freedom.
And then, I had to want the freedom. It was hard work. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it was a battle in my mind all the time. It was like fighting for my life all the time. It was like falling apart and getting worse before getting better. But I had to do anything it took to get better. Work hard. Fight for it. There was no other way. I had to really want to get better, and do everything it took to get better, all the while keeping my end goal in mind: A free, unhindered, close, fulfilling relationship with Jesus. I wanted that more than anything, and even though it took years to find the depth of that, it was those years of searching for it that brought me to it. I wouldn’t have found it if it only took a few days or weeks. I found that deep, sweet relationship due to the length and depth of the struggle, and because I fought to stand in the freedom Jesus purchased for me, and because I allowed every moment of difficulty to draw my heart closer to Him.
So these are the thoughts that flood into my mind when I’m asked how to overcome disordered eating. I don’t have a ten-step process. I have this:
Want something else more, and then fight to beat the eating disorder and find what you want more. Allow every struggle to bring you deeper, because you’ll find such a depth to life through the struggle, in a way you never would have found without walking through something so difficult. That’s not to say you can only find this depth to life by walking through disordered eating; what I am saying is: if we let it, walking through pain will bring us to a beauty and wholeness deeper than anything you could ever imagine.
Be encouraged. Fight for it. If you haven’t already, then take the extremely important step of sharing your struggle with a trusted adult and/or counselor. Begin to find what you want more than the disordered eating. It won’t be easy, but you can find freedom! And let me tell you, that freedom is totally worth the battle.