The first time I intentionally threw up my food was my freshman year of college. I ate too much in an attempt to ease my social anxiety, and shortly thereafter a wave of anxiety hit me from the realization of what I had just done. I went to the bathroom, stuck my finger down my throat, and waited for the food to come back out. To my surprise, making myself throw up was difficult. As tears began to slowly stream down my face, I had at least four fingers jammed in my throat before I felt something emerge. I continued to drive my fingers down the depths of my esophagus until I finally threw everything up. Forgive the details, but if you want to know my former best friend ED, or my eating disorder, you need to know how we met.
I initially met ED at the age of 10. ED was not my friend at the time, but was the confidant of my closet friend. She met ED at the age of 8 after her gymnastics coach told her she was heavy. My beautiful, vibrant, fun-loving friend became a shadow of a human when ED got ahold of her. I recall finding water bottles filled with her puke in her gym bag and watching her bones emerge through her thinning skin. ED, her eating disorder, was cunning, manipulative, and greedy. It liked to remain silent and unknown. ED likes to keep you alone with no one else to cling to. ED was her exact opposite, and it wanted her all to itself. That’s how ED became our toxic best friend.
By the time I was in my mid-twenties, it was not obvious to the eye that I had an eating disorder. I hid ED well. My college roommates made an attempt to confront me about ED; but I pushed their concerns aside and found comfort and pleasure in the release of purging my food. After college, I moved across the country with my boyfriend. He started law school and I was left lost in a new city, alone, without any familiarity in sight. But, ED was there. Instead of feeling lonely, I found comfort in my toxic friend, who could swiftly drown out all sorrow and pain. I imagine ED as a similar companion to what draws an alcoholic to a glass of whiskey, or the satisfaction a smoker feels with the desperate inhale of a cigarette after a long plane ride. It brings no judgment; just relief. Several years later, I found myself faced with another move across the country. Again, ED was there. Prior to the move I was binging and purging on two gallon containers of ice cream daily. Instead of sharing my fear, sadness, and loneliness with human beings, I shared my grief with my long time best friend ED. As before, ED gave no judgment; just relief.
I have learned an inexplicable truth in my long friendship with ED. That is, that God uses our hard stories—the ones that we are often ashamed to share. He uses our difficult moments and seasons so that when you are delivered, we can share His good will through our testimony. My eating disorder was not from God. I also did not develop an eating disorder because I did not know Him or follow Him. Further, I did not develop my eating disorder because I hated my body or thought I was fat. Rather, my eating disorder was my confidant; my hiding place; the place where I found comfort. I avoided all conflict with ED by my side. But, like my childhood friend, my eating disorder made me a shadow of a human.
From a young age I learned that ED was evil, but I still clung to it in times of despair because it took me away from reality. What do you turn to in order to escape reality? I struggled. I struggled a lot. And I have it on my heart that you’ve struggled too. Your struggle might be much different than mine. Conversely, you may also find comfort in knowing that you are not alone in sharing ED as a current or former friend. Whether you want to admit it or not, you too have a toxic best friend – it might not be an eating disorder, but we all turn to some behavior of the flesh when times get hard. Whatever that is for you, it becomes your toxic best friend.
But remember what our Lord said in Mark 7:15, 21: “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out a person that defiles them.” Jesus continued, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.” It is from within where evil comes. ED lived in my heart and was there for me when I needed comfort. You may not relate to my struggle, but if you do, a part of my best friend ED lives in you too.
But, there is hope. The fact that ED resides in me means that I can connect to whatever version of ED that lives inside of you. In fact, God provides the answer. He tells us that instead of looking to that toxic non-human friendship (for me, it was ED) for connection, He provides the solution. Psalm 68:6 gloriously provides, that “God sets the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:6.) I overcame ED because God provided me with the family I needed—a community of real human friends. For me, God placed lonely Laura with god-fearing friends who became my family. My life group, my bible study, and Crossfit community – they all comprise of a bountiful group that God has sent to ease my lonely ED-filled heart. Living with ED was debilitating, but when we share our struggles with ED with others, we take away ED’s power. ED wants us to live in isolation, destitute, and despair. ED wants us to cling to ED to find relief and peace in our chaos.
When life feels chaotic, all I want is to cling to ED. All I want is to tell myself how ugly I am, how unworthy I am of love, how fat I am, how I should stop eating for a week, how I should start a diet or increase the amount of miles I run in a week. But the Lord tells me to bring my anxieties to him, not to ED. He tells me – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7.) God will protect me from ED; and He has continued to do so since I have let Him. God protects me from my toxic best friend by setting me in my family, and delivering me from my eating disorder’s greedy hold.
My sweet friend, I have been through hell and back battling ED. My eating disorder shows up at the exact moment I need, often dressed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, ready to shame me in ways that feel so familiar it brings me comfort. But my friend you are not alone. We all battle this demon in some form or another. My plea to you is to make ED known and not let ED be your best friend. I still struggle. There are days when I go back to disordered behavior, and ED and I have a great time. On those days, I do not want to leave ED behind. Those days are now few and far between. For me, I cling less to ED because I am filled with the love of the Lord.
He loves you too. If you let Him in, if you ask Him to help you leave ED behind and bring you to your community, He will do it. But you have to want this; ED finds power in our inability to let go of a toxic friendship. With ED, we will never be enough, but with Jesus, we are always enough. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35.) We do not need to cling to ED, to our anxiety, alcohol, or to whatever else you cling to when life gets hard. Instead of turning to my disordered eating behaviors, I now try to look to Jesus. In order to be more like Him I too must nourish myself through God’s will and honor Him by saying goodbye to ED, to my toxic best friend, which is the hardest goodbye I’ve had to face. This means letting go of my selfish desires and leaning on God. Like you, I need help because letting go can feel like torture. But we are not alone, and we can feel loved and beautiful knowing that we were made exactly as we were meant to be made – imperfect and all – and so dearly loved by our Father.
If any of my words hit close to home, I encourage you to share your story and your struggles if not publicly, then privately with me. National surveys estimate that as many as 20 million women and 10 million men will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That is almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness (“NEDA”) week. This week, NEDA encourages us all to Come As You Are and send a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid. YOU are valid, my sweet friend. And you are so, so beautiful as you are and as you were so awesomely created.
This week, instead of participating to receive a gift, I ask that you share, like, or comment on this post. For each, I will donate to The Feeding Hope Fund (FHF) for Clinical Research in your honor and individually pray for all that participate.
I want to thank my friend, Laura, for sharing her story this week. If you want to reach out to Laura, please comment below, or send a private message through Mirror Mirror.