"You are so beautiful to me....
can't you see..."
No, I couldn't see. I couldn't see that I was beautiful for a very long time. There are days when that view still eludes me. I am grateful for the spiritual tools that have helped me break a cycle of fear that had me in its grips for years.
But, I am getting ahead of myself.
This is the start of my story...I hope it is helpful to you, or to someone you know, and love. It is my hope that it will assure those who struggle with eating disorders, as I have, that you are not alone.
My friend Heather said that she might have become bulimic, if she hadn't been so bad at throwing up. I was not. While others perfected a sense of balance, speed, accuracy, or aim, I perfected the ability to "toss my cookies" quickly, quietly, and without self-questioning. It started almost four decades ago when, as a dancer, I thought that the mirror told me everything I needed, or wanted, to know about my worth, beauty, and value.
I could rationalize my behavior a thousand ways to Sunday, but it never left me feeling anything but secretive, small, and out of control. Funny, because "control" seemed to be what it was all about.
"What difference did it make if I threw up my meal, or went to the the dance studio, or the gym, and eliminated that same meal by exercising obsessively?" I reasoned. And this was just one of my favorite statements of self-justification. But it never got me very far. Comparing my own obsessive behavior, to someone else's, didn't make it right...it just made me feel so "not alone" in my terror.
"Terror," you may laugh, "What did terror have to do with bulimia?" (defined as: any behavior that leads to self-elimination of food...obsessive exercise, vomiting, laxative or diuretics abuse) "Everything," I would cry.
Terror that, if anyone every discovered how broken I was, I would be rejected, abandoned, derided, or dismissed.
Terror that if I wasn't "perfect"...perfectly calm, thin, smart, pure, confident...I wouldn't be worthy of human connection. And human connection...love, friendship, conversations, shared dreams, interests, ideas...was all that I cared about. And I have come to believe that human connection...relationships...is what we all care about most.
Beautiful houses, luxury cars, jewelry, jobs...are all just the lures we think will clothe our lives in garments of worthiness. If I have the most beautiful, cozy house my children will want to come home for the holidays, my neighbors will want to know me, my friends will think I am creative, capable, desirable as a companion and friend.
If I drive the right car, have the right job title, live at the right address...perhaps someone will admire me and want to know me.
But, admiration for the sake of attraction...or admiration...is too lonely a goal to nerve our endeavors. It will never be enough...in, and of, itself...to motivate the human heart. Only real love, and the desire for human connection...through service, compassion, understanding...could move us to work as hard as we do, to get the attention of others.
Bulimia, for me, was the drug that softened the sharp edges of fear. The fear of failure, and a fall from grace. Bulimia soothed the savagery of self-doubt, and anethesized the anticipated pain of wondering whether my call would be answered, or for some girls today, whether their Facebook friend request would be accepted,, or an invitation to meet for coffee will be ignored.
A bowl of ice cream and a plate of cookies were mine. I could control them, and no one could take them away from me. Getting rid of them...by throwing up, dancing till I dropped, or doing 300 sit-ups...was my choice. I was in control of cookies and ice cream. Life was....hmmm...good??? Not really.
There were so many times when I thought I'd really been "healed" of this dirty little secret called bulima.
When vomiting gave way to obsessive daily exercising, I felt like I'd been "healed." Refusing to eat anything that would make me feel guilty, so that I wouldn't need to purge, seemed like a healing. Banning myself from the bathroom for two hours after any meal was a healing...right? Wrong. The root issues...the terror of being rejected or abandoned...hadn't really gone away. It took looking at myself through a different lens altogether...the lens of God's love for me...just as I was.
I discovered that I could pray to see that I am "wanted." God wants me. He wants me to do His will...to love without reason, to give without return, to share without keeping score, to laugh with abandon, to serve without self-interest. And knowing that I am wanted by Him, is helping....a lot.
I still have moments when I feel afraid. Moments when I want to take control. There are times when I want to say, "No, I don't need anyone to love me or need me..." "Well okay, so perhaps you don't need anyone," it purrs, "but you could sure use a big bowl of ice cream and a plate of cookies."
But now, instead of fighting these feelings of uncertainty, I actually let myself experience the feeling of being in "relationship freefall." I am willing to put an invitation "out there" and not know if it will be accepted. I am free to let myself smile at someone who hasn't been particularly friendly in the past, not because I expect a particular response, but because it is who I am...it is consistent with my spiritual nature as a loving child of God.
And you know, as scary as it sometimes feels, it's also pretty exciting. Kind of like the thrill of sky-diving. I just throw myself into the arms of God's love and trust...trusting that I will always have the friendships God is bringing into my life. That these friendships are the ones that will always be a mutual blessing for both parties.
If He is not giving them to me, I don't want them. And if He is, there is nothing I can do to screw them up. I am not in control. I have never been in control. I will never be in control. I don't want control...why would I? God does a much better job of it than I ever could.
I am beautiful to Him...and through His eyes, I am beautiful to me.
This is my story...it is no longer my secret.
shared with love,
Kate Robertson, CS