Saturday, 28 February 2015

Choosing God over anorexia

    Can anorexia and faith coincide smoothly, or are they fundamentally incompatible? Having had experience of both, and having tried my hardest to reconcile them, there has never been a time when I have been able to fully embrace, or be led by, both.

    One of the key aspects to anorexia, which is present in almost every case, is the need for control. Frustration over the lack of control in other areas of life, such as school, work, sport etc – which lead to the feeling that life is running away with you and you can’t quite keep a grip on it – manifests itself in the attitude to food: the one thing which you can definitely control. And yet we are called to surrender all control over our life to the God who created us for His purpose. 
     ‘I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me.’ (Exodus 20:2-3; NIV). Scripture tells us not to worship false gods, because it means we are not truly trusting our true God to do what is best for us. Anorexia is a selfish, manipulative illness that demands your full attention. It creeps into every aspect of your being until it places itself at the forefront of daily life and elevates itself to become a false god. You worship ‘Ana’ – the voice in your head – not by choice, but out of fear of disobeying her. 
    Anorexia insists that it is your friend, and it knows what’s best for you. Yet inevitably ‘Ana’s plan’ differs significantly from God’s plan. In that sense, anorexia constantly challenges your faith. I don’t mean the faith that there is a God, I mean the deeper faith that He is the only one who can provide for us, the faith which leads us to truly hand over everything we are to Him: an act which is impossible when part of what we are has already been taken up by anorexia. 
     It seems ironic that I now write a blog specifically aimed at helping women in their walk with God when for me the years in which I should have been learning to be a woman were spent in the body of a child. When I first entered the hospital, word went around the other inpatients that "The new girl is 8!" – in fact I was 15. Whilst God was calling me out of childhood and into the plan He had set out for my life, anorexia was dragging me back down into an immature, helpless state. Rather than a child of God, I became an insecure, fearful child terrified of growing up. Coming to realise God's view of me has enabled me to discover my true identity as His daughter, and as a woman.
     When I was ill God saved me – medically speaking my heart should have given up long before I was admitted to hospital – but I couldn’t give back my life to Him. God never left me, I never lost faith that He existed, but at the centre of it all anorexia stood between us. God was always present for me, but anorexia prevented me from being completely present for Him. My recovery began when I made the decision to keep my eyes on Jesus no matter how hard anorexia tried to pull me back. 
     He doesn’t want us to suffer, anorexia does. The hardest decision of all is to give up your relationship with Ana, but the greatest reward of all is regaining your relationship with the God who loves you more than Ana ever could.
So, as far as I can tell:

Faith is life-giving. Anorexia sucks the life out of you.
Faith allows you to develop as a child of God. Anorexia ties you down and restricts your growth.
Faith calls you to freely sacrifice control. Anorexia steals it from you maliciously.
Faith offers the one true God who saves. Anorexia forces you to worship an idol who kills.
Faith reaffirms your identity in Christ. Anorexia tells you you’re worthless.
Faith gives freedom. Anorexia imprisons and isolates.
     But most of all, anorexia encompasses your whole being, leaving little or nothing remaining to give to God. When you give your whole self to God, there is no place for anxiety or depression. True healing comes from choosing to cling to faith in God through all the suffering, and allowing Him to lead you out of the trap you've found yourself caught in.