Fear and Faith Collide
I ran into a neighbor who is an Eating Disorder specialist and psychologist. She works with women every day that suffer from Eating Disorders (ED), but has never had the illness herself. As we talked about autumn and cleaning out, she commented on her multi-sized wardrobe as she was contemplating what to keep and what to donate. This seemed like no big deal to her as her body has changed through pregnancy and age. She is also aware that her body is going to continue to change day to day, season to season.
I marveled at this beautiful woman inside and out who appeared to feel confident in and about her body. Oh, to have this confidence to accept that my body is ever changing. Change in body size and our clothing size for those of us with an ED is fraught with confusion and emotion. We are accustomed measuring our worth by the size of our clothes instead of our intrinsic value as a child of God. I shared with her that as an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach this is one of the services I offer as this can feel emotionally paralyzing. I know that while recovery is necessary and good, it can feel painful and sad. There is no need to feel alone in the process, unless, of course, you prefer to do this alone. There is no right or wrong way to do this necessary task, nor right or wrong feelings,
I remember going through my clothing. My weight restored body recovered, long before my brain seemed to catch up. It felt scary and overwhelming. Unlike my neighbor, hanging onto my smaller sized clothing wasn’t a viable option for me, unless I wanted to remain sick.
Going through my clothing one garment at a time and tossing it into a heap on the floor, in the moment, felt like I was throwing away little pieces of me. I was still grieving the ED piece of me that I had reluctantly handed over to God and now he was asking for my clothes. Both the ED and my clothing, my sense of style was (my style still is 😊) such a big part of my identity. Who am I without the ED? And while I can replace the clothes that reflect my style, each garment tossed took a part of me and my ED identity with it.
Good and tough stuff colliding in the solitude of my dressing room. I knew that recovery meant weight change, but throwing my clothing into a pile on the floor felt as if I was somehow “throwing in the towel” or failing at the ED instead of winning back my life through choosing recovery. ED is deceitful! I don’t know when the brain catches up with the body. So, I trusted the process and God that it would. The floor of my closet looked like the aftermath of a Nordstrom’s dressing room after a fire sale.
I want to remind everyone that walking through recovery is riddled with losses. These losses often need to be grieved to make room for all we will gain in our lives besides changes in our weight. Allow yourself the time and space to sit in the grief with God and those of us who understand. I believe that it is in this space where fear gives way to faith.
I hear God remind me that the illness was not a choice, but recovery is choice. I hear him ask me “Do you want to be well?” John 5:6 (NIV) as I sat weeping in my pile of discarded clothing. “Yes, of course I want to be well!” I felt called to read the further through the verse. John 5:8 “then Jesus said to him ‘pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (NIV). Sitting amongst the ruins of my closet, I drew near to God and he drew near to me. James 4:8 “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you…” (ESV).
Oh, sweet sisters, there are times when God heals in an instant and there are other times, he asks us to trust him, the process, and to take action and “pick up our mat.” This pile of clothing was apparently my “Mat" The verse proceeding James 4:8 (7) tells us “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (NIV) Submit is a verb that means we need to act and stand firm in God’s promises. Recovery, for me has been a series of choices, actions and losses. On this day God asked me take action in receiving healing by casting away these clothes that hindered the healing I desired and had prayed for. I had the free will to listen to ED (the devil in disguise) or trust the voice of Jesus (truth) Oh how I craved the sudden healing, but this was not his plan for me. His plan for me was and is to take one small step or, somedays giant leaps of faith trusting him instead of ED. This was definitely a leap and not a small step.
I know that some of you a going through this same stage of recovery right now and it is not about the clothes, but what they represent to you. Here are a few things practically and spiritually I did/do to move through this transition.
1. Ask yourself “do you want to be well?” And be prepared to take action.
2. Is there a prayer pray, a scripture to read or a song to listen to as you move through this process? I love Beautiful Things (Gungor), Rise (Danny Gokey), In the Hands of the of the Potter (Casting Crowns) and more scripture than I can count. My simplest prayer has become “Thy will be done," because I know His will is always be for my benefit.
3. Have a friend that you can both laugh and cry with come help you. There is something about tears and laughter that allow for safety in one’s vulnerability.
4. Do not give your clothes to a friend that you may see in your clothes. This, from my experience, is very difficult and triggering. Seriously one of my worst ideas EVER.
5. Buy a few items that you LOVE sized S-M-L-XL-XXL because they already have as size range built in. I found, Old Navy, Athleta, and Target have fun comfy pull on clothing. You need not spend a lot of m money to do this.
6. It is okay to camouflage those parts of your body you are adjusting to and striving to accept. To normalize this…EVERY woman knows how to dress to enhance their favorite feature and hide what they don’t love.
7. Grief is normal. Cry out to Jesus the one who comforts those who grieve. Remember you are making space for something new.
8. Shop online from local stores. You can order a couple sizes and easily return what doesn’t work. This is helpful if you are like me and find dressing rooms triggering or overwhelming.
9. Find a support group online through ANAD, or NEDA. Or if finances allow, find an ED recovery coach to walk with you through this process.
10. Be kind and gentle with yourself through the healing process. And trust God and the process.
For more about my thoughts on this topic see https://www.eatingbyfaith.com/post/manage-your-blog-from-your-live-site