ED knows how to steal joy. That is his job. The only way he wants me to be happy is if I’m following his rules and listening to his lies. And the way I follow his rules and listen to his lies is if he can make me unhappy in my own body. And so he steals my joy in one powerful, efficient, and effective way.
Comparison is ED’s greatest tool in holding me captive to his whispers and whims. I thought it was completely normal for every female to constantly be comparing herself to every other female. I do it non-stop. Not until my therapist extracted that lie, like so many others, from my consciousness and helped me realize yet again that ED’s thoughts are not my thoughts, did I catch a glimpse into the freedom of not comparing. It is so tiring to constantly be looking at other women and girls and wondering if I’m skinnier than they are. Seriously? Skinnier than a 16 year old? Just writing that statement dumps the reality of ED’s ridiculousness into my lap. Each comparison allows ED to weave more intricately into my life. Because if I deem myself skinnier, than I must be doing something right and any slacking off on exercise or any overeating will lose ground. I need ED. If I see the other women as skinnier, than depression leads to the need to find peace in a longer workout or less calories so that I can be the skinniest. I need ED again. And here is the heart of it. Comparison is based on pride. It all boils down to selfish pride. I want to be the skinniest. If I am, pat myself on the back. If I’m not, kick myself in the butt. Now, follow this progression. Do you see where this comparison leads? My pride puts me either on a pedestal above everyone else or it puts me in a hole I need to work very hard to dig out of. Nowhere in either of those scenarios is there room for friendship. How can I be truly a friend to someone I am either jealous of or arrogant towards? Isolation is the key to a happy ED. And comparison is the tool to get me there. He’s got my joy in the palm of his hand.
But it’s not only comparison to others that ED uses to take my joy hostage. It is comparison of myself. I ran 11 miles yesterday; I sure as heck better not run less than that today. In fact, why don’t I just run 12 so I can say, Hey, look what I can do. Pride. These jeans fit a little looser the last time I put them on. I think I could tighten my belt one notch tighter last month. Last year at this time I’m sure I was wearing a smaller size. Shame. I ate one ladel-ful of soup yesterday; today I’ll see if I can last on 3/4 full of a label. Pride. As I stare in the mirror, I could swear that my stomach was flatter yesterday, that my legs are getting bigger, that I’m getting a muffin top. (I almost didn’t write that last sentence because although I’ve been very honest in this blog, that statement is simply embarrassing to admit.) ED plays tug of war with my joy by putting pride on one side of the rope and shame yanking on the other. It’s a constant back and forth, comparison from one day to the next, and then one month to the next, until it becomes year after year after year. Maybe that is why God knew I was finally ready to go to Melrose. I was tired. My head, my heart, my soul was so tired of comparing.
Comparison is not gone. I went shopping this weekend with my best friend. My Benj spent a lot of time on a bench in the mall or a seat in the entry way of the store and even in the Yukon, simply allowing me to try on clothes. He never complained and he never acted impatient. He simply was there for me. The dressing room was the first time I have seen myself in a full length mirror since before I went to Melrose. I will be honest – I didn’t like what I saw. This is why comparison is at the center of my thoughts today. I compared. The occupational therapist at Melrose told me how to shop. Don’t look at sizes. Pull jeans off the rack and decide by sight if I think they will fit. Don’t even look in the mirror the first time you put jeans on. Simply decide how they feel. I did all that, as much as possible. But when jeans are categorized by size, it is impossible to not be aware of what I’m picking off the rack. And in that awareness came the very real awareness of what size I used to be one short month ago and what size I fit into now. Comparison. I’m sure I tried on at least 35 pairs of jeans this weekend. I came home with two. But here’s the deal. I only needed two. I would be lying if I said I’m just dying to put my new jeans on and go sporting them around town. Maybe later. But as has been the case this entire journey, once I overcome one of ED’s lies, it is so much easier to shut him down the next time. Friday’s shopping was hard. I quit. We focused on Christmas shopping instead. But today, shopping was just annoying. By today I was sick and tired of ED trying to push me around. Comparison has lost a little more of its power. I didn’t like how I looked clothes-less in the mirror. Well, for Pete’s sake, I’m not walking around this world without any clothes on. So if the clothes I have on make me feel good, if the clothes I have on are my style, if the clothes I have on make me feel confident, then comparing to anyone else is pointless. I had this guy waiting patiently for me all day who couldn’t have cared less what size I was pulling off the shelf. I had four boys at home who only cared if I brought them home Christmas gifts, not if I brought home a certain size jeans for myself. I have friends and family who I’m pretty sure are excited to have me excited to hang out with them again. I may have thought comparison was inherent in the minds of all females, but apparently, that’s a lie too. And most importantly, I have a Savior who did not die on a cross so that I would be able to wear a size only 2% of women my age can even fit into. He died for the pride and shame that I pray are dying in me. As always, it’s a daily battle. It’s a daily prayer asking my Savior to lead me not into temptation and to forgive my prideful heart and to deliver me from evil. And he will. He is.
Moral of this story: Comparison is for the birds. I will rejoice and be glad because the Lord did not give me a spirt of timidity. He gave me one of power, love, and self-discipline. See, comparing cannot live here.