I write to hold on to sanity. I write to undo the knots that get tied around my heart. I write to build my community. I write to educate. I write to relax the pit that sits in my stomach when my tension builds to the breaking point. I write when God speaks to my heart and says, “Share.” I write because words that come out of my hands makes so much more sense than the words that come out of my mouth. I write because emotion that I feel in writing becomes power in words; emotion that comes out in my voice feels like weakness. I need to write. But God has been gently pushing me lately, slowly dawning the realization that I can’t always write. Sometimes, I will have to speak. I will need to use my voice to share this journey. I will need to use my voice to give people the tools to fight ED. I know ED. It is my responsibility to equip others in whatever ways I can to fight their own battles. And that scares the living daylight out of me. What exactly is the living daylight? I really have no idea. All I know is its not my comfort zone.
This is why I know I need to speak. Because eating disorders are a whispered disease. Eating disorders seem to be a source of humiliation. Eating disorders are shameful and hidden. Why? I did the same. Before Melrose I told no one but my family and 3 closest friends where I was going. I wanted no one to know. I was embarrassed. Why? Why is this a disease to hide in the closet? Has anyone ever read a Caring Bridge for someone with an eating disorder? Cancer – yes. Accident injuries – of course. Mystery illnesses – no doubt. We open the door for prayers and long for support. Eating disorders? Keep it to yourself. The path for support is closed off and instead there are whispers – Do you think she has a problem? Someone should really do something about his weight? Look at how small she is – that can’t be normal. All she ever does is push food around her plate. Have you seen that lady that runs everyday? She looks so unhealthy. I can’t believe her family let things get so bad. He needs help; I hope he gets it.
Why is it so hard to approach someone and say, “I think we need to talk.”
“I’ve been noticing your habits with food and I don’t think it’s healthy.”
“Because I love you, I want you to see someone about your eating and weight.”
“I’ve noticed how you go to the bathroom after every meal. I think you may have a problem.”
“The amount of exercise you do is not healthy. I think you need to talk to someone who can help better than I can.”
Why are these statements so scary to make? Why have eating disorders become a taboo topic? Why is it so difficult to let love speak louder than ED?
I will tell you why. Because ED is an evil, malicious, angry fiend who sends every signal possible to ward off concern and love. ED makes sure he remains unapproachable. He radiates the message, “Don’t you dare ask me about my weight or exercise routine or bathroom habits or isolation or obsessions or anything else that I’m using to maintain control of my anxiety and fear. Don’t you dare try to change what I’m using to keep my life in order. Don’t you dare try to reveal my pain and insecurities and memories. If you do, I will deny it. I will act hurt that you are accusing me. I will get angry that you are ruining our relationship with lies. I will sink farther into isolation to make sure you don’t ever approach me again. I don’t need this from you. So that means I don’t need you either.”
I am hear to say out loud to anyone that needs to hear. ED is the enemy. When ED has control, all of this anger and isolation and judgment do NOT belong to your loved one. They belong to ED. And this is key: We hate ED. We are not here to save ED from having his feelings hurt. We are not making any work of letting ED save face. We don’t care if ED tries to make this our fault. We will ignore all of ED’s anger and retribution and know that it is not from the one we are trying to save. Our commitment must be to the life that is being drained and taken away by ED’s manipulation. Our commitment is to be the voice of reason and logic and accountability when ED has taken away all of those fundamental skills in the person we love. We hold the line and be willing to make enemies with ED in order to bring life and joy back to our friend, sister, brother, wife, husband, nephew, niece, student, teacher, mother, child, employee, roommate. On the other side of recovery, they will see what love did. And they will speak freely, no whispers or humiliation, and in that freedom they will say, “Thank you for saving my life. You made the difference in me.”
I will continue to write. That is my strongest gift. But now I know that my voice is just as powerful. And so is yours. Use it. Be tough love. Be reason and logic. Speak loudly and save a life. Don’t be cowed by ED. He doesn’t deserve that kind of power. But the one you care about deserves that kind of love.