Two years ago today was both the worst and the best day of my life. On October 20, 2014, I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I didn’t think I’d make it through the week, but here I am, two years later, still thriving and still recovering. I wanted to write out a blog post talking about how the past two years have changed my life and affected me, but then I remembered that a year ago, I wrote an English paper about the moment I decided to recover. Reading it again now, I believe that it captures exactly how I was feeling and what I was thinking it that moment; I couldn’t explain it better.
October 20, 2014.
Tick, tick, tick. I glance over my left shoulder at the clock in the back corner of the room. Tick, tick. Time is passing too slowly. Half of my journalism class is gone, interviewing a student for our next broadcast. Everyone else is at their desks, working on homework or doing whatever they want. The room is far too big to hold the four students and teacher, but too small to hold all of my thoughts. I stand up from my seat next to my best friend, Kathryn. She’s so engrossed in her book that she doesn’t even glance at me. I move back one desk, throwing my backpack over my shoulder and taking my stuff with me. I need some space to myself.
Tick, tick. The clock always seems to be loudest when there are things racing through my mind. I have no games or unblocked websites on my laptop that interest me anymore, and no homework assignments to do. I still have half an hour left of this class period, and another hour after that until I have to go home. I dread going home. Home means almost unlimited access to food and a mom that is far too accusing of what I am and am not eating. School is boring, home is awful, church and friends’ houses are scary because of the unknown number of calories in everything, and driving is almost impossible because I can’t think straight. I have nowhere to go, yet, I don’t want to be here. Living is just exhausting.
My only option is to sit here and let my thoughts pain, confuse, and frustrate me. I’ve been thinking a lot about my decisions and choices lately, and part of me thinks that what I’m doing to myself is not the smartest option. I don’t want to stop, though; I don’t think I can stop. I lay my head on my desk and let both opinions in my mind battle it out. I feel like I have no say in the matters they’re discussing; I can only listen. I stare straight ahead, my chin sitting on my hands. They’re cold as ice. Part of that is caused by the fact that it’s the middle of October and this school keeps the classrooms at 70 degrees, but a bigger part of me knows that I’m always so cold because my body is no longer capable of keeping me warm. I consider digging my gloves out of my purse and putting them on, which is what I do for my morning classes. I opt out of it, though, leaving my bag on the floor by my feet.
I can’t handle this anymore, I need to do something before I go crazy. I reach for my Bible, which I always take with me to school. I haven’t read it in weeks, the guilt of my actions pushing me away from God. I sigh and grab it from the corner of my desk, pulling it to my chest and opening it to a random page in the middle. After skipping through a few chapters in the New Testament, I get bored and flip to Deuteronomy. I never read the Old Testament unless I have to; maybe I can read a story of adventure or about an awesome miracle- that sounds distracting and not convicting.
The clock is ticking. My head is spinning, my body shivering. I almost can’t feel my hands because of how cold they are. The room is silent other than the sounds of someone typing on their computer and Kathryn flipping the page in her novel. Deuteronomy 30 watches me from my desk. My eyes scan the page, and I come across verse 15. It seems to be speaking directly to me. “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.” I gulp. The voice that has been gnawing at me for weeks seemed to be staring me straight in the face. Close it. Don’t keep reading. I keep reading. Although my mind is mush and I struggle to comprehend or remember anything anymore, I find that I actually understand what it is saying.
God is trying to tell me that the path I’m stumbling down will lead to death and destruction. I have a choice to make: I can choose life, or I can choose death. I can choose God, or I can choose my eating disorder. I hear a voice yelling at me that the guilt I’ve been feeling is pointless and that I’m being stupid- my eating disorder is just a little thing that’s helping me lose some weight. It’s my friend, and the only thing that’s been there for me this whole year. At the same time, though, I hear a soft voice, just loud enough for me to make out, telling me that I’m slowly killing myself. The whisper is saying that my eating disorder is my enemy, and that it wants to destroy me. I want to help you, and give you a happy, healthy life. I don’t know which voice to listen to. I don’t know what to believe. I lay my head on top of my open Bible and close my eyes. For the first time in weeks, I pray. God, what do You want me to do? Do I really have to stop? I don’t think I can. I’m stuck, and I can’t give this up. I need this. Please don’t make me give this up.
I feel like my world is crashing around me. All that I’ve known and believed the last ten months is now being tested and accused as a lie. Maybe if I pretend that I never saw these verses, everything will be okay. I lift my head up and flip past Psalms and Luke and go to a random page in John. I read verse 10:10, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” I stare at the page for a moment, not believing the fact that I am getting slapped in the face by scripture yet again. What do you want from me? I shout in my head. Is what I’m doing really that bad?
I think about the last couple weeks. I have heard so many things from so many people, leading me to consider recovery. First, there was Christina confronting me at church. “I know what anorexia looks like, McKenzie,” she had said. My heart had stopped beating and all the voices in the room went silent. I was so mad at her and have been avoiding her as much as possible ever since, especially when we’re around food. I had been telling myself that it was none of her business- that’s why I was so angry. Maybe I’m upset because I’m in denial? Then, not even a week later, the librarian had come up to me during lunch, when I was hiding amongst the books so I didn’t have to eat. “It’s not healthy to skip meals,” she said, giving me a list of things that would happen to my body if I restricted what I ate; a list of things that had already begun to happen to my body months ago.
Then there was the Tenth Avenue North concert I had begged my mom to take me to. They’ve been my favorite band since what felt like forever, and they have gotten me through a lot of bad nights. I was looking forward to sitting in the VIP section and jamming out to the best songs on their albums. What I didn’t expect, though, was what Mike- the lead singer- would say before my favorite song, Worn. He stood on stage and looked around the room speaking to everyone, but I felt like he was talking directly to me when he said that God doesn’t want us to suffer. He wants to help us through our difficult times. All we have to do is cry out to Him, and He will certainly rescue us. After struggling with my food issues for so long, and with depression and anxiety longer than that, it shook me to my core. As the song began, I was near tears, and I stretched my hands out and cried out to God, feeling like the only one standing there in a crowd of sobbing people. That night, standing in the church, I finally admitted to myself the truth- I have an eating disorder, and I want to get help. I confessed to God that what I was doing was wrong, and that I wanted to turn back to Him. However, as much as that concert affected me mentally, I woke up the next morning and continued to do the same destructive things I had before.
Only now am I actually making the connection that God doesn’t want me to starve myself like this.
I lift my head up and look around the room. My classmates are oblivious to the battle taking place in my mind right now, reading their books and doing work on their laptops. If Kathryn were to turn around and look at me, I’m sure she’d be concerned with my pale face and terrified eyes. My thoughts are all over the place, and I don’t know what to do. Should I continue to shrink my body down until I am satisfied with my proportions? I want to, but I know deep inside that I will never be happy with my weight or the size of my thigh gap. Should I keep skipping meals and ignoring the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to stop what I’m doing? I wish I could, but I can feel the dizziness when I stand up, and I know my heartrate and body temperature are dangerously low. What will happen to me if I do seek help? What if my mom ignores me like she did when I told her a year and a half ago that I’m depressed? What if people laugh at me and say, “If you have an eating disorder, why aren’t you skinny?” What if I fail at recovery and can’t do it?
Just trust in Me, I hear a voice say. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I hear you, God, I think. Even though my mind is still spinning, I suddenly know what I have to do. It’s terrifying and heart wrenching and it sounds impossible, but it’s evident that God wants better for me. His plans for my life exceed the depths of my eating disorder. I know that the next couple months will be the hardest I’ve endured in my life, and it will take years to recover from this disease, but I have God by my side. He brought me to this point, so I know He will bring me further.