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Battling My Eating Disorder, Day by Day

Battling My Eating Disorder, Day by Day

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I have an eating disorder.

The doctors call it anorexia nervosa, but I resent being put in a box with a niceI have an eating disorder little label. For example, does it describe the inexorable amount of time it takes to make a decision, the whirlwind in my brain that keeps me going in circles for fear of making a mistake? Does it capture the desperation of feeling so empty and devoid that the heart claws at anything, just to take away that pain? Does the diagnosis express the essence of what drives me to use behaviors that compromise my quality of life in almost every way— and worse, put my life in jeopardy because “if I remain sick, then I need others to take care of me, and that validates my existence”?

Please don’t judge me.

I was abused as a very young child. At an age when the question of what our existence means is answered and our sense of “self” is solidified by a healthy attachment, my sense of existence depended on abusers whose messages of self-worth were determined by their whims and ugly needs. At an age when children begin to become aware of themselves as a being in a body, gifted by G‑d, I was dissociating from a body that seems to cause more pain than it’s worth.

I write “seems” in present tense, for though I’ve come a long way in healing fromIt will take time to undo the intrinsic messages the trauma, it will take more time to undo some intrinsic messages that were born at the time the abuse began. These include: “Your existence is not inherent by the mere fact that you were born; it depends on what you can produce for others” or “you don’t deserve to have needs.”

How much more time will it take? That’s difficult to answer but I suspect it won’t be a day, a week or even a month. To deprogram from such false beliefs (regardless of how many pills one swallows), it will take lots of good therapy, support from family and friends, and a willingness to continue to work hard to heal. I won’t lie. It’s not easy. Many can and do recover, but some do not . . .

The nature of my eating disorder is to convince me that it has my back. It will tell me that everyone else, including G‑d, has abandoned me so I can rely only on “it” to save me. Yet somehow, after being hospitalized twice in six months for a total of nine weeks to refeed my depleted body, I don’t feel any more confident in my addiction’s ability to take care of me in the way that I need. Or that it truly cares for me and is my “BFF,” as it suggests. In fact, I have never felt the level of aloneness I feel while engaging in eating disordered behavior.

Today, I found out that a girl I had met while in recovery passed away. It breaks my heart to think that a person can become so lost in the disease that they no longer differentiate between the reasoning and disordered voices. I’ve learned along the way that I get so easily sucked into the games my mind wants to play, like “why me?” or “does this ever end?” or “whose fault is this?” To that I need an equal and opposite reaction, so as to challenge those tenacious unhealthy thoughts.

Enter bitachon.

What is that, you ask? The simple translation is “trust.” But that’s too simple. YouLetting go and letting G‑d in an ongoing challenge see, there is something I am absolutely certain of, and that is there is no way I can hope to make progress in this beautiful and terrifying journey if not for my trust in G‑d. When I say trust, I’m not referring to the general concept of “think good, and it will be good,” although there’s something to be said for that. I’m talking about the every-moment-every-single-thing-that-happens-is-only-happening-because-G‑d-ordained-it-to-be-so-and-therefore-it-must-be-this-way kind of trust; the kind of trust that allows me to believe from somewhere deep inside that since G‑d is the epitome of goodness and kindness—and since all comes from Him—then it must all be good. A trust that opens a space in me to accept that what happened (and continues to unfold) is really just a minute detail in an infinite picture. I need not concern myself with attempting to control the outcome since it’s already been decided by an all-knowing, loving Creator. Instead, I can focus on what is in my control and work on that with G‑d’s help.

Do I operate from this place on a constant basis? I wish! Let’s be honest. Letting go and letting G‑d in is an ongoing challenge for me (as I imagine it is for many of you). But is there really any other way to live?

My mind is a powerful tool that has the ability to lead me in many different directions; it can make me sick or well, improve or sabotage my relationships, help me feel confident or completely overwhelmed, etc. Notice that when I referred to the mind I used the word “tool.” Who is handling the tool? I can say my mind is a piece of clothing. Who is wearing it? If my mind is a vehicle, then who is in the driver’s seat? Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

I do. All the time. And the conclusion is always the same: There is something larger than myself that I can reach out to and draw strength from. Actually, I stand corrected. There is something that is self, something larger than any one part of me, whole and untouched, that has and always will be my true core.

My struggles are still there. My eating disorder will still ask me each and everyMy struggles are still there day: “Are you sure you want to eat this now? How many calories does it have? If you go over your allowed amount, what will that cost you? Have you earned this meal?” And many other voices will join in reminding me that I’m overwhelmed, damaged goods, unworthy, nothing special to look at, stupid, blah blah blah . . .

Are they my enemy? I don’t see it that way. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate that my addiction, along with its primitive and ineffective methods of dealing with certain emotions, is just an immature coping mechanism that attempts to keep me distracted from the pain that was created as a result of the abuse. But I’m more than my story or a sum total of my experiences.

I am a part of G‑d. This is my one constant truth, and each day, I work on staying aware of that truth because as Hillel the Elder put it: “If I am not to myself, who am I?”

By Anonymous
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Bracha Goetz Baltimore January 1, 2018

Thank you so much for providing this great window into your world! My memoir about becoming observant and overcoming anorexia and other food addictions was just published. It's called Searching for God in the Garbage, and if you want, you can find it on Amazon. I hope that it will help many people to fill their souls joyfully. Reply

D January 2, 2018
in response to Bracha Goetz:

Hi Bracha,

Thank you for that information.
It's a book I look forward to reading, iy"H.
When we can use our challenges to help us grow and help others in the process, it's almost worth the pain...
Hatzlacha Rabba! Reply

Rai Tea December 29, 2017

Thank you for being brave enough to share this. Reply

Karen Brooks Toronto December 27, 2017

This is the best article i have read about eating disorders ... i feel it really is about getting a sense of validation from the sense of competition with others, of having been invalidated at a young age, of always feeling that i had to 'earn my Light' rather than the Light/Love given by grace that is G-dliness ... of difficulty receiving Love, not trusting others and still having to give give give ... to validate others also in consciousness 'quicksand'.... bravo!! I really needed to hear this ... Reply

D December 28, 2017
in response to Karen Brooks:

Thank you, Karen.
I'm grateful that others can hear a message that they need and benefit from it.
Ultimately, the deepest validation is knowing that we are divine beings - that G-d cared enough to create us. That's something we don't need to earn - it just is. I hope you can hold on to that and make it your truth. Reply

Anonymous israel December 27, 2017

Thank you very much! i have a close relative with eating disorder and she's an adult how could you make her see her problem and go for help??? Reply

D December 28, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Watching people around me react to my disorder, I can recognize how painful it is for them to see me using behaviors that are harmful and compromising to myself and those around me. I imagine it is the same for you, and it's from this place that you want your relative to "see her problem" and go for help.
Yet, can we really make someone see something they are not prepared to see?
The question for those around me was: how can we offer as much compassion as possible without being an enabler? This was not a decision they reached on their own - they sought professional help and I would encourage you to do the same. Reply

Aimee Green Bay, Wisconsin December 26, 2017

I too struggle with AN; I've read repeatedly that it is the "most dangerous" of all psychiatric disorders as, traditionally, the thinner you become, the more you're praised. I've found 2 personal sources of strength, G-d & work with others. Ultimately, it amounts to knowing that G-d is working through us all, that by talking freely and listening to one another, we can overcome together. Please feel free to reach out at anytime. Will all my love, Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Aimee:

Thank you!
In addition to it being a dangerous disorder/addiction, it its also extremely isolating - more so, I find, than other mental health issues.
I agree that being able to share is such an important part of healing. That's why I attend EDA (Eating Disorders Anonymous) each week. Being able to be honest takes away a lot of the power of the addiction.
We need to work to keep these discussions open.
I pray that you find less struggle and more peace. Reply

Anonymous israel December 26, 2017

thank you for sharing your strength ,experience and hope-as a recovered bulimic and compulsive overeater I am really happy for you.I personally suffered a lot in my active addiction and even in my journey to finding a solution, it took me a long time to find the root of my twisted thinking without feeling guilty and shame. today I know that whatever I went through was the road to lead me back to living G-d in every area of my life, for me bitachon -trust in a loving caring kind understanding power that is personally guiding my life is not a nice idea it is my life line to staying recovered. thank you for your openness honesty and strength Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Thank you for your comment.
The word "recovered" when describing your addiction gives me hope.
My road to recovery feels like a roller coaster and some days I think that I'll always have an eating disorder. Maybe that's where Hashem wants me to be...
But when I read what you wrote about it being a long road, I remember that I can strengthen my trust, dig in and have patience! Reply

Anonymous Dawson December 26, 2017

Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom. You have helped me in my own struggles with food. Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Glad to know.
I find that sharing with others can be a source of strength. Reply

Rabbi USA December 26, 2017

You're very special -
a special teaching of the Baal Shem Tov which helps is "when you see the good in the bad, the bad becomes good."

May you not only recover - for those who invalidated you were obviously feeling so - but as you have already, be one to validate. Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Rabbi:

Thank you and Amen!!
"when you see the good in the bad, the bad becomes good."
Very true. Not easy but worthwhile to work on. Reply

Rochel December 25, 2017

I am so super proud of your courage to dig deeper than your questions. I too have been struggling with anorexia for years. I too have been abused. I've come a long way. With therapy programs and loads of support I got to a much better place. I have kids and a job and good friends thank Hashem for that. Without strengthening my trust in Hashem I would not have been able to come this far. Keep going and don't let your struggles bring you down. Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Rochel:

Thank you for sharing that. It's always meaningful to hear from others who have similar experiences and to draw strength from their stories - especially on faith and recovery.
And holding onto that place in me that knows that it is all good, so even if my struggles bring me down, I will get past that too. Reply

Robyn Blumner Great Neck, New York December 25, 2017

Anorexia article Wow such a potent article, so real, meaningful, honest. It must have been difficult to share, but thank you for doing so, you are so brave!! May Hashem continue to give you strength Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Robyn Blumner :

Amen!!
Thank you! Reply

Gary New York December 24, 2017

Questions on Bitachon, Emunah, etc... Very moving and honest share....What is the difference between Bitachon as described in the article and Emunah?...Where does the "think good and it will be good" fit in?...Could one with complete sincerity say:"I trust that I will recover." and believe that G-D will bring that about?....Realize there may be different perspectives on such questions, but this seemed like a good place to ask:)....Gary Reply

Author of Article December 25, 2017
in response to Gary:

Thank you Gary
The difference between Emunah and Bitachon, as it was explained to me, is as follows:
If someone says, "tomorrow I will take a tight rope, tie it between the two tallest buildings in NYC and walk across" and you believe him, that's Emunah. If he asks you to sit on his shoulders as he crosses and you agree - that's bitachon. It's a level of trust that's deeper and requires more letting go than the more general concept of belief.
As far as "think good and it will be good" - I see it as putting out an energy of trust, that all will work out for the best, which can cause exactly that to happen!

Your other question (could one say "I will recover" with sincerity and believe G-d will that about) is a bit tougher to answer since it seems to be more personal...
Depending where one is in the journey of life, will determine how much he/she is ready to let go and let G-d. At the same time, I must point out that trust cannot be an excuse for not doing what is ours to do. Reply

Gary New York January 1, 2018
in response to Author of Article :

Thanks for the thoughtful response--quite helpful.. I guess my underlying concern is that no matter how much I trust something may happen--even something that seems very in sync with what is right and good--G-D may have other plans for my ultimate spiritual well-being. To finish the metaphor, G-D may let me fall off the tight-rope for my own good even if I trust He will keep me on it. And these plans could be painful (physically, emotionally, etc.) which is frightening, and this fear can be strong enough to overshadow G-D's love and care for me during the dark times....However, the
words you articulate give me something to strive for:)! Reply

Chani December 24, 2017

Wow!
You are incredibly brave. Thank you for sharing! Reply

Author of Article December 25, 2017
in response to Chani:

Thank you.
I am mostly grateful to Hashem for giving me this opportunity to dig deep and find healing in a way that's so meaningful. Reply

Anonymous December 24, 2017

Actually eating kosher food is great for me as a Jew. My G-dly soul that is in my mind thinks that I can chose the good mitzvot. Reply

D December 26, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Agreed! Reply

Anonymous December 24, 2017

Thank you for that very personal account. <3 Reply

Author of Article December 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Thank you for reading a taking the time to comment. Reply

Susan Levitsky December 24, 2017

Since the root of your problem is the abuse you suffered as a child, have you been able to confront this person or at least warn others that he is a predator? I have noticed that those who have eating disorders of various kinds have been violated as children. Our society values the ugly silence over convicting these predators and sending them to prison where they belong, leaving the victim to suffer while the families sweep it under the rug. You deserve better.

If you are willing to tell us your Hebrew name and mother's name I will pray for you at the daily morning minyan. Reply

Author of Article December 25, 2017
in response to Susan Levitsky:

Susan,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I certainly understand your concern regarding not reporting predators. Let's just say that the issue was not ignored...

I greatly appreciate your offer to pray for me. Although I do not feel comfortable sharing details of my name on this forum, Hashem will know exactly who you are referring to :) Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles December 24, 2017

You are so strong and have so much to teach others! What a powerful perspective and way to approach healing. May H" bless you with success! Reply

Author of Article December 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Amen!
Thank you very much! Reply

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