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?”