My self-awareness is a double edged sword. It is at once my greatest asset and my greatest danger. It is equally the best and worst reason to trust me. Because I can monitor myself so well, I can choose when to show and when to hold back. I can limit how much you see. How well am I doing? I can pick and choose my answer, bury the things that would cause me unwanted attention. I could be doing just fine and milk my ills for pity or attention. More true to my character, I can downplay everything and outright lie to keep others in the dark. I’m doing alright. I’m fine. Things are going great! I could be doing serious damage to my health and hide it expertly. But nothing stays hidden forever.
Why do I do this, you ask? In my last post I talked about all the pressures I put on myself to avoid disappointment and effectively achieve invisibility. It’s a way of life, not wanting to let others down and hiding your failures so people don’t know your shortcomings. You start wanting to be perfect for Mom and Dad, wanting to make them proud, and it turns into a mad obsession of controlling what others see and know about you, fabricating a self for them to believe in because you’ve lost hope in and for yourself. Nasty stuff. You feel guilty, ashamed that you shade their view and can never tell the truth, but where do you get out? When can you say it’s gotten to be too much? When do you admit the truth: You have a problem, you need help?
For me, it’s come to that point. It is time to dig up another demon, burn its bones so I might be saved from its haunting me. More accurately, I must kill it or it will kill me. I will kill me. It’s hard to admit, to face the fact that you can’t fix this on your own. It’s hard for me to say I need help. I have never been good at either, because I’ve always set my own bones, managed my own wounds, borne my own bruises. I got by. I didn’t need anyone else, couldn’t trust anyone else, wouldn’t dare inconvenience anyone else. It was easier, better, safer, to hide than to risk the truth, to risk failure, to risk living in full acknowledgement of my pain and regret and hope and fear and faith. Who could endure the terrifying beauty of being so completely alive? But that is what I’m called to do–to live fully, and to help others live fully. And that requires a frightening degree of honesty–a fearless measure of openness.
Friends, in the next few days and weeks I will be digging up another demon: I have serious eating problems. I don’t and can’t trust myself to fix this on my own. I know I need help. I am currently writing a letter to my parents, explaining that I am not doing as well as I appear to. Earlier in the semester I admitted to my mom that I was struggling a bit, but they need to know the truth for several reasons. First and perhaps most importantly, I have a doctor’s appointment at the end of this semester and I know it will not go well. When my doctor asks why, I want my parents to know beforehand because it doesn’t leave me much wiggle-room for lying or hedging the truth. Secondly, I need them to know what’s going on because following the doctor’s appointment, I will need them to be prepared for making some serious decisions. Although I currently don’t know exactly what my options will be, I want and need their help in making the best decision for my health in both the short and long term. And finally, I want them to know because they need to know how life at home has perpetuated and reinforced some of my behaviors. I need them to be aware of the things they say and do. I need them to be aware of my habits so they can put the right limitations and discipline in place so that I can get better.
Sometimes knowing what I need is a best and worst case scenario. I can ask for it, or I can avoid it. I’ve been avoiding this for years, and more actively resisting and minimizing this demon since early January. When it seems like everyone around you is dying, it gets really hard to take care of yourself. I knew my behavior was dangerous. I knew I needed to care, but I couldn’t. Wouldn’t I die, just like them? So what if I didn’t eat, or ate too much, or didn’t manage my blood sugar? I would eventually die anyway. The season of Lent brought new perspective on identity, beauty, and trust. My perception of faith has been turned in a completely new light. I have been taught, and I have been shown, and now I must obey. I must act. Because I can’t keep killing myself forever.