I can’t believe it’s been three years since I entered partial-hospitalization treatment for anorexia nervosa. Has it really been that long? But also: Was it really that recent? I have little in common with the shell of a girl who was, quite frankly, inches from death’s door.
But I remember her.
I remember the feeling of terror walking into the Center for the first time. I had begged my dad to not make me start so soon. It was the day after Christmas. In fact, I was still pulsing with anger when I walked into the room that first day and heard girls chatting and playing with a stress ball. They weren’t the freaks I’d imagined. They were broken, just like me.
The program was such that people were coming and going at different times- many “graduating” to a lower level of care, some entering residential treatment for more help. So I grew close with the group of patients who had entered treatment around the time I did. We bonded over life crises and Ensure shakes. We became best friends.
As if 30 hours a week weren’t enough, many of us hung out together on the weekends. We were joyous to find others who understood our struggle, and we encouraged each other constantly.
But no approached recovery with the vigor and optimism of *Lynn. I was easing my way into week two when Lynn walked in for her first day, bubbling about rediscovering how delicious peanut butter was and how she’d started putting it into everything. She was a fighter.
By the end of her first week, Lynn and I had decided to make plans with another girl, and were quickly on the road to friendship. I often felt guilty though. I consistently texted her for support, and had little to offer to her. A few times, Lynn helped me get through dinner, texting me and coaxing me along as I gave her the play-by-play about how I “couldn’t do it.”
“Girl, yes you can. Get that food in your belly,” she would reply.
By the time winter thawed, Lynn had become one of my main encouragers. When we eventually parted ways, I stayed close with a handful of the women, Lynn included.
But these are gut-wrenching friendships.
When you befriend someone who’s recovering from an eating disorder, you shoulder a 10-20% chance of losing your friend to the disease. Times goes on, and you find yourself watching these tiny little pebbles, perched out on a cliff. You hold your breath, hoping they will be snatched from the edge and taken home. But your heart quickens with every storm, fearful that one of the little pebbles will roll straight off the edge and shatter below.
So you keep praying and encouraging and watches those little pebbles.
But even those who seem the strongest, are not invincible. Even the women like Lynn, who put forth 1000%. That came as a shock to me, particularly on Friday when I learned that Lynn died recently.
The news took my breath away, a brick of reality in the face. My own mortality was starkly clear, and I realized just how dangerous anorexia is. My heart hurts when I think of Lynn, who must’ve felt like she’d she failed. My heart hurts to think of all those like her, who don’t make it out alive.
As the sadness worked its way through me, I felt an influx of anger. I was seething with anger– fury at the brokenness in our world. My soul longs for the wholeness of Heaven, the perfection of being in the throne room of God. And I want to scream it till I’m hoarse: “There is something better than this! There is an end to the brokenness.”
In the here and now, hearts stop beating and fame runs dry. But I press on clutching to the truth that the brokenness in this world will not prevail. The hope of Jesus says that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. The hope of Jesus says that, while brokenness and sin can rip us from this world, they can never tear us (Believers) away from the Lord. At the cliff-side of our souls, there is hope.
I pray you cling to that hope today. If you don’t know God and are wondering “what the heck is she talking about,” I encourage you to contact me or a Christian you know. We would love to listen and explain the Good News of Christ. We love to share our hope. 🙂
*Name has been changed, so as to respect the individual and her family