Upon reflecting on my progress in recovery, I have come to a realization. My disorder-dance is kind of a like a whack-a-mole game. I clobber one of my issues with that little mallet and celebrate its retreat into its little mole-hole. No sooner does the victor’s smile creep on my face than one, no, two, no, three of my other issues raise their ugly faces. In the process of living, and whacking, I have discovered a correlation between my victory over my eating disorder and the resurgence of the depression and anxiety. Over the past twenty-something years, I have developed a pretty sound strategy of keeping the most issues under control at any given time. The only catch is that the eating disorder’s little lovely head has to be peeking out ever-so-slightly. My dietician said that I do an excellent job of “living with my eating disorder.” I remain sub-clinical and fly under the radar while continuing to maintain pretty solid negotiations with the eating disorder. To me, this has been survival. My little moles of anxiety and depression appear to be the more debilitating and even life-threatening issues, especially with my little ones to look after. Allowing the anorexia a tiny little spot in my life seems to be the lesser of all of the evils, and surely life is not so wonderful that I can avoid having to choose any of the evils altogether. The dance is tedious, however, and maintaining health while negotiating with an eating disorder can get tricky, especially while taking care of two babies under the age of two and breastfeeding and going without precious sleep. Maybe there are more options. Maybe I can figure out how to manage my other “moles” without having to use another one to hold them at bay. Are there healthy habits that I can grasp onto as I relinquish the habit of restriction? It may be a little bit more complicated to pursue better self-care and recovery-oriented behaviors in place of this clandestine relationship with the anorexia, but I am not so sure that it will be. It could be much more simple. Of course, I would love if my little horrible moles would just choose to never flash their hideous faces ever again, but history does not offer much evidence that they can be exterminated. I grow weary of this tenuous dance with anorexia, however. I long for a way to live free without having to use one disorder to hold back other more intimidating disorders. It all starts with following that ever-nagging meal plan. Simple enough. The complicated part comes when those dang moles start popping up. I certainly have the tools to deal with them without allowing anorexia back. Am I okay with “doing an excellent job of living with my eating disorder,” or do I really want to live free? Can I possibly live free of all of my disorders, or am I like Sylvia Plath, waiting for one of the bell jars to descend again? I honestly don’t know, but I am willing to step out to see.
“How long, oh Lord, will the depression grip my soul…”
The Psalmist sets an example for us in his expression of pain. Why is it permissible to bemoan external adversity but not okay to cry out in the internal battle? Why is the external battle something that is done to us, but somehow the internal battle is a weakness or flaw in our own character? I love the Psalms because they are raw about the internal struggles: The depression, the anxiety, the inner demons. And they still made the cut. They made it into the Holy Word of God. It is okay to cry out in despair. And sometimes that despair is not our fault, just like the external tragedies are not our fault. No one says, “well, maybe if you pray enough and have enough faith, you can undo the car accident that killed your wife.” But for some reason, it is entirely permissible to say such things about internal trials. No one is pointing fingers at the lamenting Psalmists. No one is saying, “you must have brought this on yourself.” I have a feeling that God is completely okay with the agony expressed throughout this book. I actually think that it probably delights His heart.
There is certainly a line between wallowing and crying out, but crying out and communicating the agony of internal unrest is not always simply self-indulgence. Sometimes, that is what we are called to do. It is okay to be honest about what’s going on internally. It is also okay not to always have to paint a pretty picture of our lives. Sometimes, our lives seem pretty hideous.
“How long, oh Lord….”
He hears the heartfelt prayers. He sits with us in our pain, and in doing so, He reminds us of His greatness, so we can say, “But I trust your lovingkindness, and my heart shall yet rejoice.” He doesn’t redirect us to His goodness through lectures or chastisement or shame, but through His loving presence in our honest pain. And then our exclamation of His faithfulness is not one of duty, but of deep conviction, “For God has been good to me.”