The Enemy Within
Throughout my college career, I learned countless lessons; how to make my lengthy prose fit into the page requirement (change the margins), how to survive on the least amount of sleep (a love affair with coffee), how to do everything (and at the same time, never do or be enough). The stakes were high, stress was high and I wanted control of my changing world more than anything. I found myself thinking, “if I could just (fill in the blank),” I would be happier and then I wouldn’t have to worry anymore. This is where I met my enemy.
My enemy has a name: ED. ED likes to come around when I am stressed and seeking control and perfection seems like the only way out. The scariest thing about an eating disorder (ED) was that I had to acknowledge that I only had myself to blame for the damage I had done to my body, my health and my life. It was my own brain that was contorted and manipulated enough to lead me to think that not eating too much or working out more would create a happiness and sense of self that I had never felt before. Things happened that were out of my control, but this thing, this, I could control. I could control what I put into my mouth. I could control how long I spent on cardio at the gym. And if I couldn’t do these things, I was weak.
Strength and weakness have taken on so many connotations in my life. When I started getting help for my eating disorder, I saw myself as weak for letting myself get to the point where I could no longer control things on my own and needed the counsel of someone educated on treating eating disorders. I realized that I was showing ED more love than I was giving to myself. I lived in fear of what this “thing” was inside of me that had gotten me to this point, but at the same time, I was also afraid of letting it go.
As I worked through this journey, I learned that I could not do it on my own if I truly wanted to make a change. I needed my family to encourage and support me when I was not up to the challenge, and I needed God to give me strength in my weakness. This realization gave me the strength to power through the journey. When negative self-talk arose and felt too powerful to combat on my own, I looked to God and reminded myself that I was created in His image, just as I was meant to be. Through God’s love and the help of a wonderful counselor, I began the hard work of rewiring my brain and began to feel like myself again. Instead of seeing myself as weak for having an eating disorder, I began to see myself as God did: strong because I was overcoming it.
This process, ongoing at times, is one that is not an easy, well-lit path. It takes guts, it takes God and it takes the love and support of those around me. Most importantly, it takes honesty, hard work and more love for myself than the enemy that I have the potential to become. There are times when I wish that this enemy could be a separate being, a scapegoat or a punching bag at which I could lash out and feel less shame, but the process of overpowering ED requires honest recognition and work of the soul.
Life doesn’t come with a playbook, a set of armor or the tools you need to tackle every challenge, but through God’s love, I have learned that I can love myself, even if that means loving the enemy that brought me to that realization.
To keep busy during the day, Laina teaches 2nd grade and loves that she gets to be a kid again every day (spontaneous dance anyone?). On the side, she handletters signs and eats an abundance of dark chocolate. She particularly loves rescuing wood “castoffs” that would otherwise be tossed.