Monday, November 13, 2017

Just Eat Something!


 

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

 

As an eating disorder sufferer in recovery for years now, food issues are never far from my mind. It’s not just food for food’s sake; rather, it has more to do with what it represents.

At the height of my anorexia, food was constantly on my mind. I was particularly obsessed with recipes. I loved the ritual of preparing a dish, smelling the aroma, looking at how it filled the plate.

Yet I never ate it. In fact, once I finished cooking, I would then place the contents in Ziploc bags and carry them to my family’s outdoor freezer.

I’d never thaw out or eat what was in those baggies.

If you know anything about me, you probably know I’m a “Mad Men” fanatic. In a holiday-themed episode, we witness an exchange involving mother and daughter.

A family member at the table asks the question, “Don’t you like your food?”

And that prompted an uncomfortable force feeding session. Mother is shoving cranberries into daughter’s mouth- against daughter’s wishes.

 

Pleasant.

And, even though none of the characters exhibited eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia in the storyline, it got me to thinking about how, once again, it is not the food itself, but rather what the food represents that makes things more tangled.

Observing this scene, I viewed the motivation between the mother-daughter force feeding; to me, it represented keeping the status quo of appearances.

And it reminded me how family members often assumed the solution to my anorexia was “Just eat something!”

 I had numerous battles with my mother especially when she repeatedly tried to ply me with cakes, cookies and pies. Sometimes I was defiant. I exerted my starvation rebellion. But, on other occasions, ravenous or obsessed, I indulged. And I remember seeing the look of relief and satisfaction on her face. It was as if my mother was saying, “There, problem solved.”

But the problem was far from solved.

Just within my own family dynamics alone, there was abuse, misogyny, unhealthy enmeshment relationships and addiction elements going on. Food was the coping mechanism used to escape and endure those things. Food was not just food. And it was insane to think that it could simply and instantly solve any of these deeper pre-existing problems.

Yet, that seems to be part of the expectation attached to the hope-laden statement, “Just eat something.” Desperation clings to those words, promising the instant happily ever after, the healed family, the restored peace, the lasting relief. Don’t face the truth, let alone, deal with it. Forget about getting family treatment, stopping toxic behaviors, re-learning healthier ones.

“Just eat something.”

And don’t think for a second resentment will not rear its ugly head within the eating disorder sufferer as he/she experiences this cure-all plea. Defiance, resilience and even more unhealthy behaviors will crop up; the sufferer will rebel.  I know I did.

Why?

Because here’s another hidden meaning found in those three little words. “You are the problem and the only thing which needs to be fixed. Everything and everyone else is fine. You’re the only thing that needs to change. It’s your fault.”

Really? All that? Yes, potentially so. It’s not about vilifying anyone. But it’s delusional and unfair to place all that is wrong and not working in a family solely on the shoulders of an eating disorder sufferer. This is scapegoating. It is painful and unhealthy.

As with any other addiction, it usually involves a more complex family dynamic. Yes, the individual who is anorexic, bulimic or in any other way struggling with food and body image issues is the most visible person affected. But he/she has been affected long before the starving, binging or purging. And he/she didn’t arrive there without help. The individual- and often other family members- often use food as the vehicle used to express and/or mask one’s values, frustrations and fears.

What does food represent? It’s an important question to answer. But, just as important of a question, if not more so, is “What does the eating disorder represent?” Are you paralyzed by fear, denial or anger? What don’t you want to see and deal with?

Resist the easy answer that “eating something” is, indeed, the answer to eating disorders. It goes much deeper. What is plaguing you now did not happen overnight. Likewise, the recovery, health and improvement will also take time. Nevertheless, it is possible to experience healing.

Perhaps the phrase should be “just face something,” rather than “just eat something.”

Healing and the truth are intertwined. This applies to not just the individual, but the entire family as well.

Eating disorders are life-threatening and widespread. They can touch both genders, all cultures, all socioeconomic backgrounds. Seeking treatment is vital and can be undermined through negative attitudes of loved ones. But a family commitment to recovery speaks volumes. Here’s some helpful advice if you or someone you love is struggling.

When You Want to Help Someone You Care About

 

What to do if…

If your child is younger than 18

Get professional help immediately. You have a legal and moral responsibility to get your child the care s/he needs. Don’t let tears, tantrums, or promises to do better stop you. Begin with a physical exam and psychological evaluation.



If the physician recommends hospitalization, do it. People die from these disorders, and sometimes they need a structured time out to break entrenched patterns.



If the counselor asks you to participate in family sessions, do so. Children spend only a few hours a week with their counselors. The rest of the time they live with their families. You need as many tools as you can get to help your child learn new ways of coping with life.



If your friend is younger than 18

Tell a trusted adult—parent, teacher, coach, pastor, school nurse, school counselor, etc.—about your concern. If you don’t, you may unwittingly help your friend avoid the treatment s/he needs to get better.



Even though it would be hard, consider telling your friend’s parents why you are concerned. S/he may be hiding unhealthy behaviors from them, and they deserve to know so they can arrange help and treatment. If you cannot bear to do this yourself, ask your parents or perhaps the school nurse for help.



If the person is older than 18

Legally the person is now an adult and can refuse treatment if s/he is not ready to change. Nevertheless, reach out. Tell her/him that you are concerned. Be gentle. Suggest that there has to be a better way to deal with life than starving and stuffing. Encourage professional help, but expect resistance and denial. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink—even when he is thirsty—if he is determined to follow his own path.

 

Some Things to Do…

•• Talk to the person when you are calm, not frustrated or emotional. Be kind. The person is probably ashamed and fears criticism and rejection.

•• Mention evidence you have heard or seen that suggests disordered eating. Don’t dwell on appearance or weight. Instead talk about health, relationships (withdrawal?), and mood.

•• Realize that the person will not change until s/he wants to.

•• Provide information. http://www.anred.com

•• Be supportive and caring. Be a good listener and don’t give advice unless you are asked to do so. Even then, be prepared to have it ignored.

•• Continue to suggest professional help. Don’t pester. Don’t give up either.

•• Ask: “Is what you are doing really working to get you what you want?”

•• Talk about the advantages of recovery and a normal life.

•• Agree that recovery is hard, but emphasize that many people have done it.

•• If s/he is frightened to see a counselor, offer to go with her the first time.

•• Realize that recovery is the person’s responsibility, not yours.

•• Resist guilt. Do the best you can and then be gentle with yourself.

 

Some Things Not to Do…

•• Never nag, plead, beg, bribe, threaten, or manipulate. These things don’t work.

•• Avoid power struggles. You will lose.

•• Never criticize or shame. These tactics are cruel, and the person will withdraw.

•• Don’t pry. Respect privacy.

•• Don’t be a food monitor. You will create resentment and distance in the relationship.

•• Don’t try to control. The person will withdraw and ultimately outwit you.

•• Don’t waste time trying to reassure your friend that s/he is not fat. S/he will not be convinced.

•• Don’t get involved in endless conversations about weight, food, and calories. They make matters worse.

•• Don’t give advice unless asked.

•• Don’t expect the person to follow your advice even if s/he asked for it.

•• Don’t say, “You are too thin.” S/he will secretly celebrate.

•• Don’t say, “It’s good you have gained weight.” S/he will lose it.

•• Don’t let the person always decide when, what, and where you will eat. She should not control everything, every time.

•• Don’t ignore stolen food and evidence of purging. Insist on responsibility.

•• Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish.

ANRED: When You Want to Help Someone You Care About. <http://www.anred.com/hlp.html>. Used with permission.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse

 

Please Don’t Attack the Mirror


 

“Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?”

Job 10:4

I recently saw this little guy, capturing the less than thrilled gaze we can often have of ourselves.
 

Been there lately?

Ah, that notorious mirror. It’s difficult to deal with it. Our desires, expectations and punishments are often all we see when we look into the glass.

Thankfully our view is vastly different from The Most High’s view.

 “…God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the LORD looks into the heart."

1 Samuel 16:7

In my recovery process, a large element of healing has been in challenging the viewpoint I embrace as valuable, beautiful and worthwhile. Often, I’ve not chosen the healthy, inspirational or realistic image; death, disease and destruction have been more like it.

And yes, the physical aesthetics of beauty and appearance do come into play.

But what I have encountered more powerfully has been the viewpoint Elohim holds for each of us beyond the exterior. The fact is, sooner or later, we all come to a place in which we realize we are mortal- and imperfect (hate to break it to ya).

“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”

Psalms 103:14

And, when that time comes, what will we look to when a “perfect” face and body don’t quite materialize, let alone, last?

It is here where our Father’s viewpoint comes into crystal clear, hope-filled focus…

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

What we focus on the most DOES loom the largest in our lives.

Where’s your focus been lately?

Are you like this feline, fighting the mirror?

Dare to see beyond what appears obvious.

Dare to see with faith’s eye, a loving Father who, indeed, is working it all out in your life.

Dare to see that His valuable estimation of you as valuable, right now!

And, in this process, dare to make peace with your mirror!


Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse

 

But I Don’t Worry About You


 

A scene from an episode of the final season of “Mad Men” captures a self-doubt moment beautifully. The exchange is between the protagonist, Don Draper and that of his protege, Peggy Olsen. She recently turned thirty years old and, like most of us, life had not turned out how she expected it would. Peggy has a moment of self-doubt, one to which Draper responded…

“I worry about a lot of things. But I don’t worry about you.”

Worry. We have a lot of it in life. We worry about our jobs, our families, our place in this world and our recovery if we struggle with addictions, disorders and compulsions. We worry, even though “fear not” is mentioned by God numerous times in scripture. We cannot seem to help it.

So, where does all of this worry stem from? How about from a thought? Check yourself and see if you have ever thought some of these things about yourself.

“I’m nobody special…”

This is a biggie, hitting our core identity and our value. Most of us have encountered lying thoughts about ourselves here. Bullying, abuse and peer pressure often lead us to believe we’re worthless and unwanted.

But God states the contrary…

“I have chosen you and have not cast you away.”

Isaiah 41:9

 “Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…”

Isaiah 43:4

All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”

John 1:3

And because He is His Word (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1), He’s not fretting about us the way we are. He knows what He’s doing and how to handle us. And He is, indeed, handling us.

But we human beings still have trouble believing it. And so, more worry…

“But what if…”

This thought is dedicated for those of us control freaks (you know who you are). And yes, worry warts are also always welcome too.

We can “awful-ize” any particular situation, playing “what if” games with ourselves, but never playing the game to its end. So, there’s a lot of up in the air anxious uncertainty plaguing us.

It’s Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” on steroids!

But here’s the good news; God’s thoughts are different from ours!

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Before you and I ever thought one catastrophic, despair-filled thought, God knew about it and purposely thought differently. He thought according to love, prosperity, health and blessing. He’s thinking it right now!

And that’s why, regardless of what is or is not happening, God’s in control; He’s leading and guiding this thing called our lives…

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

“But I’ve made too many mistakes…”

Still, we tend to worry, spiting that Truth of that scripture, don’t we? We obsess about our imperfections, our sins, our faults. We can even freak out about how much God is freaking out about our less than perfect selves. We think He’s appalled and fed up with us. He’s not. He knew what He was getting into when He took us on…

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Romans 3:23

And He’s committed to helping us, even when we screw up.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Isaiah 41:10

For all of our shortcomings, none of us is too difficult for Him.

 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”

Jeremiah 32:27

He’s not intimated by us and whatever mess may exist in our lives. He has it under control.

But it’s hopeless…

Yes, most of us have our despair thoughts running amuck. We come up with all kinds of reasons why it’s hopeless for us. We don’t see a blessed future.

But again, God thinks and executes His Plan for us differently

 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

To use Mad Men terminology? God is saying, “I don’t worry about you.”

The challenge for us is to take Him at His Word.

Copyright © 2017 by Sheryle Cruse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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