“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Today is our wedding anniversary. God has blessed my wonderful husband, Russell and I in so many ways over the years. And one of those incredible blessings for me personally has been the acceptance and the freedom from my eating disorder secrecy. Each wedding anniversary, I’m reminded of how I wasn’t able to tell Russell about my struggles, for fear of his rejection. And, each anniversary, as well as on a daily basis, I’m reminded just how loving, kind and accepting Russell has been. The truth does set you free. Confessing the eating disorder truth doesn’t make everything perfect, but it does release you from the prison of deceit and the worst case scenario of being “found out.” I’m including an excerpt from my book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death of an Eating Disorder” in honor of my wonderful husband and the freedom God has given me.
“Although I was craving love, I was determined to avoid it. I’d seen unhealthy relationships galore. I’d focused my life on achievement, convincing myself that the goals, awards and prizes would be more than enough for me. And besides, college was demanding enough; I didn’t need any more hassle. Still, I couldn’t deny, I did want that hassle.
In college, I was pursuing a theatre degree. My best performances weren’t on the stage, but in my everyday life, protecting my secrets. Acting, lying: what’s the difference, anyway? It was through theatre that I met Russell, the first guy that I couldn’t push away.
He was there for me.
I met Russell when I transferred schools. We were both theatre students and met in the college drama department when I was a junior. We stayed on friendly, acquaintance-level terms through my graduation. He was sweet to me, and possessed a dry sense of humor. It made for supportive, interesting and funny conversations. Still, I looked at him the way I looked at other guys: a nice friend, but still someone who must never know all of my ugly weaknesses.
Even though we didn’t start dating until after I graduated, our friendship was gradually changing while I was still in school. During my senior year of college, he was very thoughtful. For example, on Valentine’s Day, he stopped by my dorm room. Of course, I had been on my stair stepper for hours and wouldn’t come to the door. I kept yelling over the music, ‘I’m not done yet!’ He waited as long as he could, but eventually he had to leave for work. When I finally finished my routine, I got my stuff together and headed for the dorm showers. When I opened my door, there was an overwhelmingly huge bouquet of balloons and a card. He had waited for at least a half-hour for me, just to give me this sweet gift. All I said to him was ‘I’m not done yet.’ I felt like the biggest jerk in the world.
When we did fall in love and start to date, I added new fears to my already long list. The prospect of someone being close enough to truly know me was scary. I knew that, sooner or later, I would have to tell him the ugly truth about myself.
Moving from dating to engagement was difficult for me. I had yet to tell him any of what I’d experienced, and I felt more and more guilty about lying to him. Every time we went out to eat, I’d pretend not to have issues with food and weight. I hated feeling like a liar, but I was scared that he’d reject me if he knew the truth. What man, in his right mind, looks for all of this mess in a mate? I knew when I told him that he wouldn’t want me anymore. It bothered me constantly. He sensed something was wrong, of course, asked me about it. What do I tell him?
As we prepared for our wedding, I finally mentioned to him that I had a secret I wasn’t ready to share with him yet. Of course, he was curious and wanted to know right then and there, but he displayed patient understanding. He told me that he loved me and that it didn’t matter what it was. He didn’t pressure me to tell him. He knew there was a secret and left it at that. Even though his response helped me feel freer and safer, I still felt guilt pulling at me. I began wanting to tell him. After all, he’d been so incredible with everything else I’d told him. He knew about my family secrets. He knew all about my weaknesses aside from the eating disorders. He knew about all that yet still chose to love me. But I kept thinking, ‘don’t press your luck…’
…I don’t endorse my secrecy from my husband. I believe it is vital any young woman suffering from eating disorders be honest and forthcoming with her future husband. Marriage is a holy covenant and a serious commitment, and I believe you need to share all of the truth. Even now, I now look back and often wonder how many tears, how many problems, and how much pain I could have avoided if I just simply told him. The truth really does set you free. And in telling him, once again, I discovered, the worst did not happen.
The time for truth came a couple of weeks after we were married. It was our first Thanksgiving together, and we had been married for only twelve days. I was still feeling relieved that I made it through the nuptials. Russ and I did the cutesy newlywed couple ‘this is the first mashed potatoes we’ve made together’ and ‘this is our first stuffing and cranberry sauce’ thing. We both ate our holiday feast, and I had tried not to think about all of the calories.
True to form, however, I proceeded to exercise after the meal, trying to burn off ‘the damage.’ Russell thought this was strange and unnecessary; it was a holiday, after all. He told me to just relax and enjoy the day. I, of course, repeatedly told him that I couldn’t until I’d exercised. The conversation continued while I was on the stair stepper for two hours. But I saw a new look on his face: hurt. I was forfeiting my time with him, my brand new husband, to climb steps that weren’t going anywhere? I was so tired of keeping this secret, and I wanted to explain myself so badly to him. The only way I could explain it was to tell him the whole story from the beginning. First, I played an alternative rock song, an anthem, a coping mechanism for me to deal with the eating disorders. It was an angry loud song of rage, and I thought that it would tell him clearly what I’d been through. It didn’t. He didn’t understand it. I took a deep breath, realizing, ‘No, Sheryle, the song isn’t going to tell him. You are.’ And so I did.
And the worst didn’t happen. He didn’t leave me, throw me out in the street, call me worthless and tell me how much he hated me. No. He looked at me, asked me, ‘This is the big secret?’ He hugged me, told me he loved me, and told me I was beautiful. I didn’t have to lie, hide, and pretend anymore in front of the man I loved. I felt a little freer.
Since then, Russell has been an incredible support to me as I’ve continued my path in dealing with my food, weight, and body image issues. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true: he loves me just as I am.”
“The truth does set you free” (John 8:32). And “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Never be afraid or ashamed to tell your loved ones the truthful reality of your struggles. The freedom from the secrecy is incredible! Free yourself today!
Copyright © 2016 by Sheryle Cruse