Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
I won’t tell you about the epiphany. It’s a secret what I ate and how much of it that day the light bulb finally turned on in my mind. I’m ashamed, embarrassed, and saddened by the memory. So I won’t tell.
I will say that when I looked at what I had done, something I had denied for forty years became clear. I was out of control.
Two years earlier, my complaint to my therapist had been, “I’m afraid of disability.” He responded with a question. “You can’t improve your health?”
My life had been a lone ranger one. Friends had said I was aloof, never telling the whole truth, and that a barrier stood between them and me. It was true although it surpassed my understanding at the time. Reaching out to people for help had rarely been on my agenda, emotions were regularly denied, deep needs were not confessed, and I was righteously superior to keep it that way. Right?
Loneliness hurt badly, but allowing people in had not been a suitable answer. I’d been trained early to believe I was worthless and that my feelings didn’t matter. This core belief went unchallenged even as my faith in Jesus Christ matured. Scriptures read through the lens of inferiority seemed to support this idea. Yes, God loved me, but He wished He didn’t have to.
The question about my health challenged that victim mindset. For six months after life lost its sanctity in my thinking and hopelessness drove me to attempt suicide, therapy revealed that I am in charge of what kind of person I am and what I want life to look like. It had been proposed that trusting people was an option. By answering the health question best I knew how in the moment, my decision was to seek support in a venture toward improving my physical condition. Little did I know where that would lead.
I attended a 12-step meeting for a few months, chagrined they would not provide a diet plan. One woman approached me to say I was not following the steps and so would not get better. I resented her implication I was an addict and needed such help, so I quit going. Although I had lost thirty pounds simply by eating better, that weight began creeping back on. One year later was the binge that brought on the epiphany.
Finally, I gave up insisting on the false idea that I was managing my life. Clearly, how I’d lived for over fifty years had failed. By this time I was deeply involved in changing negative core beliefs and thought patterns; now it was time to address my eating disorder.
On the urging of my therapist, I checked myself in to Timberline Knolls, a residential rehabilitation treatment center in the Chicago area. It is there that girls and women are helped to overcome addictions of all kinds, eating disorders, mood disorders, and trauma. Turns out, I had to face all four.
It was there that much of what I’d already heard became true for me. I did have the right to be in charge of my decisions. It was healthy and appropriate to take care of my needs. I deserved to end an abusive relationship, and above all could understand that pleasing my Lord Jesus Christ did not exclude all the above. I recognized His love for me as passion, not pity. Finally! I felt free being me and not apologizing for that; I could begin to rejoice in how God created this daughter.
That’s the bottom line to losing one hundred pounds by facing food addiction; my mindset changed. I worked hard at that and the weight came off.
The first year of sticking to a food addict’s food plan came with difficult adjustments as I learned to feel and wrestle with emotions and fears I’d buried under binges for most of my life. Through ongoing support from a group of women dealing with the same thing, and under supervision of a psychologist specializing in food addiction and its unique challenges, I was able to join the millions of others who overcome addictions of any kind.
I rejoined the 12-step program, aware now of how powerless I am against compulsive eating and it’s invitation to escape. It is only through this support, sponsors, and the Almighty Highest Power, that as of this week, I have lost one hundred pounds.
And my health? My diabetes numbers have been perfect. Sleep apnea has gone away. My high blood pressure has normalized. Three days ago it was a lot of yard work, yesterday it was a mile-long walk – both impossible tasks prior to this weight loss. Carrying so many excess pounds for decades messed up my knees, and I am learning to strengthen them.
I have more weight to lose, but my mental health is priority. As long as I focus on that, everything else will go as it should.
You can’t improve your health? My challenge to you is to believe you can.
And you’re worth it.
Comments are always welcome. NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
* picture of scale from qualitystockphotos.com