** Once again, this is an ongoing series I’m doing every weekend about my story with eating disorders. If you’re just joining us and would like to catch up, you can take a peek at the previous installments:
Please take note that I am not an expert, and I speak from only my own personal experiences, and that not every person suffering from an eating disorder may have the same opinions as I do…which is why I would love if anyone could chime in and add more depth and levels to my words. **
After my last Weekend ED post, I thought it would be helpful and interesting to get a loved one’s point of view. Thus I sent an email with some questions for my dad. Since he is more comfortable with Korean, he wrote back in Korean. I’ve translated his answers below to the best I can:
1) When I was first diagnosed at the hospital with anorexia, what was your first reaction? Did you suspect anything beforehand?
When you were first hospitalized, you were xx lbs. Of course we knew something was severely wrong with you beforehand. How could we, as parents who love and think about you all day, not know something was up with our daughter? The truth is that ever since your period stopped, your mother had been worrying about you.
So why didn’t we force you to the hospital?
- I knew that there would be no use if I were to force you against your will to the hospital. At that time, your mentality was: “I would rather die than eat.” Thus your mother and I were absolutely helpless. Remember, we tried a few times to talk to you about this but you always closed yourself up further. Thus we knew all we could do was to just wait for you to be ready to recover, because we knew that the more we pushed recovery at you, the more you’ll resist.
- I knew that whatever has control over you…was not a physical thing. We couldn’t take you to the doctor and get you some pills and everything will go away. We knew it is a spiritual and mental disorder, one which no physical doctor can heal. That’s why for the time being, all we could do was pray for you. We prayed for you every single day with tears in our eyes.
- We believe that God knew and understood your condition even more intricately than us as your parents. We knew that God loves you, and is with you, and we knew that He was the only doctor who could completely heal your spirit.
*My mother chimes in through a phone conversation*:
“We had never, ever experienced an eating disorder case before. We had never seen anyone with an eating disorder, nor do we know anyone within our community who even knows somebody with an eating disorder. The only encounter we had with an eating disorder case was by reading an article on a Korean newspaper which listed some eating disorder symptoms.
When I read that, I was aghast by how similar those symptoms were to yours. But I couldn’t exactly diagnose you myself…especially because I still knew so little about eating disorders, and I just could not believe that you would want to starve yourself for the sake of being skinny. Ever since young you’ve always been underweight and you know our desire was always for you to gain more weight…so why in the world would you deliberately try to lose weight? I just couldn’t understand that at all.
It wasn’t until you went to the hospital and the doctors medically diagnosed you with anorexia, that I was absolutely certain; but even then, I knew next to nothing about this disease.”
2) How, when, and why did you come to "accept" the news of my eating disorder?
We’ve always accepted whatever that happened and will happen to you. We know God loves and cares for you even more than we do. We knew God is present in every detail of your life. We trusted Him to have a purpose and plan for whatever that may happen to you, as He does in this case. So we believed that His good will shall be revealed, and that He will treat you Himself personally.
3) What was the toughest thing you had to deal with during my eating disordered days?
- When your weight kept dropping drastically before our very eyes
- When you still insisted on exercising even though you were so emaciated
- When we discovered that you make yourself throw up at times
- Especially, the fact that we, as parents who are supposed to nurture you, are eating when you couldn’t. Your mom would specially prepare something delicious in hopes that you would eat, but all the food would end up inside us instead of you. That agonized us so much.
- When your natural beauty started fading away.
- When we saw you so full of self-hatred, losing the brightness in your eyes,cheating yourself and others.
- When we watched you gradually lose your physical looks, your social life, your academic life, your hope, your self-confidence…
- When we knew how much you needed comfort and encouragement and hope, yet we were unable to give that to you because we ourselves were weak and despairing…
4) What was the hardest thing for you to understand about my struggles?
We couldn’t understand why you just couldn’t gain the weight, even though you were at the brinks of death, had lost everything, and were obviously trying so hard to recover. Why was being thin so important that you would be willing to give up your life for it? Was being thin even more important than health? Was it more precious than blossoming into a beautiful young woman? Was it more important than glorifying God? Was it better than the respect and admiration of others?
These were the questions that constantly badgered us. We just could not understand that. It was like you were a royal bride willing to give up her throne as Queen and her beloved Prince Charming just so you can hold on to your worthless wedding dress. It was maniacal and confounding.
5) During those times when I failed you, lied to you, and betrayed your trust…how did you maintain your faith in my recovery?
We truly believed that this disease was just a temporary condition, and that God will heal you. We believed that nothing is impossible for God.
All we could do was to trust in Him, and be patient with you…no matter how long it took for God to do His healing work. It was this principle, underlying knowledge and trust that kept our faith strong even during your weakest moments.
6) Was it hard to distinguish me, as a person, from ED?
Anyone who looked at you, would see ED. You were a face of death: empty eyes and sunken cheeks and ghostly complexion.
But we knew who you were. You’re not just our daughter. You are a beloved child of God, a precious, unique being in this world. We never lost sight of that, even while you were acting completely inhumanely.
7) What, in your opinion, is most critical to success in recovery?
Faith, hope, love, and trust.
Faith that you can be healed.
Hope that good things await you.
Accept God’s love, self-love, and love from others.
Trust in God’s purpose and plan in your suffering.
**Psst. And then my dad became a pastor again and gave a sermon, so I’ll just share the few verses he listed for me…**
<Gal 2:20> “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer liver, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
<Phil 1:20-21> “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live Christ and to die is gain.”
<Phil 3:7-14> “[May I have] a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ…Not that I have…already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
8 ) What do you think would have been different if I did not have my eating disorder?
You would have blossomed into a beautiful, healthy young woman with a successful career, and hopefully engaged to a fine young (Korean) man. But…you probably would not have deep understanding of what life means, or what suffering means. You would not have been able to completely empathize with others’ problems.
But if through your eating disorder, you got the chance to know and experience God as a real, living person, and received a genuine understanding of life…then I believe that this eating disorder gave you something even more precious than anything in the world…and great things are in store for you.
9) How has my eating disorder changed you, personally?
- I myself got healed in many areas through constant prayers and persistence within deep anguish. I truly give thanks for that.
- As a pastor and counselor, I began to understand and empathize more with the people who came to me with their various problems and sufferings.
- I got to develop my faith and experience in God’s eternal covenant clearer.
- I received deeper insights for my messages and testimonies, and gained more power and conviction in comforting those who went through similar traumas.
10) If you could go back in time, to about 6 years ago, before I had my ED…Would you do anything different to prevent me from having ED? Do you believe you could have changed anything? I suppose your mother and my prayers for you would have been more detailed. We would have talked to you more, and tried to understand your thoughts and your world more. We would also have taught you deeper about God and life, and have asked you to pray with us together more often. Still, I think this “problem” is not really a problem. It was a necessary catalyst for all of us—you, your brother, your mother and I—to grow and learn more during the progress of our lives. Questions to Ponder: 1) If you could ask your loved ones questions regarding your issues…what would you like to ask them? 2) Are there any questions you would be afraid to ask? 3) Have you talked to your loved ones about your issues in depth before?
10) If you could go back in time, to about 6 years ago, before I had my ED…Would you do anything different to prevent me from having ED? Do you believe you could have changed anything?
I suppose your mother and my prayers for you would have been more detailed. We would have talked to you more, and tried to understand your thoughts and your world more. We would also have taught you deeper about God and life, and have asked you to pray with us together more often.
Still, I think this “problem” is not really a problem. It was a necessary catalyst for all of us—you, your brother, your mother and I—to grow and learn more during the progress of our lives.
Questions to Ponder:
1) If you could ask your loved ones questions regarding your issues…what would you like to ask them?
2) Are there any questions you would be afraid to ask?
3) Have you talked to your loved ones about your issues in depth before?