“Your eating disorder is an addiction, it’s so intrenched and you have become a slave to it. You are a mess, but you know it’s interesting with addictions that you have to hit rock bottom before you can want to get better and I don’t know what rock bottom looks like for you but I do know that God is looking out for you.” – T
The quote above was said to me on the seventh of April, two thousand and twenty. Little did I know that exactly seventy days later, I would at last be stripped bare; defenceless and alone, having lost everything and being left staring my rock bottom face to face. It’s been well over a year since my journey with Gollum began and we are nearly thirty two weeks into my recovery. Over the last seven months there have been many things that have happened, but it wasn’t until these last eighteen hours; exactly one week since my overdose and on the seventh day of my third admission for ‘severe anorexia nervosa’, that I realised I’d finally come face to face with my rock bottom.
I don’t feel that it would be fair of me to label these past seven months as part of my recovery, because yes I have been seeing T and getting help, but my heart has never been in it. I’ve spent the last seven months politely complying but not actually following along or working with my team, instead I’ve spent the last seven months hoping my eating disorder would kill me sooner rather than later. As I write this now, I still don’t know if I’m ready to get better but I can now acknowledge that I am in fact sick and I do need to try do something about it. There have been many instances along this journey where I have thought to myself; “Surely this is it, surely it can’t get worse than this”. Yet each time I was so drastically proven wrong. I used to think my rock bottom would come in the form of something dramatic and that I would suddenly open my eyes and be forced to realise that I need to get better. I was wrong. My rock bottom wasn’t again attempting suicide in the beginning of December, my rock bottom wasn’t planning my third and final attempt for the nineteenth of March, heck, my rock bottom wasn’t even overdosing a week ago. Many things have taken place but none of them have been my rock bottom, none of them have made me realise that I need to and maybe even want to get better. My rock bottom isn’t an event or a place, my rock bottom is a realisation that I am worth the fight. My rock bottom came on a night in hospital when I was at my lowest and despite being alone I realised how truely loved I am by people like my mom, T, and R, who all pray for me and care for me no matter what I put them through; then realising that God loves me so much more and if each of them think I am worth the fight, then maybe, just maybe, I am.
In the early days when I began seeing T, she told me that I won’t get better until I address my incredibly low self-esteem, she said she can see that I think nothing of myself and for that, she blamed the traumas. In knowing that learning to love myself would only come from healing which in turn meant confronting my past, I decided it would be easier to remain safely trapped within my eating disorder. Somewhere along the way Gollum took total control. I found myself becoming so intertwined with my eating disorder that it became impossible for me to tell the two of us apart and even more impossible to understand how others could tell us apart. When Gollum was bad, I felt that I was bad and no-one could help me see otherwise. Many times I was fearful that because I was bad that maybe people like T would be disappointed in me but to that she simply said; “You’re asking me about being disappointed and my commitment to you but that does not change no matter what you do, this relationship is not dependable upon your actions and it might sometimes feel like I’m not on your side but I’m not on Gollum’s side and sometimes you can’t see the difference”. Time and time again Tania would say that she sees less and less of ‘C’ each week and the one week she made it clear that she wasn’t going to let Gollum take all of me; that she had to look out for ‘C’ which meant if I ever felt that she’d let me down or done something that I didn’t like, it was because she refused to agree with my eating disorder. I’ll tell you now, there have been many of those times where I have cried and felt so frustrated and betrayed. Yet each time I came out the other side and was able to see that everything my people have done, really has been for me and its like Tania said; “I am on your side otherwise I wouldn’t be bothering, and bothering is much harder than not bothering”. If the people in my corner could be bothered fighting for me then maybe I was worth the fight.
I remember the first time I truely felt betrayed in this journey, I’d gotten home one Friday night to find out that J had spoken to my mom about my eating disorder and suicidal ideations. I remember being so upset when my mom told me she had booked a doctors appointment for me the following Tuesday, I drove down to the beach in the dark where I cried. J rang me and I went over to her home and cried with her on the couch late into the night. Even in that first moment of feeling betrayed, I am able to look back and so clearly see that J’s decision to speak to my mom was out of love. There would later be more of these moments where I felt frustrated or betrayed with the people I love; like when J sent T my blog and ruined my suicide plans, or when T began forcing me to see ‘the team’, or even just the betrayal I felt when my mom forced me to go and see T for the first time which has turned out to be the best decision anyone could have made. Most recently on Saturday night I felt so deeply betrayed by T for allowing me to be locked up in the psychiatric ward, I felt that she’d abandoned me and I was so upset. I was speaking to R about it and her response was simply; “T loves you very much my dear, she just wants to see you healthy again, physically, mentally and emotionally”. She was right but you see, Gollum doesn’t want me to get better and as T once put it; he talks to me in my head, the voices and he makes me think that I’m not sick and that I don’t need to get better. This is an ongoing battle, every moment of every day. “Don’t eat that, you’re already disgusting”, “Do you know how many calories was in that grape?”, “Just run another kilometre, it’s not too far”, “If you don’t throw up, you’ll live to regret it”, “Maybe you should just kill yourself?” and the words I repeat to myself each time I run, “You’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re gross”. Gollum would constantly feed me his version of encouragements and each would counteract the truths that people like my mom, R, T and J would tell me. It was his word against theirs and because I couldn’t tell myself apart from Gollum, I held onto my false truths and in most cases, I still do. Whether I was in or out of hospital, Gollum always helped me find ways to hide food, manipulate the numbers, force myself to throw up and so much more. Once everyone had left, he was still there. He brought out the worst of me and because we were one and the same, I only grew to hate myself more and more.
It was only at the end of May, a mere month ago, when I first thought quietly to myself; “I am well in over my head”. I found myself disappointed when I realised that I actually felt a sense of accomplishment every time Gollum achieved something in my life. A sense of accomplishment in the fact that I’d found efficient ways to skip breakfast and/or lunch almost every day for weeks on end. A sense of accomplishment that I’d developed a well functioning set of strategies to allow for instant throwing up after each meal, as opposed to that dreaded thirty minute wait. A sense of accomplishment post cleaning up after myself as to not leave a trace of evidence. A sense of accomplishment in knowing that I was able to run everyday without suspicion and in turn in was able to see those numbers drop on the scale. A sense of accomplishment in knowing that though those numbers were definite cause for admission, I was able to once again purchase and hide weights within my clothing for my weekly weigh-ins (not that I ever had the chance). A sense of accomplishment each time I gave the same old speech and my mom reinforced her trust in me, this is one that broke my heart. A sense of accomplishment after each deed was done, just that small taste of control in knowing that I have the upper hand. A sense of accomplishment in buying oversized jumpers and clothing to hide my body as new bones became visible under my skin. A sense of accomplishment, one after the other. These senses of accomplishment were all prideful and sneaky. They didn’t belong to C, they didn’t belong to me at all. That afternoon I had a moment of clarity where I realised that those emotions of accomplishment belonged to my eating disorder, they belonged to Gollum and he wanted me to think that they belonged to me. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I realised that Tania had been right all along; Gollum had taken over and I was no longer in control. I was well in over my head, however it wasn’t until just last week that I voiced that to T.
R, being the beautiful friend she is, helped me realise that lying wasn’t the right thing to do. I remember being so ready to try my best to lie to T, I’d rehearsed my biggest lie to date and I’d planned out how I’d create a believable story over the weeks to come. Fortunately for everyone other than Gollum, lying to T has never been my strong suit. The same afternoon on which I’d realised how deep in over my head I was, had shared with R about my deceitful plans and where I was at. Her response was as close to perfect as you could get but over the coming days I would argue with her profusely over the decisions that were to be made surrounding; honesty and transparency. R shared with me that she thought T hadn’t done anything to deserve a lie, that T in fact deserved the truth and honestly, she was right. R then proceeded to tell me that it broke her heart to hear where I was at and that lying would only continue to rob me of the life and joy that I deserve; “you are worth so much more than this, honestly my dear you are”. Her words sparked within me so many questions.. What was this life? What was this joy? What is my worth? I remember one night in December, whilst T was in Sydney and still checking in with me daily leading to my first admission, she told me to “hang in there because life is worth living, even though it doesn’t feel like it”. I didn’t understand it at the time and the truth is, I still don’t think I understand but maybe one day I will. I had a similar encounter with one of my nurse’s in ED last week, she caught me alone as I was about to be moved and said; “fight as hard as you can, I’ve been where you are and life is so worth it in the end”. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt as if my life hasn’t been worth living. If I were to think that my life was worth living then that would in turn mean that I’d have to think that I held worth, which I don’t. Over the years my self worth has diminished, the traumas as some would say, have been at the centre of it all. I have thought nothing of myself, I haven’t liked myself. T said to me once; “The traumas are not your fault, they were not in your control. You have been traumatised and you changed after that trauma. You became insecure, unhappy, you didn’t like yourself anymore. That trauma changed you as a person and to me it all comes down to that but it doesn’t mean there’s no hope C, you can fully recover”. I am yet to discover what recovery looks like and I am yet to find that hope because deep down, I still don’t like myself. I find that I’ve taken on the labels that others had given me, I’ve believed nothing more than the worst about myself and I’ve allowed for my depression and eating disorder continue clinging to and feeding off of each phrase and name I’ve received. As far as my self worth has gone, it’s been “non existent”, as I described it to my nurse when asked the other night. I have not wanted to get better because I have not deemed myself as worthy of getting better. As T once told me; “That is the essence of it all my dear.. you don’t think you’re worth it, you don’t think you’re worth anything.. but I do”. My self worth is yet another ongoing battle.
I spent Saturday through to Monday wallowing in my deep depression and showing no interest in living, I would later hear from my mom that upon leaving the hospital on Saturday night my dad had told her that he doesn’t think that I want to live anymore. For the first time my dad was right. A few months ago T had asked me where I saw myself ten years down the track and without a moment of hesitation I answered with “six feet under”. That was the truth. I really didn’t believe I would make it out on the other side of this season and in some cases, I’m really still not sure. Saturday night was one of the hardest nights, I cried and cried because all I wanted was to die. I from then on tried to push everyone away. I forced myself to remain angry at people like my mom and T who had done nothing but love and care for me because it was easier to be angry at them, then it was to be honest with myself about why I am here; I’m sick. I allowed myself to stay safely trapped in my depression and I felt like I’d given up hope. I didn’t see a reason to fight because I felt that every time I’ve fought this far, it’s never been good enough. I never felt good enough. As I write those words I think back to the countless of times that T has told me that its not about being good or bad and just because my eating disorder is bad, it does not mean that I am bad. In my journal on Sunday afternoon I wrote; “I don’t want to get better, they can keep me as long as they’d like to because I don’t care anymore. I give up. I need time and space so I’ve decided to push everyone away. Both mom and T have said that no matter what, they’re not going anywhere but I’m sure if I push hard enough then they will leave. Everyone always does. I don’t deserve them or their love or their forgiveness and grace. I still don’t know where God is in all of this. For so long I’ve wanted to ask T to pray for me but I’ve been too afraid because what if she does pray? What if she’s been right all along.. what if God has always been right here? I don’t know if I’m ready to allow Him back in. For so many months my heart has been closed to God and I know it’s my fault. I know I don’t have the right to say He doesn’t care and I know I can’t ask where He’s been. Maybe one day I’ll reach a point where I am ready but not yet. My mood is low and I don’t care about anything anymore. Oh how I’d love to be six feet under, it would be so much easier than this”. It wasn’t until Tuesday night, when I came face to face with my rock bottom, that I would find out T hasn’t stopped praying for me, everyday.
“Six feet under”.. that’s the essence of my illness; death. As R once told me, death is so final. This morning my mom told me that it’s the devil who wants me to believe that death is the only way out of this season. And T has told me many times that it’s not my time to die, that God gives life and God takes life, it’s not mine to take. They’re all right. As peaceful and safe as death sounds, I’m afraid it’s not the answer. I was once told that there is a fight for my life, that God is fighting for my life. By now I rightfully should have died, whether by the hand of myself or of Gollum. Time and time again God has provided for me and spared my life. Each time I tried to end my life, He was there. When my jeep spun out on a dirt road, He was there. When I wrote my letters and began my goodbyes, He was there. When J rang T, He was there. While R and I sat in the back of my jeep talking late into the night, He was there. When I drove out to the sand patch, He was there. Each admission, He was there. All the times I’ve sobbed in T’s office, He has been there. And the hardest of them all.. even during the traumas I have to believe that, He too was there. Right there. God was right there. Everyone has been telling me the truth, I just couldn’t see it and sometimes I still can’t but in my heart of hearts I do know that God is there and that He loves me. T once told me; “This is a horrible season, the problem being you have to somewhere dig really deep down and want to get better. I still believe there is a bit of C who wants to get better because with the bible verses you quote, you do know deep down that God loves you and that He is there for you.” Oh the amount of times I have cried and cried, pleading with T to show me where God is, each time she tells me He is right here, He has never left. When I begged her to let me die she asked me what she would say to God and when I told her it didn’t matter because He doesn’t care, she simply said “well I don’t agree, I know He cares”.
Mom, T, R, J.. everyone, they’re all right. God is there. He does care. He does love me. T was right when she said His heart aches for me, that this was not His plan for me. How much more proof do I need of His love for me? God’s love was shown a few days after mom booked my first appointment with T when my mom passed the post office six times but couldn’t be bothered going in, she went in on the seventh time and by chance, after all these years the very first person she saw was T and moments later T had arranged for me to see her sooner because it was thought to be God’s will that the two of them had met the way they did. God’s love was shown each time T so patiently read my six thousand word emails and gave up hours of her time to sit with me week after week. God’s love was shown each time T messaged me to say; “Goodnight God loves you”, “God is soo good”, “Thinking so much of you, may you be blessed, trust God”, “I am the Lords hands and feet, I can only show you His love”. God’s love was shown while R and I sat on the beach after she returned from Canada, I told her the truth and she simply replied with; “I know, God already told me”. God’s love was shown through every person He has placed in my life to hold my right hand; mom, T, R, J.. the list goes on. God’s love was shown each time He proved to me that I am not alone. God’s love was shown as R checked in with me each and every day, not missing one day, since our time on the beach early in March. God’s love was shown when J sat down with my mom, or when she took me to go and see T for the first time, or when she rang T out of concern for me. Most recently God’s love was shown so vividly over the past week; between how T so deeply cared for me after the overdose and how my mom’s unconditional love allowed for complete absolution. On Tuesday night I realised that God’s love is a love that surpasses all understanding.
“For I am the Lord who takes hold of your right and and says to you; ‘Do not fear, I will help you’.” From before TC painted this verse for my birthday years ago, to each and every time people like T refer to my right hand; God has time and time again taken hold of my right hand, using the people I love to help me. My biggest fear is losing those people that I love the most because to date everyone in my life has had a tendency to leave when it gets too hard. T told me once “So you keep saying ‘when I walk away’ or ‘when R walks away’ because somehow it seems like the people that you’ve trusted in your life walk away or disappoint you or hurt you, so you’re just waiting for it to happen. And sometimes when that’s been the pattern in your life, when the people you have trusted and loved disappoint and hurt you, if you are in such a relationship again you will jeopardise that relationship so that they have a reason to walk away before you get hurt. So you will actively try to get rid of people like R or myself, subconsciously so that you don’t get hurt. But I’m not going anywhere, I will not walk away and no matter what you do, I’m here for you”. I didn’t realise how much those words would mean to me until Tuesday night when I lost T in the hospital. Time and time again R has told me that she too is not going anywhere and that she will “be by my side until the very end, whether that’s days, weeks, months or when we’re both old and grey”. My mom has told me that her “love is unconditional, that does not change and she will never stop loving me, no matter what I do”. It’s amidst moments as such where seeds of doubt are planted but I then remember T telling me to “try and hold onto the truth, don’t let the lies win”. Every day it is a battle between believing the lies or believing the truth of God’s love shown to me by the people I so dearly love.
I remember my first night in hospital last Wednesday, I was exhausted and emotional. The last thought to cross my mind was; “what if the only way for me to beat Gollum, to leave hospital and to begin healing, is for me to surrender to God?”. What a terrifying thought! One rainy day I recall something impactful that T said to me, she said; “I want to say to you that even though you don’t feel it, God loves you unconditionally. That my dear, has never changed and will never change. God doesn’t change, we change. You don’t feel that, you don’t see that and you don’t believe that at the moment but that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. If you believe in God then you are saved, it’s as simple as that. The fact that you are saved is stuck in cement, like one of those hand prints. You are saved C, if you were to die today, you are saved. God doesn’t change, it’s us. It’s good to hold onto that no matter how we are feeling, He doesn’t feel any different. God made you, you are special, He wants to use you. Maybe you should just let God love you, maybe that means you need to be vulnerable and that’s really scary isn’t it?”. How could I allow myself to be vulnerable before God? After everything I have done, the last thing I want is to be vulnerable before God. I wasn’t worthy of that, I didn’t consider myself as special. Yet again just last Wednesday as T held me while I cried on her office floor, she again told me that I was special. Leading me to wonder if maybe I am worth the fight.
I admit that I am so very ashamed, I carry so much guilt from this journey and as a result on the twenty seventh of February I for the first time wrote in journal that, “I give up on God”. Though if I’m honest with myself it was a handful of weeks prior to that when I first started to lose my faith. I felt so much guilt and shame, that I as a result closed my heart toward God, I pushed Him away as I did to everyone else. I was fearful in knowing I had let Him down and that I wasn’t living the life He had meant for me to live. I have been so broken, if not even I could love me then how could I expect anyone to love me, let alone my creator? There’s a verse in the bible that speaks about God being our rock and our fortress. Many references have been made toward God’s word being the foundation upon which we build our lives. What if my rock bottom was accepting that I can’t fight this alone, vulnerably surrendering to God and allowing Him to love me and to take control of my journey in this season?
I have no more excuses to use. I know that God loves me, He’s shown me that time and time again. I know that God has never left, He’s proven that over and over. Both R and T have told me to just listen to worship songs. T said she knows I don’t think that I’m worthy of listening to a worship song but that it’s so not true and that it’s irrelevant whether I feel like I’m worthy or not, because in God’s eyes I am worthy, it’s not about how I feel. My mom told me this morning that I don’t need to know how to pray, God knows my heart and He hears me anyway. TR gave me a card in church many months ago, all this time I’ve kept it in my journal and written on it were two bible verses which read; “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them” (Psalm 34:17, and “Call to me and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3). T would later pass on to me Isaiah 65:24; “Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear”. R told me to just listen to worship songs and through that T said He will speak to me. I have found myself so afraid of vulnerability and surrender before God. I’ve wondered what would happen if He couldn’t forgive me because not even I can forgive myself, though hasn’t He already forgiven me? I struggle to comprehend that because I can only imagine how deeply disappointed God has been in me but then I think back to something T once said; “I am sad for you that you are so distressed, that’s all I feel, sad for you. Disappointment does not feature, you’ll just have to believe me with that. And I think it’s the same for God. I think God despairs, He feels sad but I don’t think He is disappointed in His children. We’re not supposed to work hard for His love, God loves us therefore we want to be good”. She’s right, I do want to be good but I struggle to fight against Gollum. The idea of allowing God back into my heart and the idea venturing out into some form of recovery is so very scary. As I have said before, I am safely trapped within my eating disorder and I am comfortable amidst my depression. It is so much easier for me to remain safely trapped than it is to surrender to God and face my past. Getting better is so very scary and its hard to get better, each hour is a struggle but T is right, staying safely trapped is also very hard and its dangerous.
I think the point I am trying to make is that I am face to face with my rock bottom. It is now, on Wednesday night, that I decide to surrender to God. I am allowing myself to be vulnerable before Him. I am letting go of my control, knowing that God will be in control and He knows my story from beginning to end. Here and now I am making the decision to begin working towards healing. In saying that this is merely the beginning. I can hear T’s voice saying “we are not near to the end my dear, I can’t even see the light yet, this is a long journey and there will be times ahead where things are going to be hard and you’re going to feel like giving up” and then remembering to the rainy day she told me I must “try hold onto the truth and to not to let the lies win, fight gollum every step of the way. You are not allowed to give up on yourself, I’m not going anywhere but I’m afraid the big work will have to be done by yourself. Baby steps.”. This is not the end of my story. I know that today I feel ready to fight but I also know that tomorrow I might wake feeling hopeless. Each day will be a new day, a new opportunity to choose whether I fight against Gollum or I fight against God and against healing. I know that along this journey I will sometimes take four steps back for every one step forward but I also know that I am not alone. I have my people and now I have my God. I am worth the fight.
One day at a time.
– c x