This afternoon I’m hoping to chat with a girl who’s in the midst of anorexia and is being treated at an in-patient unit. Her family got in touch and suggested we talk, but she’s not too sure – and whilst I can understand her family’s concerns, I can understand hers too. It’s a bit like when you’re younger and you’re paired off with someone who’s the same age – everyone expects you will be friends. Or at church sometimes, when we have visitors from Ireland and it’s assumed that I’m either best mates with or related to our guests, (obviously not both). It’s always lovely to meet someone from home, but there’s such a thing as being oversold and I can’t help thinking that visitors left the place to meet new people too…
So I’m thinking about what I’ll say to this young woman and I’m praying that God will help us to connect with and encourage one another. Recently I met someone else from Northern Ireland who’d had an ED and we got on great – but at the end of the conversation she admitted she had been dreading our meeting, and here’s why:
Six (SIX!) different people had given her copies of my book and she’d tried to read it, but found it too much. But still, people kept asking her if she’d read it and surreptitiously dropping it into her bag, posting it through the letterbox or slipping it under the door. She looked at me with haunted eyes and said, ‘I feel so guilty. I’m sure if I read it, it will really help. I call it ‘The Book’ – and I take it with me everywhere…but I just can’t face it’.
I choked on my coffee. Unbeknownst to me I’d been stalking this poor woman. On one hand it’s understandable: our lives are very similar and people wanted to help. But THE BOOK was traumatising her: and she was convinced that if she could just force herself to read it, she’d find answers. Which is absolute bunkum.
‘Burn it’. I said. ‘Burn all six of ’em – and don’t look back’.
She looked aghast – but slightly hopeful.
‘I’m very grateful for your readership’ (after all, along with my dad, she’s single-handed supporting my book sales) – but this book is not going to change your life. In fact, I Forbid you from reading it. I can summarise it for you in a few sentences: and it doesn’t even have pictures. What you need is what you’ve already got: Jesus. You don’t need someone else’ life story’.
We laughed. And hopefully, she’s taken my advice – not to take my advice!
It’s a privilege to share life with others and I thank God for the chance to speak in this way. But whilst I have (some) experience, I don’t have answers, and whilst I might share characteristics and struggles with other ED sufferers, of course there are differences. Which is a good thing: because it’s a reminder that God works differently in all of us; and my miracle doesn’t need to be replicated in your life, or vice-versa.
If God wants to use our words or stories, He will (and incredibly, He does!) – but it’s His work, not ours. So I’m praying about what to say to this young woman, but the main thing is this:
I don’t have solutions, I have a history of mistakes! I know real freedom from my old behaviours: but I’m just as messed-up in a million different ways. I’d love to talk with you and to share my hope; but it’s as a friend, not an expert. And if you want answers, then look with me, to Jesus.