Finding My Worth Amidst an Eating Disorder
By Faith Mosher
I can’t pinpoint one event or experience that caused me to question my worth. I recognize there were many things in my life growing up and going through high school and college that had me thinking “I’m not good enough” or “I will never be worthy” – and my perfectionism certainly did not help me.
I have always been told that God loved me as I am, but things in our faith confused me about how that could be true.
For years and years growing up I struggled to balance my inner thoughts telling me I was not good enough with my life experiences sending me similar messages, and I did not even realize I had developed an eating disorder as my coping mechanism. By the time I reached high school I recognized the habits I felt trapped in were not healthy, and other people started noticing as well. I was stuck and kept bringing my actions to Confession, and begged God to help me. What I did not know was that was not even the worst things could get.
I entered college and the excitement of attending my dream school seemed to mask my eating disorder for a time. But immediately once the stress started to roll in and I again felt unworthy of love, I fell back into struggling. I would sit in the chapel inside my dorm and just stare at the crucifix telling God “I can’t do this.” At that point, I did not believe I was even worthy of God’s infinite love.
My eating disorder took hold of my life. I was so drained and numb, like a walking zombie.
I was just trying to get by, and I only prayed when I was laying in bed with no energy to move. I had been to a few on-campus counselors while I was in college, who tried to tell me to “just eat” or just believe that my body was a temple of the Holy Spirit. That was the last thing I could believe.
After seeing a specialized eating disorder therapist off campus, eventually she told me that I needed to leave school to seek more intensive treatment. I agonized over what to do, asking God to guide me. When I was skipping classes and could not even stand for the duration of the Our Father during Mass without nearly fainting, I took that as God’s nudge for me to seek more treatment. And I did.
When I began more intensive treatment, I went to a residential treatment center in Philadelphia (one step below hospitalization) where I stayed for 4 weeks. Within 12 months, I returned to this treatment center twice -once for 6 weeks over Christmas and again for 8 weeks over Easter. In between these stays, I was in local treatment 3-5 days a week and would sleep in my own home. The purpose of this was to continue healing and transition back to independent living.
Upending my life and going to treatment in Philadelphia was incredibly hard. The process of treatment is almost indescribable, and so unique for every person. It was difficult dealing with medical complications from my eating disorder while also trying to face my fears every single day, all day long. Shame about my weight and my body was crippling, and there were days when I experienced such deep shame about myself that I could barely function.
Because of my shame, I struggled even more to believe that I was worthy of God’s love at all, and would find myself feeling hopeless much of the time. I was able to receive the Eucharist every week, but I could not leave treatment to attend Mass which was very tough for me to accept. I barely had the physical and emotional energy to go about the day, and praying seemed impossible at times.
But I did not give up, even though I wanted to many times. I believe the Holy Spirit was guiding me always, even when I did not recognize His presence. As I slowly regained health and strength, I kept trying to pray in treatment. I kept track of my journey in treatment in many journals that helped me see emotional, spiritual, and positive physical growth over time. These allowed me to look back when I could not always recognize growth in a despairing moment.
As I looked back, I saw there were several instances when I realized that even if I did not feel worthy of God’s love, He was still freely bestowing it upon me. Even if I had trouble believing it and feeling deserving of it, His love was there regardless.
In the same manner that my eating disorder developed, there was not one big event that caused me to accept God’s love for me. There were many conversations with my therapists, counselors, and friends inside and outside of treatment that built upon each other. Many words of my therapists were very powerful, and my favorite therapist during the entire 12 months, who had grown up Catholic, once said to me, “God’s love is unconditional, so what is stopping you from accepting it?” It was small occurrences like this where the Holy Spirit gently nudged my heart, and my faith slowly became a powerful motivation for recovery.
One evening when I was outside praying, I was looking out over a beautiful grassy hill with blooming trees. It was Easter, and I was holding a palm-sized crucifix made from olive wood, with Christ carved into the center.
My fingers kept running over the carved-out Christ, and I had a powerful thought of, “Rejoice! Christ conquers all. Even all my inner demons.” In that moment, I felt truly free from my eating disorder.
Of course Christ has already conquered my eating disorder, I have to continue allowing Him to love me.
That was not the end of my journey, but it was one small turning point that has led me to the right direction. Eating disorder recovery is multifaceted and all-encompassing, healing takes time and involves many factors. I don’t know if I will ever say I am free from my eating disorder, I think it is a struggle I will have the rest of my life to varying degrees -but I do believe that since I am truly worthy of God’s love, He has created me for so much more than for my life to be consumed by my eating disorder.
Shame no longer holds the the most power over me. Being worthy of God’s love allows me to live free of fear and shame as the woman He created me to be. Yes, I am still broken and wounded, but that is no longer my sole identity because being worthy in the Father’s eyes allows me to be truly free. I do believe that by God’s grace, I can maintain recovery from my eating disorder.
Now, I have a perpetual reminder on my right arm that I am worthy of His love, and I always pray that my tattoo will gently remind other people as well. Matthew 10:29-31 were the verses that inspired my tattoo, and they say:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
I pray you, dear sister, may find healing from your shame and recognize your worth in the eyes of our Father.
P.S. You are enough.