Whelp. I started attending a food group as part of an outpatient program Kailey runs and last night we ended up at an Italian restaurant. To any normal person, picking between the cheesy lasagna, the spicy carbonara, or the boiling chicken would be a pretty easy decision. Flat noodles or long ones? Red sauce or white? Most people’s mouths would drool at the thought of smothering warm slices of french bread with butter, dipping the decadent piece in cheese, and then using said bread to mop up the marinara sauce remains.
This dining experience, however, was a little different.
Number one, I was the oldest person in the group. By far. In fact, I could probably have given birth to many of the girls there. Number two, I could feel the stares of the other patients at the restaurant, checking to see if I was eating the bread with butter, how much of my gratin I consumed, and if I tried to hide any of my chocolate haupia pie. Normally when I eat with friends or family, no one is scrutinizing my plate or evaluating what is left of my dish. Which leads me to my next point. Number three, I was asked to share a little about my eating disorder journey after the meal, and when I started talking about the many relapses I had and how being honest in treatment is the best policy, I could see fear, sadness, and pity on the other girls’ faces.
Maybe I imagined some of those looks, and maybe I’m too consumed with what other people think of me. Either way, sitting with the other teens, warning them about the mistakes I made in years past, reminiscing about all of my misadventures brought a gnawing feeling of regret to the pit of my stomach.
It was the regret that the majority of my young adulthood memories were built around what I ate (or didn’t eat) and how much I exercised.
It was the regret that I was missing out on tucking my children into bed because I was at a food group.
It was the regret that I’d be racking up a whole lot of Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard miles to pay for the weekly individual and groups sessions I am now attending.
This balling pit of regret was the enemy’s way to make me feel lowly, unworthy, and ashamed. I imagined my husband giving the kids their baths, thinking, “Wow, Lauren left me here with these two all alone. What an awful mother.”
Of course, my wonderful spouse would never say that. Of course my past memories would be centered on meals and working out because lack of nutrition (surprise!) causes the brain to not function correctly. Of course I may not be there on Tuesday night to give my babies their kisses because I would be at a food group. But all of those negative thoughts ruminating in my brain, those are the eating disorder’s way of trying to derail me from attaining true recovery. If I’m so consumed with feeling inadequate or regretful, then I would be unable to attend to what I need to do in the present, and that is eat, eat, eat.
Romans 8:1 states that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ,” and I am constantly reminded that when I feel the waves of regret for past events hitting me in the stomach, or the emptiness that arrives when I think about the time, energy, and finances needed to get through recovery as a mother of two, those feelings are not from God. I’ve spent a majority of my life dealing with the “what ifs”: What if I never decided on that fateful summer day to only eat cereal for lunch? What if I stayed in treatment instead of thinking that I could maintain a healthy weight on my own and without psychiatric support? What if I learned new coping mechanisms and didn’t resort to restriction to extricate the mental demons in my head?
The “what ifs” are enough to drive anyone crazy and leave her with a pit of regret and sorrow.
I cannot and will not live in regret any longer.
On the drive home from group, I prayed and made a promise to God. I promised to choose. I choose to focus on God and His promises for complete and total freedom. I choose to seek His voice when the eating disorder voice is inflicting feelings of inadequacy into my spirit. I choose to acknowledge the past, as I know the past is a part of me and I can’t change anything I did or said. But I will not dwell in it or allow my history to make me feel regretful. I will look to God to guide me from said past to a future that is full of His joy and fulfillment. And I will do it all one meal, one group at a time.