As I look back on my life and forward on the road to recovery, there is one word which seems to dominate my battle with an eating disorder, and which I would like to be forever free from.
This word is “insufficient.”
Don’t get me wrong — I am thankful to have a supportive and loving family who never put the word in my mind or treated me as such. However, growing up as a pastor’s kid, it is unfortunately hard to escape the stigma of being the “perfect family,” and somehow always feeling as if I could never measure up to those perfect standards.
Although I was born a pastor’s kid, it wasn’t until I was 17 that the word “insufficient” started excessively screaming in my head. It was at this time that my life completely fell apart. Everything I thought I knew was exposed as lies and deception. I not only lost faith in someone who I had once put on a pedestal, but I lost faith in myself as well. When my life felt so out of control,
I turned to something I thought I could control: food.
It started out as “simply” being my coping mechanism when I was dealing with so much. The emotional pain became so unbearable; therefore, I began to mask my emotional pain with the physical pain of hunger.
It was my comfort and confidant. But from coping mechanism and comfort, it turned into obsession, which in turn became an addiction.
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My life may have fallen apart, but my perfectionism told me I needed to be strong. I couldn’t voice to friends and family how badly I was hurting inside, and felt as if I had to hold it all together, when actually I was crumbling inside.
Therefore, instead of letting words tell others I was hurting so badly, I let my body do the talking as I started to wither away. As loved ones noticed and expressed their concern, it helped me feel loved when before I had felt so abandoned.
Yet the voice in my head became louder and louder, screaming at me that I was insufficient, would never amount to anything, wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, or talented enough.
It told me I was worthless. And for a long time, I believed it.
Ever since I can remember, I have had a passion and a love for playing the piano. It was always the one thing I felt accomplished in, and I excelled quite quickly in it throughout Jr. High and High School.
Unfortunately, when my life spun out of control, I lost so much faith and confidence in myself that it even took a toll on my piano performance. My starving body could no longer get my fingers to move as quickly as before, and my starving brain could no longer memorize pieces like it used to. “Insufficient,” “worthless,” and “hopeless” were all I could hear.
I went to college to study music, and although at the time I was both physically and mentally quite ill, my perfectionism pushed me hard, making sure I did well academically, as well as in my piano studies.
However, the school knew about my illness, and always had a watchful eye on me. I was asked to take a medical leave of absence right before I completed my very first semester. I felt both insufficient and like a complete failure.
After taking some time off from school, I eventually went back to continue my education. However, it was always a roller coaster of a ride, as I would go through periods of getting healthy and becoming extremely ill again, always with the watchful eye of my school scrutinizing my every move.
Not the typical college experience, as my mind was always occupied by thoughts of my eating disorder and thoughts of insufficiency. Despite it all, I graduated and even got the chance to perform what was considered one of the best student senior piano recitals.
I wish I could say the word “insufficient” has been plucked out of my thoughts, and I no longer have feelings of insufficiency. But sadly, it still likes to creep in there every once in awhile.
It never ceases to appall me how cruel we can be to ourselves.
We call ourselves hurtful words that we would never call others. We scrutinize every part of our bodies, picking apart every thing we seem to find “wrong.” We let words like “insufficient,” “worthless,” and “hopeless” become frequently-used vocabulary when thinking or talking about ourselves.
Let me tell you something I know to be true.
You are worth it. You are enough and you are adequate. You are not insufficient, but you are sufficient. You are able, and you are capable. And so am I.
The scars that were left on my heart may have formed patterns in my mind of insufficiency, but it is time to break free from those patterns and re-learn new ones. And just like these patterns developed over time, it may take time to re-learn new patterns.
Be patient with yourself. And remember: You are sufficient.
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