Ms. Jekyll, Monster Hyde
Winning the secret battle over bulimia.
by Kimberly Davidson
An insatiable monster crept into my life unnoticed. It started when I lost fifteen pounds. “You’re so thin!” people told me. “You look terrific!” I longed for more praise. What began at age seventeen as a mere diet turned into a battle with a life-zapping monster.
By day I was Ms. Jekyll, a businesswoman on the move. By night I morphed into the Monster Hyde and went into an uncontrollable feeding frenzy. I learned I could eat everything I wanted and lose weight with self-induced vomiting, a condition known as bulimia. Bulimia became my daily ritual of weight control.
‘Fix’ and obsession
Like a junkie taking a hit of heroin, I got my food “fix,” then followed it with a gruesome episode of vomiting and a smoke. The cigarette burned my freshly irritated throat, but it weakened my appetite. Following each binge-purge cycle, intense guilt and fear struck me.
Then, overwhelmed with shame, remorse, self-hatred, and worthlessness, I’d swear to myself, This is the last time. But it never was.
Determined to stay thin at any cost, I abused substances like alcohol, cigarettes, diet pills, diuretics, and laxatives. My whole body image became an obsession. If I’m thinner and prettier, I thought, life will be perfect. Then I’ll be a success.
My life did look good on the outside. I had a terrific job and appeared to have it all together. I later learned that most bulimics are perfectionists and high achievers, becoming masters at lying and faking it. But inside I was fighting a terrible battle. I held a secret no one could know.
Too ashamed to ask for help, I tried to heal myself by reading self-help books until my head was about to explode. They suggested I look within myself. I worked in healthcare and carefully followed medical advice given other patients with eating disorders. Nothing worked.
The lies. The secrecy. The shame. I can’t take living this way anymore! Help!
Sixteen years after that first binge-purge episode, God slowly began pulling me out of the battlefield the bathroom.
I was introduced to Jesus Christ when I went to church with a friend, and I discovered God was calling me into a relationship with Him that required giving Him control over my life. That was hard for me; I was used to being in control. But I wasn’t really because the Monster Hyde ran my life. And it was flat unmanageable.
Steps on the journey
God had a purpose for my life, and I wanted to know more. Together we started on an incredible journey to clean up the emotional garbage that led to my eating disorder. My heart and soul were wrapped with layers of hurts. I had to allow God to peel away each layer to do His work in me.
Before God could start peeling away, I had to take the first step.
Admit defeat. I was in the grips of an addiction that rendered me powerless over food and obsessive behavior. “I’m out of control!” I admitted. “I surrender all.” But this was different than the surrender when you give your life to Jesus. That surrender seemed more like a commitment. This was about surrendering my life and soul to God, giving Him command over my whole being. It took determination to say no to the thought I can sneak into the kitchen later tonight and have one last binge. That is not absolute surrender. I had to let God take charge of my choices.
Focus on Jesus, not on myself. Up to this point, there had been only one main character in my life: me. As I attended church more frequently, I started to focus on Jesus instead of on myself. As I read the Bible and learned biblical principles for living, the Bible’s power started transforming my spirit and mind. The moment God’s presence came to live in me, spiritual restoration followed. With Him guiding, teaching, and giving me power over my addiction, physical restoration began.
Replace lies with truth. For decades I had believed all sorts of cultural and spiritual lies: I am unlovable and unworthy. I am fat, ugly, and always will be. I can never meet this standard. Turmoil is normal. If I let anyone get close to me, I will get hurt again. I’m a loser. And my “favorite”: God doesn’t love or understand me.
God exposed these lies when I participated in Bible studies and learned new truths: My worth is in who God says I am (Luke 12:7). Regardless of what I face, I will always be loved and completely accepted by God and have His strength to see me through (Philippians 4:13). I can draw all my identity and courage from Him to overcome (1 John 4:4). God will help me make wise decisions if I ask Him for direction (James 1:5).
This was the beginning of emotional restoration. But as I began answering the whys with the Bible’s truths, temptation pulled me back into my old ways. This is too hard, I told myself. Change is not worth it. But I fought back with God has promised to help me persevere. I can’t give up! I read and reread Matthew 4 the temptation of Jesus. I found encouragement and answers for standing against temptation. I received the strength to persevere, and truth won out.
Today when I begin to compare myself to someone else or when a negative thought interferes with my ability to do something, I catch that thought and replace it with truth: “It is written. . . .” I can approach God with freedom and confidence because He is in control, not I.
Explore relationships with forgiveness. To grow in my faith, I first had to release the hurts of my past to forgive some people, whether they deserved it or not. I surrendered my feelings to God so He could help me forgive those who hurt and rejected me, like my dad. My dad had dared me numerous times to get on the bathroom scale; he humiliated me. If my dad thinks I’m fat, I used to think, then everyone thinks so.
I also confessed to my mother and asked her forgiveness. “Forgive me for stealing,” I said. “I took money from you to buy food, and I started shoplifting laxatives and diet pills.”
I read in the Bible that I should honor God with my body (1 Corinthians 6:19), so I prayed for forgiveness for the atrocious acts I did to it. And I forgave myself. An eating disorder is like a loss of life. I wasted so many years time I could never restore while shattering precious friendships.
With my relational restoration complete, the last shackle fell off. How freeing to give and receive forgiveness!
Be a servant. God showed me that He wanted to use me to help others and didn’t want to waste anything that had happened to me. The suffering and pain not only caused me to turn to the Bible but also gave me a yearning to help women in pain. I remember watching the movie Angie. At the end, Angie says something like “The way I see it is we’re all broke, but it’s the job of the less broke to help the ones who are more broke.” I realized I didn’t have to be perfectly OK and that God could use me just the way I am.
The Bible says:
- What a wonderful God we have . . . the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more he will shower us with his comfort and encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, TLB).
The comfort and love I received enables me to serve others and become God-centered. That has been key to my ongoing transformation into Jesus’ image.
God never intended to leave me in the battlefield of my bathroom with the monster of bulimia. When I opened myself and asked Him to take control, He gave me the weapons to fight the Monster Hyde. I never gave up! Together we are restoring my spiritual, physical, emotional, and relational nature not to Ms. Jekyll but to the person God created me to be.
Today I look in the mirror and see F-A-T but a different kind: faithful and true to my God.