I Have An Eating Disorder - Advice?

Dear Paul,

I know that I have been dealing with an eating disorder on and off for a while now, and I had one of my friends confront me about it and I totally brushed her off. I knew deep down that something was wrong, but I was afraid to admit it and I still am afraid to admit it. I am really struggling with my faith right now and question God all the time. I am really afraid to let someone know about this. I just sent my youth minister an email asking if we could talk soon; I want to admit both the eating disorder and questioning of God but I am afraid that my parents will find out. I am so lost and confused, yet I look like I always have my act together being involved with many youth group activities such as helping out at Mass, going on retreats, service weeks, going to youth conferences and all that. Yet I have no clue where I am going at all. Could you give me some advice?


Dear Friend,

Thanks for writing; the best advice that I can give you to begin with is to encourage you to talk to your youth minister as soon as possible, since your youth minister is someone very close to you that you can trust and who can be in regular touch with you to get you the help that you need. Please tell your youth minister what you told me - as soon as possible! You could even forward the email you sent to me directly on to your youth minister...

In addition to that, I want to let you know that I have a pretty strong feeling that keeping all of this inside of you is a huge reason why you are struggling with your faith and questioning God all of the time. The reason I say this? Well, I believe that it is hard to be close to God when you are neither at peace with Him nor with yourself. Keeping something as big as an eating disorder hidden affects everything.

If you can get help with your eating disorder and get your life back on track, your relationship with God will probably fall back into place because you won't be hiding anymore. But you will need to rely on Him to do what you know you must do.

I am so glad to know that you will be meeting with your youth minister soon. In the meantime, if you want, you can get some free confidential advice from a stranger by calling this toll-free phone number: 1-800-931-2237. It is a helpline for people with eating disorders, or for those who have friends with eating disorders.
And since you are Catholic, talking to a priest is definitely a good idea. When is the last time you have been to Confession? Talking about this issue in the context of that sacrament would be awesome for you. The sooner, the better.

The bottom line, though, is that your parents really NEED TO KNOW. I know that might be hard to hear, but to work through this, and to preserve your life and your future, you will need to see a counselor; professional help is needed, and your parents are the best ones to hook you up with the help that you need.

If you are like so many teens I know, perhaps the thought of your parents knowing scares you. Let me give you the perspective of a parent, since I am one. If you were my daughter, I would want to know what is going on. I love my kids, as I am sure your parents love you, and I want them to do well in life and to be happy. I am committed to doing whatever it takes to see that happen. I highly suspect that your parents are the same way.

Please talk to them. Let me know how it goes. Trust me on this....the sooner you do it, the better you will feel.

Keep in touch, please!

Peace,

Paul


Dear Paul,

I have not talked to my youth minister yet. I have been trying to set something up for a week now. I refuse to talk to my parents about this issue. My mom and I are not on the best terms. I have been telling her little lies so she doesn't know the entire truth. She knows that something is going on, though. How could I have let this happen? I haven't been to Confession in a really long time. I am scared to go.


Dear Friend,

Thanks for your honesty. Keep trying to connect with your youth minister; perhaps you can 'steal away' some time with him to chat soon. I would be willing to bet if you asked him to step outside before or after one of your youth group meetings, he would be cool with that.

More than anything, I just want to encourage you to stay open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your life. I suspect you know what the voice of God sounds like...there may be some things He is trying to say to you, so I just beg you to keep your heart open - to a message, a person, an opportunity to talk openly with someone you trust...who knows? Just stay open...

I understand your fear and refusal to talk to your mom, but it is something that you simply must do eventually in order to become free. Maybe your youth minister or another adult member of your youth group could go with you. These things can be easier (though never totally easy) if we have someone with us. I remember once being with a member of my youth group when she told her mom she was suicidal. It was still hard, but it was easier for her to have me with her.

You are not the only one who has ever made bad choices and lied to your parents. Not that it makes it OK, but I would be willing to bet your mom has 'been there' in some manner with her own mom in the past, so I think she would be more compassionate than your imagination leads you to believe.

I once heard someone say that there are 365 times in the Bible that there is some variation on the words "be not afraid' - one for every day of the year. In the midst of your fears about this whole thing, let Jesus be speaking those words to your heart, my friend. "Be not afraid."

Love and Prayers,

Paul


Note from Paul - We wrote back and forth for quite a while, and with a lot of encouragement she finally had the courage to tell her youth minister, which began her healing journey. If you or a friend are struggling with an eating disorder or a similar problem that has taken hold of you, I encourage you to keep talking to God and asking for courage so that you, too, can confide in a trusted adult - who can get you the help that you need for your life right now and for your future. Pray this prayer every day, "Jesus, give me courage, and help me to be willing to do whatever it takes to become free, free to become the person you created me to be."