Several weeks ago, I participated in a teleconference for those struggling with and/or recovering from eating disorders. During the call, a young woman asked one of the moderators how she was supposed to deal with “the tremendous weight of guilt and shame” she felt over the emotional and financial toll she was certain her eating disorder had taken (and was continuing to take) on those she loved, especially her mom and dad. Regrettably, the questioner’s sentiments are common among those who have battled an eating disorder. I know because, thanks to social media, my book, my blog and my having now attended a number of eating disorder conferences around the country, I’ve had the unique privilege of listening to hundreds of similarly guilt-ridden and shame-filled hearts. In some cases, the guilt and shame are a by-product of the illness itself (i.e., the inherent sense of “unworthiness” that is the life-blood of the disease). In others, the feeling of not wanting to be a burden is the “excuse du jour” for trying to avoid treatment. In the overwhelming majority of cases, however, those feelings of guilt and shame are very real, deep-seated and need to be addressed. I’d hoped to do that directly by chiming in that night, but my rather pathetic technological skills made that impossible. Thus, the following letter:
Dear Young Lady,
I’ve stood in your dad’s shoes.
I’ve struggled (mightily) to get my head around a disease I knew nothing about and then to keep my arms around my daughter as it drove both of us to our knees.
I’ve felt the anger and confusion he likely has – not borne of anything my daughter did or didn’t do, but of my own seeming inability to ever say or do the “right” thing where her illness was concerned.
I’ve known the frustration and sense of helplessness that comes from so desperately wanting to “make it all better” – the way a simple kiss once did a scrape on the knee – only to realize this wasn’t something I could fix.
I’ve shed countless tears for the immense suffering my daughter was enduring and, in moments of exhaustion and exasperation, spoken words I later regretted – all of us did at one time or another. I’m sure your dad is no exception.
But, having also walked in his shoes, I’m just as sure of this:
There has never been a moment in the midst of your struggles when your dad has considered you a burden, nor is there any sacrifice on Earth he wouldn’t gladly make for your life, including giving up his own.
That’s just how much he loves you. It’s how much he’s always loved you.
And here’s the “crazy” part: that love, that sense of responsibility for your well-being, that commitment to always be there for you were formed before he even met you – before you were born.
Don’t ask me to explain how that’s possible – how you could love someone so completely sight unseen – because I can’t explain it. But, I assure you, it’s as real and as beautiful as the sunrise.
My hope tonight is that you will allow that love to wash away your guilt and shame and find its way into your soul.
One day, when you have a child of your own, if you do, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Until then, you’ll just have to trust me.
Wishing You Peace,