I am a youth leader and I have an eating disorder.

I *should* be doing my “homework” from my early college dean – rating transfer schools – but instead I feel compelled to write this post, as I’ve had tons of jumbled thoughts since yesterday.

Yesterday was my first day being a youth leader for our church. I am helping Sunday nights with high school and leading the girl’s small group, then Wednesday’s I’m part-time photographer and also being helper for the middle schoolers. I am beyond excited to see how I can change their lives and just how God will work through me. 

An unfortunate part of having the eating disorder is that my eating and body image and thoughts are not exactly healthy all the time. There will no doubt be countless times where food will be around during youth group. I never want to be a bad example in any way to those girls, especially when it comes to body image or eating habits. Knowing that this won’t always be easy to do, it became clear to me I would have to let the youth pastor Rick know about my anorexia.

I put it off for weeks because it’s so hard to tell people. Last night before youth group was time. I told him all of my worries for negatively affecting the girls. We talked tons about how this has been for me and he truly cared about what I’ve gone through. I knew he would be a good person to tell, but his response blew me away. He was extremely receptive and supportive and nonjudgmental. I teared up in his office. He wants to be there for me however he can, both in prayer and in person. He will be that person to pull me aside if I look like I’m struggling. He even brought up one day telling my story to the girls in high school as a testimony, and I actually love that idea. If I can help even one girl to not develop an eating disorder I consider that a huge success.

Towards the end of our talk he said something that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. I had explained body image/self acceptance issues that go along with the ED and his response was, “I know you aren’t able to believe this right now and maybe you never fully will, but God does not make mistakes. You may feel broken and terrible, but He sees you as perfection. This disease or anything else will never change His love for you.”

It’s so hard to even consider that statement as truth. Liking myself or anyone, even God, loving me is such a radical belief compared to what Ed tells me. To him, I can never be good enough and perfection is impossible. In God’s eyes, however, I already am perfectly imperfect. Even as I type this now it’s astonishing. I really needed to hear that so badly because I get so caught up in Ed that I don’t take the time to even consider it.

Something I’ve noticed since telling first my college dean and then Rick about the ED is how it almost feels good. This terrible, shameful, embarrassing part of me I’ve hidden for so long is being exposed and while I do feel vulnerable and scared at first, soon after comes such relief. Rick and Erin love me and are there to help in any way they can. No one is forcing them to be supportive of me, they just are on their own doing. That is simply amazing. 

To anyone struggling with reaching out about your eating disorder or even other mental health issues, it is so freeing. Find that trusted adult or friend. I promise you it’s worth it.

2 thoughts on “I am a youth leader and I have an eating disorder.

  1. Okay hot damn this ties DIRECTLY into what Jennifer was talking about in therapy today. No joke she would probably high five you right away if she saw this. You’re absolutely right Emily. You have so much wisdom.

    Like

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