Mental health and religion are both too complex of subjects to really tackle in one blog post, but let’s give it a try.
In a nutshell: Like many college-aged young women, I developed bulimia during my early college years. It was a way to treat my depression, self-doubt, negative body-image, and an ever-active stream of intense self-deprecating thoughts I call the negative mind. The bulimia caught like fire, and I found myself addicted to binging and purging.
After about a year and a half of addiction, denial, deepening depression, self-harm, and increasing suicidal thoughts, I entered a treatment center for eating disorders (the center was not affiliated with any religion). I was there for 4 months, experiencing the highs and lows of learning how to live again.
Heavenly Father blessed me with mental strength that has kept me on the path to recovery, and 7 years later, I consider myself recovered. This does not say that I do not struggle with depression or body-image problems still, but I’ve learned how to deal with them in healthy ways.
Now how does this relate to Mormonism?
I’ve put an incredible amount of thought into the connection between my religion and my eating disorder for years and years. My conclusion: Being a Mormon did not contribute to developing the bulimia, nor did it save me from it. It’s what happened in-between I would like to address.
Ironically, the connection between my faith in God and my eating disorder was my disconnection from God. Women with eating disorders feel worthless, like dust of the earth, like wastes of space. Like I took my feelings of worthlessness out on food, I also took it out on God. I left Him out completely. I didn’t feel like He would care about someone so lost and “selfish” as me. Just as I assumed everyone else around me thought I was boring and useless, I assumed that I was the same to God. God loves everyone. I was the exception.
Recovery did not only involve learning how to love myself, but also how to let God into my life again. I’ll spare you the details, but recovery was very painful and difficult. If I hadn’t worked on my relationship with God, I would have been lost.
My relationship with God is fiercely personal. I know He is there and directs my path. I am so grateful that I was lucky enough to receive treatment (too many people don’t or can’t get it). My life since has been one blessing after another.
I can’t explain why I’ve been able to recover while some other girls are still stuck, and even one has since passed away from heart failure brought on by anorexia. I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject, but this is my experience as a Mormon woman.
I totally reject any claim that Mormon doctrine causes female self-deprecation. The Mormon culture, perhaps, but not the doctrine. Open any magazine in any store in the world, and there is crap about how we aren’t perfect enough. Trust me, I’ve lived in enough foreign places to know that this is a worldwide phenomenon.
I could go on and on and on. If you are suffering, don’t let God slip away from you. You need Him to watch out for you and give you strength.