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Dear Church

​Dear Pastor and church friends,
It's time to talk about some things that I need you to be aware of. Maybe your help will give me options, but at this point I think I have to leave you. This is the full story – unedited – and I share it because I need protection and understanding when I disappear. Some of you know some of this story, but this week's events have escalated it. If you want to skip what you already know, just skip to the hug I'm sure some of you saw yesterday occur.

I have an eating disorder. This is the first time I've written that sentence in whole. The obsession has now jumped that if I'm not avoiding or feeling guilty about food, I instead spend hours at the gym, telling myself I don't have to despise myself if I work harder. I've lost a dress size in two weeks. I avoid eating in front of others now. The Regional breakfast was the first time I felt like that. Pastor Travis, I was almost in tears because I didn't want to eat, but was more afraid of your questioning it while you sat next to me. I ate because I was afraid you'd find out.

Those who don't know me may assume this was from a childhood trauma. No. It started recently when the man I was dating – you know who – began to chastise me every time I ate. Small comments just got escalated and would happen every time I tried to eat something.

"You're not supposed to eat white bread or white foods."

"Baby," followed by a disappointed sigh. "You're on a diet. Why are you eating x?"

"Christians are supposed to be vegetarians. You can't eat meat."

"A boiled sweet potato is a full meal."

"We're not supposed to eat after 6pm." (Said after he got home from work after 7. He ate, but insisted I was wrong in doing so.)

"Don't eat so much. I don't want you fat like my ex-wife."

"I don't want to be with someone who will be unhealthy in 20 years."

"I can't be in a relationship with you – you aren't healthy enough."

At first I fought for my rights, our relationship ending. He didn't want me the size I was. I was still the same dress size he'd met me as – why couldn't he love me that way? I felt so unwanted and resigned myself to the fact he wasn't for me. Only 2 days later, he arrived on my door, promising everything would be different. He held me, as I shook with tears, my praying my fear of food would stop if his comments did.

His comments didn't stop. During August, the comments got worse, his comments now including when and how I ate. I felt myself getting more and more hurt. One day I felt so hurt and fat that I had to leave my job and tried to quit. I couldn't let anyone see what I looked like. It felt like everyone was judging me. I had to leave him. I remember thinking that if I gained one more kilo I would end my life, then reeled that I had actually thought that. I had battled so hard over the last 20 years and now I was considering ending my life because of how disgusting he made me feel.

Maybe by this stage, you feel I'm just being dramatic, but these are the changes I felt. Six months ago anyone would describe me as tough, skilled, stubborn, and resilient. But so quickly it faded. He was destroying me. I had to get away from him.

I left him, telling him I couldn't do it anymore. His texted remained unanswered and I stay away from anywhere I might see him, including my own home. For days I found other places to be. My job was to escape unscathed. That was my goal. However, it didn't work. The damage was done. I had become the fat girl he didn't want. A disgusting elephant in the room.

I kept getting text messages even though I sent him a clear message, telling him to leave me alone:
This is the only message you're getting. I'm fine, but I want to be left alone for a while – which I've made quite clear. You need to get your issues sorted out and it's too toxic for me to be around you until you're sorted. No more "love you" stuff because if you can't love me whatever size I am, you don't get a right to use that word. Focus on yourself and get counselling for your issues. – August 26th

But still he kept texting. I didn't answer.

I tried to fight back, vowing to lose the weight to prove I wasn't the fat, lazy, useless person he made me out as. Last Sabbath I wore the most revealing outfit because I wanted people to see I'd lost weight from obsessive dieting and hours at the gym. I'm not the fat cow I see in the mirror. My last ditch effort. It failed. My problem got worse.

This week I had to give in and agree to go to an eating disorder group. They also want me to see a psychologist because they fear how much I work out and count calories. I got in trouble at band practice as I'm working out so much my brain capacity has faded and I don't have time to practice. All I think about is the gym and dieting. I know I should stop, but I can't. When I don't exercise I feel so fat that I don't want to be seen by others, especially him.

This sabbath, it escalated. Maybe some of you saw it in the parking lot after service. He asked me to walk to the car with him to get my things he wanted to return. I'd put on a brave front with him last week. I should be able to do it again. But that hadn't worked. He had texted me trying to tell me it was great to see me happy and tried to make contact with me. I didn't reply so I heard no more until this Sabbath.

As we walked to the car, I decided to tell him exactly what was going on. I was suffering and he was ignorant to think I was fine and he still had a chance with me. With eyes cast downwards, I told him,

"I'm in trouble at band because I can't focus. I haven't been okay. Whether you meant to, the things you said have destroyed me. Eating became hard – I don't go to Adra anymore or pot lucks because it's too hard to eat around others, especially you. And then I began to go to the gym to avoid feeling guilty. But now I go so much I'm getting sick. I've lost a dress size in two weeks. Don't you see it?"

He told me he had noticed.

"They're sending me to an eating disorder group and a psychologist who specialises in it."

As tears betrayed me, he hugged me. I wanted to push him off, but I was so overwhelmed talking about the pain that I had no energy. I felt drained facing the man who had broken my spirit. And I was worried if someone saw me push him, they would think I was the jerk.

When the hug ended, I continued. "I can't be around you. The only people I can have around me are people who tell me I'm pretty – even if they are lying."

"You are pretty," he said.

I couldn't believe him. His dumping me proved his love was conditional. I should have said this, but I wanted to keep it civil. I didn't want an all-out argument in front of everyone. I didn't want everyone to know, but now I see I have no choice, and I have to leave you anyway.

"You need to do your own life," I told him. "And I need to take care of myself on my own. You have to move on. But I want you to know what you did to me so you won't do it to someone else."
He hugged me again. I let him hug me. It felt like this was my forgiving him, setting him free. He could butt out of my life now and let me fix what he had damaged. Letting him hug me was about making amends and saying goodbye.

Maybe I was wrong to let him, but I was weakened. The hug was familiar, but I didn't feel safe. I couldn't trust anything he said. It was now he uttered, "I thought you were the one."

The use of the past tense "were" made me feel safe. "You need to move on," I told him. I met his eye contact. "This isn't going to work."

He brought up his going to counselling.

I shook my head. "This would take a long time to fix – if ever. You destroyed me. I can't be around you."

"I told you in a text message how sorry I am," he said.

I looked at the ground. "You said you were sorry, but said we were a great couple regardless. There is no regardless. We aren't a good couple because how much you hurt me. We can't be together."
He didn't argue, only asking if I wanted a lift home – no strings attached. I refused, saying I had a ride organised. His arms wrapped around me again, my quickly saying, "I have to go, people are waiting for me." He held me until I emphasised I had people waiting.

Tears ran down my face as I walked away, but I felt closure. Maybe he had continued to text me because he needed this method of goodbye. Telling him to stop texting me hadn't worked. Neither was avoiding him in obvious ways. Pretending I was find without him was a fail too. It felt like this was the right end. I had told him – again – that it was done. We couldn't be anything to each other than another person in church. As upset as I was, I felt I was now free to y and shift my eating disorder, only having to care about my own needs for a while.

11pm last night, I got a message:
Good night precious lady. Hope you sleep soundly. Btw my ex-wife says hello.

And now you are up to date on what has occurred. You may disagree with my actions after church, but I am now so drained using so many methods to escape him. All I wanted was closure for both of us so I would be released from the pain and entrapment he made me feel. I no longer know what to do.

Those of you who know my life's struggles know how special living in your congregation is to me. I've never had people to love or be happy to see like you before. It's why I appeal to you to understand. If he refuses to listen when I tell him to leave me alone, I feel I am in danger attending the same church. I'm drowning enough, let alone messages and his tactics to force me back at his side. I'm losing the will to fight because it seems pointless when he ignores anything I say.

I would pray to God to free me from him, but I fear God's answer is to leave the church, or something happens to him. No harm is wished on him – I just want to left alone. I want him to stop faking deafness and to respect my boundaries. I've blatantly told him to stop. I know some people do crazy things for love, but he can't love me. He told me himself he can't love me if I'm fat. He split up with me over my weight.

This is goodbye. I'm afraid how this situation could further escalate, either through my self-damaging actions or his.
I'm not sharing this for any other reason except I feel trapped. And if I must leave, I want people to know why. My fear is people would feel rejected, that I didn't care about them. You have all been like an extended family and I will miss you all so much. I was looking forward to being baptised and being counted among you, but I now struggle to feel worthy to God or safe in a place that should be a refuge.

Pastor, thank you to you and your wife for being welcoming. I will keep fond memories of you both. To the rest of the congregation, I will miss you. Some of you were such an inspiration to me. I would list your names, but I have a policy about using real names on my blog.

I apologise to God, myself, and anyone affected by this. When I fell in love, I thought it was the right thing because the first words he ever uttered were "you're beautiful." How quickly things change. I had no inkling this was going to happen. Now I have months of pain ahead going to meetings where I have to discuss how much I now hate eating, exercise, mirrors, and buying clothes. I'm not sure what God's plans are, but I know I now have to hide, fading into the background while I try and recover.

I would appreciate if I am in contact with you in any way, that you do not supply him with any information. It's possible he might read this blog, but maybe that would make it suddenly clear to him how inappropriate his behaviour is, or even outs him so he stops pursuing me. That said, he's made no reference to anything I've posted on my blog since its creation and he relies on getting responses from me in person or text. I'm not going to stop writing or breathing, so as I've already had to give up so many things to avoid him, I can't have my blog taken away too.

I'm sorry I had to tell you this way, but I didn't want to tell this story fifty times over so people weren't left out or feeling abandoned.

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