Slow Suicide: When Eating Is a Call for Help

Her kitchen garbage was composed mostly of empty ice cream cartons and chip bags. For someone who lived alone, worked and ate at home, this was telling.

Rather than scolding my friend for setting herself up for a heart attack, or shaming her for letting her blood sugar get out of control, I said, “looks like you’ve been having a rough time.” She nodded and started to cry.

“What can I do to help?” I asked.

Tears in her eyes, she whispered, “pray for me.”

We talked for a while, and I realized that she was asking me to see her the way Jesus would, to see past the weight of her fear, depression, destructive and addictive behavior, the burden she was sure she would be if she called her friends, and instead see only the purity and light of her true being.

When the person who is acting out lives with you, and the current behavior, depression, illness, and/or future illness or death is or would indeed be a terrible burden for you, it can be hard–maybe even impossible–to be that unconditionally loving friend. It can be such a temptation to try to force the person to change his or her behavior so you can feel safe.

Unfortunately, that is the worst, most counterproductive thing you can do, from the least helpful attitude, if the person is really to get better. There really does need to be a friend. You may need one too, if you’re living with someone in trouble.

Being the social beings we are, we do need one another–just not in the ways we usually think we do. We need to belong, to feel safe, loving and loved, to contribute and feel valued. It’s just that the way to get there is counter-intuitive. It’s only when we draw our sense of belonging, safety, love, contribution, and value from our own spiritual source, rather than trying to get it from other people, that we experience the fulfillment of our social desires among people. What we need from one another is the reminder of who we really are, and where to look for what we need.

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