The enemy she feared most was there before her and waiting. The hidden glances among her friends seemed to be pointing their finger at her asking, “What’s Carly going to do?”
Yes, she knew what they were thinking … and it didn’t help. Neither did the overhead lights that seemed to illuminate this enemy that caused her to tremble so. Her friends didn’t understand … no one did.
The fork in her hand shook in unison with fingers that wanted to drop it and run. Gripping the cold utensil only revealed the fear gripping a hold of her. Hushed murmurs in the restaurant faded in and out with the pounding of her pulse … she couldn’t breathe. Her lungs felt empty, as empty as her shriveling stomach … as empty as her shriveling body.
Trying to act as though nothing was wrong, Carly took a few stabs at the enemy on her plate. Her brain screamed, “I can’t!” She swallowed back the bile creeping up her throat.
Hunger. The friend no one understood – her constant companion. She was safe as long as the pangs of hunger went with her everywhere. Only then was everything alright. Hunger … her secret friend.
She looked down at the tiny morsel on her fork that would fool no one. She put it down. She thought a baked potato with cheese sauce would look normal and be safe – she wouldn’t have to chew … well … not really chew … just fake-chew.
She picked up her drink to give herself more time. Perception Carly, perception – you’re working on perception. Food is not the enemy. Yes it is! No, it’s not. Breathe slowly, relax – you have to push forward. It’s okay – you can do this!
She sighed as she listened to the flow of gossip from one friend to another – somehow it was comforting. Names, shocked exclamations, laughter, movies last seen helped to draw her attention away from the trap of her mind.
Trap … prison … she needed to find a way to break free. Lord, help me … what do I do?
Her stomach rumbled, and she felt safe … again.
She looked down at the potato, then at her friends enjoying their breadsticks, salad and pizza. Pangs of anguish shot into the depths of her heart – she felt consumed with longing. The pizza smelled so good. No! I can’t! I’d have to chew!
Fear seized her mind and began to slowly squeeze her throat. Get up! Leave! No Carly – stay right here. Concentrate! Perception … focus… perception. You can do this!
She picked up her fork … food is not the enemy … she took a bite … food is not the enemy … she smoothed it around in her mouth … food is not the enemy … she took a sip of water … do it again Carly.
She stabbed at the potato catching some cheese … uh oh … now what … concentrate … food is not the enemy. Again Carly … again.
Her goal was ten bites and she made it to eight. She even shared a tidbit of harmless gossip of her own … a boy she met. Her friends went wild calling for dessert … a huge piece of a five-layer cake with four plates.
Panic swept over her like ice water. Dessert! Oh no! I can’t!
She felt too full. How was she going to …? Food is not the enemy Carly… it’s okay.
Maybe if she took just a tiny bite with icing – two more times would give her ten. Maybe, just maybe she could make it. Lord, help me!
She put the napkin to her mouth to wipe the nervous mist above her lip (no spitting out food this time) and rolled the sweet, smooth concoction around her tongue. Deep slow breath Carly – one more time … yes … you can do this.
She didn’t like the feeling in her stomach – it felt uncomfortable and full. Ten measly bites, but she made it. And maybe her brain was complaining, but it wasn’t screaming at her to run away.
And here she was, walking out with her friends, smiling and chattering away along with them.
Thank you Lord. Um … fake-chewing still counts … doesn’t it?
“Yes dear one, and I will help you and give you strength, so do not fear.* We will walk to victory together, one step at a time. You and I …
… we can do this.”
*Isaiah 41:10,13 (NIV)
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
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