I first had it when I was 10. And then because the Big people in white coats only gave me medication and we didn’t solve the problem, it came back to haunt me when I was 18. By then, it had grown into something unbearable. I hopped from doctor to doctor because nothing seemed to be working. Then I met Leonardo, my old counsellor, and things got much, much worse before they got any better. He had to cut me up so he could see what the problem was, and it took a long time before I was stitched up right.

The past week has been most challenging- the nights, worse. The decision to seek professional help and see a doctor completely unnerved me. What will they tell me? That I still have it? Then what happens? Or that I don’t- then what do I have, and what is it that is taking me away? Will this need medication and if they do give it, will I take it? The days got harder, the nights became more and more difficult. I would be studying, and then a wave of fear and tears would come. I have been so scared.

I realise. The hardest thing isn’t just the process of getting help, but coping with the stigma and questions. Why had this happened? What happened to all that money and time spent with Leonardo? Is this something I have to live with for the rest of my life? Have I not been close enough to God? Do I not love God enough? Have I not been doing everything I could to take care of myself? Have I not been strong, positive, disciplined enough to do the right things?

Why. Why, God, why.

People have been very loving and very kind. They have been telling me over the past few days- that this is an illness and has got nothing to do with how strong my faith is. Got nothing to do with it, because this came from the past and God wants me to go through this process so He can build me up strong and new again. That even the person with the strongest faith isn’t exempt from this human affliction but because of our faith, God will come through for us. They have been telling me- that they’ve been praying for me every night, and that then can take me to the doctor if I need company and if Im scared. They’ve been telling me- that they’re there for me, that I can have a hug any time I need one and I needn’t feel guilty for having to go through this, that people are wired differently, and I’ve no reason to feel condemned for having to go through this. They’ve been telling me, that it is an illness, a chemical imbalance- that’s all it is. Nothing to be ashamed of. Just like any other illness.

When I needed help when I was 18, the Big People from the Big Brick House told me I was too complicated- that I was wasting my time and their money. That if I had good-enough friends this wouldn’t have happened. This time, people have been telling me- that I’m doing the Right thing, that it’s an illness, this time not related to my friends or my strength/faith/discipline etc, because I’ve done all that I can by myself. An illness needs a doctor, a professional, to treat completely, that’s all.

This time, things have been easier. I have absolutely no inclination to hurl dangerous objects or entertain morbid thoughts, unlike the time back then. Because in some way, I can see God’s hand in this all. Rainbow couldn’t get published because God knew I wasn’t recovered. Rainbow couldn’t get published so I could realise that though I’ve learnt so much, there’s still so much to learn, and I haven’t arrived at the happy ending Rainbow ends with. Rainbow couldn’t get published so it could tip me over to face reality, to see the amount of work I have left to do with professional help- that while I’ve come a long way, I still have a long, long way to go.

I still get scared. So scared that sometimes I’m so afraid that if I start crying, I won’t be able to stop. Being around people, being at church have made things easier. This is the first time I’ve realised- how much I cherish laughing. I laugh when I’m with people, I’m the same old fun-loving person when I’m with people not because I’m trying to hide, not because I’m pretending everything is okay, but you know, it’s easier on me too. If I don’t laugh when I’m around people, or at church, when will I ever?

Times like these, you learn to cherish laughter.

I’m just so afraid to start crying, you know? I live on daily doses of love and laughter.

I just want to thank each and every one of you who have offered your support, love and prayer to me in the past week. Every text message, email and note has strengthened me. Things have not been easy. And I’m still trying to figure all of this out.

Af told me to walk each day by faith. A step at a time, trusting that God allowed this to happen all for a purpose I haven’t yet been able to see fully. I have been trying my best, a moment at a time. They told me the earliest date I would get an appointment would be in March. But you know, when I called to make the appointment, they told me someone had just cancelled and that I could have one this very Friday, just hours after my exam paper would end, during my break so I wouldn’t miss my morning or afternoon classes. It was as if God knew I couldn’t wait that long, and that He knew I would like to finish tackling my exam paper first. He’s watching my back and my every step.

It’s funny. The verse Rainbow is based upon is the verse this space is based on, that is,

Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.”

Right now, I can’t quite see what’s ahead. I’m so scared, so scared because I’m walking into the unknown all over again, into what Im unsure of. But I’ll have to have faith. I must.

Thank you all for all the little things you’ve been doing for me which really are Big things to me. For listening, for reading, for understanding, praying, loving and writing to me. And for making me laugh too.

Thank you all for walking this journey with me. God has a purpose for this, I’m certain. And when He does reveal it, we’ll all be laughing.

Laughing. Of this, I’m sure.

Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.”
– Hebrews 11:1

I’ve had to go back to getting professional help.

Because while I’ve made a few breakthroughs, it’s not over yet. Thursday was breaking point. It was almost unbearable. It took Af, a woman very much older and wiser than me whom I respect very much, and who has been on my journey with me since Kitesong to tell me this- that I’ve got to get professional help, and finish off where I left off.

“It’s got nothing to do with how strong your faith is, ” she told me. Okay, I said. Okay.

The past twenty days have been like a suffocating fog, worsening with each passing day. Thursday was breaking point. And I knew the responsible thing to do was to get help, go on maintenance, and to finish off where I had left off months and months ago.

“It’s go nothing to do with how strong your faith is. It is an illness, and you haven’t finished your course of antibiotics, that’s all,” Af told me. “It’s time to do so now.”

Thursday was breaking point for many reasons. Too many things have happened since the year started. Thrown, tossed and spun around clueless by the recent bombardment of Tiny incidents, the fog made my head heavy with confusion. For months and months, I had kept praying for A Taste of Rainbow to come through for me, kept praying that things would happen, that someone would call me and say yes, they have a use for it and would like to get it published, that my experience wasn’t for nothing, that it had a purpose, and that it would touch the lives of many, many people with rose petals and confetti falling from the sky.

It didn’t happen. And with each passing day, my heart sank lower. The disappointment grated my heart with a pain I couldn’t explain to anyone.

Because it’s not just another community service project. A Taste of Rainbow is a Story cut too close to my heart, and part of the pain in my soul found a place to nestle within its pages.

“Let it go,” Af said. “It means too much to you, Wai Jia. It cuts too close to your heart and God wants you to let it go. When you finally do let it go, things will happen. You’ll see. “

Too many things have happened since the year started. Incident after incident shattered me and left me more confused and overwhelmed. I had to see my old counsellor yesterday. He is very old, broad, white and… Italian. Leonardo has been one of the angels in my recovery thus far, but his work with me is over, and this illness needs more specialised help.

For the past twenty days, the fog clouded my vision and God’s telegram to me got stuck midway. Yesterday, it finally got through.

So this is what these past twenty days have been about-

-Power, in the wrong place.

Rainbow has too strong a Power and hold over my life. In actuality, it really is nothing more than a stack of paintings, an artist’s manuscript, at most, the deepest part of my heart exposed on paper. But I have made it more than what it is, tying too much of myself, the pain in my soul to it, putting hopes, expectations, wishes, imaginations on it. It’s great power over my recovery, and it’s failure to bloom the way I had wanted it to, dissolved a part of me so close to the secret part of my heart that part of me died along with it with each passing day. I tied so much of my soul to it, because of what it meant to me, that it became so difficult to let God to come into the picture.

Unconsciously, unintentionally, I left God out.

The Tiny incidents which happened at home- having my sister leave for the States again and struggling with the hole, the instability left behind, seeing someone throw up after a meal because of bulimia-in-denial on new year’s eve, having to struggle coping with family dinner conversation that attacks me in different ways- precipitated too many feelings of insecurity and fear because of the Power certain mirroring childhood events have had upon me. Leonardo says that because of this Power, these incidents become, for me, not Tiny incidents, but truly Traumatic ones.

The remark my mother made jokingly and the casual remark by that passer-by on my running showed me the Power of other people’s opinions on my life, the power I let them have over me, and the power I have lost because I no longer control my weight (I have cellulite, ha) and I run slow- the old ways which Anorexia and I used to gain control over my life no longer work. They no longer work, I have lost that power which never really belonged to me in the first place. I have allowed it to rest in the hands of people who can never love me the way God does.

All the projects I have tried to initiate at the beginning of this year have all died on me. On my knees and at breaking point on Thursday, I finally understood why.

God has been shouting through a loudhailer to try and get to me, trying to tell me that I’ve put Power in all the wrong places. Power in Rainbow, power in Anorexia, power in other people, power in projects to find self-worth- when in actual fact, all power really belongs to…

… God. And God alone.

Too many things significant to me have been shaken in the past twenty days. Family, food, friendships, Rainbow, Tiny incidents… each one leaving me in ruins, tearing me down, because God wants to build something new within me. He is telling me to stop, and to listen.

Everything I have tried to control has turned its back on me. That which I have not tried to control has gained control over me. God’s message has become so loud, and so clear- that I need to let go, let God be God, and trust Him with Rainbow, with my security, with my life- all of it.

I am learning I cannot try and gain approval from this world. That achievements, projects should have no power to decide how worthy I am. That it’s not about what I do, but who I belong to. Whose I am.

God’s child. God is teaching me about Power, and about how it belongs to Him- alone.

I took the Power to save others and myself into my own hands when the battle really belonged to God. I need to give all the power and control back to Him. It is called surrender, but Surrender with a flag of victory.

How do I even begin to explain it.

It’s cruel and beautiful irony. That until I give up power to God, I will never see the manifestation of His power in my life. I need to trust God with all of my life.

So you’re really taking this God-thing seriously, huh? I hear you say. What do you think all this is about?

I’ve two things to do now. One, to continue with professional help. To continue till I’m fully recovered, because the truth is that, I’m not. I’ve made a few breakthroughs, I’ve recovered on some fronts, and not on others.

Two, to let A Taste of Rainbow go. To let it go because it cut so close and meant so much and I was imposing an expectation on it, unconsciously wishing deep inside that it would in some way parallel, shadow Kitesong. To let it go because Abraham in the bible had to do what Abraham did. To let it go, reach the point of being fine to trash, burn it, put it aside, because in a strange and peculiar and personal way, God wants me to.

God wants me to?

No, it’s not about giving up on it. It’s about letting go. Letting it go, letting the pain put into it go, putting it aside and letting God be God. Surrendering, the way He wants us to, not with a white flag.

I’ve to learn that God doesn’t expect us to work to bear fruit all the time, and we don’t have to work to make Him love us more. He loves us as we are.

I’ve to learn that God has a different agenda this time-I can’t expect everything to turn out the way I had planned. I’ve to learn that people are going to ask me, “So how’s your second book going?” and be all right to tell them that it’s put on hold now, maybe forever, because of what God is teaching me through this.

I’ve to learn that not many people are going to understand this post, and that I don’t think A Taste of Rainbow will be published anytime soon. Maybe never. NEVER. And I’ve to learn to be okay with that. To be okay with that, and God, too.

It hurts.

So it’s time to let it go. There may be no Rainbow. Because it cut too deep, too close, meant too much. I put myself on the line and eveything I had on it. And God, being Himself as in the bible, has a funny and seemingly cruel but ultimately beautiful way of making us surrender what means most to us. So that God can be God.

I hit rock bottom on Thursday, and it was a wake-up call. So it’s time to go back to professional help to continue on where I left off.

“Remember it’s got nothing to do with how strong your faith is. These hurts inside came from your past, your childhood- and you’re just getting help to find out what they are, that’s all. Rainbow needs to be exorcised. And when it finally is, things will come together, you’ll see. ” Okay, I said. Okay.

So I’ve decided to get professional help on my remaining journey. But before that, they want me to get a psychiatric evaluation to see whether there’re any remnants of depression left. It’s a recurrent condition, they say, and they just want to be sure- normal people can’t diagnose depression accurately because sometimes the symptoms are hidden. They just need to be sure so I can get the right kind of help.

I’m scared to death by that. Okay, I said. Okay.

You know, I’m scared. Scared of what they might tell me, of the pain this process will uncover, of what I will have to bear to get this all sorted out. Scared that this is a journey I’ll have to walk through by myself, holding on to nothing but God’s hand. Scared that no one will understand. Scared of the rough and challenging time that lies ahead. Scared that I’ll have to do this and take all my medical exams while doing so. Scared that I’ll be turning 21 this way. Scared that it may be too hard. When is it going to end.

Oh, God.

But I want to, because I know God’ll see me through this. I’m scared, but the fear never grips me the way it used to because God has proven to be so real in my life thus far. Real, not like some fuzzy idea of a big man upstairs with a lightning rod. I know somehow, something beautiful will come out of this all.

“When you’ve let it go, when you’ve sorted things out, when you’ve surrendered everything to God and let God be God, everything will come together, you’ll see.”

Okay, I said. Okay.

When I made the appointment with the doctor this morning, she incidentally told me that the publishing of Rainbow would have to be postponed. They’ve set aside money for it for the launch in 2009, because it won’t make it in time for the eating disorder campaign this February. They won’t make it in time.

From her voice, I could tell she was afraid the news would crush me, but I said very calmly, “I know already… even before you told me. I knew Rainbow wouldn’t come through at this point in time. God told me on Thursday. He told me Himself.”

Rainbow will have to be released, killed, excorcised-it will have to die before it can truly be birthed, bloom, before it can truly live. I will have to kill it, let it go, let the pain inside it go, release it to the point where I don’t even care if it gets published or not.

It will take a White Funeral, a slow death of purification and sanctification for myself, before it can live again, if ever. And if it doesn’t resurrect, at least, I know I will.

I married myself to a book, to the Power it had over me, and brought death onto myself.

Now, I need a White Funeral.

A White Funeral for Rainbow, a White Funeral for myself, a White Funeral for Power which was placed in all the wrong places.

A White Funeral. The Funeral that God has settled already. The Funeral that’s already been paid for.

I’m going to get help. I’m scared, but it’s going to be okay.

To all of you who have been keeping me in prayer, thank you so much.

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
– 2 Cor 5:15

I’ll have to be honest with you.

It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. God has a funny way of making sure you mean what you say, so that you’ll be put in a spot where you do say what you really mean.

Right after I talked about picking up our own stones, I tripped over a few myself. It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. Church was excellent. It always is, but has been emotionally exhausting for the past 2 weeks. I think I have cried more in the past 16 days than in the past 2 months put together. It has been a good kind of crying, but any kind of crying is tiring.

Many stones tripped me in the past 2 weeks and I have had to make conscious efforts to pick myself up, bandage myself and be all right. It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. Only God knew- He was the only one I told.

I realise one thing. That it is one thing to be physically recovered, and another to be mentally so. I want to tell you, there are many, many, many people out there who look normal and are of normal weight, but are battling with evil, evil demons called Eating Disorders inside. Not everyone at the support group is necessarily stick-thin- Anorexia is a state of mind.

Of late, some of these demons schemed to plant stones in my way, and they have made me so mad and so determined that I took a fork this morning, hunted each of them down, and squelched them.

Mornings make me happy. And I am only very rarely sad in the morning, even if the first thing I see are a pair of orange Crocs. These past two weeks have been made up of too many mornings where I have had to will myself to rejoice in God’s love because a huge fifty-ton weight pulled down on the edges of my lips. This time, I refused to let gravity win. Full recovery is defined by being free from Relapse for at least 6 months- so every single day counts.

I took a fork and killed the evil little squirts one by one this morning. I have had it.

They make a sound like -squish-.

The day after I had written the letter, God made sure I meant it.

That night, my mother came into my room, made one remark as a joke and then left immediately. I had no time to respond nor process what she had said. It was a huge stone, and I tripped. It was meant as a joke, she meant no harm, but it was a stone and something real I had to deal with. The remark was, “How come you have so much cellulite on your legs?”

For someone recovering, that one statement is enough to smash any architecture of recovery one has so painstakingly built up in the longest time. That, to someone recovering, is a very, very, very Big stone- you might call it a Boulder that was rammed right down on your foot and that pulverised it immediately. To someone recovering, it could drag back years of unresolved insecurities, painful memories and self-destructive thoughts.

At that point, I was thankful that I have reached the point where it is but only a stone and not a storm, or a boulder or an earth-shaking catastrophe. I wanted to pretend it hadn’t happened, block it out of my mind as I so often used to do with all my other angry, sad, stressed emotions but I knew better this time. I took it on head-on and rationalised.

Normal people have cellulite. And I am healthy now. And if normal, healthy people have cellulite, I want to have it too.

So there. It was nonetheless a long night.

In the way God so likes to tease me as Ive learnt, I went for a short, relaxing jog the next morning when another stone tripped me right over, made me skid and slide twelve feet forward before I crashed headfirst into a fire hydrant, broke all my teeth and I was just about to get up when a huge train slammed right into me and knocked me right over again.

I was jogging, just rationalising inside my head regarding what had happened the night before when I jogged past 2 junior college students from the top junior college in our nation. Jogging innocently and happily by myself, just rationalising inside my head and thanking God for bringing me on this journey. Tralala.

I had barely jogged past the couple, a teenage boy and girl when the alpha female said out loud, very clearly and brightly, “Wah lao, this jogger run damn slooow la.”

Perhaps I looked like I hadn’t bathed for years, and like I had earwax pouring out of my auditory canals to make her think I could not possibly hear her very bright and clear voice, crisp like an autumn leaf in the cool air of that bright, clear morning.

I jogged away, looked into the sky and gave God a mock scowl. You win, God. You’re really testing me now, aren’t you?

That was only the beginning. Many other Tiny incidents happened. I didn’t tell anyone, but it was okay, because I spent a lot of time talking to God. A lot of talking, crying and listening.

The Tiny incidents piled on, one on top of the other. It has not been the easiest of weeks. But God has a good sense of humour.

Talk about practising what you preach.

All I want to say is this- that sometimes, yes, you can’t pick up all your stones before you bump into them. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. The past two weeks have been extremely trying. It has been little Anna against a whole battalion of evil, scheming demons. Little Anna has been crying and crying and picking herself up over and over again, and rationalising and pressing in. Because every decision counts, and she wants to win.

Today was a breakthrough, finally.

I learnt- stones will always be there. There will always be bad things lurking around the corner waiting to spear us. But it doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t. There’s enough reason to feel insecure, scared and unloved in this Big Bad place to make us want to hide under muck for a lifetime; We’ll never be good, smart, pretty, capable or perfect enough for this world; We can try so hard and end up destroying and losing ourselves for the most worthless of things…

And at the end of the day, it’s about the choice we make, it’s about who we live for. Living for this world is excruciatingly tiring- there’s no end to it. We’re all trying too hard to be picture-perfect on stage, what with the make-up and the costumes and the lighting and the sound effects, for a grand audience who paid cheap tickets to watch us perform. We’re trying too hard.

But live for an audience of One, and everything falls back into place. Everything becomes easy.

Because this audience doesn’t look at make-up. He doesn’t even have His eyes open. His eyes are closed, and He’s smiling, knowing that you’re not performing, but are just, sitting next to him.

Sitting next to Him, eyes closed too, comfortable, even if you’re without make-up and have cellulite on your legs.

It makes Him so happy.

“God does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.”
– 1 Samuel 16:7

Hey wj,

Just to let you know I’ve been admitted to hospital again. Just an update. Thanks again for your advice. It helped more than you know. : )

Love,
N

Dear N,

Thank you for sharing… Do get well soon and remember to stay focused and determined on recovering well. Yes, I hope to see you soon someday, too- out of hospital, completely free and Well : )

Love,
Wai Jia

Everything you do counts. It will either count for life or it will count for death.

Remember, you do the choosing.
God working in you, as you allow Him entrance, makes it happen in your life.

– Lord, I Want to be Whole, by Stormie Omatian

I made a mistake.

It wasn’t an eighty-thousand dollar wedding banquet I had attended that night. I realised it had cost more.

“Relax, woman. It’s not like you should judge anyone, you know. Besides, if they can afford it, why not?”

Yes, Wai Jia. None of us have the right to judge anybody else and maybe they really do have A LOT of money and do A LOT of charity. Relax woman, R-E-L-A-X.

BUT EIGHTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS? That’s almost as much money Kitesong raised for the children at the orphanage in Nepal. Here’s when I start to hyperventilate- someone pass me a bag, please.

I took Grandpa Zhou to the clinic on Tuesday evening. He was reluctant at first, and asked me, “Aren’t you afraid to be seen with me? People will kan suey (look down on) you. Anyway, my feet are less swollen now, see? ” I had to tell him I had cancelled a prior appointment for his sake before he packed up his harmonica and money box to leave with me.

“Okay, let’s go, ” he says.

He walks with a strange gait, limping because of congenital disabilities in his feet.

The doctor’s verdict? His feet are swollen because of malnutrution, a lack of protein in his diet. It was a long wait at the clinic. While waiting, we had a long talk about nutrition and finding ways to include protein in his meals- not an easy task considering he doesn’t spend more than 2 dollars on himself per day on meals.

Zhou yeye (Grandpa Zhou), you see, if you save so much money at the expense of your health, you’ll spend even more money in future on medical fees!” I try and convince him in mandarin.

He nods, and then says, “But you know, meat is very expensive. Once a week, I buy fish soup for myself. But it’s SO EXPENSIVE, you know!” His eyes widen with emotion, “It’s THREE-FIFTY! Three dollars and fifty cents! Wah, hen gui hen gui (very costly, very costly).”

Three dollars and fifty cents. What did that mean to me.

“Once a week? Then what do you eat on other days when I don’t buy food for you?”

“Oh, this other lady, a lady who attends church also, buys me white bread and coffee. I eat half a loaf per meal. Then at midnight when I reach home, I cook mifen (rice noodles).”

Mifen with what?” I ask suspiciously.

“Er nothing la. Sometimes a bit of vegetables… or expired canned food I get from passers-by.”

At this point, I feel like burying my head in my hands.

I find a mandarin health brochure and tell him about the food pyramid, tell him the importance of including protein in his diet, and explain to him why his feet swell up. The doctor is a very kind lady, and she listens to Grandpa Zhou very, very patiently, even gives me her number so I may look her up at the hospital should the problem recur. She tells me to buy him foot cream for his dry, chapped feet and multi-vitamins.

Two and a half hours later, we leave the clinic. ” Wo men jin tian chi hao de!” I tell him Grandpa Zhou enthusiastically- We’ll have ourselves a good meal today!

Grandpa Zhou laughs. When I didn’t know him, I used to hate him for being so haughty, hate him for making it seem so difficult for me to love him. Now, he laughs all the time. Laughs, because we’re all human. Laughs, because if you look deep enough, everyone has a soft and loveable side when they know that they, too, are loved, and not looked down upon.

I carry his dirty, smelly bag out of the clinic. He tells me he picked it up from a dump. He looks at me, blinks, and asks, ” Don’t those people at the clinic find it weird that you’re with someone like me? What did you tell them I was… a beggar you met? What would your parents think?”

I frown, sigh and say, “Zhou yeye, what you just said grieves me a lot ya… I’ve told you many times before not to call yourself a beggar. Why would I call you that? I told them, you are a friend I met at the train station who is a busker, a PERFORMER. I told them you play the harmonica. And… my dad knows I’m taking you to the doctor’s.”

He blinks again, and nods. “Ya, I have a license you know. Not everyone can get a license from the Arts Council- you need to have some talent.”

“Yes indeed.” We both laugh. We walk across the road to the coffeeshop. “And did you hear what the doctor said, no beer okay? Not a drop.”

“Ya, but I have 6 cans left at home. I’ll finish that up and I promise not to buy anymore.”

“No, Grandpa Zhou, NO BEER AT ALL. You keep saying you don’t want to spend money. I’d rather you save money on beer and add a dollar to your meal each day. Buy a meal with protein which costs at least 3 dollars, okay? If not, give me the beer and I’ll pay you for it.”

He quickly retorts, “Nononono, I can’t let you do that. You’ve done so much for me already. I can’t let you do that!”

“But my heart will break if you keep them for yourself. Wo de xin hui sui.” I add on for dramatic effect- “After all Ive done for you!”

“Okay, okay. I’ll give them away. What a waste, what a waste… But for your sake, I’ll throw them away.”

It takes a lot of effort for me to convince him that bad things need to be destroyed, not given away.

Dinner is a good meal at a nearby coffeeshop. He has not had fried rice for ages and eats the equivalent of what a normal person would eat for two meals.

We go back to the train station. I am about to part with Grandpa Zhou when I remember what we learnt in medical school- that we should always ask our patients to repeat what we’ve told them. I ask him to repeat to me the 2 things he must do this week. One, to throw the beer away, and two, to include some fish, chicken or pork in his meals daily.

“Throw the beer away,” I emphasize this point. “It’s not good to give such things away. It’ll only encourage somebody else to indulge in bad habits.”

I think about the brand-new micro-skirts I had thrown down the chute.

He shakes his head, but finally says, ” All right, all right, you’ve been very good to me… you even call me Grandpa… Okay okay, for your sake, I’ll give them away, not buy beer anymore and save that money to buy better meals for myself- just like you said. But… But… I won’t throw them away… It’s too much of a waste! “

I sigh. We had talked about this at the clinic and he had agreed to throw them away. Now, it was “too much of a waste”.

I give in, my body and mind tired from the cold I have caught.

What I would do to buy the 6 cans of beer from him and throw them down the chute, instead of giving someone else an early ticket to the grave, with free coupons to exhange for a hardened liver sickened by cheap alcohol.

“Sigh… Okay, Grandpa Zhou. Save your $5 on beer every week and add a dollar a day to your meals. Buy a meal that costs at least 3 dollars from now on. THREE DOLLARS. “

“Yes… thank you so much…”

My heart is heavy with emotion. My head throbs from the cold I’ve caught that morning. I walk home in the rain.

An old man who has painful, severely cracked and swollen feet because he can’t bear to spend more than 2 dollars on himself a day on meals. An EIGHTY-THOUSAND DOLLAR wedding.

I think about the pretty chandeliers, the middle-aged women suffocating in their corsets, and the shark’s fin, ginseng chicken and Chinese dessert which no one finished that night. I think about that, and the look in Grandpa Zhou’s eyes when he holds the styrofoam box of food I deliver to him, the way he holds it in his hands like… like gold.

The suffocating surfeit.

“Dad, do you think it’s justified if I had an eighty-thousand dollar wedding?”

Dad pauses, then says, ” If you can afford it, why not? I won’t be paying for it though.” He laughs cheekily. “But for you… You want to be a missionary doctor right? So… no, it’s not justified. Be consistent. This is the choice you’ve made, and people will watch your life, see where their donations go to. No, an eighty-thousand dollar wedding wouldnt be justified.”

I am walking home in the rain, cold from the chill and the cold I’ve caught, and hot from the thoughts that pelt down inside my head. What have I done? How long can I sustain this? Can I afford taking care of a stranger I walked by at a train station? Why don’t people understand that some things are not considered wasteful to throw away? That it’s a real waste to throw away plates and plates of unfinished ginseng chicken, vegetables and shark’s fin at an eighty-thousand dollar wedding… … but not 6 cans of beer.

As the rain falls upon me, everything seems to come together, and I understand why I was disturbed, why I am -still- disturbed. An eighty-thousand dollar wedding is fine, perfectly fine- perhaps even in the eyes of Grandpa Zhou, because after all, the couple can afford it, and they’re businesspeople, not missionary doctors… Right?

An eighty-thousand dollar wedding is fine. Just, not for me.

Letters of Hope
are a series of letters I have chosen to write in response to questions I receive regarding recovering from Anorexia.
I am not a professional, and I don’t have all the answers, but I hope that sharing my experience and thoughts may help answer some of your questions, and encourage some of you towards Recovery. It is my hope that this sharing may also help some of you better understand and support someone suffering from Anorexia, now or in the future.


hey…

I dont know if you remember me, but this is N 🙂 We met a couple of times at the support group… … I just returned from my trip to X … but I think I’m like relapsing. Reading your blog really inspires me to wanna recover. I was just wondering, if you could like tell me how life is on the other side (after recovery) and how you managed to. I really do want to recover.

thanks 😀

love, N.

*Names and places have been changed.

Dear N,

Of course I remember you and I’ve been wondering how you’ve been too. Thank you for writing- I’m really glad to hear from you! : )

On Relapse

I haven’t attended the support group many times myself because by the time I found it, I was almost all right. But remember once we talked about how it is possible to recover, and to recover fully? Believe in that with all your heart. I had a Relapse before too, a few times over the past year actually. I’ve had to learn that it’s perfectly normal, and nothing to beat yourself up about. The road to recovery is a winding one, and relapsing doesn’t mean getting lost- it means accidentally taking two steps back because of tripping over a stone of some sort. Sometimes, the new perspective helps you learn more about yourself, and you can move forward faster, with more strength to your stride.

Relapse doesn’t mean anything but a learning experience. We can choose to accept it and use it to learn more about ourselves, or stay discouraged and give up. You’re really brave and determined to decide for yourself to want to move forward, and you’re on the right track : )


Finding your stones

Write them down

One thing I can’t do to help is to give a sure-fire formula on how to recover, because each of us are so different. This is what makes Anorexia so difficult to treat- Each of us have such different Stories. But I can tell you one thing- that you can recover, by looking out for your own stones.

Stones are things that trip us, things that bring back bad thoughts and self-destructive behaviour. They could be anything, and I had to take time to think about what my stones were. By beautiful chance, I met a British lady, Ll, who is a marathoner, who used to suffer severely from Anorexia, and who is working on becoming a counsellor to help people suffering from this. She taught me to recollect past situations which triggered off destructive thoughts and behavior and I had to take a lot of time to write down what those things were, find out what my stones were.

They could be anything. Every one has different stones. After a lot of thinking and recollection of past experiences, I learnt that some of my triggers were lonliness, events which triggered insecurity, stress from work, eating with people who talk excessively about calories and exercise and weight, and being inundated by a storm of unhealthy societal expectations. These were my stones, things which tripped me up.

Take a baby step- Find out what your stones are. Write them down in one column, and on the second column, write down the things you can do to avoid tripping over them. In other words, look for those stones, and pick them up before they trip you.

My Stones

Insecurity and stress tripped me up real bad. My worst stone was feeling lonely as I’ve a lot of difficulty articulating my feelings especially when those feelings are anger or frustration- I’ve been brought up in an environment where those feelings are labelled to be “bad”. Realising what my stones were helped me to think of ways to cope whenever I bumped into them.

For me, picking up stones meant making sure I made an effort to eat with normal, healthy people who made me feel at ease; it meant journalling my thoughts and talking to God whenever I had strong feelings about something, instead of running away from problems by literally going for a run; it meant me making a conscious effort to say how I felt; it meant me avoiding trashy fashion magazines featuring anorexic people.

It meant me spending time for myself and with God, and not just being busy trying to please everybody else. It meant me avoiding situations that I knew would trip me up.

It meant taking time to find out what I could do to pick up those stones before they tripped me.

You can too. Find out what your stones are, and where they lie. So the next time you see them, you can pick them up, and walk forward- well.

As you get better, your trip-ups get fewer and further between, and that’s when you know you’re on your way to being completely Well.

Asking WHY

This was the most challenging part for me.

Once you’ve figured out what your stones are, and what you can do to pick them up, here comes the real challenge. I had to find out WHY those stones tripped me in the first place. Why does eating with people who obsess about fashion and weight and exercise trigger a self-restricting response? Why do I feel insecure? Do I need to feel insecure?

This takes a lot of time because it goes so deep, runs so far back. It can be very frustrating and challenging. You may even need some help from someone professional to help you through this. I was already seeing a counsellor then because of my journey with depression, and it dug out many ill beliefs and damages which I had absorbed unconsciously as a child. I learnt so much and gained a lot of self-awareness through this process.

Remember to be faithful in writing down your stones using your two columns, and to ask yourself WHY.

Pressing in

There will be times you feel like throwing in the towel, and times where you feel like bursting out in tears because nobody seems to understand. People around you can say and do things that hamper your recovery, and this can be extremely exasperating, I know.

Hold on to one thing- that no matter what people say or do, no one can take away your decision to get better. No one.

Getting Support

I had a friend who would force me to eat whenever he was with me, and I found it extremely stressful. Many times I felt like bursting into tears, tell him he didn’t understand, or ask him to leave me alone. But he was a good friend, like a big brother, and I wanted to get better. So I explained my illness to him, let him read a book on how to help me and asked him to support me by giving me time and space to recover.

It’s not too much to ask- they want to help, too. If it helps, you can take the iniative to tell your close friends how they can support you in your recovery. Instead of just getting mad, or crying, you can choose to press in, and make your recovery work.

Rationalise

Growing up in a family where members count calories, make fun of larger people and give one another second looks when you take an extra spoonful of rice was difficult for me. Many times I felt like exploding. But instead of getting mad, or crying, I chose to press in, rationalise in my head that they don’t know how to help, rationalise that I can make a choice to nourish my body, rationalise that what they are saying hurts me but I can press in and be determined to eat well, be well.

There are always 2 voices in your head- the healthy one, and the unhealthy one. Whenever you feel like going back to old ways, let the 2 voices thrash it out with each other until the good side wins. Rationalise things in your head. MAKE SURE THE GOOD SIDE WINS.

Desperation

Desperation is a good thing during recovery. It keeps you determined. Be desperate for recovery- write your reasons for doing so down and keep them as reminders.

For a long time, I kept my scale, even during recovery. But this incident broke me down completely, and made me desperate enough to want to be Well, not just partially, mostly but COMPLETELY Well. I was completely set free only after I threw it away.

Be desperate for recovery, and throw it away.

Most of this world does not understand Anorexia. When they don’t, and say or do things which hurt us more than help us, we need to press in. Press in, in desperation, and make our recovery work for us.

My White Place

Church and God helped me a lot. They are the reason why I recovered so quickly.

There is a principle in the bible which helped me a lot- that is, the principle of “dying to yourself so you can live”. It’s really about putting to death our destructive worldly, human desires so that we can live victoriously. I applied it to recovery. Every time I felt the desire to return to the old ways, I would pray, put those thoughts to death, and do the complete opposite- if didn’t feel like eating for example, I would pray, then be determined to finish a meal.

This can be very difficult. But there is something powerful in believing in God with all your heart because He has the power to unchain shackles, transform lives, set captive people free.

I do believe there is a time and place for professional counselling, medication and taking steps to recover. But at the end of the day, I believe all these methods are human constructs- there is something powerful about believing in the power of God that can break down strongholds and set you completely free, in a way even the best self-help book can’t. Not everyone will agree with me on this and that’s all right. This is my personal opinion from my experience.

There was a lot of crying. A lot of crying. But God heals- I know He did for me.

Life on the Other Side

Green Hills and Blue Skies

It is completely different here. Here, I am free.

Anorexia is tiring. It tires you mentally, physically and emotionally. For me, it was also a symptom of depression. Getting Well meant being set free from obsessive thoughts, having a healthier body, and learning how to get in touch with my feelings.

I feel better physically. Being Well means feeling more energetic, having a better memory to study well and looking much, much better. You’ll be surprised, but being well gives you a glow Anorexia will never be able to give you. Being Well is what truly makes you beautiful.

I feel better emotionally and mentally. The process of Getting Well taught me so much, and likewise, you, too, will become stronger, more compassionate and more sensitive to other people through this process.

Life on the other side is victorious, and Free. You finally see how much more there is to life- people to meet, places to go, meaningful things to do. What do you want to be when you grow up? Remember, you can be good at what you do, but only without Anorexia.

On the ground

I’ll be honest with you. There are still things I struggle with, like learning how to say I’m angry. A lot of times I don’t, and it takes me a few hours, or days to admit to both myself and someone else that I’m angry and that it’s a valid feeling. These are things we can continually work on, and which make us better people.

The Person Inside

Recovering is a beautiful process. It helps you to find out who you really are inside.

Anorexia takes the real YOU away. It numbed my feelings, set rigid rules, and took away my freedom. Reovering meant having the courage to unpeel the many layers I had chosen to hide under, unzipping the costume I was wearing because I felt so insecure. Recovering meant being a child again, exploring what foods I actually do like to eat, and to have them without anxiety. Recovering meant being open and honest with myself and finding the person inside.

Who is the real you? Be excited to find out : )

You’ll be completely Well, N. You know, not many people would come this far to seek help regarding Relapse- You’re very brave and determined : )

You’ll be completely Well. Believe in it with all your heart.

God loves you very much dear.

Love,

Wai Jia

So, how far do you go?

On New Year’s Day, Grandpa Zhou asked me something that made me think. “Are you going to buy food for me every Tuesday and Saturday?”

It stunned me. For a moment, I thought he was trying to pin me down, take advantage of me like so many people had warned me before. Then he said, “Tell me a time I can wait for you till before I know you won’t be coming because I’m just afraid sometimes I might have bought food for myself already, then I’ll be too full to accept yours if you do come.”

It made me think. How long do I intend to keep up with this, and how far am I willing to go? We’re going to see the doctor next Tuesday. Then what?

What on earth does it mean to love others deeply, the way God loves us? It is easy to love Strangers as a one-time effort- but for life? For every mile one goes for a Stranger, one should then be willing to go twice the mile for one’s family. Is it possible?

How far do you go? There’s only this much time and energy a mortal person has- how does one divide it and how far is too far?

It was my father’s 58th birthday yesterday. On my way home from the library, I thought of buying a cake. Mum and dad said not to though, as one of Dad’s clients would be delivering a good one this weekend. Yes, okay, forget about cake- Dad’s not really a birthday kind of person anyway… … Maybe I’ll draw him a card. Argh, exam in a few days and I’m short of time… Maybe I’ll buy one… it’s more convenient…

But Dad likes it when I draw him cards… …

And what’s a birthday without cake?

At that moment, my mind cleared- you do what love propels you to do. There is always an excuse, but Love is not convenient. Often, it is inconvenient.

Walking home from the train station, I see Grandpa Zhou huddled at a corner. It’s Thursday, he shouldn’t be here… I stop in my tracks. Aw man, if I stop to talk to him, he’ll expect me to buy him dinner… No, I shall resolve not to buy him dinner tonight. I resolve not to- I can’t be doing this forever, I don’t want him to be over-reliant on me. No, I will not, I will go home and celebrate Dad’s birthday. I can only take care of one old man per night so that’s that. I will say hi to Grandpa Zhou and then I will go home. I will buy him dinner on Saturday. YES.

Love is inconvenient. God never asked much from us, He only asked for us to love people as much as He loved us. How far do we go?

I reach home. And then I leave home again as soon as I reach it. This time, I resolve to buy Grandpa Zhou dinner, and there is a lightness in my heart.

He is surprised to see me. “You’re back! With food…! You really shouldn’t have ya…” I explain I cannot stay to chat this time as I’ll be having dinner with my family soon. But I ask him about the sandalwood oil and few sachets of chamomile tea I had given to him on new year’s day to help him with his insomnia, and chat for a while. I tell him we will go to the clinic on Tuesday night when it’s open.

Ni… ni hen you ai xin. Wo zhu ni xin xiang shi cheng, zhu ni cheng gong…( You… you have a kind heart. I wish you the very best for your future, that you may succeed in all things you do.)”
I don’t know what to say so I just smile. I wonder to myself how far I will go to love this old man, and mine back home, my own father.

“The oil and tea you gave me, it’s very expensive no?”

I chuckle. I wonder about the relativity of price. I don’t think he’s seen Crabtree and Evelyn teabags before.

At home, I surprise my two folks with two mini-cakes I have bought. It is a good, cosy celebration. Dad isn’t usually very expressive but this time, he says to me, “ Thanks for your special effort. I feel really good today.”

Those words mean a lot to me.

Just before he goes upstairs to his room, I give him a card I draw. Opening it, I watch him, grey with age, smiling the smile I only ever see twice a year. “ You drew this!” He is laughing by now at the picture I drew, laughing a laugh that I would not hear had I bought a ready-made card. Going up the stairs he says in an odd sing-song, “I am the happiest man in the world today, haha, Your old man… the happiest man in the world ha… …”

Two old men. Two different distances.

How far do we go? How far.

When I saw the smile on both their faces, all at once, it became clear.

That far.

We go as far as we want to- that far.

dedicated to all her readers and loved ones

Once upon a time, there was a Very Big Dragon named Two Thousand and Six and a very little girl named Anna.

The Very Big Dragon named Two Thousand and Six lived in the Big, Black Sea down below, while little Anna lived faraway on rainbow-coloured clouds in a place far above.

Two Thousand and Six was Very Bad, and Very Big.

Anna was, on the other hand, very small.

One day, Two Thousand and Six captured little Anna!

Two Thousand and Six was a Very Bad Dragon.

It captured little Anna, stole Anna’s very little mouth and hid it in the Big, Black Sea so she could not find it. This made little Anna very sad.

Little Anna set out to find her very little mouth! But the Big, Black Sea was so Very Dangerous and she was consumed by the Big waves.

But one day, Two Thousand and Seven came along.

Two Thousand and Seven was a Very Big Hand. It was even BIGGER than the Very Big, Bad Dragon named Two Thousand and Six.

It was Two Thousand and Seven that rescued little Anna!

Two Thousand and Seven helped little Anna find her mouth, and helped her to help others find it too.

Two Thousand and Seven helped her to draw a rainbow in the sky, and returned little Anna back to her home of rainbow-coloured clouds up above.

Two Thousand and Seven saved little Anna!

“Thank you Two Thousand and Seven!” she cried out.

It was Two Thousand and Seven that saved her life!

“You’re welcome, ” said Two Thousand and Seven. “I have a Very Good friend named Two Thousand and Eight and he will look after you from now on so Big, Bad Dragons won’t come and get you. You’ll be safe up here.”

Little Anna smiled, and returned home, back safely to her rainbow-coloured clouds up above, waiting for a Very Good Two Thousand and Eight to arrive.

The End

To all of you, thank you for walking this journey with her.

She would like to thank all of you who have sent her emails, messages and notes of encouragement, as well as all of you who visit this space.

Thank you for the little things- for reading, for leaving a note on this tagboard, or simply passing on this space to someone else to share her Story. She wants to hug you, even if she hasn’t met you before, because she wants to thank you for sending Two Thousand and Seven to save her.

It’s been a long year, from darkness to light, from a deep, deep valley to a mountain-top, and from blackness to light.

Thank you for being with her.

She would like to send you a hug because she knows so many of you sent secret angels to alert Two Thousand and Seven when she was captured so Two Thousand and Seven could come down and save her.

Special thanks to Jo, Ther, Lif, and TAM for your prayer and friendship when she was captured. She can never thank you enough.

To EK and A, for your love, support and encouragement. You changed her life since Kitesong.

To all the Angels she met in her White Place, for blessing and loving her inside-out.

To her family, for giving her a real Home to go back to.

To her Very Special and Big Hand, for saving her life, and for His Faithfulness.

To all of you, for being such a beautiful audience.

Thank you so much for saving her life.

She hopes that each of you may be blessed with a Very Good Two Thousand and Eight too.

She hopes you enjoyed reading her Full Story.

This is her gift to you.

Thank you.

May God bless your hearts always.