Most days, I wonder if I’m loved or even liked by others. I never really thought about it much as a kid because none of family members, including extended family, ever uttered the phrase, “I love you.” My mom didn’t start saying it until she became a Christian in the early 80’s, and after reading that post you’ll understand why I never believed those words were true coming from her.
I recently spoke with a couple fellow YOBBERS, sharing about my bulimia while I was in the Army. I was determined to keep my size 32″ waist back then. Every Friday for two years I did this purging ritual so I could look good for guys in the clubs, bars, and bathhouses.
One of the guys asked me, “Why didn’t you just not eat for the weekend?”
I told him, “Because this was faster. I basically gave myself a colonoscopy every Friday. It definitely took its toll on my insides.” I won’t go into everything else I did with my body, because I don’t want anyone else to do it, especially knowing we have readers who suffer with body image issues.
Like I told these guys, I had to hide my bulimia from the Army because I’d have ended up in the psych ward. I ended up going anyway, but for a whole different reason.
All I wanted was to live a fantasy every weekend: to believe that some man wanted me. That he loved me just so I could take my mind off all the negative things I felt about myself.
After 29 years of living that life and never once finding happiness or love, God in His own way brought me back to Him and the church. However, I also started experiencing added health issues.
At first, it seemed like something different was happening to me every month or every other month, and doctors couldn’t figure it out. Sometimes I’d miss a couple weeks of church or Bible study, but no one called, texted, or came by to check on me even though my house was only two blocks from the church office. I already had low self-esteem, and this worsened it, increasing my doubts that no one cared for me or loved me, other than my brother.
One of my health issues since I was seventeen has been migraines. My shortest migraine has lasted four days; my longest one, 547 days. Then I had my first stroke, and I was hospitalized for thirteen days. Nobody from my church came to see me until the tenth day, and that was only because my mom had called the church office asking why no one had visited me yet. That afternoon both the lead and associate pastors saw me; the lead pastor was on his phone the entire time.
Other people visited me over the next two days, but they seemed like pity visits; by that I mean they came because of my mom’s phone call. If they’d truly cared, they would have been there way before my tenth day in the hospital.
I blame myself, though. If I hadn’t come out to my pastor and my Bible study group months before, telling them about my past, maybe things would’ve gone differently. After my hospital stay, only one couple brought me food. It’s funny, this couple practically broke their necks to sign up for hospitality when other couples just had a baby. They’d go over and do their chores and take care of meals for two weeks.
None of that happened for me. I ended up having three more strokes (a total of four over a ten-month period), and no one ever came by to check on me, bring me food, or help with chores.
What was I supposed to think? My low self-esteem kept plummeting, and I continued receiving confirmation that I’m not loved by anyone — even people in the church.
Last year I shared with some YOBBERS that I’ve already paid for my cremation because I figured no one would attend my funeral. I think that’s pretty sad when you’ve lived six decades with no friends or nobody who cares enough to check in from time to time.
Though I’ve since left that other church and found a new one, my low self-esteem, doubt of care, and lack of love persist. My health issues have gotten worse over the past few months, and I’ve been missing more church, Bible study, and serving in the church. And yet only two members have checked on me regularly. One is the first person I came out to at this church; the other, a guy who attends men’s Bible study when he can.
It feels obvious that I’m the common denominator here. I’ve always thought I was a likable person. I’m easy to talk to. I don’t judge (unless you’re wearing something hideous). I’d like to think I’m fun to be around because of my dry humor, so I just don’t get it.
Why do people keep telling me they love me when it’s obvious that the majority of them don’t?
I had a conversation with another YOBBER, and we were talking about the word love and how people overly use it. I told him that I only say “I love you” to my mom and my sisters to make them feel good. But when I say that sentence to men (and my sister-in-law), I genuinely mean it because I have personal, emotional connections with them.
I’ve never had that connection with the women in my family. I understand not all of them feel the need to say it back, at least not right away, and that’s fine. And in some ways I respect that more than their saying, “I love you, too” when there’s no sincerity behind it.
I know I should be content with the love of the Father, but sometimes I just want to be invited over for dinner or hang out for some one-on-one time — something that’s never happened to me without being asked as part of a group . . .
I’m sorry, guys. I try to give some positive spin on what I write, but sometimes you also just have to be real.
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
— 1 John 3:18 (ESV)
Do you also struggle with body image or self-worth? When was a time somebody “reversed the script” and loved you in an intentional, meaningful way?