Mental Health and Recovery

A Gift Of Freedom Gold Can’t Buy

october15     October 15th is always a day that carries with it the light and dark of so many past Octobers. It’s a day that He makes all things new, a day of beginnings, of healing, of fulfilled promises, and of learning what it means to be held.

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

-Natalie Grant “Held”

Ten years ago today I left the hospital after a two-week stay, and my Dad boarded a plane with me to Wickenburg, Arizona, where he dropped me off at an eating disorder treatment center in the middle of the desert. Even though this was just one of several places that came to be a temporary home during the roughly four years of my treatment, it was the most significant. I walked through those doors in fear, feeling as if I’d made a huge mistake in agreeing to go there, and begging my Dad not to leave without me. But during my almost 3 month stay, while I did not find an immediate cure, I did come to 3 new and very important things: hope for a life beyond my illness, a personal relationship with Jesus, and the choice to live. It had been years since I’d dreamed of living past my 20th birthday, and a life of freedom was completely incomprehensible.

I had left college two weeks before arriving in Arizona, when I finally realized that if I stayed any longer I was going to die. But being scared of dying, and choosing life are not mutually inclusive thoughts. I lingered somewhere in the middle where I could no longer handle the miserable existence I was creating for myself, but the highest my aspirations went was for an existence more manageable and just slightly less miserable.

I was devastated that my choice must include abandoning my Big Ten college volleyball team in the middle of the season and walking away from everything I had worked so hard for for years. Even though I told my coaches I’d be back in the Spring, I think I knew deep down that I had played my last game, that I was surrendering all my dreams. But I also knew that I couldn’t hope to play professionally overseas after college if I couldn’t even make it through college. And if I was really being honest with myself, playing wasn’t even fun anymore. After all, I was at that point a state and national champion, and a starter on my college team as a freshman, and I couldn’t even enjoy that because I was too busy berating myself for any imperfections. I couldn’t enjoy the sport I loved because I was too preoccupied in my own head in this other game that demanded all my attention and energy. It was devastating. And being in treatment, living amongst strangers who knew nothing of my athletic pursuits was the first time I had to actually find an identity in something other than being an athlete. I didn’t know who I was, or what my likes and dislikes were, or strengths and weaknesses outside of sports. As uncomfortable as shedding that persona was, it was time to find out who I really was, and who I was to my Creator.

grain of sand

That time in the desert was the biggest turning point of the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life- recover. Every single day was like visiting the battlefield in my civil war of one. But when I got back on a plane to head home in January, I was unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15th.

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark

-Tenth Avenue North “Healing Begins”

That was where my healing began. That was where His light met my dark.

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October 15th is a day of beginnings. A day to cherish life and health and new chapters, and a day of promises fulfilled.

Four years ago today I met the man that is as much of a soulmate as one can be, if that kind of thing even exists. He fulfilled a promise made to me by God. You may think that sounds silly. How could God have promised such a thing to me? I’d argue that God made promises to those in the Bible who were also just ordinary human beings, and he made promises to humanity as a whole. He’s the same God today as He was then, so why wouldn’t he still be in the business of making and fulfilling promises? If you’re curious, you can visit the link above and discover what I am referring to, but if not you’ll just have to trust me.

Nonetheless, October 15th once again was a turning point in my life. It was the first day of the best 4 years of my life thus far. I am so blessed and grateful to have a partner in life that was seemingly appointed by heaven itself. Someone who anchors me, encourages me, challenges me to grow continuously, and loves me without condition.

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October 15, 2011 found me unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15, 2005. And while October 15, 2015 carries with it my resemblance to the person from 2011, I am once again not the same. This year finds me stronger, braver, and with a bit more wisdom after a few more years under my belt.

Looking back, I can see that all along, I was being held. There were times in the Arizona desert and throughout my treatment that I felt the miraculous presence of God, receiving immediate undeniable answer to prayer, in a way in which no mere “coincidence” could provide explanation. And there were other times of prayer throughout the years when my knees hit the ground and I felt largely unheard. But some of those times, I found in His time, not mine, that he did answer after all. He always answers. We just aren’t always patient enough to listen.

One day I asked God for a sign. As I was driving, I asked Him to give me the biggest hawk I’ve ever seen as I round the next curve on that 2 lane country road. To just place one right in the middle of the road as I come around the corner, as confirmation that I was on the right path. I didn’t get my hawk that day.

image source: ejphoto.com

image source: ejphoto.com

A year and a half later I went home after taking my College Algebra final exam, evidence of tears of joy still glistening on my cheeks as I secured an A in the one subject that challenges me, and the one class I didn’t dare believe I could get through without damaging my GPA. I immediately jumped out of the car, changed shoes, and jumped on one of my horses bareback, feeling a rush of peacefulness and pure joy wash over me. I took him into the woods, and rounded a curve just beyond the mouth of the trail. I had to hold in a gasp that almost escaped my lips before I could catch it, because a dozen or so feet in front of me, perched on a branch jutting out over my path was a red-shouldered hawk- by far the biggest I’ve ever seen in person. He turned and looked at me, his steel gaze piercing right through me, and held it for what seemed like an eternity. Time stood still. He stayed for probably no more than 20 seconds, but 20 seconds in a staring contest with a bird of prey, close enough to count his feathers, while sitting atop a large animal who doesn’t want to stand still is a really long time.

It was one of those moments in my life many would chalk up to coincidence, or not even think twice about. But for me, in that moment I just knew. I knew God was finally responding in a way that He knew I would recognize. It was just an acknowledgement of what I at times have begged Him for- confirmation that I’m doing okay, that I’m moving in the right direction, that He is still holding me.

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Why do I share all this? Why do I publicly reflect on the meaning of landmark Octobers and answered prayers? Why take you back a decade to a different lifetime that seems more like memories of a movie I watched about someone else’s life, than the one I actually lived myself?

Because I feel the responsibility that comes from having known darkness, yet finding redemption. The responsibility to be a voice and an example. If one person might see this and may find hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that things really can get better then I need to be here to say it.

Because there is hope. Because you’re not alone. Because after 7 years of being recovered, I can tell you that my absolute worst day, amplified, is still worlds away from my best day with anorexia and bulimia. Because even though sometimes choosing life is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, it is worth every single second.

Maybe you’re struggling with that choice. Maybe you’ve made it but don’t even know how to start picking up the pieces. Well know this: I found my life when I laid it down. Maybe you can too.

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coming Full Circle

image via Shutterstock

image via Shutterstock

Food and eating is a prominent occurrence in our human lives. We come across it daily and is an unavoidable force behind life, human and otherwise. Food has held not only this inevitable prominent position in the course of my life, but a highly controversial one. For many years the kitchen symbolized more of a war zone than a place for nourishment, the path to the fridge more of a green mile than an eternal spring.

My relationship with food has covered the spectrum. I’ve been secretive, obsessive, compulsive, binged, purged, avoided, starved, refused, feared, indulged, dismissed, misunderstood, and then learned, appreciated, valued…

A very powerful realization comes when seeing the circle complete itself. For years I had an ED NOS- eating disorder not otherwise specified. I did it all. The anorexia, bulimia, over-exercising, excessive diet pills, diuretics, laxatives, even poison to make myself vomit, and more, all wrapped up into one person. I was addicted to eating, I was addicted to not eating, I was terrified of food, and I couldn’t stop.

Then I got better. I recovered. And I realized I loved food. It tasted good and I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted with no guilt or shame or a single care in the world really. I finished my meals and didn’t think anything of it until the next time I was hungry and would eat whatever I wanted all over again. I didn’t really think much of nutrition, because hey, I was young and didn’t feel any urgency to worry about it yet. I just wanted to enjoy the freedom.

The problem was, I gained a lot of weight. And ironically I didn’t even realize it because I was happier with my body and more comfortable in my skin than I could ever remember. As my mind recovered and the mental illness dissipated, I started to see my body without the skewed image distortion in the mirror, and I after gaining all that weight, I saw my reflection as smaller than what I saw with an eating disorder. When I was sick, a private session with a body image therapist in residential treatment revealed that I saw myself as 150 lbs. heavier than I actually was. I gained a ton of weight, but I hadn’t gained 150 lbs. About half that, in fact. So in the mirror, my brain processed my image as smaller than I had been for years, now that I finally saw myself clearly.

I didn’t even realize how much weight I had gained, since I hadn’t stepped on a scale since recovery, and stepped on backwards at the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to know, nor care. I figured, what good would it do? But after accidentally seeing my weight and vitals written on a printed invoice after leaving a regular check-up one day a few years ago, I realized if I didn’t change things, I’d be headed for big trouble with my health. I had no idea it had gotten so bad.

I started paying a little bit of attention when I ate, and stopped getting fast food every single day, and things slowly started reversing. But it still took a few years for me to really commit mentally and find the motivation to dig in and do better.

Reaching that point is amazing. Granted, it’s an imperfect process, but so what? That’s what this is all about. Learning and improving and just enjoying taking care of oneself. I can’t believe the passion I am gaining for good, whole food. I can’t stop reading about the effects of sugar on the body, and the science behind it, or the same with gluten, or what is really driving heart disease and cancer and how badly we Americans lack omega 3’s in our diet to help fight these problems.

 

image via Consumers Health Forum of Australia

image via Consumers Health Forum of Australia

This is full circle. Finding the place where I am happy and comfortable in my skin, and also aware. Where I can check my weight without any emotional attachment, to track progress along the way to figuring out true health. I try to get in extra exercise most days (about 30 mins.) to keep my heart and muscles strong, but beyond that I am not a slave to the treadmill or a gym rat, and I have an active job where I walk all day long so that’s enough. I know when to lay on the couch and veg out and that it’s okay to do that too. I don’t need miracle formulas or calorie counting, but rather the understanding of real food vs. processed food, of what my body needs in a day, and the eye to estimate portion sizes. I’m finding simplicity in lowering refined sugar and refined flour and multiplying vegetables in my diet. I’ve found a passion for cooking and planting and creating nourishment with my own hands, and am excited at learning more about what these creations actually do after they are put in my mouth. Most importantly, I can tell that even doing this imperfectly, while I’m still learning, I have so much more energy and a better mood. I just plain feel better. Food is supposed to give you energy and make you feel good, not make you feel like you need to take a nap or give you headaches.

I love my life. I really do. And this is just the next step in learning how to take care of myself, learning to thrive, and giving myself my best chance each day.

images (8)

 

 

**If you struggle with food and your body, an eating disorder, or just aren’t very happy with yourself… just know that doesn’t have to last forever. Change is possible, freedom is possible. You, too, can find peace from the inside out, a truce and partnership with your body in place of war. But it starts within, it starts with knowing your worth-something no scale can measure.

 

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Only Love Thaws a Frozen Heart

frozen_french_poster_2847     So I finally watched Disney’s Frozen, the movie that has taken the world by storm as of late, the highest grossing animated movie of all time worldwide, and one of the top ten of all time period. I loved it, but that’s not really unexpected because I admittedly am a 27 year old woman who still watches the Disney channel on a semi-regular basis, and no, I don’t have kids.

I loved the message of this movie. It is one that resonated deep within as one I know to be true because it is a story of my own life. It’s a story I’ve lived. I must say, Disney, I concur.

When asked how I recovered from an eating disorder, sometimes I fumble with my response. 3.5  years of hospitalizations, inpatient, outpatient, and individual weekly, sometimes bi-weekly therapy, or a culmination of all of the above? The heart to hearts with my therapist/surrogate best friend-mom-older sister-teacher, the picking apart of each and every semi-traumatic moment of my childhood, the educational aspects, the cognitive changes, the life skills learned…none of it feels like the right answer. Something is always missing.

Because in the end, it was love.

Yet, when you tell someone you were loved back to health, you tend to elicit odd looks and skeptical responses. When you say Jesus healed your heart and put back together your fractured soul, people aren’t quite sure what to make of that, other than maybe you overdosed one too many times and left your brain a bit addled. People want something “concrete” to hold on to, some tangible method or a “how-to” list.

I can craft a “how-to” on formulating a meal plan for a person in recovery based on if they need to gain, maintain, or lose weight. I can draft a step-by-step on utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy in order to change your thoughts or dialectical behavioral therapy to combat the general inability to deal with life, and I can even pick apart all the ways the scale does not necessarily give you an accurate representation of your weight. But these things change behaviors, and even thoughts, but it takes one step further to reach the heart.

I didn’t fully recover until I had a change of heart. That is why even after the eating disorder behaviors mostly acquiesced due to the all, but not limited to, aforementioned treatment, I continued to self-destruct through the underlying borderline personality disorder. And I continued to hide under the covers in a mental fog due to the chronic depression.

When I say I recovered, it’s more like there is another step past recovery. Recovering from something means you were at one point not recovered, or rather, afflicted and struggling. And every time you say the word “recovered” you are still attached to what got you there in the first place. So yes, I feel there is another step. Where you’re healed past the point of “recovery.” You are no longer just recovered. You are free.

Free as in freedom as in it’s as if it never happened and your memories feel like they more appropriately belong to a character in a movie you once watched a long time ago and barely remember rather than a younger version of yourself. How did this happen? How do you go from having a frozen heart to being thawed and plumb cozy?

Frozen-Quote

 

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

I propose, the ultimate and most sacrificial act of true love ever known to the world- the cross. Jesus died on the cross to thaw my frozen heart. The nails that pierced His flesh, were driven straight through my chains until they snapped. And this love is so true that it’s the all-consuming, life-altering, redemptive kind that once you are aware of, every part of you gravitates toward it naturally like growing flowers leaning into the direction of the sun.

Healing was a process. It started with the love I found in the hospital for the first time, a level of compassion and tenderness so foreign and strange as people saw me beneath the outer layers that hadn’t been peeled back in years and I felt safe enough to remove the “Keep Out” sign from my heart and dust the cobwebs from around the door. Then I learned to express love for animals and accept the unconditional love they offered. I learned how to care for something, how to support another living thing, as I slowly learned how to care for myself. It continued with my parents and learning each other’s different love languages and how to better express them to each other, the discovery of the love that was there all along without me ever having understood it before. And ultimately, when I was ready and in a position to recognize it, the transforming love of my Creator. Once I finally felt the full power of this grace-filled love there was no turning back. Ultimately, it was the love displayed at Calvary on that old wooden cross.

It was Jesus. It was always Jesus.

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From the start it was the Holy Spirit loving me from the inside of those placed in my life, those trying to fight for my very existence. It was His creation and His heart that shone in the eyes of my first horse that gave me one of the first reasons I had found for choosing to live. It’s His hand in my family that led us to find not only mutual ground, but a relationship grown from our love for each other so full it overflows. And it’s the Holy Spirit within me, that loved me from the inside out, that delivered me from my deepest darkest brokenness to one who has found her light.

It was Him, always Him.

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

 

(And now, not because it fits with the theme of this post, but purely because I am utterly obsessed with it- the primary song from Frozen, “Let it Go.” Idina Menzel’s voice is pure genius, by the way.)

 

 

—–EDIT 5/22/14: This post was published in the May 2014 issue of The Kingdom Life Now, an online Christian women’s magazine! http://thekingdomlifenow.com/love-thaws-frozen-heart/

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Body, My Instrument

This was a guest post I wrote for a long-time friend, former teammate and fitness coach, Rachel Ngom, posted on her website on February 13, 2014. I wanted to share it with all of you as well!

“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Do not be afraid of it, or what other peo­ple think of it. It is the great­est instru­ment you will ever own.”

–Baz Luhrmann

Jana and Rachel- 2005

Jana and Rachel- 2005

I met Rachel a decade ago (whew, time flies!) on a court of blood, sweat and tears. Ok, maybe not the blood so much, but lots of sweat, and occasional tears, plus the scent of dreams in the making. Method of choice: volleyball. We became friends at a point that was pivotal for Rachel in her pursuit of health and wellness and I was able to watch her grow and learn how to take good care of her body.

It was a pivotal time for me as well, but I was on a completely different path where my health was concerned. Rachel was one of the first people I told that I was struggling with an eating disorder. She was the first to know outside of a couple close friends from school. Despite my urging for her to keep quiet, her decision to speak up and get adults involved led to the treatment journey that eventually gave me my life back. She fought for my health back then, and now she’s still fighting for health, this time with all of you.

Today, so many messages we hear tell us we need to lose weight AT ALL COSTS. We hurt our bodies and minds in the pursuit of thin and lose the point along the way. Sometimes we even lose ourselves. The point isn’t thin, the point is health and a full life.

Rachel always emphasizes, “You must eat, even to lose weight!” And I’m  here to reinforce that today, especially with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week approaching February 23rd to March 1st. I didn’t eat enough for years, and I NEVER got skinny. I maintained a normal weight throughout a decade of fighting anorexia and bulimia. But on the inside, it was a different story. In my quest for thin at all costs, my internal body screamed for help. At times my kidneys showed beginning signs of failure, my cells started breaking down and releasing CO2 into my body, poisoning me from the inside as if I were sitting in a closed garage with the car engine running. Heart palpitations became normal and a random blood test showed my blood sugar level so low, I should’ve been in a coma or dead. Somehow my amazing body remained resilient and kept me alive so I can be here today to warn you of where that path leads.

For the body, depending on gender and weight, we need a minimum of 1200 calories per day just to have enough fuel to sit and do nothing! When we eat too little, our metabolism slows down to hang on to every bit of fuel it can. If you aren’t eating enough, your body doesn’t know there are fast food establishments on every corner and a fridge stocked full of food. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it voluntarily, your body will go into starvation mode. This is the nature of self-preservation.

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What happens if you don’t eat enough?

  • -increased depression

  • -increased anxiety

  • -increased irritability

  • -social withdrawal

  • -problems with memory (not enough fat in the diet)

  • -decreased libido

  • -decreased concentration

  • -decreased judgment

  • -increased food preoccupation

  • -increased binging

  • -muscle loss (muscle cells break down to feed protein to the body)

The human body is truly amazing in how it heals itself and fights for self-preservation. After years of not adequately feeding myself, my body took over and fought for itself. I started sleep-eating. I would sleepwalk and eat in my sleep, with no memory of doing so. My evidence was missing food, empty containers on the counter in the morning, and sometimes remnants smeared over my face, pillow and/or clothes. Of course I’d want to compensate the following day for all the calories I ate during the night, so I’d undereat more, and the next night the cycle would start all over again. This went on for many months, sometimes several nights in a row. It drove my roommates crazy as their food disappeared and I was terrified of keeping food in the house. I was disgusted with myself and felt completely out of control. My quest for control over food and my body rendered me powerless.

In the midst of an eating disorder, I didn’t care what smoke signals my body sent me. I still thought nothing truly bad would ever happen, and even if it did, once I got “thin enough” I’d be able to stop. That’s not true at all, I wouldn’t have been able to stop. And life doesn’t magically get better because you reached your goal weight. If there are underlying mental issues, no “magic number” will cure them.

Once I healed enough in my heart and mind to be able to see things rationally I learned to see my body in a whole new light. My body is a machine. It is an instrument. It is an instrument, rather than an ornament. It’s amazing and it’s a gift and I only get one. Just like a car needs fuel and an instrument needs tuning, my body will perform when I take care of it. The more fine tuned, the more beautiful the music.

My body allows me to run, jump, play with my dogs, ride my horses, hug my parents, kiss my boyfriend, sing horribly to myself in the car, taste delicious food, remember my best friend’s birthday, and laugh. I laugh a LOT now.

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In 24 hours my heart beats 103,689 times, my blood travels 168,000 miles, I breathe 23,040 times, move 750 major muscles, and exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.

How amazing. How stunning. How beautiful.

As you read this, may you remember: your body is the greatest instrument you will ever own. There is only one you, in all of history. You have talents and purpose all your own. You are not just some body, you are somebody. You are not a number, and you have a heart and mind and no scale can measure their size. Take care of your instrument. Treat it kindly. Exercise. Eat well. But don’t deprive it. It’s not a slave to be chained and controlled, it is a partner and friend to be loved and listened to. You deserve to be loved and listened to.

How do you see your body? Do you think of it as an instrument to be tuned, a partner to be loved? Or do you see it as clay to be molded and conquered?

Today I have been fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia for over 4 years. I love myself and I love my life! I never thought I’d find such freedom and joy regarding my body or life in general as I experience today.

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Original Post:  http://www.fitwithrachel.com/body-instrument-guest-post-jana-wojcik

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Loving Memory of both the Sinner and the Saint

   I believe lessons present themselves everywhere, all around us. In life, in other people’s lives, and in death. Maybe especially in death.

When someone in a family meets an untimely demise, often it’s the youngest and best of all of us. I wonder why we don’t gain more perspective in the midst of this. I feel like a whole new outlook on life should be automatically revealed to us. How can it not be?

I wonder how old sibling rivalries and hurt feelings survive a death in the family, how they aren’t magically resolved as the physical remains of one of their own is laid to rest below the ground. As we look down into the void of fresh dirt how do we not gain a glimpse into a bigger picture where possessions, money or disagreements no longer separate us and instead we find the compassion that unites us all?

I don’t suggest we have to be best friends with every relative, or every person we ever meet, but at the very least we can wish each other well and engage in positive communication. We can speak life to each other and break down walls, rather than look from the cracks in the bricks and hide behind the armed guards we have stationed at every door, guns loaded.

Then I remember we are all human. And try as we might sometimes we just won’t see each other’s side of things, sometimes we just will never agree.

But why then, if we are all imperfectly human, do we treat the deceased as if they somehow found the secret for escaping their humanity? We don’t ever want to paint the dead in what anyone could consider a negative light once they are gone as if it would be an insult to their memory.

Isn’t the opposite true?

Isn’t the insult to NOT acknowledge the hardship, the humanity?

Darkness perpetuates darkness. Secrets are followed by more secrets. Silence creates bondage. But one little light can break through them all.

Recently I saw a video of four average women who were given a celebrity style photo shoot and photoshopped into cover models. One girl said something along the lines that when you take away the imperfections, there’s nothing really of you left.

I lost an uncle last week. My dad lost a brother. I haven’t seen or spoken with my uncle in years and I couldn’t make it personally to the funeral. Living across the country, working two jobs, and limited finances sets limits on last minute travel. But I’ve thought a lot about him this week, about all of this, about all the unanswered questions and how they affect us all.

My uncle was an alcoholic. It’s unclear how heavily that affected his death, as he slipped and fell…having some problems falling lately.. but I would find it hard to believe it wasn’t a domino effect leading up to the instability of his footing. He also was a heavy smoker. But any talk of this and how it affected his health was shushed by some this week. Why? Everyone smokes. Okay not everyone, but you get my point. A lot of people drink too. So why is it so taboo? Because it claimed control over him? Because he crossed over that line from pleasure to addiction? Because he was losing?

The ones doing the shushing this week meant well. I don’t doubt that. They just wanted everyone to remain in very positive thoughts and make it easier on my cousins grieving their father, and embrace only good memories during this time. I understand.

But ultimately, I think that points to a deeper, more fundamental problem in our society- how we must fragment a person and section out their flaws in order to keep smiles all around.

This isn’t anything new… I had a great-uncle whom I never met, died before I was born. He was an alcoholic and found himself in the hospital. On the fifth floor he opened the window and was found dead on the sidewalk below. It’s unclear whether he intentionally jumped or was just smoking a cigarette into the night air and fell accidentally. My dad still doesn’t know what happened because no one wanted to talk about it. If suicide was even a possibility, we sweep it under the rug. We don’t want to believe that could be true or let anyone else believe it.

Recently I read a blog on Philip Seymour Hoffman and addiction. One point said  that fighting addiction once it takes you is like learning how to fight a mountain lion with your hands tied behind your back. If you haven’t faced this battle it doesn’t mean you are superior to those that have, it doesn’t make you better or stronger. We all have different battles, different temptations, different weaknesses. And those that have never faced this may find it easy to be condescending to those that have, without having ever walked a mile in their shoes.

I was an anorexic, bulimic, and borderline. I recovered. My uncle was an alcoholic and smoker. He still struggled.

Let me rephrase, I HAD an eating disorder and borderline personality disorder. My uncle HAD an addiction to alcohol and cigarettes. These things do not define us. We are so much more. I’m also a daughter, a friend, an animal lover, a hard worker. My uncle was also a dad, a grandpa, he loved fishing and golfing.

Why do we not see this? That these things do not define us? We still speak in hushed voices and sweep certain topics under the rug and don’t talk about it, while the next generation sits in the corner with wide watching, absorbing eyes learning that suffering is better off done in silence.

At times in the past when my uncle was in rehab, he didn’t want anyone to know where he was, not even some of his own siblings. I wonder if he could do it all over again if he’d choose differently. On Super Bowl Sunday he had fallen and was in the hospital. The few that knew were told not to tell anyone else. My dad never knew. My dad would’ve gone and seen him, it would have been the last time he’d see his youngest brother before he died.

But unfortunately these are things we discover when it’s too late, when we’ve run out of “tomorrows” or “laters.” I wonder what could have been done differently, if anything could have been done? I wonder why it wasn’t enough, why my uncle couldn’t save himself? Because as I’ve learned through personal experience, no one else can save you. Others can assist of course, but rescue must come from within oneself to beat any addiction. It’s the only way. Why some do this and so many are unable to, I guess that is no easy answer…

I’m reminded, in the midst of dirty dishes and bills and long work days, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. It’s easy to let friends become acquaintances and family become strangers. Maybe we get our priorities a little screwed up. Maybe giving a smile is worth the extra effort, maybe helping an elderly neighbor with groceries is worth the inconvenience, and maybe buying a few extra Christmas cards is worth the investment. We can always find people to send them out to. In our busy lives, people get crowded out and contacts narrowed down, but we’re narrowing down things that can’t be eliminated- God’s people.

When people die, we worry about protecting their memory in the minds of the living. But underneath that veil, knowing the good, the bad, and the worse… what I remember is being a little kid at my uncle’s house playing with my cousins in the pool. He was happy and joyful and entertaining. Yeah, he wasn’t perfect and sometimes he screwed up or did things that frustrated his family. Yeah, addiction plagued him every day of his life, and he was fighting a war every day of his life that most couldn’t imagine. But the grinning host, happy among his family? That’s how I remember him.

That’s who he was. He was more. More than addiction, more than loss, more than defeat. And I imagine he is finally home now, free with his Father, and grinning from ear to ear.

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A Letter to Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson

beyoutiful

Dear Rachel,

I didn’t even know who you are until yesterday, when your name blew up social media in response to the Biggest Loser finale. I don’t watch the show. I think the show stands for a lot of good, for the war on obesity in this country. But I also think the extreme approach, borderline torturous style of exercise, and inevitable shaming when a contestant is not working hard enough or losing quickly enough, isn’t the healthiest way to do it. I think it’s dangerous. I know the show has medical staff constantly present along the way, but I’m speaking of dangers mentally as well. And I’m sad that this show has been such a big source of entertainment for 15 years, because while on the surface it provides inspiration against the obesity problem and gives people at home the hope that they too can get their lives back, it points to a much larger problem- the American relationship to food, one of extremes. We have fast food establishments on every corner and eat ourselves to death. We have 24 million people in this country with eating disorders (the biggest killer of all mental illness), and 4 out of 5 women unhappy with their bodies. We have a booming diet industry with a revenue of $20 billion per year. We are killing ourselves with food, whether in one extreme or the other, while we sit on our butts on the couch and watch a TV show of other people going from one extreme to the other in a competition for $250,000.

I have been fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia for over 4 years. If I’ve learned anything from my decade long struggle and several years in and out of hospitals and rehab and therapy, it’s that our problem with food is just the visible symptom of a much larger issue, one of the heart. Eating well and exercising will make our bodies healthy, but not our minds. And I think there needs to be more TV shows addressing the underlying problem and changing the way we Americans think about food and our bodies.

That being said, obviously social media has exploded with the talk of you being anorexic, and with discussion picking apart every aspect of your journey and appearance. There are even pro-eating disorder sites with young teenagers praising you for your “sagging knees” and looking to you as their starvation thinspiration, saying they want to be just like you.

I don’t ever want to look at someone and assume they have an eating disorder. There is more to it than appearance. The vast majority of the time I spent sick I was at a normal weight. You can’t always look at someone and tell, and I so desperately want to give you the benefit of the doubt to slow the cracking of the break in my heart upon seeing your pictures and video of the finale. I think, maybe you really are just being healthy and trying to eat right and find a balance as you claim. And maybe you’ll gain some weight back now that the finale is over, now that you’ve secured the win for $250,000. Maybe you’ve been able to heal the mind that led you to become overweight to begin with over these past months.

I hope so.

But just in case….

I may not want to make assumptions on your mental state, but what I can say are the things concrete. I know the audience cheered, but then gasped, during your reveal. I know the looks on trainers Jillian Michaels’ and Bob Harper’s faces spoke more of horror and concern than celebration. I know your BMI is below what is considered healthy for your body. I know nutrition experts have noted physical signs of dehydration. I know people watching the finale had to look away, or shed a tear, while you were on stage. Many people say you just look sick, and that NBC should never have allowed this to happen.

If this is all due to your body desperately trying to adjust itself after such an extreme loss of weight in such a short time, then what I want to tell you will just serve as a positive reminder while you go through these changes.

But if there is more, if you have found yourself on a slippery slope, one where dieting leads to eating disorder as it does in so many cases. If you aren’t as free and happy and confident as you claim. If you feel like all your joy in life is now wrapped up in being thin, and that everything will be better if you’re skinny. If you find yourself obsessing over the weight and the reflection in the mirror. And if you think for a second, ever, that you need to lose more than you have already….. I want you to know:

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Do not be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.”  -Baz Luhrmann

You are not a number. You are somebody, not some body. The number on the scale can never define you or the worth that is inherently yours. You are a soul and a heart and your body is only what gets you from point A to point B. Take care of it, it’s the only one you will ever get. It is a gift from God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the devil uses our bodies against us, makes us hate them. If we are constantly looking at ourselves, we aren’t much use out there in the world. If we shrink all our energy in, we can’t shine outward and make a difference for others. You now have a platform and with it an opportunity to be a positive influence to women and men of all ages and sizes, and with that comes great responsibility.

I’m sorry that we use your weight loss journey as our entertainment. I’m sorry that we’ve sold you the lie that if you just lose weight everything will be great, with the promise of a quarter of a million dollars and the fame that comes with being a winner of a reality show. I’m sorry that we fellow humans failed you, that something wasn’t done sooner. I’m sorry for the culture that we live in that tells you if you’re fat you should lose the weight at all costs, the same culture that celebrates thin as if it is a goddess that will teach us how not to need.

You said at the finale that you know now you can take control, and do anything you want. But control is where eating disorders thrive. It’s not about controlling your body, it’s about partnering with it. It’s about a loving relationship with your self and your own body, one where it can be honest and tell you when it’s hungry and what it needs and you can tenderly respond, helping it to grow healthy and strong. There is no master and slave, but instead a close friendship. When this relationship is working, you will have a glow on your cheeks and a light that shines from behind your eyes.

You are worth it. You are enough. You matter. Not because of your weight or what you look like, but because you, Rachel, are beautiful. You are made in the image of God, a Father who knew your name at the dawn of time, knows every hair on your head, and has all your days written in his book before a single one happens. You are loved, beyond what you can begin to fathom.

If you have slid down that dieting slope into eating disorder, there is no shame. There is no blame. There is only a need for each other, for fellow human beings that can lift you up again. You said, “You learned you can ask for help.” That’s still true. It was true at the beginning of the Biggest Loser and it’s still true now. Secrets keep you sick, but letting other people in is the first step to pulling yourself back up.

Rachel, if you are struggling, there is more help available. There is hope that you can truly find the balance you say you’re looking for, that you can truly find joy. I hope you find both. I hope you can embrace your worth because of who you are, not because of what you see in the mirror, and I hope you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you.”

I think it’s obvious that a lot of people want to see you be happy, want to see you rise above the prison of food and weight, no matter the size of the bars. You can do it. I’m rooting for you. We all are.

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In honor of: Suicide Prevention Week

Image       July 2007 there was a young woman, 20 years old, sitting at a desk in her studio apartment, writing a goodbye letter in an attempt to explain to the world what she was going to do next, though she knew no one could understand. No one ever understood. She knew what people say about suicide, that it’s “selfish.” The problem was, in her situation, staying was selfish. She was a waste of time, space, energy, a waste of her parents’ money… their life savings wasted on eating disorder treatment that wasn’t working. Nothing was working. She was a burden on everyone she ever came into contact with. Even if they wouldn’t admit it, this would improve life for everyone. And as for this girl, life was so unbearable, the pain was unbearable. It consumed her and wouldn’t stop, she had to make the pain go away. 

She wasn’t thinking about the future because she couldn’t see one. Couldn’t see anything past the pain. She didn’t feel loved, because she had this understanding deep down that she was unloveable. Somewhere along the line, those lies had taken root inside and consumed her, and her self-worth was stolen.

76 pills of Xanax later, as she began to reach for more pills, one thought prevailed, pushing through the pain. Her horse. Chance, the love of her life. What would happen to Chance when she was gone? She quickly grabbed the pen to add to her letter, fighting the brick wall of unconsciousness closing in, but she didn’t know what to add, how to possibly ensure Chance is taken care of. Not even a full minute later, she was asleep.

depression

from scientificamerican.com

That girl was me. I am incredibly blessed to have woken up from that experience a couple days later with nothing wrong with me, at least not physically. It wasn’t my first overdose, and it wouldn’t be the last. But I think it was the only one where I really wanted to die, as opposed to wanting a “break” with a blanket of indifference toward life, not that that’s much better.

There is a huge stigma in our world surrounding mental illness, depression, suicide. It’s uncomfortable. We don’t really understand it and we don’t want to. To healthy people, these things are so foreign, and we have no desire to bridge the chasm between “healthy” and “sick.” Unless we know someone personally struggling, or we are struggling ourselves, this issue is out of sight and out of mind. Well today I’m calling out the elephant in the room, and suggesting that if we stop looking away, and instead turn to look at each other, that maybe less people will feel alone, feel like they don’t belong.

Unfortunately even with community, even with relationships, a lot of times those in pain can’t see the love they are offered, as if it’s on the other side of an impermeable glass wall, out of reach.  There is sickness there, for someone to be in so dark a place they are ready to take their own life. But being sick, doesn’t make them weak, or crazy, it’s just part of the human condition, part of a fallen world.

In this fallen world, like Donald MIller acknowledges in Blue Like Jazz, we are called to hold our palms against the cracks of this broken world to stop the bleeding.

Instead of avoiding pain, we need to face it. Instead of writing off the “crazy,” we must empathize with their humanity. Instead of indulging the tunnel vision of our own lives, we must take our blinders off and follow the footsteps we were created to walk out: to love and be loved, to live in community and relationships, and to offer hope and healing to the broken.

Jesus came for the brokenhearted, for the sick, for the hurting.

Approx. 38,000 people die each year from suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death.

Someone dies from suicide approx. every 13 minutes. 

It is believed that there are 25 attempts for every successful suicide.

Every day there are over 5,400 attempts by teenagers.

I found my way out of the darkness, to the light. I found healing and redemption through developing a personal relationship with God and fought by speaking truth and His promises over my life. Even when I felt the weight of the cloud around me, and I didn’t believe a word I was saying, I spoke outloud:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Psalm 139:14

He who is in me, is greater than he who is in the world.    1 John 4:4

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

No weapon formed against me shall prosper.  Isaiah 54:17

She is more precious than rubies and pearls. Proverbs 3:15

I declared the armor of God over me; Ephesians 6:10-18:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I felt that Satan’s hold on me and his demons whispering lies in my ear, were weakened by speaking God’s word out loud and by demanding them to leave in Jesus’ name.

Some tools for fighting the dark:

Well, for one, a lot of therapy, over a handful of hospitalizations, anti-depressants and other psychotropic medications….. but those things wouldn’t sustain me forever. Eventually I’d need to learn how to find the light on my own.

Opposite to Emotion is a DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) tool that suggests you do the exact opposite of what you are feeling. If I wanted to lay in bed and wallow in my misery all day, I had to force myself to get up and get dressed and find something to do. In order for this to work I had to find hobbies and things I enjoyed. For years I had no idea what I enjoyed, so this took some investigating, but I found I enjoyed doing art and crafts, and creating things. I enjoyed writing and reading. I enjoyed being with animals, my dogs and my horses, and riding. Even filling in the pages of a coloring book was a way to do something, anything other than sleep all day.

I found when I forced myself to go outside, let the sun and vitamin D soak in my skin, and get some fresh air, I would feel better. It may just be taking a walk by myself, walking my dogs, riding one of my horses, or just driving somewhere to get myself out of the house. I even moved halfway across the country to get away from the cold winters of the Midwest that triggered depression and wanting to stay inside curled under blankets all day.

A CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) idea is challenging your thoughts. Thoughts lead to feelings lead to actions, all are connected. If you can change one, you change them all. Changing my thoughts was hard, and didn’t come easy. But I learned to identify negative thoughts, and false lies about myself and my life, and stop them in their tracks, challenge them, change them. Changing a negative thought to a positive thought led to positive feelings which led to positive behaviors.

I learned that the act of smiling reduces stress and releases endorphins. So I started forcing myself to smile, even when I felt like hell on the inside. And guess what? Eventually I wasn’t just faking it, it became real.

I learned to make peace with my past and forgive. Forgive others, but mostly myself. I learned to let go and stop worrying so much and surrender to God and let him take the wheel in my life. I learned to accept that I’m human and make mistakes but it’s all part of life and can learn from them and move on rather than beating myself up and berating myself for them. I learned that if I would just get out of my own way, nothing could stop me. And most of all, I learned that I was a child of God. I was precious. I was worthy. I was not alone. I was loved.

Today, 6 years later, I am happy. I am free. And I look forward to my future with a joy that cannot be contained. I’m genuinely excited to find out what comes next. I am still human, and that means I still have moments, or days, where I feel down or sad, where I have doubts. But now, that’s just normal, and I am very aware of the enemy’s attacks and when Satan is trying to drag me down. I can feel that weight sort of cloud around me. But the difference is, it doesn’t latch on. It has no claim over me anymore. And I have people in my life who love me and anchor me if I feel overwhelmed. I still get overwhelmed, I don’t handle stress or confrontation well. But this is all part of learning, part of living, part of my journey.

You are not alone. You are loved. You are irreplaceable. You are worthy. You are enough. There is hope. There is always hope. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Message to Women Everywhere

Image     On this relaxing Sunday, enjoying what is usually my only day off each week, I’ve found myself contemplating the sad messages women and young girls are inundated with daily in our culture. This realization is not new for me, it’s something I’ve previously thought about many times, and something that was once included in therapy years ago when I was in treatment for an eating disorder.

I consider myself lucky, for being able to gain a perspective on these messages that many other women don’t see. I’ve learned to see beneath the false veil that distorts reality, leading young girls and women to compare themselves to ideals that don’t actually exist, or to get wrapped up in obsession over a health craze or diet, because in their minds, this is the one way they have found where they can strive to measure up, to be good enough, to be thin enough.

Women are raised in today’s America to see food as bad, whether we realize it or not, whether it’s blatant or more subtle.

We learn this from our mothers, who tell us fat is bad, and critique their appearance in the mirror, lamenting over their love handles and scowling at the scale. We don’t get it. As young girls, we look at our mothers and see beauty, see perfection, see life. Our mothers teach us what it means to be women, and so we come to understand that to be a woman is to find an enemy in your body, to not be able to trust yourself, your hunger, your cravings. To be a woman is to learn to suppress those things. And unfortunately now we have little girls as young as 5 years old refusing ice cream at birthday parties because they don’t want to be “fat.” This makes my heart break.

We learn this from society, from the inundation of diet ads and commercials and billboards. We see ice cream commercials with a sexy woman dressed in lingerie is sneaking around a quiet, dark kitchen, leaning against the fridge while seductively sucking ice cream off a spoon, licking her lips in sinful satisfaction. Somewhere along the line it became a marketing scheme to equate food with sex, but as young women, deep down we begin to become ashamed of them both. As a server, I can’t tell you how many guests I have throughout the week that respond to my description of the dessert options with a comment like, “Ooh that sounds sinful.” And if it’s a woman, this remark is usually followed with, “No, thank you, I’ll pass, though it sounds wonderful.” I smile, because it’s all I can do, it’s my job, but it makes me sad. Sad, because “sinful” is hardly a reasonable response for food. Yes, the abuse of food can be turned into sin, can be used for gluttony, but one dessert after dinner on a night out hardly makes the cut.

My take is everything in moderation. I think anything taken out of moderation becomes unhealthy. Even eating healthy, eating wholesome food, becomes unhealthy when our minds obsess over it and we can’t allow ourselves a single “unhealthy” bite EVER, even if it means a whole lot of inconvenience to avoid it, or not eating at all, or if we can only allow ourselves a few bites of “junk food” if we justify it by making it sugar-free, fat-free, all-natural, then we deem it “safe.”

I get eating healthy, it’s something I’m currently striving to do more of in my own life. But when you go from making food choices to feel good about yourself and honor the instrument of your body that God gave you and owning that, to those food choices ruling you, your mind is no longer free.

I came across an article the other day that I really enjoyed. I got a chuckle out of it but also felt it was very insightful:

http://impruvism.com/clean-eating/

The blog is titled “Why ‘Clean Eating’ is a Myth.” The writer argues that yes, while foods can impact your health and performance, your body doesn’t see certain foods as “good” and others as “bad.” It’s all about calories in versus calories out, and the nutrients your body breaks your food down into. Yes certain things, like sugar, can lead to problems like diabetes, but back to my comment on moderation, this is when overconsumption comes into play. Even sugar, in moderation, is okay. You just have to eat a little here and there, not overdo it.

One thing I really liked is how it showed that different people have different ideas of what “bad” food is. Vegetarians think animal meat is bad. Vegans feel that way about all animal products. Bodybuilders stay away from milk, fruit, and white bread. The USDA cringes from saturated fat, cholesteral, red meat, etc. There were a few others listed, but you get my point, to read the full article, click on the link above. Labeling certain foods as “good” and others as “bad” rather than seeing them for their composition and taking things in moderation, is unscientific and unhealthy. I guarantee you, if you go eat a doughnut right now, you will NOT blow up into 1000 lbs., ruin your entire future, or drop dead. None of those things will happen. Now, if you went and ate 17 doughnuts, then yeah you probably just gained a pound, because you will have reached the caloric content of one pound. Again, I’m talking about moderation here. Moderate exercise can be looked at through the same lens, but that’s for another discussion.

Our media continuously throws false pictures at us, whether it’s a thoroughly photoshopped magazine cover so that the celebrity staring at us is nothing of what that individual looks like in real life, or a perfect face of a model gazing at us through the pages who doesn’t even exist. Yes, it’s been done, a selection of a set of eyebrows, a nose, a pair of eyes, all put together to grace a cover with perfection, so that women everywhere can hope they look as good as this magazine model who was just created by a man sitting at a computer.

Here’s another I just read this morning that shows one way diet products keep their industry booming, giving us skewed promises and false promises:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-dixon/weight-loss-secrets_b_3643898.html

I am not saying that people don’t have incredible transformations by working out and eating healthy, because yes, those stories are out there. But this DOES show, that with professional lighting, a different stance, some professional tan, a smile….those before and after pictures that get us hooked on a workout plan, diet pill, or other weight-loss product, can be concocted in as little as 5 minutes if you know what you’re doing. And the people that do have transformations, often other things can be involved, such as starvation diets, or cutting out entire food groups, or intense exercise other than what is pushed for whatever the product may be. Believe me, I’ve taken diet pills. I’m not proud of it. All they did was make me sick. They didn’t work because I didn’t change all these other things about what I was doing. They are a waste of money, yet I chased that ever elusive end goal. There is no miracle pill, because weight loss and gain is simply calories in and calories out. Yes, there can be foods that can help our metabolism work more efficiently, but it is never going to be some miracle, too-good-to-be-true ploy.

It saddens me that weight and how we view ourselves, our self-image is such a struggle for women, and increasingly men too. As a woman though, and a Christian woman, I’m not the least bit surprised. There is a reason the most common issue women have with themselves is their weight and their appearance. Satan knows this is our biggest weakness and he takes full advantage. It’s kind of ironic, yet not purely circumstantial, that the one thing he used to tempt Eve with in Eden was food. An apple. Food. She fell, humanity fell, because of a woman being tempted with food.

Satan hates beauty and life and his mission is to destroy it. Satan was beautiful, gorgeous, when he was the angel Lucifer. He was the most beautiful angel. And it was his downfall, he fell from grace because he became arrogant and self-centered, and he lost his beauty. So he hates women, especially, because we were created as the “beauty” of the two genders, and the life-givers. If he can keep us down, insecure, wrapped up within ourselves and focused on our bodies, then we are a lot less apt to be able to look up and look around and make a difference in this world. It’s how he keeps us in chains, in bondage. By telling us we are fat, or ugly, or not good enough. That we don’t measure up. If we don’t think we are good enough, and we don’t measure up, then we are going to hide our light, not let it shine.

So my prayer for you reading this is that you may discover your worth, your beauty, from the inside not the outside. That you may eat healthy and take care of  your body, not to measure up to Hollywood’s standards, but to respect the one body God gave you to care for and enable yourself to better live your life because of it. May you stop relying on the scale to weigh the immensity of your heart, or your jeans size to determine the width of your smile.

May you find purpose and identity because of who you are, not what you look like, for this is where true beauty is held. Know you are worth it, you are enough, you are irreplaceable, you are loved. Let your light shine, the world is a little darker without it.

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

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Today is the last day of eating disorder awareness week 2013, and before it passed, I wanted to do my own small part for that awareness. We’ve all heard the term “eating disorder” but that doesn’t mean we all know what it really means, and even fewer actually understand it. Some may think eating disorders are about self-centered, vain girls and young women that just want to be skinny, think they have it bad in life, and are oblivious to what goes on in the world around them. The truth is, that obsession with food and weight are a coping mechanism to deal with, avoid, and distance oneself from painful emotions and experiences. It can be the one thing a person may feel like they have control of in their lives, being what they put in their mouth. But the problem is, they lose all control, and the disease takes control of them in turn. People use drinking, smoking, cleaning…many different things to cope with life circumstances, but many of these coping mechanisms are seen as societal norms and are even idealized and celebrated at times. A 21 year old going out drinking each night doesn’t seem all that odd, but a 21 year old starving themselves is a lot less understood.

The worst part about having an eating disorder is how it takes over absolutely every single aspect of your life and your being. It consumes your identity. You lose who you are, you eventually forget what your likes and dislikes are, what your passions are…you lose everything. You end up pushing away anyone and everyone that cares about you. You lose the possibility of accomplishing your dreams, and eventually the ability to dream at all because all you can think about every moment of the day is how you look or how people view you or how many calories you are burning or what the number on the scale was that morning, that afternoon, one hour ago. It’s all that matters anymore. It is a monster inside your own mind that grows and grows and fights for all control. It’s like a demon inside you that takes your spirit and crushes it without any care for the person you used to be, were created to be. A civil war of one.

But today I want to tell those struggling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Healing is available. Redemption is possible. Full freedom is reachable!

I know this because I’m living proof. I struggled with eating disordered behaviors, anorexia and bulimia, for nearly a decade, and now have been fully recovered for almost 4 years. Fully as in, it’s not even a passing thought through my mind. Fully as in, I can eating whatever I want and enjoy it and not think twice about it. Fully as in, I look in the mirror and just see me, not extra fat, not anything disgusting or gross. I just see my reflection and then I turn and walk away and carry on with my day. Fully as in, I can deal with stress as it comes, with the frustration and bumps in the road in daily life and just deal with it, rather than let it overwhelm me and cower to it. Fully as in, I’m free.

It’s the hardest thing you will ever do, recovering from your eating disorder. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. But all the therapy, and all the pain, and all the treatment and hardship, it was all worth it. I got my life back. And you can too. And I promise you, it will be worth it!

“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

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I wrote the following post as a guest blog for Dr. Maria Rago and Greg Archer’s blog based on their book: Shut Up Skinny Bitches (shutupskinnybitches.wordpress.com). It was posted on their site on April 23rd, and I wanted to re-post and share with all of you!

shutupskinnybitches

By the time I was 18 years old, one of the many words mental health professionals described me as was “alexithymic.” According to Wikipedia, “Alexithymiais a term coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions.”  It goes on to say, “The core issue is that alexithymics have poorly differentiated emotions limiting their ability to distinguish and describe them to others. This contributes to the sense of emotional detachment from themselves and difficulty connecting with others, making alexithymia negatively associated with life satisfaction even when depression and other confounding factors are controlled.” I also came across the well said phrase “emotional bankruptcy.”

BEFORE I LEARNED TO SHUT UP:

I had suffered with disordered eating at a very young age and then a full blown, out-of-control eating disorder for almost a decade. Looking back…

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