Posts Tagged With: depression

We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

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There was a period of my life where I was surrounded by people who cared about me, but the pain inside kept me blinded to it. Some may have spoken a different love language,  or showed their love differently than the way I was hoping for, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t see it. I was so sure I was unlovable that even when people bent over backwards and jumped through hoops to fight for me, I’d set them up for failure by waiting for the inevitable one thing they would do to eventually disappoint me and prove me “right” that they didn’t care after all.

It could be one unreturned phone call after years of taking my calls at all hours of the day, or the volleyball game they didn’t come to after a lifetime of coaching me and practicing with me. It would be the time they left because I pushed them too hard and too far, after innumerable times standing by my side when no one else would.

I’d put people on a shaky pedestal which one day I would topple to the ground. And then at that moment with grim and rueful satisfaction I’d claim victory. “I knew they never loved me.”

It was misery of my own making, like clinging to chains in a prison cell with the door open. A prison where all interaction with others was a projection of my own inner voice. I deemed myself unlovable and unworthy so naturally I believed others must also. I figured any evidence to the contrary was a lie, a lie others told me to keep me from hurting myself. Even wrapped in a curtain of love, I was afraid the same curtain would be used at any moment to sweep across the stage and signal the end of some Tony Award winning play. The world was a stage, the scripts were full of lies, and all acts come to an end.

We really do accept the love we think we deserve.  The world would be a much less lonely place if this weren’t the case. This truth of human behavior holds us captive in a mythical world where we are barricaded from a much greater and far more powerful truth.

YOU ARE LOVED BEYOND MEASURE.

No matter how alone you feel, I guarantee you you’re really not. Many times people in our lives love us but don’t know how to show it or don’t show it in the way we need or are simply incapable of expressing it. If this is the case then it is up to us to look elsewhere to get our  needs met. Even if you still argue, ” I really am alone, I truly have no one,” it’s still not true. I promise.

There’s still Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He loves you enough that He died for You. Whether you want to believe it or not, can accept it or not, changes nothing.

Every hurt, every disappointment, every mistake was nailed to the cross with Him. And there’s not a single thing you can do to make Him love you any less.

You are never alone.
You are loved beyond measure.

Claim this as your truth. Keep saying this out loud, every single day, for as long as it takes for you to believe it!

Today, may you begin to accept the love that is freely bestowed upon you as a child of the King. May you find Him in the midst of all circumstances and even when the sky is falling and the ground is shaking, may you remember beyond any doubt that you are never, ever alone.

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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?

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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

A Season For Everything, Even the “Funks”

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Anyone ever feel like they get in a funk? Like there are seasons of life that seem unmotivated, uninspired, unproductive? I certainly get to feeling like this, and it seems to be a theme I’ve heard from more than one or two friends recently as well. During these times, I think I’m not getting enough done, not making enough progress, not learning quickly enough, not even close to where I “should” be at my age. First of all, I should stop “should-ing” on myself. Second, maybe I need to be a bit more gentle with myself. Instead of focusing on all the things I’m not doing, all the things that aren’t good enough in my life, there are others where maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. It can be easy to forget how far I’ve come and all that God has done in my life and blessed me with.

I think of the Proverbs 31 woman, who exemplifies the exact “ideal” of who I want to be and yet I feel so infinitely far from her. She is elusive and evasive and I just can’t figure it out. In Matthew 26:41 we hear how “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Was Jesus thinking of me as he spoke those words to his disciples?

Seriously, sometimes it feels that way. I want to start my days earlier in the morning but I constantly fail to make myself get out of bed. I want to put much more work into my writing, and yet I can’t seem to sit down and get words on paper, or rather, the screen. I want to see my horses a lot more than I do but when my schedule permits I’m finding myself lacking the motivation to get in the car and drive to the barn. My to-do list seems to be a mile long, and grows faster than I can check things off. This has to be enough to make anyone feel like a failure.

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That’s when I must shift gears, change my focus, and start counting my blessings. Start giving myself a pat on the back for the things I AM doing, however few, however small, rather than tearing myself down for all the things I am not. We all know people respond better to praise than condemnation, so why do we at times not apply that same rule to ourselves?

This is when I must step back and remember that I am working two jobs, ones that can be stressful especially for an introvert, that are located approx. 40 mins from my house. I’ve started exercising daily for the first time in years, and possibly the first time in my life that I’m doing it because I just want to be healthy and strong and have more energy, rather than being forced to- either by a coach or an incessant demon in my head commanding me to burn as many calories as possible and constantly strive to lose weight. I’ve paid off a ton of financial debt in the past 2 and 1/2 years. I’ve started an herb garden and am actually excited at discovering new recipes incorporating fresh herbs that I can pick outside the back door before dinner. I’m excited at becoming a better cook, period. And every single day I’m getting closer, closer to the person God created me to be. Even in the seasons where it feels as if I’m standing still. This “funk” makes me think of quicksand, isn’t it the case that the more you fight it the faster you sink? I picture Harry and Hermione in the Sorcerer’s Stone, when they dropped through the trap door as Fluffy woke up, into that Devil’s Snare. The more you fight it the more it encompasses you, but if you just hold still and relax, it will loosen its grip and release you.

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Maybe the key to getting out of this “funk” is to embrace it and be thankful for it. Maybe it’s a gift.

I spent nearly a decade of my life in a civil war. A constant battle in my own mind. One where I fought my emotions and my own body and God and anyone and everyone who loved me. Maybe resting is a gift. As I fill my days with work and dogs and horses, when I see them, and new recipes and planting a garden and sometimes just sitting outside to enjoy the birds chirping and leaves rustling in the breeze, maybe God won’t be disappointed if I am not a published author or a millionaire or saving the world by the end of the week. Maybe I shouldn’t be disappointed either.

Maybe the simple joys I am allowed to cherish in daily life is a gift, a season of peace after a season of war. A season to rest, to nourish. These things I’m enjoying while I’m “not working hard enough” such as experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen or laying on my horse’s back to watch the colors change in the sky as the sun approaches the evening horizon- are acts of finding joy in simply being alive, finding joy in nourishing my body and my soul in ways lost on me for years.

We are told in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

There is a season for everything, and there are seasons in my own life. Ones where I believe God is ultimately at work whether I recognize all that He is doing or not. I may want to see quick results, but I must trust He is preparing me, and when the time is right I’ll see a path open before me. I worry about wasting time, feeling as if life is passing by way too quickly, but maybe I’m not and it’s not. Maybe wasting time and resting are not the same thing. Maybe sometimes a marathon is better than a sprint. After all, even the greatest men in the Bible, legends of Christianity, didn’t accomplish their life’s purpose overnight. It took Abram 27 years, Joseph 22, David 13 to become king and 7 more before he was king over the whole nation, 14 for Paul, and 40 for Moses.

Even God took 6 whole days to create the universe. He’s God. He could have snapped his Almighty fingers and before the echo of the sound of this snap reached the nearest star, it could have been completed. But he took his time. He enjoyed the process. One day at a time, for six days. And then on the seventh day, he rested. God doesn’t need rest. He doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t need to sleep. And yet, he rested anyway.

Maybe these “funks” where we are aren’t doing enough or being enough, maybe sometimes they are just a myth. A product of comparison to others around us and a result of the scorecard of the world keeping track of our speed and successes.

Just maybe.

And maybe the Proverbs 31 woman rested sometimes too. Maybe periods of rest are what allowed her to do all that she did the rest of the time. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

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In the meantime, here are 5 tips to overcoming a “funk”:

  1. Focus on what you CAN control– Pray the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Then repeat.
  2. Take one day, one hour at a time– Practice presence and stay in the moment. Focus on what’s in front of you. Focus on the taste of your food when you eat and the crunch it makes in your mouth. Think about how the breeze feels against your face, or how the ground feels under your feet. Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.
  3. Be thankful– Find things to be thankful for, continuously. Thank God for everything you can think of that is good in your life, even if it’s just the air in your lungs and the clothes on your back, find something, and then find more.
  4. Opposite to Emotion– This is a DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) skill that is one of my favorites. If you’re feeling down, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is the exact opposite of what you feel. Feel like sitting on the couch all day? Do the opposite. Go outside and walk around in the sun. Feel like hiding under the blankets and pressing “ignore” on your phone calls? Answer them and then say “yes” when your friend asks you to meet for coffee.
  5. Exercise– Get your heart rate up and some sweat going, even if you need to use number 4 to get there. Physical activity gets good endorphins going and will make you feel better, it’s a proven fact.

 

Bonus Tip:

5 1/2. Smile– Yes really, even if you are miserable inside, the physical act of smiling has been proven to make people feel better. Yeah I know, it sounds weird. Just try it.

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Letter to Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson

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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.

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

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.

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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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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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