Posts Tagged With: eating disorders

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

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

We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

we-accept-the-love-we-think-we-deserve

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

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.

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**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.

 

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

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.

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