My greatest strength is my passionate spirit. I absolutely love this gift of life. I am driven everyday by my desire to live to the fullest, making a difference, and impacting others in a positive way. Ironically, my passion is directly related to my greatest weakness. I believe that this is a spiritual battle as my greatest struggle has sought to put out my passionate zeal for life. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, in middle school. Through an awesome treatment team of therapists, nutritionists, friends, and family members, I have made GREAT strides forward. Having an eating disorder will continue to be a struggle, but is something that I believe can clearly be defeated. I say that it is my greatest weakness but I consider it more of a challenge, something to be overcome. We all have our struggles, weaknesses, and challenges. It is a mark of true accomplishment when one pushes on despite their biggest weakness and eventually when one’s greatest challenge is conquered. I believe that the Lord has a plan for me and will use me to impact the lives of others who experience the same struggles.
Here is my story. Bear with me, at times my “teenage angst” comes through a little too much.
I accepted Christ when I was 7 years old. I grew up in church and consider myself really fortunate that I had a true desire to walk with the Lord early in life. I have always been really perfectionistic, even as a young child. I was a pretty picky eater. I took the same lunch every single day until middle school. I would cry if I forgot my lunch box. I did NOT like change (and I still don’t like change!). When my mom put us in daycare for the first time (we usually stayed with my grandmother), we were supposed to have those little beenie-weenies for a snack. I had a full out panic attack over those beenie-weenies. I had anxiety attacks quite frequently as a child but, as children do, I still found joy in life and blossomed as a little growing person. I was successful in school, in music, in art, and in athletics. I really was one of those annoying teacher’s pet kids (For the record, I don’t want my kids to be like that… failure is good!) I don’t remember very much from my childhood and I used to think childhood issues really had nothing to do with my eating disorder, but through some great therapy sessions unearthed some key problems from my childhood that indicated I was actually quite likely to develop an eating disorder. I pull that out only to say to those that may be struggling with an eating or anxiety disorder that it is important to explore everything with a trained therapist. It helps! Stick with it, even if it seems weird!
I used to harbor a lot of anger towards my Dad for various reasons. I love him, of course, but I was really rebellious in my heart for a LONG time. I had found my purpose in beating everyone else at everything and my dad (granted, he was only doing what he thought was best) really encouraged that. I’m from a small town and so our school was small and really competitive. My dad was my basketball coach and pushed me hard in that area too. For whatever reason, from all of the outside pressure and the pressure that I put on myself, I suddenly became unhappy with the way my body was changing. I was a tall skinnier kid, so when I stopped growing taller and started growing wider I just felt so awkward and ugly. I started to pay closer attention to calories, food intake, and all of that other stuff. It started out as an innocent way to “fix” whatever I thought was wrong with me but was soon obsessed with only eating the bare minimum. I started working out only to lose weight, not only for athletic performance or overall health reasons. Obviously, I developed an eating disorder.
Now, I recognize that it was a spiritual attack. Satan seriously uses the perfect weapons to attack each person differently. An eating disorder was the perfect attack for me because I’d been brought up so well and was too well armed to guard against the more obvious attacks like drugs, alcohol, or sexual temptations (at this point in my life anyways). I have been struggling with an eating disorder since the very first day I decided to “get rid” of the extra food, since 2005. Unfortunately as I look back, my eating disorder is now how I define certain periods of my life. Things are bad when the eating disorder is bad. Things are good when I’m fighting it. It’s a long story… but I’ll try to explain it a little bit further.
At first I was really strict with the things I ate and lost a lot of weight that way. Instead of binging and purging, I was extremely strict with what I ate but would still purge from too much watermelon or something absolutely crazy! I eventually developed stress fractures in both of my shins simply from lack of nutrition. Again, I am incredibly blessed to have met Jesus early in life because I realized quickly that I had been pulled down into a very dark place. I told my mom after only practicing eating disorder behaviors for a few months. We started therapy and I got back to healthy levels physically, but I was was still just in such a dark place spiritually. I believe that everything is spiritual. Knowing how deep and dark an eating disorder can be really makes me have a heart for the lost in this world. It’s so easy to turn to drugs and all of that as a way to cope for the heart one experiences from the scary things in life. I know that those are instruments of evil and I feel the same way about my eating disorder. When I’m struggling, I’m away from the Lord. You can’t have light and dark at the same time.
In High school I remember feeling called to start a bible study with my basketball team, but I didn’t. This eating disorder has stopped me from achieving many of my dreams and goals. Because of the low self esteem that Ed (the eating disorder voice) creates, I started “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” I dated an older guy and that really had a bad effect on my relationship with Christ. My grades weren’t top priority anymore and I lost sight of many of my other goals as well. I started just hanging out with him and lost a lot of my friends. I became really rebellious at home and started sneaking around to see the guy. I had stopped therapy at the time (on the grounds that I thought I was fine) but still struggled with my eating disorder, except in another way. I stopped being so controlling and perfectionistic (which was good), but started really binge eating and purging. Of course, bulimia is NOT an effective way to lose weight. You can never get rid of the inordinate amount of calories from a binge. So, in short, I gained a lot of weight back. The eating disorder really does control you and makes you do things that you would NEVER do if you were yourself. Again, it’s a tool of the devil. Bulimia is an especially secret disorder and that deception started carrying over into my real life. I started lying like I never had before. Other sin and temptations became a battle for me too. My attitude was so rotten. I hated playing basketball (something I loved) because it was something that my dad wanted for me and I didn’t want anything that he wanted. I now regret that a lot. Also in high school, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a scary time for our family. I didn’t think my Dad did enough to support her during that time. It was during that time that I grew most bitter towards my Dad. I firmly believe that my mom is the strongest woman that I’ve ever known. She persevered through everything. She has a very quiet strength. I don’t know how in the world my mom does what she does, but does it. She has been the truest model of Christ like strength for me.
The guy that I was dating and I broke up at the end of my junior year and I was really heartbroken for the first time. I felt like I really had nowhere else to go because I had lost a lot of friends during my exclusive dating fiasco. At first, I turned to the Lord in a way that I never had to before. But, as soon as my heart was healed, I started making some bad decisions and entered into a period that lasted until halfway through freshman year in college.
I was still trying to put up the “good girl” look but I was running away from Christ in my heart. I got into some trouble and again, like all of us tend to do, I turned to the Lord when I was in trouble. That was such a hard time in my life. I didn’t do anything wrong… technically. But it was still a hard time. I could not wait to get out of my small town “prison.” I started talking to my current boyfriend in December of my senior year in high school (we’ve now been dating for three years! ). I didn’t want to date him at all since we were heading our separate ways to college but he was a charmer and he really did pursue me – something I am incredibly grateful for.
I entered into my freshman year of college not quite sure what I wanted. I tried to have one foot in the world and one foot in the “religious organizations” at my university. Needless to say, I made some pretty stupid mistakes. Some really, really, really, REALLY stupid mistakes. I did some things that I am incredibly ashamed of. Guilt consumed me. Moving away from home, experiencing real “parentless” freedom for the first time, and tons of dining hall food can be enough to send an eating disorder patient into full out shock. Combined with the guilt I felt from doing things that weren’t “me” at all, my eating disorder came back worse than ever. I was eating more than I’d ever eaten before but was also purging a lot more than ever too. I was miserable and depressed and physically sick. My actions took a toll on my current relationship. When I finally hit rock bottom, I resumed therapy. This time I met with a Christian counselor and that has made so much difference in my treatment.
In the same spectrum as mental disorders, Eating disorders are incredibly embarrassing to talk about. I am especially embarrassed with bulimia because it isn’t typically a disease where you’re like “eating disorder thin,” like girls struggling more on the anorexia end of the spectrum. Those struggling with bulimia are usually at seemingly healthy weights. When I tell people I have an eating disorder, they automatically take me for granted. Attention world, eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Please don’t assume that someone is in danger only because she (or he) looks like you could easily break them in half. Also, as a christian, I personally feel like it’s such a vain struggle. I don’t know why it got a hold of me like it did, but if I’m going to beat it I have to fight it daily. God has used the eating disorder to really reveal spiritual warfare to me. I know that Satan is real because I’ve literally heard voices in my head that weren’t my own – dark voices. It can be scary. But I know God reigns supreme.
It took a lot of hurt, but I can see that God was really drawing me to himself through all of that. I have really just come to finally understand what a true relationship with God looks like. It’s finally become more than just knowledge to me. I look back at my life and at all of the times that I’ve pleaded for him to pick me back up and he has. It’s a journey. There have been ups and downs for me and even after nearly a decade of struggle, it’s not over yet. There will continue to be times that I dig myself back into a hole. I am still in constant search for balance. I mess up daily. And, to be sure, my failures will inevitably end up on this blog. For example, I am currently not happy with my weight. I have been overeating (but not purging!) way too much. Still, everything points back to the Lord. For example in my current heavier-than-my-happy-weight state, I am learning to find contentment no matter what the scale says. My goal is to be like Paul when he says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Phil. 4:12).” I found this quote from book I once read entitled Life Without Ed that presents the idea of recovery better than I could ever say it…
“Relapse is inevitable. It will happen. It is a normal and necessary part of recovery. I made it a point to learn something from each relapse, and I grow stronger and stronger. I had many relapses and am still not perfect. Ed will not let you walk away easily. But not matter how hard he fights, you can walk away. When he blocks you, step around him and keep moving.”
Basically, I am bad. God is good. I’ve done so many things in my life to hurt my Father and still, he loves me. I am amazed by his grace. I wouldn’t change anything that has happened because now it’s clear that God has used EVERYTHING for his good. I’m sure that one day my testimony will help someone else. I hope that this is one more step forward.
Please, if you are struggling with an eating disorder, TALK. Break the silence!! That is the very first step and the most important one! Find someone that you trust and ask them to help you find professional help. Trust me, you cannot do this alone. I have tried and failed, many times. Life is meant to be lived, food is meant to be enjoyed. Your body is a temple for the living God. Remember that! God created you, beautiful one, just as you are. You do not have to live in darkness. Embrace the light, run to the glorious One. He will lift you up out of the pit that you feel you have fallen in. Some places to get started looking for help are listed below.
National Eating Disorder Association