Recovery from an Eating Disorder: A Snapshot

**WARNING: TRIGGER POST. If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, or body image issues, this post may be triggering to you. If you’re curious about the hope it provides, perhaps have a loved one read it and give you the highlights.** 

I saw a picture of myself today… from circa 2008. A snapshot. It was a picture a friend of mine had snapped back in 2008 of my husband and me. At this time, we weren’t dating yet, but it was clear to anyone within a 10 foot radius that we both had feelings for each other.

I love that this photo was documented for two reasons:

1. For the sweet reminder of how our relationship had begun, and some good conversations we had that day.

2. For the reminder of where I was at, mentally and emotionally, at the time. What I’m about to share with you is a small glimpse of what can be going on in the mind of someone with an eating disorder, or someone with a history of an eating disorder. It’s messy. It doesn’t make sense. It’s sad and frightening… but there is always hope for healing.

In the beginning of 2008, I was on a downward spiral of depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse, and an eating disorder. I tried so many things to numb out: studying for school during the week, partying like I was getting paid for it on the weekends, and being fixated on my weight.

I had gained some weight my first couple years of college, because that’s what happens when you stop running 50 miles a week. I remember my junior year in college, recently after starting a new semester, thinking I could lose those pounds if I just stop eating again. I’ve done it before, I can do it now. Here’s the thing y’all, I didn’t even need to lose weight. My body was finally at a healthy weight. 

But I did. I limited myself my calorie intake severely. I would work out in between classes. I started running long distances again. Then I got back down to my high school weight.

I remember thinking, I think I still wanna lose more weight. I just wanna see if I can get below 100 pounds. Then I’ll stop. More restricting. More exercising. I planned my semester around my favorite workout classes. I was thinking about food constantly. I thought about how many calories were in an apple, a slice of cheese, a handful of grapes, etc. I was amazed that a serving size of Goldfish was 55 crackers, and surely I could stretch that out to be my breakfast and lunch. I started drinking water with loads of ice, because I read somewhere that when you’re cold to the point of shivering, you’ll burn more calories, and ice water was recommended. I’d have a salad without dressing. Everything was calculated. 

Then I did it. 98 pounds. I smiled. I wonder if I can get below 95 pounds? Surely if I get below 95 pounds, I’ll feel satisfied with the way my hips and legs look. I filled up on water and black coffee until dinner time, only to consume the tiniest portion. I stopped enjoying food. I only ate the bare minimum to stay alive, and sometimes I debated not even eating that much.

Now, this last memory is engrained in my mind. After my favorite Pilates class, I stepped on the scale at the gym. 92 pounds. Ninety freakin’ two. I loved it and I hated it at the same time. I loved it, because in a sick and twisted sort of way, it felt like an accomplishment. I remember thinking, I may not be great at school or sports or really anything… but I can lose weight. Maybe I can get below 90 pounds. Surely then, I’ll feel better about myself. It was sick and sad and disgusting. You can convince yourself of horrible lies when you hide in the dark. Don’t do that, y’all. Bring those lies to the light, and replace them with truth!

That’s about the time I got help. I didn’t go to therapy at that time, but I should have. However, I opened up to some trusted friends and a mentor at church (oh yeah, in the middle of my mess I met Jesus and He saved me by His grace), and they helped walk me through it.

Now, I no longer have anorexia, and I haven’t for years, but I still struggle with my thoughts. I wish I could say this is an area in my life where I’m fully healed, but I’m not. I have come so far though, and that’s worth celebrating. Also, I am believing for full healing in my thought life, and I am taking the steps necessary to get there. I am in recovery, and that’s a good place to be.

Here, at 33 years old, after having 4 kids in 5 years, my body looks different. I’ve got some pounds that like to hang around. I did lose those pounds at one point a few of years ago, but that was only after severely restricting my calories and working out intensely 6 days a week to the point of injuring myself. That’s no way to live, y’all.

So I made a decision. I do not want to live the rest of my life trying to lose 10 pounds. I want to live my life trying to love God and my family well. This simply doesn’t happen when my mind is consumed by food, calories, and weight. I want to exercise because I enjoy it, not because I “have to.” I want to eat a piece of cake at my kid’s birthday party, and not have to make up for it or shame myself for it. I want to wrap my taco up in a tortilla instead of big piece of lettuce, because homemade flour tortillas are delicious. I am DONE. I just want to live my life and be free. Don’t you?

So, what does this look like for me now? Be on the lookout, I’ll be posting about this topic next week! In the meantime, if you’ve ever struggled with body image issues or an eating disorder, what’s helped you recover?

Deer and Cardinals: A Reminder of God’s Fulfillment

I didn’t manifest this. I didn’t write this down every day in a journal for 7 years. I didn’t hustle for this. I didn’t even dare to pray for this, y’all. I could tell you the whole story, but what it comes down to is this: I —my family— was given this. By God Himself. Being able to live at Camp Zephyr has been such a gift to my family, and has taught me so many valuable lessons. I’m sharing one with you today.

When I am outside, at Camp Zephyr, I am in a state of being I never thought possible. I am at peace. My kids roaming, and exploring the amazing trails. I am playful. I’m spontaneous, and can go from one trail or plan to the next in a heartbeat. My desire for productivity ceases. I have no to-do list other than to play and explore and be with my children, and I intend to repeat that continuously. 

I never knew this could exist. My whole existence before Zephyr revolved around to-do lists, goals, and other people’s expectations.  And was coupled (or crippled may be a better word) with LOTS of anxiety.

But here? In the middle of nowhere? I can breathe. I can step outside our RV and instantly see the lake, deer, rabbits, and cardinals. My kids can join me, and I’m not mad about it. I don’t have this constant desire for “me time.” I look forward to coming home, and I enjoy staying there. I no longer want to escape. I want to linger. I want to explore. Go deeper into the woods with my kid’s muddy hand in mine. Who knows what’s out there?

I feel like a door has been unlocked to my heart. There was a longing. There was always a longing. A longing for the country.  A longing for space and stillness. A longing to rest.

But I hardly voiced it. Maybe a few times I talked about living out in the country, just to get shut down by the reality of our circumstances. You better believe I never asked to live at Camp Zephyr. That was something I never thought would happen. But you know what? My kids asked. Every day when we were at Camp Zephyr last summer, they asked us to live here. There’s a reason (well, many reasons) God instructs us to be like the children… they ask and they ask with faith. But me? It was barely a whisper in my soul… but God heard it. He heard it and He continues to hear the whispers of our souls.

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Last summer, I was sitting in my sister’s, Rachel, backyard in Virginia. I had flown there the night before. We were drinking a quick cup of coffee before starting our road trip to Texas. Her backyard backs up to a forest, so wildlife and trees and NATURE are plentiful. We happened to see a deer and cardinal in her backyard that morning. And in that morning, I said (probably with an ache in my voice), “I wanna live somewhere with deer and cardinals.” 

Fast forward a few months later. I’m talking on the phone with Rachel, and she asks how living at Zephyr is going. I start going on and on about how I love it, and how I see deer and cardinals every day. She stops me mid-sentence, and says, “Sister! You got your deer and cardinals!” Y’all I had completely FORGOTTEN about that statement I made in Virginia months ago. When Rachel reminded me of that full circle moment, I lost it. I cried on the phone, and she cried on the phone, and we were reminded of the goodness of God.

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He longs to fulfill those whispers. He longs to bring us closer to Him. He fulfills those whispers to share His goodness. To show us just how big He is… and in my case, I think He fulfilled the whisper also to show me that He fulfilled this longing. Not me and my efforts. Your whisper might not be deer and cardinals, but God knows it. He can fulfill it.

I continue to be amazed. Who am I? That you are mindful of me?

Discouraged to Encourage

A friend of mine made such an interesting connection when studying Ezra 4. She said the 3 words from that chapter kept sticking out in her mind, as if God was highlighting them for her: discouraged, futile, and afraid. It was like a lightbulb went off in her head. That’s exactly what happens to her when the enemy is attacking her. This is what happens when the enemy attacks me or you.

The next day, I found myself coming back to these three words. I decided to dig in and break it down in a practical sense.

We get discouraged. This can look like many different thoughts: It’s been a year already… You should be so much further along by now… OR Why do you bother trying?… You’ll never be as good as her… You’ll never get it right. Discouragement isn’t pretty.

We get futile. Now, y’all, I have a Master’s degree, but I’m gonna be honest with you. I had to look up what the word futile meant. Here’s the definition: “incapable of producing any useful result; pointless” … You guys, I literally gasped when I read that.

I gasped because I felt as if someone had been watching me my whole life. My mind tends to go this direction at times. Sometimes not even necessarily when things are going terrible, but when they’re going great… Like I’m waiting for the ball to drop. This mindset is no way to live.

We get fearful. Don’t we, though? We do. We worry about our finances, our relationships, the opinions of other people. Fighting fear is a constant battle.

I mentioned to her that it would be wise to have a game plan. Basically, have truth at the forefront of your mind. How do you know what truths to use to guard your heart? Well, just start with the opposite of those 3 words (or any specific lie, for that matter). Here we go.

God is encouraging. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. Over and over throughout Scripture He confirms his love for you and me. He tells us He will provide for us. He delights in us. Use these truths to bring encouragement to your heart. (Romans 15:4)

God has given you a purpose. This seems basic. We hear it all the time.  But truly hear me here. God has given you (yes, YOU!) a specific purpose for the building up of His kingdom before you were even born. You have a voice. You matter. You are needed and wanted. You have purpose. (! Corinthians 12: 12-31)

God is loving. Perfect love casts out fear. This verse is gold. Again, it seems basic, but it only seems generic and basic… until we apply it. Then it becomes profound. Then it becomes magnificent. We’ve got to learn to walk in this truth. (1 John 4:18)

When you operate out of God’s love instead of fear from the enemy, peace abounds in your heart. No matter what the circumstance is, you can still have peace. This peace doesn’t exempt you from hard times. However, this peace allows you the mindset of knowing even if your world comes crashing down and you lose everything you hold dear; you know God is still good, and God is still here.

A Message for the Lonely: You are Not Alone

Disclaimer: I wasn’t planning to post this. I actually wrote this months ago. I didn’t want it to make people feel awkward or obligated. (You’ll understand as you read). But… I feel like I need to share because this is part of life, and part of my struggles.

Based on a conversation with other moms a few weeks ago, I think many can relate. My hopes are that by sharing our hearts we can help each other reach truth and self acceptance. So please know, I’m not doing this in an attempt to seek attention, I’m doing this in an attempt to seek healing. I’m also posting this for all other women who struggle with feelings of loneliness to know: You are not alone.

You know that saying, “Nothing good every happens after midnight?” Well, in mom terms that translates to “Nothing good every happens after 9:00PM.” This seems especially true tonight.

Scrolling through social media late at night is just not a good idea for me… I felt pretty good about myself right before I opened up my computer, and now I am in tears. (This outcome is also magnified by hormones LoL) All I could see was the success of others that I didn’t have yet, the parties and celebrations that I wasn’t invited to, and the friends and deep connection with others that seemed out of my reach. 

My heart is breaking. I feel like I don’t belong. I feel unwanted. I feel unlovable. I feel forgotten. I feel a deep ache in my heart. I feel a longing in my heart for connection. Real connection. A connection I had with a group of friends in college. We could openly share our struggles, our joys, our awkwardness with each other without any judgement, knowing we’d have unconditional love for each other…. I miss that kind of connection.

So now who do I talk to? I feel like I really don’t have that one girlfriend that I can spill my guts to. (Update: I know this is now a lie, as so many friends have opened up to me in the past few weeks… but alas, this was my thought when I wrote this.) So I’m spilling my guts to my computer screen. At 11PM. On a Monday. God, help me. (Literally).

I am reading the book Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst right now, and it’s so fitting. I just started and feel like I’ve gotten bits of nuggets from it, but still waiting for my ah-ha! moment to arrive and be fixed… but that doesn’t just happen from reading a book. That happens from intentional prayer, reading multiple books, chewing on the truth (not literally, but mentally), hashing things out with God, waiting, listening, worshiping, and possibly repeating the process multiple times.

What I do know is how I feel, and I recognize these are lies. I feel unwanted… forgotten… unlovable…. maybe I start to believe the lies because I can think of so many events I wasn’t invited to, inside jokes I don’t know, opportunities I wasn’t included in, the times people who I’ve met before literally forgot me. Every time one of these things happen, it’s like a tiny stab in my heart. So I scroll through a Facebook feed and those tiny stabs lead to a gaping hole.

A hole in my heart that people aren’t meant to fill. My feelings of being loved don’t reside in people justifying it. I (should) know I am loved, because I am called Beloved by my Creator and Savior. I belong because He says I belong to Him. I may not belong to every clique or club, but I belong to His kingdom, and that (should be) is enough. I am never forgotten. My God knows my thoughts, my sorrows, my emotions every second of every day… and despite that He still wants me. He longs for my heart. I long for that to be enough.

How do I believe this truth? I know I’m not the only one who has these struggles. Please share your tips and truths below.