11 Sep RECOVERING FROM EATING DISORDER AND FINDING FULLNESS IN CHRIST
At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I began seeing girls I knew battling eating disorders. I had been struggling with depression for the past year, and was searching for something else to replace my emotions and feelings that were too hard for me to handle. The eating disorders I was seeing began to appeal to me and my need for something else to focus on. I had struggled with body image issues my whole life up until this point, and the idea that I could be thin enough to love my body was so very enticing. Although I was a believer, I was immature in my faith and was desperate for what I thought would be a “quick fix,” so I took it upon myself to cope with my depression and insecurity by doing what the world told me would help.
As I often tend to do, I went into this eating disorder hard and fast, restricting my food intake and compulsively exercising. Despite losing 5 pounds and then 10 pounds, nothing was enough. I had to go farther, work harder, and be better at this thing that people were calling an “eating disorder,” but to me it was an exercise in self-control and a way to avoid pain. I knew Christ and had accepted Him as my Savior, but I had not learned how to truly rely on Him – to trust Him and let His love fill me rather than the things of the world that I would later learn are so fleeting. I never would have guessed then that I would be dealing with my eating disorder 15 years later. I thought it was something I could try out, play with, use to make myself feel better for a bit, and then I’d move on to bigger and better things. I was so very mistaken!
After seeing a counselor and dietitian for a few months, the high school phase of my eating disorder came to an end somewhat quickly. When my parents took me to a nearby outpatient eating disorder treatment center and told me that’s where I would be if I lost any more weight, I immediately decided I would eat enough to get by and not have to suffer consequences. I put a band-aid on my eating disorder and moved on. So I thought. From college all the way until the early years of my marriage, I struggled off and on with eating disorder behaviors. When I was really stressed, lonely or depressed, I would restrict my food intake or over-exercise to control my weight for a season and then I would eventually snap out of it and move on. This cycle repeated itself countless times. Because it was never really bad, I didn’t seek the treatment I needed, nor did I ever come to a place of feeling like I desperately needed the Lord. Little did I know, my eating disorder was essentially a ticking time bomb – waiting for a crisis big enough to set it off.
That crisis came along when my first baby, Walker, was 8 weeks old, and my husband confessed to having an affair. My world was completely rocked and I eventually slipped into a deep depression. I had been seeing a Christian counselor for months and was off and on multiple antidepressants that weren’t working. I was begging the Lord to take away my depression and give me joy, but I just didn’t have it in me to trust Him. I was so hurt and so hopeless that I started feeling like I needed to fix myself. My brain went right back to my eating disorder, remembering this as an easy way to make myself feel better…and quickly. I immediately shifted all of my focus onto food, exercise, and the number on the scale. However, this time, I couldn’t stop. The pain I was avoiding was too big and too daunting to go back to. I wanted to keep numbing myself with my eating disorder and nothing was going to stop me – not even my sweet baby boy or my marriage that was being beautifully restored by the Lord. After a few months of seeing a dietitian in Dallas and getting worse rather than better, my treatment team, along with my husband and I, decided it would be best for me to go a treatment center in Denver to really take some ground in recovery. It was clear that this wasn’t going to happen on its own and that the Lord was asking me to trust Him and take these next steps toward healing. My eating disorder had grown into a giant beast, and left to its own devices, was going to hurt me or even end my life.
Leaving for treatment was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Being away from my 18 month old son for 7 weeks was something I never dreamed I would do, but after seeing how trustworthy the Lord was in healing my husband and restoring our marriage post-affair, I knew that if He was telling me to go, I needed to trust Him no matter how painful it was going to be. The 7 weeks I spent in treatment were equally the hardest and most restorative weeks of my entire life. The Lord knew I needed time and space to truly heal. Not only from my eating disorder, but from the pain I’d been dealing with for the past year and a half. I will never forget the sweet mornings where I sat by my little apartment fireplace, listening to worship music and writing down my prayers, occasionally glancing up towards the snow covered mountains out of my window. I can hardly contain the gratitude in my heart that I have for the Lord’s kindness in giving me that time in Denver. In no way was I “cured” during my weeks there, but I took major ground in my recovery and learned so much. The photo at the top of this blog post was taken the day after I returned home from treatment, just in time for Christmas…I was so, so happy to finally be with my boy!
To this day I still see a dietician and therapist and am actively working on taking more steps toward recovery. It has been a long and windy road where I’ve had to give and re-give myself and my idols to the Lord. I have to choose daily, if not hourly, to remember how empty the promises of my eating disorder are. In order to do this, I desperately need Jesus to be what fills me. Satan is deceitful and manipulative, and he longs to keep me chained to this disease. Fighting these lies is not easy, and sometimes it feels like I will never be completely healed, but I’m learning to trust that He is far more powerful than I can conceive. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” He is with me. He alone can deliver me from my fears, and His love for me knows no limits. As long as I’m daily making a choice to seek Him alone for my comfort and joy, as well as being open and honest with my treatment team, my husband, and my close friends, then I trust He is leading me down a path that will sanctify me and glorify Him. If He’s anything like I believe Him to be (and I think He is!), He will use all of this pain and hardship for more purpose than I could possibly imagine!