In honor of eating disorder awareness week, which ironically also happens to be the week of my birthday, I invite you to share in both sincere reflection and new excitement with me. But most of all, I invite you to join me in celebrating 25 years of life–a life that was once shackled, and is now free–eating disorder-free.
I applied to become a mentor in an online eating disorder mentoring program, pretty much on a whim. I usually don’t think spontaneously like that, or act with rash intention, but this new curiosity was different. I never even knew something like this existed, and intrigued, I wanted to be a part. Simply put, life is just too short to keep this truth hidden any longer. It is a part of my story, viewed from a new perspective of gratefulness and strength. Yes, it is a heavy part of who I am, but it no longer defines my inner being or enslaves my identity. I have considered myself “in remission” from this awful disease for the last ten years, but it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I began to experience climactic mental breakthroughs. I had finally reached a point in recovery where I was tired of waiting for someone with a similar history to stumble across my path. I wanted to reach out and help heal, or at least offer my own account as some sort of hopeful encouragement. I can remember back when I was struggling through those gruesome times, feeling utterly alone. Thankfully I had my loving family by my side through its entirety, but as much as their caring hearts longed for my curing, they would never fully understand where I was during that daunting point in my life. I want to be able to be that special someone for other suffering souls. Someone who can genuinely say, “I know…I’ve been there…and it does get better.” Sometimes, in the midst of our struggles, those simple words are enough.
Hearing the news that I had been accepted into the MentorConnect program as a mentor spoke wonders for my current state of stability and strength as an “ED survivor”, and I was elated to immediately receive two match requests for mentees. Excitement overflowed as I was finally able to speak one-on-one with my first match over the phone, and I immediately felt a strong connection to this complete yet friendly stranger from Greenwood, SC. I had never done anything like this before, (conversing with someone form an entirely different state in the U.S. whom I had never met,) about something so personal. Since then, our friendship has continued to grow, despite the fact that we still have yet to speak face to face.
The opportunity to share life with this amazing woman has been extraordinary. The idea that someone would respect my insight (my mentee is 32 years old) and admire me for my success story and current position of recovery is not only encouraging, but completely humbling. It has been an excellent exercise for me also, because our extensive conversations provoke a certain revisiting of those dark times and cause me to realize just how much I truly have overcome. It has prompted me to view my situation with yet another whole new set of eyes, and has allowed me to take on a new grateful title as a counselor and role model. The more accountability I can acquire, the better, as I strive to reach out to this overlooked population and use my story to help others. It is gradually giving me a new voice…a voice which wants so much to be heard, not for my own merit but simply to break the wall of misunderstanding and hopelessness in so many out there. My mentee, just like each and every victim of this disease, also has a voice of her own, and by actively seeking this mentoring program has acquired a new listening companion from my compassionate heart.
In speaking with her I am faced with a new challenge–I must be open and honest, but also take into consideration her current state and respect the fact that all of us move through life at our own unique pace. Being a true “fixer” in personality, this is often extremely difficult. I must accept my own limits and circumstances beyond my control, and focus instead on how to help encourage healthy behavior and positive outlook. I do feel a personal connection and care deeply for this incredible gal, but must wait out this journey with her while demonstrating patience, persistence, and understanding. Everything isn’t always perfect on my end either, nor will it ever be. But for the first time in a really long time, I’ve accepted that fact with peace.
Upon acquiring this exciting new outlet, I have also been engaged in a lot of deep reflection, which is something I am often accustomed to doing when life throws me curveballs. My mind has been spinning and bouncing back and forth to past revelations, scenes, and emotions, and has repetitively hovered around one recurring idea, or dream if you will: to write a book.
For a while now, I have heard God’s voice telling me that I’m meant to use my story to help others, and I have just been rather unsure as to the specifics attached to this. Recently, however, I have begun to connect a few dots here and there. One of my “breakthrough moments” was in the car while listening to the song “My Story” on the Christian radio–a beautiful song of how God’s saving grace is revealed in each of our unique individual stories. Lately I have realized just how much I love to write, and talking with my mentee has influenced me to reflect on just how much I wish to be able to say. All my life, friends and family have attempted to highlight writing as one of my gifts. Words have always had a special meaning to me, and I find joy in sharing them with others. In a hand-written note on the inside cover of a journal that my Nana gave me for Christmas following graduation, she encouraged me to continue to record my memories through expression of the written word, using this joyful gift. I already have a plentiful archive of journals and thoughts stashed away from over the years, pertaining to the sincere topic of my painful history. But why only continue to write for myself? What good will spark from keeping powerful words in anxious secret? Why not write with the intention to share not only a personal journey, but a story of conquered struggles, successful survival, and sustaining hope?
I have now reached a point where I passionately want to be heard. No more sulking behind a regretful shell of shame. There is so much truth that I wish to share, with an attempt to instill faith and comfort to those currently struggling, or who are helping a loved one fight the battle. My mother admitted to me the other night that during the most devastating times, a comforting word was something she searched for–book after book was flipped through, only to disappointedly stumble across one more depressing narrative after another. There were very limited (from what my mother could find) success stories and uplifting documents on the topic. During the dark hole when my family needed it most, the encouraging promise from someone who had walked in their shoes ensuring that “things will get better,” was simply nowhere to be found.
Standing before you today with even greater compassion and voice of confidence, sincerity, empathy and truth, I wish to change that sad report. I want to provide that encouraging word, that yet even in the toughest challenges, offers a faithful account of a true success story–something which is devoutly possible given the proper education, guidance, and support. There is so much to be said, so much to be revealed, about the complexities and anxieties of this misunderstood condition, which I long to bring to the surface. But not to evoke a sense of sadness, or create an aurora of disheartening sympathy. My efforts will be to be real enough to draw you into the mind and home of an eating disorder victim, with an attempt to offer a glimpse of the severities, only to emphasize the immeasurable weight of a stable recovery–which IS attainable through a network of faithful, dedicated spirits.
Writing and collecting my thoughts into one published piece of work would allow me to share this voice–this strong, bold voice of truth. The voice which has won over the notoriously often-quoted “eating disorder voice.” And in doing so, hopefully will bring peace, comfort, insight, and exhortation to every person who flips through its pages. I want to obey the voice of my eternal Savior, who dug me out of my unintentional self-made pit, and represent all of those precious trapped voices of victims then and now. I am excited to let the words flow…words no longer to be kept guarded inside, but shared out of love.
Stay tuned for relevant snippets of my survival story in its entirety, optimistically projected to be completed by Feb 25, 2017 (Which will be my 26th birthday and over a decade since my initial diagnosis.) Although I still plan on consistently posting healthy recipes during this project, the Fit Peace By Peace blog site will be mainly devoted to a collaboration of thoughts and expression towards this goal. Therefore, please pardon my brief hiatus from general nutrition and wellness posts as I attempt to gather and organize all of the jumbled heavy words which have been pressing on the inside walls of my brain over these past 12 years. Using detailed memories, personal accounts and maturing circumstances, I hope to extend a message of hope and encouragement to those suffering and to their loved ones, as well as to the other misguided minds of society. Your support means the world to me as I strive towards fulfilling my vocational calling to intentionally give back in this area, while sharing bits and pieces along the way, to become genuinely transparent in attempts to help anyone through their own health journey no matter what their background entails. I welcome any questions or inquiries with outstretched arms as I take on this compelling opportunity. The time has come to commit to a new season of openness; to become the woman I’m meant to be; to cough up some courage, and truly become an “open book.”
There is a voice to be heard, a voice once trapped behind a lying voice of false identity–and I’m not just referring to my own here. Voices of sweet souls past and present. His voice, her voice, your voice…all deserve to be heard. There is no reason to be ashamed…your voice may be exactly what the person next to you needs to hear.
~“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”~