Dream Big

I used to think that dreams were only for dreamers. People who spent their days daydreaming rather than doing. People who were overly optimistic and failed to be realistic. People who were always persistently positive and couldn’t see the hurdles. 

I used to think that I didn’t have time to dream. I needed to not waste a second and instead put in the work. I had to keep on pushing harder even when I was tired. I had to keep on pressing towards the goal. But my goal wasn’t my dream… there would be another goal after this one. My goals lined up without a finish line in sight. 

For a while, I didn’t think I deserved to dream. I had lost control of my life as I knew it and thought I’d never gain it back. What was the point? Besides, I didn’t have the energy. I was sick—at least that’s what the doctors told me. I was haunted—at least that’s what my enslaved brain told me. Dreams were for happy people. Dreams were for strong people. Dreams were for those who freely lived. Dreams weren’t for me.

I used to spend all my efforts pushing my limits. Aiming for nothing less than perfection. Beating myself up over small shortcomings. Shuttling almost all of my drive into manipulating my eating and exercise. Even with all the 

pounds lost and pounds gained, moods up and moods down, depression gone and returned, self-criticism accepted and rejected, I still refused to sit still. I couldn’t sacrifice all of my progress to stop and attempt to dream.

Just one more…I thought to myself. Just one more…then I will be satisfied. 

Or so I thought.

Lap after lap of falling on my face …

 Year after year of over-exerting myself …

I still didn’t feel fulfilled. Yes, I had reached all of the goals I had meticulously set for myself. I had far surpassed them, actually. But it still wasn’t enough. I still felt a hollow pain inside. 

Then one day, I had a dream. I dreamed I was speaking to a large audience about my struggles. I dreamed of a new arrival of strength. I envisioned myself confident, joyful, and strong. I saw myself as inspirational, grateful, and empowering. I saw my future from the inside out: mentally liberated and physically free. Professionally driven and relationally connected. Family-oriented and faithfully serving. I imagined myself alive and healthy, courageous and compassionate. 

I had a dream of being someone instead of just doing things. I had a dream of becoming and knowing who I was. I dreamed that I would feel and recognize a passion. I dreamed of a passion that would propel me forward. I dreamed of obtaining a forever foundation, and acquiring a true sense of my unshakable self. I had a dream of discovering who I was meant to be. 

By training myself to be present, I allowed myself to dream. By acknowledging my past, I opened up myself to the idea of a future. By facing mere brokenness, I recognized my hope. It was in this hope that I finally learned what it truly means to believe. And this believing would require faith. 

You see, it is in times when we feel lost when we are forced to find our way. There is hope in the air of even every gloomy day. Dreams aren’t just a random dance at nighttime. No… dreams are meant to wake us up. Dreams help us distinguish reality but aim for something greater. Dreams can never be won by an opponent, or snatched away by a contender. You can never fail at achieving your dreams, because your dreams are yours to choose. Uniquely crafted by your hopeful mind, your dreams belong to you.

Dreams have character. Dreams don’t simply get checked off, or conquered with a detailed program. Dreams are forever growing, but in the most rewarding way. They are yours to fathom, yours to keep, and yours to chase. Dreams take a small thought and turn it into a big opportunity. Dreams are meant to be pursued, not accomplished. They are meant to be motivators, not pressures. They are meant to bring value to your life, not destroy it.

So I decided to dream. I dreamed hard, and I dreamed big. I refused to let my eating disorder crush my dreams. And I’m still dreaming. 

I dream of a world where eating disorders are no longer stigmatized. I dream of opportunities to pay it forward, and to use my story to help other people. I dream of reaching others through speaking and writing. I dream of sharing my book with anyone who will listen. I dream of being an educational voice in the athletic department and a role model for student athletes. I dream of resounding mental health resources and of becoming a professional in the field someday. I dream of a pro-recovery movement, and impacting the lives of young women in an effort of prevention. And I dream of a fulfilled purpose here on this earth. My dream is to run after life that my Creator designed for me to experience, and to love as hard as I can. 

Dreams take risks. They take sacrifice. They take hard work. But they also require vision—a healing vision; a hopeful vision. I pray that the Lord would heal any blindness tonight. I pray that you could see your worth, recognize your value, and feel your purpose. For “He who began a great work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ.” No one knows when our days are over. But dreams keep singing even after the last sun sets. ❤ 

 

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Thank-FULL

So …

Progress. Definitely worth noting.

With this year’s Thanksgiving gathering rather pleasant, I must acknowledge the progress related to ED recovery. This progress almost slipped by unnoticed, if it hadn’t been for my current eating disorder mentees keeping their mentor in check. Reason being, my new recovered lifestyle of “freedom” has become nearly routine. Social eating situations have become much more frequent (gotta love the dating world for that), and my previous eating anxiety in anticipation of America’s national food holiday (surprisingly) was completely absent.

Instead, I keyed in on the annual road race that morning (in the bitter rain I may add), and most importantly, the family I would get to share in special fellowship with. The spark of adrenaline and familial relationships were what drove me that day. I was thankful for traditions, and their consistency whether rain or shine. Despite the disappointment in my running performance, I embraced the new physical strength of my stride.  This year, I was the first one in line to fill my plate with overflowing mounds of homemade dishes. I reminisced in cheerful childhood memories, laughing at old sayings and embarrassing stories with my cousins.

Welcoming new faces into our traditional gathering, our family expanded our soulful love that day. Fulfilled with the quality engagement and conversation, my mind never wandered to overeat. I felt calm. I felt at ease. On the one designated day of thanks, I was actually thankful. Thankful for family, thankful for friends, and thankful for peace. Finally, a Thanksgiving day spent as it should be—connected by care, and shared out of love. Food was merely the article of appreciation, not the focal point.

For nearly ten years of my life, however, this was not the case. I loved Thanksgiving like every other holiday, because of the excuse to draw family together. But at the same time, I dreaded this day because of my eating disorder. The remarks from others about exercising more and counting calories to prepare and makeup for over-indulging after their Thanksgiving meal set me on edge. I feared being forced to swallow strange foods and overeating. I was scared of gaining weight from one large dinner plate (actually two, which were custom in my family).

I was nervous about what others would say, about my eating habits or about their own. I would contemplate all week long how I would compensate for the caloric overload that day—adding extra miles, pushing through harder workouts, sneaking in bonus push-ups whenever I had a chance, and restricting food the minute the holiday was over.

Part of me knew that not everyone took these intentions to the extreme like I did. I knew that 90% of the people who complained about gaining weight from too much turkey wouldn’t even lace up their running shoes the next morning. Yet even still, I had to be the exception. I had to be the healthiest one. I had to uphold my fitness reputation and turn down the gluttonous pie. I wasn’t allowed to give in to the temptation of seconds or thirds…or if I did, I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it.

No matter what I told myself before going in to the stressful situation, I always seemed to lose. The eating disorder was having a marvelous time beating me back and forth between its rigid fists. I dreamed of a Thanksgiving where I too, could relax after lunch and watch football without my mind franticly coming up with ways to burn off each and every bite.

Some people might not consider a thankful Thanksgiving to be a big deal. After all, isn’t that what the day is supposed to be all about? Don’t get me wrong, I have always practiced gratitude on this typical holiday, and have always thanked God for the many blessings in my life. But when you have experienced a personal rescue from a bottomless pot of gravy, each following bite is even more grateful.

I guess you could say my list of thanks has grown even longer, adding a line for every meaningful year. Today, I am thankful not only for the internal healing from an enslaving mental illness. I’m thankful for the light that shines bright even through the rain. The light that peeled open my eyes so that I could see, once again, the love that was sitting at the table with me for every meal along the way. Today, I am thankful to feel, once again, the fullness of His joy, and the sureness of His peace. Smiling with my family, enjoying pieces of dessert, holding a fully satisfied belly, streaming thoughts of appreciation—all guilt-free.

Human Days

I remember what it felt like to have “bad” days.

It’s not that I don’t have them anymore, but something in my mind is different:

I guess I have finally accepted the fact that I’m human.

I remember what it felt like, just trying to get by. Pressing on throughout the day, trying to keep busy to distract myself from looking down with disgust or disappointment. Feeling sluggish, bloated, discouraged and disillusioned. Punishing myself with double extra-long workouts, or restricting food until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Yes, there were indeed “bad” days. Poor body image days, hopeless days, weak days, and frustrating days. Anxious days, angry days, and annoying days. Regretful days, resentful days, and rebellious days.

But there were also good days. Motivating days, exciting days, strengthening days and empowering days. Thankful days, thoughtful days, and transforming days. Victorious days, vocational days, and vibrant days. Each and every day soon became my choice.

I could choose recovery, or I could choose relapse. Yes, sometimes the eating disorder seemed more powerful than my will. Sometimes it won over my voice of reason. But there was always an opportunity for a second chance. There was always that short moment of free will. A moment with a fate that spoke the difference between slavery and freedom; isolation and community; pressure and peace.

I know what it feels like to dislike yourself. But what I have realized over the years while in healthy eating disorder recovery is that when I may not have liked myself on the outside, I still secretly loved myself on the inside. While at my lowest, yes, there were times when I couldn’t recognize my own thoughts anymore. In those days I was incapable of making rational decisions on my own. There were times when I pondered the true meaning of life, because I could’t truly feel it.

But after years of slowly getting better, I began to feel again. I began to laugh again and love again. I even began to love myself again. I may not have been happy with how my body looked every day, but I was in love with the person I was becoming. I knew I wasn’t done becoming her yet. So I pledged to keep on going.

I now recognize that this girl will never be done growing. I know I may not ever have everything figured out. But the self-knowledge and self-contentment that I have acquired by allowing myself to heal makes all of that okay. I guess I have acknowledged that we all make mistakes. I guess I have finally realized that no one is perfect. I guess I’ve learned that life is not meant to be wasted while wishing the day away. I guess I have accepted the fact that I’m only human.

Each and every day is a gift from above. There is no room for shame.

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A Heart of Humility

It’s hard sometimes, feeling like I’m all alone…not presently in a physical sense, but rather emotionally alone in my past struggles. I have made several distant connections with inspiring individuals who also hold similar survival stories, but it is still hard without that immediate affection from someone nearby who has literally been in your shoes. I talk to God about this though, all the time now actually. I know my God understands, because He suffered with me. He was waiting in my heart the whole time that it was fighting for its own beats. Against the voice of evil and deception, my God raised his cries of loyalty even higher. And I’m so eternally grateful that my patient Savior won. He always does, which is a truth I’ve slowly come to realize.

As complicated as this dual and sometimes triple diagnosis is, there is indeed a deeply twisted heart dilemma. Over time, we become fooled by a false idol of prideful satisfaction, dainty diligence, and piercing perfection. All of these things are only temporarily fulfilling, leaving us with a hollow begging bucket even emptier than when we began. Yet even amidst the anxious pounding of my own heart, not knowing what the next day would entail, I did know within my smothered being that this way of living was not what I wanted. I had convinced my logistical little mind that I could navigate through all these teasers of change and barriers of setbacks for the rest of my life. If this was how I was just “meant to live,” then I would settle to endure the pain day in and day out. I was tough…after all, just look at everything I had been through. I was different…and I willingly embraced this secret diversity.

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I don’t remember when my lost sense of realism finally came back around. I do believe that collectively, my prayers and thoughts and counsel from friends and family seeped into my pores from a spiritual angle, not a physical one. For years I appeared to be at an “acceptable” weight by the medical community’s standards, but little did even the smartest doctors know, that I was not yet internally healed.

 

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are severe mental disorders like all other clinically diagnosed mental illnesses. Yet this doesn’t mean that they need to be deemed a chronic lifelong sickness. The labels are simply a way to be able to make a clinical distinction of symptoms in order to qualify for professional help, or to be able to personally pinpoint and deal with all of the associated physical, mental, and emotional implications. I think that so often we become so fixed on the label, just like the numbers on the scale, that we forget where our true value resides.

The descriptions pertaining to the clinical diagnosis are merely that in themselves–they are solely descriptions of the symptoms summed up in a word or phrase in order to facilitate communication, when in reality, very few people are aware of the proper way of communicating about any of these severe cases. As an advocate of eating disorder recovery and intrinsic healing, this effort of sound communication is one of my main goals in my writing and activist efforts. Communication, in any circumstance, is key to understanding. Even though we may not be able to directly empathize with a particular mental illness, we can all do our best to both convey and exchange feelings and emotions which still float amongst common ground. As human beings, we all have the ability to feel (to a certain extent.) It’s time to use this commonality to set aside our differences and reluctance to understand the transformation behind someone else’s tale.

 

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“Communication, in any circumstance, is the key to understanding”

Sometimes I can feel as if I am swimming in a sea of emotional tidal waves, but at least I can feel them now. I remember what it felt like to have a heart frozen over by ice cold depression. Shivering in my own sorrow, I grew numb to even my own real feelings. When loved ones finally noticed and intervened, the avalanche began. It was so hard to warm back up, to soften my soul, and to let that heart-melting mercy back inside. But as I write this now, with tears streaming down my full rosy cheeks, I am so humbly glad I did.

 

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“He heals the brokenhearted…”~Psalm 147:3

 

 

I believe in the sincere transformation of heart. I have watched it, I have witnessed it, and I have experienced it. I have felt my own heart violently shatter, and then be fused back together–little by little, minute by minute, piece by piece.

 

 

 

I can tell of my story because I am no longer ashamed. I can cry while I’m telling it because I now carry tears of joy. I can now joyfully live a life worthy of purpose, because I can humbly admit that I’m only the co-author of my book. I can credit my healing process to many doctors, therapist, family, and friends, and the climactic self-revelations to myself. But I can only direct the glory from the life-changing eternal transformation to the one who owns and guards my heart. My God reigns inside my patched-up vessel, and with boldness forever, my heart beats for Him.

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