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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Forever Full

Today is the day after Thanksgiving 2016, a day which also has marked a series of “firsts”…

This year was the first holiday that my family has had the privilege of sharing with my little brother’s girlfriend (who, originally from England, does not normally celebrate the typical American holiday.)

This morning, I experienced my first encounter with serious debit card fraudulent activity, which thus called for a special visit to the bank to file a police report.

This warm Florida afternoon was the first time I have hit a baseball bat to a tennis ball in over 15 years, attempting to bring out the little 8-year-old girl still hiding inside.

And today was the first time in a long time, that I have awakened the morning after Thanksgiving full of peace; rather than hoarding the feelings of anxiousness, guilt, or regret.

Allow me to explain…

 

You see, for someone like me with a history of disordered eating, a day centered around stuffing food into overflowing tummies and onto crowded plates is something just short of a nightmare. All sorts of anxiety kindles in growing fear of anticipation for what the “food holiday” will entail: fear of getting sucked into the gluttony habits, fear of unintentional triggering comments from company, fear of being pressured into eating the “decadent indulgences,” fear of being judged by the amount of food on my plate, fear of binging on odd foods, fear of gaining weight…but mostly, fear of falling under an uncontrollable imbalance of thoughts and behaviors which I normally can keep on a tight chain.

I have experienced some wonderful Thanksgivings with my precious family, but many of those priceless quality moments have then been “ruined” in my eyes by my “mess-ups” of binging or guilty food behavior. In these circumstances, I wasn’t able to compartmentalize my relationship with food from my relationship with my loves ones. For years this first relationship overpowered my ability to interact and invest in others I cared about. It always seemed to dominate my thoughts and proceeded to rob me of the present.

I remember last year’s Thanksgiving being a true turning point for me in my recovery. I made it my goal last year to really focus on relaxing in the present moment, and on the relationships with my family surrounding me. I realized that even though the day is traditionally focused on what is on the dinner table, I could choose to focus instead on the smiling faces around the table and caring hands slaving away in the kitchen. I still ate more than I would on a typical day, but didn’t beat myself up about it. I laughed, I reflected, and I reminisced in all of the cheerful childhood memories shared with these people who were huge influences in my life. I sat and remembered what it was like before…life before my “disorder” took over my being. Before I knew how to pinpoint and direct my feelings, I found comfort in these loving connections of friends and family whenever little anxieties started to emerge. I was an anxious child by nature, but when I was in the vicinity of those with whom I felt comfortable, those insecurities seemed to disappear.

When I felt safe enough to let my guard down, I was loud and even obnoxious at times, but most of all, I was present. Last night, as I practically slid off the sofa in my family’s living room from belly-aching laughter which filled the cozy nostalgic air, I was so very thankful…I was happy…but most of all, I was present.

I told myself before Thanksgiving last year that this day was going to get better. Though each year is different in its own special way, last year my mindset, (in my eyes,) was in fact better than the previous years of mental battles. This year, I had no doubts going into the usual overwhelming atmosphere. Maybe it was the new accountability I have acquired as an eating disorder mentor and a health coach; maybe it was my own encouragement in a recent presentation about redefining nutrition; maybe I truly am far enough in recovery to be able to hold my strength; or maybe my body is finally able to calm down after physically starving and feeling unable to catch up–whatever the cause of this new feeling of contentment, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I feel physically satisfied, mentally sharp, and emotionally stable–three areas which are very vulnerable to falling out of balance. I had worked up an appetite from my annual Turkey Trot early that morning, but I was not ravenously contemplating every chance to divulge in a meal. I wasn’t restricting my allotted feeding time or quantity thereof, but instead filled my plate with what I wanted and how much I wanted, and didn’t think twice about it. I might have only chosen the dishes which I considered to contain familiar ingredients, but just like everyone else, I chose my meal based on my personal likes and preferences. I left the table satiated after clearing my delicious colorful plate, and continued to embellish the opportunity to socialize. I didn’t fret about all the workouts I would have to do the next day, or the “special occasion” foods I wished to binge on later, hidden from everyone’s judgment. For once I felt like a normal human being, simply enjoying the holiday.

 

I think what many people fail to realize is just how difficult social gatherings around food can be for someone struggling (or who has previously struggled) with any sort of disordered eating. If you think about it, it is essentially a built-up event which requires the affected person to publicly walk into a room enveloped by a cloud of their biggest fears. Curious eyes can be intimidating, foreign foods can be terrifying, conversations can be awkward, misunderstanding can be degrading, comments can be embarrassing, and worries can be piercing. Until we have one positive experience to serve as our new home base, each invitation to converse over a meal in an unfamiliar environment is more of a challenging dilemma rather than an exciting opportunity.

But I do believe that in situations like these, the only way to conquer these frightful feelings is to face them. As I mentioned, all it takes is one positive dinner with friends, or one successful relational Thanksgiving, to serve as a tremendous confidence-booster. It provides a new reference point, and the positive feelings following such an accomplishment are so much stronger than the old “safety set” of eating disorder retreating habits. The initial decision to step into the territory of interacting with a new perspective may not be easy, and the sequential steps may not be perfect. But just as I have mentioned before, these series of successful steps will continue to grow, and will provide the staircase towards a wonderful life of freedom.

It’s taken a while, but now I eagerly welcome the invitation to converse over a meal. I look forward to the quality time and the primary nourishment from cultivating genuine relationships, while sharing wholesome physical nourishment. So the next time we meet up for lunch, consider it my privilege to be able to partake in such meaningful moments together. Letting others in to the depths my past is not a task that I take lightly, and your trusting presence is something I highly value.

As I reflect on all of my many blessings this holiday season, I am thankful for the present. But even so, I am thankful for my past—my sufferings, breakthroughs, and this new position of strength. I am thankful for my company and my connections along this road of self-discovery—especially with my loved ones and acquaintances, yet also with myself. I finally feel welcomed inside my own skin again…I feel loved, appreciated, and valued in my own teary eyes.

I am thankful for the Love which taught me what it means to love, and the love which has given me a reason to be thankful. God has continued to show me this love (His love,) regardless of whether or not I chose to receive it or reciprocate it. This love is the love that has kept me going, and is the love which now shines to keep me glowing. I now remember what it feels like to actively cherish, while humbly stepping back in awe of thanksgiving. Grateful for the patience and opportunity for a second chance, the choosing does seem to get easier year after year…

I now choose family, forgiveness and freedom.

I choose patience, perseverance, and peace.

I now choose laughter, liberty and life.

I choose to be forever filled with thanks.

 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Thess 5:16-17

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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Image source: google.com

 

A Forest of Life




“ANNN-ORR-EX-SSEE-AAA…” the sly serpent hissed. Slithering among the confusing forest of dissatisfaction and uncertainty, he released the echoing curse which overpowered the voice of reason within my innocent ears…

“AN-OR-EXX-SSSEE-AA…” The sinister syllables assembled together, and while seeping into my thoughts of denial, formed together the painful word that forces me to cringe even to this day…

“ANNN-ORR-EX-SSEE-AAAA…”
As I crouched defeatedly below the rising trees of threatening disgrace, I mistook the devious whisper from the luring vine as a convenient leverage out of my misery. Meanwhile, that poisonous snake had slowly, tactfully, and tenaciously wound his way around my legs, wrapping his scaly course skin tighter and tighter as he inched his way up my torso. I had fallen blindly into his convincing trap, and as he constricted firmly with every breath I took, his beady little hypnotizing eyes focused straight on my heart. “I know who you are…” He whispered, “….I will make everything better…trust me…jusssst trusssstt meeeeee…”



With each stifling constriction, his master grip strained my efforts to fight back. It was so much easier to simply give in, to slip back under the deceiving serpent’s shield. It felt safer…it felt secure…yet at the same time it felt sneaky and regretful. So many times I surrendered to that nasty snake’s lying little tongue. So many times I knew I was suffocating under his clever strangling grasp. Yet while clenched beneath the scheming serpent’s squeeze, the idea of freedom was even more petrifying than remaining pinned beneath his deathly hold.

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I remember the first time I was introduced to the word “anorexia.” On a gloomy rainy afternoon, my mother and I were together in her bedroom as I anxiously searched for ways to counteract the boredom from being cooped up inside all day. There was a copy of PEOPLE magazine lying on top of the bedcovers that she began flipping through, pausing briefly on a page which featured a story of a girl who had suffered from the awful illness. I remember looking at the picture of this woman in complete disgust, while my mom explained to me that this sickly skinny woman in the photo had once believed that she looked “good” posing for the camera. At this time, my view was not distorted–that poor woman looked anything but “good” as far as I was concerned. I had never seen someone so thin before, and quite frankly it was utterly disturbing to witness. It was a scary concept to think that the human body was capable of that kind of ignorant self-destruction. “Why would anyone ever do that to themselves?” I thought, puzzled. I remember discussing this shocking discovery with a friend on our way out to go get ice cream. I remember thinking, “Anorexia will NEVER happen to me…”



Unfortunately, with so much misleading information floating around the media these days, many people tend to believe in the common misconception that the unfortunate incarcerated life of an eating disorder victim is a deliberate cognitive choice. Eating disorders can often be mistakenly perceived as simply a disciplined “quick fix,” or a popular “fad” diet. Yet while the initial changes in behavior, which gradually lead into a rather harsh restrictive lifestyle, are premeditated, the end result does not always tend to match the beginning vision of the curiously determined individual. The fact of the matter is, eating disorders are not merely another trial “diet” or temporary alteration in habitual living. Once that dangerous line is crossed, it is extremely difficult to turn back around. It is true that the anorexic/bulimic may always be intrigued by various cycling diet trends which society manages to toss around on a constant basis, but many cases are also often classified as having severe poor body image and perfectionist personality coupled with extreme anxiety over food. Yet, the conditions are so much more than that–intertwined with these distortions and fear come feelings of inadequacy, guilt, delusion, self-ridicule, scrutiny, helplessness, hopelessness, and despair.

The disease develops into a self-built prison…



Eventually you become trapped behind your own cold skeletal bars. You have a narrow glimpse of life outside your cell, only you’ve been malignantly deceived by the snake and have swallowed the key to the door. That key which once gave you access to self-control and clear decision-making is now churning recklessly inside your stomach, ripping apart your intestinal walls and preventing any absorption of sustaining nourishment. Sometimes you feel empowered and even thin enough to perhaps slip through the cell bars, but you disappointedly get stuck with one foot in and one foot out. As the frustrating time passes, you regress further into the encompassing shadows. The idea of escape involves too much energy; energy which your body lacks. Isolation soon becomes the norm. Alone in the corner of your stone-cold cell, you feel complacent and disoriented. Though you may be unaware, you have the key to freedom buried deep inside. You just have to discover the strength to find it. 



Just like any other psychological disorder, anorexia is classified as a form of mental illness. It is more often than not, paired with other psychological disorders, (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety disorder.) Additionally, it is common for one form of disordered eating to develop into another unhealthy eating disorder classification. Any form is indeed a sickness in need of proper healing– a sickness which is a progressive obsession over manipulating controllable factors in order to gain a convincing sense of stability; a misconceived form of comfort; a source of safety; an outlet for escape. It is a silent plea for approval and attention; a search for satisfying accomplishment, and attempt at self-appraisal. It is a distorted concept of becoming “the best you can be”–a false belief that true happiness will sprout from a thin “perfected” figure. It is an internal battle with present purpose and past failures; an unintentional development into selfish self-worship and physical idolatry; a search for identity; a quest for peace.

Contrary to popular belief, very few of the desirably envisioned attributes sought by the individual in the beginning, are ones which are ultimately gained. The initial goal may be as simple as healthy weight loss or improved structured schedule, but even these small positive modifications can grow out of hand. With the condition’s severity, there is not one underlying treatment, or magic button that instantly creates a dramatic shift back to joyful reality. If they aren’t caught early, behaviors and habits grow exceedingly worse, and ironically feed the confused mind and driven personality. Without fair warning, the initial attempt to control your own life is inevitably taken away: No more strenuous solemn workouts in the garage laboring to your heart’s extent. No more afternoon bike rides with a pit stop by the smoothie shop for your first allotted meal of the day. No more freedom in the kitchen, or choice over what or when you eat. No more agility training or basketball practices…and good luck trying to explain to your friends why you will be sitting on the bench for your championship soccer game.

The control over the very few aspects of your life which you perceived to have finally been able to manage, is abruptly snatched from your closely fastened grip. Suddenly confined to a lifestyle of strict supervision, there is inadvertently no escape–someone is always there hovering over your shoulder, monitoring your activity, weighing your food, and closely watching over your every move. A small part of you undeniably likes the attention and the relief from the rigorous regimen you had become pinned underneath. A subtle piece inside your being–the tiny piece of the real you that is left–breathes a sigh of thankfulness that someone finally noticed. All of your efforts, all your self-induced pressures, all of your determination, athletic drive, and ignorant restrictions had collectively gained momentum down the treacherous hill towards disaster. A curious desire to make a change, originally with positive intentions, had all of a sudden backfired, blowing a deadly ring of smoke in your face. Little harmless habits had developed into obsession. Obsession had triggered an entirely new drive to persistently keep digging…and keep digging and keep digging…an endless hole which would never be deep enough, wide enough, or firm enough to hold all of your secret dissatisfactions, as you disappeared further and further into its shadowy deceiving depths.

Sometimes it takes someone else standing from up above the edge of the dark hole with eyes of wisdom to cry down to your own trapped soul quivering at the bottom. Unfortunately, we are often buried so far down beneath our own piling dirt that we cannot hear the concerned voices of love coming from back on top of level ground. Sometimes it takes a daring individual to break the surface with their own shovel, and begin digging alongside your mound until the tip of their shovel reaches yours…the cares and prayers of family and friends trickling into your trench and lifting you up; the necessary intervention of a team of professionals, and forceful drags to doctor appointments against your will; the coaxing and pleading around the dinner table; long battling meals; attempts to educate and break through the pit of self-destruction. Sometimes it takes the honest truth from a friend, and a comforting promise that even though the climb may be rocky, you’re never climbing alone. 

Sometimes it takes the tears of the parents who raised you; who reminded you each day that you are beautiful, and told you every morning and night that they love you; tears from the caregivers who raised you right. Sometimes it requires all the patience, all the courage, all the strength, all the cries, all the efforts, yet most importantly, all the love…so much unconditional, unsurpassable, unquenchable love. The precious family who remained there through it all…who saw all the things you couldn’t, heard all the worried phone calls you didn’t, vouched for all the things you wouldn’t, and sacrificed everything one shouldn’t. They didn’t deserve any of the filthy mess involved in your frustrating rescue, but out of desperate love they strapped on their hard hats and dove into the hole with you.

Slowly but surely, everyone found footholds in the caving walls. Reaching up hand in hand, the treacherous climb was manageable. Victory was attainable, step by step.


Once at the top, however, it wasn’t always firm soil…sometimes I would indeed find myself with one foot out and one foot in. But at that point, the light was radiantly clear, and my group of spotters only continued to grow.

It is this group of spotters, cheerleaders, listeners, and role models, whose valued presence simply cannot be emphasized enough. There is something to be said about a sturdy net of caring influencers, paired with instilled hopeful confidence when it comes to overcoming any internal struggle. As a matter of fact, there have been numerous studies on the scientifically termed “placebo effect” in relation to the miraculous outcomes of documented “spontaneous recoveries” in the medical field. Various evidence has pointed to the following conclusion that certain life-threatening diseases have been known to take a complete 180 degree turn when the victim (1) believes in a hopeful future, and (2) is surrounded by an empathetic, caring and trusted source. I would loyally vouch for the highly beneficial impact of these same two factors in the realm of eating disorders.

Now I stand on solid rock–an unshakable foundation that not even an earthquake could break apart. Yet even if disturbance were possible, I now have multiple branches nearby on which I could latch: branches of education, experience, wisdom, and support, extending to a whole network of caring spirits. My dream is to continue planting, and to fervently cultivate trees of abundance, promise and hope…trees to fill the valley of uncertainty so that there is no longer any space left on the ground for any more dark holes. Together, we can build a forest…a strong, beautiful forest. A forest full of rejuvenating air, stable trunks, sprightly grass and comforting leaves. A forest filled with singing birds, swaying stems, gentle brooks and havens of revival… a forest that is serpent-free. Together we can create a forest…an interconnected, forever-growing forest…a sustaining forest…a forest of Life.


“Be Still and Know”

Contrary to my typical school days, I had several good guy friends while in college. These enthusiastic guys were genuinely smart, humorous, truthful, and tended to make certain group gatherings more fun. They were a lively asset to football-watching parties, board-game-playing potlucks, and recreational sporting scrimmages on campus. They were pros at crafting a clever joke, and willingly contributed to thought provoking conversations minus all the nagging female drama. Needless to say, I greatly valued their friendship, encouragement, and personal opinions for that matter. One afternoon after a routine ultimate frisbee session, one of my guy friends, Ken, mentioned that he had seen me running around campus earlier that week (a daily activity for which I quickly became known.) Attempting to compliment my physically active lifestyle, he proceeded by saying, “Amanda, you’re one of the healthiest persons I know.”

Conflicted by his politely intended comment, I remember thinking sadly to myself, “If only you knew, Ken…if only you knew the truth.”

The ironic truth was that back in college I did know–I knew all about my history, and knew that I was still regretfully hanging on to painful pieces of my past. With my academic major of choice being Exercise Science, I had acquired a substantial amount of insight on how the magnificent human body operates. From my own experience and educational influences, I knew all about the foundational idiosyncrasies of my specific condition and was highly aware of what I should be doing to combat it. I knew about many intensive biological processes and detailed components pertaining to anatomy and physiology. I was rehearsed in the guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, and was well-trained on how to properly lead others towards adapting healthy choices and developing a balanced lifestyle. I knew all of these concepts like the back of my hand…I just frankly wasn’t applying them to myself. On the outside I may have appeared fit and healthy, but on the inside, I was deniably still struggling beneath my protective fitness persona.

Reflecting back to my ignorant 13-year-old self, however, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the difference between carbs, fats, and proteins. I didn’t know that there was a such thing as too much exercise or nutritional control. I didn’t know how foods were broken down in our bodies, or that words like “calories” and “metabolism” even existed. I didn’t know anything about nutrient timing or hormones. And of course I didn’t know at the time that all of my intentional efforts to improve my athletic ability and conscious focus on physical enhancement were unintentionally eating up my body. Literally.

 

Yet instead of translating this lack of knowledge into a prime teaching opportunity, the majority of what I absorbed fell within the spectrum of crucially labeling foods and habits as either “good” or “bad.” Despite the attempts to facilitate matters, everything suddenly added on to my pre-existing set of rules. This observant, reserved, intuitive young girl only wanted to become the best all-star athlete out there, and instead accidentally took her competitive perfectionist personality overboard. I “learned” by my own observation and perceived judgement, disappointedly losing the very control I set out to attain in the beginning. I wanted to get things right; I didn’t mean to cause my body harm…but at the same time I also wanted to understand why I was suddenly being forced by doctors to confide in a new strict and monitored lifestyle. In spite of my inner will to improve myself, I was constantly overpowered by the regulations of my treatment team, and my own eating disorder voice telling me everyone else was wrong.

Thankfully now, I know. I now know the severity of the disease that consistently won the battle for nearly ten years of my life. I know the mental and emotional toll that tags alongside the obvious physical toll. I know the meaning behind terms like “triggers” and “tendencies,” and how to monitor them. I know now that if I want to be able to continue to engage in the physical activity which brings me so much joy, I have to strategically fuel my body with the right sources. I know that food is my muscle’s best friend, and that it provides substance, energy, and natural healing remedies. I know truthfully just how vital it is to have loving moral support during such a darkly rough time. Additionally, I have no doubt that with my passion for learning, this large knowledge base will only continue to grow. And with this knowledge, I know deep down that recovery is possible. I know, again, a life of vibrancy, contentment, and peace.

In times of confusion, discouragement, and affliction, I remind myself of this gift of the present. In all circumstances, it helps to know there is someone right there on your side. Someone rooting for you each step of the way. Someone who will walk with you, cry with you, and stand strong with you. Someone who values you, admires you, and cares deeply for you. Someone who would drop everything just to sit quietly with you…to patiently wait in silence with you, aspiring to bring comfort and assurance in reminding you to simply

…”be still and know.”

Be still, be calm, and be brave. Be still and know that there is such a thing as hope. Be still and know that it can indeed get better. I know, because I’ve been there. I know, because I’m here.

~Psalm 46:10~

A Voice To Be Heard

 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.”~