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Many of you know my story. Know it is not over. Know that there are things in the past that, though I am not proud of them, have shaped me and driven me to my knees, changed me and pushed me into the waiting arms of my Savior. This battle with infertility and depression over the past two years has done that. My experience with a friend’s rape accomplished a similar goal. As a college freshman, my fight with anorexia first began some of the shaping, changing, refining. More aptly, I should really say, “God’s fight,” because I had lost the war before it had even begun.

I know your story is not over. Know that wherever you are and whatever you are facing you still have refining, shaping, and loving left to do. As I continue to walk in transparency with you and hope that my journey encourages you and draws you to the same Savior that holds me and teaches me, I want to share my story of anorexia . . . written while I was still in college. Looking back, I realize that the story of freedom is much the same as every other story that I have to tell.

Let truth sing over you . . .

~~~

Lord, I dance and spin before You.

I hang in eternity by the thread of Your love.

My heart bows in adoration.

You are my King.

 The tears that fall

Are wiped away by You.

Holy Spirit, envelop me.

Abide, my soul, in Him.

Jesus is my friend.

 ~September 3, 2004, Journal Entry as a College Freshman~

 ***

            When I hear the sounds of gentle wind rustling the tree branches or torrential rain pounding on my roof, I am filled with awe. When I smell the rich aroma of coffee brewing or the spicy fragrance of pumpkin pie baking, I am filled with awe. When I feel the salty ocean waves splash me or hold a baby in my arms, I am filled with awe. Why? Because I am alive. I have wild dreams. I have a song in my heart. But, I also have a story.

There was a time when I listened to the sounds of lying, chanting voices, and was filled with fear. I felt my own failings overwhelm me and was filled with shame. I watched guilt do its dirty work: killing dreams, killing beauty, killing desire.

It had no right to commit its crimes, no right to kill my dreams, but I was tired of fighting. Guilt was taunting me, and I was listening.

“What have you become?

              Who do you think you are?

                            You have ruined God’s best plan for your life.”

I had been a college freshman for six weeks. Six long weeks. Sobs shook my body as I knelt on the rug. Separation and homesickness were my new companions; I was only sixteen. Underneath my lofted, wooden bunk, my CD player was powered on. Tears chased each other down my face as I listened to the lyrics: “You raise me up . . . I need you to hold me.” Incoherent though I sounded, this was my desperate cry to my Lord. In the absence of everything familiar, I craved the comfort of being held and protected.

***

~September 9, 2004~

 My Father,

          You have quieted me by Your love. I have wept and You have wrapped me in Your love. I have had joy. You have rejoiced with me, sung with, sung over me. You save me.

 ***

            “How are you doing?” an innocent acquaintance would ask.

“Ok. Homesick,” I would reply.

All too soon, however, this reply masked a threat I was not yet fully aware of, which I denied and ignored. And, even though I was still crying, I had nearly stopped singing.

***

~November 28, 2004~

 I’m back at college again. I’m not ready to be here! My eyes want to cry. I want to go home. These last three months have been long, but these next three weeks seem longer . . . inside I am breaking. Longing is threatening to overwhelm me. Help, Lord! Don’t let me just be focused on “me.” As I breakdown and cry, be my comfort. As this page seems to be covered in a haze of tears, I need You.

 ***

            A downward spiral soon took hold of my dreams, almost extinguishing my desire for life. My loneliness exonerated my desire to be perfect, to prove that even in my weakness I could survive. I strove to be the best daughter, the best student, the best Christian. But, even when I excelled, I was not satisfied. I began to view my desires for indulgent foods as the enemy. I exercised as though that action measured my progress.

“Anorexic” was a word that I never thought could describe me. I was a Christian. “Christians don’t struggle with eating disorders,” I reasoned.

And so I ate less and exercised more. By the time I came home in May, I had lost about 10 percent of my original freshman weight. I was tired and sick and in denial. But, all the evidence was there, and I had to grasp the sickening reality.

I had lost my appetite. My appetite for food. My appetite for friends. My appetite for life. I was dying.

Where once I would have relished the taste of freshly baked pumpkin pie, I was now consumed with the guilt of calories and weight. Where once I would have laughed and talked, I now sat pensive and alone. Where once I would have danced in the sunshine, dreaming of great exploits and handsome men, I was now unaware of life’s brilliance. The desire for perfection was starving my soul.

***

~July 2, 2005~

           Before the pages of this journal are full, I want to commit to my memory a part of my life. It concerns food – or the lack of eating food. Over the past months I have cut down on my calorie intake and have been progressively losing weight. Yesterday, I weighed my lowest yet at 103 pounds. This summer I have been struggling with this process . . . something, however, has kept me from writing about it.

Why? I’m not sure. Part of me wants to ignore the issue all together. But, for whatever reasons, I’m tangled in a mess that in my own strength I can’t unravel.

 ***

            I faced the truth, and I faced guilt. In the place of song, I listened to it chant.

“What have you become?

              Who do you think you are?

                               You have ruined God’s best plan for your life.”

Tears of defeat and failure dropped onto the journal pages below me. As my body shrank, I wanted to conquer this demon of anorexia: 108 pounds, 105 pounds, 103 pounds. Nothing brought pleasure and food brought pain. I was completely disinterested in the taste of food, but addicted to the role it played in my life. Where was the little girl who giggled and laughed? Where was the little girl who planned to change the world?

Somehow, anorexia, guilt and fear had together built a cage of lies that encased my soul. I tried to quench the voice I heard. It was not the voice of beauty, of love, of truth. I had heard those before. But, this voice told me I had ruined my future and could no longer fulfill God’s destiny. I had failed.

***

~July 17, 2005~

 Father,

          I have been disobedient and deceived in the matter of what I eat and how I think. I have fallen into anorexic behavior patterns and hurt the people around me. How can I be fully clean again . . .          

***

Searching my heart, I told myself I had no reason to succumb to the demon. I had no justifiable reason to look at my body and see extra pounds where there were none. I had no reason to obsess over every morsel of nourishment I put into my mouth, questioning whether or not I should be eating. I had no reason to refuse my shrinking figure the pleasure of mealtime fellowship, shutting myself out of social events and festive occasions. But, I had chosen to create my own plan of “healthy eating,” ignoring the wise advice and warning signs that surrounded me.

Without justifiable reasons, my guilt was made heavier. I berated myself. I knew my parents loved me. They had always loved me. My Lord loved me. He had always loved me. But, I couldn’t hear their words of affirmation and assurance over the chanting.

“What have you become?

            Who do you think you are?

                              You have ruined God’s best plan for your life.”

I couldn’t sing. Waking up held no excitement. Friends lacked their usual allure. I was ashamed of myself. My already malnourished soul was starving.

But still, deep inside of me I knew life was sweet, knew anorexia would not be my permanent jailor. I was not at home with guilt, with fear. I heard my sisters laughing and singing. I watched my parents loving each other, touching each other, distracting each other.

Somewhere, the tune of freedom was lingering in the air. If I could only find it and sing its song . . . .

Then one day, near my eighteenth birthday, I realized that throughout every long day and every long night, I had been holding the key which would unlock my chains. With this revelation, a great dam of emotion began to break. Many women in my church had been praying for me and encouraging me. My parents had been constantly reminding me that I was able to shake off anorexia. They told me that through the power and love of Christ, I could be free. I realized that life itself had not lost its joy, but that I had forgotten how to live. I had cried tears of despair when I should have cried tears of hope. I had condemned myself when I should have forgiven myself. I had striven for perfection when I should have sought love.

In a moment of determination, I decided I could not live bound by anorexia any longer, would not live bound any longer. And, even though I had declared this countless times before, on this occasion it was different. At my dad’s suggestion, I made a list. I used a pink pen and wrote on pretty, girly paper. I took my time, but then the thoughts flowed out as though they had been released from a cage that had held them captive for far too long.

My list was simple, but profound. It was composed just of bullet points and phrases. The words, however, reminded me of the things in my past that I had loved doing. Reading a good book in a cozy place. Drinking coffee. Running fast. Looking back, the list became my key to freedom. I made it a point to relive the things I had previously enjoyed. As I emerged from the haze of isolation and self-condemnation, daring to laugh and indulge myself, anorexia began to lose its power.

***

 ~December 3, 2005~ 

Lord,

          I come before You with a grateful heart. Yesterday was an awesome day! I love You. I know I’m rambling, but I want You to know that I love You and want to be surrendered to You . . .

          “You will show me the path of life; In Your Presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) 

***

            The fear of failure that had held me captive so long disappeared. Yes, I had struggled against anorexia, but I was not conquered. Yes, I had listened to lies, but I now heard the truth. And it sang to me . . .

“You are beautiful.

               Your name means victorious.

                              Nothing can ever change that.”

Finally, tears of freedom gushed out – an oasis in a dessert of shriveling dreams. I cried in gratitude to my Lord who had held me and cried because of the sheer joy that tears brought. And then I ate the warm, fragrant piece of pumpkin pie I had craved. And I cried. And then I read a good book and reveled in the pleasure of its pages. And I cried. The key to my freedom was undoing the lock. And slowly I found my desire to live again.  My desire to dance in the sunshine. My desire to love and be loved. The little girl’s dreams were reawakened, now more mature, more compassionate, more sensitive than before.

And truth sang to me, lovingly, comfortingly . . .

“You are beautiful.

                Your name means victorious.

                                   Nothing can ever change that.”

***

 ~December 26, 2005~ 

          I want to change the world. I don’t know how. I want to love someone with all of my being. I don’t know when. I want to laugh and sing and dance. Later, I want to cry and grieve and remember.

Lord, I want to enjoy life and be fulfilled. I want to continually abide in You . . . Father, I want to bring other people to live life fulfilled by You. 

***

            I have been raised up and embraced by my Lord. And so now, with great urgency, I revel in the sounds, smells, feelings of life. The sound of ancient hymns filling every corner of the church building. The smell of my husband’s cologne. The feeling of a cozy blanket on a rainy day. I am alive and I dream. Truth sings to me.

(Image by Kelly Rae Roberts. Her artwork is amazing and touching! Look her up at http://kellyraeroberts.com/)

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