Yesterday you read Julie’s story of battling an eating disorder. Covering up issues of comparison, perfectionism, and loneliness, she turned to eating for comfort in college. This led her down a dangerous path toward numbness. By admitting her addiction and accepting help, Julie eventually found health, wellness, and wholeness.
But what has the last four years brought?
My situation has changed a lot since 2012. I have had two babies and two miscarriages. We have moved halfway across the country — my husband and I left a difficult situation in Iowa and have found a healing and loving home here in South Carolina. I left a part-time job I loved in Iowa and have been trying to find something to fill that part of my life since we got here. My husband is no longer doing campus ministry but is an assistant pastor at a church, changing our schedule and type of ministry we are both involved in. So, a lot has changed for our family (mostly for the good), and we are thankful for how God is working in our lives right now and believe He is giving us a reprieve from some of our past struggles.
In the time since first sharing my story on Repurposed, I have continued in my recovery with the occasional ups and downs that are expected. However, I’ve had two notable situations where I felt it was quite possible for a major relapse to happen.
While there were many positive aspects of our life in Iowa, we experienced a difficult relational situation that was overwhelming for me. I felt like I was being knocked down, only to get back up and be knocked down again. I couldn’t find footing, and the relationship was deteriorating despite attempts at reconciliation on both sides. I was anxious and stressed and experienced a loss of appetite, which was new for me. In the midst of this, I was coming out of postpartum depression that I had following the birth of my firstborn and attributed some of my loss of appetite and anxiety to that.
I distinctly remember thinking one day while processing my feelings, “I don’t have to eat. No one is making me. And if I don’t, I will lose so much weight that perhaps I will be loved. Someone will notice my hurt and take care of me.”
Those are the exact thoughts I had when my eating disorder first appeared: “Maybe I will get sick enough that my mom will love me and come take care of me.” I realized I was using my eating disorder to gain the love, affection, and sense of worth I was hoping for, and there was a part of me that was trying to do it again.
This time, though, I was able to recognize my thoughts as lies. I knew this was faulty thinking, but I wasn’t strong enough to fight back with Truth on my own. Thankfully, I was able to process with my husband and have a few Skype sessions with my previous counselor. They both pointed me back to Truth by helping me focus on the Gospel. I was reminded again to find my worth in Jesus instead of other people.
The second instance where major relapse was looming was after I had my first miscarriage. I was twelve weeks along when I lost the baby, and we had just announced the pregnancy to everyone. We were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant for a second time because we struggle with infertility. We were so thankful that Samuel would have a sibling. We felt truly blessed and I felt like I saw God’s hand at work in giving us a second child. All these happy feelings fell apart when a heartbeat couldn’t be found at one of my appointments. I was devastated. I couldn’t understand what God was doing or why He was doing it, and I felt like I couldn’t handle life. The disordered eating thoughts spiraled through my head as they had done many times before. I was so tired and sad that it was hard to fight against them, but by the grace of God, I was able to recognize the thoughts and again name them as lies.
The biggest piece of my recovery has been learning to “take every thought captive” and to combat the lies with the Truth of the Gospel. It is amazing to me where I am in my recovery. I never expected to be at a place now where I don’t think about food so often, where I don’t have the disordered eating thoughts so often, and where I don’t think about my weight and compare myself to others so often. Those things happen now and again, but not with the same frequency and intensity as before. I never thought that was even a possibility for me. I thought I would struggle and fight every day for the rest of my life. But God has been gracious. He has revealed His Truth and His love to me. He has protected me.
While I would not have chosen for an eating disorder to be part of my story, I feel like God has used it to teach me a lot about His character and love. He’s also used my struggle to help me encourage others. Sometimes a woman who is struggling with disordered eating just needs to know she is not alone and that hope and recovery are possible. God has allowed me to share my story more openly in recent years, listening to and encouraging others who struggle in similar ways.
Recently, my two year old daughter has started to proclaim “I so pretty!”, and I love this so much! She can have marker on her face, mismatched clothes, or a tear stained face from an earlier temper tantrum, but she still confidently states “I so pretty!” Her worth is not found in how “good” she looks or if she has been a “good” girl. She simply knows that she is pretty.
This is my hope and prayer for all of us — that we can confidently proclaim we are beautiful because we are God’s children. I want us to lean into the fact that He sent His son to die for us because he loved us so much despite our imperfection and mess. Because of Jesus, our worth and value is not bound up in how good we look on the outside or how beautiful we are on the inside. We are made “pretty” by becoming daughters of the King through Jesus. I hope my daughter will always be able to say “I so pretty”, and I hope that holds true for you and I as well.