Monday, December 22, 2014

Where did I go?
The last month has consisted of preparing to move, applying for a new job, packing, going through an interview, more packing, going through a second interview, getting a new job, moving half my stuff from one house to another, moving all my work stuff from one cubicle to another, going to bed at 9, waking up at 4:30, and basically being too tired to do much writing. Okay, being too tired to do ANY writing.
Moving is a good theme, so I am going to run with it; or, better said, I will pivot slowly around the landing while moving up the stairs with it.
Moving involves pain- back pain, leg pain (I somehow managed to bruise my thigh in multiple places in the past 2 days, and I don't know when or how it occurred.), emotional pain, chest pain (which I hope is just from using my pectoral muscles more than usual), and brain pain. It's a pain-filled effort that is worth all the extra effort in the end. Pain is weakness leaving the body, according to the Marines. They are probably right.
-Here's where I make the analogy that we all know is coming.- Moving forward in life is the painful experience to which I will liken moving to a new home.
-Here is where I put my own life experience to validate what I just said.- When I first hit the place of, "Wow, life with an eating disorder stinks," I didn't have much enthusiasm about full recovery. Where I 'lived' was comfortable and familiar. The voice of anorexia was kind of like my roommate, and I was about to have the awkward conversation that everyone has with a roommate where I say, "Hey, I have been thinking that I need some space, and I would like to downsize to a one-bedroom. Our lease is up, so I was wondering if it's okay if we both move out so I can get my own place. You know, like, without you there."

And during this whole talk, deep down I still wanted to be friends and chill on the weekends. In eating disorder land, it would look something like having a totally "normal" week, then maybe bingeing and overexercising on the weekend. Or cutting sugar out the whole week and marking on my calendar how long it's been since I binged, looking at my stomach from all angles in the bathroom mirror, and thinking about all the foods I wanted to eat but couldn't allow myself to eat. Basically pining over my former "roomie" without living with it because I was "moving on." Am I writing about moving, or breaking up?  Actually, both. Why am I using so many "quotes?" No idea. It just seems right.
After I had that initial discussion with the Demon Formerly Known as Anorexia Nervosa that had morphed into more of a constant mocking spirit that tormented me about food no matter what I ate or what I did, I had to 1) go through all my stuff and pack it into boxes, label it, stack it, and move it. Or 2) decide it was rubbish, wonder why I held onto it this long, and then chuck it. I am speaking both literally and figuratively to keep the analogy going. Ah, how clever.
The "new place" is kind of echoey and barren at first. (And where did I put my pajamas?) The things I needed seemed to have vanished. The things I relied on for comfort weren't there. Come back, thing I hate! At least I wasn't alone when you were around! I don't really like you, I just like you better than being alone! Now there's a ringing endorsement.

So who is there to replace the emptiness? Who brought color to my off-white walls? Who filled my closet and found my pajamas? Who changed the atmosphere of the "new" place? The Holy Spirit did, that's who. I knew Jesus as Savior; I knew I was a sinner. I was beginning to know God as Father; I knew I had been an orphan. But my life wasn't full until it was filled by the fullness of God. He's 3 in 1, and I wasn't complete until He was complete in me. I called to Him to move in, to dwell in me and heal me, to make me complete.
Every move is easier with a work crew, a.k.a. friends, that is willing to carry your junk, put it in your new place, and listen to you whine and complain the whole way about how your back hurts, how maybe you just should have stayed in the old place, and how maybe you were wrong about wanting to move out. Friends are the best. And I am not too whiny once you get to know me. The whining is momentary, the moving is stressful, but the new place is so much better than the old place.

When I was in New York with my raddest friend ever, we went to one of the touristy tall buildings, and they were doing some remodeling throughout the inside. It didn't look lovely at all. Ew. So someone was on the ball and made these signs to hang up that said something like, "Pardon the mess. We are making some exciting changes."
So keep in mind the next time you walk by someone who looks like their life is really falling apart, or the next time you walk by someone who really seems to have it all together (which is usually a cue that it's falling apart on the inside), God is going to make some exciting changes in their life, if they'll let Him, and the mess is just temporary. The movers are on their way, and there is a lot of junk to haul. He's making some exciting changes.

Here's to moving and lumbar supports.

Monday, December 1, 2014

When it was all said and done, the year I spent in Bolivia was one if the most defining years of my life. By the time I returned to the US, I considered myself to be fully well, totally healed, made new from the inside out. Relatively speaking, I was right; but realistically speaking, I still had a long way to go. ( And I still have a long way to go :). )As far as I could tell then, I was good to go. But I was also starting to feel a lot of the emotions that I had been numbing with food.

It seemed like the more structured my life became and the more I was held accountable by the people around me that year, the more upset I got. Even though on the outside I looked healthier and my face was brighter about 3/4 of the way through the year, I was starting to feel a lot of the emotions well up inside that I had been stuffing all these years. There was a lot of anger which I had been accustomed to turning directly at myself that kept rising up, and I was having a hard time keeping it in. I started getting mad at the people closest to me, even when the anger was completely unwarranted. There wasn't any reason to be mad at the missionaries I lived with, just like in the past there was no reason to be mad at the physician who was trying to help me. It seemed like the more that my new friends/host family tried to reach with care into my secret, inside world, the more upset I got. The beauty of hindsight, coupled with a lot of patience on the part of my stateside friends, has shown me how the anger tried to take over my personality and become who I was (throughout my life, not just during that year. It happened to begin to rise to the surface again when I wasn't able to use the control of food to stuff the anger.) God did not create me with a spirit of anger, and trying to fight against it in my own flesh only made it worse. Trusting in Him to deliver me and allowing Him to re-work and reorganize my life was the only way to bring about the separation from the past pain and emotional injuries that were at the root.

However, I am jumping forward quite a bit by saying those things :).

I am going to keep this post short and sweet and try to pick up where I left off next time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's amazing how certain songs can take me back to specific points in my recovery.  "Majesty" by  Delerious? and "Here is our King" by David Crowder Band are two songs that are etched into my memory because of everything that was going on in my life at the time I first heard them.  I've been listening to them again lately, and they almost immediately take me back to when I was 23- an age when I was too young to be afraid of traveling by myself, and old enough to tackle the dreams I was holding inside.

With that said, I am going to jump to 2007 again, because I feel like that is when I finally had my 'aha' moment of "I don't want to be a slave to food anymore, and I don't have to be a slave to food anymore."  The years leading up to '07 included finishing up my freshman year at NCU, living in ND for about 9 months, going to YWAM-MN for 5 months, going back to NCU, then going to a communtiy college in OR, then heading home to prepare for a trip to Bolivia.  Running from something?
While attending the community college in OR in 2006, I had applied to be a short-term mission volunteer with International Ministries (it is the mission organization that is part of American Baptist Churches, which is the type of church I was attending at that time.). I found out in the spring of 2006 that I had been accepted as a volunteer, and I had been matched with a missionary family in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I think I was originally supposed to head for Cochabamba in January of 2007, but the flight got delayed until April due to some political unrest going on that made travel a lot less safe than normal.

When I got there in April, my life still revolved around using calories and exercise as coping mechanisms, and even though doing that didn't help me at all, I still went to food for comfort when I was stressed, confused, upset, scared, anything. Then I would promise myself that I would go for a run the next day to burn off what I just ate. Then I would promise myself I would stop eating sweets and high-calorie foods. Then I would break that promise to myself a few days later, feel horrible, and go on with life pretending it was all good.

Being in Cochabamba was the first time I realized that what I was doing to my body could eventually kill me. People could tell me that I was unhealthy all they wanted to, but until I was up at 3 in the morning, puking my guts out becuase I had some extra cookies, their words meant nothing. (The puking was NOT intentional.). When the doctors back home told me that I would get osteoporosis if I didn't eat enough calcium or that my hair would start falling out or that my teeth would rot, or anything else that would be scary to someone in her right mind, all I could think was, "I'd rather die than be fat."  It's easy to think those things when you're still (relatively) physically okay.  However, once you are reminded of your own mortality, it's hard to convince yourself that being a healthy weight is the worst thing in the world. 

In all the disgusting bingeing episodes I subjected myself to in order to get to a healthy weight when I was in high school, I had never made myself physically ill. Even though I was, in reality, hurting my body, it seemed like none of the damage was permanent. Even when my heart would start racing  and skipping beats because I was doing endless jumping jacks in my room on a full stomach, my heart rate would eventually normalize again and stop skipping beats.   All the 'damage' seemed to be temporary; and besides, I was young and unstoppable.   And pretty stupid. ;)

Bolivia was the first place where bingeing on sweets made me violently ill.  It was the first place where eating a vegetarian meal made everything (yes, everything) on my inside come to the outside.  It was the first place where eating old food just because it was in the fridge and I didn't want to 'waste' any money buying new food put me into the hospital. It was the first place where my actions had immediate consequences, and I had to make some decisions.  In short, it was the first place I remember being disciplined and held accountable for my actions. 

Trust Jesus, even when everything is confusing. (Imagine going from a land where you're the boss, to a land where you can't even communicate.)  Trust Him, even when I can't have my precious exercise time? (That's the sound of idols crashing to the ground.)  Trust Him, even when things are so completely beyond my control?  (Did I just get lost in the city? I am 24 years old, and I just got lost.)

I was dependent upon others for everything from transportation to meals to communication to exchanging money. I was at the most helpless  point which I can ever remember being, and in all that helplessness, I heard God whisper, "I will show you a better way."  Amidst the sounds of my own sickness and my weak voice saying, "There's nothing left," I heard His voice so clearly. "I will show you a better way."  Amidst the still silence in the darkness of 3am, He said, "I will show you a better way."

I'll pick up there next time.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I didn't know what soul ties were when I was 18 years old and in my freshman year of college. I didn't understand how controlled I was by the various unhealthy soul ties I had formed with, mainly, authority figures throughout my life. (Bill Sudduth has an excellent explanation of what soul ties are and how to sever them in his book So Free for a more detailed description.). The control that I had sought to have over my own life ended up controlling me. That is the irony of eating disorders- your mind tells you how to control your world by the way you eat, and yet, every time you change the way you eat to comply with "the rules," you become more controlled. It always leads to greater bondage, when the way that the enemy presents it sounds so enticing; he reprograms your mind to think you are going to make yourself free. All that really happens is that you end up living in an invisible prison. I'll give a couple examples of what that looked like in my life.

The first thing that comes to mind is vegetarianism. In a previous post, I stated that my choice to eliminate meat from my diet was something I had to defend and prove could be done in a healthy way before my parents allowed me to make that choice. If I had known at the time that it would lead to about 9 years of a self-made food prison, I hope I would have had the clarity to choose differently. I know now that for me, the choice to "become" a vegetarian was an extremely unhealthy decision. Even when the topic came up in therapy, I couldn't accept or even conceive that the vegetarianism was linked to the anorexia. Remember, I was fine, after all. Everything was fine. F-I-N-E. (I read somewhere that "fine" is the real 4-letter F word for anyone struggling with mental/emotional wounds. So true.)

When I returned to visit my former dietician in 2013, she still remembered how tightly I had gripped to vegetarianism, refusing to budge on that topic. I will probably go into what led up to me finally rejecting vegetarianism in more detail in a future post, but I will sum it up here by saying that I feel so much freedom now in being able to order a bacon cheeseburger off of a menu, and not feeling guilty or ashamed to be eating meat. So free. :)
A second example is related to the soul ties I mentioned above.  In my striving to please my authority figures, my mind had become stuck at age 15.  I still desperately wanted to prove to my psychologist and dietician that I could live right, and be successful.  I wasn't a broken toy, beyond repair, left to be thrown out.  (Neither of them had ever made that declaration over me; I had received that declaration as truth when the voices in my head told me that that was how authorities really saw me.). These soul ties and the lie I believed about being unacceptable to my superiors led me down a path of endless striving.  I stated in my last post that I wanted to study psychology and work in the mental health field.  Part of that was trying to minister to others out of my own wounded-ness, and a BIG part of that was trying to follow in the footsteps of my psychologist, to gain her approval.  The good news is, I am free from that heavy burden now too, and it feels amazing.  
So that kind of sums up two of the many circumstances in my life where I had sought to control my daily life to get to my desired outcome, and all that happened was that I became more and more miserable, and more controlled by the voices in my head that were telling me I was unacceptable, lonely, a waste of time, that I was always going to be alone, that I had no friends, I wasn't loveable, I should just kill myself, I didn't deserve nice things, I didn't deserve new clothes, I was ugly, I hated my life, and on and on like a broken record all day, every day. There were times when the voices would be quenched, like during class, during worship, during the time when people would share in Chapel, during work when I was too busy to listen to the tormenting thoughts.  But when I was alone and things were quiet, they would take over and just keep going.  They rattled on until I felt so dejected that I had once again caved to the lies of the enemy.   

Monday, October 27, 2014

After attempting to sort through all of the options available to me after finishing high school, I had settled on two possibilities. One was to join the Navy, and the other was to go to more school. I knew I didn't have much job experience, so I wouldn't be the first on anyone's list for possible hires if I came in with my empty resume.  By that point, I wanted to work in the mental health field. One of the odd things that happened after being released from formal treatment is that I became overly confident that I was well enough to help other people overcome eating disorders.  Now that I had "run the race," I was qualified to coach, or at least that is what I concluded.  That was one more incorrect assumption.

I had found out before graduating that one of my options was eliminated; I did not qualify for the Navy. I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur when I was 15, which was assumed to be a side-effect from my low body weight at the time. After going through the Navy application process, taking placement tests, going out of town for a physical exam and interviews, I got the news from the recruiter one day at school that I was not qualified to join. I was crushed by the news. He told me it was because of my heart condition. I had put all my hope into having a future in the US military, and that option was no longer available to me. I felt like I had been punched in the guts. I remember praying about it that night, trying to convince God that I believed He had another plan for me. I wasn't convinced that was really true, but I did my best to try to keep a positive attitude.

In the meantime, I was receiving daily brochures from college campuses. I think when college recruiting offices get the name of a high school senior, they react a bit like sharks to the scent of blood. There is an all-out chase to get that student on board with them. It was a bit overwhelming, and I started looking at the University of North Dakota (UND) because it was in my home state, and Northwest Christian College (NCC) in Eugene, OR.   Although the idea of moving half way across the country was frightening, I was pretty desperate to get into a different environment that would hopefully sustain my relationship with God (i.e. a Christian college) instead of an environment that would constantly bombard it (state school). I was still pretty naive, thinking that a change of environment would be all that it would take for my mind to be well again.  And I was also naive in thinking that a Christian college would be a place where my faith would not be bombarded. Sigh.

I ended up deciding on Northwest Christian College, and I felt pretty confident that is where the Lord was leading me. Because every high school senior is repeatedly asked, "Where are you going next year?", I was no exception. I proudly answered with "Northwest Christian College in Eugene, OR" because I was so excited I had an answer now :). The next question, without fail, was "What denomination are they?" matter how many times I got that question, I never knew how to respond. I usually said "Just Christian." (Duh! It's right in the name!) Side note- they are technically Disciples of Christ/Church of Christ, and even in my naivite, I knew by then that denominations were just another way for people to pass judgements on whether or not I was their "type" of Christian. No, I'm probably not. Let me just tell you that up front.

Anyway, I am getting a bit off track. That fake-spiritual "curiosity" of asking questions to put me into a category still grates on me apparently. I believe Jesus is King. That's what I believe.

It turned out that changing environments sufficed to mask my symptoms, but it still didn't heal me. I met some really great friends and got to go to chapel twice each week, so that was all well and good, and my work and school schedules kept me in a very stable regimen of work, study, eat, sleep. My heart still hurt though. How do you heal a broken heart? The worst part was, I didn't really even have a reason to have a broken heart. My physical needs were always met growing up, I had a stable home, good education, it was all there. But I always felt empty. What was that about? Why couldn't I be filled?

I remember riding my bike along the Willamette River one day, singing "Jesus, lead on, I will follow/ Jesus, lead on, let Your love light the way. Jesus, lead on, I will follow/Jesus lead on (Jesus lead oooon)". And I expected/hoped an actual light to appear and lead me. I wanted some direction, some solid sign that my life was pleasing to God.  I knew those kind of things happened to other people, and I would feel His presence, but I never saw a light. I never got an audible voice, or a million dollars in my bank account from an anonymous donor with a note saying "The Holy Spirit prompted me to give this to you." I never got any of those once-in-a-lifetime stories that make great testimonies for a few, but tend to bring a feeling of condemnation for the masses who are told they just have to believe more, fast more, pray more, jump through 5 hoops and crawl on your belly to the statue in the center of the city, and on and on. What I got was a lifetime commitment, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Would I be committed to Him through it all? I didn't know where else to go or what else to do. I was lost without Him.  I still am completely lost without Him.

The reality was that I would default back to bingeing any time I got the chance. I would eat a whole box of cereal alone in my dorm room, or way too much ice cream when I went out with friends, or an extra bagel here, more peanut butter bread there. You get the picture. I was hoping God would change me from the outside in. I was hoping that would work, because it was the only way I knew of at the time.

I knew there had to be more. I knew God was the great Physician. I knew He was the Wonderful Counselor. I knew He was the Healer. I knew if anyone could heal me, it was Him.

More to come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

By the time I graduated from high school, I had a full-blown food addiction. (This addiction was never formally diagnosed; however, it is the only way I know of to describe my thoughts and behaviors at that time.) My daily routine, as I mentioned before, was to restrict food all day until after I got home from school, at which point I would go completely overboard. I would still eat breakfast and lunch, but just smaller-than-normal serving sizes. I would sometimes hide in a handicapped bathroom stall at school during my lunch break and eat my lunch there because I was ashamed to eat in front of other people.
I usually walked or rode my bike to school to help burn excess calories from the binge eating I did each night. 

Every day I would tell myself, "I'm going to eat normally today." Every day, I would break that promise to myself. 

Another way I got rid of excess calories was by joining track. I had been in basketball and figure skating before the eating disorder really grabbed hold of me, and then I dropped out of everything in 10th grade. When I got to 11th grade, track seemed like a good option for me- not too physically interactive with less likelihood of getting injured, but I could still burn a lot of calories. That was pretty much the main of goal of each day- burn a lot of calories. Deep down, I knew I would end up bingeing, so I always had Plan B in mind to make sure I could negate all the food intake by exercising a lot.

Even though I was at a healthy weight for my height and structure, it was the biggest I had ever been in my life. All I could see was misshapen, gross limbs and too much fat. It all came down to too much fat.

I graduated in May 2002, and spent that summer, you guessed it, restricting, bingeing, exercising. And repeat. A lot of the details of this period of my life are gone, and I don't have very many distinct memories. Maybe that will come back eventually. One thing is very clear to me though, that I was living a lie, which is probably why my memories aren't distinct.  I lied to myself and tried to be happy. I lied to my parents each time they would ask about missing food. "I only had a couple muffins," I would say, knowing full well that I had eaten about 20. (I have since asked their forgiveness for that episode, and it was just one of many.) Same story, different baked goods. They just kind of called to me with their sugary, buttery denseness, and I used them to fill up the emptiness inside.  I lied all the time, then felt extremely guilty about lying, and then turned the guilt into exercising and eating. Not a good plan.

I had entered into various states of fantasy/unreality/escapism early on in my life, often escaping into my imagination to make life more interesting. By the time I was 16, I spent the majority of my day off in space. I would often have full conversations with my former psychologist, finding comfort in what I imagined she would say if I were to talk to her. "Unhealthy" probably doesn't begin to describe that behavior.

Another unhealthy coping mechanism I embraced was yoga. I had gotten a gym membership during my 11th grade year to a women's health club near my house. Like all good, American gyms, this one also advertised idol worship performed to rhythmic beats in rooms with hot temperatures, which is more-widely known as yoga. (The postures and poses are done in adoration to false gods, which I did not know at the time.)  At the time, I was looking for anything to heal my body and my mind. The church I was going to didn't seem to offer healing, the Bible I believed in and read talked about healing, and I wrongly concluded that must include everyone but me.
When I did yoga, I am not going to lie- I actually felt well. I felt whole, like what I thought it must be like to be healed. I felt the best I had in years. I say all that not to endorse yoga, or any variation of it; I say all that to say that there is a reason why it is so enticing. It is not all smoke and mirrors. There is a spiritual reality in it that brings strength through illegal means. I wanted to feel strong again, and for the first time in what seemed like a really long time, I felt strong.  My best advice now would be to never engage in yoga, never practice it, never participate in it.  The truth is when I am weak, then He is strong. I had spiritually opened a door into my life that I had not intended to open. It seemed so harmless at the time.

I guess that kind of defined my life from that point on- I was on a qwest for healing. It led me down a lot of damaging paths, but ultimately led me down a few paths that ending up saving my life. It also led me down the slippery slope of New Age religion and ideals. It initially led me into greater deception. All the while in my heart, I was screaming for the Lord's help. I knew He could help me. I was really busy trying to help myself though, and I think He was waiting for me to become so exhausted that I would finally collapse and He could speak to me in the silence of the exhaustion.

It took several more years for that breaking point to come. So maybe by the next post I'll get to my first post-high-school stop on the journey. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I heard a song on the radio today that said, "Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal."  To that I say, Yes, and amen.

So, I may have lied at the end of my last post.  I am going to write some things about my present circumstances that illustrate how Awesomely Big and Faithful God is instead of writing about my transition into post-high school life.  I am feeling the need to express how cool this past week was due to all the intricate details that only God could possibly orchestrate.

God has been teaching me lately about how He is a God of generations, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He isn't a god-of-the-short-term-fix or god-of-one-day, He is Everlasting and God of All Days.  That is a lot of days.  Anyone over 35 is probably already aware of this concept, and maybe a lot of people under 35 are keen on it.  I should clarify and say that I knew it before, but I am only starting to understand it now, if that makes sense.  The idea lived in my mind, and now it's becoming part of my guts.  

I am only 30, and still pretty naive about a lot of things, so when I try to imagine, say, someone who has worked at my company for 36 years, I have absolutely no idea what that would be like.  I haven't done anything for 36 years, and the only thing I have done consistently for the 30 years I have been alive is breathe.  That's it.  That is my glowing contribution for the past 30 years- breathing.  You're welcome.

During my freshman year of college, a friend casually mentioned the acronym YWAM in conversation, like it was a word everyone should know.  We were sitting in an upstairs room in Portland, OR, and my life kind of stood still while she was describing it to me.  You mean it's like a training school for missions?  You mean something like that actually exists? 
(I was pretty sheltered as a child, obviously!)  Everything she described was what I had been looking for.  I made a call to my parents to tell them what I was going to do the following year, without really knowing any of the details. 

Long story made super short, I went to YWAM Minneapolis in January of 2004, and I was super intimidated.  Like beyond intimidated.  I went through phases of feeling really spiritually-stupid and phases of feeling really spriritually-elated.  Empty, then full.  Confused, then clear.  Scared, then okay.  Up, then down.  Roller-coaster.  I was still feeling the pressure of "you have to go to school and become a rich professional and find the perfect husband and have children and raise them perfectly" (cultural lies) on my back.  I graduated in May 2004 from the training school (see, I said the story would be made super short), and continued on with life, trying to serve God the best way I knew how.

I am writing all this as background information, so that what I am about to write will make some sense.  I went back to the YWAM base to visit earlier this week, and my mind was blown.  God is good.  During the past 5 years of my life, I have had the honor of being discipled.  I didn't know what discipleship was before.  I thought I did, but that was a bit of a spiritual gray-area.  During these years of discipleship, pretty much every fear/problem/wound I have written about in previous posts has been addressed.  (They are not all fully healed yet, but at least addressed, so I have had many chances to bring each thing to the Lord and allow Him to heal me.  And He is faithful to follow through.)  A lot of the healing has come as the result of living with and being accountable to a small group of Christians. 

I walked into the classroom at YWAM last Monday and heard the familiar voice of one of the instructors I had met in 2004.  This is where it started to get really cool.  I had saved my notes from 10 years ago, because I knew I was getting right spiritual food at the time, and everything on the pages still applies today.  Not only does it apply, but the vast majority of it has been reiterated to me by my pastor's wife/mentor, who wasn't going off of any notes, just the prompting of Holy Spirit.  And I realized there in the classroom that even though the notes were the same, I was different.  I was confident, and looked at the teaching much differently this time.  Whereas before I had been extremely intimidated by even the concept of emotional healing because I was so dang broken, I felt like I could rest and be present.  Before, I had been so lost in hurt that the majority of my day was spent in fantasy land, and now here I was, just lost in wonder of how great God is.   

The best part is, 10 years is nothing in the face of eternity.  I felt like God was personally saying, "I've got your back." God can and does orchestrate circumstances specifically to show me how vast He is.  He doesn't just plant seeds and forget about them.  The seeds He planted in me 10 years ago by His workers have been tended to and watered by more of His workers, and now some fruit is starting to show.  Oh yeah, and there was some pruning in there too :).  God bless the faithful pruners, who make us strong and able to withstand the storms of life.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

From September 1999 to March 2000, I put my mind to proving that I was well. "You can do anything you set your mind to" is a popular saying; but what is not included in that phrase is that the mind is a fragile and dangerous thing apart from the full mind of Christ. I set my mind to make my body look well, but my mind was ill. I set my mind to prove that I was strong, but my mind was weak. I set my mind to show that I was fixed, but my mind was broken.

Part of "proving" that I was well resulted in rebelling against most of the authorities in my life. At the time, I thought that rebellion was my only choice. I felt like a trapped animal, panicking in a cage that was too small. I rebelled against my parents by shutting myself off from their attempts to help. I rebelled against my psychologist by refusing to do the journaling that she asked me to do. (Side note: writing is one of my favorite things to do, so refusing to journal was actually just another way of hurting myself. Notice a pattern?) I rebelled against my dietician by thinking I could eat better than any meal plan she could outline.

All of these rebellious thoughts were held inside, and I started stuffing my emotions with food. Lots of food. The desire to perform well and prove that I could gain weight to be accepted by my authorities outweighed the voices in my head that were urging me to disappear. But the result was anything but healthy. I started binge eating in secret throughout that spring, and that is how I reached a "healthy" weight and convinced everyone I was fine by March. The real truth was that I was 10 times worse on the inside now that I looked better on the outside.

I continued to have episodes of binge eating many times a week up until high school graduation. I would usually restrict my food all day long, then eat the equivalent of a huge meal for a snack after school, then eat supper with my family, then have another snack before bedtime. My stomach felt quite sour many nights, and it was usually very bloated from the quantities that I would consume so late in the day. I was still in a mode of self-destruction, and I desperately wanted help.

My spiritual life was in as much trouble as my emotional life. I had made some Christian friends by my 12th grade year, but most of my time was consumed with after school activities, band, and homework. Because I didn't know how to express myself and communicate my pain to my parents or my friends, I numbed the pain with busyness. The busyness wasn't intentional, but I also didn't make time for stillness and rest. I longed for rest. I read the passage in Matthew that says, "Come to Me all you who are heavily burdened, and I will give You rest," and I ached for that. Rest sounded like heaven itself. My mind was racing all the time and I swung between adrenaline rushes and guilt in my striving to keep up the facade I had going.

Pretending to be okay is way more work than actually being okay.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was so exhausted that I couldn't fathom studying one more textbook. I wanted to get right with God. I wanted to know what it was like to be satisfied. I wanted to have peace. I felt restless and reckless, and in need of some structure and guidance.

I'll pick up there next time :).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Going back to the fall of '99, I'd like to delve a little bit deeper into how the roots of anger, self-hatred, and fear that I have mentioned in previous posts grew into an eating disorder. I didn't have names for any of those roots when I was 15, so now that I can identify that those specific emotions were my feelings at the time, it is easier to recognize them when they come up in my daily life now.  Then I am able to take unhealthy thoughts captive instead of being captivated by unhealthy thoughts.

The first one is anger.  Anger is common; I have never met anyone who has gone through life without being angry.  The Bible differentiates between righteous anger and sinful anger.  It's everywhere.  Anger became a problem for me when I started to believe in religion's definition of anger instead of the true definition.  

My heart's intent was not to substitute religion for truth, but that was the end result in many areas of my life shortly after I was born again.  I wanted to live righteously, and I wanted to do anything but sin.  Those goals are admirable enough, right?  It seemed innocent enough, but I was deceived into thinking that I could achieve those goals in my own strength.

Part of doing things in my own strength was being self-controlled, keeping anger under control.  The thing is, I was a teenager, and I was angry about a lot of things.  I was angry that I had been born as a girl in a society that seemed to favor boys, I was angry that I had to go to school each day, I was angry that I had homework, I was angry that I lived in North Dakota, etc.  Typical teen angst.  Underlying all of it was an anger at God for creating me the way He did.  That was an anger I couldn't own, and one that I definitely couldn't express.  So where did it go?  Deep inside.

The anger held deep inside led to self-hatred; now, there's a fun topic!  I didn't learn how to identify this stronghold until I was 26.  My pastor's wife (whom I will refer to as my mentor, because she is way more than a "pastor's wife") pointed the presence of self-hatred out to me one night while I was sitting on her couch, and I felt a paradigm shift.  I also felt it rise up in me, wanting to destroy her for exposing it.  The biggest way that self-hatred led to self-starvation was in the lie that I chose to believe that said my life had no worth.  Almost as soon as I had made a covenant with God to serve Him and love Him and worship Him, this ugly thing started attacking my thoughts and told me I should disappear.  Just disappear.  You can't be perfect enough to be worthy of love.  Just disappear.  I hated my life, or so I thought, because I was looking at my soul instead of the new life of Christ in me.  All I could see was how horrible I was.  I knew God was good, I knew Jesus loved me, I knew the Holy Spirit was in me, but I could not love myself.

The main way that self-hatred sabotaged my recovery was by pushing me away from the people who reached out to help.  One example occurred during a session with my psychologist.  We had been meeting for maybe a couple months, and she basically felt like she was pulling teeth each time she asked me a question.  Every response I gave was the minimum bit of information I could get away with without actually being mute.  It was painfully awkward.  The real truth was that I looked forward to these sessions.  I knew she was on to something.  I knew she could help.  So when she asked me in that session if I wanted to continue meeting with her or not, self-hatred spoke up on behalf of me and said no.  She asked if I liked working with the dietician better than working with her, and I said yes.  

She looked at me really strongly and said, "Allie, this isn't just about food." I knew she was right.  I knew it more than I could say. 

But I didn't say anything, so that was my last session.  I regretted that decision for about 13 years.  I had been offered help by someone who could truly help, and I let the lie of "I'm not worth it" dictate my future.  However, if I have learned anything, it is that God is faithful.  He started the work in me, and He will be faithful to complete it.  Remember my pastor's wife/mentor that I mentioned earlier?   She's like my pyschologist on steroids, because she can (and will) say things that mental health professionals are not allowed to say.  She's one of the ways God has reiterated His goodness and faithfulness to me.

The third root that tied in with anger and self-hatred was fear.  Fear of abandonment is one of the big topics that I hear professionals and lay people alike discuss when they talk about common factors leading to eating disorders.  Although I don't specifically have a witness that the fear of abandonment was where the fear was rooted in my life, I do know that huge fear was there.  I mentioned the fear of growing up in one of my previous posts.  There was also a fear intimacy, fear of rejection, fear of fat, fear of being too high-maintenance, fear of being a burden, fear of being alive, I suppose.  I was also afraid of costing too much.  I remember doing this harmless exercise in 7th grade where the teacher told us she was positive all of us were wearing more than $100-worth of clothes.  So we each added up how much every item of clothing cost, and I think we must have included our backpacks too, and sure enough, it was about $100 altogether.  I remember feeling really self-conscious after that, and really selfish.  Really expensive.  Really undeserving.  That was not the intent of the exercise, but that is what I got out of it, because there was already a stronghold of fear/poverty inside me that was growing a little more each day.
This fear of costing too much and being selfish is what held me back from telling my parents, hey, I made a mistake.  I really would like to go back to talk to the psychologist.  I don't think I am well yet!  Each time I reached a breaking point, hoping someone would see how much I was in need of some sort of counseling, this voice came and told me I wasn't worth it.  Do you know how much counseling costs?, it would jeer.  Your life isn't worth it, it continued.  And besides, aren't you a Chrisitan now?  Shouldn't you be healed?  The devil and his demons are such lying bags of crap.  They really know how to hit below the belt, to fight an unfair fight.
Still more to come.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I am going to jump forward a little over 7 years from my previous post, or jump back a little over 7 years from today, depending on how you look at things.

In April of 2007, I got off the plane outside the Cochabamba airport in Bolivia.  I had wanted to be a missionary for about as long as I had been a Christian.  I felt the Holy Spirit burning in me when a man by the name of Bill Clemmer came to speak to the youth group at the church I was going to in 1999.  Ever since then, I couldn't see myself doing anything but overseas mission work.  The year-long trip to Bolivia was to be the first of many, until I would eventually live overseas; at least, that is what I had thought at the time.  God had other plans.

Bolivia is the first time I can recall feeling the healing hands of the Lord cover me.  I had moments before where I could feel His presence, but this was different.  

This new feeling was like being covered by unseen hands, and it brought me to new depths that I couldn't have reached had I stayed home.  It also sprang from a lot of physical weakness and illness, which were two things I was not accustomed to.

Lesson 1: Learn to eat meat again.

Lesson 2: Learn to be thankful for food again.

Lesson 3: Learn what it feels like to be hungry again.

I tried explaining to Mario, the missionary whose family was gracious enough to open their home to a complete stranger like me, that I was a vegetarian.  The first meal I ate at their house was chicken soup.   :) Oh, the joys of being put in my place!

Not one to put up much of a fight in the name of people pleasing (where is people pleasing in the Bible again? Oh, right.), I decided, hey God, you brought me here, so I will eat what I am given.

It may have been the altitude sickness, the unlabled water I drank, the new surroundings, or any number of things, but I got violently ill that afternoon. Violently. As in I had not vomitted that much since probably 7th grade when I would get so worked up that my stomach couldn't hold anything in.  The difference was that now I was praying to keep it in.  Please let me stop puking. Please, Lord.  Please!!! I tried laying completely motionless on my bed, convinced that if I so much as breathed too deeply, the residual acid would come up again.

Carmen, the housekeeper/my new best friend, brought me some coca tea.  

It helped a little.  By the end of the evening, a doctor from the church made a house call to check on me.  I was given some meds and started to get better.  After a few follow up visits to the doctor and Mario driving me (what felt like) all over South America, even though it was just all around Cochabamba, I was back to normal.

This is where the healing began.  I remember thinking while I was in Bolivia that it would be the perfect place for a recovery center!  I had never felt so loved and like everything would be okay.  Things might get bad, but everything would be okay.

By then, I had been at a healthy weight for about 6.5 years.  No one had the slightest clue there was any mental health diagnosis in my past.  Who am I kidding though, most people could probably tell there where quirks and oddities, but I doubt they knew the severity.  However, even though my body looked fine on the outside, and the right words came out of my mouth, my mind was far from being healed.  I wanted to be healed so badly, thoughts of it consumed me.  I didn't want the torment anymore with the constant dread in the back of my mind.  I wanted to know what it was like to just live the life God intended me to live.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It feels like I am writing about a different person when I post these entries.  Even though some memories are so vivid (while others are completely gone), it really doesn't feel like it was me who experienced these things.  It is really quite cool that I can even say that now.  There were days when the emotional pain was so bad that I wanted God to take me home.  I didn't really care how, but I just wanted my life in this earth to be over.  That is not the case anymore.  Yes, I still have good days and bad days with emotional highs and lows.  The enemy still tries to woo me with lies; but they don't overtake me.  I don't have to fall prey to them anymore.

One of the major lies that I believed was that I had to be able to see my hip bones to be an acceptable person.  Really stupid.  My mom was with me once in the dressing room when I was trying on skirts, and one particular skirt was kind of silky and shiny.  The way the light hit it, my hip bones were more visible than usual.  My mom was horrified.  She commented on it, and I just kind of shrugged my shoulders, throwing a silent party on the inside.

When I went to the doctor that fall after the weigh in at home, I remember the questions on the intake form being way more difficult than they should have been.  Last menstrual cycle? I hadn't even had my first! You have to be healthy to menstruate, so I guess that is an "N/A" response?

The physician had me put on one of those embarrassing gowns for the exam, and I remember her watching me try to put on my socks when the exam was over.  I was really mad at her for looking at me- in order to keep the gown from falling completely off, I had to use one hand to hold it in place, meaning I was trying to put my socks on with one hand.  If you've never tried to put socks on with one hand, you haven't really lived.  Try it.

I think after the second appointment, the physician had made the diagnosis and referred me to the psychologist I had seen a few years before (she specializes in eating disorder treatment) and to a dietician.  My head was spinning.  It seemed like everything was happening so fast, and I couldn't keep the appointments straight.  I couldn't remember names, only offices.  The office with the exam table is where they listen to my heart to make sure it is still beating; the office with the round table is where we talk about food and nutrition; the office with the love seat and chairs is where I talk about my thoughts (where I refuse to talk about my thoughts.)

Prior to one of the appointments with the physician, she had asked my mom to make a list of the foods that I eat, and the foods I don't eat.  She had the list on the mini counter that all doctors have in their offices, and she was asking me some general questions.  Are you trying to lose weight? The foods you eat all look like foods I would eat if I were dieting.  Just trying to be healthy, I lied.  Do you eat peanut butter? Yes, I said softly.  What do you eat it on? Bread...or crackers(?) I half-said, half-asked. By this point, my head was down, eyes glued on the paper, where I could see clearly in the "Foods Allie does not eat" column in my mom's handwriting, "bread" and "peanut butter."

For embarrassing.  I just told her I eat two things on that list. She knows I am lying. I know I am lying.  But I used to eat peanut butter on bread, so that counts, right? Is this appointment over yet?  I hope she doesn't ask me any more questions.

But she did ask more questions. I have to give her credit for her persistence!  I had this icy stare and a cold silence that was hard to penetrate (more on that in a future post).  She asked me the basics, like if I had thought I was an overweight child, what I liked to do, what I didn't like to do, etc.  You don't like talking about food, do you, she said.  I shook my head and weakly said no.

At the time I remember really disliking her. A LOT. I don't think I had ever disliked anyone as much as I disliked her.  Now that I am looking back, I know it wasn't anything personal.  It was a spirit of anger and self hatred in me.  She was doing her job,and trying to help me get better.  The voice that I referred to earlier that dictated my life didn't like her. Sound crazy?  Probably because it really is.  Listening to any voice other than the Lord's will lead to bondage.  I was in bondage.  I was guilty of idolatry.  And I was letting it kill me and steal my joy.

Here's a shout out to all the people who are brave enough to speak out the truth, to say no to enabling, and to choose life.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My parents had been suspicious when I wanted to stop eating meat in 8th grade. My dad had required me to research vegetarianism and make a list of possible health benefits and possible harm from eliminating meat from my diet before I was allowed to make the change. In the end, my argument was persuasive enough to convince them that it was possible to stay healthy without eating meat.

I wasn't a strict vegetarian, because I still ate eggs, cheese, and milk. By the fall of my sophomore year, however, I ate very little of anything with fat content. Even though I technically ate cheese, I would only eat it if it were part of a meal; even then, I would eat as little as I possibly could. I was developing a full-fledged fear of fat- both in food and on my body.

(The rules that one "comes up" with while slowly starving to death are as illogical as running a marathon without drinking any water. Everyone knows that if you go running for that long of a distance, you need water. Likewise, everyone knows that if you are going to live, you need to eat. What you eat, how you eat, and what you think about when you're not eating are all completely up to you. When you have an eating disorder, you think those things are up to you, but you are greatly deceived.)

I was out in the garage one evening that fall (1999) when my parents came to me and said they wanted me to come inside and step on the scale. Quite a few of our friends and family members had made comments to them about how frail I looked, but I wasn't expecting a scale show-down. Even though I tried to play it cool, I was panicking on the inside. Numbers don't lie, and I knew if they saw the number, they would freak out. My already-obvious secret was about to be exposed.

When I stepped on the scale, I could feel the atmosphere change. I remember being content with what I saw, but it was plain that my reaction was not the consensus in the room. They were probably wanting to cry or scream at that point, like what are you doing to yourself?!?! But they handled it really calmly and I think I went back outside.

That was the start of a series of appointments and tests to assess what was going on. I will pick up there next time. Nos vemos. ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The summer of 1999 was my last summer as a "kid." I was 15 years old, so I wasn't technically a child anymore, but I definitely wasn't an adult.  I felt the pressure of adulthood coming right around the corner, waiting to grab me, tie my hands behind my back, and sentence me to a lifetime of boredom.  I was going to have none of that. Where I got the idea that adulthood is boring, I do not know.  My parents can be 2 of the silliest people I know- anything but boring.  I guess I felt trapped by the unknown.  Fear was at the root of it again.

However, even with those feelings of doom lingering under the surface, it was a great summer.

The first reason why it was so amazing is because my grandpa is a Gideon.  I'll explain.  Gideons are the guys who leave Bibles in hotel rooms, bring Bibles to prisons, carry Bibles in their cars, etc.  They make it a point to give God's word away to anyone who wants a Bible.
In the spring of my 9th grade year, my grandpa and his fellow Gideons were stationed outside the doors of my middle school.  One of my friends and I saw the bright-orange New Testaments (with Psalms and Proverbs) in the Gideons' hands, so we dashed outside to each get one.
We saw my grandpa standing about 1/2 a block away from us, so we waved and went back inside to finish up the school day.

I already had a Bible at home, but this new one was COOL.  For one thing it was new.  It was also orange. Yes!  I had never really taken the time to read my other Bible.  Now that I had this sweet new Bible, I started reading it.  I read it pretty much every day, and on May 25th, 1999, I gave my life to Jesus Christ.

If it hadn't been for the hope in Christ that I received that day, I would be a very different person by now.  Scary different, not good different.

Being born again is probably the best feeling I have ever had.  I had a purpose and a destiny, and I never had to be alone anymore.  This was awesome.  About the same time, I heard a song by Big Tent Revival called "Choose Life." It would become one of my battle songs in the years to come, but I didn't know it then. Side note: I just watched a youtube video of the song, and I remember it being way more powerful than that!  Check out Deuteronomy 30:19 instead.

The other reason why that summer was so great was because of 5 girls who came to my mom's daycare every day.  They ranged in age from 6 to 12 years old.  We were pretty much inseparable, and the days were packed with playing softball games in the yard, swimming in a 2-foot deep "pool" in the backyard, eating popcorn, giggling, and just being carefree.

By the end of the summer, I had lost about 15 pounds. I had stopped eating meat in the 8th grade, and just kind of slowly started cutting out other things like sugary and fatty foods.  With the active lifestyles the 5 girls and I led over those 3 months, my appetite should have been huge. However, I usually ate the same portions that they did, even though they were much smaller and younger than I was.

 Even with all the great friendships going on on the surface, the fear issue still lingered.  I know now that God wants His disciples to be strong and to be able to fight spiritual battles.  I understand now that if He had instantaneously delivered me from fear, particularly the fear of abandonment and rejection, as soon as I surrendered my life to the Lord, He would have done me a huge disservice.  I would be one entitled brat.  And probably pretty lazy too. ;)

Due to the fear issues, I developed a ritual of weighing myself every day.  I had to be 100% secretive about it, because deep down I knew how abnormal it was to weigh myself everyday.  The voice of the dictator that I referred to in my first post was more powerful than the other voice inside that was saying that I didn't need to weigh myself.  I now know that hearing voices/having invading thoughts is quite common, and the devil doesn't have anything new up his sleeve.  He is quite unoriginal in the way he attacks people, but the key is in his persistance.  He knows we all have a breaking point if he'll just keep at it long enough.

Now that I wanted to serve the Lord, I had a big bulls eye on my back.  The devil knew exactly where to shoot.

None of this was happening without my parents taking notice, so I'll cover that next time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

It was the fall of 1999 when the doctor confirmed that I had anorexia nervosa of the restrictive type.  I was the same height I am now, but I was 50 pounds lighter.  Even at my current weight, people still joke about me being thin or skinny.  In my 15-year-old mind, however, the 50-pounds-lighter version of me was the only version that was acceptable.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when I started restricting the food I ate.  I had a really hard time transitioning to middle school, and I missed a major part of 1st semester in 7th grade.  I would get so anxious before school that my stomach would get upset, and I would either vomit on the way to school or I would cry so much once I got to school that I would vomit from crying so much.  It was not a pretty sight, and my parents must have been worried sick.

I had to visit the school counselor several times, and he advised my parents to take me to a mental health professional.  Whatever I was experiencing was not something that could be remedied in a few 15-minute sessions with him.  I liked the psychologist I started going to well enough, but I wasn't very interactive.  I believe the diagnosis at that time was anxiety and minor depression, or something along those lines. 
Looking back, I know that a major source of the problem was a fear of growing up.  I was literally overwhelmed by all the responsibility that I would have one day soon; overwhelmed about getting good grades that would go on my permanent transcript that would get me into the right university that would get me a good job that would help me support my family and on and on and on. 
It is extremely tiring to worry like that all the time.  If I could go back to my 13-year-old self, I would say,"Stop trying to be the savior of the world." I probably wouldn't have understood what that meant though, because I was way too busy imagining up the perfect life and then unintentionally putting myself under such pressure to make it happen that I couldn't even enjoy life.

Life became a series of jobs- just one job right after the other, including my bedtime routine that, of course, had to be done perfectly.  So at the root of all the surface symptoms (crying so hard that it made me vomit) was a huge spirit of fear.

That all came to the surface most strongly in the 7th grade for me.  

It had tried to show it's ugly face in 5th grade too, but the 7th grade manifestations were markedly worse.

The summer before my 10th grade year, the summer of 1999, was one of the best summers of my life.  I'll pick up there next time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Even though illnesses come and go, some stick a lot longer than others. Healing is possible, no matter what.  Here is my story. 

The running theme I hope will be apparent through all of my posts is that there is only one Physician who can truly heal.  I am not posting my story to promote any specific form of treatment, or any person or profession aside from Jesus Christ.

It took me years to accept the diagnosis I was given at age 15. I had developed a horrid habit of lying to others, saying whatever I thought they wanted me to say. My psychologist called me out on it one day, so I knew she was on to me.  During one session, she flat-out aksed me if I believed that I had anorexia. I said yes, because I knew that was the right answer.  It wasn't my honest answer, but  I knew, scientifically speaking, it was the correct answer.  Shortly after that, my mom asked me in the car one day if I really believed I had anorexia; I said yes again.  But my heart and my head were screaming no.

Lying has consequences.  I forfeited intimate relationships that I could have had with my family and friends in the name of keeping this thing hidden.  It was a great price to pay- always wanting to feel closer to my mom, for example, but knowing that closeness requires honesty.  Honesty requires transparency, and on and on.  I craved intimacy, honesty, and transparency, but it is much easier to hide behind a veil of fear and self-pity.  Easier, yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely not.

I had the discipline of a rigid dictator by that point; better said, the discipline of a rigid dictator had me by that point. Whatever the persistent voice said, I ultimately did. As a result, I hated my life so badly that I wanted to die. I did not realize it then, but the voice I heard telling me what I could and could not eat is the same voice that countless others hear each day. The mental health field calls it anorexia nervosa. Anyone who has experienced it calls it hell.

The first time I can recall having the dictator's voice completely silenced was in March of 2014. I had just texted an old aquaintence to tell him happy birthday. He asked what was new in my life. I told him I wasn't being tormented by the demonic thoughts of anorexia anymore. He told me I could call anytime I needed to talk. That was the point though, I didn't need to talk anymore- I finally felt free from that burden and the madness inside. And that is the constant enigma, the silent frustration, the joyless roboticness that perplexes anyone who tries to help someone who is in the throes of an eating disorder. Just tell me what's wrong, they say. Silence. Wanting to speak and having no words is part of the silent prison. 

There's a vow of silence that goes along with the shame inside. There's a deadness that accompanies the shame. There's a secret world filled with imaginary buffets and endless desserts, and lots of hugs. Always lots of hugs.

It all sounds so twisted when I write it out. There is a reason it is called a mental illness. Mentally well people don't think like that. Mentally healthy people don't develop a system to rule their days based on lying about what they ate, and how much.

Even though it could get messy and ugly and I might want to hit delete over and over, I've felt for too long like I need to express the road to recovery and make it available for anyone who wants to hear. That is one of my passions, actually, but even my closest friends don't know that about me. I've thought about writing a book or inviting myself to be a guest speaker, or a myriad of other far-fetched ideas that just aren't me. I guess it is time to admit it- I am a blogger. :)   I'll be posting my thoughts in a possibly disorganized manner as I lay out the twisted maze of freedom from the inside out.

I am not a health professional. The only thing I can claim to know is that once I was really, really ill. I should not have survived. And now I am well. More to come.