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.