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.