“I guess I thought that I had figured you out… I heard all the stories and I learned to talk about how you were mighty to save; but those were only empty words on a page… until I caught a glimpse of who you might be; the slightest hint of you brought me down to my knees…”
I have been thinking a lot lately about my past struggles and how, while it’s unfortunate that I’ve gone through with them and still struggle to some extent with types thoughts that have brought me to extremely dark places and took so much from me, that it’s helped me to have a tangible way of understanding my sin and His Grace. Just that alone, makes this struggle, which I consider my biggest cross to bear in this life, something I am grateful for.
I’ve been thinking about this for a few reasons. One, I’ve been struggling to implement a food plan at our home. Structure doesn’t come naturally to me (or my husband), and with all of the new things in my life (new marriage, newly living away from parents, new career), sometimes I feel my head is spinning and meal planning is just one thing that doesn’t get done. Some nights we just don’t get around to it. My husband is very easygoing and is fine with eating snacks for dinner… and he doesn’t have a food problem (other than that he doesn’t eat a lot in general), but for me, just grazing doesn’t work or not having a plan at all doesn’t work. I need structured meals to have that sanity with food. I’ve had a few days with really no regular meals and those ugly thoughts start to creep into my mind. There was one night this week that felt like a struggle and my eating, while not terrible, was not really “ordered” and my thoughts were definitely bordering on pretty “Dis-ordered“. It’s at those moments that I realize that I really am like an addict. I believe that I will never be normal in this area. And that’s ok because this is just a part of who I am. And I have to accept that and utilize the strategies that I’ve learned and have been led to over the years to keep food the most non-issue possible.
I’ve also been thinking about this because, I realize that this November marks 10 years since I fell into the trap of an eating disorder for the first time, at age 15. It was right around the time of Thanksgiving 2005, and it started pretty suddenly. Like a bad awakening to a new reality. Before that I was basically a carefree kid.
It was not one thing that caused it… it was several things that came together all at once, and all compounded to be catalysts for this. It was that age that I started to care what others thought of me… I realized that I felt like a misfit w/ others and suddenly, it made me sad. I remember crying one night and pouring my heart into my journal; i wondered if i might be depressed. I felt ugly and I got this idea that no one really liked me anyway, so I would pull away from my friends. This was relatively easy as a homeschooled high schooler- isolating was easy, since homeschool group activities were only held once a week (and i then isolated for many years and got into this patterns where it was so hard for me to share my heart with others). I felt so bad about myself that I came to believe that everyone saw me as a loser and my friends were just my friends because they felt bad for me. I had such low self-esteem, but the one thing I liked about my appearance that I otherwise didn’t like, was that I was thin. Until that point, it was natural and people told me that I looked like a ballerina or a skinny minnie from time to time. And I ate that up and felt proud inside when people told me that… or told my mother her daughter looked so tiny. And my mom who has always struggled with her weight was proud of me, and would verbalize that she was proud to have a thin daughter.
At this time, I believe I started to develop my adrenal condition (late onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia), and my metabolism significantly changed (in addition to just developing more of a woman’s body) and while I once could eat anything and not gain weight, I suddenly was eating less and less but still had a belly for the first time ever, and fought hard not to gain weight. I thought I’d be happy if only I got back to my original technically underweight size, or less. Around this time, I was misdiagnosed w/ PCOS (similar symptoms to my adrenal disorder), so I tried to restrict my diet to “manage” my condition, as research shows that overweight women with true PCOS do well eating low carb and extremely healthy. Ugggh. Suddenly it was all I could focus on. food. my body. I had to do something… so I started obsessed and read diet books and websites and it because my focus. Food. and my body. That’s what life became. That’s what I basically became.
Also at the same time, I discovered vegetarianism and then quickly veganism and decided it would be a “great” decision, mostly for the animals, I said (although , I think deep down there was more to it). . I felt proud. I was not just “Liz”. I was “Liz the vegan” and felt I had something that set me apart from others and it became like a religion. I ate special. I was the healthiest. So I obsessed about this and spent hours on vegetarian forums and looking at recipes.I discovered exercise around the same time… and quickly became addicted to that too. Just all these factors at once compounded and I fell into a very dark hole of obsession. A hole of isolation. Of harming my health. Of hurting my family. I regret it greatly since it involves so much darkness and sin in my heart… but through this journey to balance and sanity, where I might never get to, but I strive for it… I’ve come to know Jesus in a very real way.
I remember once in early college I was just in a very desolate place inside of my heart and I read one of the miracles about Jesus touching someone and healing them, in an instant. I cried out that Jesus would heal me… in faith. And He has slowly and still is healing me. I have gradually come to this beautiful place where I truly desire to live for so much more than my body. To live a legacy. To internalize that “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” and to praise Him for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
And most of the time I’m ok with where it is now and surrendering my body… although it’s much larger than I would have chosen, and definitely not stereotypically even close to perfect, or “thin” (I have days where I struggle, but for the most part…). I have come to a place where I know that where I need to be is living healthy, balanced, but completely letting go of my body’s size and number and leaving it in the hands of its creator. What better of a place could I leave it? And no, I’m not there all the time to any means, but I’m getting there, one day at a time. It’s truly a balancing act for me… to live healthily, but not fall into any area of ED, especially w/ my adrenal condition which is often associated with metabolic issues (so I have to be somewhat careful in moderation of what I eat), and because of that, I’ll likely never be healthily skinny, but that’s absolutely ok. He is healing me, in His time and way.
I used to think that when I recovered I would become that carefree 14 year old who I was before ED. I’ve come to learn, that I never will be, because I was a kid then, and even if I didn’t have an eating disorder, I would be a lot different now than I was as a young teenager. Plus those dark years have shaped me, both in good and bad ways. Although I am more of an anxious person now, and believe I will always have hang ups about food and my body, I think that my ED years has given me a much greater heart of compassion towards other, especially those struggling in their own darkness. I am healthily a different person now. I’m becoming a woman and have had so many different experiences. It’s ok that the “true me” is different from the “me” before the ED. I’m discovering who she is every day. And I am grateful for this journey.
He has led me to so many answers throughout it. Just one example of an unexpected gift through this journey is that because of the hormone problems I caused because of my eating disorder (almost no cycles for 8 years… then I got it back after gaining above a certain amount and reducing exercise after stumbling upon internet research on hypothalamic amenorrhea- which I had but because of my other endocrine conditions, many of the doctors missed esp since I was technically a low- normal weight for most of many years after my initial restriction… like I said I’m good w/ dates and I got my first period in forever 2 years ago yesterday; and it’s been regular since), I was getting frequently blood work because of this endocrine mystery, which led me to accidentally find out by a mistakenly ordered blood test I had my genetic adrenal condition, that likely would have gone undiagnosed until I was trying (possibly unsuccessfully, or having miscarriages) to get pregnant. I now have answers that could help us in the future, because having a baby is one of the deepest longings of my heart and my husband’s (and this relatively rare condition often leads to usually treatable fertility issues), and believe me, I’ve prayed a lot about this in my life especially during my 8 years of hormonal hell; that the Lord would somehow let me have a baby someday… and I still pray sometimes for our future children I love so much and do not yet know (we don’t plan to start trying for a year and a half or so, who knows what the story will be). Our future baby (ies) will be so prayed for… I can tell them I’ve prayed for him or her for my whole life and that they are a miracle and their life has much purpose.
Have to get back to work, but overall… I wouldn’t have chosen to fall into an eating disorder 10 years ago. I would have never dreamed of it, actually. But it happened. And it’s worth it because I have a clearer grasp of my sin and the great grace of my Lord Jesus Christ who died for all of that. The enemy may have laughed and intended it for my harm, but the Lord intended it for good. It’s part of what brought those words on a page I had read so much to life and made me really seek Jesus to be my healer… and the slightest hint of Him brought me down to my knees in humble surrender.
-“God takes the junk of our lives and He makes the greatest art in the world out of it.” -Rich Mullins
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Joel 2:25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.