I’m in recovery from an eating disorder.
Yikes. Those words take guts to even type out. For all the years I’ve been struggling, I’ve seldom allowed the words “eating disorder” or “anorexia” to slip past my lips. If I’m honest, I’ve also been hesitant to label myself as “in recovery” at all.
I’ve masked anorexia the best I can. Yet I’ve let it sit idly in the shadows–causing me to not want to live, to give up hope of even knowing what life looks like.
But God has done a miracle in my heart in the past few months, and I’m starting to see that: (1) The life He has given is remarkable, and (2) I can reclaim it.
The Nature of an Eating Disorder
If you aren’t familiar with eating disorders, I encourage you to educate yourselves. This blog post, however, is not about informing you. It’s more so geared toward sharing my journey, reducing the stigma around mental illness, and uniting us in the common struggle for abundant life in Christ.
At the very least, I will say that if you think you kinda know about eating disorders, you probably don’t.
It’s a weird thing, an eating disorder. It’s about food, and yet it’s not. It’s about the body, and yet it has nothing to do with the body. It victimizes and it’s also a choice.
Throughout the ten years I’ve suffered from anorexia, the eating disorder has served as the bottleneck of pain and panic; the collision of which produces an inhuman urge to do something that will stabilize the chaos.
For over ten years now, I’ve suffered. I have done treatment–often against my will–and I’ve quasi-recovered. But I haven’t surrendered–the anorexia or the shame.
The stigma surrounding eating disorders has diminished, but it’s still the taboo subject of hushed conversation in most circles. For that reason–and others–I’ve danced around anorexia for years and, at times, pretended like I’m “all better.”
To be honest, I’m ashamed of that. Brokenness–especially revealing that brokenness–feel vulnerable and less-than-great. I’m ashamed. that I’m twenty-seven and I’m scared of eating something different for dinner. I’m ashamed that I work at a church but struggle to my core with an inability to feed my body as God has commanded me.
But I’m so tired of being sick, and I’m so sick of being ashamed.
A Testimony in the Making
As I think of the Apostle Paul, I can’t help but consider his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). In agony, Paul approached God, time and time again, begging the Lord to relieve him. But God ordained that Paul was to have that struggle. And all these years later, I’m thankful He did. Why? Because Paul’s thorn in the flesh–whether of his own making or not–is a reminder that God is not ashamed of us and He is not limited by our limitations. God did not look upon me or you this morning and shake his head in bewilderment at the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Instead, He smiled brightly as He considered how greatly our messes are going to draw us to Him and glorify His name. Shame was nailed to the cross.
Over the years, I’ve written of my mental health journey, and I’ve shared that there are certain aspects of it that are not wise to divulge to the world wide web. That is true. What’s also true, however, is that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb (that’s Jesus!) and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11).
So this is my testimony.
Just as I committed to writing about the blessings and struggles of singleness, I’m committing to share what God leads me to share about my battle with anorexia… and yes: it’s a battle. I’m not suffering anymore; I’m fighting.
I’m not sure what’s on the other side, but I know God is the God of redemption. I’ve heard of a world in which calories don’t matter; a world where you don’t dream of food and rest doesn’t have to be earned. To be honest, I can’t fathom living without hundreds of rules. I truly can’t. But I also can’t fathom living with them anymore. So I’m fighting.
Last month, my husband and I had the chance to go to a Christian retreat for those battling eating disorders and their spouses. It was eye-opening for us in many ways, one of which was my actual recovery… the recovery I’d been quasi engaging in for years. “I haven’t been fighting,” I told my husband. “I can’t eat with anyone, I feel guilty for sitting down, and I have anxiety attacks about going to work. If I don’t start fighting back, I am going to die.”
It was a scary moment. And I praise God for it.
By God’s grace, I have grown over these years to the point that I am now ready to let God fight this battle and set me free. Ready to stop hating every aspect of who I am; to jump over these walls I’ve so carefully constructed around me.
Recovery’s a beast. At the same time, I’m not who I was a year ago, or even a month ago. I’m not that nineteen-year-old girl who was practically forced into treatment. But, in the words of Miley Cyrus, I feel so much younger now (I’m not promoting Mile Cyrus, but MAN is this song powerful).
Next week, I am attending a five-day eating disorder intensive put on by the incredible Christian organization that hosted the retreat we went to in January. From now until the end of next week, I’ll be praying regarding my next steps in treatment. I’ve currently been working with an outpatient team but, after last month’s retreat: I strongly felt God leading me to seek more support; to go all in to this battle for freedom. I’ll be taking a step back from nearly everything in life so I can heal.
As I’ve processed the mounting anxiety of such a decision, I’ve also found a strange secondary emotion: excitement.
I can’t imagine what life without moment-by-moment fear looks like. But I am excited for it. I’m excited to fall asleep without nightmares, to eat dinner with my husband, and to run miles and miles of trails. I’m excited to be able to focus at work, to peacefully watch a movie, to contend for a spot at the Olympic marathon trials. and to try pasta for the first time in five years. I’m excited to reclaim the life that I unknowingly surrendered as a sad little girl with a broken heart.
Why Speak Out, and Why Now?
Wherever you are at in your journey, I want to encourage you by sharing how God is working in my life. For if we don’t speak of Him in the valleys, our words won’t resonate far on the mountaintops.
I hope to keep sharing thoughts on faith, recovery, mental health, body image, and all that jazz. If you’re into that, I hope you’ll stick around. If you’re not, well, you probably are because you read this far and that seems like an awful lot of effort to put towards something you don’t care about… 🙂
I’m not sure what battle you’re walking through, but I’d guess you’re walking through one. Can I suggest something? What if we go together, and we leave shame behind?
We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
This is my testimony–a part of it that I believe will shine so brightly that the enemy cannot help but shudder. And of that, I am not ashamed.
6 thoughts on “If I Were Free From Shame, I’d Tell You This…”
Thank you for your testimony. God bless you for your willingness to share it! Yes, there is no guilt or shame in God’s family. Even our failures magnify God’s greatness!
Amen! May He be magnified. Thanks, Tom.
Thank you for this blog. I will keep you in my prayers. I know it is not the same, but I struggle with diabetes and I have to really watch my carbs. Maybe you can pray for me too. Thanks.
Thank you for sharing, Stephen. Praying for you, as well! We serve a mighty God who can sustain, strengthen, and heal in every way. And He also uses those “thorns” in our flesh to make us more like Him. That is my prayer for us both. 🙏🏼
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Hannah, Thanks for your willingness to talk about your journey. When I struggled with bulimia, I didn’t even know it had a name or that anyone else was struggling with it. I was afraid to tell anyone, thought I’d be locked up. The Lord took me on a journey that (you’re right) wasn’t about food or weight. It was about HIM, and who I got to be as one of His children, if I learned to live according to what I KNEW, based on Scripture, aa opposed to what I FELT. Now, decades later, I am healthy and happy, although I am always aware of what I’m eating and how it affects my body. But then, at my age, it’s hard to draw the line between self-discipline/wisdom and obsession. But I offer my body to Him every day as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and He does take good care of His stuff. 😉
Here is the addy for a Christian online blogger who is struggling with the same disorder. I think she would be great support for you. Blessings!