Defeating Depression: 5 Tactics from Psalm 42

17879-woman-girl-crying-rain-water-sad-depressed-wide.1200w.tn_-e1491543405113

It doesn’t take much to make me cry.

God has wired me in a way that I feel various emotions on a very deep level, whether it be joy or sorrow, pain or relief, sadness or gladness, satisfaction or discontentment, frustration or peace, excitement or apathy….etc.

My emotions change so rapidly that even I can’t keep up with them. Anyone else with me?

When I am tired or stressed, I am irritable, moody, and unnecessary sarcastic.

When I am anxious, I either cannot sit still, am overly talkative, or silent. When I am anxious, I often hold it in around most people and let it all out when I am alone or with my husband.

When I am at peace, I am usually in conversation with the Lord or another person. When I am at peace, I am present in the moment. My mind doesn’t wander.

When I am in pain, I close my eyes and run my fingers through my hair. I become more rigid and frustrated.

When I am bored I go on social media.

When I am joyful, it’s because I am doing something that I am passionate about.

When I am energetic, it’s because I am around people that I am comfortable with.

When I am on my period, I feel like I am going crazy (as do most women).

When I watch an emotional scene in a movie, I cry.

We all have our quirks, and we are all wired in very unique ways. We have all experienced these emotions at some point in our lives. But there is something fundamentally different between a heightened emotional experience and depression. Heightened emotions come and go. Depression, on the other hand, lingers. It rises and falls. There are peaks and valleys, seasons of relief, and seasons that are heightened… but even the valleys are still something that have to be managed.

Sometimes, we know why we feel how we do…

It makes sense to be a  little emotional when you are stressed out.

It makes sense to be emotional when you are in physical pain.

It makes sense to cry tears of joy when receiving good news or practicing gratitude.

It makes sense to feel a little insecure at times.

It makes sense to get a little frustrated when things don’t go our way.

…and sometimes we don’t, sometimes I don’t. 

It doesn’t make sense to feel hopeless, lonely, or unworthy when you are surrounded by people who love and care about you.  

It doesn’t make sense when you cry yourself to sleep. 

It doesn’t make sense when you have doctors and medications that are supposed to be working, yet you still feel overly emotional or numb to everything.  

It doesn’t make sense when your life looks good from the outside, yet on the inside, it’s aching and yearning to be held, understood, and healed. 

It doesn’t make sense when you are married to the man of your dreams. 

It doesn’t make sense when you are financially stable. 

It doesn’t make sense when you have friends who pray for me and believe in you. 

It doesn’t make sense when you have a relationship with Jesus. 

It doesn’t make sense when your tears are your food by day and night

Depression doesn’t make sense, but a lot of time life doesn’t either.

We have very limited control over our lives here on earth. We may think that we have some sort of control through our daily choices, attitudes, and routines, but the reality is that nothing can act against the sovereign will of God. So we can’t always change our circumstances. I can’t just wake up and decide to not struggle with depression, but I can decide how I am going to respond to that situation, how I am going to fight, and how I am going to overcome.

alone-depression-girl-crying-tears-broekn-heart

Insight from Psalm 42:

We don’t exactly wrote this specific song. David wrote the majority of them, so some theologians believe that it very well could have been him. Whatever the case may be, this psalm was written by someone who was very honest and open about working through his depression with God:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

 

The psalmist doesn’t know why his soul is in such despair, why he feels so defeated, and why there is turmoil in his mind. His tears have been his daily bread, he feels forgotten by God, and feels oppressed by the enemy, whether that be satan himself or surrounding foes. He feels like he is drowning; waves of sorrow are continuously crashing over him. He is being taunted, mocked, and encouraged to question God’s presence in all of this. Yet despite his feelings, he did not waver in his trust in the Lord.

1. He seeks out the presence of the Lord:

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Rather than distancing himself from God, he asks him to draw near. He knows that God is the only one that can save him from the mess he is in. He knows that is what his soul is longing for. He wants to be touched by that living power. So withholding nothing back, he prays.

2. He reminds himself of God’s goodness:

“These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”

He reflects on the joy that only the Lord can produce. He remembers the shouts of gladness and songs of praise that came out of his mouth. He knows that’s still in him, and he wants God to restore that.

3. He doesn’t settle in his sorrow:

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

Here we see a shift from “my tears are my food by day and night” to “by day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is within me, a prayer to the God of my life.” It doesn’t say that all of his tears were wiped away, however, he doesn’t allow himself to settle in them. He reminds himself of God’s love for him, and he worships him even through the tears that fall down his cheeks.

4. He places his hope in God:

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” 

He says this twice. Once in the middle, and once in the end. He knows that even if he isn’t healed from his depression right then and there, that God is still his only hope. He knows that his salvation is secure in God, and because of that, he doesn’t stop praising him, even in this season of depression. He fixes his eyes on the author of his salvation, his strong tower and refuge, rather than the enemies surrounding him and the despair that he feels in his heart.

5. He shares his struggle with God, & with other people:

So what does all of this mean?

  1. It means that you aren’t alone (globally, it’s estimated that over 300 million people struggle with depression).¹
  2. The psalmist can’t make sense of his depression. He doesn’t understand why his soul is down cast. But this doesn’t stop him from returning to the one knows him and is known by him. As much as it can feel like it does, depression cannot separate us from the love of God. It isn’t our fault. It isn’t his fault. He doesn’t love us any less.
  3. The spiritual anecdote for depression is praise and worship. It doesn’t take away the tears. It doesn’t fix the problem. But what it can do, is slowly and gradually start to heal the places in our heart that need new life. We have to let go of what we thought life was supposed to look like and embrace the “here and now” knowing that God is always with us, and that he does restore and redeem and heal in His own timing.
  4. We need to talk about it. I’ve blogged about this topic several times before, but I don’t want us to miss this, and I know I am not the only one who struggles with this issue. We can’t do this life alone. There are days where the only thing I have the strength to do is eat, sleep, and lay in bed. There are days where it takes everything in me to make it through the day without breaking down. There are days when I feel like I am not going to be able to breath because I am crying so hard. There are days when I feel like I am a burden to everyone that I know, because of my depression. There are days when I feel unlovable and lonely, even when I am surrounded by a group of people. There are days where God seems so small and so far away. If you experience this, you aren’t alone.

And then there are the days, when I walk in victory; when I experience the chains of bondage being broken in my life; when I realize that strongholds are being torn down; when I am able to sit and be present and enjoy myself with peace; when I am able to engage in relationships; when I am able to go out and be excited about it; when I feel tangible relief from the physical toll that depression takes on your body.

Sometimes a battle has to be fought more than once before full victory is attained. For depression, the battle has to be fought a lot, sometimes every minute of every hour of every day. But we start to see more victory when we realize that the one who has already overcome the world is on our side. Keep fighting friends. The final victory belongs to God’s beloved. Depression doesn’t have to have the final word.

Reference:

  1. World Health Organization

The Man of God who Married a Prostitute

 

pexels-photo-573299

“‘When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.’ So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son.” -Hosea 1:2-3

Hold up.

Is this in the bible?

This isn’t the type of passage that we would slap on a bumper sticker or display on our refrigerators…This isn’t the first verse that we would share with the lost or our young children…

But maybe it should be.

Why? Because the story of Hosea and Gomer is the essence of the Gospel.

It’s a fascinating, riveting, scandalous, gripping story of redemption.

There is no better story to illustrate God’s ability to make beauty from ashes.

So, what’s happening here?!

Hosea (an up-right, godly man)married Gomer (who had a questionable history with other men) knowing that she would leave him. They formed a covenant before the Lord signifying their union of flesh and love for each other. It was truly a beautiful thing…until Gomer left Hosea. She went back to her former life, to another man, leaving behind Hosea and her child at home.

Can you imagine? How mad would you be at God? He told Hosea to go and marry a prostitute, a woman who was promised to be unfaithful to him. Life seemed good when she took his hand in marriage, started a family, and were just beginning their new life together.

Until she cheated. She left. She turned towards other idols. She wanted satisfaction from other things. She broke the covenant of marriage. She wandered the streets looking for satisfaction and ended up right back where she was in the beginning.

What did God tell Hosea to do?

“And the Lord said to me, “Hosea, go again, love a women who is loved by another man and is a prostitute, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other Gods.'” -Hosea 3:1

Woah. Go into the streets, search for her, and buy her back? The streets that Gomer was wondering were not the nicest. The well-educated, religious up-right folks would never be seen walking around in those neighborhoods. Prostitutes were considered to be unclean, as were adulteresses.

Yet Hosea trusted what God has asked him to do. He knew that his life was serving as an illustration to all of the people of Israel. He knew that God was speaking through his life. So he went. Hosea finds himself wandering around some sketchy streets calling out to his wife, asking for her to come back. He finds her, and she isn’t able to come home without a price.

“So I (Hosea) bought her for 15 [pieces] of silver, and [45 bushels of barley]. Then I told her that [she] was to live with me for many days, that [she] must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man. [And then I told her that I would behave the same way towards her.]” -Hosea 3:2-3

Hosea bought Gomer back even after he had already claimed her as his own wife. Gomer’s sin didn’t come without consequences. She was brought to the lowest point in her life when she ran back to the lifestyle that she knew wasn’t good for her. She wasn’t worthy of forgiveness or love or attention or any of that. Yet Hosea still gave it, without holding a grudge, storing up bitterness, or refusing to forgive her.

Here’s the parallel:

God formed a covenant with Israel, proclaiming their identity as his holy people. Before this covenant, they were like lost sheep without a shepherd. Now, they would be taken care of, provided for, thought about, and loved. However, they too would turn their backs on God and towards other idols, even after proclaiming their love for him. They even created their own idols. They would become ungrateful and fall back into their sinful ways of life. They lacked trust in him. Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up on the ones who used to show him so much love, he continued to pursue them. 

“Therefore I am now going to allure her (Israel); I will leader into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and I will make the Valley of Anchor a door of hope.” -Hosea 2:14-15

God created us (you + me both) knowing full and well that we wouldn’t choose him. At least, not at first. By nature, we are children of wrath due to the fall of humanity in the garden of eden. We are helpless and hopeless without the help of our blessed messiah, Jesus. And then he came. He formed a new covenant with us. He bridged the gap between sinful humanity and the righteous, holy God of the universe. He choose us even while we were still sinners. When we hated him, questioned him, were apathetic towards him; ignored him, neglected him, & took advantage of his grace.

If you haven’t began a relationship with Jesus, I can’t think of a better time to start than now. Can you? In Isaiah 1:18 God says to Isaiah, “Come now, let’s settle this. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. He wants to settle things with you. He wants to work through the bitterness that you have towards him. He wants to know you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants you to love him back. Just like Hosea.

There isn’t a magic prayer or formula or check-list that will save you. Only Jesus does that. Only by pleading his blood and kneeling down at the cross will we have life eternal. We must confess our sins to God. He knows them, we know them. So we might as well get it all out in the open, right? Be vulnerable. Allow him to touch those broken, shame-filled parts of your heart. He won’t just touch them, but he will heal them. Next we must begin living a lifestyle of repentance. Does becoming a Christian mean you are expected to be perfect? Absolutely not. We just saw that in the way that God interacted with Israel. However, when you fall in love with Jesus you begin to fall out of love with your sin. God makes that change in your heart.

So we don’t settle for sin.

We don’t rummage through trash bins when we already possess a treasure that is more worthy than anything in this world. Surround yourself with people who love Him and love you, spend time in God’s word, & connect with a local church. The Holy Spirit will make it clear what needs to stay in your life and what doesn’t. The last part of putting your trust in Jesus is faith-believing without seeing; clinging to the promises of God even when the circumstances don’t make sense; understanding that our feelings are fleeting and that God never changes; trusting him when he asks you to do something that makes you step out of your comfort zone; knowing that he is the only thing in this world that can save you. You don’t have to clean yourself up. Jesus will do that. All you have to do is accept the love that you have been rejecting for so long. Let him love you like Hosea loved Gomer.

If you are in Christ, if you have a relationship with Jesus, if you are a new creation, born-again child of the God most high, you have been saved from your sin. God has made a new covenant with you, one in which Jesus pays the price for all who confess, repent, and believe that he is Lord. You are his and he is yours. You are now justified before God, meaning that God looks at you “just as if you have never sinned”. He doesn’t look at you and see your sin, he looks at you and sees the blood of Jesus.

Okay, awesome. So, what if you have (or had) that relationship, but you turned your back on God? You ran to partying or drugs or sex or pornography or relationships or material things or food to be your ultimate satisfaction, even as a Christian. What do you do now? Do you still have that same relationship with God? Is he mad at you, at us? Will he hold this against you? Will he put you to shame? Will you be forgiven? Once a sinner always a sinner, right?

Wrong.

Just like with Hosea, just like with Israel, God never stops pursuing our hearts. We are so prone to wander, yet he knows that. He doesn’t stop knocking. He doesn’t stop chasing. He doesn’t stop trying. He endlessly and unrelentingly fights for us. He paid the initial price for our unfaithfulness on the cross; but he also paid for every sin that we have committed in the past, present, or future. He knows even how we will mess up within the next hour, day, week, or even months. He knows. He gets it. Life is hard, but how sweet is it that we have a savior who never gives up, who calls you a saint of God, not a hopeless sinner.

 

Accept the grace that he pours over you. Embrace the power of his holy spirit turning your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Be willing to be broken by your sin so that you may be restored. 

 

 

Bread + Butter

french-toast-step3-srgb.1

All I wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t have the energy or desire to do anything else. It was 6:00 at night, so I knew that if I went to bed that early that I wouldn’t be able to sleep through the night. I was ready for the day to be over and for my mind to rest for a few hours.

I was pretty worn out from my therapy session earlier that day. The therapy went as well as it usually did…I cried, listened, processed, cried some more, and walked out with more knowledge, wisdom, and hope stored away in my tool box than when I walked it. Nonetheless, it was still draining.

As I mindlessly watched raindrops trickle down the window in my living room, my mind wandered to the one thing I wanted to avoid that night: Dinner

Therapy did go well, it really did. But it didn’t make the idea of cooking dinner any more appealing to me.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t hungry; I felt the hunger pangs in my side. I heard my stomach growling as my family started heating up left-overs on the stove.

That night dinner was an “on our own” kinda night. My family would have made me any meal that I requested at that point in my recovery (and probably still would), but my appetite and food preferences shifted so often that sometimes it was easier on me (and everyone else) just to make a game time decision when it came to meals (of course, within the limits of my meal plan). My mom was having chicken, skillet green beans, and twice-baked potatoes. It was definitely the “healthiest” option of the night, but it wasn’t something I was ready to eat again. After over a year of eating unsalted, undercooked green beans, chicken, and 1/2 plain sweet potato for dinner, that meal became something that I despised. In therapy, I was learning to accept my food preferences without judgement, and to honor my hunger with foods that I actually enjoy.

Although I now enjoy cooking grilled chicken, seasoned green beans, and a sweet potato with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar, green beans and chicken were both a no-go for that night. I asked my dad what he was having for dinner and he said left-over meat loaf.

Absolutely not…too high in fat. Disgusting.

The meat loaf was out.

My sister went out to eat with friends that night, so it truly was up to me. I had to make a decision.

As I looked through the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator, nothing sounded particularly good.

Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day, and I knew I wouldn’t be left alone until I picked out something with some substance, so I settled on french toast with strawberries and turkey sausage.

I’m not sure why I chose french toast; it isn’t my usual go-to. Nevertheless, it sounded good, so I tried to honor that preference to make progress in recovery.

I was feeling pretty good when I turned on the stovetop and coated the bread in my egg + cinnamon batter until I realized something, that I would have to use butter to cook this french toast.

Butter was one of the foods that I had managed to cut out for a while. It didn’t quite fit into my dairy-free diet, and as ED’s rules became more rigid, I grew to fear it for more reasons than one.

I started to give myself a pep-talk:

Okay you can do it…you can do this. It’s just a little bit of butter, you don’t have to use a lot. It’ll be fine. You will be fine. Butter is a fat but it doesn’t make you fat.  If I want to get better I have to take steps towards recovery, not away. I want to get better, so I will use (a little bit) of the butter. Here I go… 

To my dismay, the little amount of butter that I placed on the skillet had no effect on my battered bread. The toast didn’t seem to be cooking right. I decided to consult my dad.

He walked up to the stove and immediately knew what was wrong:

You need more butter…

Without my permission, he cut off a relatively large slab of butter and threw it into the skillet with my french toast. I was mortified to say the least:

What are you doing?! Oh my gosh you used so much butter!! I don’t need that!! Why?!

He replied:

Honey, sometimes you need butter to make food taste good. Get used to it.

Once I took a few deep breaths, a smile spread across my face and I began to chuckle. For those of you who know my dad, I know it doesn’t shock you that this was his solution to my “french toast dilemma”.

Why in the world did he think that was a good idea? Only God knows. Lord bless him. 

My dad didn’t know anything about eating disorders or recovery at the time. He went to the gas station and bought me a Recess PB Cup when I told him that I had never had one. He offered to make me cheeseburgers and extra snacks on the weekends that I was home. He tried to problem solve with me and rubbed my back when there was nothing left to solve, nothing left to say. He supported me financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and in every other way.

I didn’t really think he understand the whole food component until I realized that I didn’t really understand the whole food component either.

To me, butter symbolized fat and fear.

To him, butter symbolized flavor and enjoyment.

On that night, butter was the missing ingredient.

Once my dad added the butter into the skillet my french toast cooked perfectly and it tasted delicious, just as he promised it would. 

Sure, the butter did add calories to my dinner, calories that my body desperately needed and craved in the late hours of the night. It made the meal more “complete” in a nutritional sense. I left the table feeling full but not “too full”, which can be a miracle when your hunger and satiety cues are all out of sort. I faced one of my fear foods and conquered it. That small victory flipped a switch in my heart and I started to truly believe in my heart what I knew in my head, that who I am and my worth is so much more than my daily calorie intake, exercise routine, dress size, or the portion of butter that I cook my french toast in. 

I also realized that sometimes I don’t know best, and that I needed to start trusting those who I knew did know best. I had to swallow my pride and trust the process that I had absolutely no control over. It felt terrifying and amazing all at the same time.

This is why we celebrate the small victories.

Small steps in the right direction lead to small victories. 

Small victories lead to bigger steps in the right direction. 

Bigger steps in the right direction lead to bigger victories. 

Victory after victory leads to recovery. 

Let go of control, take the next right step, celebrate the small victories, and step out of your comfort zone.

Life is too short to cry over a stick of butter. 

 

 

What My Eating Disorder has Taught me about Food Insecurity

pexels-photo-209449-2

I have been in treatment for anorexia nervosa for about a year and a half. Before developing an eating disorder, I had no concept of food insecurity how many people in impacts on a daily basis. I grew up in the wealthiest county in TN, and food insecurity has never been an issue for my family.

Growing up, I wasn’t food insecure. I didn’t understand why being hungry in the classroom was such an issue until I was that student. Although I had all of the physical resources to have a good nutrition quality of life in college, I lacked the psychological skills needed to cope with my anxiety and depression. This lead to binge-restriction cycles and 30 lbs of weight loss. I remember sitting in class in so much pain because I hadn’t eaten enough that day. I spent hours trying to study because it was so difficult to concentrate on anything but food, exercise, and my body. It was a really dark place, but I really do think it opened my eyes to how the body reacts to chronic food restriction. I understand all too well how life-debilitating the binging-purging cycles.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to afford treatment, and after 2 summers of consistent outpatient therapy, an undergrad in Nutrition, and a wedding, I am in a place where I no longer choose to restrict foods when emotions are high motivation is low. I have gradually developed skills that have helped my body “relearn” how to eat intuitively. I have developed a balanced, healthy relationship with food, a relationship is sustainable and lasting.

I get to make that choice. People who are food insecure don’t. For many of them, this is their daily reality.

They can’t always eat intuitively; they eat more when there is food provided and restrict food to make ends meet for their families. Many people who are food insecure don’t know where their next meal is coming from. I am hoping that this 3-Day Snap challenge will open my eyes even more so to how difficult it is to nourish my body on a budget of $4.40 per day. There is a good body of evidence that suggests that many individuals who are food insecure develop this “feast + famine mentality”, much like those with eating disorders that are characterized by binging and restriction. My heart breaks for those who experience this and don’t have the resources to nourish their bodies properly, as this population is so dear to my heart. It doesn’t surprise me that food insecurity is correlated with obesity and other chronic diseases. Just as the diet mentality (binge + restriction cycles) leads to eventual weight gain, many individuals who are food insecure are running into these same problems.

The 3-day SNAP challenge has already stretched me because I wasn’t able to buy the usual brands that I wanted, and the budget didn’t leave much (or any) room for snacks. I know that I will have enough to eat in the next 3 days but I’m going to have to get over the fact that I only have 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables each day. I’m excited to get started and gain wisdom and understanding through this experience! Stay-tuned for my day 1 food journal!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

What My Lack of Rest Says About My View of God

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t make self-care a big priority in my life. Until a few months ago, I didn’t see the importance of it…it honesty seemed like a waste of time. I rarely wake up later than 6:00 (even on the weekends). I don’t like watching T.V. without either working on research, writing, or reading at the same time. I find it almost impossible to sit still for an extended period of time. I do take naps-but it’s only when I have exhausted myself enough in the AM to justify the “lazy day” activity. I hate wasting time and doing things that I don’t think have a purpose. It would about kill me to lay in bed and watch Netflix all day. I feel like I always have to be doing something. I want to be a good wife, sister, daughter, friend, writer, dietitian, Christian, and so on. Because of this, I always feel like I have to be doing something-no matter what that something is.

I have seen a pattern in my life over the past few years that I’m not too proud of.  It seems “more efficient” for me to trudge through each day until I am exhausted and collapse. I tell myself that I don’t have time for rest everyday…but that a couple of hours each month will do the trick. I realize that I have a tendency to neglect rest and self-care until I am physically sick or in emotional despair. Last week I got sick- really sick. 

My stomach wasn’t feeling too great. This isn’t really out of the ordinary due to the nature of my chronic GI disorder, IBS. However, this time was different. I had a major headache, felt nauseous, and lacked major energy. I knew I needed sleep, but I was going to try to avoid it while I could. I came home from work that day  and slept from 6:00 PM-9:00 PM, and then 10:00 PM-7:00 AM. The next two days I slept. 

pexels-photo-57686

As you can imagine, I hated it. I had to rearrange my schedule and cancel all of my plans. What an unproductive weekend, or so I thought. 

What I didn’t realize is that weekend was exactly what I needed when I needed it. The fact that I could sleep so much within a 48-hr time span was unreal to me. It opened my eyes to the fact that I’m really bad at taking care of myself sometimes. 

I wanted to figure this all out, so I went to the one who I know knows me better than I know myself. I asked God to help me process my excessive need to be busy. I know that even God rested, that Jesus often went and spent time alone praying and processing through his day. If God-the creator of the universe, the most mighty one, my sovereign king-took the time to intentionally rest-how much more must I need that? 

I realized that my view of rest said a lot about my view of God-and not in a good way. 

My unrelenting desire to do the best, be the best, and do the most only shows how little I think of God sometimes. If I really trusted in his sovereignty, his provision, his plan, his goodness, his kindness, and his unchanging nature, I wouldn’t feel the need to try to work all of those things out on my own. 

postit-scrabble-to-do

Father, forgive me for trying to depend on my own self-sufficiency, for my desire to perform for acknowledgement & praise, for not trusting in your provision, and trying to make a way for myself. Lord I praise you that you make a way for me. That I don’t have to have everything done on my checklist to be following your will. If anything, my check lists get in the way of real rest in you- with all adoration, praise, and worship. Lord I am defeating myself when I choose to neglect the times of rest that you invite me into. Rid me of my pride and change me. Help me to see the value in rest and self-care. Help me to rest in your finished work, the price you have already paid for my salvation. 

Taking time to rest isn’t selfish; it’s making sure that we are filled up enough to pour into other people. If we are only filled up half-way, that’s all that we will have to give. Rest isn’t a waste of time. If anything, it’s a necessary, precious, much-needed gift that we must not take for granted. It’s as important as eating 3 meals a day and drinking water. 

Because we live in a culture that boasts in our business, it’s easy to be caught up in that. I know I often (if not always) am. But there’s a difference between healthy productivity and being in a chronic state of unrest. It’s a hard balance to find, but when we fix our eyes on who God is rather than all that we have to get done, His presence + provision + guidance don’t compare to our biggest to do list. 

Why live in a constant state of un-rest, anxiety, and exhaustion when God has allotted us time in each day to rest, recharge, refocus, and re-energize? The time is there, I promise you it is. It just depends on whether or not we make self-care/rest a high priority on our to-do list.

I used to think that exercise alone was all of the “rest” and “self-care” that I needed. Burpees, mountain climbers, knee-tucks, box jumps. All things I enjoy. All things that help relief some stress. But is it really truly resting? No. When my heart rate is elevated, my body is dripping sweat, and I am longing for a drink of cool water, I’m not resting. Stress relief? Sure. Healthy? Maybe so. Restful? No.

For me, rest looks like prayer, singing in the car, watching TV with my husband, petting my dog, talking on the phone to a friend, listening to worship music, daydreaming, taking a nap, deep breathing, working on DIY projects, going outside and feeling the wind on my face. Sometimes writing, sometimes reading, sometimes not. 

The chronic stress, anxiety, and physical sickness pop-up more often than not when I am refusing to take care of myself. But I am thankful that God is teaching me that it’s OK to enjoy his creation, to receive his gifts, and to enter into His rest. 

With Jesus, there is no work to be done that compares to the finished work of the cross. 

With Jesus, we are saved by grace-not good works. We are loved because of grace-not good works. We are cherished and adored because God is love-not because we have done all that we want to do. 

With Jesus, I don’t have to figure out life all on my own. 

With Jesus, there is always provision.

With Jesus, there is no lack. 

With Jesus, there is time for rest-something that is such a great need for me…for everyone. 

This labor day weekend get some fresh air, enjoy the beautiful weather, & embrace the gift of rest.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; or anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…” -Hebrews 4:9-11

 

 

 

Real Life Recovery

pexels-photo-547557What do you wish you knew before starting recovery?

“For a long time, I thought recovery was more based on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight again. I was only focused on the physical aspect. Several years after achieving a healthy weight, I began to realize how mentally and emotionally scarred I still was. True recovery starts with healing mentally and emotionally.”

“At first I thought there would be a perfect way to recover and that it would be a fast process. In reality, everyone’s recover is different because we are all different people with unique paths.”

“Eating disorders are so isolating so it’s important to reach out and let others help you and go out and do things that you know you enjoy even though your eating disorder might have convinced you that you don’t.”

“You don’t learn how to recover overnight. It takes so many mess-ups, dips, and turns in order to learn and adapt to what you need to do. Unfortunately it takes a lot of trial and error and a lot of patience because those habits didn’t develop over night.”

“It takes a conscious effort each day to choose recovery in order to get better.”

“I didn’t think it would be so painful-physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.”

“What I didn’t know was how hard it would be to let go of habits I’ve held on to for so long. There is freedom in surrender and not being a slave to the food I eat.”

“For me, the hardest part about recovery is balancing positivity and denial. There have been moments where I’ve finally felt normal and have been able to convince myself that I “no longer have a problem.” However, in reality sets in real quick when you find yourself having an emotional breakdown after seeing all of the calorie totals on a drive-thru menu. Needless to say the recovery process is humbling.”

“Eating disorders affect our friends and family more than we would like to admit. Likewise, recovery not only takes a toll on us, but also on those closest to us.”

What advice do you have for those in recovery?

“Letting people into your recovery journey is HARD and can be scary, but it’s the best thing you can do. Find safe people who will sit with you, listen to you, laugh with you, and eat with you. Practice being honest and vulnerable even in the messy moments. It’s so much easier to win battles when you let others fight with you.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. There are so many ways that we change and can celebrate little victories but we never give ourselves credit for those things. Those victories help move us along and keep us in a place where we are practicing recovery.”

“Don’t compare yourself- with people in recovery and/or people who have recovered. We have to remember that we all have our own recovery and there will always be people better off and worse off than you so you just have to choose to keep continuing to love yourself and work toward what you need to do and use those people to inspire you rather than discourage you.”

“Do the next right thing.”

“Find the things that motivate you to keep going in recovery and hold on tight to those things. Make a list of what motivates you and keep it with you at all times. Read over your list often- especially when things feel hard.”

“Don’t dwell on the past. If you make a mistake, that’s okay. Show yourself grace, learn from it, and move on. One mistake doesn’t have to ruin an entire day.”

“Show yourself the same compassion that you would show the 5-year-old version of you.”

What gives you hope?

“What gives me a lot of hope is the Lord putting family & friends in my life who genuinely care enough to say something and to pray for me. I can honestly say though, without the Lord & walking with him, I could not have any real hope.”

“The glimpses into a normal life give me hope, whether it be going out to eat with friends or choosing to eat lunch even when it’s the last thing I want to do. The victories give me hope that I will one day be victorious-fully recovered.”

“What gives me hope is knowing that I am more than my eating disorder. The more I separate from ED, the more hope I have.”

“What gives me hope is seeing people who have done recovery and are winning. I find so much strength from other recovery warriors. It’s easy to get caught up and feel like you’re just running in place, but when I see other people who have pushed past their own barriers I know I can push through mine. I know there is freedom and a life past this.”

 

 

I Wore White to My Friend’s Wedding

“I Wore White to My Friend’s Wedding”

By: Whitney Johns

“I’ve been a bridesmaid in quite a few weddings, 8 to be exact. Many people look at me with huge eyes and with mouths wide open when I tell them that. I know what they’re thinking:

That must have be SO expensive…

And so time consuming!

I don’t know how you did it…

But I’m okay with it, really. In your 20’s, you go to weddings every weekend, in your 80’s, you go to funerals every weekend. I definitely prefer the first alternative; plus, I truly rejoice in the opportunity to be apart of such a special day for so many of my friends.

So I enjoy being a bridesmaid. I enjoy the bridal showers, the bachelorette festivities, the planning, and the excitement and anticipation that leads up to each wedding day. I enjoy the unique opportunities that arise to serve the bride and her family during the wedding season. I enjoy the ceremony. And, boy, do I enjoy the dancing at the reception! Dancing itself is a great joy, but the amount of joy that is added when two friends make a covenant to become one does something weird to me. That amount of joy in my heart is the kind that makes you forget that your feet hurt. It makes you dance like no one is watching, despite the fact that you don’t (and never will) know how to wobble, juju, or dougie.

Like I said, I enjoy being a bridesmaid for more reasons than one.

And I’ve been one enough times to know the rules:

Don’t cause drama.

Do whatever the bride wants.

Shower the bride with love.

Be ready to respond to any lsat minute crisis situations.

Basically, sacrifice anything and everything that day make sure that the bride has the best day of her life.

But recently, I broke one of the biggest wedding rules…

I wore white to my friend’s wedding.

Okay, I actually wore navy blue. It was a really pretty navy blue bridesmaid dress I might add. Stick with me here.

20525867_10212058563130784_3383938527618161399_n

One of my favorite wedding day moments is when the bridesmaids surround the bride and pray over her before the ceremony starts. It makes for incredibly sweet wedding photos, but a picture can only capture so much. Prayer is a way of welcoming the presence of the Lord and acknowledging His goodness. It’s surrendering the relationship to him and asking for his will to be done in the soon-to-be marriage. It’s thanking Him for his covenant and his promises that are always true. It’s a way to bring peace to the bride in the moments leading up to her union with her groom. It’s a way to honor God in recognizing that marriage is a covenant that reflects Christ’s love for the body of believers. It’s a prayer of thanksgiving for all the good He has done and a prayer of hopeful anticipation for all the good He will do.

So at this particular wedding, just minutes before the ceremony began, we all surrounded the bride in our navy blue dresses and took turns praying for her.

It came to be my turn to pray, and I was silent for a few seconds, trying to take in the incredible reality of speaking to the Creator and sovereign King of the universe. I prayed for the bride, I prayed for the groom, I prayed for the ceremony, I prayed for their future wedding, I prayed for much fruit to come from their marriage.

We continued around the circle until the last person had prayed, and we began to open our eyes and move away from the circle.

“Wait! Wait God! Actually, one more thing!” I said as everyone giggled and moved back into the circle.

God had reminded me of scripture in that moment, and He needed to be praised for it. This wedding was about so much more than we could wrap our minds around.

“God we praise you that today, Emily gets to wear white.”

 “God today, Emily is the bride. She gets to wear white. You have allowed her to be clothed in beautiful, perfect, spotless white today as she walks toward her husband to promise impossible promises to him this side of heaven. By your grace, they will be able to fight to keep those promises, as those promises reflect the perfect and grand promises you have made to your children.”

 “Even more, God, we praise you today that you have granted it to your children to be clothed in white.”

 This prayer came from scripture. This prayer came from Revelation 19:6-8, in which the author is detailing a vision from The Lord about things that will happen in heaven. The long-awaited union of Christ (the Lamb in this verse) in heaven with the children of God is often described in scripture as a marriage celebration.

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like a sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

                        ‘Hallelujah!

                        For the Lord our God

                                    the Almighty reigns.

                        Let us rejoice and exult

                                    and give him the glory,

                        for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come,

                                    and his Bride has made herself ready;

                        it was granted her to clothe herself with

                                    fine linen, bright and pure.’”

 Just as it was granted to Emily to wear white on the day of her wedding, it has been granted to the children of God to be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure on the day of the greatest wedding.

Fine, bright, spotless, white. This clothing is a picture of purity. And despite our wickedness, despite our selfishness, despite our pridefulness, despite our evil nature, the children of God have been granted to be clothed in complete purity.

Clothed in white, despite the filthy and stained rags our sin nature causes us to wear.

This is how I was able to break a major wedding rule. This is how I wore white to my friend’s wedding. This is how I’m able to wear white every day, despite dirtiness I may carry. How does this become “granted” to us though?

Elsewhere, in Revelation 7, we see a picture of the children of God washing their robes white in the blood of Christ.

The blood of the perfect, spotless, holy, righteous Christ is the only thing with the power to wash white the garments of those who sin against a holy God. By Christ’s death and resurrection in front of a multitude of eyewitnesses, he proved he was indeed the Son of God, and furthermore proved that he alone holds the power to defeat sin and death. And he offers this to you.

We know from Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No one wears white on his own. No one is invited to the great marriage of Christ and his church on her own.

But everyone has a great invitation:

Come! Wash your filthy garments white in the blood of Christ! Experience forgiveness! Experience freedom from sin! Drop the heavy weight and baggage that sin has entangled you in! Forget ashamedness! Live in the sweet and undeserved love and freedom of Christ!

Come! Wait in hope for the great marriage supper of Christ the Lamb as his Bride!

Come! Be clothed in white!

In just the same way that earthly weddings bring such joyful anticipation, unique opportunities to serve, beautiful covenant promises of forever, and tremendous celebration, so will the marriage supper of the Lamb be. We wait in great anticipation for this wedding, we seek ways to serve while we wait, we long to be joined in perfect unity, and we tremble with excitement for the great celebrating (and dancing!) that will continue into eternity.

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”

-Revelation 19:9I

 

Thoughts on To the Bone: Unmasking the Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Eating Disorders

636353006485117038-TTB-Longplay-30-R2

*Trigger Warning: The contents in the post may be triggering/bothersome for individuals who struggle with eating disorders/disordered eating, but that is not the intention of the post. This post is about raising awareness and education about a very difficult topic that hits close to home for so many. Read at your own discretion. The movie To the Bone is triggering, controversial, and in many ways dark, so it’s difficult to address it without addressing some of those issues. I wouldn’t recommend watching it if you struggle with body image, self-worth, excessive exercise, or disordered eating patterns. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) hotline for support at (800) 931-2237.

After recently watching To the Bone, I didn’t know how I felt about it. I’ve spent weeks trying to put into words how I even began processing the film. For those of you who don’t know, the Netflix original movie is about an adolescent girl who goes to inpatient treatment for severe anorexia. The film is beyond triggering to anyone who is tampering with disordered eating patterns or in the depths of a full blown eating disorder. How could it not be? The film was created to portray an illness that steals so much joy and life from those who suffer from it, and has so many psychological and physiological consequences associated with it. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses¹, so naturally the movie has some dark moments in it, similar to the Netflix original movie 13 Reasons Why

I don’t get triggered by being around those who have eating disorders or those who exhibit behaviors because I know the hell that they have to go through to look how they do. I know the pain that they experience each day. I know how hard it is. 

So I decided to watch. I want to be in this field. I want to work with individuals who have eating disorders one day, and I want to be informed about what information (or lack there of) that is out there for the public to access regarding a topic that is near and dear to my heart. 

First of all……….It made me cringe hearing that actress Lily Collins (who plays Ellen) purposely and intentionally lost weight for the role. She herself struggled with an eating disorder very recently, so it almost seemed cruel and inhumane to allow her to intentionally lose weight after walking through a journey of recovery. Nothing about me supports that decision. I don’t care if she was “monitored by professionals”. Anyone can say that or do that. Monitoring and intervention are two separate actions. For this reason alone, I was turned off by the movie. 

For the majority of the movie, I didn’t know what to think, because it was simply one angle of one person’s view of ED recovery and all that goes into that. Nothing more, nothing less. One person to represent an experience that is so different and unique for each person.

There were moments where the movie truly did hit home for me, when I could relate to Ellen and her recovery experiences. Is that sad? Yeah, but it was a quick reminder of how devastating it is to live a life under the influence of ED. 

I didn’t agree with the weight loss. I didn’t agree with the blatant reference to triggering behaviors. I didn’t agree with the way in-patient treatment was portrayed. I didn’t agree with the nutrition therapy philosophy/meal time portrayal (which, by the way, doesn’t happen in real life). I didn’t like that for most of the movie, Ellen was without hope and not making any progress whatsoever. 

If anything, the movie convinced me more of the importance of sharing my story, and having open dialogue about disordered eating and eating disorders. 

One of the most dangerous misconceptions about eating disorders is that you must be extremely underweight and malnourished to have an eating disorder. 

Let me say it again: There are many, many people who have clinically diagnosable eating disorders or disordered eating patterns that have not lost weight, or have even gained some.

There are people who are like Ellen, who just look like they have an eating disorder, who bounce in and out of treatment facilities, and who remain extremely underweight and unhealthy for long periods of time. This is a very real and very big problem. But it’s not the only issue and doesn’t represent the majority of people.  

I once believed that eating disorders were only for super skinny white girls that looked like skeletons. I never thought it would be me. Yet, here I am. A year and a half into recovery for an illness that I didn’t believe would ever affect me. All because I believed the lie that you have to be skinny to have an eating disorder. 

14292408_10208988796228530_5218739978281812512_n
This picture was taken in the beginning stages of my recovery from anorexia, when I was severely malnourished and on the brink of admission to an inpatient facility. Most people wouldn’t ever guess that because in this picture I look healthy. 

Many, many people who suffer from eating disorders have only lost a few pounds or have maintained their weight. 

Some people gain weight. 

Some people lose weight. 

Some people suffer from severe physical consequences, while others can seem to get by completely unnoticed. 

One thing is for certain: Everyone who has every walked through disordered eating or an eating disorder has experienced trauma and psychological distress. 

Someone who is obese can meet criteria for anorexia. 

Likewise, others who are “normal” in weight and size may suffer from binge eating disorder.

There is no rhyme or reason to it, which is why it can be so difficult to detect. 

This stigma makes those who aren’t “stick skinny” feel more guilt and shame for the behaviors they are engaging in and the things they are feeling. Why would you seek out expensive treatment if you had no noticeable lab changes and you were at a normal weight? Most people wouldn’t. They wouldn’t want to be judged. They wouldn’t want to be mocked. They wouldn’t want to look crazy. 

I was one of those people. 

IMG_3420
I had a couple of emotional breakdowns the week of my engagement pictures due to anxiety associated with my eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. I don’t think anyone would get that sort of vibe from this picture. Things aren’t always as they seem. 

I knew that I had a “weird” relationship with food, but I never thought that I would come close to developing an eating disorder, much less anorexia. 

As I gradually began losing weight, (for a number of reasons), I began to get so many compliments about how great I looked. It was only my family and husband that began to notice that I had lost a little too much weight. 

“Wow! This is the best I have ever seen you!” 

“You have some nice legs! Do you run?”

“What’s your secret?” 

“How much weight have you lost?!”

“Your so healthy!!” 

With the world that we live in, I shouldn’t have expected anything less. I knew that I had a problem, but my rigid diet regimen and exercise obsession didn’t seem to be enough to communicate that I was sick. People celebrate “clean eating”, obsessive exercising, dieting, and calorie counting more than any other generation before us. Disordered eating patterns (restricting food, rewarding ourselves after following our diets, labeling foods as “good and bad”, obsessively reading labels, etc.) has become the norm. 

It’s like you can’t escape it. 

The Fitbit challenges, food comments, “fat burning” workout routines…..we love it, and in many ways we live for it. I know I did.  

I had to lose more weight. I had to send a signal for help. It was the only way that I felt that I could be heard and communicate the psychological pain that was masked behind the eating disorder behaviors. 

Most days it was easy to hide. 

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset
This was taken 3 months into treatment. It took everything in me to not look up the calorie, fat, and sugar content in this ice-cream.
Processed with VSCO with m3 preset
In this picture I had just started weekly therapy sessions. The picture seems normal enough to me, but I know that in my heart and soul that I wasn’t healthy and that I wasn’t okay. 

Others, not so much. 

IMG_6918
I didn’t really notice the muscle deterioration in my legs and arms until a few years after taking this picture. Again, in this picture, I was still at a normal, healthy weight and BMI, but that weight and BMI wasn’t healthy for the way that God made me. 

 

 

13327582_10208214276066010_3694042037217502486_n
I never thought there would be a day where I could attain the oh so coveted “thigh gap”. I also didn’t realize how much it would cost me. This picture was taken the day after relapse. My mom was very intentional about spending time with me and getting me out of the house. 

I dove into a deep pit of hopelessness and despair, most of which could have been avoided if I had asked for help sooner.

The point of this post is not to bash Marti Noxon or Lily Collins for their work. I think their heart behind it was to spread awareness and spark conversation. Would I have done it the same way? Not necessarily. But then again, I am not really into the business of making movies and such…so I just blog instead. I just didn’t want anyone who did watch the movie to think that they are not sick enough to get help. There is no “sick enough”, only sick.

The purpose of this post is to show the world a real-life example of life with an eating disorder, one that wasn’t necessarily marked by pro-longed skinniness and years in treatment facilities. Those stories are out there, and they are real and painful and true. But there are many other stories out there that also are very real and painful and true, yet they don’t involve weight loss, or as least the appearance of it. I truly believe that the one of the only reason I became malnourished was because I didn’t seek help when I began to see warning signs and knew something was wrong. I don’t want that to happen to you. I don’t want that to happen to anyone. That’s why I share my story so readily, to prevent, educate, and provide hope. 

If your relationship with food disrupts your life in any way (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, or spiritually), you should seek help. 

If you cannot go to a restaurant without having anxiety about what to order from the menu, you should seek help. 

If you can’t go a day without counting calories (even when it’s just in your head), you should seek help. 

If you get anxiety thinking about a day off from the gym, you should seek help. 

If you consistently and regularly rely on food (or lack there of) to coop with stress, you should seek help. 

If you can’t concentrate during work, school, church, etc. you should seek help. 

If food rules your life, you should seek help. 

Not because you are crazy, not because you have anything to be ashamed of, and not because you are weak. 

Because you deserve better. 

Because you want to have a family. 

Because you want to be present. 

Because you want to follow your dreams.

Because you want to have a career. 

Because you want the freedom to choose between the rice cake with nut butter and the chocolate chip cookie. 

Because you want the ability to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. 

Because you want your life to be about more than food and exercise. 

Life is too short, and it becomes even shorter when disordered eating comes into play. 

Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. If they are worthy of being in your life they will listen, empathize, understand, and help you take the next steps in order to heal. 

Vulnerability isn’t weak; to be vulnerable is to be brave. 

To seek help is to have courage.

Be brave today with me. 

fullsizeoutput_30a2

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Hamilton, G., & Elenback, R. (2015-2017). Anorexia Nervosa – Highest Mortality Rate of Any Mental Disorder: Why? Retrieved August 19, 2017, from Penn State State Hershey Medical Center Eating Disorder Program

 

Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

College will be a season of great change and growth for you, one that is full of excitement and so much fun. College is one of the most transformational times in your life; it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, excited, and anxious all at the same time. It’s a big change, but it can be a really good change. God has set the path before you, there is no reason to fear. You will adjust to the change. You will miss your family, but you will also grow to appreciate them on a new level. You will figure out a major that fits you, even if it takes a few years. You will make some of the best friends in your life, even if it takes a little time. You won’t be stuck in the dorm eating cafeteria food forever. Don’t worry about the “freshman 15” (or the freshman 5, for that matter), it’s okay to gain a few pounds when your body is still growing and maturing. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry about what you cannot control. Don’t be so busy with school that you forget to live.

God will provide for you financially and in every other way that you need. You will love Him more than at any other point in your life. You will learn how to share the gospel with other people and be bold for Jesus. You will experience unity with the body of Christ in a radical way. You will learn how to fight for joy on the harder days. Your faith will become your own, the rock and solid foundation that you build your new “adult” life upon. 

Over the next four years, you will learn and be reminded of many things, the most important being who God is and who you are in him. 

God is your loving father. 

Ever-present.

Sovereign savior. 

Glorious king. 

Righteous redeemer. 

Fountain of satisfaction. 

Protector.

Deliverer.

Defender. 

What does this mean for you? Because you have entrusted your life to Jesus…

You are never condemned. 

You are paid for. 

You are washed clean. 

You are redeemed.

You will be made like Jesus. 

You will be set free from anything that is enslaving you on this earth. 

You are a beloved daughter of the most high king. 

The plan for your life is already figured out. 

You have been saved from death, hell, and the grave.

God has marked you with a seal, that is, the Holy Spirit. 

Nothing will satisfy you more than being in the presence of the Lord. 

You will be protected by God.

You are never alone. 

You will be delivered from evil. 

Nothing will over take you. 

You soar on wings like eagles. 

You will run and not grow weary. 

You will walk and not be faint. 

The angel of the Lord encamps around you. 

You are precious to God. 

You are beautiful to God. 

You are made in the perfect, precious image of God. 

You are a righteous child of God.

You are a conquerer in Christ. 

You are going to rock it these next four years.

Believe in yourself, because God is within you, and you will not fall.

pexels-photo-261909

 

 

Reaching Out to People Instead of your Eating Disorder

Because of my experience in eating disorder recovery, when I blog about mental illness, I focus primarily on the disorders that I have been most affected by: anxiety, depression, OCD, and my eating disorder. However, many of the things that I have learned in therapy are applicable for individuals who struggle with other mental illnesses, addictions, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. This topic is one of those things.

This concept of reaching out to other people instead of our unhealthy cooping mechanisms is one that is easy to comprehend, yet so hard to carry out.

Reaching out to other people requires effort, and lots of it.

IMG_6963

Identifying your recovery team

It first requires you to identify the people that you trust with your recovery. These are your “go-to” people when you are having a hard day or are on the verge of relapse. These people are “safe”. They may or may not have gone through what you are experiencing, but they are always willing to listen with compassion, show grace, and empathize without completely understanding. There may be people in your life who aren’t worthy of your recovery journey.

These people are “unsafe”. They often lack the maturity or experience that it takes to understand the type of pain associated with mental illness. They may care about you as a friend, but that don’t know how to empathize or how to respond on a hard day. You may still be able to trust them, but maybe not as an accountability partner in your recovery. They may not understand that talking about diet, exercise, and weight can be very triggering and unhelpful when it comes to your recovery.

You want to surround yourself with people who you love, trust, and can rely on to help you get better. One of the hardest parts is at the beginning of your journey, you may find that some people who you thought were “safe” for you, aren’t actually. That can be a tough pill to swallow. Simply put, you find out who your real friends are when you walk through a season of suffering. There have been some bumps in the road, but I have been able to identify the “safe” people in my life, and I am comfortable with the people that I have let in on my recovery journey.

Talking about support expectations

Once you have identified your “safe” people, it’s a good idea to ask them to be apart of your recovery/support team. When doing so, ask each person about personal boundaries and the type of support they can best provide. For example, my treatment team is always available via e-mail and will generally respond quickly when I have a question or need additional support. They also support me at our appointments. Their support looks different than the support from my mom, for example, who provides financial support, spiritual support, and emotional support around the clock. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to contact my recovery team at 10:00 PM, but I know that my mom wouldn’t mind answering a phone call if I needed her late at night. Likewise, I’m not going to wake my sister up at 5:00 AM. Some friends/family members supported me by simply spending time with me, playing games, watching a movie, or going shopping with me. Many people are more comfortable with that type of support, which is something that I desperately needed. Those people were apart of some the best days, where my eating disorder didn’t seem to be ruling and reigning over my life. Yet other friends poured into me their spiritual wisdom & encouragement, by praying for me and always pointing me back to the gospel.

Two important things to note before we move on:

  1. We must choose recovery for ourselves. We must make the choice to reach out when we don’t have enough strength to fight on our own. Recovery strips away our self-sufficiency and requires us to rely on other people, no matter how independent we may think we are. Our loved ones may do everything in their power to help us recover, but at the end of the day. It’s our choice. They can’t choose recovery for us.
  2. There are things that go on in our hearts and minds that only God can heal. No therapeutic technique. No perfect meal plan. No ideal weight. No person. Only God. Lean into him, wrestle with him, cry out to him, abide in him, spend time with him. It is only then when the deepest wounds in our hearts can be healed.

Reaching out to other people

In the moment, it’s so difficult. We know what we are supposed to do. We aren’t supposed to do the things that keep us sick. We aren’t supposed to numb out our feelings…it just seems so easy to do so at the time. There were many times that I didn’t choose to reach out to people, and instead chose my eating disorder. This always made the pain worse in the long run-physically and emotionally.

The pain that my eating disorder caused me pushed me to reach out to other people, and the life that I wanted without my eating disorder pulled me when the pain wasn’t enough.

I started seeing significant progress when I started to reach out to first God, and then my support team, in moments where the temptation seemed too much to bear. I would come to God open and honest with my feelings, asking him to give me the discernment and strength to choose the next right thing in that situation, whatever that may have been. God’s Holy Spirit consistently and actively spoke to me and showed me the path I needed to walk on, it was just a matter of if I was going to choose it that day or not.

One night at work I had a strong urge to skip dinner and go to the gym instead. I felt the hunger pains in my stomach and heard the growling as I began to serve meals to other people. I knew that my body needed food, yet psychologically it was the absolute last thing I wanted to do.

I called my husband (boyfriend at the time)…no answer.

I called my mom…no answer.

“Awesome,” I thought to myself. “This is just a sign that I am supposed to go workout and that I don’t need dinner anyways. They didn’t answer so I am home free.”

Almost immediately after that thought the Holy Spirit convicted me. God had given me so many amazing resources to help me get better, but that wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t choose to do so. I knew that the LAST thing that I needed was to skip dinner and go to the gym. I couldn’t do it alone. I needed to call someone else.

I decided to call my best friend, Megan.

Megan has such a sweet, sensitive, discerning, & nonjudgmental spirit. She helps me process through my recovery slowly, thoughtfully, and intentionally. With Meg, there is no room for guilt, shame, or condemnation, only grace, compassion, listening, and understanding.

I love Megan, but I didn’t really want to talk to her when I called her.

*Please don’t pick up, please don’t pick up….*

Meg: “Hello?”

Me: “Um………I hate doing this. I hate everything about this…..but I am really tempted to skip dinner and go workout but I know that I cannot do that if I want to be healthy. I just need someone to talk to.”

And then I burst into tears. Typical.

I didn’t workout that night. After I got off the phone with Megan, I went and brought my nana flowers and then went home and ate dinner with my dad. I went to bed feeling thankful, proud, & of course, a little exhausted.

At the time, that was one of the hardest things that I had done in my recovery. There was nothing about me that wanted to reach out to other people. I wanted immediate relief from my anxiety. I didn’t want to have to be vulnerable and share my deepest struggle with other people. I hated every minute of it, but I was so glad that I did it. That night became a turning point in my recovery, one where I started to open up even more to my recovery team and trust that they knew what was best for me.

What is one way that you can reach out to people, rather than your eating disorder today?