Testimony of Triumph



I truly do not believe there was just one thing that ultimately caused the problem.
I don't think it was any one hurtful comment from someone. It wasn't just one occurrence or event that changed my entire thought process.
There is no one and nothing to blame, not even myself.
I am human, and we all struggle with something in our lives. For me, if it hadn't been this, it probably would have been something else…

***

I can very easily recall the days of being in ballet class, in front of full length mirrors, wearing a leotard and tights that allowed everything to be SEEN…particularly flaws. No matter how many times I was told that I “looked like a ballerina”, I just didn't see it. Instead of focusing on my technique during class, I spent that time being embarrassed by my body. I knew that every single girl in that class was hard on themselves for any extra cellulite on their legs, or any amount of cushioning on their ribs and hips. Meanwhile, all I could think was that I just wanted to look like THEM…and also feeling quite certain that if they were that disgusted with their own bodies, surely they were looking at me and feeling grateful that, at least they did NOT look like me.

I had fallen into this insecurity pit very early on, though. It definitely did not start in ballet class.
I remember being so afraid to make a mistake, no matter where I was, for fear that I would either be reprimanded or laughed at for it.
I remember auditioning for various solos or roles in productions, and when they went to someone else, I was sure it was because the director did not like me, and/or that I was not pretty enough to be showcased on a stage.
I remember being reminded semester after semester that I was not listed among my many, obviously better, classmates in the newspaper for making the honor roll.

Plenty of other little things happened as well. Like I said, there was no “one thing”. The poor self-esteem built overtime…

Until…



The day came that I was told, point blank, that weight was a big deal. That men liked to be attracted to the women they are with. That thinness was important to them. And by that point, I had put on some of the weight that college students typically do. So, of course, I took this very personally, feeling very much the opposite of beautiful or even worthy of any kind of positive attention.

{By the way…I look back on this now and I get it.  When this person said those things, they were holding onto a lot of shame and insecurities themselves. I don't blame this person for anything I'm going to talk about next.}

I floated very aimlessly through college, and questioned every choice I made, so full of uncertainty at all times. Everything I did was because someone else had a certain expectation of me. I didn't have a clue who I actually was…only that I wanted people to like me. So I molded and re-molded myself, never happy with the results. I tried to be good at everything, but I didn't think I WAS good at anything…even things I already knew I was good at. I tried to be so in control, but I didn't feel like I could control anything.

So I focused on the one thing I knew that I could control, and the one flaw that I had always found to be the worst. My weight.

I began to go through cycles of total restriction and massive binges. I would go a few days in a row eating next to nothing, or at the very least keeping my calories between 300-500 a day. Eventually I would be so hungry I couldn't stand it, so I would eat anything I could get my hands on. The feeling of delicious food was a sort of euphoria in a way. But it wouldn't be long before the shame of what I had just done would hit me. I would think, just like in school, just like in ballet, just like in music, I’m not even good at THIS. Then I'd get so scared of weight gain and start the restricting again. It was an awful cycle that I just couldn't get out of. And that continued for a very long time.




My final semester of college came, and I was a total wreck of anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. I was in bed for days at a time. I felt no purpose. I was sure that I was not going to make it through the end of the semester. My fear of failure and mistakes kept me from going to classes, which caused even more guilt and shame on top of that which I was already carrying inside. This put me into another vicious cycle. And along with all of this came a loss of appetite. The anxiety caused very bad stomach aches, and I didn't even have a desire to eat. Nothing tasted good. But believe it or not, I thought this to be a good thing. At least I wasn't binging, and if I wasn't eating at all, think of how much weight I would be losing!

Of course, the weight loss was incredibly noticeable. The compliments {“Emily, you look so good!”} went straight through to my core, and I found my identity in these affirmations just as much as I'd found them in the many criticisms I'd heard over all of those years. And in my mind, losing weight was something I was actually good at…finally! After my appetite started coming back, I figured I'd better still keep this weight loss thing going.

The restriction and binge rotation cycles started again…only with an even more unhealthy addition. This time, if I felt guilty enough about overeating, I would get rid of it. I did not purge regularly, but just doing it once was enough for my downward spiral to continue a lot more quickly. Soon enough, I began to stick with my counting of calories, never allowing myself to go over 800 a day. I felt weak in ballet class and made no progress. I was way too exhausted all the time for teaching my dance classes, and I couldn't put my heart and soul into it the way I wanted to. I just didn't have it in me. I let down a lot of people in my life because I couldn't follow through on so many commitments. Physically, I just wasn't strong enough. And all of this was just reconfirming in my mind that I was not good at ANYTHING…except staying thin.

I was so very sick. Anorexia had completely taken over my life.

About three years ago, almost to the day, I spent an entire day lying in my bed in extreme pain. I had just gone a full 48 hours without a bite to eat. I could literally feel my body shutting down.

That was my defining moment.
I had no desire to ever feel this way again. I had to eat.
Had I not made that choice, my illness easily could have killed me within weeks.




Now, for the past three years I've continued to struggle on and off with my distorted perception and low self image. I never had a healthy relationship with food. I still kept a lot of pain buried deep inside of me. Pretty soon I had gone the opposite extreme and began overeating on a regular basis in order to deal with pretty much anything that brought up negative feelings. But the binging itself brought up even more negativity! Especially with the inevitable weight gain. Again I was caught in a vicious cycle of guilt and food! And I was so convinced that I would never be able to stop it. I didn't have enough discipline. Every time I tried to go on a new meal plan and tell myself I was going to stick to it this time around, I failed miserably, and went back to the old unhealthy eating habits.

My whole life, it seems, has centered around TRYING HARDER. DOING MORE.
Change this. Fix that. Check all the items off your list. Follow these steps.
Be a better Christian. Pray more. Read the Bible more. Figure out how to improve my spiritual life.
Do all of this and everything will get better.

No. No. And did I mention NO?

I’ll tell you what has healed me. I'll tell you why I'm no longer bound by shame, anxiety, depression, and food struggles. And it's not what you expect…

I made a choice. One choice. A choice to be filled with, and to walk in the Spirit of God.
And because of that, the desires given to me by the Holy Spirit are stronger than the desires of my own flesh. I don't struggle with food anymore because God goes with me into the grocery store. He goes with me into the kitchen when I'm cooking. He gives me energy I never had before, and excitement to try new recipes {part of a new eating plan that I will talk about at another time}. And none of it requires discipline or anything I have to muster up myself. He's just taking me through it. Because I let Him.

What?! You mean there's no 5 step {or whatever} process you went through to recover?

I'm sorry friends {although kind of not really}, I sort of wish I could offer you a more practical way to just “fix” whatever your struggle is! I wish I could tell you that the decision I made was easy. It was NOT. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It requires total vulnerability, and total exposure when you ask God to break down the walls around your heart and invite His spirit inside you. And that is ridiculously scary!

But the fact is that everything that I tried to fix by myself, I ended up falling short and messing up. Every “goal”that  I just tried harder, or with a different approach every time, to meet, I would never accomplish. But once I invited God’s spirit inside of me, it was no longer about what I had to DO. It was all about what HE could do. He is limitless!

Will I still have bad days? Of course! I'm still human! Yes I'm saved and I'm free, but I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be on this earth! That is not my claim! Will I still struggle with feeling depressed and discouraged? You can pretty much count on that. But I am no longer bound by that. It does not have to bury me anymore. And as long as I continue walking in the Spirit, it won't.


I have been hesitant to share all of this because I did not know how it would be received. People usually want something practical. Something concrete. A step by step process to follow. In other words, something natural. But there is nothing natural about my experience, and the change in my heart and in my life. I did not beat anorexia naturally. It is completely and utterly SUPERNATURAL! I take no credit for it.

I didn't think this kind of freedom existed. It does!



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