She laid on the bathroom floor, stomach sore and heart broken over what she had just done. “Am I really still doing this? Is this nightmare ever going to end?” She lived in her own nightmare…her own prison created with her own self made walls.
Every day was Groundhog Day. Waking up covered in darkness because she knew how it would end. She knew she wouldn’t succeed.
She was broken. What once gave her security and leverage in society was now her master.
It started out innocently enough. Rewind about 10 years and all she wanted was to lose weight. It’s what all girls want. Every female she had ever met, young and old, wanted to do the same. A part of being a woman was being on a diet. Constantly changing yourself. So, she put herself on a diet and began working out. She lost some weight and soon became the center of attention as everyone asked her weight loss secrets and complimented her hard work. But as the old cliché goes, it was never good enough. People wanted to talk to her now. Weight loss made people attracted to her. Weight loss was all she lived for.
At 18, 120 pounds and 5’6 tall, she sat across from a man in LA who claimed he could make all her dreams of being a recording artist come true at the snap of a finger. After some small talk, he paused and looked her over. “You’d never compete next to Britney.”
Britney was the biggest star at the time. He wasn’t talking about her vocal ability or stage presence. She had been training and exercising those strengths since a young girl. He was talking about her body.
“Where you come from, guys might think you’re cute if you were in a dark club, wearing something sexy, and he had a few drinks in him. But here, you wouldn’t last.”
He was right because she wasn’t fully anorexic yet. Only half-anorexic because her meals still consisted of canned green beans and fat free cottage cheese. She hadn’t yet graduated to eating only every other day, yet. Plus, she hadn’t fully committed to cutting the creamer out of her coffee.
He agreed to arrange for her to record with a producer in Atlanta, if she showed him she was serious by losing 10-15 pounds. Crap. There goes her beloved creamer. Welcome to Hollywood.
Her obsession set even deeper within her because she’d be damned if she let her weight get in the way of the only thing she ever wanted from life. After unsuccessfully losing only 5 pounds, she flew to Atlanta anyways where she spent the next month songwriting and recording with a Grammy award-winning producer. A dream come true. She should have felt fulfilled, happy, proud of herself. Instead, after her recording sessions every night, she found herself driving around different parts of Georgia, alone, listening to Mariah Carey and exploring a very different yet still familiar path, bulimia.
From Georgia, she traveled to New York waiting for Mr. LA to show up, but he never did. Not because the recordings didn’t come out great, but because she didn’t look like Kate Moss, and therefore she wasn’t marketable.
Her whole life she had been waiting for her moment to get noticed, to be discovered. She daydreamed about telling her story on Leno and Oprah. But those daydreams became just that. She lost it all because she was “fat.”
From there, her world began falling apart. Since bulimia had become such a safe place, she ran to it every chance she got. There was never a moment where food wasn’t holding every thought captive within her. Her parents finally checked her into a rehabilitation center for those with eating disorders, where she stayed a total of four and a half months. Yet, she couldn’t recover. She didn’t want to recover. What for? Her dreams were gone.
After (barely) completing rehab, the eating disorder was only stronger. Bulimia consumed her with a force that she no longer understood. Her only other outlet was to party; and party she did.
She was the life of the party. People liked her when she partied. No longer was she the failed rock star, the deadbeat sister, or the girl with no direction in life. She was fun. She was wanted. She was accepted, which was all she ever wanted in the first place.
Life continued to move forward before her eyes. She’d look through the glass wall of everything that seemed just beyond her reach because of her own self-made prison. While her friends graduated college, got married, had children, and landed their dream jobs, she spent her days and nights cleaning her own vomit and sobbing into her pillow begging God to take her because she just couldn’t do it anymore. Countless days passed where she couldn’t get out of bed and instead took a sleeping pill every time she woke up because sleep was the only way she was guaranteed freedom from bulimia. If you sleep, you can’t eat. The more desperate she was for freedom, the deeper she buried herself in partying, which eventually landed her in a ten day stay in jail because she had been arrested for a DUI.
Something had to give. There had to be more. As she laid in jail on a sad version of a bed that she was fairly convinced was made of springs and a piece cardboard (a far cry from the Ritz hotel she imagined herself staying in by this point in her life) she thought, “God, I’m too far gone.” She paused, waiting… hoping he would answer her. Silence. After finally giving up, she rolled over to try to go to sleep and he finally whispered back, “You’re exactly within my reach.”
I know this girl’s story all too well, because that girl was me.
Fast forward to November 9, 2012. I was now 26, living in a small town called Redding, California and attending ministry school. I had given up the party lifestyle and had made a lot of positive changes in my personal life, but there was one demon I had yet to conquer: bulimia. I think that being in a ministry school actually brought a deeper level of shame upon me because in my head, people in ministry have their lives together and I couldn’t get through a day without bingeing and purging. In fact, it was at its worst. On a good day, and I mean a really good day, I only did it only 1-2 times. On most days, it was anywhere from 3-15. So I laid on the bathroom floor, broken because after every thing I’d been through, I was still here. I’ll always be here. “This will kill me” rang through my head over and over. Finally, a voice echoed back, “But what if it doesn’t?’
So after a long, drawn out pity party on the bathroom floor, I picked myself up. Partly because the floor was getting cold and mostly because my new roommates were coming home soon and I didn’t want to be labeled as that weird roommate who likes to lay on the bathroom floor crying. But, little did I know that I was about to embark on the greatest adventure and year of my entire life. At that moment, I had no idea that would be the last time I’d ever have to start over again.
I was in a war. And when you go to war, you can’t be passive. I made a decision that day that I was going to give everything I had to recover. To be healthy. To be a person again. I didn’t know how that would look exactly. I just knew that I was tired of living a life only half alive.
I stood bare in front of the mirror apologizing to my body. Repenting for the way I hated it despite its efforts to keep me alive. I repented for cursing it, for ignoring its signals to stop and not allowing it to heal. I repented to the little girl who used to occupy the same body. The one who used to play dress up and twirl in front of her dad, hoping he’d recognize the beauty that she somehow knew she had. The one who, over time, began wondering if she was ever beautiful at all. The one who had all her dreams and ambitions crushed. The one who just wanted to be told that she was beautiful, not because of what she wore or how she looked, but because of who she was. I promised that little girl that I would do everything I could to make all her dreams come back to life. I told that little girl that she was beautiful. I apologized to the teenage girl, who spent her adolescence in this body, for the way society made her feel. For abandoning her when the world around her fell apart instead of loving her. I apologized to the young adult girl who had her innocence stolen from her. I apologized for blaming her because she had been drinking. For not protecting her when she needed it the most. For making her stay silent. For not loving her when she felt the most unwanted.
And now, here I am. It’s been exactly one year since that day when I thought I had lost all hope. I haven’t once- not once- since that day used bulimia or anorexia in any way, shape, or form. I’m not saying it was easy. It was a constant, every day battle that I had to face that would often times drain me to my core. It’s been one year of battles, victories, tears, joy, renewed dreams and passions, and love. There were times I felt like I could conquer the world and there were times when I would go to my pastor, Marlene, in tears saying “Please pray for me. I don’t think I can do this.”
I did it. I’m free. Often times I feel like I’m living in a dream because I never expected to make it this far. People always told me that I could be free, but when you live surrounded in such a deep darkness, their words are meaningless. I found an old journal entry that I wrote just over a year ago that speaks volumes to how far God has taken me.
June 1, 2012
It’s been 10 years. 10 years ago I was an insecure 16 year old who was lost in this new world of bulimia.
I wish I could go back and tell that little, precious 16 year old girl that she was okay…that she didn’t need laxatives or to throw up to get rid of the food. That she didn’t need a diet, a gym buddy, or just motivation. I wish I could go back and tell her that there is no shame in enjoying food. I wish I could tell her where she would find herself in 10 years if she didn’t say no.
You see, I never thought I would end up here. I thought that once I lost weight then I would be able to not obsess over food. But no matter my weight, size, or appearance…it’s always there. It’s always lingering, taunting me like “You can look away but I’ll always be here.”
Sometimes I make it through the entire day eating healthy and I feel like I’ve conquered the world! Then I crave something sweet. Okay, just one cookie is ok. I deserve it. It won’t hurt. This is recovery. Then one cookie leads to two. Two leads to three. Three leads to all the cookies. Then ice cream. Then left over pasta. Then peanut butter and jelly. Then granola bars. Then panic. That’s when I walk in the bathroom, lock the door behind me, turn on the faucet, and then stare in the toilet. Sometimes I look at my reflection and pray that I’ll see Jesus’ face. Jesus, please…just show me your face and I’ll be free forever. I stare hard trying to make my eyes see something that doesn’t ever appear. Stalling. I don’t want to throw up. But I have to. So it starts. My eyes water, my stomach constricts and I begin my routine. I try to measure with my eyes how much I throw up and try to match the things coming up with what I ate. I throw up until it’s all gone or until I can’t throw up anymore. At this point, I cry out to God and repent. But most times, I repeat the process within a few minutes. I can’t control myself. Something else controls me. When I look in the mirror, I look tired. Even in pictures I feel like I don’t look like myself. When I smile in pictures, I look to see that it’s only a slight grin. I’m afraid that I have lost my looks.
I’m 26. I want to get married someday. I want to have children. I want to record my music and reach out to people. I want to go to lunch with my friends and meet for coffee without thinking of anything other than the people I am with. I want to be able to look my parents in the eyes and have a normal conversation with them. I want to be able to be around them without feeling ashamed and angry. I want freedom. I want to walk in the promises and the destiny that Jesus has laid out for me.
Satan laughs every time I fall into his destiny and his dreams for me. But I plan to turn the tables. I plan on being free.
You see, what the enemy took 26 years to try to destroy me with, God broke in a moment. In a matter of just one year, I went from feeling like death was my only hope, my only way out, my only true freedom, to living in the most fulfilling and amazing year of my entire life. I used to pray and cry out to God, begging for him to heal me. I promised that if he healed me that I would give my life to seeing other people set free. I promised that I would never expect anything of him again, but he continues to give and continues to exceed my wildest dreams and hopes. I pray that if you’re reading this (thank you) and you feel like you’re facing a mountain that you can’t possibly cross over that you take this away: There is hope. There is freedom. There is life beyond what you can possibly comprehend. You are cherished and worth more than you know. You are loved.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
Because you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you.“
Photo by Audrey Johnston
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