I distinctly remember me at the age of 15, sitting on my knees in my Mom and Dad's living room in the position where your shins and feet are tucked under your thighs and it makes your thighs look twice as big as they actually are. You know that position? Up until that moment I was skinny in my own mind. I mean rail thin, I was lanky, no form to my body. I ate like a bottomless pit, really, and I never really had an "unhealthy" relationship with food or my body. If anything, I wanted to have a little more meat on my bones, but you know, in all the right places.
That warm afternoon, in my little yellow shorts, I looked down and saw for the first time that my thighs no longer looked like they used to. I looked "fat". What was this thing that I had started to feel? Everything followed beyond that moment. I would sit down and catch a glimpse of myself in a full length mirror and I would notice little dimples on my thighs. Cellulite. I would notice my stomach bubbling over the buttoned area of my pants. Rolls. I would see the jiggling of my calf or under arms. Fat.
I began my sophomore year of high school thinking that I would get in shape. I would take gym class seriously this time, and I would start a work out plan. The whole year of 10th grade I got really in to working out, and didn't think much of it, it was honestly my Junior year when I noticed things were really wrong.
Lunch didn't seem healthy enough for me to eat, no matter what the school served, so first I just began to feel guilty when I ate it. I started to notice what calories were and why or how I was eating so many of them and how I could be healthier and maybe even become a vegetarian and lose a few pounds. Nothing drastic, just a few pounds. I was 124 pounds at this time.
Not too long after the guilt set it, I decided the easier thing to do would be skip the meal so I didn't feel guilty about eating it. Lunch. Just lunch. This all too familiar voice in my head kept saying, "Don't eat that, it isn't worth it." I was saving my lunch money and not eating lunch. No one really thought anything about it, I was just the girl who was "not hungry" a lot more often.
I looked into the mirror more and more full of hate for myself, and for my body. I worked out more and more. I did the usual things someone with an eating disorder does and didn't even know that is was what was wrong with me. Every inch of my body was coated with "fat". The feeling of swallowing food felt like poison sliding down my throat. I brushed my teeth so many times a day to prevent myself from eating because, "I just brushed my teeth, no thank you," I had anxiety during meals, I weighed myself in secret, I tracked my food, I sat at night and tugged and pinched at my body wondering why it had so much fat on it, looking in the mirror was like I lived in a funhouse that I couldn't escape. How do you tell someone that this is happening to you? How do you tell your parents that this is happening to you?
I looked at my bones and thought they were beautiful. The deeper the pit around my collar bone became the more I found myself motivated not to eat. The more beautiful I became when I could see the bones in my wrists poking out. I felt better knowing that I wasn't far from being able to wrap my small hand around my upper arm with no resistance. I could count the ribs along my frail body, and my hips bones began to have blisters from my jeans. I was 108 pounds at this time. The larger the thigh gap the more worthy I was. But the thing was...I never became more worthy, really. I never felt better. Nothing made me feel better about my body except losing weight. Or at least this is one of the lies that my mind told me.
I was lying to everyone I loved. My boyfriend at that time, his parents, my parents, best friends, family and even friends who were not so close to me. "Yeah, I'm fine," I would tell them, "Oh, no I ate before I left I'm really not hungry." "Yes, Mom, I ate at school." So many lies. You know, normal teenager things happen to you at 15 and 16. Breakups, bad grades, friendships ending, feeling lost, new tastes of freedom that you aren't ready for, you know-typical teenage stuff. My way to deal with them seemed to be leaning on an eating disorder. One full of lies that brought me nothing but misery.
A healthy relationship with a new boyfriend seemed to bring about this burn for me to come clean. To be totally honest with him. But I was so scared. What will he say? What will he do? Who else will he tell? I had gotten so good at suppressing this huge thing that the thought of it actually all coming out was a terrifying thought. I didn't know if telling anyone meant judgement (which I was afraid of), but of course it did. Thats inevitable. It didn't mean it was bad. It just meant it was scary. Anything I could have control over, I controlled. What if people thought I was making it up?Even though people told me I looked thin, what if I wasn't "skinny enough" to be anorexic? These fears plagued me while I battled. Battled the guilt, the hatred for myself, the exhaustion, the lies, the hair loss, the being cold all the time, the taking 45 minutes to eat a meal because I hoped I'd feel full faster, the secrets of not telling anyone. Battled. Until one night, my boyfriend and I were eating pizza, and I had nothing short of a mental breakdown. He was on the verge of force feeding me the pizza slice because it was obvious I was starving, and all I could do was fight. He looked at my tear stained face and took it into his hands, and I could feel my heart pounding inside my bony chest. He said to me, "You have to tell someone, Sam." He was right, but it scared the living hell out of me. Fast forward a few days, and this ended in me telling my parents what was going on with me. I was at a true breaking point.
Of course, my parents wanted me to see a professional. So I went to three sessions of therapy that were long and in depth sessions of me lying. When my Mom and Dad read this blog, this will be news to them. It will be news to almost everyone that I lied during my therapy. Everyone thought I was better. Everyone thought it helped. But anorexia made me into a manipulative, unrecognizable person. It is evil like that. I told the poor therapist everything she wanted to hear to make her think I was healthy. I put some weight back on, and it shut everyone up.
I struggled the first three years of college with holding down the lies. I may have "looked" more healthy, though still slightly underweight, but my mental health never went back to normal. Thought I was in love, and busy with college and working, I didn't feel right in my mind with food. I had mini relapses all the time. Nights when the thoughts of everything I had eaten through the day caught up to me and there was nothing I could do but lock myself in the bathroom and give in to that voice inside my head that told me I was worthless. I even went and saw a counselor at my university in hopes of finding help. I lied less in those therapy sessions, but I still didn't give in to wanting to get better. I still clung to the addiction that anorexia becomes. I think my closest friends and boyfriend knew I wasn't 100% normal, but I can assure you that no one knew how bad I was inside.
I am worthless.
I stood, looking in the mirror. Knowing all the times I had lied, all the times I had eaten simply because I had to to keep everyone thinking that I was okay, all the times I had stood in the shower and cried while looking down at my disgusting body. I found no worth in myself. I looked nothing like the models on the internet, or magazines, or TV. I lied like a monster that no one would want to be friends with. I was pretending to be someone I wasn't. I was leading a double life that was eating me up. I looked happy to everyone around me, but was I? I traced my fingers along my waist and pinched the skin above my hip bone, and I began to silently cry. I sank to the floor of my bathroom and decided that I was worthless. No matter how many times I prayed for help, no matter how many times I thought I would feel better when the sun came up, I was still empty. I was hopeless. I wish I could tell you while I sat in my cold bathroom floor crying, that Jesus reached out his hand and helped me up. But I lay there with flashbacks of the last few years pouring in over me and filling me with guilt and shame. I was angry. I was confused. I was mostly ashamed. I could never mean enough to anybody, I couldn't be the amazing person I wanted to be with all the lying I had done. I was worthless. I cried the rest of the night, waiting for something to snap. But it didn't. That's how life is sometimes. Our road has to be cold and challenging for us to get to where we need to go.
Finding Jesus took me some time. I didn't wake up and think, "Oh, I suddenly believe." I thought when I was 16 that I got saved at a big christian youth conference, but I really didn't understand what that meant or what salvation even was. I found Jesus through prayer, and through God leading me there in His Word after I turned 21. One day, I did have an ah-ha moment during a worship song at church. It wasn't an ah-ha "I believe!" moment, it was an ah-ha "I am worth more than my eating disorder" moment. I realized that this wasn't what God had planned for my body. I realized that my worth wasn't found in measly food and the way I looked. I realized that this road was shaping me into who I am, I may have a "disorder" but the road was so important for molding me. A light bulb came on that told me the places I was seeking worth and value were all wrong. I didn't need to care anymore about those things because Jesus died for me to be able to be free. I didn't need to wear the chains of a mental illness. Was I cured that day? No. Do I still have bad days? Of course. Did I find my worth? I did-in Jesus and the cross.
It has taken me so many years to prepare myself to write this blog. It has been just shy of a decade of struggling with it. Struggling in almost silence, never letting on to how terrible I had become. But God gave me this struggle as a challenge and as a mission. I will not be ashamed to tell people what I have been through for fear of judgement. My salvation in the Lord is the greatest gift I have ever been given, and I am proud to be on a journey where I can find my worth in what really matters. Thought my disorder was huge and all consuming, God's grace was bigger. By surrounding myself with God's love, a healthy relationship, and friends who support me, I became a new person. I was given this disorder with a purpose to help others. I was given a voice inside my head to develop my own voice to help heal souls. I am still here so that I can tell you, you will get better. We all have struggles, and here was mine. I am so thankful that God healed my soul, and has put me here with such a story that could help others. If you, or anyone you know, has ever been through an eating disorder, please give them a hug and tell them it will all be okay. Try to be understanding, and pray that they can change their perspective on why they've been given this challenge.