Monday, April 22, 2013

Life With An Eating Disorder: A Story of Hope

I am so excited that today is the day we are kicking off the Life With An Eating Disorder series. As I have mentioned before, this week we will be hearing from women who have personally struggled, in some shape or form, with an eating disorder. Their openness and vulnerability is beyond admirable. I hope and pray that their stories are read and received with an open mind, free of judgement. Because this is real stuff. Real life messy, heavy stuff. And sharing it is not an easy task. So let's be gentle as we hear their testimonies.

Five different women.

Five different journeys.

Five different roads to healing and recovery.

Week one. . .  here we go!

Kendra Zickafoose, who writes over at (our life) Plain & Simple is sharing today. Kendra and I grew up in church youth group together (how fun is that?) and then lost touch post high school. God crossed our paths again through blogging, years later, and I am so very glad He did. Kendra is an amazing woman of faith, an exemplarily wife, and loving momma to three (and soon to be four!).

Take it away, Kendra!

. . .

My story is a story of recovery. It is a story of grace, of forgiveness, and of moving forward. It is a story of learning how to fall in love with the life you have been given, just as it is. Though mostly, it is a story of hope.

But let me start at the beginning, because my story was not always this way.
I was born with too large of a heart. Not physically, but figuratively. I felt things much too intently, and far too deeply. A people pleaserby nature, my only goal in life was for those I loved most to feel happiness.

My older brother left home when I was in junior high. He left too soon. He left our family, he left our faith, and he left a giant hole in my life that I thought could only be filled by him. My parents were devastated. The feeling of happiness in our home was gone, and my too large of a heart felt like it was going to break in two. So I decided to fix the problem. I decided that I would be enough, that I would be both children to my parents. I decided to become perfect, promising myself I would never make my mother cry the way that my brother had. It was a heavy load for a young girl to bare, but it was the load I chose to carry. But not surprisingly, over time, I discovered that I was not enough. I could not replace what my family had lost. Everything in my life was still spinning out of control, regardless of what I did, and I just wanted it to stop. So I began to control the only thing that I could. I began to control me. I began to control my body.

In the beginning, the food restriction, the binging, the purging, it all felt good. It felt good to set a goal and accomplish it. And as the weight came off and the compliments came rolling in, I tasted success. I was good enough! I could be in control! And for the first time in a long time, I felt happiness. Despite the life circumstances that continued to swirl around me, I was happy. And so a pattern was born. When life was good, when I felt strong and in control, when my parents smiled, I ate and let the food remain. When the depression rolled in, when I felt weak and out of control, when my parents were sad, I restricted. Or I purged until my heart felt somewhat healed, and my soul somewhat lighter. This pattern lasted for eight long years. But over a period of time, through many different circumstances, I began to realize that I needed help.

I was nineteen years old when I entered treatment for anorexia and bulimia.

I had spent years walking through the most difficult season of my life, but that is the beautiful thing about seasons. They only last for a time, before moving on to something better. Something fresh and new. If the days of my eating disorder were winter, then treatment became my sort of spring. I learned three things in treatment that literally saved my life. The first is that I will never be enough. Not on my own. I desperately needed God in my life. Only He could fill the gaping holes that had left my heart bleeding. The second was that I was not responsible for anyone's feelings other than my own. There is great freedom in releasing the feelings of others for them to claim as their own. And the third thing I had to learn was that life, though often messy and difficult, was worth living. I had to believe all three of those things if I wanted to fully recover. It was a treacherous journey, the winter was long and dark, but I can tell you now that spring did come. I left treatment a different person than when I arrived. When I arrived I was filled with holes.They were all I could see. When I left I was filled with hope. Beautiful, glorious hope.

A decade has since passed, and I can honestly tell you that life is beautiful and good. It is not perfect, but it is good. There are still hard seasons, long winters to be endured. But now I know that spring always comes. And as long as I have hope, I will never be left in the darkness forever.

I have always hesitated to share my story out of respect for my family. It is important to note that this is my story, shared from my point of view. The very same story shared from my father's point of view, or my mother's, or my brother's, would look different. One story, four different points of view. Any type of addiction and recovery has a rippling affect, and no one in the water with us goes untouched. It is important to respect and validate another's point of view, just as you desire them to respect and validate yours. Restoration of relationships can only happen if all parties are willing to hear and forgive.


  1. This is beautiful, Kendra. I have major chill bumps. I think so many people can resonate with wanting to be 'enough' for another person (or group of people)...I hate that that feeling led you to such dark places, but am so thankful for the healing you've experienced since. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  2. Great post, Kendra, and very well said. Glad you are doing this series, Brittnie, and looking forward to reading the rest of the posts!

  3. Thank you for sharing, Kendra, and to Brittnie for introducing us to you and your story!

  4. So beautifully said! I love the idea of life being seasonal, but until I read this I never realized that the seasons could change back and forth. (Thank you, Louisiana weather, ha!) I often think to myself, "Well, you've gotten to Spring once, so you have to stay there! No more Winter!" We are allowed to go back into the darker, colder seasons with the knowledge that Spring always comes back. Thank you for the reminder, and for your openness and honesty, Kendra!

  5. Thank you for being brave and sharing your (beautiful) story!

  6. Life, though messy and difficult is worth living. Words that penetrate my heart today even though I read them yesterday. I needed that, thanks!


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