Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Life With An Eating Disorder: A work in progress

Happy Wednesday! If you are just catching up you can click here and here for the first two guest posts in the "Life With An Eating Disorder" series. This week we are hearing personal testimonies and next week we will be hearing testimonies from family members of one with an eating disorder.

I must say, I am still (always) amazed at how God uses our stories, our pasts, our struggles and life journeys to connect us to others, His precious children. I am so thankful God crossed my path with Dawn, who will be sharing with us today. Dawn is a loving wife and momma to three adorable boys. Dawn writes over at My Journey Through Anorexia and I encourage you to hop on over to her little space and read more about her day to day journey. I love what she has written in the "About Me" profile of her blog. "I'm on a journey to follow God's leading, even when I don't see where He is taking me." Can I get an amen?

. . .

I volunteered easily when Brittnie needed some extra hands writing about life with eating disorders.  Of course I want to help.  And now that it is actually here, I stare at my blank computer screen wondering where to begin.  How do I wrap up my journey in just a few paragraphs?  I have spent the past couple of weeks wondering if I had gotten in over my head and praying that God would give me direction of what to write.  I’m still a work in progress but I have hope, hope that I never before had.  

I think that one understands hope best when they have experienced being hopeless.  My hopeless journey began when I was a child.  I experienced some intense sexual abuse as a very young child.  I was confused and scared.  I felt unloved, unworthy and unprotected.  I was small in a very big world.  I didn’t know how to say what was happening to me, I knew it wasn’t right but like most children who experience sexual abuse, I was certain I was to blame and would be in trouble if I talked about it.  I kept my dirty little secret and let it begin to define who I was.

I also began dealing with severe depression, in retrospect probably due to the fact that I was bearing a burden far bigger than my nine year old shoulders could handle alone.  I was a “good Christian girl” and good Christians didn’t have bad things happen and definitely didn’t experience negative emotions so I had nowhere to go with those overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. I needed control and stability in my life.  

When I was eight, I began drinking Slim Fast.  I saw my mom doing it so it seemed that was what grown ups did.  I felt very grown up and very small and insignificant all at once.  When I was nine I began praying that God would make me grow up to be a skinny woman with small breasts and kind eyes.  At twelve I attempted suicide for the first time.  By fourteen, I had found the control I longed for in the arms of an eating disorder.  Though I had been flirting with disordered eating for years by that point, I remember clearly the moment that not eating became a conscious choice and my new coping skill.  

It was and wasn’t about how I looked all at the same time.  I can see glimpses of body image issues and thinking I was fat.  Really though, anorexia was bringing me control and “relief”.  There was a certain euphoria about feeling hungry, a euphoria that I had never before experienced.  I finally felt in control of one thing in my life which added to the euphoria.  I spent much of my fourteenth year in all kinds of doctor’s offices while they tried to figure out why I had lost so much weight, why my circulation was so poor, and why I had no energy or appetite.  Not one person suggested an eating disorder.  I had a new dirty little secret, one that I kept with pride.

All through highschool I used food (more accurately, the refusal of food) when the pain of being me became unbearable.  It became more about how I looked when I began dating an abusive boy who told me how fat I was.  I was drinking to dull the pain and not eating to please the boy.  It was a recipe for disaster.  Somehow everyone around me managed to not see how sick I was.  Maybe it was the baggy clothes that didn’t reveal my body?  Or maybe it was that no one knew quite how to deal with it so they pretended it wasn’t there.

I began to experience glimpses of hope when I met the man who later became my husband.  He offered kindness to me when I wouldn’t offer it to myself.  God brought so much healing to my heart through and slowly the struggle with food became less and less until one day I realized that I had been eating like a normal person for months and had no desire to go back to that girl.  

I’d love to say the story ended there and I am now completely recovered.  Sadly, not so much.  I had seven years of healthy behaviors and thought I was “cured”.  I thought recovery was easier than it is.  The depression was still lurking and slowly I began engaging in ed behaviors again.  I convinced myself that I wasn’t getting sick, I just didn’t feel like eating that particular thing right then. I wasn’t very hungry.  If you have ever lived with an eating disorder, you know the thoughts I am talking about, the thoughts that refuse to acknowledge the slippery slope of relapse.  Much like depression, the person engaging in an eating disorder is often the last person to see that they are actually sick.  

I had not done the hard work of recovery the first time around and when relapse hit, it hit with a vengeance.  I really thought it was immediate but now I can see how it was a series of small choices over the course of a year that made the suddenness of relapse possible.  I started counting calories.  I exercised late into the night after my family had gone to bed.  I was SICK.  Thankfully my husband, knowing my past struggle, saw the seriousness of the path I was on.   Though I still insisted I wasn’t sick, he informed me that I had lost far too much weight and it had happened in far too short of a time and that it was time to call the doctor.  I told him I wasn’t sick.  He told me that if I didn’t call the doctor that he would.  He intervened early.

My doctor and nutritionist immediately referred me to an eating disorder clinic for outpatient therapy.  I was genuinely shocked that they thought I was sick enough to need to go to the eating disorder center.  I had no desire to get better but was scared for what it would mean for my kids if I didn’t get better.  I ended up being hospitalized for suicidal intentions.  While in the hospital, I clung to the verse on the back of  the new t-shirt I had been given.  “Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  Even there, while I was panicking about food.  Even there, when I had just intended to commit suicide just days earlier.  Even there, when my heart was overwhelmed with pain.  In the midst of my darkest days, Jesus was there with me holding me.

That hospital stay was where the long road to recovery began.  I’m doing the work this time around.  It hurts and is hard.  There are days still when depression overwhelms me.  There are still days when the lure of the euphoria of being hungry still entices me.  I’ve learned to reach out on those days, to ask someone for help.  I’m learning that the hope Christ brings is for me too, not just for those around me.  I’m learning to feel the pain when it comes which is often times scary.  God is healing my heart and as I let Him heal my heart, I find that my body is slowly healing as well.  I have to fight  for my recovery.  Some days more than others I need to guard my heart from things I know to be triggering.

I have hope.  A hope I didn’t have then.  A hope I wouldn’t be able to describe if I had never experienced the utter darkness of hopelessness.  I’m not there yet.  I still have days of despising my body.  I still have days of longing for control found in food rules.  I’m a work in progress but I am so grateful for the hope that makes the progress possible.

To read more about my journey you can find me here


  1. Oh my gosh, Dawn. What a heartbreaking story. Thank you so much for sharing. I pray that you continue recovering and finding hope in Jesus.

  2. "I’m a work in progress but I am so grateful for the hope that makes the progress possible."

    I love this. Thank God for unending hope. I don't know where I would be if it were not for the hope that Christ brings. Thank you for sharing.

  3. The hope of Christ is absolutely for you, too, Dawn :)

  4. Slim Fast at 8!!!!!! That is so crazy. I was so, so lucky in that I had a mom who fed us all whole, healthy foods and never, ever have I heard her say anything bad about herself or her weight. You're doing a great thing here Brittnie :)


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