RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When Anxiety Paints For You July 20, 2018

When a co-worker planned for us to attend a painting party, I had visions of becoming the female Bob Ross minus the perm. I thought, “I’ll get to hold one of those palates on my thumb, wear an apron, and paint with a knife. Maybe I’ll wear a beret. Real artists wear berets. Who am I kidding? I’m not buying a beret—that ridiculous.” The fact that we were painting “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh was a bonus; impressionism is my favorite period of art. I was excited to create my own masterpiece.

 

Anxiety, however, had different plans.

 

The class began at 6:30, and–at 6:15–I was the first to arrive. It was just me and the woman that was leading the class. I stood there awkwardly fiddling with my collarbones while she got out the painting supplies, praying she wouldn’t try to make small talk…which she did. While she rattled through the requisite, “What’s your name? What do you do for a living?” etc., my brain frothed into a raging sea of “what ifs”

 

What if she asks a question I don’t know the answer to? What if she thinks I’m weird? What if none of my co-workers come, and I’m the only one? What if she says something about my weight? What if I say something stupid? What if..? My anxious brain was busy catastrophizing and creating scenarios that, in all likelihood, would never come to fruition. That’s how anxiety works; your brain spirals into the quicksand of worst-case-scenario, all-or-nothing, black and white thinking where anything that can go wrong, will. By the time I realize the thoughts are anxiety-driven, I’m so far into the anxiety rabbit hole that it takes a lot of concerted thought and fact checking to climb out of it.

 

Even after my co-workers arrived, I still couldn’t shake the dread. What if I can’t paint? What if I do it wrong? What if I get paint on my dress after she said it would never come out? What if my co-workers think my painting is awful? What if my painting truly is awful and I just wasted $40?

 

As we were painting, the anxiety rampage continued. I look to the paintings of my coworkers; my swirls are so much bigger than my neighbors’, how did they get theirs to look like the teacher’s,  did I mix my colors correctly, am I using the right brush, what if I’m doing this wrong, why am I such a failure? I take a drink of my Moerlein –playing with the sticker on the bottle to distract me from my thoughts and my painting. I take a deep breath. The teacher instructs us to paint seven stars on our background, but my OCD demands that I paint eight. I make a mistake and want to start over; I want to give up because I can’t do it perfectly. Paralyzed by anxiety, it wins this round.

 

Looking back that the experience now, I can see that my art is unique to me and that it doesn’t matter what looks like. My anxiety didn’t make my painting any better but it certainly lessened my enjoyment of the painting party.

 

I see this pattern again and again in my life; letting anxiety rule my decisions, living life in a series of worst-case-scenario what ifs, and allowing automatic negative thoughts to overrun my thinking.  This is not the life I want to live. This is not the life God intended me to live—despite the fact that He wired my brain to make anxiety a part of my brain. The most repeated phrase,  in the Bible is, “Do not fear.” When God spoke to Moses in the desert, He didn’t say, “Oh, Moses, you’re freaking out? Cool, cool. Panic some more, catastrophize the situation until you’re too paralyzed to make a decision, and then I’ll see what I can do for you.”

 

And Jesus didn’t say, “Anxiety is awesome, y’all. Let us live our lives in constant fear of an imagined outcome that will likely never happen.” No! God does not want us to live our life in anxiety. He wants us to trust Him, grow in Him, and know that He has our lives planned perfectly in accordance to His will. He wants our trust in Him to replace the lies of anxiety. He wants us to use His Word to fight the voices of worry; secure in the knowledge that God has us in the palm of His hand. His grace covers our failures.

 

Through my thirty years of anxiety, I’ve learned more and more to depend on God to get me through those moments (or days or weeks) of anxiety. When my mind begins to spiral into the abyss of anxiety, I am able to go to God with my fears and what ifs. In this acknowledgement of my anxiety, He is able to calm me and abate the anxiety. This acknowledgment also reminds me to employ therapeutic strategies on my thoughts such as fact checking, reframing, and cognitive defusion. It has taken a lot of work and trust in the Lord to get where I am today—and I still struggle with anxiety. However, I know that I am able to overcome anxiety.

 

 

Below are some verses we can use in our times of anxiety to remind us of the Truth:

 

Exodus 14:13-14

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Deuteronomy 3:22

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

1 Chronicles 28:20b

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you”

Psalm 3:3-6

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

Psalm 23:1-4

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 27:1

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”

Psalm 29:11

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Psalm 31:24

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Psalm 32:6-7

“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 34:4-5

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Psalm 46:1-3

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Psalm 55:1-3

“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger.”

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

Psalm 56:3-4

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Psalm 56:10-11

“In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 91

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

Psalm 94:19

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 112:7-8

“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.”

Psalm 118:5-7a

“When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”

Proverbs 12:25

“Anxiety weighs down the heart,  but a kind word cheers it up.”

Isaiah 12:2

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense]; he has become my salvation.”

Isaiah 26:3-4

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

Isaiah 41:10 and 13

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Isaiah 43:1b-2

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 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; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Isaiah 44:8

“Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

Isaiah 51:7

“Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults.”

Isaiah 54:4a

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.”

Jeremiah 1:8

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”

Lamentations 3:57-58

“You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.”

Zephaniah 3:16a-17

“Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 10:29-31

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Matthew 14:27

“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.””

Mark 5:36

“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.””

Mark 6:50b

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.””

Luke 12:22-26

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

John 6:20

“But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.””

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”

Philippians 4:6-9

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”

Hebrews 13:5b-6

““Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

1 Peter 5:6-7

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

IMG_8868

My completed painting

 

 

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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When you trust God to heal June 29, 2018

My cheek, still sun-kissed warm from my picnic lunch, rests on the cool, curved porcelain. A mixture of tears and vomit swirl in front of my eyes while also dripping down my hand. I can feel my heart’s beat throbbing behind my eyes. My breathing is shallow and irregular. My knees, weak from osteoarthritis, tremble from kneeling for so long. I wipe my hands on some toilet paper and reach for my glasses. “This is the last time,” I say to myself as I toss the toilet paper into the bowl.

 

“You know damn well this isn’t the last time. Every time you’ve said, ‘This is the last time,’ you’ve come running back to me to save you. You’re weak, Rachel. You need me. You’re worthless without me. I’m all you’ve got” ED jeers.

 

Various iterations of ED had been a constant in my life since I was eight years old, and there I was, 28, and still fighting her. I’d proclaimed, “this is the last time,” so many times that the words had almost lost all meaning. ED knew this and used it to keep me stuck. It’d be another two years before I shook her off entirely.

 

But this time WAS the last time.

 

I’ve been lured many times by the siren song of purging:

“You ate birthday cake at a party? You’re such a fat ass. What idiot invited you, anyway?”

“You ate dinner after I specifically set your calorie limit for the day? You have no control! Get rid of it!”

“Have another bowl of cereal. It tastes good and you can just purge it afterwards. You know you miss it.”

“Your students had a hard time listening today? You know what will calm you down and make you feel better. Just once more, for old time’s sake.”

 

But that was the last time.

 

Recovery has been a series of consistent choices. It felt—and still sometimes feels—uncomfortable; like mourning the loss of a piece of you. After all, an eating disorder insidiously operates to make you feel like it is a piece of you; the defining character trait about yourself that you cannot—should not–change. EDs thrive on isolating a multifaceted person down to one singular title: eating disorder. Eating disorders want you to believe the lie that you are the ED and the ED is you.  EDs make you feel that they are your identity, that you do not exist outside of the disorder, and that your sole purpose in life is to be controlled by ED.

 

But that is not the truth.

 

You were, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) by a God who created all things. When the ED attempts to convince you that you are nothing, know that God, “determines the number of the stars,  and calls them each by name,” (Psalm 147:5) yet loves each of us so much that, “ the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). Let that sink in for a minute. The God who created each star and knows it by name, loves you so incredibly much that He even knows the number of hairs on your head. In Matthew 10: 27-30, Jesus reminds us that not even a sparrow falls to the ground in death without the Father knowing; reminding us that we are worth more to God than many sparrows. Between naming stars, keeping tabs on sparrow deaths, and knowing the number of hairs on seven billion heads, it sounds like God has His work cut out for Him. And yet, He took the time to lovingly create everything about you—from your dimple on your cheek, to the veins of color in your iris; from the size of your feet to your affinity for cheesy 90’s sitcoms. You are a miracle of creation and no eating disorder can tear that away from you. Nothing about you is an accident; you were made on purpose for a purpose. While I don’t know your purpose—and I don’t always know mine—there is a purpose for your life; a purpose that is not an eating disorder.

 

But if I’m not my ED, what am I?

 

Know that you, “are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Notice that the scriptures do not say, “You are an eating disorder. Your sole purpose is to engage in behaviors and obey the demands of the disorder.” No! We are the exquisite handiwork of God, created to do good works; “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1: 7). We are not timid—we have the strength to overcome the eating disorder. We have power, love, and self-control (that I often like to reframe as allowing God control of myself instead of letting the ED have control). I pray that you may, ”grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)

 

 

But why would God give me an eating disorder?

 

In short, He didn’t. Take a look at the story of Job. Horrible thing after horrible thing happened to him—his flock of over 4,000 animals was destroyed, his ten kids died when their house collapsed, his body became covered in sores, and myriad other events that were meant to challenge Job. These things did not come from God. No. Satan sent these to Job as a means to test Job’s faith in God. No matter what atrocity Satan put upon Job, Job never stopped praising, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:21b-22). Satan attacked Job because he doubted the genuineness of Job’s faith in God; believing Job only praised God because of the wealth he had amassed. However, Job persevered and endured the struggles in authentic faith because he knew, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28). Job knew that God would not attack him or cause him harm; unlike the eating disorder who exists solely to attack and harm.

 

Know that you are worthy, as is. There are no prerequisites to obtaining the love of God, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Even before you were born, God loved you, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4) 

 

I have not purged for two years and I have gotten my restriction under control in the last few months. God can heal and God will heal.

 

2 Peter 1:3

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”

 

When you choose recovery again and again March 31, 2018

Staring in awe at the verdigrised feet of the Statue of Liberty, my stomach growls. “Not now,” ED says, “You have so much to see while you’re here. You don’t have time to waste on food.”

 

My brain–as swampy as the unseasonably warm November air in New York Harbor–can’t create a coherent thought outside of how fat I am compared to the girls posing for selfies with Lady Liberty. “Think of how many people have your fat body in the background of their photos. You’ve completely ruined their vacation memories,” ED whispers maliciously.

 

When was the last time I ate? It doesn’t matter. I have things to see and a conference to attend—I’ve never been to New York, after all. I unzip my blue fleece, and take a step forward; my knee giving way slightly due to my arthritis.  “See?” says ED, “If you weren’t so fat, you wouldn’t have these problems with your knees.” She’s right, I concede, and continue my way around the island; ED berating me every step of the way. At the literal feet of freedom, I continue to be enslaved by my eating disorder.

 

——

 

A few days later, while aimlessly tracing the intricate designs of the conference hall carpet with the heel of my stiletto, I call my friend Jenni in Texas.  I know I have to tell someone about this months-long relapse, and I know Jenni will know what to do. ED assures me that I’m fine. “Fat girls can’t have anorexia. Besides, you ate today, didn’t you? You’re fine. Quit over exaggerating, and hang up on Jenni. She’s a busy woman who doesn’t have time for whiner like you,” she hisses.

 

Ignoring ED, I tell Jenni everything. The pause before her words feels endless. Maybe I am wasting her time? Taking a deep breath, Jenni says, “You say you don’t want to be like your patients. But can’t you see, Rhea? You are them. You are just as sick as your patients. As much as you try to deny it, you are just like them and you know it. You’re a smart woman, and I know you know this.” The reality of her words hit me hard. “I know I can say this to you,” she continues, “because you are smart and strong. You know exactly what you need to do. Now do it.” Jenni is right—she always is—but what do I do now?

 

——

 

Two weeks later, curled up on my therapist’s black leather couch instead of Black Friday shopping, I hear, “I think it’s about time we looked into a higher level of care for you.” In the six years I’ve been seeing my therapist, she has never spoken these words…until now. What have I done? This can’t be happening. Not now.

 

“She’s lying,” ED quips, “She doesn’t think you’re sick and she never has. She’s testing you. She’s trying to get rid of you so she doesn’t have to see you anymore.”

 

“You can’t be serious,” I state aloud.

 

“Oh, I’m quite serious,” my therapist replies, “I’ve never seen you like this. You’ve lapsed before, but you’ve always gotten right back up and kept going. I’m not seeing that right now.”

 

Crap. What have I done? I can’t go to treatment. My jobs, my kid, my students, my life…they’d all be lost. How did I let this happen? I leave her office, head spinning, unsure of what to do next. Where do I go from here?

 

——

 

Two days later, I’m sitting by the ornately-carved gothic fireplace at school struggling through admitting my relapse to my friend. Through tears, I choke out that I need her help; that I can’t do this alone anymore. Julie takes me in her arms, and makes me feel less broken. She promises the walk me through this as long as I’m willing to come alongside her. She institutes adult lunch box buddies after school; wherein we eat lunch prior to me heading off to my second job. Both she and I hold myself accountable for completing nutrition, and examining thoughts/emotions I am feeling when I do not complete.

 

One week later, she takes me to our church’s healing prayer gathering. Instead of ED’s voice, I hear the voice of God urging me to put my ED at His feet, follow Him, and I will be free (read that story here). On February 25th, Julie and her husband Patrick baptize me into the Kingdom.

 

——

 

The buds on the trees are starting to bloom and the birds are gleefully singing. It’s late March, and I’m working the hardest I’ve ever worked on recovery.

 

            “I don’t know how you pulled this off. How you turned it around so quickly. I was certain you were going to have to go to a higher level of care to get this far in recovery. I was ready to hand you off, and see you again when you got back,” my incredulous therapist states.

 

            “Honestly, I don’t how I did it either,” I reply, “You’ve known me long enough to know I’m the most stubborn person on the face of the planet, and I was not going to let this eating disorder take my life. My stubbornness–combined with a whole lotta Jesus—is what got me here.”

 

——

 

            I have a long way to go in my recovery, and I am making progress every single day. I can, without a doubt, state that this is the strongest I’ve ever been in recovery. After 22 years spent in illness, I no longer yearn for the days I spent in my disorder. ED has nothing more to offer me. I no longer turn to her for the comfort only Jesus can provide. Eating disordered thoughts still pop up in my head—they’re not called “automatic negative thoughts” for nothing—and I now know I can choose to act in line with my values; acting opposite of what ED commands. I always thought I would have to live with at least some aspect of my ED forever; that I could never be fully recovered. And yet, here I am. I am recovering. I know I can exist without ED. I can draw my strength from the Lord.  I know I can fully recover. I know I can live.

 

 

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep—Matthew 18:12-14

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

 

When you accept Christ December 16, 2017

“You mean they’re going to touch me,” I incredulously—and somewhat cynically–ask my best friend Julie, “You know how I feel about touching.”

 

“You’ll be fine,” she reassures, “They just put their hands on your shoulders, and say a prayer over you or with you. You can always ask them not to touch you.”

 

After experiencing an alarming relapse in eating disordered behaviors that left me feeling even more shameful and unworthy than usual, Julie thought it might be beneficial for us to attend our church’s monthly healing prayer gathering.  I tug open the heavy wooden door to the sanctuary, and gently insist she goes inside first. Though I’ve been in this sanctuary hundreds of times over the past eleven years, I still feel undeserving to enter first. She chooses our pew, takes off her coat, and sits down while I shuffle anxiously behind her. When I take off my coat, I briefly consider setting it and my purse between us—a barrier to protect myself from potential harm. I then remember: Julie is safe, she won’t hurt me, and I don’t need that wall of protection from her. I place my purse and coat to my right, with Julie on my left.

 

I tuck into myself— “crisscross applesauce:” my typical sitting position—meticulously smoothing my dress over my thighs as I wrap my arms across my chest; fingers dancing across my collar bones.  I must make myself as small as possible as a measure of protection, and so as not to impede in Julie’s pew space or have others notice my presence. A subconscious manifestation of my anxiety becomes visible as I intensely wring my hands together, dig for my collar bones, and twirl my rings around my fingers. The more I will my hands to stop, the worse the movements became. I turn to my left—towards Julie. My eating disorder reminds me that I’m at least double Julie’s weight and more than half a foot shorter. I shake the thought from my brain; willing it to be more mindful. Tears begin their migration down my cheeks; this journey is familiar to them.

 

Julie’s upturned palms are resting on her sylphlike thighs, her eyes peacefully closed, head tipped slightly back, and her extended legs are gracefully crossed at the ankles.  The juxtaposition of our body language was not lost on me…which only increases the ferocity of the hand wringing as I draw my knees closer to my chest. Noticing my tears, Julie places a tissue packet between us, pats my arm, and gently states that they’re “communal tissues.”

 

Despite the rivulets of tears, I refuse the tissues. “Using them would be a weakness! You mustn’t have needs!” my shame proclaims. I dig through my coat pockets, finding the two unused tissues I had placed in there earlier in the day for my students to use at recess. They’re reduced to shreds minutes later. The tears do not stop.

 

A woman says opening remarks, a duo sings “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,” and the service begins. Julie returns to her serene posture, and I to my anxiety and crying. The longer I sit—overhearing mumblings of Julie’s prayers, crying, wringing my hands to the point of pain, body checking, feeling unworthy, and avoiding eye contact—the more I feel what I can only describe as the Holy Spirit move in me. Tonight was going to be the night; the night I finally accept Christ.

 

You see, I’ve grown up in the church. I did not, however, grow up in Christ. Which, I now know, is a very big distinction. My step-grandfather–Lloyd–is a pastor, and my cousins and I grew up, essentially, as PKs (pastor’s kids). I’ve a wealth of Scripture committed to memory, live my life in accordance with Christian values, have lead many lessons on the Bible, problem-solve based on Christian principles, I firmly assert that Jesus is the son of God and He was a living sacrifice for our sins, and truly believe every word of Scripture is God-breathed and God-inspired…for everyone but me.  You see, it’s hard to accept that a perfect God could—or rather, would—love someone as broken and unworthy as me. Never mind the fact that I have scripture to prove otherwise, and that I trust that no one is beyond the love of Christ. It was hard to believe that a God of love could see past the barriers of shame and self-loathing that I built up around me to “protect” me from others. Because I had spent so many years in my eating disorder, in self-harm, and in self-loathing, I felt I was a huge slap-in-the-face to God. It is because of this unworthiness before God, that I didn’t feel I deserved His salvation…that is, until the night of December 7, 2017.

 

I feel my heart begin to soften. I must do something before shame/anxiety/Satan/eating disorder convinces me not to, before I lose my nerve, and before anything else happens. Glancing to my left, Julie remains serenely in the Word. Everyone around me is quiet. I couldn’t just blurt it out. I look around the sanctuary as if a billboard would appear telling me what to do. I almost lose my courage and conviction—what kind of Christian can’t say aloud that they want to accept Christ? I realize, however, that that is the voice of shame talking.

 

What do writers do when they don’t know what to do? They write! I reach into my cavernous purse, and locate my planner. I flip to the “notes” section and scribble in hasty cursive, “Julie, I want to accept Christ.” I lay the planner on the tissues between us. Julie remains peacefully unaware, and I sit in nervous anticipation. What if she doesn’t see my planner and I miss my opportunity? My fingers quicken their dancing around my collar bones as my shame increases. I take a deep breath and reach out, but I don’t want to touch her. I feel my touch will mar her perfection in some way, and I do it anyway.

 

Cautiously, I tap her forearm and nod my head towards my open planner. Julie inhales deeply, and touches my arm. My tears increase, and so does my anxiety and shame. Julie turns to me, and takes me in her arms. I don’t resist. I allow myself to be enveloped in her hug. It feels good to be held; as much as a vocally protest being touched. She whispers to me that she’s never walked anyone through accepting Christ, and that she would like to bring someone over to help us. I nod in approval as my tears land on her shoulders. Julie names an individual I know to be in the room, and asks if she can bring her over. Through the tears, I choke out a “no.” This person will only increase my shame and anxiety; leading me further from Christ. Julie, undeterred, asks if she can bring over her husband, Patrick. I’ve known him for over eleven years–Patrick is safe. I say yes; unaware that he is on the other side of the sanctuary.

 

Julie excuses herself and disappears, returning what seems like seconds later with Patrick. Standing behind me, Patrick pulls me into a hug; the scruff of his beard on the crown of my head. Again, I don’t resist the touch—which increases the tears yet again. He kneels behind me, calmly rubbing my back, and speaking words of reassurance. I cannot recall everything Patrick said (thanks emotion mind), but I know I accepted Christ. Patrick repeatedly states that I am worthy, that I am loved, and that I am enough—not because of anything I did, but because of what Christ did for me. I am deserving of all these things simply by my being a daughter of the King (not to be confused with my father, Mr. King). Julie, Patrick, and I pray together. I invite Christ into my heart forever. I give him my eating disorder, I lay down my depression, and I relinquish my past. I am His.

 

Instantly, I feel lighter—like God had lifted my burdens, my sins, my shame, my eating disorder, and everything else that was keeping me from him. I feel–instead of shame–a warmth; a closeness I’ve never felt before. Patrick and Julie excuse themselves to allow me some time for self-reflection. I curl back up into myself and cry. This cry is different, though. This cry is a cry of admiration for all that He has done for me while I lived in self-loathing, shame, depression, anxiety, OCD, self-harm, unworthiness, and eating disorders. This cry is a cry of humility that He waited patiently for me while I self-destructed–knowing one day His daughter would return. This cry is a cry of appreciation for His love of my brokenness. I am a daughter of the King, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

 

Amazing Women

It is an honor to know, love, and be loved by these women. Kelli (Left) and Julie (Middle), you inspire me to be a better daughter of the King, “mom,” teacher, woman, and all around better person. These two are the most amazing women—Christ-focused, intelligent, funny, humble, compassionate, wonderful wives, and caring mothers who live their passions and follow where God leads them. They’ve taught me, loved me, trusted me with their kids, cried with me, showed me forgiveness, laughed with me, and helped call me out of the darkness. They’ve each played an integral role in my life over the past 5-ish years (and this week in particular as Julie and her husband Patrick aided my acceptance of Christ). I love these ladies more than words can say, and can’t wait to make more memories with them—preferably in clothes as refined as these

 

 

 

Ephesians 2: 1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

When you discover what is louder October 17, 2014

“You don’t have to get rid of your eating disorder voice in your head. In fact, you can’t” my head popped up from my fervent note-taking at that point in my Recovery Recharge Retreat with Thom Rutledge and Julie Merryman.

Then my thoughts started swimming, “I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?! Why the hell am I even here if I can’t recover? Why did I pay all this money to hear Thom say I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?”

But, then (thankfully), Thom explained his previous statement, “You cannot get rid of the voice of the eating disorder, yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t recover. You must make the voice of recovery louder. When you start recovery and even, sometimes, in continuing recovery, your eating disorder’s voice may be very loud in  your ear trying to get you to engage in behaviors for one reason or another. However, what you need to learn in recovery, is not how to get rid of that voice, but to make the voice of recovery louder so that it drowns out the voice of the eating disorder.”

Thom went on to explain that the brain cannot encode negative; meaning, the more we tell our brains not to focus on our eating-disordered the thoughts, the more we will think eating-disordered thoughts. The example he always uses is not to think of your left hand. Whatever you’re doing right now, don’t think of your left hand, or how it may feel different from your right hand. Don’t image it feeling like its getting lighter and lighter to the point that it’s lifting off the table. Now, don’t think of a pink elephant. How many of us, honestly, thought about our left hand or a pink elephant despite being told not to? I’m willing to bet a majority of us–myself included. This is what Thom means when he says our brains cannot encode negative. By constantly reprimanding ourselves for having eating-disordered thoughts, we are  rehearsing the exact thoughts we want to be rid of. Instead, by acknowledging the eating-disordered thought for what it is, and then replacing it with a louder, recovery-oriented thought, we are rehearsing recovery and implementing recovery-oriented thoughts over the eating-disordered thoughts. The consistent rehearsing of the recovery thoughts will help reinforce the recovery thoughts as our default thoughts, until, eventually, the eating disordered thoughts don’t even come to mind. We do not have to focus on getting rid of the eating-disordered thoughts then; we must focus on adding recovery-oriented thoughts and the eating-disordered thoughts will disappear on their own.

In thinking about what should be louder in my recovery-oriented thoughts, I came up with these:

What is louder than my eating disorder:

Life: I plan to live a life of service, love, teaching, kindness, giving and of Christ-like actions

Hope: I have hope that I can live life ED-free (side note: Hope is my favorite word ie: Cherokee tattoo on my wrist. A word of caution though, Hope is an action word, not a passive word. We can hope and hope for recovery as much as we want, but unless we put the action of recovery-oriented choices behind that hope, nothing will happen)

Writing: With ED’s chokehold loosened on my life, I have been able to rediscover my love of writing. I have been featured on NEDA’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week’s blog roll twice and have recently learned that I have been selected for Melissa Fabello’s MarginalizED Voices Project (where I might actually be part of a published work!)

Photography: Much in the same respect as my writing, my creativity in photography has reemerged as ED has lessened. I’ve photographed weddings, babies, seniors, lots of nature scenes, cityscapes and  my cats

There are a LOT of other things I am discovering that are louder than my eating disorder voice…but, seeing as how I don’t have the time nor the energy to write them all (much like you don’t have the time, energy or desire to read them all), I decided to put my iPhone to work to speak for me.

 

Here are a few more things that are louder than eating disorders:

DREAMS FRIENDSHIP FUN happiness HEALTH HOPE
RECOVERYSELFCOMPASSON

 

LIFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEACE

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

When it is NEDA conference time September 19, 2014

San Antonio, Texas. October 16-18, 2014. National Eating Disorders Association Conference 2014. Be there or be square.

 

Ok, so I guess I am going to be a square seeing as how I am not actually going to be there myself. However, I DO want to encourage others to attend. This year’s theme is Share. Learn. Belong. “Thinking Big: uniting families and professionals in the fight against eating disorders”. I truly think that that is the goal of the conference regardless of theme. The conference is open to  “professionals, researchers, educators, individuals in recovery and their families”, according to the NEDA website as a means to, “connect and learn from one another in a warm, welcoming environment. This year’s theme, focusing on collaboration, will highlight the wealth of knowledge that comes from sharing our experiences and expertise to advance the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.” I stand firm in my belief that by raising awareness on eating disorders, sharing stories of recovery, loss, and simply existing with an eating disorder, networking with professionals to increase best practices of care, and impart knowledge on the disease itself we can decrease the stigma; thereby making seeking treatment at any level less shameful and more respected.

But don’t let me try to convince you, NEDA has created a convenient  top 10 list (much like David Letterman on his various late  night programs):

10) “The NEDA conference changed my life–the feeling of belonging was incredible”

9) Expand your knowledge of eating disorders and deepen your recovery.

8) Busy weekend? You can swing by for a single day.

7) Families and experts come together to learn from one another.

6) Expand your circle, make new friends, build your support network.

5) Share your personal expertise with the eating disorders community.

4) “I loved the general sessions. They were interesting, informative, relevant and challenging”

3) Hear a best-selling author discuss family relationships in the digital age.

2) Earn continuing education credits on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

1) Family-friendly event with family discount packages.

 

I think there are also 10 spiritual reasons to attend…in no particular order

10) Hebrews 3:13–But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

9) John 13:34–A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

8) Romans 12:16–Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

7) Romans 14:13–Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

6) 1 John 4:11–Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

5) 1 Peter 3:8–be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

4) Ephesians 4:32–Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

3) 1 John 3:11–For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another

2) Ephesians 4:2– Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love

1) Proverbs 19:8–The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

 

NEDAConference_Reason9

 

When you make realizations April 25, 2014

 

For the almost two years that I have had this blog, there has always been a thought nagging in the back of my mind. I have felt I have not been completely honest with those who read my blog, and I have to get it off my chest. Although I paint a very self-assured and recovery-oriented picture through my writing, have I struggled for the past five years to actually admit/accept the fact that I, Rachel King, actually have a clinically diagnosable eating disorder, and have had for more than half of my life. I would say, “I’m sick” or “I’m doing well in recovery” or even refuse to admit I had an eating disorder at all. However, I never actually knew what I was really saying. How was I expected to recover from a disease I refused to fully accept that I had? How could I fully immerse myself in recovery if I did not first admit that I had been fully immersed in my disease? Doesn’t everyone always say, “The first step in resolving a problem in our life is to first admit we have a problem”?

I have needed to admit and accept this fact for a long time, but my eating disorder kept telling me I was stupid for thinking that. I don’t think I was ever really ready to let ED go until Easter Sunday this year, when I reflected on the eating disordered thoughts and behaviors I had engaged in over the previous few days. I can’t explain it really, it’s just like, as I sat in my garage (after having engaged in behaviors)…it’s like I finally knew, this is ED. This is exactly what ED is: lies, secrecy, self-inflicted punishment, hiding, feeling unworthy, striving for unattainable perfection, hating that I do it but not being able to stop, false control, and pain…lots of pain.

ED was suddenly and simultaneously the best and worst defense mechanism in my life. It became a way to hide from the bullying I receive from others, by bringing the bullying on myself before they could get me; ED convinced me everyone was, indeed, out to bully me. ED rationalized that if I punished myself first, the pain of others wouldn’t hurt so much, because she knew I would punish myself worse than they could imagine (ED, cutting, exercise, etc). I wanted to hide inside ED because of the perceived safety she offered me; safety I didn’t have from my bullies. I wanted to hide inside her twisted love; love I felt I didn’t have from my family and didn’t deserve from others.   I wanted to do and be everything to everyone: teacher, nurturer, protector, the smart one, planner, volunteer, problem solver, etc. I wanted to be perfect, but, at the same time, was listening to ED tell me I would never be perfect. I wanted to be loved, and turned to Ed for that love because it was the first “safe” place I found “unconditional love”. I now realize that that what ED gave me was never love. ED was manipulation, lies, and destruction. As long as I kept myself within the confines of ED, I would never find the acceptance, love, and roles in life that I wanted so desperately…because ED was taking them all. ED was there to offer me everything I was craving out of life…and then, I was in too deep, she had me in her vice grip. I would never get from her all the things I wanted that she promised. She convinced me that me not attaining what I wanted out of life was my fault because she was never “really” in my life to begin with. She blamed all my life problems on me because “there’s no way I could possibly have an eating disorder” and my pain couldn’t have been caused by her because of that. I’m here now to say it was, all of it. I listened to her lies, false promises, saying she could offer all I wanted, and so much more. But it wasn’t true, none of it. I never got anything she said she would/could offer me if I just did every single thing she said. All I got was my own personal hell. A hell in which I punished myself for every perceived wrongdoing by restricting, purging, cutting, laxatives or over exercise. A hell that I wasn’t allowed to believe I was actually in, let alone tell anyone else about. A hell I thought was never ending. Until now. I fully realize I’m in ED’s little hell, and I know I’ll stay trapped here as long as I refuse to admit she has this power over me. Every time I acknowledge her presence in my life, she gets a little bit smaller and I am able to see what recovery oriented choices look like. It’s a slow and sometimes stumbling process, but I’m ready to get out of this hell.

I encourage everyone out there reading to get out of this hell with me and take our lives back.

 

Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”