Monthly Archives: February 2013

Motivation: What do you want in life?

What do you want in life?

One of the things that helped motivate me during the difficult days was thinking about what I wanted in life. By taking the time to look at the bigger picture, it helped take my mind off the overwhelming struggle I was facing in that moment and it put things in perspective. Most importantly, it helped me realize how much the e.d. would take away if I did not fight back with everything inside me.

Now, before I continue let me just say that I understand that this is easier said than done. A lot of times, when people with eating disorders are asked what else they want in life, they have a hard time coming up with an answer. The illness has tried to take away their identity for so long and has made it seem almost impossible for them to imagine a life without the eating disorder. They might want freedom, but envisioning what that looks like is a very different story. When initially asked what they like, what they want or what they enjoy, these individuals often struggle to provide a genuine response. They have grown so accustomed to only hearing the messages of the eating disorder that they have managed to lose their own voice in the process. They may believe that freedom is impossible; therefore, they don’t want to take the time to dream about a life free from the e.d. only to have that dream crushed by reality.

When asked what the illness will take away from their life, another response that I often hear from people is that they don’t feel like the illness is really taking that much from them. For now, they feel like life is still continuing on without much damage and the e.d. behaviors are just a “normal” part of their routine.

If you fall in either one of those categories or somewhere in between, I want to encourage you to really take the time to be honest with yourself. Look at your life. Maybe right now you’re not seeing too many negative effects of the illness and you are convinced that the physical side effects won’t apply to you, but I promise you that the continuous wear and tear on your body will absolutely catch up with you. Maybe you don’t think it’s affecting your relationships right now, but it most certainly will in time (and it probably is already hurting your relationships more than you realize). Maybe you are just afraid of hoping for more and thinking about a life without the e.d., but I guarantee you that freedom from this illness can be yours. So wherever you are in this journey, stop and think about the ways it is affecting your current life. Stop and think about what you want your future to look like. Don’t be afraid to dream big.

Do you want a healthy marriage? Kids? A stable career? Healthy friendships? The physical ability to maintain an active lifestyle? A life free from hospitalization, tubes, dialysis, teeth that crumble before you turn 30, a heart attack in your 20s, osteoporosis, and premature death? What are your dreams? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for your kids and grandkids?

It might not sound that profound to some of you, but taking the time to think about my answers to these questions really did make a difference in my recovery. Although the eating disorder tried to convince me that I could have both worlds, I came to the realization that I could not.

If I stayed in my e.d., I would not be able to have the incredible marriage that I have today. Why? I would not be able to fully accept my husband’s love for me because I would constantly be refuting his words of affirmation by telling myself what a horrible person I am. This would create a barrier between us that no amount of effort on his part could overcome. I would not be able to communicate with him in a healthy way because I would suppress all of my emotions. In turn, this would keep him from being able to get genuinely close to me and would prevent us from resolving conflict, which would further drive a wedge between us. I would not be able to fully devote myself to him because I would be spending so much time in e.d. behaviors. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy cooking a romantic meal with him because I would be trapped in a cage of fear. I wouldn’t be able to sit with him at the end of a long day and hear about what’s going on his life while we share a meal together because I’d be too consumed with thoughts about the plate in front of me. I wouldn’t be able to continue going on adventures with him because I would be too sick to be active. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy working out with him because I would be consumed with thoughts about calories and weight…the list goes on and on…

How about kids? I have always longed to be a mother, ever since I was a kid myself. If I stayed in my e.d., would I be able to be a healthy mom to my future kids? Not completely. For one, the chances of me being able to even have biological kids of my own would decrease significantly. But if by some miracle I did become pregnant or was able to adopt, I would not be able to be fully present for my kids. Even if I constantly spoke words of affirmation to them, they would see the way I treated myself (and we all know actions speak louder than words). They would pick up on my insecurities, my self-hatred, my shame about my body, my eating habits, my unhealthy weight, etc…and they would begin holding themselves to those same standards. They would sense my anxiety at meal times and begin feeling anxious themselves. They would learn to suppress their emotions and ignore the beautiful voices God gave them, just as they’d see me do every day. I would not be able to teach them to hold their head high with confidence because I would be unable to do that myself. Sure, I could try to put on an act. But kids are much more intuitive than people often realize. They pick up on the subtle cues that parents think they’re hiding. As hard as I might try to act like I’m fine, they would see through that charade and would absolutely be affected.

Would I be able to have a healthy social life? No. When friends were getting together, the eating disorder would tell me to isolate. When people wanted to get to know the real me, I’d put up a wall and keep them from getting too close. I would be caught in a trap of constant comparison, programmed to make a mental list of all the ways I don’t measure up to those around me…again the list goes on…

Like it or not, every area of my life would be negatively affected if I remained in the eating disorder. Rather than boring you all with that never-ending list, I will leave you to think about your own life. Let yourself think about what you really want in life, write down those goals and let that motivate you to keep on fighting through the hard times.

Much love to you all!

Kimberly

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Questions

Hey Everyone,

I went ahead and created an e-mail for the blog so that people could send in questions without worrying that the rest of the world can see who asked the question. If you want to ask me any questions about my recovery, you can send them to rejoicenhimalwyz@gmail.com and I will try to make relevant blog posts regarding your questions. While I will not be able to respond to each individual email, I will read through your questions as time permits and and try to add helpful posts and resources to the blog for you.

Praying for all of you,

Kimberly

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Let Down Your Mask of Perfection: Just Be You

“You can’t heal if you ain’t real” – my wise friend Susan Seward

Before I opened up about my eating disorder and began seeking help, I was known by many as a “good Christian girl” who always had a smile on her face. My nickname was Sunshine and I did my best to appear happy all the time. I was super involved in my church, volunteered as a youth leader, and strived for perfection in every area of my life. As far as other people were concerned, I had my act together. In reality, I had just become a master at hiding my true emotions and covering up my struggles.

In the process of trying to appear fine to the rest of the world, I managed to convince myself that I was fine as well. Like many who suffer from an eating disorder, I believed that I was not sick enough to be in danger or to need help. I really believed that I could handle it on my own. I believed that as a Christian I should not have this problem and that I would let down the people around me if I ever sought help or admitted my struggle. I thought I had to live a life of perfection and that my world would end if I ever opened my mouth about what was taking place inside me.

As a result, I suppressed all the emotions that I viewed as negative and refused to even acknowledge their existence. I became addicted to numbing out from the pain in my life. I internalized everything and drew back into a self-destructive prison. I was certain that all stress, fear, pain, anger, sadness, and disappointment somehow tied into me not being good enough and I relentlessly took it out on my body. I hated the girl in the mirror and took out my rage on what I saw starring back at me. I became lost in the deadly cycle of the eating disorder and the things I had tried so desperately to control instead began controlling me. The truth was that I was sick, I was struggling, and I desperately needed help. But I was terrified that I would begin to lose my worth and value in the eyes of those around me if I was not the perfect girl that they thought they’d known for so long.

So what started the change? Someone was brave enough to ask me if everything really was OK. She didn’t know how I would respond, but she asked anyway. When I tried to give her the “everything is great” automated response, she straight up asked me if I was struggling with an eating disorder. At the time, I was in too much denial to really be able to give her the whole story. I think I told her something along the lines of, “Well, sort of…but I have it in under control…it’s not a full blown eating disorder…I can fix it on my own…this would devastate my family if they ever found out…I’ll take care of it on my own…no one else knows and I plan on keeping it that way…” Even though I still felt like I had to put on this perfect face and avoid being viewed as the weak screw-up, even though I was still desperately trying to hold everything together, someone had seen through my mask and opened up the door for me to be completely real. She provided me the chance to acknowledge my struggle without having her fall apart or freak out at my response. She remained calm, listened, and opened up about her own life to let me know I wasn’t alone—that everyone has their struggles.

A couple days later, I confronted my parents and asked for help. Within a month, I was on a plane headed to Arizona for inpatient treatment. Through the course of treatment, I eventually came to realize that by believing I had to be this perfect person I was actually destroying myself.  However, one of the hardest lessons I had to learn at Remuda was that I needed to let people get to know the real me when I got home. I had learned to let down my walls in the safety of a treatment center, but the thought of doing that back home was terrifying.  What if people didn’t like the real me? What if they ran the other way when they found out I was struggling? What if…what if… what if…?

Almost 6 years have passed since I went to Remuda. Looking back at how much my life has changed, I am so thankful that I took the risk to be real and stopped living behind a false mask of perfection. Sure there were people who changed their opinions of me once the truth came out about my illness. Sure there were people who didn’t know how to respond, so they chose to stop responding all together and instead pretended like I wasn’t in the room. But there were so many more people who showed me firsthand what the unconditional love of God really means. They rallied in my corner, celebrated with me on the good days, and supported me through the horrible ones. I was real with them, and they were real with me in return.

The reality is that none of us will ever be perfect. We are all flawed, we are all human, and we all have struggles. In order for me to really heal, I needed to learn to take off my mask, let out the real me, and realize that even in my imperfectness I am still valued and loved. The same is true for you. Even in your imperfections you are still loved and valued.

Maybe you’re reading this and don’t have an eating disorder. Maybe there is something else in your life that you are struggling to overcome. Whatever it is, you are not alone. Everyone has struggles, whether they admit it or not. But what’s even more important is that God loves you right where you are, even if that’s in the middle of a crazy broken mess. He’s walking through that mess right beside you, loving you just the way you are. You don’t have to earn his love. It’s a gift. You can be real because His grace is sufficient for your weaknesses.  

If you are slowly killing yourself by expecting to reach some unattainable goal of perfection, let it go. Take off whatever mask you’re hiding behind and let people see the real you. It’s OK that you’re not perfect (neither are the people you’re trying to impress). Far too many Christians end up struggling with things silently because they don’t want to be looked at as hypocrites or disappointments. But secrets only make things worse and trying to hide our imperfections can end up hiding God’s grace at work in our lives. Instead, when we are willing to be real with people they have the opportunity to see God’s redeeming power firsthand. Furthermore, it takes a load off their shoulders because they know they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Towards the end of my stay at Remuda, I wrote the following words in my journal, “My mask will lead to my death. But the truth will set me free….” What masks are you hiding behind in your life? What are you terrified to let people see? Whatever it is, no matter how ugly or disdainful, God is calling you Beloved. He is standing right there with you in the muck telling you that you are loved, you are beautiful, you are His. You don’t have to hide or put on an act anymore.

Driven to my knees

Desperately broken

Perfection has failed me

But Redemption has spoken

Hallelujah

– Part of a poem I wrote during recovery

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Lovely – Sarah Haze

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February 9, 2013 · 7:39 am

Eating Disorder Awareness

In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week that is right around the corner, I thought I would share this piece that I wrote a few years ago.

I never thought I would become one of those girls. I had seen their stories on TV, their faces in the magazines, their bodies in the tabloids. But never could I imagine that I was one of them. Denial is quite the illusionist. Its deception covered my eyes with a dark veil, blinding me from reality. Years of distortion—how could I not see it? How could I not realize that my thoughts were under an eating disorder’s control? Because this distortion has become the common thought process among our society. We have all been fed lies about what being healthy looks like. We have been told that being in shape means wearing our bodies down to nearly nothing, to a near nonexistence. This distorted message is placing our teenagers on death’s doorstep. They are heart attacks waiting to explode. The time bomb is ticking and millions of lives are at stake. The lives that have been stolen from us can never be won back. We cannot pull these beautiful people out of the grave and tell them, “It was all a lie—you never had to be that thin!” No. That chance is forever lost. But there are generations of lives waiting to hear that same message before they suffer the same devastating fate. Today you have a choice. You can sit idle, remain quiet, and allow millions more to die; or you can stand with me in this cause, speak truth from your mouth, and fight to share the message of true beauty and health with the world. Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness in existence. They rip apart families, destroy homes, and fill our graves with precious souls as young as 6 years old. Today is all you have. Will you choose to make a difference?

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Johnny Diaz – More Beautiful You

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February 7, 2013 · 10:23 am

Fighting the “Just This Once” Belief

For those of you who are exhausted from fighting against the eating disorder and are facing the temptation to think that one little slip won’t be a big deal, I want to share a journal entry with you that I wrote a few years ago when I was in your shoes:

When I tell myself, “It will be just this once, just this meal…I’ll get back on track at the next meal…” it never fails to create a snowball effect. Yet, I continue believing that it really will be just a one-time thing. Does this behavior make sense? Not to a rational, healthy mind. But when the eating disorder is telling me how to think, rationality has no place. Distortion is the only window in view. The lens through which I stare is warped and blurred. The filter through which I think is polluted. Confusion, fear, and deceptive illusions (all mastered by the eating disorder) spin violently round in my head. Clarity and rationality disappear behind the fog and I am left fighting in the dark. Light seems to be hidden. Truth becomes a mystery. And the only voice I hear is that of the eating disorder.

Today the eating disorder is tugging in all directions, desperately trying to pull me to lower ground. I know exactly what he has to offer. I have tasted it firsthand and have breathed in its smell. I want nothing to do with his offer, so I tell myself. However, I am watching myself slide once more into his grip of death. It’s a slow slide. I am not leaping full speed or spiraling violently. Instead, I am inching my way back into his hand. My heart is yelling furiously from within, begging my mind to fight the tug. My spirit cries, “I have been down this road before and all it holds is sorrow, pain, and death. There is no life for those who remain in this master’s hand. He is an illusionist, a charmer, and a thief.”

Despite what the eating disorder demands, I do have a choice. Freewill belongs to me and the decision to fight is still mine. It is not too late to turn around and run towards life. My heart still beats. My body is still physically alive. I have not died; therefore, it is not too late to claim my victory. The eating disorder has not won the ultimate battle. The choice remains mine and I have chosen to fight for freedom. It will be undoubtedly difficult, but undeniably worth it. Once more, I will rise.

When you are exhausted, it is easy to lose the motivation to fight. In turn, it can be really tempting to let down your guard and convince yourself that one little slip won’t be a problem. But I can tell you from my experience that those “little slips” can add up really quickly. You get so used to telling yourself that it’s just a minor slip and, before you know it, weeks have passed by and you’re still letting those slips slide. Only now it’s not just a slip. Instead, you’re back in the routine of e.d. behaviors and don’t even realize it.

If this is where you are today, I want to encourage you to be honest with yourself and with your treatment team. Even though you are weary, keep putting one foot in front of the next and press on towards freedom. No matter how many slips you have had today, yesterday, last week, etc…, make the decision in this moment to do the next right thing. As the end of my journal entry described, you are still alive; therefore, it is not too late to fight. You can still win this battle. Take the time to check in with yourself & honestly look at where you are in your recovery. Be real with yourself. Be real with your team. Address the underlying issues that have been triggering you, make whatever changes are necessary for you to get back on track, and keep on fighting the temptation to give up.

I am praying for all of you. Never.Give.Up!

Much love,

Kimberly

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Why join a support group?

Eating disorders thrive off isolation. The illness convinces people that they are alone in their struggle, no one understands what they are going through, they are unworthy of love and support from others, and they can “fix it” on their own. However, these are all lies that the eating disorder uses to keep people in its grip and prevent them from breaking free. Support groups, on the other hand, offer a safe space for these people to build relationships with others who understand the burden they carry. Support groups allow those working through recovery to unite together in their fight against the illness. This battle does not have to be fought alone.

Looking back at my recovery, I can’t imagine trying to walk through it without the incredible women who were fighting alongside me in my support group. Thanks to Elisabeth Peterson who facilitated the group, we were able to come together in a recovery focused space and encourage one another to keep on fighting, even when it felt impossible. We celebrated one another’s triumphs and rallied around each other on the hard days. Together, we believed that we could overcome the challenges of the illness and embrace lives filled with freedom, health and joy. Together, we pressed onward and refused to quit. When our struggles felt stronger than our hope, Elisabeth spoke truth into our lives and assured us that fully recovered was possible. Today, we are all living out the lives we had only dreamed of having a few years ago. We have walked through the depths of recovery and we have made it out to the other side. Though the eating disorder is no longer part of our lives, the friendships we formed continue to strengthen. We continue doing life together, celebrating with one another in the good times and supporting each other through the difficult ones. These women have become family to me. I am so thankful for each of them, so proud of the lives that they lead, and so honored to have them in my life.

For those of you who are considering joining a support group but are afraid of taking that step, I know it can be scary to think about opening up to others. But if you are able to find a group led by a professional who believes in full recovery and who makes sure that group conversations remain healthy, it can make a huge difference in your recovery. Knowing you aren’t alone and being around people who understand what you’re going through is a very powerful tool, especially when those people are dedicated to recovery. If you’re not sure where to find solid support groups, check out my Resources section for some suggestions. You do not have to fight this battle alone. Reach out for support… I promise it is worthwhile.

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Northfield Ministries: Cost Effective Treatment

As many of you know, the cost of inpatient treatment can be outrageously expensive and insurance rarely covers the expenses. Consequently, people are denied treatment every day because they cannot afford the care they so desperately need. If you or someone you know is in need of residential treatment but is unable to afford the expenses, consider looking into the Northfield Cumberland Home in Virginia. A dear friend and mentor of mine, Gwen Seiler, has devoted the last several years of her life to creating a Christ-centered program that offers a safe-haven for women to receive treatment at a significantly reduced cost. According to Northfield’s website, “45 days at the Northfield Cumberland Home is less expensive than the average 3 – 7 day hospitalization.” Northfield offers both residential and outpatient services, as well as weekend retreats. Visit http://www.northfieldministries.org/ today to discover if this program is right for you or your loved one.

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What do I mean when I say 100% recovered?

What do I mean when I say 100% recovered?

When I would hear people say they had recovered, I wanted to know what that actually meant to them. You see, there were people who would say they’d recovered; but when I looked at their lives I saw red flags indicating that perhaps the eating disorder was still in their life more than they realized (or were willing to admit). Either way, this scared me. I wanted to believe that there was more freedom waiting for me at the end of this battle than what I was seeing in some of their lives. So I made goals for the life that I wanted free from an eating disorder, and then I fought with everything I had to believe those goals could be my reality. When I doubted whether that degree of freedom could actually be mine, I had an incredible support system made up of my treatment team, friends, and family who held onto that hope with me. Together, we dared to believe that total freedom was possible. Today, I know that was not just wishful thinking, but rather it was a reality that in time would be mine.

So what were some of those goals and what do they look like today?

To me, being recovered is so much more than just maintaining a stable, healthy weight. It means I am completely free. Free from the constant battle that used to wage in my head.  Free from the rules, fears, guilt, and self-hatred of the eating disorder. Free from its unrealistic and deadly expectations. Free from the need to be thin.

I love having a body that is strong, healthy and able to enjoy the fullness of life. I enjoy food and all of its varying flavors. I understand that there are no such things as “bad foods” or “good foods.” It’s all about moderation. If I want pizza, steak, ice cream or anything else that I used to be terrified of eating, I don’t just eat it…I eat it with enjoyment and free of any guilt. I no longer feel the need to compensate for what I eat by exercising, purging, or anything else. Feeling hungry or full no longer causes anxiety.  I am able to listen to the cues my body sends and eat intuitively. Calorie counting has no place in my life. When I exercise it is because I want to be active, strengthen my muscles, and keep up with my adventurous husband (not because of the reasons the eating disorder used to demand). I realize that the expectation of thinness our society clings to is a very distorted and unhealthy goal. I trust the weight range my treatment team developed for me and I have no desire to lose weight. My body is no longer my enemy. Instead, I have learned to nurture and honor what God has given me… Honestly, I could go on with this list for days because so many things have changed in my life as a result of my recovery. But to sum it up, I can honestly say that I would never be able to have the incredible life I have now if I was still in the eating disorder (more on that to come in later posts… you can also check out my Inner Beauty post for some discussion on how my body image has changed through recovery).

Does being recovered mean a thought never crosses my mind? No. But they are few and far between. If an unhealthy thought does cross my mind, I immediately combat it with a healthy one and take it as a signal that I need to check in with myself and ramp up my self-care. I take the time to figure out what served as the trigger, deal with the underlying issue, and move forward (rather than spiraling down into e.d. behaviors). Resorting to the e.d. behaviors is no longer an option for me. If I am worried that the thought could have the potential to turn into a behavior, I reach out and ask someone I trust to hold me accountable until I no longer feel at risk. I understand that I am recovered, not invincible. Therefore, I try to be cautious and do whatever is necessary to prevent myself from sliding backwards. But again, these moments are very few and far between, and the thought or urge does not dictate the outcome. By intercepting the thought early on and taking the steps to deal with it in a healthy way, I am able to resist the behavior and continue embracing a healthy, free life.

Living free from the eating disorder does not feel like a battle anymore. It feels natural. I am free from that bondage and it is the most wonderful blessing to be on other side.

 

*Side note: If you have any questions about what else a full recovery means to me (or anything else), please feel free to ask!  The purpose of this blog is to encourage those of you who are facing this struggle, so please never hesitate to ask me questions. I will share anything from my experience that might be helpful for you, just let me know.

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