Category Archives: Reflections on Recovery

Dealing with Shame & Embarrassment Post-Recovery

Background

One of the things that prevented me from seeking help for so long was my fear of how people would respond when they found out I had an eating disorder. This fear of what other people would think held me back and kept me locked inside a world of shame, embarrassment, and constant struggling.

In order to get the help I needed and to fully break free from the bondage of the eating disorder, I had to address this fear dead on. I had to let go of my fear of what other people would think and I had to let go of my feelings of embarrassment and shame. Although it might sound easy, that process was extremely difficult for me and took years. But eventually I got there and reached the healthy place I’m at today.

However, I would be lying if I said there weren’t moments when those feelings of shame, embarrassment and fear didn’t come flooding back. The truth is, after years of being recovered, I still have moments where I feel weighted down by shame and embarrassment about my past. Those moments are few and far between. But they still have a way of popping up occasionally and catching me off guard. Yesterday was one of those moments.

After finding out that I’m pregnant, my husband and I started looking into life insurance plans so that we would be able to provide for our child in the event of a tragedy. With my medical history, I figured it was probably a long shot that the insurance company would accept my application. Sure enough, we found out yesterday that my application had been denied. The reason they stated for turning me down was my past struggle with depression and anorexia. Even though I had somewhat expected this outcome, I was surprised at the emotions I felt when I received the news. I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

You see, in many ways, I feel so far removed from that part of my life. Apart from reflecting on my past struggles to help mentor and encourage other people, I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about that chapter of my life. So when situations come up where I am still looked at differently because of my past, it catches me a bit off guard and it can be difficult to not feel embarrassed and ashamed.

Sometimes these emotions sweep over me after dealing with insurance complications. Sometimes they weigh down on me when I try to build new relationships and people learn about my story. Sometimes these emotions result from listening to people in my life make insensitive comments about my past or about other people who struggle with addictions or mental health. Sometimes I’m faced with these emotions when I publish a blog post to encourage others (because I have to accept that people who never knew my story might still find out and think less of me). The list goes on.

It’s in moments like these when, despite having made it through to other side of my battles, I still have a tendency to feel like a disappointment, like someone who let everyone down, like a girl who screwed up and who will never be totally looked at the same as everyone else. Questions start racing through my mind and that old fear about what other people think or that old sense of shame begins to shake my confidence.

But here’s the deal. Here’s the raw and honest truth that I’ve had to remind myself today:

I am not perfect. I am loved anyways. I have stumbled many times. I am loved anyways. I hated myself. I am loved anyways. I starved myself for years. I am loved anyways. I forced my body to throw up after countless meals. I am loved anyways. I exercised relentlessly in a desperate attempt to lose weight. I am loved anyways. I used self-harm to relieve emotional pain. I am loved anyways. I lied to cover up my struggles. I am loved anyways. My recovery cost my family thousands of dollars. I am loved anyways. My insurance complications remain a financial burden for my family because of my medical history. I am loved anyways. I will never be perfect. I am loved anyways.

Yes, I am loved by my family & friends and I cannot imagine my life without them. But people come and go, and I am not guaranteed to have any of them tomorrow. What I am guaranteed to have, however, is a God who loves me unconditionally, who sees my imperfections but still calls me beloved, and who welcomes me into his arms no matter how far I have fallen.

What I Don’t Have to Do

Because God chose to love me in the midst of my brokenness, I don’t have to live a life weighted down by shame and embarrassment. Because he chose to walk through the muck with me, I don’t have to worry if others choose to flee. Because he chose to call me daughter, I don’t have to be afraid of being abandoned. Because he chose to forgive me, my shame has been washed away and I no longer have to carry its weight on my shoulders.

What I Will Do

Because I am loved by my Heavenly Father no matter where I’ve been and no matter what I’ve done, I will choose to hold my head high today. Because he delivered me from death’s doorstep, I will continue telling my story. Because he sent help my way when I needed it most, I will continue sharing my experience with others and walking alongside them on their road to recovery.

If insurance companies deny me coverage or expect me to pay unachievable premiums, I will choose to use that as inspiration for spreading mental health awareness, rather than choosing to let shame and embarrassment send me cowering into a hole.

If people think less of me because they hear my story, I have to be willing to let that go. I won’t hold grudges against these people but will offer them grace and space as they struggle to accept people for who they are — broken and imperfect but loveable just the same.

My hope in sharing this part of my journey with you is this:

If you are struggling with feelings of shame and embarrassment about your own story (whatever that story might be), I hope you will be reminded that you are loved exactly as you are—beautifully imperfect. When you feel ashamed or embarrassed about your story, I hope you will let go of that weight on your shoulders and rest in the love God has for you. Consider writing out a list similar to the one I wrote above (I have ___. I am loved anyways). Fill in the blanks with pieces of your own story and remember… you are loved anyways.

Perhaps you are reading this post but, instead of beating yourself up about your own imperfections, you have a tendency to brush people off or look at them differently when you find out they have struggles. If this is true for you, I hope you will realize that your words and actions have a profound impact on their attempts at breaking free. Also, remember that not one of us is perfect, not even you. God chose to love each of us, including you, despite our brokenness and imperfections. So who are you to judge someone else for their struggles and flaws? Lastly, if the topic of eating disorders or other struggles and addictions makes you uneasy, I would encourage you to research the subject and gain knowledge about what those people go through, rather than being quick to judge and run away.

Final Thoughts

I ran across this quote the other day that was posted on a friend’s Facebook status. I don’t know for sure who the quote is by, but I love the message:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (according to Google)

You are beautiful. Never.Give.Up.

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Thankful I Never Gave Up

I apologize for my absence from the blog these last several weeks. For those of you who read my A Season of Bittersweet Days post a couple months ago, you know that a lot has been happening this summer. Throughout the next few blog posts, I hope to update you a bit and to encourage some of you to never give up, no matter what life brings your way. So stay tuned. More posts are on the way!

For now, here is one reason why I am thankful I never gave up. It’s also a big part of what consumed all my time these last several months…

I finally graduated from UNC Chapel Hill! As of a couple weeks ago, I completed summer school and am officially a graduated Tar Heel.

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I have told you before that during my darkest days in the eating disorder, one of the ways I found the motivation to keep fighting for recovery was by thinking about my life goals, thinking about all of the things the eating disorder would strip away from me if I did not break free, and thinking about the legacy I wanted to one day leave behind. One of these goals that motivated me to keep pressing forward was graduating from college.

You see, six years ago I took time off from school to focus on recovery and getting well. When I stepped back from school, some doubted whether I would ever graduate, including myself. My perfectionistic mindset hated the idea of getting off the time table that society had set out for me. I wanted so desperately to be “normal” and to not stand out as the girl who would graduate later than everyone else. In my eyes, stepping back would mean I was a failure. I inaccurately assumed that needing time to focus on recovery and self-care would mean I was weak. I shuddered at the thought.

Thankfully, however, my family and treatment team helped me realize that pushing forward with school would do me very little good if I was killing myself along the way. If at the end of four years I had received a degree but was too sick to use it, what good would that have done? So with their love and support, I stepped back and placed my focus 100% on regaining my life back from the eating disorder. I fixed my eyes on God’s promises and dove into my treatment plan head first. Everything else came second.

Looking back, I am so thankful I took that time away. Not only did I find a complete recovery, but I also rediscovered my passions in life, found out what I actually wanted to pursue in college, and learned to start letting go of the perfectionistic mindset that had been tearing me down for so long. Once I had reached a healthy place, I had the strength to be able to transfer to UNC, take 16-18 credit hour semesters, work on the side and invest in my marriage. I never would have been able to keep up with that sort of life if I had still been sick. That chaos would have been a recipe for total disaster and my body would have given out on me. But because I was healthy and had gained the tools to cope with a stressful life, I was able to take on the challenge and love every minute.

So why am I sharing this with you?

If I had given up, if I had stayed in the eating disorder, I never would have been able to reach this milestone. If you are holding onto your eating disorder and are terrified of letting it go, I hope my story can encourage you to remember that life is so much better on the other side. Whether it steals your relationships, your career, your dreams or your entire life, the eating disorder will only lead to destruction. It will not empower you. Instead, it will destroy you. So, as scary as it can be, take a deep breath and start letting go.

Also, don’t be afraid to place recovery first. It can be really easy to make excuses and convince ourselves and others that we don’t have time to focus on recovery. It is a choice. You have to choose to make the time. If you wait for life to just open up a gap of time for you to conveniently focus on recovery, you will wait forever. Your life is too valuable for you take such a passive approach at recovery. Take hold of your life and actively pursue recovery.  Set up a solid treatment team and be willing to do whatever is necessary to embrace a full recovery. School can wait. Work can wait. Your health cannot.

Ask Yourself: Will continuing to place your health on the back burner really make you the best person you can be? Will you really be able to reach your full potential in life if you are dying from an eating disorder? Will you really be fully present in your relationships if you are constantly thinking about how to please the eating disorder? Will you really be able to have authentic relationships if you are constantly contemplating how to keep others at a distance so they don’t suspect you are sick? Despite the lies that the eating disorder might try to tell you, the answer to all these questions is “No.” (To see how I dealt with these questions, visit my Motivation post)

Maybe it’s not an eating disorder. Maybe you have something else in your life that has become a stronghold, something else that has become an addiction, something else that is stealing your life away. Make the choice. Be present. Show up for yourself and for those who love you. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So make the most of today and embrace a life of freedom from bondage while you still have the chance.

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As I wave goodbye to my time at UNC and thank God for my education at this school, I thought I’d share my old admissions essay with those of you who are interested. Not only did it help me receive an acceptance letter from UNC, it also inspired the title of this blog. You can read the essay by visiting my old post, Reason Behind the Title: Never.Give.Up.

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A Season of Bittersweet Days

There is a time and a season for everything—a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…(Ecclesiastes 3)

But what happens when all of those things roll into one season, into one month, week, day or hour? You can’t separate them out by the hour or the day, because they are each piled on top of one another so closely. One minute you’re celebrating, the next you’re grieving. One minute you’re laughing, the next you’re struggling to breathe. How do you respond when there is so much happiness intertwined with so much heartache? So much joy engulfed by sorrow?

If you’ve ever experienced a season like this, you know it can be hard to put into words. Maybe you would describe it as a rollercoaster or a whirlwind. But even that doesn’t seem to encompass the weight of it all.

This is where I am today. It’s where I’ve been for the last couple weeks. Life is rushing by and each day seems to be a mixture of what I described above.

Old Approach: Numbing Out

In the past, this kind of situation used to send me spiraling down into self-destructive attempts to cope. When life felt unstable and unpredictable, it was like the perfect storm. I suppressed my emotions and ran myself ragged, afraid that I would suffocate if I stopped to feel the negative. I believed that if I did not acknowledge what I saw as the “negative,” then I could just focus on the positive and be fine. I thought being optimistic meant turning a blind eye to the difficult things in my life.

I could not have been more wrong.

By suppressing every negative emotion, refusing to deal with the difficult, and pretending to be fine, I became lost in a world of numbing out. The eating disorder took over full throttle and I lost the ability to feel much of anything at all.

New Approach: Find the Balance

Today I have chosen to take a different approach. If there’s one thing recovery has taught me, it’s that I can’t afford to numb out anymore.

To me, optimism no longer means ignoring the bad and only acknowledging the good. Instead, it means creating space to cope with the uncomfortable, while also taking time to celebrate the good in life. It means not being afraid to sit in the silence and feel the weight of reality, because I can rest in the confidence that no burden is too big for my God. It means being willing to face the difficult things in life, while believing that God will bring me through to the other side.

Disclaimer: Choosing to take the time to deal with trials does not mean I spend all my time sulking in the bad. It does not mean ignoring the good or slumping down into a self-pity party. I believe it is crucial to still look for the good, no matter how dark things seem.

Final Thoughts

So while I give myself time to feel the weight of life right now, I will also recognize each good moment as a gift and embrace each one fully. I will welcome those moments with a grateful heart and let them encourage me to tackle what at times feels impossible. I will allow the harder moments to teach me what really matters in life and to help me let go of my need for perfection. I will stop obsessing over perfect grades in school or having enough money, and will instead make time to connect with loved ones. When the weight of this season’s trials becomes overwhelming, I will take time to drop to my knees in prayer, let the tears flow and work through the pain. I will continue searching for God’s blessings in the midst of the storms and I will soak in the beauty of these bittersweet days.

Challenge for You

My challenge for you is this: Find a balance. Give yourself space to wrestle through the more difficult emotions, but also search for the good in life and soak up those little moments of hope. Finally, if you are relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms and are addicted to numbing out, seek help now before those strongholds take over anymore of your life.

 

 

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Love & prayers to you all,

Kimberly Carroll

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You ARE valuable. Don’t Settle.

It breaks my heart to see so many women settle for a life that is far below anything they deserve. I see it in the lives of my friends, classmates, and countless others. I wish so badly that they could see the incredible value, worth, and beauty that they hold within them. I long for them to discover just how courageous they truly are and to see them refuse to settle for anything or anyone. Whether it’s settling for an abusive relationship because you don’t believe anyone else will love you, settling for complacency with an addiction because recovery is too hard, or settling for a mediocre life because the fear of failing has held you captive…whatever it is, you deserve so much more than a life of settling.

Are you settling for a horrible relationship? Ladies, there ARE men who will treat you with respect. There ARE men who will love you unconditionally. There ARE men who are trustworthy, genuine, kind, and selfless and who care much more about you as a person than they do about anything physical. They do exist. I promise! Please, value yourself enough to not settle. Wait for the man who can respect you, honor you, and love you selflessly. Wait for the man you can trust wholeheartedly. Wait for the man who appreciates your beauty regardless of how you dress, what you weigh, or what you look like. Wait for the man who can teach your future sons how to respect women. Wait for the man who encourages you, uplifts you, prays for you, and is proud of you. You do not have to settle.

Are you settling for a life of addiction, a life consumed by an eating disorder? There is freedom and it can be yours. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. But recovery is so much more fulfilling. Help is out there. You do not have to settle.

Are you someone who has been so afraid of failing that you have become unwilling to put yourself out there? Have you dreamed of going back to school but been too afraid to apply? Have you wanted to work a particular job but been too afraid to send in a resume? Have you wanted to build a friendship with someone but been too afraid to let them get to know the real you? Have you wanted to try a new hobby but been too afraid to step out of your comfort zone? Have you wanted to put your talents to use but instead let the fear of not being the best keep you from doing so? You do not have to settle.

God has created you with intricate beauty, talent, and wisdom. He has called you his beloved daughter. When He looks at you, He sees his magnificent masterpiece. He sees his precious child that He created to be in relationship with Him and He cherishes you. He did not create you so that you could disappear into an abusive relationship. He didn’t create you so that you could sacrifice your life to an addiction. He didn’t create you so that you could live in a prison of fear. He created you with a beautiful purpose unique to you. No one else can live out what he has called you to do, that’s why he created YOU. Your unique talents, your unique personality, and your unique voice cannot be replaced by anyone else. Your life has meaning and He can do so much more with your life than you ever dreamed. But will you let Him?

Stop comparing yourself to others and saying “Well, they can have that great ____ (fill in the blank: relationship, job, etc.) because they are better than me…I could never have that because I’m not good enough…I’ve made too many mistakes…I got myself in this mess and now I am stuck here.” Listen, none of us are perfect and you’ve heard me say that a million times. You do not deserve to be abused. You do not deserve to be lost in an addiction. No matter where you have been, no matter what you have done, you do not have to settle today. This is the only chance you get at this thing called life. You can choose. Would you rather settle and only dream of what could be? Or would you rather grasp hold of the here and now, step outside of your comfort zone and really start living?

I’m not talking about going out and doing anything crazy. I’m talking about holding your head high for a change and using that beautiful voice God gave you to speak your truth. I’m talking about removing yourself from abusive situations, setting healthy boundaries and standing your ground. I’m talking about valuing the life that God breathed into you and letting Him use your unique life to make an impact on this world.

Yesterday does not have to dictate what you do today. What will you decide?

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A Reason to Sing

Recently, I learned some devastating news about a dear friend while Bethany Dillon’s song Hallelujah was playing in the background. As I listened to the lyrics, I found myself choking back tears. In the song, Bethany Dillon sings Whatever’s in front of me help me to sing to hallelujah. I don’t know about you, but when trials come along my first thought is not always to sing hallelujah. I could pretend to be a perfect Christian and say that when life knocks me in the teeth my immediate response is always to praise God. But let’s be honest, I’m not perfect and that is not always my first reaction. Sometimes my first reaction is to feel angry, scared, disappointed, sad…you name it.

Dictionary.com defines hallelujah as “a shout of joy, praise, or gratitude” and “an exclamation of praise to God.” If you think about it, most people associate this exclamation of praise and thanksgiving with a response to something good. But the idea of maintaining this attitude and posture of praise no matter the circumstance seems to go against our human nature and requires a great deal more of faith, maturity, and optimism on our part.

When you take something away from a toddler that they really want, how often do they look up at you and say, “Thank you so much. You are the shiz-nit!”? Unless you have an angel disguised as a child, the answer is probably never. Instead, they are much more likely to throw a tantrum and shed some tears. They don’t stop and think: My parent loves me more than anything in this world and they have a plan that is bigger and better than anything I can imagine; therefore, I’m going to respond with a heart of gratitude because I know they are all-loving, no matter how much I want this toy right now… (Side note: if your kid does respond this way, then I will gladly babysit any time you like!) The truth is that their little toddler mind only sees what they want in that moment. They have no thought of a wider perspective, a bigger picture, or a greater purpose.

How often are we like that toddler? How many times would we rather throw a pity party, complain and only see the negative in things? Judging by what I often see around me (be it on people’s Facebook statuses or in conversations), I think the answer is that people choose that route way too often. But what would happen if we chose to sing hallelujah instead? What if, like Bethany Dillon’s lyrics, we genuinely asked God to help us sing hallelujah no matter what we were facing?

Disclaimer: I do NOT think this type of response means suppressing our emotions or pretending to be fine. For years, I thought that’s what this meant and that’s a big part of how I ended up with an eating disorder. Instead, I think that we can be real with God about what are feeling and still make the choice to praise him, no matter the circumstance. This is one of the things that I love about Psalms. This book of the Bible is filled with writings by David in which he lays out the raw emotions of his suffering, wrestles with difficult life questions, and still chooses to praise God through it all.

So why would I still choose to praise God in the most difficult moments of life, during those times when it seems the absolute worst has happened, on the days when all I might feel like doing is collapsing into a ball of tears? The answer lies in what he has already done for me, what he has already done for you, and the promise that resides in his love. Christ suffered unbearable pain, went to the depths of the grave, and conquered death so that we could have a glorious ending to our painful stories. He promises that one day every tear will be wiped away and that death and sickness will be no more. In the meantime, he calls us to hold steadfast to his love while he vows to carry us through even the darkest storms.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared… I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.‘ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’…”– Revelation 21: 1-5

For this reason I will choose to sing hallelujah.

(Song & lyrics can be found at https://kims88.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/hallelujah-bethany-dillon/)

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Addicted to Accomplishment

A note for all my fellow perfectionists out there:

It can be so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a busy life and forget the things that matter most. All too often we convince ourselves that we don’t have the time to genuinely connect with people, with God, or with ourselves. We manage to fill every minute with school, work, deadlines, and never-ending checklists.  We run ourselves into the ground trying to achieve a sense of perfection and accomplishment. We fail to set healthy boundaries and believe we can’t say “No” when we’re asked to make commitments. At the end of the day, many of us are often a worn out frazzled mess.

While hard work and diligence are important, I think many of us (myself included) need to be mindful of when enough is enough and when we need to take a step back, breathe, and get back in touch with what matters most in life. Maybe this means closing the project on our laptops to go meet a friend for coffee, accepting a less than perfect grade in order to spend quality time with our loved ones, or setting aside time in our hectic day to fill ourselves back up spiritually. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for working hard, setting goals and having the dedication and diligence to accomplish our dreams. But when our need for accomplishment comes at the sacrifice of relationships, self-care, and God perhaps it’s time we step back and take a little reality check. I don’t know about the rest of you but if there’s anything I’ve learned throughout recovery, it’s that I would much rather tell my perfectionistic side to chill out and use that energy to invest in my marriage, take care of my health, and fully live this life that God has given me.

So, for all of you who are wearing yourselves out by trying to be perfect, give it a rest. Life is too short. Go take care of yourselves, spend some time doing the healthy things that you really enjoy, take a moment to genuinely connect with the people in your life, and soak up the love and grace that God has for you. Those memories will mean so much more in the long run.

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What Messages Are Captivating Your Thoughts?

One of the lessons that I learned during recovery was the importance of filling myself up with positive, hopeful, uplifting messages…especially when the volume of the eating disorder was turned up to the max.  As many of you know all too well, when the disorder (or any other struggle) is desperately trying to control your life it can be extremely difficult to hear anything else. So in order to combat the constant disparaging messages of the illness, I made a conscious effort to continuously fill myself up with messages of hope, affirmation, faith, and the love of Christ.

I realize that, depending on where you are in your recovery, it might be easier to believe the voice of the eating disorder more than encouraging, hopeful words right now. My dietician used to always tell me that I was going to have to learn to rewire my thoughts. Well, this is part of that rewiring process. What you choose to expose yourself to will absolutely make a difference in how you think and what you believe. My hope is that this blog will provide you with a place to fill yourself up with positive healthy messages about your life so that you will have more to think about besides the lies of the eating disorder. But apart from this blog, what else are you exposing yourself to in your daily life? Take the time to think about it…it really can make a difference.

Now that midterms are over, I’ll try to add more to the different categories on here so you have a little extra to encourage your spirit this spring…stay tuned 🙂

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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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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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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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