weak enough to lead?

This year at annual conference, as I was scanning the Cokesbury section, I came across a book titled, “Weak Enough To Lead” by James C. Howell. The title jumped out at me in such a way that I didn’t even need to read the summary on the cover before snatching it off the table and heading up to the register to purchase it. The book jumped out at me because its topic was one which I have wrestled with a lot in life, feeling as though weaknesses somehow deem me incapable of leading, especially, leading in ministry and as a pastor someday. At times, I have found myself plagued by this feeling of defeat, as though I was too weak or ‘not cut out’ for what God has called me to do. I have always been a perfectionist, always set high expectations for myself, and am hard on myself if I ‘fail’ or don’t reach my goals at the very time that I had planned. I don’t like to complain or dwell on bad things, and admitting struggle or weakness is something I am not great at. So, perhaps, after stating all of that, it’s not too hard to imagine this book being one that I just couldn’t pass by. As I have read it more and more, I have found that it addresses every single thing I have listed above, and more.

Many times, I have thought to ask myself, “am I too weak to lead?”

But never once have I thought to ask myself, “am I weak enough to lead?”

That is the very question this book examines:

Am I weak enough to lead?

My recovery is something that I am very open and honest about in my conversations with people and in my writing, which many of you know. I am almost 5 1/2 years in recovery from anorexia, and I’ll actually be on a mission trip in Cuba on the 5 1/2 year mark, but you better believe that I am still going to jump up and down a few times out of joy and celebrate the accomplishment it is to me. Something I am not so open about, however, is the fact that recovery is a journey more so than it is a one time decision, and like any journey, it has bumps, detours, obstacles, highs, lows, and everything in between, and for the sake of being honest and at the risk of being vulnerable, I do still struggle at times with my recovery, and it is for that very reason that, at times, it has made me feel as though I am somehow too weak or too incapable of leading. This isn’t because I see my recovery or the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder as a weakness, rather, it is something about my life that is not perfect, and as a perfectionist, one can see how that could affect my confidence in my leadership abilities. It wasn’t until recently that I came to the realize and truly believe that being a pastor and being in recovery are not mutually exclusive. I thank God for helping me realize that, and I thank him for continuing to assist me in believing that.

My recovery and the ministry I am called to are two of the most important things in my life, and God knows that full well. He knows that I am in recovery – heck, he has been with me every single step that I have taken since day 1 of being diagnosed, to day 1 of beginning recovery, all the way up until now, and he’s still trekking along beside me, behind me, and before me.

God also has called me to be a pastor. He has called me to a life of ministry for him, in service to others. God knows I have weaknesses, and in fact, he knows those weaknesses inside and out, better than even I do. Even so, that doesn’t diminish his confidence in my ability, through him, to pursue his call upon my life to be a leader in the Church.

I don’t personally think for one second that God looks at us and thinks, “she is strong enough for this” or “he is strong enough for this.” God doesn’t call only people who have no weaknesses or no imperfections, because if we’re being honest, those people don’t exist. This book has made me think about the possibility that, rather than calling us based on our strengths or how equipped we are, God looks at us and says,

“She is weak enough – I will give her the strength she needs to lead and I will use her weaknesses for the benefit of my kingdom.”

“He is weak enough – I will give him the strength he needs to lead and I will use his weaknesses for the benefit of My Kingdom.”

Brothers and sisters, it is normal – innate, even – to have weaknesses. There are many differences between you and me and everyone else in this world, but something we all have in common is that we all have weaknesses. We all have brokenness. We all fall short. We all have pain. We all endure hardships. We all sin. We all mess up. We all fail. We are all imperfect. No leader is without any of those things.

I am thankful to have not only a hand full, but two hands full of mentors, pastors, and simply amazing leaders in my life, and one of the many things I respect most about those leaders is their willingness to acknowledge weakness, to be vulnerable, to show emotion, to admit when they don’t know something, to acknowledge their imperfections, to admit their faults, to talk about their fears and their challenges, and let people know that being a leader doesn’t negate the fact that you’re still human. I pray to embody that authenticity as an individual and as a pastor someday. I have more distrust than I do admiration for leaders who try to portray themselves as these perfect individuals who are never weak. Because that’s fake. We all have weaknesses so to portray yourself as though you have none is inauthentic and misleading for those who look up to you and those whom you are leading. Having weaknesses and being a leader are also not mutually exclusive. If anything, they make you a better leader.

I am preaching to myself just as much as I am preaching to you when I write this, but do not be ashamed of the things that you consider to be weaknesses in your life, especially when you have a God who is eager to use those weaknesses! Don’t cover them up, rather, embrace them. I know that is easier said than done, but God can actually use them and perfect his strength in those weaknesses. Our weaknesses do not deem us incapable of leading. We are weak, but God is strong. We have flaws, but God is flawless. We are imperfect, but Jesus was & is perfect. I encourage you to ask the question: Am I weak enough to lead? & What does that mean to and for you?

To close out this post, I wanted to leave you with a quote to contemplate from the book I just have mentioned above (I strongly recommend picking up a copy!!)

…Is it that God uses our strengths? Or is it even truer that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness? (Howell, 2017). 


 

Loving and gracious God,

Thank you for using our weaknesses, perhaps even more than you use our strengths. Thank you for being present in our lives as a stronghold and rock, so that we don’t ever have to rely on our own strength. We pray that when we feel incapable or weak that you would remind us that yes – we are incapable and we are weak but you are strong and you are capable. We pray that you would fill us with spirit and enable us to go out and lead, and serve, in your Son, Jesus’ name. We pray that we would be weak enough to lead. Take our pride, God, and take our desire to be perfect and replace it with humility and peace not only in who you’ve made us to be but in who you are. We pray all of this in your name –

Amen. 

 

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a post for 5 years || recovery

On the 13th of this month, I’ll be 5 years in recovery – a milestone that, in the moments leading up to that day, has me reflecting & so eager to write. I’m almost 5 years in recovery from an eating disorder that had me believing I wouldn’t even get to 1 year. The mere idea of being 5 years in recovery sends my emotions in all different directions, but mostly, it fills me with a kind of joy that I can’t quite articulate. Out of everything in life, I am most proud of this.

Everything that I am able to do today, I am able to do it because of recovery. That is what makes this such an important milestone in my life. That is why I can’t help but celebrate the 13 of every month, but especially, the 13th of February. The things I do today would not be possible without the health and strength that I have gained, both mentally and physically, in recovery, and that is something I know to never take for granted.

Nearing 5 years in recovery means that for 5 years now, I’ve been not only battling but overcoming a mental illness that had one goal, and that goal was basically to take control of my life until there was no life left to control. Its goal was to make me miserable, which, when I was in the very depths of the disorder, it did succeed at. It succeeded at destroying the joy that I am normally filled with. But it didn’t fully succeed. If that had been the case, I wouldn’t be here writing this post today. Praise & glory to God for that.

Every time I write or talk about this part of my life, my goal is to be as raw, honest, and vulnerable as I can be. Those are three things that I try to be each time I post on this blog or on my social media about recovery, because it’s important to me to show people who are still struggling, or people who are just beginning recovery, that recovery is not a perfect thing, by any means, but that it is possible. It’s important to me to let people know that you can recover and reach the goals and dreams that I know you all have. Is it still a little anxiety-provoking to share about something so personal on social media? Of course it is (I’m human!) But if we do not talk about it and normalize talking about it, the stigmas that exist surrounding mental illness will remain; people are less likely to seek help because of those stigmas, and they are more likely to feel alone. I for one do not want anybody who is struggling with an eating disorder, or any mental illness for that matter, to feel alone, because you most definitely are not.

I was diagnosed with my eating disorder back when I was a freshman in high school, and I remember it vividly, because I had had pneumonia prior to being diagnosed. I lost a good amount of weight because I was so sick from the pneumonia, and I didn’t end up gaining back thar weight the way that I should have after recovering from pneumonia. In addition to this, my eating didn’t go back to ‘normal’ after I no longer had the illness, so, those were the first indicators to my parents and doctor that something was not right with me. When I was in the depths of the disorder, I came close to being sent to North Carolina for inpatient treatment, but I ended up doing intensive outpatient treatment. The affects that the disorder had on my physical health, such as my blood pressure and heart rate, and having passed out in school, were all very clear indicators that inpatient or outpatient was needed, and it needed to be intense. I did this outpatient treatment for about 3 years – I had a dietitian who I saw every other week, my pediatrician (at the time) who I saw once a month, a psychologist I saw every week (after going through like, 5 of them before finding the right fit – don’t panic if the first once you see is not a good fit, it takes time). Along with my 3 doctors, I attended group therapy each week that I could. It was definitely an overwhelming amount of appointments for a high school student as I was, but all of it was essential, and I knew that, even on the days I wanted nothing more than to skip them. While I no longer see these doctors, they contributed so much to saving my health, and I am grateful, and will likely never stop expressing my gratitude to them. *Never, ever, ever feel ashamed for seeking professional help – they are amazing & can help save your life.

I was 15 years old when I was diagnosed. I’ll be 21 next weekend, and I am in a great place – a place I most definitely never in a million years pictured myself, but a place I’m so thankful to be in. I have so many people, including myself, to thank for that. I attend what is the most amazing university, have incredible friends, a loving & supportive family, a church I love to pieces (a lot of churches, actually – they all rock). I am so very happy.

I don’t struggle with anorexia anymore, but for the sake of this post being honest & vulnerable, some days, yes – I do have to work a little harder at recovery than other days, and I am learning that that is okay. This is a process; a journey. And no journey in life, whatever it may be, is perfect or smooth sailing all of the time. There will always be bumps and twists and turns, and we just have to keep trekking when we get knocked down or have setbacks.

A very important part of this post to me was to note, for those struggling, that even being years in recovery, it is still something you will find yourself thinking about and having to work at. While I do not suffer from the disorder itself anymore, some days, life happens and I have to actively remind myself of my recovery and be more intentional about staying healthy. Again, that is okay if you have to do that. It doesn’t make you weak or any less worthy of saying that you are in recovery. When you’re in recovery, you get to know yourself really well and you realize quickly what triggers there are out there for you, what you need to do when you find yourself in the face of them, and what outlets help you when you’re struggling. Those are skills & tools you’ll learn & take with you forever. I myself still work on this to this day. For example, stress still can be a really big trigger for me – it is easy for me to resort to not eating when I am stressed as a way to cope, but because stress is everywhere, I’ve had lots of practice using those tools I’ve gained in recovery as coping mechanisms – they are my outlets, and I highly recommend figuring out yours, because they help so, so much. With that, I’ve learned that the bad days, and sometimes, bad weeks, where you find yourself struggling and having to work a little harder at recovery, you are only made stronger by, because those days remind us that even when we struggle, we are still choosing health over the disease.

I like to say, it is one hell of a mental illness to fight. But I’ve found that I am one hell of gal for fighting it, and beating it. 😉

Recovery is a very beautiful & very difficult thing. But gosh am I thankful to be almost 5 years. I will most definitely be celebrating with a milkshake + my favorite meals (lol).

It’s cool – I actually love food. I love food, I love my body, & I altogether love my energetic little self. There was a point (many different points) in my life where I never thought I would ever be able to say those things and actually mean them. So that’s huge to be in that place I never thought I could be (anything’s possible, right?) If you know me, you know that I am obsessed with peanut butter m&ms and that you will never find me without a family size bag of them in my pantry. I also love chicken nuggets and eat them arguably more often than a 5 year old does. I love to see all of the things that my body is capable of doing. Every run & every hike – those hills I run and those mountains I climb. The sermons I write and preach. The blog posts I write, the exams I take, the homework I do, the food I eat, the drinks I drink, the friends I am able to go out & have fun with. All of those things sort of disappeared as I battled with anorexia.

But today, all of those things above are true in my life because of recovery. I am so proud & thankful, because I love doing all of those things. (Taking exams & doing homework, aside, of course).

To me, recovery is a lot of things. Recovery will be a lot of different things to different people. But one thing that is the same for every one is that recovery is worth it & YOU are worth recovery.

By writing about this journey of mine, my hope is that it lets people, even if it’s just one person, know that they are not alone; that they are not the only ones going through this, though they will most definitely feel as though they are at times. I want you, reading this today, to know that if you are struggling, I understand that feeling, as though you are alone. & I understand what you are going through right now. I want you to know that overcoming this disorder is possible, because I did it, and as cliche as it sounds, if I can, you can, too. If you, right now, are in the depths of an eating disorder, or if you are just now beginning recovery, it is possible to get to a place where you love your body and love food, and think about both of those things in healthy ways. It is possible to get to a place where you can look in the mirror and love the person staring back at you. It’s possible to get to a place where you’re not obsessed with your weight, the number of calories you eat, and to a place where you don’t have anxiety at the mere thought of eating. You, my friend, can do this. My prayer is that every man or woman reading this today who is struggling with a mental illness of any kind, will take that truth away from this post, if nothing else.

Finally, I couldn’t write this post without thanking the people in my life who may be reading this, and have played a role in supporting me these past 5 years, in recovery and in life. To those who have helped me get healthy, and have helped me remain healthy, you have no idea the impact that you have made. A huge to the moon & back thank you to my parents (because I know they’ll read this) for being by my side since day 1 of my life, but also since day 1 of my recovery. Thank you for putting up with me (lol), and loving me an annoyingly large (but sweet) amount, as parents should.

To my friends, whole family, my church(es), mentors, pastors, high school teachers, college professors,

Thank you for genuinely caring about me and my progress in recovery. Thank you for loving me even back when I could not have hated myself more. Thank you for always being there to listen to me, whether I was in need of someone to talk to or cry to. Thank you to the people who were there to hold me as I straight up ugly cried in their arms during the worst & darkest moments back towards the beginning of recovery; the moments where I thought that it was absolutely impossible to recover and be happy again. Thank you for sitting with me and being a calm presence, whether you understood what I was going through or not, whether you knew what to say to me or not. Your presence meant and continues to mean more to me than you know. Thank you for never once looking down on me for the disorder I was battling, and instead, loving me through it and remaining by my side through the pitfalls and triumphs, to this day. I could never do recovery, college, ministry, or life in general without you people who have constantly been behind & beside me. Also, quick shout out to the DCOM (even though the odds of them seeing this are slim). When I was in my certification interview for candidacy last month, my history with an eating disorder did come up as it was noted on my psych eval, so, we talked about that, and when I mentioned that I was going to be 5 years in recovery this month, every pastor & lay person in that room interviewing me said “wow, congratulations” and that meant everything to me. It was meaningful to me because pursuing ministry is one of the most important things in my heart, but also, because it reminded me of the fact that no church leader is perfect I am no exception; I don’t need to be perfect to be a church leader and neither does anybody else. It’s impossible. We all carry with us baggage and things to work on. That’s why we need God and his grace, amen? So, to end the post, of course a big thank you to God.

Thanks, God, for giving me every ounce of strength that I have needed to kick the crap out of anorexia. I love ya so much & promise to always dedicate my life to serving you with the little powerhouse of a body you’ve given me. This is part of my story and it’s not something I’ll ever choose to hide, rather, another tool I’m able to use to minister to my brothers & sisters in Christ.

a thanksgiving post for those in recovery.

I write a post like this one every year to publish on Thanksgiving, because I know how difficult Thanksgiving can be for those struggling with an eating disorder, and for those in recovery from an eating disorder. When I was in the very depths of my eating disorder, I absolutely hated Thanksgiving day – I dreaded it as it approached. I was someone who feared food and got easily overwhelmed by the thought of eating on any given day, so Thanksgiving was like that but on steroids. Because of this, I sought out tweets, articles, and posts by other people who I knew understood the anxiety that Thanksgiving brought to someone struggling and/or in recovery from an eating disorder. So I want to provide something like that for those who may need it today, just as I did not too long ago. Being over 4 1/2 years in recovery now, and someone who loves food, I am excited for Thanksgiving, because cheesy as it may be, I’ve got lots to be thankful for, including yummy food. I do still get some anxiety surrounding this holiday, so because I know the anxiety well, I’m hoping this post can maybe be of some help to you if you’re struggling. These are just some things that I’ve always found helpful that I wanted to write out for you if you find yourself plagued with any type of fear or anxiety about Thanksgiving because of your eating disorder.

First and foremost, please please know that you are not alone in the anxiety that you are finding yourself consumed by. While the people you are physically surrounded by on Thanksgiving may not understand how you’re feeling or why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, rest assured that there are people, including myself, who do understand. The fear you have of this holiday is not a fear that only you have, and it’s not something you have to be ashamed of. It is also a fear that does not have to consume you and steal this day away from you. It does not have to have the satisfaction of stealing away your focus from the things that you are thankful for.

Don’t think that you have to eat a ton of food, just because there is a ton of food present. This is something I struggled with a lot. I would feel such pressure to fill up my plate simply because that’s what everyone else was doing. And yes, you still need to eat, but you don’t have to stuff yourself. You eat what you are comfortable eating (but still eat, please, your body needs food whether its thanksgiving food or not!)

You also don’t even have to eat the Thanksgiving food if you don’t want to. Eat food that you are used to eating on a regular basis if that is less overwhelming to you. I’ve done that on Thanksgiving before! I think one Thanksgiving I had chicken fingers?

Step away if you need to. It’s okay to walk away from the dinner table and take a breather if you need. Go on a walk, write in your journal, take a nap, watch a funny show on Netflix, call or text a friend, pray, open up your Bible and read some scripture. You don’t have to remain in an environment that triggers anxiety for you. You’re allowed to step away.

It is okay to treat yourself!! Allow yourself to eat that slice of pumpkin pie. Have multiple helpings of turkey or stuffing if you want. Eat 2 servings of ice cream or cranberries if you’ve still got more room in your stomach. It is one day. It will piss the eating disorder off, for sure. But that’s really a huge part of recovery – pissing the eating disorder off and doing exactly the opposite of what your disorder wants you to.

Make this holiday more about the gratitude you have in your heart and make it about being present with the people around you. Make it less about the food. I know, so much easier said than done. But Thanksgiving is not about food. Clearly, we humans have made it about food – it’s an excuse to eat an excessive amount of food, right? That’s okay. But you have so much to be thankful for – bask in that!!

Stay away from the scale. Better yet, put the scale away. A scale is not helpful on Thanksgiving day or around this day. Even if you’re eating “normally” and not eating a ton,the scale becomes 10x more stressful around the holidays because of the emphasis on large amounts of food. You don’t need to stress yourself out about your weight, which is really a reminder for today and every day of recovery!

Know that this day doesn’t have to be different from any other day. It will come and it will pass just as any other day does. Try as best you can to enjoy this day with the people around you, difficult as it may be. Be present with the people you’re surrounded by and constantly be thinking about the things you’re thankful for, because this day should be more about that than it should be about food.

Lastly, you can do this!!!!! You’ve made it trough every Thanksgiving meal you’ve had so far in your lifetime, be confident in your ability to make it through this one as well. You are strong. You can do it.

a note for 4 1/2 years. a note for those struggling.

On the 13th of every month, I have a little party (of one) because the 13th marks another month since the day I decided to begin this crazy, messy, difficult, beautiful, rewarding journey called recovery. Today just so happened to mark 4 1/2 years since that day, and I couldn’t let it pass by without writing a short and sweet blurb about it.

Anorexia was a disease that took hold of me and flipped things right upside down for me halfway through my freshman year of high school. This disease was one that had every intention of taking this sweet life away from me, but God and I had other plans, praise Him, for that. The fact that I said nope that’s not how my story is going to end, is something that I celebrate every single day, but the 13th is important to me because it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come since the day I was first diagnosed, along with the day I decided to begin recovery. It is because of my recovery that I am able to do every single thing that I am doing today, and it humbles me to remember each month that none of it would be possible without recovery and the strength I found in God to get to where I am today. I can hike mountains, go on runs, preach God’s Word, spend time with all of the people whom I love, all because of recovery. I will never let a day go by without acknowledging that. Life is hard sometimes, we all know that, but I live a great life surrounded by people I’ll never deserve, I have opportunities I am eternally grateful for, and a future that I could not be more excited for.

I remember one day my parents said to me, “Ashley, you can’t be a pastor and do all of the things required of you if you’re not healthy.”

Those words have always stuck with me to this day, and I think the reason that those words spoken to me stuck with me is because being the best, healthiest version of yourself is a daily task, and it is lifelong. We have to constantly be in tune with our bodies and actively work to take care of ourselves. You can’t do anything you love to do or anything that requires a lot of you if you are not healthy. That goes for any job, and any person. I know the last thing I would ever want was for my eating disorder to ruin my future, and now more than ever I can’t imagine my health preventing me from pursuing God’s call upon my life. Back when my eating disorder began to affect my vitals, I knew I had to change and recover before the illness succeeded at its task to take my life. I still work every day at a healthy lifestyle, just as I’m sure you do, too.

As I reflected on this awesome day of being 4 1/2 years in recovery, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is for everyone to know that things aren’t going to be perfect once you choose to recover or even when you do recover. You will still have insecurities every now and then. You will have to work hard, even harder, at maintaining your health. Recovery doesn’t mean that you are supposed to be this perfectly confident person every second of every day – you’re not going to be a perfect person at all. You’re still human. Lord knows I still struggle with things! I don’t have disordered thoughts towards eating anymore, I don’t hate my body, but to this day I still have things regarding my health that I’m working at. Personally, I really struggle to remain at a healthy weight, not because of an eating disorder, but because I have a super speedy metabolism and I’m an active gal. I’m small and I’ve always been small (that’s my parents doing # genes) but its always been hard for me to gain weight. A lot of people think that recovery, especially recovery from anorexia, means you gain a ton of weight, but 4 1/2 years into recovery, I am here still actively working to gain weight healthily and keep that weight on, because that’s just what’s healthier for me. But that is a challenge for me not because I don’t want to but because I’m still figuring out what my body needs in order to gain weight. (There is always more to figure out and learn and become better at!)

But with all of that being said, the main reason I wanted to write this was for those who are still struggling today with an eating disorder. If you are struggling, first and foremost I want you to know that I feel for you and I understand what you are going through. I understand how much you feel like giving up, and how much you think that you cannot recover and therefore its hopeless to even try. But I cannot express to you enough how much hope there is for you. I would never say that if I did not mean it, or if I hadn’t felt what it’s like to get out of the depths of one of these illnesses. Now that I am here, and I am able to enjoy this life that I have been given to live to the fullest, I can say with such confidence that it is worth every single difficult moment. It is worth all of the tears, the doctors appointments, the bad days, the breakdowns – Recovery is worth it. And believe it or not, there is so much pure beauty to be found in the process. It’s a long process, it’s a tough one, but it’s a possible one. You can do it.

Even knowing the hell that my eating disorder put me through, I still would never wish to not have gone through it. I’m sure I did wish that when I first jumped into recovery, or when I relapsed, but now that my head is risen above the waters following being in the depths of the disorder, I would never choose to go back and not go through it. To say the most cliche thing in the world, this whole entire journey has made me stronger, and I’m grateful. It’s a part of my testimony, and while the disorder itself is not part of who I am, the story that God has written through the struggle most certainly is. And in addition to that, I get to be here, writing this, to you all. I talk and write about this openly and honestly for this very reason – I have people of all ages message me all the time on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog asking me questions, wanting suggestions or advice, or just saying my being open helped them know they’re not alone. That’s amazing to me, it leaves me in awe, and every ounce of glory goes to God for that because it is only by his strength that I made it through this, and furthermore, it’s only by his strength and courage I’m able to open about it and write to the world about something so personal. But I’m here for you all. The reason I chose to be open about this in the first place was with the hope and prayer that it could help other people struggling with similar things. You deserve to know that you’re not alone. So please, never feel as though you are in this alone. whether we’ve talked in person before or not, you can always reach out to me. I’m here for you because I know how helpful it is to talk to someone who gets it. I’m here for you because you’re my brother or my sister in Christ and I want you to know you can experience the joy of living a life free from your eating disorder.

Your life matters. Recovery is worth it. You can live a life that is not consumed by your eating disorder. Know that. Believe that. And know it’s going to be hard. It will never not be hard, but it will never not be worth it. You’re going to have days you feel awesome and motivated to recover, and you’ll have days you want to give up.

Don’t.

 

thanksgiving / for those with an eating disorder

I wanted to write this and post it for Thanksgiving to serve as a crutch for anyone who may need it today, because I know that when I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I dreaded thanksgiving. 

I dreaded having a holiday that seemed to be centered around food and food alone. It gave me anxiety that was close to unbearable and it made me absolutely miserable instead of thankful. 

So, if that is how you are feeling right now, I want you to know that I am here for you, and you are most certainly not alone. 

I realize that most of what I am going to write in this post is a lot easier said than done. I realize this because back when I was battling harder than ever with anorexia, I resorted to reading articles and talking to people who understood what I was going through when Thanksgiving rolled around. 

Please know that I am someone who understands what you are going through. I know that no two people are alike and that therefore, no two journeys are alike, but I know enough about eating disorders to know why Thanksgiving can be a very difficult holiday for those who struggle with them. I understand why you may be dreading this day. I understand why you are having anxiety about this day and I understand why you are overwhelmed by the great amount of food and the focus on that food. I know full well the hell that your mind puts you through as the holidays approach. I know you think that you are going to gain weight if you do eat that slice of pie or plate of turkey. I know that your mind is overwhelmed and racing rapidly thinking about how many calories you will or will not eat today. I know you are dreading a day centered around having a large meal with a bunch of people. I get it. I’ve been there. You are without a doubt, not alone. 

First things first – you are going to be okay. 

You are going to be okay.
You are going to get through this day, so keep telling yourself that, over and over and over again. 

Know that you don’t have to eat a lot, but also know that you do need to eat. Try telling yourself that this day is no different than any other day. You still need food to be your fuel so that you can function properly and have energy. 

Take your focus off of the food and put your focus on being thankful. That’s what Thanksgiving should be about. Focus on the fact that you are surroudned by people who you love and who love you. Focus on the fact that you are breathing, because sometimes, that is enough. Think of all of the people you are thankful for. Think of all that you have in life and be thankful. If it all becomes too much and you find yourself overwhelme  and unsure of what to do, find yoursef an outlet; Journal. Pray. Text or call a friend. Engage in conversation with the friends and / or family whom you are present with. Go on a walk. Do whatever you need to do, but take care of yourself in the process. 

Your eating disorder does not have to prevent you from enjoying this day. Feel what you feel but don’t believe everything you think. The eating disorder will try to tell you lies about yourself and about the food put out in front of you but you don’t have to believe those lies. It will be a mental battle, as it is with an eating disorder on any other day. But you can do this. I cannot say that enough. You can do this. 

Friends, I remember the misery that came with Thanksgivng when my eating disorder was completely in control in my life. I remember learning to hate the holiday solely because of how much food came along with it. But Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate what and who you are thankful for. It’s not at all about the food. Remember that, okay? 

I am almost four years into recovery from anorexia and I never thought I’d go from hating Thanksgiving to loving all things pumpkin flavored, but here I am, writing this to you because I know that if I could do it, you can too. 
It is possible. You can do this. I believe in you. 

Take today one meal at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time. 

You can do it.

Know I will be praying for you today, and I 100% believe you can make it through this day. 

mental health awareness month

As some of you may know, May is Mental Health Month. This month is used as a way to spread awareness about the seriousness of mental illnesses, and break the stigma(s) surrounding them. While we should aim to raise awareness about these illnesses daily, it makes me happy to know that there is an entire month – a whole 31 days – dedicated to shining light on a topic that can be hard to talk about, but a topic that is so important.

Mental health awareness has been something I’ve always been very passionate about – I am an advocate for shining light on these issues because mental illness is something that really hits home for me, and because of this, I feel as though it is not only my responsibility, but also my privilege to be able to share my story and show just how possible recovery is.

I am very open about my experience with mental illness, and while it’s not something I care to bring up during your typical every day conversation, I am always willing to share when asked. I’ve told about this more times than I can count, and I’ve written about it even more, and while it never gets easier, it does make me more and more proud to see how far I have come. If you’re reading this and you’re struggling, I want you to be able to feel that same way someday. That is why I am writing this.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder – anorexia nervosa. I’m three years into recovery now, and I can confidently say that it has been one of the hardest things I have ever been through, but it has also been one of the most rewarding. When I was first diagnosed by my doctor, I was in a really bad place. I was barely eating, I was fainting, I was exercising every day, I was weighing myself every day, obsessively counting calories, I was self harming, cutting, purging. It was bad. I was in a very unhealthy place and headed down a lethal path, especially when I was told the eating disorder had began to affect my heart rate and blood pressure, and my BMI was nowhere near where it should be. When these signs began to show that the disorder was beginning to be detrimental to my health, I did experience a few “wake up calls” – I ended up passing out twice, both times were while I was at school due to not having eaten. One night, depression seemed to overcome any amount of hope I had left and I came closer than I had ever been to taking my own life. That woke me up, to say the least, and I think it made the issues I was dealing with much more real to both myself and to my family, friends, and doctors. It was very scary for me and for them I am sure – I was so unhappy with myself, with my life, and with my body and I was not at all aware of how it was affecting my well being. I knew I was in trouble but I didn’t know what else to do besides give up. I felt very hopeless.

I have hope now. 

I came very close to being sent to receive inpatient treatment in another state. I think it goes without saying that I did not want to go at all. Leaving to go to treatment would mean leaving behind my friends, my family, my church, my house, the doctors I already had, and my life that I was used to living each day. The thought of going to another state for treatment whipped me right into shape. Now, that doesn’t mean I snapped my fingers and recovered just like that. I’ve been battling this thing for five years, and three years now into recovery I can tell you I have never been more happy to have made it this far. I can’t tell you that I didn’t struggle and I can’t tell you that I don’t still struggle. You don’t go from hating your body to loving it overnight. You’re going to have bad days and you’re going to want to give up. You’re going to feel insecure sometimes. You’re going to wake up some mornings and simply not want to take on the day. You are going to struggle, but you are going to get through it each time you do.

Mental illness is a battle. It’s a battle that you have to fight more than once in order to win. I can’t tell you it’s easy, because it’s not, but I can tell you that it is completely worth the difficulty.

Recovery is worth each bad day because followed by it can always be a better one. Sometimes you’re going to have more than a bad day – every so often you are going to have a bad week, and that is okay.

You’re strong enough to handle it.

Recovery is a daily choice and some days, that choice is going to be harder to make than others – You have to choose to take care of yourself. You have to choose to eat. You have to choose to get out of bed each morning when you’re depressed. You have to choose to continue on with your life each day. You have to choose to fight the illness and not let it win. While it may be hard, it most definitely will be worth it.

When I was really struggling with my eating disorder, I didn’t talk about it much. My doctors and parents tried to make me talk, but I was very reluctant. It was a battle I felt as though I was fighting completely on my own. I felt ashamed. That’s how people sometimes feel when they’re battling a mental illness – you feel alone. You feel as though nobody understands. But please believe me when I say you are not alone – you may feel as though you are, because a mental illness isolates you. It’s easy to isolate yourself because the illness becomes your best friend. It may feel like your best friend but trust me when I say it is your biggest enemy. It does not care about your well being, the only thing it cares about is how fast it can kill you.

I chose to begin recovering from my eating disorder because I didn’t want it to kill me. I didn’t want to die because of that thing. I felt as though I had so much more to live for, and now I know I do – I have this story that I get to share with you all, in the hopes that it will help you in someway.

I know I have more to live for than a mental illness because I know my identity is not in that disorder, but in Christ. I can’t write a post like this without giving honor and glory to him, you guys, because I know I would not have gotten this far without my God. I decided I wanted to live my life for Christ just two months before I was diagnosed with anorexia, and I know that was for a reason – it saved my life.

You guys, God created us for so much more. I’ve preached sermons, I’ve gotten my writings published, I’ve graduated high school, I’ve been to college, I’ve traveled, I’ve learned so much, I’ve been able to relate to others going through the same things I did three years ago. Don’t let your mental illness keep you from experiencing the life God has marked out for you. You’re worth so much more. I believe with all of my being that you can choose recovery and begin seeing that life which He has for you.

I am here to get awareness out there because I know just how important awareness is. I know how hard it is, but I also know how worth it it is. Mental health awareness is important because often times, it is swept under the rug and people end up suffering in silence because they’re afraid of being judged or looked at differently. This often stems from the fact that mental illness is not an easy or bright topic to talk about. It can be dark and uncomfortable, and a lot of people are too ashamed to talk about it.

That is a stigma we need to end.

A person should never feel shame for struggling with a mental illness. You do not choose to have one of these illnesses. It is not anyone’s fault. The only choice you have in the matter is the choice to recover.

I’m writing this today because I care so much about this topic. I care about each person who has to wake up every morning and fight one of these illnesses. I care about the people who feel hopeless and want to give up. I believe one of the reasons I’m here walking this earth is to let people know these things. I’m here to let people know that they are not alone. I’m here to be (very imperfect) proof that recovery is possible.

You all, I know it’s hard. I know you sometimes feel like giving up. I know recovery seems way too difficult. I know it’s hard to continuously choose recovery over your illness. I know it’s hard to even talk about. I know you are going to have bad days.

But I know you can get through it.

I know you can get through it because I am getting through it.

I battled my eating disorder all four years of high school, and I’m still in recovery as I wrap up my freshman year of college. I’m telling you this because I want you to know that if you’re struggling right now – whether it be with depression, an eating disorder, self harm, suicidal thoughts – whatever it is, I want you to know it does not define you, and it does not define your future.

I believe my future is bright and I believe it is even brighter because of what I’ve been through. Battling a mental illness does not have to break you. It does not have to ruin you or your future. Don’t let it do that. Keep fighting. You will become stronger, you will become braver, you will grow, and you will become a role model for someone else looking for inspiration to get better.

None of us are perfect, and I think we can all agree on that. Having a mental illness does not make you any less of a person than someone without one.

So please, let’s break the stigma and agree to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we share our stories, and the more we get people informed, the less stereotyping and judging there will be around mental illness. People do not deserve to feel ashamed because they have an internal battle going on in their head. Often times, you won’t know who around you is struggling, so it’s better to watch what you say, be aware of who is around you, and simply think before you speak. It’s such a simple concept, but it can save someone the feeling of shame or guilt for battling one of these illnesses.

If you’re struggling, know you’re not alone and there is help out there. You can ALWAYS D.M me on Twitter, comment on my posts, or email me. I will be here to listen and encourage you as someone who understands and wants you to be healthy and happy.

 

 

recovery and why it is worth it.

I am writing this because tomorrow I will be 3 years into my recovery from anorexia- something I thought I would never recover from. Something I thought would consume my life forever. Something I used to think I would never be able to overcome.

Something that had the potential to kill me, but something that instead made me stronger, and something that I now know is not too big for my God to handle.

3 years.

3 years is a long time, and a lot can happen in those few years. A lot did happen.

When I chose to begin recovery, it was hands down one of the hardest decisions I had ever made. I had no idea when I decided to give up weighing myself for Lent 3 years ago, how difficult that would be. I had no idea where I would end up, I didn’t know how I was going to handle recovery, I didn’t know how to recover, I didn’t know anything! The eating disorder had consumed so much of my life, I didn’t know what I would do without it. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to continue on without the stupid thing- something I was so reliant on. Something I thought I had complete control over, but actually ended up having complete control over me.

I know I’m going to die someday, but I didn’t want it to be at age 15, and I did not want it to be because of an eating disorder.

I chose recovery over anorexia because I realized just how much the disorder was slowly killing me, controlling me, and isolating me. I realized how it was detrimental to my relationships, friendships, and especially to my health. I realized I have so many people who love me and want me to be happy and healthy, yet I was choosing the fatal disorder over those incredibly loving people.

I chose recovery because I realized God created me. He created all of us in his perfect image. We are his masterpieces. My body is my temple, and I am supposed to take care of that temple. It’s the only one I’ve got! I couldn’t imagine the sad look on God’s face when he saw me skip a meal, or purge, or restrain myself from eating delicious things such as ice cream and cookies. I could only imagine him looking down on me and saying, “my child, you are beautiful, and worthy, and wonderfully made, you do not need to harm your body to look a different way.”

It breaks my heart to know that the people who love me, especially God, have broken hearts when they see that I am hurting, unhealthy, or unhappy. So on the days when I don’t feel like eating- On the days where I could run miles and not replenish the calories I burned. I think of those people, and I bring myself to eat, because on the days when I can’t do it for myself, I do it for them.

Recovery is not easy, you all. It will probably be one of the hardest things you ever do, but that does not mean that it is not worth it. Just because it’s hard does not mean you should quit, or just not even try. It doesn’t mean you will be miserable all the time. It means that recovery is a daily choice, and something that doesn’t get a day off. You are constantly in recovery, but let me tell you this:

While it may be hard, it is so incredibly worth the battle. It’s worth the days where you feel like crap because you actually fed your body. It’s worth the days when you feel “fat” because you didn’t throw up after eating a meal.

It’s worth the weight you may gain. Through out these past 3 years of recovery, I have gained five pounds. It’s been a slow process, but because it was gradual, I’m proud of the weight I’ve gained.

I’m proud of the fact that I can look in the mirror and love the young woman I see staring back at me. I’m proud of the fact that I can drive to Cookout, buy a milkshake, drink it all, and enjoy every bit of it. I’m proud of the fact that I can talk about my past, and talk about my recovery with confidence, and humility because I’m here. I lived to tell about it. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m proud.

You should be proud of how far you’ve come.  I don’t care if you’re just now beginning recovery or if you’ve been in recovery for ten years.

I came to build a solid relationship with God when I was a freshman in high school, just a couple months before I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. God knew I would need him. He knew I needed and would need that strong faith of mine.

I can say with full honesty and confidence, the reason I chose recovery, and the reason I have continued down the path towards full recovery, is because of my relationship with God.

It is because of the support system I had and do have from my church family, my friends, my doctors, and my family. It is because of the way in which I could consistently rely on God for comfort, strength, and guidance.

My writing became my outlet. I used it as a way to escape the stress that the hard days in recovery brought into my life. I began writing devotions and submitting them to various places- devotions that entailed my struggle with mental illness and how my faith without a doubt saved me. I became more and more involved at my church, and before I knew it, I was serving communion, lay reading, and giving messages and prayers in front of the congregation. I love my church. I love the home, family, and security I have there. It is in that place, that I discovered myself. That sounds so cheesy, but it’s true. I heard and discovered my call from God in that very place. I grew up in that place. I was helped through recovery by the people in that place. God so conveniently placed these incredibly strong and wise people in life, who helped me not only blossom as a young leader in the Church, but who also graciously supported me and helped me in my recovery.

My passions for writing, mental health advocacy, and for ministry all blossomed and became one, and I believe wholeheartedly that that is the reason God planned out my life the way he has thus far.

I don’t consider myself to have anorexia anymore. I am well on my way to full recovery. Sure I still have bad days. I still have days where I don’t feel like eating, and days where it would be easier to just pass on eating 2 or 3 meals. It’s not supposed to be easy. Having a disorder control your every thought isn’t going to be an easy thing to just get rid of.

I’m not over exaggerating when I say it is something you need to work at every single day. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about my recovery. You have to choose it every time you need to eat, every time you’re hungry, every time you go to the gym, every time you go out to a restaurant. It’s work, but it’s worth it.

You are worth it.

Your identity? It’s not found in your mental illness.

Your identity is not found in your eating disorder, your depression, your anxiety, your appearance, your addiction, or those thoughts that keep you up late at night.

Your identity can be found in Jesus Christ.

Recovery becomes 10x more worth it, when you remind yourself of the God you belong to. The God who has you in palm of his hand. The God who loves you unconditionally. The God who created you in his perfect, flawless image. The God who knows every single detail about you and your life, yet continues to love and accept you just as you are.

Remember nothing you go through in this life will be too much or too difficult for our God to handle.

I promise you, it’s possible. Recovery is possible.

Whatever you are battling right now- you will get through it.

I never thought I would get to where I am right now. I never thought I would be saying “I’m 3 years into recovery.” I never thought anyone, including God would be able to help me overcome this illness.

But I’ve learned to never underestimate Him. Never doubt the big guy upstairs, because guys: He will always prove you wrong.

Anything is possible for God, and anything is possible for you, so long as you have Him and trust Him.

Because tomorrow marks a very big milestone for me, I wanted to this share. I wanted to share these words of encouragement and hope with you all because I know I’m not the only person in this world who has struggled. I know there are millions of you out there who are battling an eating disorder today. I know there are many out there who can’t go a day without self harming. I know there are people who can’t help but think about ending their lives on a daily basis. I feel for you, and I understand.

I understand how painful and difficult it is, and because I understand, I’m here to tell you it gets better.

If you put in the effort. If you decide you want your life back, and you decide you want to begin recovery, my prayers are with you and know you are not alone. You can do this. Don’t give up on yourself. Rely on God, trust Him, be in constant conversation with him and have full reliance on Him. He will get you through this, and I completely believe in you. I will be your cheerleader any way I can, because YOU are so very worth it.

Resources:

National Eating Disorder Association (website): http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

National Eating Disorder Association (helpline): 800-931-2237

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255