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.

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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.

 

we don’t deserve it, but it has been given to us

Tonight, I have been full on experiencing what it means to be a writer. I have these moments a lot, but tonight, it is CRAZY.

(so, sorry ahead of time for any rambling that may occur)

Last night, I attended something called Campus Community, which is a weekly gathering of mostly students and faculty at my school, but also members of the community. There, we worship the Lord through song, and hear a message by our campus pastor.

The past few weeks, we have been digging into Galatians 5.

The message was centered on freedom.

Freedom is something we don’t embrace enough.

We don’t fully embrace it because it seems as though there is always something holding us back from that freedom. Whether it be a girlfriend or boyfriend, a physical illness, a mental illness, a family member, a mental block you have, doubts, fear, or anxiety, there’s always something. But you guys, God so desperately wants us to be free. He wants you to be free from your eating disorder. He wants you to be free from that abusive relationship you’re in. He wants you to be free from your depression. He wants you to be free from all the fears you have. He wants you to be free from any anxiety that’s stirred up inside of you. He wants you to be free. He died on the cross so we could have freedom from our sins. That doesn’t mean sin is okay- just because he’s forgiven our sins, doesn’t give us a free pass to sin anytime we want. It simply means we don’t have to dwell on those sins. We don’t have to hate ourselves for those sins. We don’t have to give up because we have sinned. We all have sinned. We can be free from those sins, because of Christ!

With my eating disorder- I was a slave to it. I had faith in that thing- I had faith that it would bring me happiness. I did whatever that disorder told me to. I believed the lies it told me. I believed in it- in the perfection and beauty I THOUGHT it would bring me.

I was a slave to my eating disorder.

But not anymore.

I am no longer a slave to that stupid thing. I am a child of GOD as the incredible song says.

I have faith in CHRIST and in what HE did for me. I have faith that HE will bring me peace, happiness, joy, and comfort. I will do what HE tells me, and what HE calls me to do. I believe in HIM. My SAVIOR. I believe in him because there is nothing more perfect- more beautiful than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I was just watching the movie, Son of God, tonight. (pretty much a more recent version of Passion of The Christ)

I love that movie, you all. No, I don’t love it because it has a good story line, or a good plot. I don’t love it because the actors are good. I love it because it’s a great visual of what our Savior did for us. It’s intense- it’s very detailed. It’s a very visual movie. It shows you, quite well, what Christ endured for us. Not going to lie, I can’t watch that movie without crying. Especially when Christ is laying down his life for us on the cross.

When I was watching that scene tonight, all I could think about was how he didn’t deserve that. I don’t deserve to have THAT done for ME.

I don’t deserve what Christ did for me. None of us do.

God knew when he sent his only son to die for us, that we weren’t worthy. We were not deserving. He knew that, and he knew we would never be worthy of that sacrifice. But he sent Jesus anyways. He sent him to die for our sins.

Because of Christ, we are forgiven. We are loved. We are His. We no longer have to be slaves.

We will never be worthy, but that doesn’t change what Christ did for us on that cross.

Looking back at all the things I’ve done- all the sins I’ve committed. All the things I’ve done that have probably not pleased God. I look at those things and I just can’t believe God would ever forgive me, or love me. I can’t believe it. But guys, we need to believe it, because he has forgiven you, and he does love you.

We have perfect salvation, because of our perfect Christ.

Freedom.

Just as Galatians 5:13 says, we are called to be free. God doesn’t want us to suffer or dwell on our sins, on our mistakes, on the struggles we face. He has called us to be FREE.

We didn’t earn it, therefore, we can’t un-earn it.
That freedom will always be there for us- it will be there to consume us. It will be there for us to embrace. It will be there to set us free from our burdens, our fears, our worries, our illnesses, our anxieties.
That freedom is always going to be there.

I know it’s hard to accept that- that we can be free. I know it’s hard to even admit you have something you need to be free of.

I know it took me a long time to acknowledge and admit what I was doing to my body because of my eating disorder was wrong. It took me so long to admit I had a problem and that I did actually have to take care of my body and eat in order to live this life God’s given to me. It was (and still is) hard to surrender my recovery to God. It’s hard to give up the eating disorder. I know you’re probably thinking “why would you NOT want to give up that thing?” I don’t really have an answer for you- that’s a topic for a whole other post. But, my point is, it was and still continues to be hard to accept and live out freedom from my eating disorder. It is consuming. It’s so consuming. It ties you down and isolates you. It sucks, and gives you anything BUT freedom.

But because of Christ- because he died on that cross. Because he gave up his life for mine. I see purpose. I see a purpose in giving up my disorder. I see a purpose in surrendering it all. I see a purpose to being truly FREE from my eating disorder.

Living a life consumed by Christ is a heck of a lot more rewarding than living a life consumed by anorexia, I can tell you that much.

So you guys, our GOD is SO GOOD. JESUS, HE IS SO INCREDIBLE.

Did I mention that watching the Son of God not only makes me cry, but it also makes me want to give Jesus a big bear hug? I just want to hug my best friend, Jesus.

We will never ever be able to repay Him for what he has done for us, but we can spend each and every day of our lives trying. That is my challenge to you. To live each day for Him. For His glory. Because he is just that great.

And don’t think I’m giving you that challenge while I just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. No, that won’t be me. That will be God up there in heaven watching you take on this challenge (hahahahah, isn’t that a funny picture?) (I wish I could see the look on His face when he sees me do something embarrassing or straight up stupid or make a dumb mistake)

But, really, in all seriousness- freedom is such an incredible thing to experience.

With freedom comes such happiness. Such joy. Such an overwhelming amount of strength, grace, peace, and WORTH.

I know we will never be worthy of what Christ did for us, but this life God has given us is worth living. We may not deserve His love, or anything he has done for us, but so long as we have this life, it is worth living, to please God, to honor him, to glorify him, and live out your calling from him.

So whatever it is that you need to be free from, I urge you to think long and hard about it. I urge you to pray about it. Talk to God about it. Thank God for all that he has done, and ask him to help you on your journey ahead. Ask him to help you accept and embrace the freedom Christ has so freely (no pun intended) given to you.

For me, it’s my eating disorder. I want to be free from it, and I’m slowly but surely breaking away from it, and no longer being a slave to it.

What is it for you?

Jesus conquered death. He can conquer your mental illness too.

I wanted to make this post and be completely vulnerable and honest with you guys, because I know a lot of you struggle with the same things I did, or do, and I know how helpful it is to have someone relate to what you’re going through. I am a firm believer that God gives us trials in life to make us stronger and wiser, so we can help others who are going through the same things. I know I was given my battles for a reason- not because God wanted to punish me or make me suffer for being a straight up sinner, that’s why Christ died on the cross- FOR our sins. He didn’t give me challenges in life to punish me. He gave them to me to make me the person I am. He knew those challenges would help me grow- that they’d help my faith grow and my strength grow.

The title of this post says it all. That’s exactly what I’m going to talk about.

You know Christ conquered death by being crucified on the cross, then rising from the grave on the third day. You know that. But did you know that he can also conquer your mental illness? He has the power, the strength, and the endurance to conquer your eating disorder. To conquer your depression. To conquer your self harm. To conquer your alcoholism. To conquer any war you may have in your mind right now- he can handle it. He can overcome it. You can overcome it, with him.

Here’s where me being completely vulnerable and honest comes in-

The past couple weeks for me have not been the easiest. Recovery has been tricky during my transition into college. That was no surprise- I anticipated it. I prepared for it, and I’m handling it.

There have definitely been times while I have been here, where I have felt hopeless. As though I may never recover. I’ve told myself there’s no point to even trying. I’ve had really negative thoughts about this whole recovery thing. It’s so common to get to the point, in any recovery, where you feel like simply giving up, because it seems way too hard, and seems to be taking way too long. I’ve been in recovery for almost three years now, and THAT seems like a long time. Some people I know have been in recovery for 10+ years.

It’s not always going to be easy, and I know it’s going to be a battle I’m going to have to fight more than once in order to win. But you guys- Jesus conquered death. Don’t you think he’s completely capable of conquering whatever it is you’re going through?

It’s so comforting to me, even in the midst of sadness, struggle, hurt, pain, frustration, confusion, and anxiety, to know that I have a God who loves me, and who is going to be there for me, to conquer each challenge that I face in life.

It’s not fun to struggle with something for a long period of time, and it’s really not fun when you feel as though there’s no hope in even trying. But guess what- there is. There is hope and that hope is Jesus.

Death is not something just anybody can conquer, you all. That takes power. That takes an incredible amount of power. Power we don’t have, but power that God does have.

There aren’t enough words to describe how powerful our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. That right there should tell you how capable he is. How capable he is of conquering any and every obstacle you encounter in life. How capable he is of loving you at your worst, and caring for you when you’ve strayed away. Jesus is SO capable. He is MIGHTY to save. He is ALL POWERFUL. He is GREATER.

Yes, he is greater than your mental illness.

I don’t know about you, but I like to think of my eating disorder as satan. (lol)
I know I’ve said that before, but it’s true. An eating disorder is a replica of the devil. It will destroy you every opportunity it gets. It tells you lies about yourself. It makes you sick. It isolates you from everyone- including GOD.

I know my eating disorder has taken control of my life in the past. I know I’ve given it power- I’ve given it power over me. But I don’t care- I don’t care anymore because I have a God who is greater. He is greater than me on my worst days (and best days.) He is greater than anything I face in this lifetime.

I am so thankful to have Him.
He is my rock. He is my redeemer. He is my best friend. He is my Savior. He is my healer. He is my comforter. He is my everything.

It doesn’t matter what you are going through. Whether it be depression, self harm, alcoholism, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia- Jesus can conquer it.

The same person who conquered death is rooting for you.

The same person who conquered death loves you, believes in you, he is there for you, and he cares about you.

The same person who conquered death is going to help you conquer your mental illness.

That is something to celebrate. Recovery is something to celebrate.

Do not let yourself think that all hope is gone.

You have an everlasting amount of hope, and that everlasting hope comes from Jesus.

 

Where is peace found?

This was the title of a devotion reading I did this morning. I needed this. I need peace. (who doesn’t?)

A few days ago, I attended something called Scaremare. This is basically a haunted house that my school puts together each year around Halloween, however, there’s a little bit of a twist when you come to the end of the haunted house- after having freaky clowns, ghosts, and people with chainsaws jumping out at you, you walk into a room where you are told the Gospel.

As I walked into this big open room filled with steal chairs, where I knew I would soon be sitting down listening to the Gospel, I didn’t have the best attitude about it. The only thoughts running through my head were, “I’ve already heard the Gospel,” “I already know Jesus,” but I had the wrong mindset because I did end up taking something away from that experience, and I’m sure a lot of other people who had never even heard the Gospel before did too.

As the girl was talking about Jesus, she was telling us how, when you decide to follow Christ, you have to leave all the things behind that you were filling that void with, that Jesus should have been filling all along. You have to let go.

That resonated with me- somebody who’s gone to church all her life, and decided to live her life for Christ 5 years ago.

I began to think about my recovery, and how I have to continuously choose to allow Christ to fill the void, when I’m stressed, overwhelmed, fearful, or anxious. I have to fill that void that nothing else in this world can fill but Jesus. Filling that void with my eating disorder, will not satisfy. Only Christ can do that.

The words that girl said at Scaremare, have stuck with me ever since, and I’ve been in constant thought about how I can continue to choose Jesus to fill that void, and not my eating disorder, not anxiety, not isolation, not denial, not shame. None of those things can fill that void!

The scripture for the devotion I was reading a few minutes ago, was Romans 14:17-18, “for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.”

Everyone needs, and longs for, peace, and that peace is not going to be found in earthly things- technology, food, alcohol, social media, your boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s going to be found in Christ- in the Holy Spirit.

You will find peace in knowing you are loved. Knowing you are cared about. Knowing you have a God who absolutely adores you. You will find peace in knowing you are not alone. You are worthy. You have a purpose. You will find peace in knowing you have a divine plan which God has created, perfectly and specifically for you.

You will find peace in Christ, our Savior. The Man who died for selflessly on that cross for our sins. Not his sins. He was perfect. He suffered and died for us. He then rose from the dead. He conquered DEATH, you guys. I don’t know about you, but that brings me an overwhelming amount of peace, knowing that I have a Savior who can defeat death, and therefore, what do I have to fear?

God is SO GOOD, you guys.

Your peace is found in HIM. Let HIM fill the void. Let HIM be in control. Let HIM be at the center of your life- of all your decisions, trials, and triumphs.

Your peace, is found in him.

Recovery is worth it, and I want this to be proof of that.

I’ve been wanting to post this for a while now, but thus, life has a way of getting busy and overwhelming and I am just now, at 12am, getting the chance to sit down and write this.
A few days ago, I ran 3 miles.
A year ago, or even a few months ago, I never would have been able to run just 10 minutes without getting lightheaded. This was a huge deal for me.
My friend took this picture of me a couple weeks ago when we were (obviously) at Sweet Frog, and I chose to correlate it with recovery and me finally being able to run a (semi) long distance without fainting, simply because this is recovery. This is what recovery from anorexia looks like.
Being able to eat what you want without feeling guilty. Being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, without feeling ashamed. Being able to eat what you want without fearing you’re going to gain 10 pounds overnight. Being able to gain weight and not care, because you know you are not defined by your weight. Being able to go out and get frozen yogurt with your friends without worrying about how calories are in it. Being able to weigh yourself without having an anxiety attack. Being able to run without lightheaded or passing out. Being able to treat yourself whenever you want without feeling bad about it. That is recovery.

Recovery is not east. In fact, it’s super hard. You have to work. You have to work so hard, and you have to choose it. You have to choose recovery every single day, even when it’s hard. And most importantly, you have to fight. You have to fight the disorder every single time you eat. Every time you exercise. Every time you eat desert and start to feel guilty. Every time you start to think those damn disordered thoughts, you have to choose that you want to recover and be healthy, more than you want to please the eating disorder.

I don’t know about you, but I know, because of years of experience and learning, I want to please my God, way more than I want to please my eating disorder.
My body was created in God’s perfect image- it is my temple. I am to take care of it and cherish it, because it is a creation and work of GOD.
Pleasing your eating disorder means making yourself miserable, weak, sick, unhappy, depressed, hateful, negative, and it makes you feel worthless, unloved, and it makes recovery and life look pointless, unless you have the disorder.
Pleasing God makes you happy, positive, hopeful, comforted, and it makes you feel worthy, LOVED, and it gives life a meaning, and a purpose. You have a purpose here.

Our God is so good, you guys. He’s so good.
I am right here where I am, because of him. All the glory goes to Him.
Don’t get me wrong, there are so many people I have to thank and give credit to for helping me get to where I am right now, and I’m grateful for them every single day, but God got me here. He allowed me to survive my hardest, unhealthiest days. He gave me strength and bravery and continues to do so to this day. He places people in my life right when I need them there, to support me and love me.
God is so good, and recovery reminds me of that every day.

Recovery reminds me that God is good because each day I fight the disorder, is a day that I won against the disorder, because God gave me the strength to do so.
Recovery reminds me that God has gotten me this far, and therefore can get me a whole lot further.
Recovery reminds me that I am created in God’s image. I don’t need the eating disorder to dictate how beautiful I am, or how thin I am, or how worthy I am. I have God to do that for me.

I am loved, and I am to love. Christ taught me that, and I’m here to teach you that.

Recovery is so hard, you all. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to try and sugar coat it. It’s hard. But you can do it. You are fully capable of doing it. I never thought in a million years that I would be where I am right now. I never thought I’d make it to college or be able to run 3 miles without fainting. I never thought by age 18 I would have given 3 sermons. I never thought I’d be able to eat peanut butter m&ms and Sweet Frog without feeling guilty. I never thought I’d be okay with my weight being in the triple digits. I never thought I’d ever have writings published. I never thought I’d actually have people reading my blog on a regular basis. I never thought I would be able to choose recovery, and continue choosing it each day, but I am.
I am here, so I can help you get to the incredible place I am at right now.

I still struggle. I’m not perfect. I screw up. I give in to the eating disorder. I go down the wrong path. I make stupid decisions. I follow unhealthy eating patterns sometimes. Sometimes, I let my emotions dictate whether I eat or not. I’m not perfect.
Recovery is not perfect.

But you guys, it’s so worth it.
It is because of recovery that I know I am beautiful just the way I am. It is because of recovery that I know a number does not define me. It is because of recovery that I know just how good and strong our God is. It is because of recovery that I know how loved I am, and how worthy I am.

You can do it.

I never thought I could, but here I am, doing it.

I want me, myself, to be proof, that it is possible.

I love you guys.
I want you to know you’re not alone. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to not know what to do, it’s okay to not want to let go of your disorder. It’s okay.

I know exactly how you feel, and I am here to help, 100%.

Email me. ashleysmessage@gmail.com (or you can just comment on this post)

I am here to answer questions, I’m here to support you, I’m here to encourage you. I’m here to be the proof that recovery is possible.