Tag Archives: hope

Birthday thoughts…

Today I woke up with the gift of life.  The gift of another day and a chance to do what I am called to do.  I have not always enjoyed my birthdays.  Growing up they were not as big of a celebration, and there were times in my life when I did not celebrate life and I took it for granted.  This past spring and summer many people near and dear to me have passed on, and it just is such a reminder that life is precious and fragile and each day is truly a gift!
I know many people have written about how Robin Williams’ death affected them, and I have to say that today was the first day it really hit me.  As I was driving to work this morning I heard THIS song on my local radio station.  It is a song about being honest about what you might be dealing with instead of being afraid.  Someone has cleverly added some movie/interview quotes from Robin Williams.  And now to be honest, it made me cry!  It made me say a big thank you one more time to God for the gift of life he has given me and for keeping me here even in the times I did not want to live.
This afternoon I saw this on my TimeHop and it was so appropriate.

IMG_9513So instead of getting annoyed with myself for what I may or may not have accomplished in this past year, I am just going to continue to be grateful  Grateful for life, for my loving husband, my family, my supportive friends, my church, my job, my health, and the freedoms we have.  And for hope.  I am so thankful there is ALWAYS hope!

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me.

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(beautiful flowers from the hubs!)

xo
Esther
-Chocolate Runner Girl-

 

Ali’s Story

Hello all! Happy Monday 🙂  I hope you all had a great weekend.  It was another packed weekend for me.  I was supposed to have a 5k on Saturday morning, and I had worked late Friday night so I almost just stayed in bed and skipped it.  I decided to get up and go, and when I got there I found out it was postponed!!! Ahhh I was not very happy in the moment.  I am feeling a little better about it now, but still slightly irritated.  Hopefully I can get a refund on my money since they rescheduled it for the day I will be running a Zooma race.
Other than that hiccup the rest of the weekend went pretty well.  The hubs and I were taking care of one of our favorite dogs, which is always fun, and I got to have dinner with a sweet girl who I have not seen in about 14 years!  Thank you facebook for helping this to happen!

Anyways, I know that Eating Disorder Awareness Week is over, but awareness should never end! I have another story to share that offers hope!  Just a reminder that no matter what you are struggling with, there is ALWAYS hope!! Here is Ali’s story:

I was born into a Christan family; the oldest of four girls.  I’m the daughter of a Pastor.  I was a very happy baby, according to my parents.  I smiled at everyone, and as I got a little older, I’d talk to anyone who would listen.  I was outgoing, bubbly and daring.
 
I was sexually abused by a family “friend” who worked for my dad, and by his brother, from the time I was four until right before my 8th birthday.  The child who was once bubbly and outgoing turned shy, sullen and depressed.  I cried at the drop of a hat.  The men who abused me threatened my life, and that of my family, if I told anyone.  So I kept the abuse a secret until I was an adult; even after the one man died, I didn’t tell anyone.  As a result of the abuse, I started pulling my hair out when I was six.  When I was twelve, I started skipping meals as a way to gain some sort of control in my life.  Overwhelming shame and guilt plagued my life every waking minute.  Depression weighed me down.  When I could no longer keep my body in starvation mode, I started binging and purging to maintain control when I was sixteen.  It would take me YEARS to realize that I was being controlled by the very thing I felt I had control over.  My parents were unaware that I was using food as a means to control the chaos in my head.  I was trying to get rid of the emotional torment of a trauma that no one knew about, and I felt all alone.  I blamed God for allowing the sexual abuse to happen.  At night, as I tried to sleep, I silently screamed at God in my head.  “Why didn’t You stop it?”  “Why didn’t You love me enough?”  “Why do You hate me?”  This went on for years.

I started drinking heavily at age 17 to gain acceptance amongst my peers, and to numb myself from the immense emotional pain I was in.  I managed to graduate from high school with Honors, and I was accepted into the Music Education program at a small, Midwest bible college.  When I went off to college, I went to the one in the Midwest because I wanted to run as far away from my issues as I could, and I figured leaving home was one way I could fix that.  I was horribly wrong; my issues came with me.  The first two months of college were okay, but things quickly spiraled out of control.  By early October of my Freshman year, I found myself in the Vice President’s office, with the Vice President and the Dean of Students.  The Dean told me that the college was sending me home because I was too sick, and the college didn’t have the kind of services I needed, which were specialized counseling and a psychiatrist/psychologist.  I was told I was a liability if I stayed on campus.  I wasn’t eating much of anything and I was sleeping even less.  The Vice President told me that they didn’t want me dying on campus.  I called my parents and they had to drive 1600 miles to come get me.  My secret life was out in the open, and I had to explain the starving and purging that I was doing.  I got home and my life continued to spiral.

I ended up getting admitted to a private psychiatric hospital in upstate NY.  My first inpatient psychiatric admission was when I was 19, and my roommate was a “cutter”.  Before this hospitalization, I had no idea what cutting even was.  After a horrible day while inpatient, my roommate had said, “Why don’t you just cut yourself?  You’ll feel better.”  The thought horrified me, and it never came up again.  After I was discharged and had a horrible day of college classes, the thought popped into my head to cut myself.  I was again horrified, but tried it.  I started cutting myself when I was 19 years old.  And that started years of scars that I’ll have for the rest of my life.  Starving myself and throwing up were no longer giving me enough control.  I had convinced myself that the deeper I cut, the better I’d feel.  But there was no long-term relief.  It was short-lived, and I had to cut myself more often.  Each cut left me feeling worse and worse about myself.  The worse I felt, the more I had to cut.  It was a vicious cycle.  I was living on my own, and I fell deeper into depression.  With that depression came an intense desire to die.  I was done living, and I wanted out.  I obsessed about death, and constantly thought of ways to kill myself.  I had carefully planned all four of my serious suicide attempts around times when I knew no one would be around and I’d be able to die without being found.  But every, single time, God intervened and I was found.  My life was spared.

After more than 35 psychiatric hospitalizations in six years for Anorexia, Bulimia, Self-Harm and Depression, I was labeled “Chronically Treatment Resistant”.  During one hospitalization, it was decided that I would do 16 sessions of Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) or “Shock Treatment”.  I didn’t want to have my brain shocked, but I had already been in the hospital for 3 months at this point, and I wanted out.  I didn’t care whether that was being released from the hospital or checking out of life.  I’m thankful for God’s guiding hand over the anesthesiologist, doctors and nurses that did the ECT.  I was in the hospital for an additional two months for the 3-days-a-week ECT.  I did well for about 3 months after the ECT treatments, and spiraled downward again.  My therapist and psychiatrist didn’t know what else to do with me.  I was threatened with being put in a state-run institution, and my parents were told I was close to that point, but it never came to pass.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized God kept me from that fate.

By this time, I had not been going to church for approximately 5 years.  I had given up on God years previously.  I believed that He was the cause of my constant suffering.  All my life, I had grown up hearing that God loved me and cared about me, but here I was, tormented emotionally on a daily basis because of the abuse I had gone through as a little girl.  I couldn’t understand how a loving, caring God would allow a defenseless child to be hurt like that.  Despite my disdain for God, He STILL kept His hand of protection on my life.  I had applied to a program called Mercy Ministries because my insurance was running out, and threatening not to cover any more inpatient admissions due to the excessive number of inpatient hospitalizations.  By this point, they had shelled out over $750,000 in payments for my hospitalizations alone.  That didn’t include my outpatient therapy or my numerous psychiatric medications.  I had gone online and googled “free treatment centers”.  Mercy Ministries of America came up.  I wasn’t thrilled that it was God-centered, but I was desperate.  By the Fall of 2003, I had an admission date of January 7, 2004 for Mercy Ministries, and was going to the Monroe, Louisiana home.

I went to Mercy and even though I was terrified and had a rough start, I did a lot of work.  I made it to six months in the program, and things really started to get tough in counseling.  I had failed to put on my admission application that I had been sexually abused as a little girl.  It was something I didn’t want to deal with.  It came up one day in and it just couldn’t be avoided.  God has a funny way of making things like that happen!  I started talking about it, and the anger that came to the surface was too much for me to deal with.  Anger at God, anger at my parents, anger at myself, anger at so many things.  I felt there was no outlet for that anger.  I was too scared and too proud to ask the staff for help with the anger.  So it piled up and got worse.  I said some things I regret, in anger, to an amazing staff person, and I was sent home.  It was the right decision, on behalf on the staff, though I didn’t think it was fair at the time.

After I got home, I was still very angry at God.  My bulimia was wildly out of control again, and I was readmitted to the psychiatric hospital in upstate, NY.  While I was there, I sneaked into my room and purged my dinner one night.  I stopped breathing and my heart stopped.  I was found by one of the nurses who was doing the required every-15-minutes patient checks.  No one knows how long my heart had stopped beating, or how long my brain had been without oxygen.  CPR was started, and an ambulance was called.  I was brought back, but was lost again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  I was brought back again.  I spent a week in a medical hospital and was brought back to the psychiatric hospital.  God still wasn’t done with me.
 
As a young person, I never looked at the things that have happened to me as a blessing.  But I know that God will use the things I’ve gone through and experienced to somehow help others.  I’ve had the opportunity to help people by sharing parts of my past.  I have overcome ONLY through Him!  God has rescued me and shown me unmerited favor and grace.  I didn’t deserve any second chances, but HE sees something in me that deserves chance after chance after chance.  I don’t know how He’s going to use all of what I’ve gone through, but He does.

In March of 2009, I was blessed with a second chance that I never even dreamed of.  I was given the opportunity to go to the Nashville Mercy Ministries home to do a one-week “boot camp” of counseling to finish what I didn’t finish at the Monroe home.  I never thought this would be possible because I was past the program’s age limit, and I had messed up so badly while I was in the Monroe home near the end.  But I was given this second chance, and I took it, without even giving it much of a second thought.  I went, worked my butt off, and accomplished more in that week than I did in the 5 and a half months that I was in the Monroe home.  I went with an agenda, and I stuck to it.  I had assignments and did them.  I had chores just like the rest of the girls.  At the end of the week, right before I was getting ready to fly back home, I was told I’d be graduating.  I bawled.  God helped me through the week, which had absolutely drained me and left me in tears 75% of the time, and one of His rewards was something I had wanted for years; a Mercy Ministries graduation and ring; something I never thought I’d have.  I was able to mend the relationship with the staff person from the Monroe home that I was so angry with in 2004, which God totally orchestrated!  She was in Nashville for some meetings at the Mercy home, and neither of us knew the other would be there.  But God did!  He also gave me peace from my past.  God is just too cool, and He truly DOES give us the desires of our heart!
God has graciously blessed me with the opportunity to share this testimony (a life that is really HIS) with dozens of people, both in other states and where I live.  I am honored that He has opened doors for me to share His grace and mercy in a life that was so completely torn apart.  I have been able to see where He has been there with me in my traumas.  That has been the biggest and most amazing thing God has taught me thought all of this.  I should not be alive, yet I am.  I am grateful.

Thank you Ali for sharing your story!  It has been an honor to get to know you over these past few years!!! ❤

– Chocolate Runner Girl –

Freedom Friday!

I have been honored to read many stories this week about so many people who have found freedom in recovery from an eating disorder.  Every story has had different elements, but each story also has had hope!  It is my privilege today to share Lauren’s story!

My story starts at a very early age, at about 4 years old. For as long as I can remember I have been bullied- for multiple reasons(and no, being in college doesn’t stop it). One of those reasons was how I looked. Don’t get me wrong, I was a pretty cute kid. I mean who isn’t? But my classmates didn’t seem to see me the way my family did. I was called names all the time; mostly by boys. I was called ugly and fat. I had things thrown and me, and in middle school boys would pretend to ask me out, thinking it was a big game. Needless to say, I grew up with the worst self-esteem ever. And it carried over into the first few years of college. I grew up thinking I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t pretty enough. That no boy would ever be attracted to me or want to be with me- all based on how I looked. And I believed all of that 100%. By the time high school rolled around, not only was I being bullied at school, but I was being emotional abused by my father. I felt like my only safe place was the dance studio-it had become my second home- but even that would end up being hurtful to me. By my sophomore year of high school my body started “filling out”. I was getting slight curves and starting to grow up and look like a woman. And as some one who has always been the tiniest of her friends, this was a hard adjustment for me. I thought I was getting fat. And it freaked me out.
Now, I’ll save you the somewhat boring details, but let’s just say that one negative thought leads to another. And then another. And then another. And then before you know it, you mind is consumed by negativity and lies. And that’s exactly what happened with me. By the time my senior year came I had no self-esteem, self-worth or self confidence. If you were to ask me what I liked about myself at the time, I would have lied or made something up because I honestly couldn’t think of anything. All these lies lead to me skipping meals and becoming obsessed with my appearance. By senior year I maybe at one meal a day. And if I didn’t eat a meal I had least had some form of a snack during the day.(Ignoring hunger pains was never my strong point.) I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to get thinner. I wanted to be beautiful. But how I was feeling at the time was nothing compared to what was to come.
I took the spring semester of my freshman year at college off after a suicide attempt. During this time, and the semester before, all of my mental health problems had gotten a lot worse. When I wasn’t focused on the depression or wanting to self harm, I was focused on food. I did everything I could to not eat. And college made it easy. I didn’t have parents telling me to eat dinner and I wasn’t close enough with the girls on my floor for them to notice my poor eating habits or say anything about them. All of this fed the eating disorder. Soon I gave it a name, Ana. And Ana became my best friend. She helped kept me on track, or at least that’s what I thought she was doing. In all actuality, Ana made me feel like trash and wasn’t a good friend at all. I started counting Calories and weighing myself multiple times a day. I had numbers constantly going around in my head. I was worried that if I ate more Calories than I was “allowed” to I would gain weight or get fat. I strived to get to my goal weight, thinking that I would finally be happy and like myself if I reached it. Side note: I should probably point out that by this time I had become a Christian and was attending a Christian college. But being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t struggle-and this was something I found out the hard way. As I was saying, my thoughts gave me constant anxiety and I had the constant fear of getting fat. Or fatter depending on how I was feeling that day. I even tried to purge multiple times, but for some reason I just couldn’t do it. (Which I’m very thankful for now.) I was caught in a vicious cycle of self hatred. I felt bad if I ate and I felt bad if I didn’t eat. I wanted nothing more than all the pain to stop. I wanted to finally look and feel beautiful. I wanted guys to notice I existed and to think I was pretty. I wanted to get better at dance. I wanted to be loved and feel like I deserved that love. And I thought I would gain all of that by skipping meals, counting Calories, compulsively weighing myself, and getting thinner. I was in denial for a really long time and didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing to myself. And even once I realized that I really did have a problem, I went back and forth with wanting to get help. I hated the hell I was in and couldn’t live with it anymore, but I had been anorexic for almost 5 years at this point. I didn’t exactly know how to live without it. And the thought of living a “normal” life was scary.
Throughout all of this I managed to not fail out of college and keep some of the friendships I had formed. But my academic life was a mess and my friendships were unhealthy. The fact that those things survived as they did and have only gotten better since recovery is easily explained by the grace of God. But not everyone is as lucky as I am. Most people with an eating disorder loose friends and family members and jobs and do worse than I did in school. I never looked emaciated, but I was unhealthy. And it was obvious. My “before” and “after” pictures don’t look drastically different. And in a way, I’m blessed because of that. And in all honesty, I should have been emaciated. And I don’t have an answer as to why I didn’t except, but God. My point is, no matter what I looked like or what the number on the scale was, anorexia took 6 years away from me. I had a slow suicide for 6 years. I was living in my own personal hell for 6 years. Eating disorders are no joke, they really damage lives in multiple ways. I can’t get those 6 years back. I can’t go back in time or meet my past self to change what I did. But its a lesson I had to learn from. I test I had to go through. And I honestly don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I didn’t go through that.
Fast forward to now: I have been living in freedom for just over a year. I graduated from a treatment program called Mercy Ministries in November 2012. I’m back at school and getting decent grades. I’m heavily involved on campus, including running a dance ministry. I’m even going on my first missions trip in 2 weeks to Mississippi. All of this wouldn’t be possible if I was still in bondage to the eating disorder. This wouldn’t be happening if I hadn’t taken that first step and applied to Mercy. If I hadn’t reached out, gotten the help I needed, and let God work in me and free me. I’m here to tell you that there is life after an eating disorder. There is life after recovery. Recovery is possible. Freedom is possible. All it takes is that first step of reaching out. Please, if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, get help. Not everyone needs to go to a treatment center like I did, but everyone needs and deserves help. Because everyone is beautiful, just the way there are.

Thank you for sharing your story Lauren!  You are a courageous woman!  It is true that the first step in recovery is reaching out.
If you, or someone you know is struggling, please reach out.  There are so many places who offer help.  If you need recommendations feel free to contact me and I will do my best to help.  Your life IS worth living with out an eating disorder!

NEDAawareness– Chocolate Runner Girl-