This is a re-edited version of a speech I gave in November 2009. I decided to share it as part of NEDAwareness Week in order to spread awareness about not only the issue of eating disorders and recovery, but also God uses circumstances in our lives to RESTORE us and use our lives for His glory. It is because of this story that I founded COREministries– I hope that in reading it you will be encouraged to allow God to speak to you about areas in your life that need to be CORED so you can be RESTORED…
After the birth of my second child, things were chaotic and stressful at home. My husband and I were having trouble adjusting to the “parenting” lifestyle, I was busy, and my husband was busy. I was insecure as a mother, becoming more insecure about being a wife. Was I a good enough mother? Was I a good enough wife? There was a growing distance, a strain at home. I wanted to be reassured that I was doing everything right, I wanted to know I was doing something well, that I was good enough.
Like another wife you may have heard about, I sought out knowledge. And like her, I went in search of something good, and wound up with something worse. You see, Eve wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt anyone that day in the garden. I imagine that she was just taking a casual stroll, curious about the forbidden tree, perhaps she stepped a little too close, wondering aloud, “What if I did know what it meant to be ‘good’. That is all it took one out loud breath, one uttered phrase, and then came the serpent. Once the words were spoken, the serpent had what he needed to lure her… She took the apple that was offered… The rest is history…and this is how it happened to me.
Growing in my insecurity as a wife and mother and feeling a sense of chaos and lack of control in my life-I began to seek out ways to take control over my house, my children, my marriage. I read parenting magazines, organizational websites, listened to relationship experts on TV. But I couldn’t figure out how to discipline my children, or make my family happy. I didn’t feel like a good wife either. I was too tired, too stressed, and too busy and so was my husband. I didn’t feel attractive either.
It was in this chaos of my life, I don’t remember exactly how or when it happened, that I ran into a “serpant” of my own. I was just searching for knowledge of how to be “good enough” and there he was with the answers. He claimed to have the knowledge I wanted, I just needed to spend a little time with him, and he would help me. And thus began my relationship with ED, my eating disorder. It was just like old times; he had a lot of encouraging things to say. He told me that if I just got back into shape, look like I did before I had kids, that I would be more attractive to my husband, have more energy for my kids and my house work. “Get out of the house more, exercise!” My intentions were good. I followed “expert” advice from magazines on dieting and exercise. It didn’t seem odd for me to be doing all of this. It all appeared so normal. Things were going great! People were noticing that I was losing my “baby” weight, I was feeling good. I felt like my husband was paying more attention to me. I loved it! I had this goal of getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight by the time we went on our anniversary trip in June 2006- 6 months after the birth of my second child. It was a lofty goal, but Ed said we could do it if I just listened to him. I had taken the apple, the “perfect” body, that would make me “good enough”….right?
I could no longer just do what my friends were doing or follow the “expert” advice in magazines. No, I was going to have to double my efforts. Ed’s plan became more rigorous, the rules more strict. Most foods were “off limits” and eating could only happen if I followed the rules. I was shedding the pounds, but things were getting harder. Sometimes I would not be able to work out or eat at home. This was not part of the Ed’s plan. He became relentless…. He would not stop, all day, every day. Somewhere along the way I stopped trying to be “good” enough for my family and lived only to please Ed, and then only to appease Ed. He would wake me up in the night to plan the next day’s regimen. All of my actions were done with his authority at the risk of severe punishment. It was never enough; I was always doing something wrong. All of this was going on right in front of my husband, friends, and family. I tried to hide it well. I wanted to be the “perfect apple”. I was achieving goals, getting attention from people for doing such a great job shedding those baby pounds, I was the smiling, laughing Bible Study girl on Sundays and Tuesday nights and the “fun” wife when my husband and I would go out with our friends. On the outside the apple was red and shiny, but on the inside I was rotting FROM the core.
My life had ceased to be about trying to be “good” or searching for what “good” was…It was about Ed. I was completely dependant on him, his voice, his rules. My days were a series of pre-planned routines that were designed to quiet his constant whispers telling me that I could have all that I wanted, just a little more work, a little less food. By this point, I had stopped comparing myself with women I knew or models in magazines. There was no ideal look; there was no magic number on the scale. My goal, Ed’s goal, was one pound thinner. .. (Oh, that scale.. a whole other story! Suffice it to say, once a week became once a day, became after every meal….like a machine, up from the table—straight to the scale, before exercise, after exercise, before bed, before I went to the bathroom, after I went to the bathroom….etc. etc.) I wasn’t just constantly measuring my body; I was obsessive about every bit of food that I put in my mouth. Before I would eat a food item, it needed to meet Ed’s criteria. And everything had to be measured exactly so I would know that my calorie count did not exceed what I had burned on the treadmill. This was my life and I hated it. I walked around in a fog, empty, emotionless. I hated myself for getting involved with Ed again. He had deceived me, I knew it, but I was weak, powerless to get away from him. His voice was all I heard-just a little more exercise, just a little less food-your almost there…Don’t stop now…you are the ‘skinny’ one…if you stop now, people will talk. Ha…People were already talking. My perfect shiny apple was beginning to show signs of my rotting core. I was very weak, my skin was grey, and my hair began to fall out. And all of my obsessive food behaviors that I used to hide were out in the open. I was unable to eat in situations where I did not have control. The counting, the measuring, the compulsions-my husband and family were starting to see the signs of the apple “going bad”. I was oblivious to all of this. I still thought I looked “good” or at least I was good at hiding the blemishes. I drank more caffeine, wore more makeup, and ate at home to hide the behaviors. Ed was my constant companion. I did not care that my husband was angry, I did not care that I could not properly take care of my children, I did not care that I could not spend time with my friends. I just wanted to make Ed’s voice to stop, but the only way to stop his abuse was to stay with him, to keep on his plan. By September of 2006, I was at my lowest point. Every day was the same. Wake up in a fog, Ed’s voice immediately started the list of routines and rituals that I would follow through the day… I was a zombie, lifelessly moving through my world…watching things from a distance. I had become the apple- I felt that my body was all there was left of me, I felt worthless, bruised, beaten, I was giving up. The apple had fallen, I was lifeless, rotting on the ground… …Things went dark, unable to stop Ed’s voice, I closed my eyes to everything around me, darkness– I just wanted it all to be over… .I may have cried out for help, I don’t remember.
Maybe the Lord was walking around His creation that day, like the day He found Adam and Eve covering themselves trying to hide their sin. Maybe He looked down, saw the snake slithering around the apple, constricting, squeezing out the flesh, getting ready to devour every last bit. What looked like garbage, a rotten apple to everyone else, was His creation. What Satan had sought to devour, what I had worked to destroy, God saw as worthy of bending down and picking up. He could do something good with this apple, He could make it new. But first, He would have to CORE the apple, like Eve, things would be different now, there would be consequences, but because of His great love for His creation, although she would leave the garden, she would not be completely cast aside, He still had work for her to do, He still had plans for me too…and thus began my life in recovery and restoration. –My coring and restoring.
Recovery was not easy. I went because my husband and friends wanted me to, but I did not grasp the necessity of it. The first step in my recovery was to remove the outer signs of rotting. I had to be physically nourished so that my body and brain could comprehend what was going on around me. I needed to understand that perfection was a myth. There is no such thing! I had thought that thinness equaled perfection, but for me it equaled starvation, dehydration, and memory lapses. I still don’t remember very much about this time of my life. Thankfully, God provided for me a wonderful support team that included a psychologist and a dietician that helped me understand how the body needs calories, from all food groups-including FAT! . The outer signs of my rotting core were beginning to fade. I regained color in my skin, my hair stopped falling out, and the obsessive behaviors became less frequent. I gained a lot of nutritional insight during this time and, slowly, one bite at a time, I began to come out of the fog. I began to argue with Ed about food and exercise. This process was long and exhausting. It took years before I could eat without writing everything down, analyzing and discussing it with my doctors. But gradually, I stopped counting calories and learned, for the most part to listen to my body’s needs and respond with proper nutrition. I was waking up……I wanted to fend Ed off, to beat him up; I was angry and wanted to fight! I began to ask God for help-the fight with Ed was too fierce for me alone. I learned scripture and used to battle the voice inside my head. The constant hissing of the serpent was beginning to take its toll, however. I thought of God’s word as a tool. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” was a favorite verse of mine. But I was misinterpreting it. I thought that Christ had given me strength to fight this battle. But I was losing it…you see, I was still arguing with Ed, still letting him infiltrate my day, my thoughts. I had just replaced Ed’s rules with the rules of nutrition. I was still trying to control my recovery, be a “good” patient. Eating just enough to follow the rules was not enough. God doesn’t want “just enough” from us. He wants our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our strength. He didn’t give me strength to fight this battle. He was using His strength through me. I needed to step aside to witness as he won the battle and defeated the enemy-In His Strength, not my own.
In tomorrow’s blog, phase two of recovery… Physical and Spiritual CORE Strengthening.