Right now as I’m sitting here typing this out, I’m also enjoying an iced blended coffee, whilst wearing a t-shirt and shorts. A year ago today…this is something I never could’ve imagined myself doing. Why?
1. Iced blended coffee?! *gasp* never!! Anorexia would have thrown a fit!
2. A t-shirt and shorts?! Unheard of! Even in humid Malaysian weather…because at the time, even Malaysian weather was “too cold” for my malnourished body to handle.
It’s January 2017 – I’m going to University in February. I wake up every morning looking forward to life. Food is no longer as huge a fear to me. Parts of my old self are returning. My faith in the Lord is growing every day. I am regaining life.
Anorexia was my quest for perfection
It nearly killed me. It is through the Grace of God, that I can share my story with you today. This is my story:
My family has always associated me with being a perfectionist. It was all ok for the first 16 years of my life…but as soon as I started college (i.e. Year 11 and 12), things started to crumble. The perfectionism got a little more demanding – excel at subjects, get good results, keep up socially with friends, participate in extracurricular activities, make good first impressions, get into the university you want etc.
Added to those pressures was the fact that I was in Australia whilst the rest of my family was in Malaysia, the lack of community…and I guess as well as my own fear of failure. At one point I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life anymore…it just felt too stressful…too chaotic. I needed control…and anorexia was my control.
Eating disorder is a deceptive disease for both women and men. According to research, approximately 10 million men and 20 million women will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Many people will die from them too. 1 in 10 people who suffer from an eating disorder will die as a result. It has the highest mortality rate out of all the psychiatric illnesses.
Very few eating disorders started with the desire to be thin. Often they begin subconsciously. My own encounter with anorexia began with a few small, and seemingly innocent choices as a way of making myself feel in control. I wasn’t achieving the grades I wanted at the time…so if I couldn’t get that right, I may as well try to get something else about myself right. Ironically, I chose my health.
The thing about small choices though…was that after a while they added up. They added up and became a habit. The behaviors became addictive – to numb emotions. Food, calories, and the number on the scale…they became something I could focus on, instead of my own emotions and feelings. After a while, anorexia started to distort my perception of my own body and abilities. Anorexia distorted my thoughts. It made me believe that without my eating disorder…I was nothing; I wasn’t capable of being successful, of being loved…of being worthy of anything. Anorexia became my identity and dictated how I behaved. Yes I knew I had an eating disorder, but I couldn’t imagine life without it.
Within those two years, my weight has gone up and down as I’ve been in and out of treatment. I was hospitalized a total of four times, and relapsed three out of the four times after I was discharged. Thankfully I managed to complete my final exams in 2015, but pulled out of university in 2016 due to my eating disorder (making me feel like an even bigger failure). My family nearly fell apart, and I wanted to end my own life. Everything just seemed so pointless…so hopeless.
For two years, recovery and freedom from this eating disorder felt impossible. I threw away my faith because I believed that God had left me…that He didn’t care.
God never left
Through the constant support from my family and friends, I started to believe that God’s truth and love are great enough to bring complete freedom and recovery from this eating disorder. And that He has even greater plans in store. He never wanted an eating disorder to affect my life…but even when it did, He never left. It was like God was waiting for me to walk out of this eating disorder so I could move on to fulfill the plans that He has for me.
With God, there is no guilt, no shame, and no condemnation. I rejected God so many times, blamed Him for all my problems and wondered why I was still alive at times. But when I did return to Him, He didn’t judge, He didn’t turn me away. Instead, God constantly reminded me of my identity as His child – the daughter of the Most High God. He still spoke to me with gentleness and love, and most importantly truth. His unfailing compassion for my struggle with an eating disorder gave me strength to overcome the shame and failure I felt about myself due to my interaction with anorexia. With this strength from God…I am also able to share my story with others.
Of course, recovery from anorexia was no smooth journey. Through the many downs, God would provide me with little “pushes of motivation” – people, words, and experiences. Through my recovery from anorexia I’ve been blessed with meeting so many amazing people (my angels in disguise) who have either directly or indirectly encouraged me to push forward whenever I was tempted to take a step back into my eating disorder. They reminded me that there is more to life than an eating disorder. And I’m forever grateful for them.
Nothing is impossible for God
I never believed recovery from my eating disorder would be possible…but here I am, still recovering but a long way from where I was before. A year ago I was convinced I would die from my eating disorder (and I didn’t care). Now I am preparing myself to go back to University – to experience life all over again. This is the Grace of God.
Please, if you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, let me tell you that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE!!! But don’t go through it alone. Speaking of your struggle helps to break past that shame of the eating disorder and helps to alleviate the loneliness you feel. So talk to someone about your struggle – your family, friends…someone you trust.
Asking for help is a sign of strength.
My family has stuck with me all the way, and my friends who knew about my eating disorder never left my side. Their support held me up.
If your loved one is struggling from an eating disorder, you’re going to be hurting too. It’s hard to watch someone you love hurt themselves. YOU need people around to support you as well while you support your loved one with an eating disorder. But the most important thing though – NEVER FORGET TO PRAY. NEVER LOOSE YOUR FAITH! Like the bible says, pray without ceasing. Hold onto the word of God. Get others to pray too. I’m confident when I say that I’ve managed to progress so much in recovery because of all the prayers said by my friends and family.
Through the Grace of God I’m still here today. Though recovery is still a work in progress, I’m getting closer and closer to full recovery each day. Yes, every day I still struggle with guilt, still struggle with certain foods and continue to fight the lies in my head. Even though I may not be where I need to be yet, in terms of physical, mental, and spiritual recovery…I am a lot further than where I was before. And I will continue to move forward every day. This is all thanks to God and His continuous healing in my life. I still experience His miracles and blessings every day.
Anorexia was my affliction. But I am now ready to use my past to raise awareness in the present – to share my story. I want to help others who are struggling; be it with an eating disorder, anxiety, self-harm etc. I want them to experience Gods’ grace in their lives and experience the freedom that recovery brings.
My struggle with an eating disorder may have been one of the lowest points in my life, but it has only made me stronger. Don’t be afraid to have the courage to face your fears – don’t give your eating disorder the power over you. I don’t need my eating disorder to give me worth! When God is for you, who can be against you?!
Like they say: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.