Embracing life to the full… Including questions, challenges, joys and adventures
As of Feb. 14th I will have passed my 10-year celebration of completing a two-month stay at Ramuda Ranch. Ramuda Ranch is an inpatient treatment center for women struggling with Anorexia and Bulimia in Wickenburg, AZ. I won’t say that 10 years ago marked an end to my struggle, rather it marked a beginning of a new way of living, a way towards health and a path towards wholeness that I am still on today.
How did I develop an eating disorder? Pre- ED, I thought “eating disorder” was a scary word, something only reserved for those they do Lifetime specials about… This is a lie, many of us struggle with disordered eating and disordered thinking and we need fight the lies and tapes that plague us and often rob us of our joy, the joy that Christ has to offer, the joy that I missed out on for a long time.
Eating disorders and image issues are not about the food or the weight.
They are not about the number on the scale.
Not about the calories in or out.
Not even about what we see or don’t see in the mirror.
They are about much more.
There are underlying problems that manifest themselves in habitual patterns of self-destruction, for me my symptoms included compulsive exercise, restrictive eating, and binging and purging…. These are what I used to cope with lies about my identity, my relationship with God and my relationships with other people.
So, if my eating disorder was not about the food or the weight, what was it about?
The “it” here is probably a unique mix of junk for each one of us, but for me there were laundry list of things that were tipped off by one extreme event, an event that sunk my shame, guilt, and fear to a newer, deeper level, a point beyond which I thought I could share with anyone else. I point where I felt only darkness and my ED helped bring me some control.
It is okay to have a junk in your life. But when we keep it hidden it starts to stink… and stink bad!
I needed to learn that God was not punishing me for these things. Rather, God loved me through them.
For me, many little bits of junk piled together to set me up for an easy downward spiral when I was emotionally and sexually abused as a teenager. I won’t go into the details of that experience, but I remember going into the bathroom, looking into the mirror and thinking, “If I don’t have boobs he won’t want to touch me, if I don’t have hips he won’t want to hold them, if I’m not a “woman” then I will be safe… let me keep getting smaller and fade away.”
I lost the boobs.
I lost the hips.
It didn’t work… the pain only got deeper…
I used counting calories and watching the ticker at the gym as a means to control something in my life… I got satisfaction out of being able to wipe away every thing I ate, even the sticks of gum I chewed. At first I got praise for being thinner and then it got scary… I didn’t realize that I had a problem until my brother walked up the stairs and looked at me and said, “Are you okay, you look like a skeleton”… I saw fear in his eyes and was surprised…
I sought a counselor… I hated her!
After dealing with the scare of death I gained a little weight back and then proceeded to struggle on the edge of life and “control” for the next 6 years, all through college…
Over those years my identity got more and more wrapped around my size and shape.
I didn’t know there could be healing.
I didn’t know there were more lies for me to let go of.
I didn’t know how deeply I clung to these lies.
I didn’t know there was anything beneath the surface.
I didn’t know how to not be “skinny”, “small”, “restricting”, “disciplined”…
On the outside I acted as if “because I wasn’t dying” I was okay, that controlling and being “healthy” were normal and even to be praised. Unfortunately, my ED lingered around and came out in fierce form whenever stressful events or uncertainty arose. I used my control and my perfection to keep me from feeling angry or hurt in the ways that I was crying out to on the inside.
I didn’t know that God could take my emotions…
I didn’t know that it was okay to feel them or to express them
For example, I never told anyone, nor talked with God, about that experience, the one when I was 15, not for 7 years. The hardest thing I ever did was telling my family.
But, When I actually spoke about my experience it lost its power. I was able to feel anger and then to let go of it. I had a lot of rage inside of me. I was taking it out on myself instead of releasing it and being real with it.
I didn’t even know I was doing that! Only after letting that secret out did I recognize that that event wasn’t the only thing I was carrying around inside of myself.
The following verses spoke volumes to my life.
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[g] 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.“[h]
This truth along with supportive therapy and people brought me to understanding some key points of healing. Going along with v. 19-21, bringing this one experience into the “light” allowed me to recognize that for years I had carried around guilt and shame and condemnation for an event that I took undo responsibility for. I hadn’t let myself experience anger or even to admit that this thing had happened to me. I had fooled myself into living in darkness because I thought that was what “light” was… little did I know that true light comes from exposing the darkest places.
I wasn’t able to snap my fingers and just unveil these inside places overnight, it was a process that began when one of the counselors at Ramuda (David) looked into my eyes and said, “Traci, God is not punishing you…”
This process continues to this day.
David was crying when he looked into my eyes. I believed that I was being punished for things I had done or left undone in my life.
I thought I deserved to suffer. These things made it good for me to hate myself. Boy was I wrong…
Not only did God cry (as David did) for the wounds that I carried with me; but, God wanted to and was holding me through them. He wanted the dark places to loose their power and become exposed. He wanted me to let go of the need to do everything perfectly in order to please Him, but to run to Him with open arms and allow God to love me in the way that He promises in the verses I just read.
Now I know that the Lord loves me enough to take on the negative emotions, to teach me to learn how to be real and ask for help, to know that I am not perfect and that the Holy Spirit carries me through.
Each day I am becoming more able to let go and to gain Jesus’ strength to sing, to dance, to run, and to play… even when the world around me seems like it is falling apart. Even when I am not performing in the ways I would like to or think I should, even when I am not perfect…
Now I can trust in a hope that is beyond my understanding.
Trusting in Jesus for healing in this area of my life looks like this:
I still have a lot to work on, but am thankful for the truths that I have learned and the ability to be honest about my struggles now. No more fake Traci, lying on the floor crying with friends afraid to talk to her… Hello, humble and confident Traci, whose strength comes from the Lord.