When you think of a home what do you think of? Strength and faith? Safety and security? Warmth and love? Rest and comfort? I ask because there was a point amidst the admission just passed where I pondered this very question. I was sitting on my bed, as a wave of hopelessness and desperation came over me like a tsunami. I felt as if all the work God had done in me was coming undone and all I wanted was the feelings and ideations that came with the word ‘home’. I remember rocking myself as I cried out to God, pleading with Him to help me get home, all I wanted was home. Looking back I can see that the Lord met me there and He sat on the bed with me, holding me and comforting me, regardless of whether or not I felt Him there. Once I had calmed down, I reached for and continued to read the book I was amidst. As I turned the pages I stopped and my body physically reacted to the sentence that was written before me; “Disappointment and suffering isn’t proof that God is withholding good things from us. Sometimes it’s His way of leading us home”. “Home”. “Leading us home”. I can’t describe how I felt as I read those words.. the timing was perfect and it opened my eyes to what God was trying to say to me. He is my home. I dedicated the admission to Him and there I was momentarily wallowing and longing to go home, not realising that God was there calling, me home.
I ask that as you continue reading, you approach gently because this is my heart on paper and as I’ve said before: my words are not to impress or convince anyone of anything. My words come from my heart and they do have weight, depth and meaning – they are not void because they work to bring honour and glory to God, they were derived from my time with Him and lessons He has been teaching me. I take none of this lightly and in my heart of hearts believe that this is the turning point in my journey – this post is the moment I will look back on and I will see that all the posts and moments leading to this one has worked to prepare my heart, mind and soul for this next chapter; healing.
(Bare with me, it’s a long one.. but then again, aren’t all the good ones?!)
It’s the season of covid shots and flu vaccines, I’m receiving both and it led me to ponder the concept of immunity. There is often quite the uproar in society when immunisations are addressed, many individuals both for and against them. I pause to question whether or not those who are so strongly opposed, would still feel that way if they were able to dictate what they were immune toward or if they were able to create immunisations to use to their advantage? Are there things in your life that you think you’d be better off without? Perhaps work, getting old, body image battles, bills to pay? Or on a larger scale, are there things that society would be better without? Cancer, chronic illness, war, death? You see, some of those examples are quite bold and unrealistic but I’m sure there are many who would jump at the opportunity to immunise themselves against things as such. I pause again to now consider things that I would love to be rid of; Gollum for one.. I smile, as I recall once again a conversation that T and I have had many times; ‘I can’t snap my fingers and suddenly not have an eating disorder anymore, it just doesn’t work that way’. I won’t lie though, it would be quite handy if I could somehow become immune to the battles I face both past and present; heartbreak, trauma, depression, Anorexia Nervosa. However, if God wanted us to be immune to lifes hardships then would there not be some vast array of immunisations or would the hardships simply not exist? I think it comes down to the fact that when sin entered into the world, so did hardships. There are certain things in life that we just need to experience and walk through, because we can’t possibly be immune to everything. This same concept applies to suffering.
No-one on earth is immune to suffering but everyone is given the opportunity to suffer well. Since my last blog a week ago, the concept of suffering well has weighed on my heart more heavily. In hindsight it was almost expected that the week following my conscious decision to suffer well, would be filled with more challenges and trials. Friday morning came and I cried through each of my appointments, by the time I reached my last appointment I was facing admission once again. However this time, I also faced the decision as to whether I would simply suffer, or if I would suffer well. As I sat across from my psychiatrist, S, the familiar burning in the pit of my stomach arose. I took a breath and instead of succumbing to the fear and resistance around admission, I surrendered it unto God because since seeing T the day before, I had been praying that the outcome of Friday would work according to God’s plan for me and this was a time where I had to trust that He was in control. I remember feeling a wave of peace and acceptance as I sat across from S, I held hope that this admission was an opportunity to draw nearer to God and to suffer well.
S allowed me to go home to speak with mom and pack my things. She explained to me that though my team was proud of my progress and could acknowledge my efforts, they also knew that Gollum was strong again and they wanted to give me the best chance of fighting; an admission for re-feeding. Fear arose in me as I drove home, uncertain of what I would say to my mother. I prayed on the drive home, I prayed over the situation, the admission ahead and the conversation that was to take place between my mother and I. I soon arrived at home where I simply told my mother that I had been struggling, that I tried to fix things on my own but my body needed extra help. I told her that my team was going to help me and that God was good. I believed every word I said and by God’s grace, my mom received it well. The admission itself was possibly the most positive one I have had, it was scary and challenging but oh my goodness.. it outlined the mass progress we have made and God used my time in hospital to deeply connect with me. The hospital was short staffed everywhere so for the majority of the time, I didn’t have a special.. the me 8 or so months ago would have used every opportunity to engage in Gollum’s behaviours but the me I am in Christ today, didn’t. I reflected particularly upon my long admission and recalled how different things were back then; I would exercise in the bathroom each chance I got, I would hide food, throw up and spit out meals, I would manipulate and dilute snacks, I remember at a stage sneaking syringes to purge via my ngt.. it got worse, however the point isn’t to dwell on how bad things were, but to recognise how hugely things have improved. If I’m honest, I am terrible at noticing my progress because it more often than not feels selfish and vain, but I am learning that the praise belongs to God so I can celebrate without feeling guilty because I am giving Him the glory. Though if you think about it, I really couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without God. It was 5 months to the exact date between my last admission and the one just passed. How crazy is that? 5 months out of hospital.. I remember the time where a week or two seemed to be a stretch. The admission just passed fell over a long weekend which meant I had a lot of time to simply be, I went into the admission with the mindset of dedicating it to God and strengthening my relationship with Him. All I primarily wanted was to learn how to suffer well, but in the end I walked away with so much more.
You see, everything began as I was packing my bags at home. I reached for a book that I had bought little over a year ago, titled ‘Hope when it hurts’ and it shared the story of two women who had experienced the hardships that come with life. The book included little areas where I could work through and journal what God was sharing with me. I wasn’t sure that was the book I would take with me but as I flicked through I opened to the first page and would you believe me if I told you that the very first sentence read; “To suffer well, you need Jesus”. That right there, was God. In the midst of everything I was feeling as I packed for hospital, God paused and reminded me of His provision. In that moment, as I stood in my room all the feelings of fluster, fear and shame disappeared; it felt as if God was confirming that this admission would be one of growth in Him rather than defeat by Gollum. As the admission began and continued, I each day made the conscious decision to vulnerably surrender to God through prayer and devotion. By His grace, I learned to suffer well.
Suffering is inevitable, we already established that it’s not something we are immune to. The book I’m reading described suffering as a dead weight that bears down on our hearts, a pain that puts pressure on our faith and stirs up emotions that we may find hard to confront or push back. Suffering entered the world when sin did, it isn’t something that we choose to go through and it isn’t always our fault. In fact I think you’ll find that we most often can’t control when we suffer, but God is teaching me that we can control how we suffer. To suffer well, we need Jesus and we need the gospel. The gospel shows us that Jesus suffered so that He would be able to comfort us during our present suffering, everything we go through, He has already gone through and when we open God’s word we see that Jesus showed us how to suffer well. When Jesus suffered or faced trials and temptations, He always turned to God and everything He did brought glory to His Father’s name. When we suffer, we face a choice of either suffering with God or without Him. When we choose to suffer without God and to navigate by our own knowledge, suffering quickly becomes something that we need to ‘get through’, it becomes something we try to rush and it becomes a heavy burden. Contrast to this, if we choose to suffer with God then we are able to view suffering as something we can ‘grow through’, we are able to walk at a slower pace and strengthen in our relationship with God. By suffering with God, we learn to suffer well. In the bible Job is an example of someone who suffered well, He faced suffering on end but continued to praise God through it.
Praising God through my suffering has been a concept I have really battled with, especially when suffering came in the form of trauma. I am learning that even in the deepest suffering, I can praise God. Not necessarily for the suffering itself, but because it causes me to be more dependant and deepens my need for Him. What if instead of questioning God amidst my suffering, I instead took seriously His command to praise Him through every season? I have begun to see the harvest that comes when I shift my mind from dwelling on suffering, toward praising God. I’m reminded of the fast I took part in and have continued to do, the decision to listen to worship music both consciously and subconsciously – the change and impact this has had on my heart, mind and soul is far greater than I anticipated. People always say that you become what you fill yourself with and I am learning that if I fill myself with my suffering then it will consume me, whereas if I fill myself with praise then God’s fruits will inhabit my spirit. I think it’s important to disclaim that praising God amidst our suffering, doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to acknowledge our present hurt. God isn’t telling us to ignore our suffering and ‘toughen up’.. He too acknowledges the pain that comes from our suffering, but through praise He offers us comfort and reassurance that He is in control. Amidst deep suffering we can sometimes question why we are still here, I know I have and I’ve even begged for God to let me die. You know what? In a sense God did let me die.. By God allowing me to suffer, He also allowed me to learn how to die to myself. Remember a while back I touched on the concept of dying to ourselves? God has shown me over this last week or so, that dying to myself is a beautiful process that needs to take place before I can become more like Jesus, it brings me closer to Him. Suffering brings us to the end of ourselves and creates in us a desperation for comfort and peace, it extorts our weakness and makes known our deep need for God.
In a world where strength is glorified, weakness is often looked down upon. Would you believe me if I told you that God celebrates our weakness and that we should too? Being weak doesn’t equate to being bad, it doesn’t make us a failure or less worthy of God’s love. In fact there is value in weakness because it magnifies our need for God. In His word God tells us that His power is made perfect in our weakness and because we are made to bring glory to God’s name, should we not then celebrate our weakness? Everything changes when we see weakness and suffering in the light of the gospel, when we allow our weakness to drive us toward depending on God. I find that I have often tried to depend on others but God has shown me that He is the only one I can truely depend on. When we chose to suffer well and allow God’s strength to reign amidst our weakness, we in turn show the world and assure ourselves that we have a hope beyond our present suffering.
Hope beyond my present suffering looks like having faith in God’s plan for me. When we stop to look around us in the thick of our suffering, we can often find ourselves questioning.. Where is God? Why is this happening? How can this be God’s plan for me? Why won’t God take my suffering? T and I have often spoken about snap healing and I admit that I have at times wondered why God hadn’t already just snapped my suffering into thin air? Haven’t I suffered enough? God’s plan can often look really confusing but when it does, I find it helpful to remind myself that I only see things from a small and narrow perspective.. I can’t see the bigger picture and just because God can snap fix all our suffering, it doesn’t mean that He always will. Sometimes instead of removing our suffering, God challenges us to suffer well and He sits in the thick of it with us until we are ready to continue walking through alongside Him. God may not always take our suffering away, but He will always be there and His plan for us is greater than we could ever imagine so who are we to question? In the bible Paul knew that God was able to remove the thorn if He wanted to, but at the same time Paul trusted in the Lord’s greater purpose. Paul knew that God loved him and was for him, knowing this gave him the courage to suffer well and boldly approach God amidst his suffering. If God is powerful enough to change our circumstances and remove our suffering, but doesn’t, it does not mean that He doesn’t love us or care, it means that perhaps He is allowing them to play out for reasons we can not yet see. God promises to love us and lead us, He promises that everything will work together for the good of those who love Him but God never promised us that we would always understand. The cross means that God is for us and it shows how deeply He loves us, even when we feel uncertain. Isaiah 55:8-9 shares that God’s thoughts are not our own, His ways are higher than ours and we can not possibly make sense of what He is doing in our lives. This is where faith comes in.
There are some things that happen, that we will never understand whilst being on earth, but there are also some things that will begin to make more sense as time passes and as we look back and see God’s hand in everything. I look back on areas of my life where I felt God wasn’t there, in particularly last year when I walked away from Him. My heart smiles because I can so clearly see that God was always there and I am beginning to see purpose and reason amidst some of the suffering. Hebrews 11:1 reminds me that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Just because we can’t see or feel God, it doesn’t mean that He is not there. God didn’t intend for us to suffer, He didn’t create us for the sole purpose of suffering but that also doesn’t mean He can’t use our suffering to bring glory to His name. Even though we sin against God every day, His purpose is still never to punish us. God’s heart breaks when our hearts break. I hear T’s words; “His heart aches for you, this is not His plan for you”. It took me a while to understand but I see now that she was right. God yearns to have a relationship with us, He wants us to find our sense of safety and security in Him. I used to fear the act of surrendering and the vulnerability that goes hand in hand, but I’m learning that surrender shouldn’t be something we do out of defeat and hopelessness, it’s something we should do gladly and as an act of faith because its a privilege that brings us closer to Jesus. My suffering has taken me to new depths in my faith and it will only continue to do so each time I press into God rather than Gollum.
R came to visit me during this recent admission and we discussed the changes that God has been doing within me. It’s so beautiful the way in which we are able to chat safely and share excitedly together.. she speaks about Gollum so casually which I love. Whilst we spoke I told her that often when God reveals new concepts to me, I frequently hear either her own voice or T’s. We giggled and I commented that both her and T must roll their eyes because I’m only now grasping the concepts that they’ve been telling me all along. I consider now how much further along in my journey I would be by now if only I had really heard and understood a long time ago. I can humbly admit that my hindered progress is a direct result of my choice to hide behind fear, time and time again. I’m certainly not down playing or taking away from my fears, they are all very real and entrenched, they’re valid and the effect they have on me is tangible. But they have also morphed into an excuse and a reason used to justify why I haven’t been able to ‘walk the walk’. Over the months recently passed I have gained a multitude of insight, I have grown in my faith and have vulnerably shared that with those nearest to my heart. I have been talking the talk, but I have struggled to walk the walk. I mean, I have walked the easier and less scary walks so far.. but not the big walks. Each time it came to actively and boldly stepping out into recovery, I often retreated or stood still because I was held back by fear. I have engaged in my treating plan to an extent; I don’t lie to my team, I attend appointments, I’m not exercising etc. But I don’t engage whole heartedly; I don’t eat according to my meal plan, I still throw up, I still restrict and use Gollum’s coping mechanisms. When I stop to ask myself why I do those things, it once again comes down to fear; fear of weight gain, fear of losing loved ones. Time and time again God has called me into a state of vulnerability and surrender, He longs for me to come to Him in my suffering but I have so struggled to do that. The struggle to surrender or turn to God once again boils down to pure fear; fear of rejection, judgement, anger, loss. Fear has become such a powerful emotion and it has creeped into all areas of my life; my own insecurities, recovery, relationships, my future, my career, my job and finances etc. Shame can at times feed our fears. I know from experience that my shame around my sufferings, specifically trauma and Gollum, has driven my fear and made me more fearful for people to find out. Fear can become an all consuming battle.
It’s been said that fear crushes us, bit by bit it crushes our souls and sucks out the peace from our hearts and minds. I believe that as suffering is, so fear is also inevitable to some extent; it’s not something we can immunise ourselves against. In saying this, it is important to acknowledge that though we can’t always avoid fear, we can fight it. God has given us a ‘toolkit’ in His word, He has given us promises and reminders that we can cling on to when fear begins to creep in. You see, the reality is that being a Christian doesn’t automatically exclude us from facing genuine and deep fears, it once again doesn’t make us immune. In 2 Timothy we are told that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self control. Fear isn’t from God, it is directly from the enemy who utilises fear as a means to draw us further away from our Heavenly Father. God gave us a spirit that inhabits power to fight against fear, love to bestow upon those around us and self-control to rise above temptations. I don’t know about you but I could definitely do with a spirit as such; power to fight, love, and self-control to resist Gollum. When searching deeper to find the root cause of my fears, it surpasses my insecurities and comes down to a lack of trust in God. That sounds brutal but it’s true, if we are fearful then we lack trust because if we fully trusted God then we wouldn’t be afraid. To an extent I think that fear equates to our unwillingness to trust that God is in control over every aspect of our lives, and by allowing fear to keep me safely trapped I am in turn choosing not to trust God. I am constantly finding myself reminded that God is good and He will use my suffering for good and to bring glory to His name, I need to trust that. The book that I’m currently reading made two statements around the concept of fear that really stood out to me. The first statement was that, ‘God will equip us and provide us with what we need if our fears do become a reality’; this means for example that if I did gain weight and if T or R did decide to walk away, then God would still be there and He would provide me with what I need in order to make it through that suffering – this changed the way I approach that deep rooted fear. The second statement that stood out, ‘God is our source of strength when our bodies give way, He is our hope when grief crushes us, He is our wisdom when we can not see and He is our rock when our earthly security is shaken’. I at first took this statement quite literally, my battle with Gollum has caused my body to be damaged and challenged in ways that were unintended, yet each time my body gave way and death was around the corner, God was my source of strength and He carried my body through. As I dwelled on the statement God began to reveal to me ways in which He has faithfully been my strength, hope, wisdom and rock.
1 Peter instructs us to cast our fears and anxieties unto God because He cares for us. God’s hands are big enough to hold what we can not. Each moment of each day we need to make the choice to live by faith instead of fear. This isn’t always the easiest choice to make, especially when fear is deeply rooted and habitual, but in God all things are possible. R and I again spoke about the fact that if we make the wrong choice once, then we can always try again the next time; it doesn’t make us a failure and it doesn’t mean we are doomed here on out. God understands that we are human and Jesus understands our suffering and temptations, if we make the wrong choice then God’s extends us the opportunities to try again and again. That is the beauty of grace. I have been so hindered by fear that it has prevented me from being able to recover. I remember, well over a year ago, T told me that staying safely trapped was much easier than bravely stepping out into some form of recovery. Since then I have bravely taken some steps toward recovery but it’s time to fearlessly and wholly step out of my safely trapped and into a life of recovery led by God. He is there, I just need to surrender unto Him. I don’t feel worthy but as T once said, ‘it doesn’t matter if I think I’m worthy or not because in God’s eyes I am worthy and that’s all that matters’. How can I say that I trust God if each day I live in fear? Last week I told T that I would choose to trust her when she tells me she will not walk away, but what if it’s not her or others that I need to trust, but God instead? There is no room for fear in perfect love, I’ve said it 1000 times but it’s now time to begin living it.
God didn’t create us to do everything on our own, He didn’t intend for us to suffer alone and be independent from Him. He created us to be weak and vulnerable, to seek Him in our suffering and press into His strength so that He may be glorified. In times of suffering, God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. In His word God tells us that He will strengthen us when we are weak, He will equip us when we are weary and He will bring beauty from our brokenness. In my last post I said that the concept of breaking is actually so beautiful, and it is; God has continued to remind me that in order to be His hands and His feet, I need to be breakable and mouldable. He reminds me that it is safe to break because I am safely held in His unconditional love. God is always there. I remember while T was praying for me once, she thanked God for always being there and that He’d never been anywhere else than there for me; she has reminded me all throughout my journey that God is always right there but I am now undoubtedly certain of that very fact. With this in mind, I am only human and even though I know that God is there I still struggle to turn to God first. I used to punish myself for that, but through His grace, God reminds me that it is okay to struggle and that Jesus understands my struggles; it’s as T said last week, we will never be perfect and we will make mistakes until the day we die. Suffering well means seeking Jesus first in everything, it means that when we are faced with hardships we turn to God before we turn elsewhere. Philippians 4:6 urges us to submit our fears and anxieties to the Lord through prayer and petition. Suffering well can be as simple as pausing and submitting everything to God. I find that I often don’t know what to say when I am amidst the thick of my suffering, but then I remind myself of what God says in Isaiah 65:24; “Before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I will hear”.
On Wednesday evening I physically saw first hand the power of God. I was faced with a team that wanted to discharge me but a heart that was amidst a very real battle with tachycardia. As insignificant as this little testimony may sound, it really impacted me. I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to a few women for prayer. We began to declare boldly God’s truths over my heart, mind, soul, body and life. Up until then I hadn’t ever been one to ask God for a miracle, I’d never deemed myself worthy or had enough faith to believe that God would follow through. But God challenged that and reminded me that He is the God of miracles, He is the God of the impossible, He is all consuming and more powerful than we could ever comprehend. We bravely stepped out in faith and prayed for a miracle, for miraculous healing over my heart. Believe it or not, my heart rate went from an increase of 22+bpm, down to an increase of 15bpm, then only 9bpm and by the last measurements taken that night before bed, 7bpm. I had been doing everything in my power to heal my heart but at the end of the day God is the most powerful of us all. Up until that night God had spent the previous 5 days restoring me and giving me a new heart spiritually, but that night he restored my physical heart as well. My heart rate measured in with an increase of only 5bpm and I was medically cleared the night before my discharge. You see, God didn’t create me to suffer alone, He is there and He wants me to run to Him in times of need. God has also blessed me with His people around me to whom I can turn to for prayer and support, my heart feels beyond blessed. Over the week God showed me that He is my home. The admission was one of the hardest ones, but I have no doubt that I needed to journey through so that I could come home to Him and learn to suffer well along the way.
I have always been told that before I can recover, I needed to hit rock bottom but today I choose to challenge that. I believe that before I could recover, I needed to find my security in God and I needed to undoubtedly feel safe in Him.
My last post was centred around the concept of safety and security, something I have nearly died searching for. You’re often asked what is at the root of your addiction before you are able to know where to start recovering but I don’t think that can be established with any one answer. The root of my eating disorder may be titled under one roof, but it stems to many areas that each have their own depth and complexities. At the root of my eating disorder is lack of trust in God. From that? Feelings of fear, insecurity, shame, guilt, anxiety, uncertainty, worthlessness. Each of those feelings at the root of my eating disorder, work together to fuel Gollum and keep me safely trapped in the entrenched addiction he has become. I have lacked trust in God. He tells me not to be afraid, yet I have been crippled by fear. My identity is in Him, yet I find myself insecure. God has removed my shame and guilt, yet I am hindered by them. God has a plan for me, yet I am riddled with anxiety and uncertainty. God has made me in His image and He values me, yet I struggle with feelings of worthlessness. I have prayed into finding my sense of safety and security, and last week established that I’d been searching in the wrong places and T confirmed that I needed to find it within my relationship with God. It is still very new, but I believe I have found it. I believe that I am at a point where I feel safe and secure in my relationship with God. There is no doubt in my mind that He is there, that He loves and cares for me, that He will never leave nor forsake me. I whole heartedly believe everything I have written here today and in every other post. I am struggling to find the words to express how solidly and deeply I feel my newfound sense of safety and security in God.. it has already been trialled and tested in ways not thought possible, but it has withstood the storm and through God’s grace it will continue to stand firm.
Due to this unshakeable sense of safety and security, I no longer need to feel fear. I don’t need to fear recovery because I know that my worth isn’t found within a number, God made my body and He intended for me to take care of it and to nourish it. I don’t need to fear my weight because God’s love is unconditional and not dependant upon whether I gain or lose weight; I can hold onto this and have faith that the love people like T and R have for me also isn’t dependant upon my weight. I don’t need to fear God walking away and because of the security I have in Him, I am also able to not fear that people like T and R will walk away either; as I said earlier though, even if they do one day wake up and decide to walk away then I know without question that God will carry me through that deep pain and He will provide me with what I need. You see, this sense of safety and security I have within God applies to all fears and all areas of my life. It was tested most recently with the admission just passed. I have worked tirelessly to keep my battle with Gollum a secret because the fear of people finding our felt somewhat unbearable.. Would they judge me for my weight? Would they think I’m a faking my battle with Anorexia? Would they think I’m not good enough or that I’m looking for attention? My thoughts often spiral when I think of people finding out, however God challenges each of my thoughts because if I am safe and secure in Him then why do I still fear? Over the first two days I was in hospital, I first bumped into a girl I went to school with who is now a nurse. She of course was surprised to see me and her first question was whether or not I finished uni. Shame coursed through my body and I had to fight back the tears, I remember thinking ‘please God’ and that was enough for God to know that I needed Him to hold me and remind me that I was safe and secure in Him. I next encountered a mother of one of the students I teach at work, but this time instead of being humiliated and afraid, I felt peace because I knew that I was safe and secure in God. One of my larger battles occurred on my first night in hospital, I had just regained consciousness and was feeling emotional and unwell. My boss rang me only to tell me that she told the girls at work that I was in hospital, the pit of my stomach dropped and filled with emotions of fear, anxiety, betrayal, hurt, anger and sadness. Confidentiality went right out the window and my biggest fear around work came true. I had always been clear about not wanting people to find out that I am unwell, my boss had assured her discretion and when I told her bravely that I didn’t think that it was her place to tell anyone.. she spent the remaining 19minutes and 19seconds shouting at me over the phone. She said the most hurtful things about blaming me for being sick and making life hard for her, she placed her anger and blame on me. Instead of taking it on board, I tried to surrender it unto God. It was hard though and I wanted to hang up as the tears started flowing, but I just prayed while she shouted. God reminded me that I am not responsible for how others treat me and the opinions of others have no hold on me. It took a day or two but God carried me and helped me reach a point where I no longer feel unable to go back to work, I have faith that I will be able to return with my head high and a genuine smile on my face because I know that I am safe and secure in God. As the admission went on I happened to cross paths with 3 other people I knew socially and with a tube stuck to the side of my face, it was hard to hide being unwell. The fact that people knew I was sick stopped bothering me after a while, I mean I’m not about to advertise it to the world and I’d like for no more people to know, but simultaneously I am safe and secure in God. I’m learning that my identity is in Him and if we are honest then we would see that we all suffer with something in life, my battle right now just happens to present itself in the form of Gollum. I am safe and secure in God, I don’t need to fear but at least now I know that when I do fear: God will still be there and I can press into Him for that sense of safety and security.
Suffering well looks like pressing into God; surrendering. I used to think that that was something we chose to do once and if we stuffed up then we had ruined it forever. That’s not the case. I have come to learn that sometimes pressing into God and surrendering is a daily choice; sometimes it’s even hourly. Suffering well means humbling ourselves and vulnerably falling at the feet of God, it’s thanking Him for our brokenness because I undoubtedly know that I am am safely held and in Him I am made whole. When we suffer, what do people see? I stop to consider people around me, both Christians and especially non-Christians; What do they see in my suffering? Do they see Jesus? Do they see hope and light? I wrote once that God’s love shines through our broken cracks, into the darkest corners of our soul amidst our deep pain. But what if through our same broken cracks, God’s love could shine out to others around us? Instead of allowing my suffering to defeat me, what if I allowed it to empower me in Christ? Suffering will often keep us from seeing the opportunities that God places around us, opportunities to bestow His love upon others and to share His word.
I think of my work place, on days where the battle against my suffering is greatest I often feel defeated. On those days, how many opportunities did I miss to love on the children I work with? To smile at a struggling parent? To help out a co-worker? How often do I get caught up in my own suffering that I miss opportunities to be God’s hands and feet? I understand that suffering is taxing both physically and emotionally, it can make us feel like we have nothing left to give but God is reminding me that those moments are when I need Him most.
I think now of my treating team, oh how I would just love to be able to share with them even just a smaller scale of what I share with T and R. However I am painfully aware that they wouldn’t understand the depth of change God has been doing in me. I’ve often though about how I wish I could somehow help them see me for me, without questioning whether or not it is Gollum talking. I have wished that they could truely know where my heart is at and how desperately I want to recover. On Monday night, the night before my MDT and review, God posed forth a question in response to my wishes.. “What do they see when they see you suffer?”. Duh! How did I not think of this earlier?? I’ve been so focused on wishing they could see, without realising that they already can.. it’s just a question of what I am showing them. When I suffer, how do I suffer? What do they hear me say or see me do? Do my actions reflect my heart? If you asked me that last year, the answer would be no; my actions didn’t reflect my heart. But I do think that recently they have. I can’t control what others see, but I can control how I reflect God in my suffering. I can pray that God will open the eyes of my team and that even without having the faith that T and I share, that they will be able to see past my mistakes and into the sincerity of my heart. God grew me in this area over the final days of my admission. I could sense myself falling into a place of fear, uncertainty and loneliness. I remember feeling as if everyone was working against me, including my own body. Times came where I wanted to crawl under the covers and cry, I almost did at one stage but then God asked me what my others would see if they saw me in that moment.. would that display Him or my desire to suffer well? When those moments of despair came, I by God’s grace was able to each time surrender to Him. My heart was encouraged as the admission drew to an end and a great deal of that encouragement came from conversations with the psychiatrist aiding S in my treatment, P. You see, P saw me a great deal last year and saw the worst side of me, I her words she saw only the eating disorder. It was really beautiful to hear her speak highly of me, to hear her express how proud she is of the progress and insight I have made over the last few months. P said that she has finally seen the real me and she was thrilled. I gave that glory straight to God because P wasn’t the only member of my team saying those things. God has come through for me more than I could have asked for and I feel blessed to stand here today in full faith because I know that God is greater than the enemy and He is helping me reflect His image.
Suffering well looks like remaining steadfast in prayer. Throughout the Psalms we see that within David’s suffering, he was drawn to the throne of the only One who could help him. David shows us that suffering well is drawing nearer to God, even when it’s the last thing we want to do. With intense suffering comes the temptation to withdraw, to walk away from God and in doing so we reject Him and His love for us. I fell into that trap last year, I gave up and walked away to suffer on my own. Looking back I wish I could wholly know and believe then, what I do now. When you are suffering and hurting it is easy to grow lazy in your pursuit of God; I have many times felt hopeless, too tired to read God’s word, abandoned and unable to pray etc. But there is no greater time to fight than when we are feeling as such. God has been showing me that the more I dedicate time to Him, the more I soak in His word.. the more I will grow to believe the word, the nearer I will draw to Him and the stronger my faith will become – the admission just passed is a testament to that. David drew near to God in his deep suffering for two reasons; he believed in God’s good plan to save Him, and he trusted in God’s unconditional love for Him. David didn’t fear because he has faith and trust in God. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty amidst the attacks throughout my admission but Jesus helped me remain steadfast in prayer. For the most part I had spent so much time praying that when my team saw me: they would see Jesus, that when they heard me: they would hear Jesus. I wanted the Holy Spirit to inhabit me and I wanted God to tangibly be present throughout each interaction pertaining to me. I remember praying that when people speak of me, that they would speak life and not death, that they would speak healing and not sickness, hope and not defeat. I have become so deeply aware of the sheer power of words. As the admission drew to an end the attacks from the enemy strengthened, but as did the power of God. I began seeing first hand the power of prayer, the power of hope and the power of trust in Jesus. Every atmosphere was flooded with His presence, He was so tangible and so present in every aspect of my day; every meal, every meeting, every observation and every battle or triumph.
When I asked God how to suffer well, His answer was simple: “Draw near to me”. To suffer well I need Him, I need Jesus. My strength is not enough to get me through, I’ve been there and tried that and it pains me to think of where it got me. My favourite mental health liaison nurse, G, came to visit me on Monday night. He was the first nurse from the liaison team to visit me back during my very first admission, since then he has made a conscious effort to pop in and visit me during other admissions. He’s also one of the only male nurses that I felt comfortable around and on the days where I couldn’t speak, he would sit with me and play card games. My face lit up as he walked in and I decided to be totally honest about where I was at and when he asked about my teaching degree, I excitedly shared with him about psychology. He listened with a smile on his face as I told him about all the insight, progress, changes in my mindset, my passion for psychology and everything in between. He had tears in his eyes by the end of it and emphasised how incredible it is for him to see where I am now, in comparison to where I was both in the beginning and at different stages throughout this journey. I’m sharing this moment because it was the moment that really led me to reflect on where I ended up after choosing to walk away from God. I told G that I remember being in a place that was so dark, I couldn’t imagine a future for myself nor did I want one. Yet there I was on Monday night, beaming like a little girl who just received the greatest gift, and I was beyond hopeful for my future; I was excited, I am excited. Why? Because my future is now entrusted in God’s safe hands and I am no longer journeying without Him. I am boldly surrendering to God and submitting my fears to Him through prayer, this is something I no doubt will need to consciously choose to do time and time again.
God is enough. He is finally truely and wholly enough for me. He always has been, but I needed to find my utter sense of safety and security in Him before I could realise it for myself. This is where the life changing moment comes in.. brace yourself because on Sunday, God gave me a thought and this is the thought that I believe was the final piece of the puzzle. It sounds like such a silly thought when I say it out loud or even write it down, but it holds a multitude of layers and depth. I’ve had this thought only two times prior to Sunday but each time I punished myself for having it and I immediately rebuked it. I realise now, looking back on all that God has done (especially over the last few months) I see that I needed my heart, soul and mind to be where it is today before I could sit with this thought. Eeek, okay, I’m so nervous which is so silly but I am so excited over it because it literally changes the dynamics of my journey. Are you ready?
“I have lost enough weight”25.04.2021
Okay, pause pause pause! Before you start rolling your eyes or laughing or whatever else.. just hear me out, please. I first of all, before I begin justifying myself, want to give God the honour for the fact that the thought even exists. I never imagined myself saying that and believe me when I tell you that Gollum does not like it at all!! So what does that thought mean? How does it change the very dynamics of my journey? Well to begin with, it definitely does not mean I am happy with how I look. It does not mean I love my body. It does not mean I want to gain weight and it does not mean I won’t want to lose weight in the future. But it does mean that for now, I feel that I have reached a point where I have lost enough weight and that weight loss is not a priority. Why now? Easy! In my heart of hearts, I am at a point where my relationship with God and my desire to suffer well and bring honour and glory to His name, all outweighs my desire to lose weight. But what if people I love leave? What if they do! As I said earlier, if the people I love choose to walk away then yes, it will hurt but I have no doubt that God will carry me and provide me with what I need to get through. What if I gain weight? What if I do! Would that really kill me? No! Will it change my worth or value? No! Will it cause distress and uncomfortability? Yes, but it is as R reminded me when my NG feed was increased during admission: ‘It’s ok to recognise that the increase upsets you and it’s ok to recognise that it makes you feel uncomfortable….then the next best thing to do is take that uncomfortable feeling… throw it in Gollum’s face and say “God, I trust you to nourish my body, soul and mind. Please use this increase and my uncomfortable feelings to glorify you as I trust you with my body”’. I would have paraphrased but I honestly couldn’t say it more beautifully and it brings such a smile to my face. What if it’s hard? Heck girl, of course recovery is going to be hard! In fact it’s going to be stinkin’ hard but through God it’s not impossible.. I recall toward the end of my admission I encountered extreme bloating and even though it is common among re-feeding, it was still painful and uncomfortable. Gollum was loudest during the bloat, but God reminded me that it only shows that I am healing, my body is being nourished and that’s all that matters. What does it look like going forward? Well, I want to go ‘all-in’ with my recovery. That sounds soo stereotypical because you always hear people speak about going ‘all-in’, but that’s what I want to do and it’s okay if people judge me for it. I want to take a moment though to outline what my ‘all-in’ looks like because I believe that everyones looks different and that doesn’t make mine any less valid or challenging. Going forward I ultimately want to suffer well. I want to entrust my recovery in God’s hands which means intentionally praying over all my intake, trusting that He will allow the intake to nourish my body rather than harm it. I want to be able to eat proper people food whenever I feel able to and to do so without feeling guilty or counteracting it with Gollum’s behaviours. Additional to that, if I feel unable to eat proper people food, then that’s okay too and I can just have a fortisip and try again next time without punishing myself. My ‘all-in’ recovery is led by God and it isn’t something that hovers expectations and standards over my head, it is a grace filled process that God will carry me though. The thought of having lost enough weight, purely accentuates the very fact that I am solidly and wholly, safe and secure in God. There is no two ways about it, without that sense of safety and security in God, I would forever spend my days unattainably chasing it through weight loss and searching for it where it does not exist.
The concept of weight gain and it’s potential hinderance on my motivation to recover came up, and do you know what I said? Without even a hint of doubt or hesitation I told everyone that I am not gaining weight: I am healing. I am not getting fat: I am healing. I said that I have intentionally prayed over every single form of intake throughout this admission and in my heart of hearts I truely believe that God has used it to heal my body, to re-nourish me and strengthen me so that I am strong enough to fight. I am not afraid of what is to come because I have no doubt, not even the slightest bit of uncertainty, that no matter what the enemy throws before me, my God will carry me and provide me with what I need to get through. When I see my number I will not be bound by chains as I have been in the past, it will simply be a number and I know that if any distress were to arise, My God would safely hold me. Before leaving the hospital I had already shed tears over my known weight gain but unknown number, I remember picking myself up off the bed, walking into the bathroom and looking at my body in the mirror.. My body. No, not my body: God’s body. My body is simply just a body. But God’s body, is something so much more beautiful and whole. I choose to remind myself that God loves me regardless of my body, that my body is only a vessel He has given me so that He can use me as His hands and feet.. it’s actually His body. T was soo right when she told me that God doesn’t make ugly people, it would be such an insult to call myself ugly. God made me in His image, who am I to hate my body or my hair, or my skin, teeth, face profile.. who am I?
I have never experienced God the way I have over this last week, I have never before felt the way I have over this last week and the revival in my heart, mind and soul is indescribable. I am overrun and inhabited by the Holy Spirit, my every heart beat praises Jesus for the life I have in Him and I know my God calls me His own. I have been fearfully and wonderfully made, I am chosen and loved. My body is just a body and it doesn’t determine my beauty, my weight is just a number and it doesn’t define me anymore. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is what’s on the inside, where my heart is at and my relationship with God. When I asked her last week, T said my insides are okay, and I know that God will only continue to purify and refine me. Gollum has taken so much from me but the God I glorify is the God of restoration, He is the God of healing and life. There is so much life left for me and I am not walking into it alone; God is always with me. I am excited for the future that lays before me, most prominently the day I will spend with R and her family tomorrow, my family.. wedding family photos and lots of cuddles and memories with my little loves A and J. Family days as such are the type of days God has planned for me, days that are good for my heart and that draw me nearer to God. My deepest prayer is that as I continue my journey in the community, that my faith will only strengthen, that my need for God will only deepen, that my awe of Him will only magnify, that my desire to be like Jesus will only grow and that the inhabitance of the Holy Spirit within me will only intensify. I am so hungry for more of what I have received over this last week, not only spiritually but physically (for proper people food) too because my body needs nourishment so that my soul can receive the fruits of the spirit.
God has called me home and He been at work in my heart, in my mind and in my life. I believe that as I grow in Him, He will transform me into who He has created me to be. I believe that He will help me be more like Jesus and that He will use me as His hands and feet. I believe that the trials and sadness will still come, but my Saviour will guide me towards a life where I will suffer well and that He will bring abundance out of my deep pain. I believe that my suffering is not over and when it comes, it will not lead me to hopelessness, but rather to the God of hope. I believe that my God is enough and that I am enough in Him. I have seen my Jesus come through for me and I will see Him do it again and again. I am home in Him and this is where the healing begins.
(I am at this point, a messy pile of overwhelmed gooey mush haha.. God is so good!)
– c x (30.04.2021)