If Stacee Goetzinger’s story were a movie, it would have been over years ago. Except for one small detail: Movies aren’t real life.
Sure, we all love tales with a tidy ending and a pretty bow; Hollywood has trained us well. But in real life, when the credits roll too soon, the hero is wounded and the villain runs free, we can’t handle it. We feel cheated and want our money back. We throw up our hands in frustration and demand answers.
But this isn’t Hollywood, and the credits often roll before our issues are completely resolved. And sometimes, it’s heartbreaking.
Stacee Goetzinger is still in the middle of her story—as we all are.
Pressure of Perfection
Stacy’s childhood began in a Christian home with a pastor at the helm. Parishioners saw a family worth aspiring to, with happy parents and two beautiful daughters gracing Christmas cards and Sunday pews; her family was perfect on the outside. But inside they were struggling, and Stacee tried desperately to keep her world from imploding.
“My dad was stretched thin, and our lives were difficult emotionally. I felt like it was my fault and that I had to somehow fix it. I wanted to be the glue that held our family together.”
Stacee says the pressure of ministry became too much for her family. Her dad often worked long hours caring for everyone else, and it took its toll on her parents. They divorced when Stacee was in high school.
It was in that chaotic crux of a family breaking in half that Stacee set out for college and faced her most challenging battles yet.
Although Dallas Baptist University was a safe place where Stacee met her husband of 23 years, she lugged that baggage with her to freshman year. She was faced with the incredible pressures of new independence, fitting in, excelling, perfection and syllabus shock. This, coupled with her past, threw her into a fast, downward spiral of depression and food restriction. Only her closest friends knew.
While she sought the professional help it took to keep the worst of the eating disorder at bay, Stacee’s spiral would linger and wait for a moment of weakness or overwhelmingness. Like when she and her husband experienced the miscarriage of their first child within their first year of marriage. The trauma escalated an already simmering eating disorder to an uncontrollable boil.
For years, Stacee and her family soldiered through her worsening eating disorder coupled with depression. She endured life-saving, but grueling, inpatient treatment for months at a time, only to come to the other side feeling like her hardest work was still ahead. And when Stacee’s husband took a job in youth ministry, she was whirled back into the world of perfection and performance she knew in her childhood. And when restricting food no longer numbed her pain, she began cutting.
“It wasn’t a cry for help,” Stacee says. “I cut myself where it didn’t show—it was secret and aggressive. I cut words I felt people already thought about me.”
Stacee literally labeled herself. She carved words like unworthy, crazy and stupid into her skin.
“I’ve hurt myself as a harsh reminder to ‘stop messing up’ when I don’t understand what’s going on or what a person meant or said,” she wrote on her blog, speakoutloud.me.
Stacee’s self-abuse took a dark turn one day when, after dropping her daughters off at gymnastics, Stacee veered her car to the wrong side of the highway. Her every intention was to die. But something in her must have clung to life—or maybe it was Someone holding her.
“God literally took the steering wheel,” she describes. “And I ended up in a parking lot, sobbing, ‘I want to be here, but I don’t want to be in this pain. I can’t be in this pain any more—this can’t be God’s plan for me.’ ”
Her husband met her there, and soon after, Stacee was admitted to intensive facilities designed to teach her how to want to live.
An Unfinished Story
So this is where the movie would begin wrapping up, right? The near-death experience would be the climax and the rest of the story would be Stacee’s defeat of the eating disorder and victorious celebration of complete recovery. Credits, please!
But Stacee’s real-life story isn’t as tidy as Hollywood would make it. Her hospitalization after the highway incident wouldn’t be her last one. The cycle starts again from time to time; recently, the physical consequences of disordered eating caught up with her, and she had to be hospitalized again. Stacee still struggles with every single bite she puts to her mouth.
But she still fights and calls down the power of Heaven to fight for her. Because Jesus meets us in all our stories—beginning, middle and end.
Maybe God never intended for our stories to be Hollywood hits. Maybe the point of our stories is to live even the messy parts out loud while letting God be glorified through the pain. Stacee finds solace in the story of Jesus healing a blind man, where Jesus says that the man’s blindness wasn’t the fault of the man or his parents, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).
Maybe it’s less about the credits rolling and more about showing the audience who the true Main Character is.
Follow Stacee’s story at her blog, speakoutloud.me, and see how Jesus is meeting her in the middle of her story.