Be who you is, girl.”
Five simple words—grammatical caution thrown to the wind—spoken by a giant of a man with a huge afro, a supersized voice and an even bigger personality.
Those five words, humble as they were, connected me to God’s truth more than any sermon had ever done. They empowered me to find healing with the strength of Psalm 139 at a time when my body was literally dying.
They were spoken to me a week after I had given my life to the Lord. One week after I stopped taking drugs and ditched my crowd and parties. One week after I committed to God and to my family that I would get help and work to gain back the more than fifty pounds I had shed a few summers before that. They were spoken at a crossroads in my faith, at a time when freshly sown seeds of salvation battled a brutal eating disorder that had ruled my life for two long years.
Back Up to the Breakdown
My freshman year in college came to a close with my life turned completely upside down. I’d struggled with depressive thoughts for years but had never given them the full freedom to reign over my actions. In college, I found a culture that accepted depression but called it expression. I found a place with very little accountability and ample time for seclusion. It became a breeding ground for me to couple my naturally competitive, perfectionist, affirmation-hungry personality with instability, chaos and a healthy dose of failure. The perfect storm brewed a state of deep hopelessness with only one aspect of life I felt I could actually control: food.
The deeper I dove into a pain driven by insecurity, fear of failure and uncertainty of the future, the harder I struggled to numb it with drugs, alcohol and food control. My friends dwindled until only dealers, users and partiers remained. The good influences in my life couldn’t reach me anymore, and they began to fall away.
Eventually, even the bad influences fell away. The deeper I sank into my insecurities and fear of failure, the worse my eating disorder became. It began with a few restrictions here, a few there. I became a vegetarian. Then, I announced I had a sugar addiction and was completely abstaining from it. Later, I would use excuses that I wasn’t hungry, that my stomach hurt, that I had already eaten, and the list goes on and on.
I quickly dropped weight, and society began praising me for it.
Modeling offers poured in the closer my 5’9” frame came to size zero pants. Compliments abounded. Friends often approached me, asking for tips on how to lose weight so fast. The culture around me not only endorsed my decline in health, they exploited it.
After dipping far below 100 pounds, however, my friends stopped asking for weight loss tips and starting asking if I was sick.
It snuck up on a seemingly normal weekend night. Insomnia plays a big role in eating disorders, and though I wanted to slip into the oblivion of unconsciousness to get through that particularly dark night, sleep wouldn’t come. I tried to drink myself there and drug myself there, but I was wide awake and facing my demons head on. I shouted out to God that night.
I poured out the honest, dirty truth of my heart: I didn’t believe in Him because He had let me suffer through this ordeal for years without healing me. Not that I had ever once asked for His healing, mind you.
That night I told Him if He didn’t reveal Himself to me, I would end my life.
Road to Recovery
God walked me through that night by simply allowing me to fall into a deep, dreamless sleep. I hadn’t been able to rest like that in nearly six months. A few days later, my friend Audra invited me to our college ministry where I gave my heart to Jesus.
Because as I humbled myself and prayed, God showed me a vision from my night at rock bottom. He showed me He was there that night, and had been every step of the way.
Recovery came painfully slowly, but God put a support system of friends in my life from that point on. I had to get to know my body again. I had to stop seeing food as the enemy, and I had to retrain my mind to understand the difference between what was healthy and what was harmful. I sought professional help and spent hours studying the Word. On difficult days when I tried to use my old excuses, my support system was there to force-feed me truth and nourishment.
His Answer to My Tough Questions
I asked God some tough questions the night I almost ended it all, and believe me, they are still hard for me to think about. God could have healed me. He could have let me skip all that pain and live a perfect life. But then I wouldn’t be a part of His grand storyline of redemption. I wouldn’t be sharing this story with countless women who are going through the same thing I did, who are at the same hard place in their lives questioning whether they will see another day.
The fact remains, however, that God did answer when I finally knocked. He did show up when I sought Him out. He was there and always had been, just waiting for me to turn to Him.
“Be who you is, girl.”
I agreed to go a Christian leadership camp only a week after giving my life to the Lord and only two weeks after rock bottom. The worship leader spoke those words to me, and I’ll never forget their impact. He challenged me to be okay with being me, even if that meant being different than everyone else. Insecurity had always been the voice screaming the opposite — I am different, and that’s somehow wrong.
Scripture echoed the truth I was learning, and God began to teach me that He designed me on purpose. His Word confirms over and over that we were created with intentionality right from the beginning. I began to realize that my personality, my gifts, my quirks and even my body were all part of His flawless design for me, and He has since challenged me to use those gifts and share His story.
God used my friend Audra as His tool to ever so gently bring me to rest in His embrace. Who are you in this story? Are you Audra being called out to help a friend and speak the truth? Are you culture blind to your neighbors’ suffering that perhaps makes them fashionably thin? Are you a parent standing by helplessly as your child falls deeper into an eating disorder? Or are you me — caught in the midst of a losing battle with a sickness too big to overcome?
No matter where you find yourself in this story, know this—Jesus alone offers healing and redemption. There is nothing you can do to fight the deadly battle with an eating disorder except turn to Him and the professional, spiritual and emotional tools He provides along the way. And trust me, He is there with you in your story, wherever you may be.