As I begin writing this, it is something that I have kept within me for many years, and I finally feel ready to share my story. If my story can help one other person struggling with the same feelings I felt my story was worth sharing.
As social media begins to become an impact in our society, girls and women with “selfies” are on every Instagram post or Facebook feed that we scroll through each day. I feel stronger than ever to share my story with the world.
My story begins in the 10th grade as a young girl just wanting to fit into a group and be accepted by my peers. I began days of “dieting” cutting back on meals and joining my local gym spending an hour each day on the elliptical. The hour at the gym soon turned into 2 and so on. I began loving the comments “you look great” or “have you lost weight?” Five pounds turned into ten and ten turned into fifteen and so on. My parents were concerned about my sudden weight loss but were not sure how to help me as they saw the daughter they loved become helpless and they did not know how to help her.
As this pattern of destructive exercising, bulimia, and starving myself continued I found myself at 90 pounds wondering to myself, “How did I end up here?” Exercise and my appearance became the only thing I was concerned with. As I was laying and crying on my bathroom floor from the pain and heartache that I found myself in, I knew I needed help. I finally agreed to see an outpatient clinic and begin therapy on a long road to recovery.
After many weeks of missed school, long days of group therapy, physicals, and trying to recover on my own I still did not find myself wanting to change. I still found joy in the way that I felt and seemed to only be concerned with my outer appearance instead of the way I was harming myself on the inside and out. One cold morning in February 2006 began like any other morning of my dad taking me to outpatient treatment. This day ended much different than any other. As I checked into the clinic I also found myself checking into the hospital. My heart rate had dropped suddenly to only 31 beats per minute. I was killing myself slowly. Later that day I found myself hooked up to numerous machines on the children’s floor of Duke Hospital. I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really how I am going to continue to live my life?” I knew at that moment this was not the life that God had intended me to live. I cried because I was upset of the pain and heartache I had put my family through and the damage I had put my body through. I wanted to get better but I just did not know how to change my mind to do so.
A few days after I had been in the children’s hall we had a weekly social. I was looking forward to meeting other patients on my hall. I had seen many kids walking up and down the hall most in much worse condition than I was in. Each day I was put on strict food plan, my heart rate was monitored, as I continued to gain weight and feel better each day. As I walked into the room I saw all patients of all ages but one girl stood out to me. She looked to be about my age but had a head wrap on her head. As we began to talk we shared stories about our lives and got to know each other. The one thing that stood out to me was her contagious smile. I can see it today. She was so happy and full of life. I asked her how long she had been there and how long until she would need to stay until she could go home. She then told me she had terminal cancer and she would not be leaving. Her cancer had reached stage 4 and she was getting weaker each day. I then replied to her that I needed to go back into my room and I would be back in a moment. I walked back into my hospital room and cried. I had seen how a young girl just my age was suffering from a disease she could not control and I was there for my own self destructive ways. I never found out her name but she had an impact on my life. She saved my life and I am forever grateful.
Over the next week I found myself finding joy in the food they brought and excited to begin to eat. My heart rate slowly got back to normal and soon I was going home. Throughout the time I spent in the hospital I spent many days reading my bible and studying on God’s word.
One scripture sticks out to me that I found comfort in throughout my days there. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” I often think maybe that is what God wanted me to learn by meeting the girl at Duke Hospital that night. Her body was dying but her love for life and words were still shining. I thought to myself I need to honor God with MY body not the outer appearance but by the way that I act and the words that I speak. No matter how my body looks it is perfect in Gods eyes.
Ten years later I reflect on my journey to recovery. Some days are much easier than others and when hard and sad times come around instead of reaching for my old habits I find myself calling out to God for help. I understand that not all days will be easy but each day we are given from God, is a gift. I learned that my life is meant to live with a body that is healthy and taken care of to live out Gods will for my life. For all those who struggle with body images you are not alone. There are others just like me who have lived in your shoes and felt your sadness and pain. If my story can touch one life and make a difference like my friend at Duke Hospital that night made in mine I know my story is worth sharing.