I’m 25 years old, the eldest of three kids. I grew up in a religious home, attending church every Sunday with my mom, dad, and siblings. I prayed and I believed in God, but I didn't have a real relationship with Christ until after college. Before then, my priorities were getting good grades, spending time with friends, playing on the varsity tennis team. Looking back, I lived a pretty idyllic existence. Life was good, but overwhelming perfectionism and an underlying sense of anxiety started to creep in.
When I was 18, I experienced what can only be called a total breakdown. I hit rock bottom. I was heading off to college, six hours away to a school where I knew no one, and I was a mess. I was fearful, nervous, anxious, and, after having a falling out with my three best friends, I felt very alone. The best way I can describe my life is feeling out of control. I felt like I was drowning, and I didn’t know what to do. So I turned to the one thing I thought I could control—and that was food.
I didn’t stop eating entirely, but I stopped eating what my body needed. I cut back more and more food until I was eventually starving myself. My restricting progressed rapidly. I was an overachiever and thought I was doing just fine. I wasn’t about to let anyone tell me otherwise. So I went off to school. And three weeks later, I was forced to withdraw for medical reasons. I was so sick that doctors at the university would no longer authorize me to stay in school.
I remember that day vividly. I felt like I was in a total daze. I cried hysterically when my parents came to pick me up from school. I can recall lying on their hotel room bed, wrapped up in a robe and blankets, feeling more tired than I had ever felt in my entire life. Just total and complete exhaustion. My dad held me as I finally fell asleep. I was ashamed, I was saddened, and I was embarrassed.
I returned home, where I signed myself into a hospital for intensive inpatient treatment. My diagnosis: anorexia nervosa. I had lost over 30 percent of my body weight. I learned I was so underweight and malnourished that if I didn’t make some serious changes very quickly, I would die.
Upon hearing that, I felt incredibly weak and helpless. I was disgusted with myself. Ashamed. Guilty. Afraid. I felt like my life was over.
Yet part of me was relieved.
I could finally stop pretending I was okay when I was so far from it.
I spent a few months in treatment. I gained weight and went back to college the very next semester. I continued meeting with doctors and therapists there on a regular basis. Three and a half years later, I graduated summa cum laude with a double major.
As my health stabilized, doctors told me I was a miracle. They included me in case studies and a research paper. And for a long time, I gave myself all the credit for being alive. But I can tell you today, I am alive because of God’s continued hand of Grace and protection on me. He saved me.
God is authoring my story in the most beautiful way.
After college, I accepted an internship in a small town halfway across the country. It seemed like a total letdown at the time. No job, no ticket to the big city. But I now understand why God placed me there: He led me to my soon-to-be best friend, a woman who revealed her difficult past with me, who opened up about her own struggles, and who shared with me her steadfast faith.
This friend supported and inspired me. We attended church and a Bible study together. For the first time, I engaged in a Christian community outside of my family and outside of the school youth group. This was different. This was opening my eyes to the magnitude of God’s grace and the meaning of the Gospel. I began reading the Bible with fresh eyes, excited to know more.
Within a few months, I landed my first real job in New York City. Things fell into place rather quickly for me. An apartment, an incredible Church community, new friendships, and a boyfriend. It seemed God had me exactly where He wanted me to be.
At this point I had been in a “maintain” phase of my recovery for a year. When I graduated college, I was in a good place both mentally and physically. Anorexia had been my addiction, similar to the way others struggle with alcoholism, drugs, gambling, sex, even shopping. I made great strides in college, but after a couple weeks in the Big Apple, I relapsed to my addictive behavior. The pressures to succeed, to make it in this new city, to prove to everyone and to myself that I was worth it, to show I could balance everything—it all became too much for me. I was scared, and slowly the food-restricting habits crept back in.
My eating disorder served as a way to cope with some much deeper issues in my life—this idea that I had to be somehow "perfect." I needed to have it all together. I needed to have an impressive job, good friends, a relationship, and to feel happy and fulfilled and look good while doing it. When I was stressed or worried about not measuring up to my own crazy standards, I could at least control my food and my body.
I could look perfect even if I didn't feel that way.
My family expressed their concern, and my best friend called me out with the hard truth. That moment marked a turning point for me.
Therapy sessions returned as a part of my weekly routine. I met with a dietitian, and I re-learned how to take care of myself and adjust to my new life in NYC. Most importantly of all, I utilized prayer, and I revealed my struggle to my new friends from church. They took me under their wings and discipled me. They, along with my doctors, and family, checked in on me and helped hold me accountable.
Praying together about my struggle helped alleviate the shame. Going on dates and girls’ nights out made eating enjoyable again. It was a re-training process. My identity didn’t have to be wrapped up in calories or weight or my dress size. As I regained my weight, my mind became clearer, too. My true personality came back, and for the first time really ever, I felt like a woman.
Where there hard days? Oh yes. I'd be lying if I said there weren't. I think that’s a normal part of any recovery process. But my overall trajectory was upward. I was alive again.
I’ve continued to learn more about Jesus and what it means to thrive as a Christian since I've moved to New York. There have been plenty of ups and downs during these last two and a half years, but God has been refining me so much.
I am not perfect—but I am made perfect in Him.
His perfect love casts out all fear. I was saved by Grace through faith, and that’s a gift from God that doesn’t come from my own doing.
I can’t tell you I never struggle—because I do. I meet with a Christian counselor and a nutritionist on a regular basis to make sure I stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The difference is His spirit dwells within me now. I try to start and end each day talking to God, thanking Him for how far He's brought me and asking Him to help guide me through that day. I've asked Him to heal me time and time again, and heal me He does.
He has slowly chipped away at guilty and shame. A few years ago—heck, even one year ago—the thought of sharing my experience with my name and photo attached to it scared the hell out of me. I thought everyone would be watching me closely—my decisions, my eating behaviors, my fashion choices. I feared judgment and criticism. I feared losing my friends again. I feared somehow being unlovable if my secret came out.
But I know I wouldn't be the woman I am today, and I certainly wouldn't have the faith I have today, if not for these experiences. Perhaps this is The Lord's way of keeping me close to Him. This thorn in my flesh has shown me what it looks like to have true faith and a relationship with Jesus. During Easter, I was baptized at my church in the city. I publicly gave my life to Christ, sharing my story and the work He has done in me. He's helping me to trust in Him and His plan because He is in control, not me.
So many times we have read how we are new creations because of Jesus.
We have been made anew in Christ.
He brings up from death to life. Scripture tell us that repeatedly.
And I realize now, that's not just a Bible story—it is my story. My old self is gone; my new self remains. Jesus always calls me back to Him, welcoming me with open arms. I’m continually growing with the support of God, my community, and my counselor. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and He dwells within me always. And what a beautiful thing I get to celebrate today and every day.