Control is the name of the game for me. It still is. When life seems out of control, there are a few things that I can easily manage, and food is one of them. Somehow knowing that I have self-control with what goes in my mouth helps me think, believe and feel that the craziness of life is a little bit more manageable. Every time life gets tough, I turn to food either as a way to seek comfort or a way to "manage" things that are unmanageable.
College became, for me, the time of constant transition. Starting school, beginning new friendship, forging an identity outside of my family, deciding a career path... Everything was new and different, and hard. I mean really hard. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I found myself suddenly playing the part of adult. My parents weren't there to make decisions for me. My friends were hours away and I felt out of my element. So, I jumped head first into controlling my food - not with the intention of losing weight. Eating as little as possible made the worries and stresses seem a little less difficult.
Over the next year or so, I would go back and forth with periods of hardly eating and then whatever weight I lost during that time, would quickly come back. During my sophomore year, I was feeling alone and depressed after transferring to a new college and food, once again, became my means toward finding normalcy. I remember that for about a month, all I ate was iceberg lettuce with a bit of ranch dressing for flavor and cereal bars. To wash it down, I'd drink Coke. Lots of Coke. So, without much in my stomach except for Coke, I had constant heartburn and I would wash down Tums, with well, more Coke. When I wasn't doing stuff for school or busy with other activities I would run at night. And not just a jog around the block, but a hard run, until the world started to spin. It was my way of beating myself up for the fact that I felt out of control. I dropped about 20 pounds in about 2 months during that time.
The summer that Joel and I met was a stressful time for me. My plan was to finish my Senior year as a part time student so that I could work more and save up money. So, the summer before my senior year, I had signed up to do a full-time internship as well as two independent PE classes. I would work 32 hours a week and then have school work to turn in for my internship as well as many hours of workouts and homework for my PE classes. If I wasn't working or hanging out with friends, I was running. I started losing weight quickly because I had to put in about 7 hours of workouts a week just to fulfill my class requirements, and I was working out more in addition to that. I felt overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities I had during that time - exercise was no longer making me feel as in control, so I started to purge. Purging somehow made that overwhelmed feeling go away for a while. All the stress, anxiety and feeling not good enough went away when my stomach felt totally empty.
Toward the end of that summer, I got really good at purging and could do it within just a few moments of trying. I would lie to my roommates when they'd ask me what was going on and just tell them that I had a nervous stomach. But one day, my best friend came into the bathroom while I was getting sick and asked me why I was doing this to myself. I said something to the effect that I couldn't help it. But with her persistence I finally told her it was the only way that life felt better for me. All of my stress and anxiety over not doing well enough in my studies, disappointing my professor and realizing that my college experience was ending soon - it all felt better when I dumped those feelings into the toilet. Somehow. Twisted logic, I know.
So, exercising and purging became my medicine. It cured my anxiety and my stress. I got thin - probably the thinnest I had been since junior high. I felt great, in control and ready to finish college strong. Joel and I started dating during this time and I struggled hiding what was going on. Soon he found me hunched over the toilet and asked me what I was doing. I told him the same lie that I told my friend and I think he bought it for a while.
I felt empty and ashamed. I knew what damage I was doing to myself. It was reckless and unhealthy. I knew who God made me to be and I knew what I was doing couldn't fit into that plan. Not only what I hurting my body, I was hurting my relationship with God - because as long as I took "control", God couldn't have the place in my life that He deserved.
"For your formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my souls knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you."
- Psalm 139:13-18
- Psalm 139:13-18
God made me perfect. Nothing I could do could ever add to that. He wanted to be Lord of my life and for years, I had taken that role upon myself. I controlled everything and I could finally see the damage from my work. My compulsive need to control food, purge and exercise to beat myself up had made me worn and tired. Perfection is hard to maintain and the mask it requires you to wear is burdensome.
So, over a period of time, I stopped wearing that mask. I realized that those who were supposed to love me the best would love me even when I wasn't perfect. I needed to love me even though I wasn't perfect, too. And most importantly, I had to remember that God never expected perfection from me.
"But he said to me,
'My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.'
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
- I Corinthians 12:9
I still struggle with control. Ask my husband... he could go on and on about this one. And I know I will probably always, in some way, be tempted to take my weight to the extreme with hopes that it will make me feel like I have it together. But, see, I have these two precious girls in my life. They will someday notice how I talk about food, my weight and exercise. Those two little girls will either see their momma talk about those things and treat them in a healthy way or in a destructive way. I hope Grace and Autumn never go down the path of self destruction like I did. I hope they learn, at an early age, that God made them perfect. It's my job as their mother to help them understand that truth and it's a job I take very seriously. Those two little girls are my accountability - and I'm so thankful for that.