I wrote the story about struggling with an eating disorder in my last post, to understand this one start here.
Just because you realize you have a problem does not necessarily mean you are ready for the solution. If anything this is the most annoying/frustrating place to be in because at least when you are in the dark you are not held accountable to anyone including yourself. Once you know you have a problem you feel this constant nagging to fix it and you might not be ready. I was here for about a year. Pastoral counseling, counseling, professionals, women who had struggled with eating disorders in the past; I was paired with them all, but I wasn’t ready. I had such a huge fear of being fat that it literally crippled me. I couldn’t think or focus on anything else and I was convinced this was all of their missions. Clearly I wasn’t ready.
I continued to watch people’s lives move forward while mine stayed completely stagnant. Friends went off to school, started relationships, started careers, and I was stuck. That honestly frustrated me more then anything and kinda started the process of me wanting to change. I started to look into treatment homes but they were so friggen expensive. Back then when you turned eighteen you were taken off of your parent’s insurance, so that’s exactly where I was eighteen, no insurance, a severe eating disorder, and did not have $30,000 to spend on treatment for just a couple of months (kid you not that price is real and average). So by the time I actually wrapped my mind around getting help, I couldn’t. I wonder how many people are in this place? This place sucks.
I started to try to get better on my own a hundred different times. I would go to bed and say to myself “OK tomorrow morning I am waking up and eating an apple” (I remember this so clearly it’s scary) I would wake up and freak out and the whole day would be a wash and me feeling guilty and like such a failure, fueling the disorder even more. I didn’t know what to do and I was losing hope. This is when I started eating and throwing up because I had every good intention of wanting to be “normal” and eat like everyone else, but would get the food inside of me and literally freak out and run to the bathroom, que more shame and guilt.
To give you an idea of where I was, I remember going to a Christian conference with my mom and a few of her friends and we all stayed in a hotel together and one of the woman’s daughters joined us, she walked in with a foot long Subway turkey sub and just sat down and started to eat it. Clearly she didn’t think anything of it and it was just another meal to her, I sat there and watched her and started to tear up, I wanted to be normal like that, I wanted to enjoy a sandwich but I could not. I was overwhelmed with jealousy in that moment and I knew I needed to do whatever I could to be normal like that and sit and eat a Subway sandwich. Isn’t it crazy, I was at the Christian conference with an amazing speaker talking about freedom in God and God used that random moment with the girl and the Subway sandwich? I feel like God usually speaks to me in crazy things like that… I don’t know…
Well about a week later my mom was watching Joyce Meyers on TV and she started to advertise a girls home called Mercy Ministries (now called Mercy Multiplied) Joyce shared that Mercy Ministries is a free-of-charge, Christian residential program that helps young women ages 13-28 struggling with life controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, addictions, sexual abuse and unplanned pregnancy! Freakin’ free people, do you believe it?!?! My mom told me about it and as scary as it seemed it also seemed like exactly what I needed. I got in touch with them and started the application process. The process was pretty extensive. They want to make sure that you really want to be there because it is free and you are taking up a bed, they don’t want to waste their time or funds when another girl who really wants to be there is on the waiting list. The application process took me a couple of months and I probably went through five applications one of which ended up on the highway because I was frustrated and threw it out the window (I was really mature 😉 ). Once I finally was done I sent it in and got put on the waiting list for about three months.
I barely remember those three months; they were basically filled with a bunch of destructive decisions and checking my phone to see if I got “the call”. May 2006 I got the call, and in about a week I packed all my stuff, went to the doctors ten times to get my vitals checked (part of the process), hopped on a plane and headed to Monroe, Louisiana. There are several homes throughout the United States, LA just happened to have a bed open for me when they got to me on the waiting list. I had no idea what to expect and I didn’t let myself think about it too much because I didn’t want to sike myself out. I was most concerned with the types of girls going to be there and that they were all going to be crazy and weird (19-year-old-probs).
I walked into the home and immediately found myself to be very wrong about the types of girls there. They were all beautiful, super normal, and girls you would have never thought twice about having an issue if you ran into them at school or church. I immediately felt so much love from everyone there (20 girls and about 10 staff) and as scary as it was to leave everything I knew for at least six months I knew I had made the right decision.
When you arrive and have an eating disorder you could get put on this thing called “food minimum” where it was a less amount of food then you would normally have to eat there to kinda ease you into eating, so it wasn’t so overwhelming all at once. I had the option given to me but decided on the plane ride over that I was just going to go all in and not hold back because I was leaving Mercy a different person and if I would eventually have to do something I might as well do it now and cut the time down on the process, “all in” was my mantra and I stuck to that. So no food minimums I just made myself eat and then we had this thing called “couch” where you sat on a couch after so you didn’t go to the bathroom and throw up. It sounds kinda strict but for treatment/ rehab homes it really wasn’t. You didn’t feel “watched” all the time by the staff even though you probably were and you just chatted with friends while on “couch” and just did your thing.
I went to counseling once a week and had the most amazing counselor (she made such a huge impression on me because I went to school to do the same thing). Here I worked through a lot of things from my past and all the control issues I had. I hadn’t let myself feel any “bad” emotions (sad, angry, frustration) in years which had caused things to bottle up and come out in different ways AKA eating disorder. I was given the space to feel things that I had turned off for years and work through them. I forgave a lot of people in my life including myself and tremendous healing took place. I had homework and books to read that kept me busy and this is when I fell in love with reading and self-development. I spent countless hours pressing into God and clinging to Him and my source of healing. My relationship with Him grew like crazy and I was being transformed. For more info on the types of things we did, read this post.
It was a process for sure but I started to notice things change within myself. Food was not having the strong hold on me that it was initially and neither did my weight. My self-esteem, which was crazy low when I entered, started to improve and I was starting to see the person God has created me to be. I was becoming whole.
There were definite hard moments, where things were hard emotionally and I wanted to run. Entering Mercy meant I was signing up for a long surgery and knew if I left on the surgeons table exposed without healing my life was going to be worse then when I entered so I had push through (there was no other option), this is when God’s grace got me through and I was able to cling to Him and get through to the other side.
I went through steps in counseling and got through the seventh (the last one), letting them know I was going to be ready to graduate the program. I didn’t feel 100% ready. I still struggled, I thought about acting out on ED behaviors all the time but didn’t, but the thoughts were still very much present. I had weeks where I didn’t really think about wanting be thin and then weeks where it consumed me. My counselor assured me that those thoughts weren’t going to go away but I now I had the tools and coping skills to combat them. She was right.
The program at that time was nine months to a year on average. I was told I would be graduating my fifth month there and was given the option to stay for all the holiday festivities since they were not going to be bringing new girls in during that time since everyone goes home for Christmas for three weeks. So I stayed.
My sister and mom came for my graduation where I shared my testimony and what God had done in my life during my time there. This was such an amazing day and one that I will remember forever. I really was a completely different person by time I left, like it was unreal. I became confidant in who I was and really felt like nothing could shake that. I had so much healing in so many different areas in my life and had learned to set boundaries for myself and with the people close to me. I love Mercy and everything God used it to do in my life. It saved my life for sure, 100% I wouldn’t be here without it. Not everyone who struggles with an eating disorder needs to go to treatment/home but I could not get better on my own, I needed the counseling and parameters. If anyone has questions about Mercy for me please reach out to me email@example.com
Mercy was so huge in my life that when Balance Culture launched I decided that 10% of everything we made would be donated to them. I want to contribute to more girls having their lives transformed the way mine was!
To continue the story I graduated the program and moved back home. This was a season of transition and it was really hard. Come to find out there will be a part three because there is still a huge part of the journey I still have to share, so dare I say…
To be continued….