Comfort Amidst Confusion

Today is Saturday, April 4, 2020 – another day in quarantine. But the skies are clear and the sun is shining, so I can’t complain.

It’s been a while since I last wrote, and it’s crazy how much has changed the past couple months. So I just wanted to drop in and leave a bit of encouragement for those that read this.

Anyway, we’re living in such a weird time, and I wish I had answers. But I don’t.

Many people are worried, confused, and desperately searching for toilet paper. Yes, this is real life.

But on a more serious note, I understand the feelings of fear and angst. This isn’t easy, and I know it’s especially difficult for those struggling with bad thoughts. It’s times like these that can trigger a relapse.

But there’s great comfort in God’s Word. If you find yourself worried about food, exercise, or just the unknown, run to Jesus. Don’t allow your mind to wander without holding your thoughts up to the light of Scripture.

These are some verses I’ve really enjoyed here recently:

  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3
  • “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” ~ John 14:27
  • “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Also, I encourage everyone to listen to I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. The lyrics are beautiful and comforting, global pandemic or not.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4GKNbmYOAow

I hope you’ve had a great day! Keep your eyes on Jesus.

– Taylor

Dangers of the “Safe” Zone

I started recovery on Thanksgiving Day in 2017. There was a sense of urgency to the situation. I was thin, starving, and desperate for help.

But what about 10, 20, 30+ pounds later? When I wasn’t at death’s door? When I didn’t look like a walking corpse? Was the situation suddenly less urgent? Was I still deserving of the same aggressive treatment? Was I even sick?

In my opinion, the mid-recovery phase is the hardest. You don’t look hungry anymore, so everyone assumes you’re fine. Friends quit checking in on you, and parents loosen up around food. Mom isn’t very attentive at mealtimes, and dad doesn’t seem to notice that you’re hiding in the bedroom to exercise.

It’s easy to plateau at a “safe” spot in the mid-recovery phase. You feel comfortable here. It’s not too bad. You aren’t malnourished or underweight. Your hands aren’t so cold. And you’ve allowed yourself to eat certain fear foods.

But I see through your lies. I’m not fooled. You’re only eating the bare minimum to satisfy mom and dad. You’re challenging yourself, but not really. You don’t relax. You don’t laugh. You don’t connect with people. Food is always deliberately planned, and you wouldn’t dare to challenge yourself twice in row.

The scariest part of this “safe” zone is that it encourages complacency. You’re content with your progress and afraid to move ahead. Actually, you don’t want to move ahead at all. You’d rather stay here, where it’s “safe.” You don’t really plan on getting any better.

You aren’t dying. But you aren’t living. You’re just functioning. And if you aren’t careful, you’ll make a home of this “safe” zone. You’ll live in this perpetual state of “just functioning.”

Maybe the mid-recovery phase is hardest because you’re very sick. You’re as sick as ever, but it doesn’t show. You’re still restricting in one way or another. You’re controlled by rules and rituals. You won’t allow yourself to rest. You’re plagued with intrusive thoughts.

You need to push past the mid-recovery phase. Don’t settle for less than full recovery. But how can you do that? You need to get help. You need an authoritative figure in your life to hold you accountable. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.” Seek accountability! You won’t be able to do this on your own.

 

I’ve stressed the importance of full recovery, but what does that look like? Full recovery is:

  • Seriously enjoying food. It’s a second or third helping of your favorite dish.
  • Sleeping in for the sheer fun of sleep.
  • Resting without guilt. It’s sitting in a chair without feeling the urge to move.
  • Singing in the shower. This one may be different for everybody, but I used to love to sing. Anorexia took that away for a while. I quit singing. Full recovery gave me my voice back. Now I have entire concerts in the shower.
  • Laughing from the heart. The world is so much funnier without an eating disorder. I don’t have to force a laugh.
  • A new perspective on things. Truly, full recovery has opened my eyes to a beautiful world! Anorexia deadens the senses. Recovery is like a grand awakening! Everything is brighter and more colorful.

It’s easy to get stuck in a recovery rut. Relapse is normal. But don’t spend a lifetime in the “safe” zone. Don’t delay full recovery. Eating disorders are difficult because they make you feel like everything is under control. The reality is that your life is spinning out of control. You aren’t safe. Get past the mid-recovery phase and onto full recovery.

You’ve spent long enough faking it. It’s time to recover for real.

– Taylor

Volleyball Trips and Second Chances

I cram my suitcase with all the essentials – knee pads, a fluffy blanket, and a plethora of snacks. I shove the mound of things into the outermost corner to allow room for my pillow.

It’s that time of year again. Volleyball season is in full swing. October 1st announces the eve of nationals.

As I pack for our trip, I can’t help but recall the 2017 national tournament in Missouri. The memories bring back a collection of mixed emotions.

I remember feeling anxious, to say the least. Anxious at the thought of frequent fast-food outings and the eight-hour long bus ride that was to be expected. I was anxious at the thought of leaving home – the thought of leaving my strictly regimented routine.

Yet I was also excited. Excited to get away from my mother’s all-seeing eye. Excited at the opportunity to further restrict my food intake. Excited to exercise in secret. Excited for all the wrong reasons.

Overall, the week was a blur. My focus was solely food. I was starving. My empty stomach distracted from friends, sightseeing, and conversations to be had.

One night, we made a stop at Steak and Shake for dinner. In a frenzied panic, I ordered a grilled chicken salad. I asked that the bacon strips and croutons be removed. I asked for dressing on the side. I mentally tallied the numbers. Too much, I thought. Still too much. Too unhealthy. Too fattening. I requested “no cheese, please.”

My plate arrived, a pitiful portion of lettuce, shredded carrot, and chunks of chicken – a meal that provided zero happiness, satisfaction, or enjoyment.

My friends laughed through mouthfuls of onion rings. The cute cashier was probably the main topic of conversation. But I wouldn’t know. I was barely present, lost in my own world of self-destruction.

I wish I could go back. I would order the greasiest cheeseburger for the girl with cold hands. I would order a large Oreo milkshake for the girl with hollow cheeks. And yes, I would like an order of fries with that. But the experience goes far beyond a substantial meal.

I wish I could go back to the people. I wish I were there to participate in deep discussions. I would play card games and joke about the attractive cashier. I’d stay up late to talk about the newest Netflix series. I’d braid hair while playing a game of Truth or Dare.

If only I could go back, I would spend less time in the bathroom. Less squats, more socializing. Less tears, more talking. No regrets, only sweet remembrance.

But wish as I might, I can’t go back. I can’t relive my wasted past.

Throughout the Bible, we see many examples of God’s mercies. He offers free forgiveness and bestows upon us second chances.

As I prepare for a week of volleyball games, I count it all joy that I have been given a do-over! I do not take this trip for granted. I am so grateful to travel with my friends – not only to eat food together, but to giggle, grow, and play as a team.

I look forward to the long drive. I look forward to the convenience of fast-food. I look forward to strengthened relationships, and best of all, I look forward to winning the championship title with my girls!

– Taylor

Eat Food, Not Numbers

As a happy-go-lucky toddler, I loved food. I was considered a “good eater.” I found pleasure and enjoyment in food.

Then, as an irritable teenager, I still loved food. But I hated it too. I was very selective with the foods I ate. Eating had become a chore. I found no pleasure or enjoyment in food.

As a four-year-old, I cried when I didn’t have my way. I cried when I wasn’t allowed to eat a particular snack. At fourteen, I cried when I was made to eat a particular snack. Why such the extreme turn of events?

Here’s the thing: there’s no joy in eating numbers. When food is diminished to calories, carbs, fats, and proteins, the fun is completely sucked out of eating.

Food is a social thing. It is something to be shared among people. It draws families together. It brings laughter, conversation, and an occasional tear to the dinner table.

But when food is diminished to mere numbers on a box, the social aspect of eating is fully removed. Food becomes a task.

When the social component is taken out, you are left feeling isolated and detached. You might sit around a group of people where food is the centerpiece, but you are unable to participate in meaningful discussions. You might sit there, but you aren’t present. Instead, you’re wondering why she has yet to start on her mashed potatoes. Why didn’t she clean her plate? What did she eat earlier today? Has she eaten more or less than I? At mealtimes, you sit awkwardly, not knowing how to fit in.

Food is also an emotional thing, although I dislike the term “emotional eating.” Typically, this phrase has a negative connotation to it. People look down upon eating to your emotions. However, we can’t deny that eating is simply a natural response to our feelings of happiness, excitement, bliss, sorrow, heartache, and all of the emotions in between.

But when food turns to numbers, the emotional parts of eating go away. For example, an anorexic doesn’t eat birthday cake for the sheer fun of it. It is a methodical procedure, involving lots of planning. Emotions play no role in choosing what to eat. It all boils down to numbers.

Whether or not you realize it, you are robbing yourself of joy! You are selling yourself short. You are keeping yourself from pleasure and enjoyment.

If there’s anything to be learnt from this post, eat food! Eat real, processed food. Stop eating numbers. Stop eating calories and macronutrients. Stop diminishing food to digits and percentages.

Eat food for the joy that it’s worth! Eat when you’re happy. Eat when you’re stressed. Eat when you’re tired. Eat when you’re bored. Eat when you plain ‘ole just want to eat! Engage in conversations, and eat food for food.

There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand. ~ Ecclesiastes 2:24

– Taylor

A Poem on Sin and Redemption

Sin is the stain that will not wash away.

It kills, ensnares, and tangles

In such a harmful way.

It has left our world a filthy place –

In utter disarray.

Sin has kept us from partaking

In God’s glorious display.

But Jesus showed His love for us

When He came to make a way.

He took upon a lowly form

To break sin’s mighty sway.

He bore God’s wrath and died for us,

Though His body did not decay.

He arose in full splendor

On that bright, Easter Day!

The story is not over,

For we all rejoice to say,

That sin is the stain,

Erased by Yahweh.

– Taylor

Recovery and Counting Calories

Throughout my course of anorexia, I made several attempts at recovery. Unsuccessful attempts, at that. I had wanted to prove that I was capable of getting well on my own.

A recurring pattern was seen among my unsuccessful attempts. For one, I was always hesitant at the idea of full recovery, or more specifically, the idea of complete abandonment of my eating disorder. Perhaps the most constant theme was that I continued to counted calories, even amidst my efforts to recover. This seemed, to my disordered brain, a good option. After all, it was important that I ate sufficiently. Tracking my caloric intake appeared to be the best way by which to monitor that.

This thinking was very twisted and did nothing to improve my mental condition. Counting calories was not helpful. In fact, it was dangerously harmful!

How, you may be wondering, could calorie counting be so destructive? I’m glad you asked.

For an anorexic sufferer, there is an incessant fixation on food – an unhealthy obsession, if you will. Inserting calorie counting into the mix of already chaotic thinking only amplifies the disarray. When an anorexic decides to begin counting calories, they are forced to think about food in a detailed manner, more so than is already being done. It forces the individual to direct their thoughts to questions such as: What is a serving size? How many servings did I eat? How many calories are in xx servings?

Calorie counting can become a religious practice in as much as Bible reading or prayer. One may begin to elevate calorie counting to the point that it controls their decision to eat or not to eat a specific food.

In addition to calories, one may begin to count macronutrients, which could lead to further restriction of foods.

If I have failed to make myself clear, let it be known that calorie counting is an anorexic behavior. Therefore, an anorexic cannot expect to recover while participating in anorexic behaviors. All of this I say to confirm my point that it is nearly impossible to recover while counting calories.

Aside from the few exceptions, normal people do not track their caloric consumption. And yet, these same people are able to eat sufficiently. My brother is nine years old and has no trouble preparing himself a suitable meal. Mind you, he doesn’t count calories. Why then, do anorexics argue that they must record their intake in order to eat adequately?

In all truthfulness, it is a means of control – a way to satisfy the ever-present desire to manage food. It is a means of resisting recovery. A means by which to continue with your eating disorder.

When I was sick, I used My Fitness Pal to keep a history of what I had eaten. This app, though seemingly beneficial, became a hindrance to my recovery.

Perhaps you have struggled in similar circumstances. You struggle with counting calories or checking the nutrition panels of foods. Even so, you are stronger than you think.

First and foremost, I would suggest that you delete any and all apps relating to food or exercise. If recovery is the goal, do not engage in anorexic behaviors, no matter how tempting.

Eating sufficiently does not require that you count calories. Eating sufficiently simply requires that you eat without restriction. For someone in the early phases of recovery, this is a lot easier said than done. Nonetheless, you know when you are restricting. You know better than anybody else. You know what a proper portion looks like, and it isn’t always a size small.

My advice? Don’t count calories. It isn’t useful, and besides, who likes math anyway?

– Taylor

The Pursuit of Perfection and American Girl Dolls

Anorexia or not, I’ve always been the perfectionist type. I’m the type to scrap an entire sheet of paper because of (what I consider to be) poor handwriting. Then, I’ll start all over. And if the ink smears? Trash that page too. I’ll rewrite it.

My perfectionism is also made manifest in my bedroom. I like things to be kept so-so. I have a particular system of organization, and, if you’re smart, you won’t interfere with me and my methods of arrangement. I like for my bed to be made, my floors kept clear, and my laundry folded as crisp and flat as can be.

Okay, I hope you get it. I’m perfectionistic. I don’t need to rant or spend an unnecessary amount of time giving examples of my strange absurdities.

Bearing all of this in mind, however, we’re brought to a story that I’d like to share.

Anyway, on my tenth birthday, I was surprised with a trip to the American Girl Doll store in Atlanta, Georgia. Talk about pink in its pinkest form! Pink walls. Pink floors. Pink shelves. Pink boxes. An explosion of pink. And glitter – oh, tons of glitter! Glitter by the gallon.

For the first ten years of my bliss-filled life, I had considered myself a tomboy. But, it was at this very moment that I temporarily converted to girly-girlism.

To say that I was “in love” would have been an understatement. I was engrossed – infatuated – with these beautiful dolls, adorned in pink.

I wandered around the store, lost in my own happiness. I roamed the seemingly endless aisles of doll clothes, doll furniture, doll accessories, doll books, dolls.

At last, I landed on a display of look-alike dolls. I searched for my twin. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Brown-ish skin. She was beautiful – perfect even! We made an immediate connection, me and that doll. I wanted her with all of my ten-year-old heart!

In short, I left the store in a contented state with a new friend clutched tightly in my arms. She was my pride and joy!

As any good mother would, I decided that I would take my doll – whom I later named Kate – with me, wherever I went. Yet I would keep her hair in its original condition – glossy, unknotted, perfect. She would always be fully dressed and fully prepared for whatever I planned to do.

I started out with good intentions, and indeed, my intentions remained “good.” But problematic circumstances (or perhaps my sheer clumsiness) got in the way of my good intentions.

Several months into my motherhood, a terrible misfortune occurred. I dropped my beloved doll atop the concrete pavement. In doing so, the tip of Kate’s nose chipped off. It was only a small scrape, but I was absolutely devastated!

My perfectionistic (aka borderline insane) personality kicked into overdrive. I was not only mad at myself and my utter klutziness, but I was irritated with my doll for having suffered such a calamity, as if, such a thing had been her fault.

She was no longer perfect. She was flawed, damaged, marred. She, due to her wounded nose, had lost her luster. And likewise, I had lost pride in my doll.

According to my own way of thinking, Kate was now undeserving of my attention and affection. I would have argued that Kate was no longer useful, as if her usefulness had lain in the tip end of her nose. She was unworthy of my time and energies.

Contrary to my previous desires, I no longer wanted to carry Kate along with me. In fact, I would have liked to purchase a new doll in replacement, if only I had had the funds to do so. I desired nothing less than perfect. A strong demand, yes, but my standards were unwilling to waver.

For the most part, I kept these harsh emotions inward. But I did, at some point, share with my mom about how I was feeling. I briefly explained that, because of my doll’s misshapen nose, I no longer had any interest in playing with her. I even voiced that I had considered sending her off to the American Girl Doll Hospital, all in hopes that she might be returned to perfection.

I expected that my mom would rebuke my unrealistic expectations or roll her eyes at my silly thinking. But instead, she said in a matter-of-fact way, “Taylor, there’s nothing wrong with her nose. Sure, it may be broken, but it just shows that she has been well-loved. It shows that she has been worn by the experiences of life. It shows that she has ‘lived a little.'”

Although you may be thinking that I was a bit irrational or unreasonable towards my doll, you might relate to my story more than you’d like to admit.

Too often have I seen girls criticize themselves because of flaws that are out of their control. They berate themselves due to their faults or deem themselves unworthy on account of their mistakes. They condemn themselves because of their weaknesses or shortcomings. They attack themselves owing to their blemishes. Girls critique and revile their own bodies when they fall short of perfection.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with observing your body or acknowledging your frailties. But when it gets to the point that you are unhappy with your God-given frame, then it becomes an issue. In this way, not only are you harming yourself, but you are insulting the One who created you!

My friend, you are not defined by your scars. You are not defined by your shortcomings or your errors or your defects. Your worth is not found in appearance or in a number. Your value is in Jesus Christ, who died that you might live eternally!

Maybe you have some visibly obvious imperfections. You have a past that you fear may never be forgotten by others. Nonetheless, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)!

Your infirmities and failures are proof that you have been worn by the experiences of life. I’m not condoning bad behavior or excusing misconduct. I’m not saying that it’s okay to create damage by partaking in sin. But if you struggle to accept that your worth is not defined by your past, I’m here to proclaim that your worth was determined at the cross!

Jesus loves you unconditionally. He doesn’t ask that you be perfect. He doesn’t even ask that you be close to perfect. He gently asks that you come, for His power is made PERFECT in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

– Taylor