September 19, 2011

Embracing Life's Tests by Julianne

Everyone faces challenges. The question is how do you handle life’s tests? Do you embrace them and allow them to make you a better person or do you allow them to break you down and pull you further away from all you love – your family, friends, faith….

 I was diagnosed with exercise-induced anorexia the summer before my junior year of high school.  It wasn’t something I “planned” on happening.  I knew of girls in high school who had struggled with anorexia/bulimia and I never really got it – why didn’t they just go and eat a bunch of hot fudge sundaes??

But I played on the volleyball team and when our season ended I found myself getting restless and running more. That spring I was struggling with some stomach issues and was put on a special diet to help, before I knew it I was obsessively focused on eating healthier and exercising, so much so that I was consuming less calories then I was burning and my weight had dropped significantly. My parents were concerned, but I was in denial.

The first doctor they took me to assured me not to worry because “even Christians can have eating disorders.” I was blown away. Still struggling to face the fact that I had a problem, I was now being faced with accusations that my actions were a sin?

What followed was a year and a half of tears, pain, arguments, and mental warfare. It was a time I would never wish on anyone else. Their were fights with my parents about what to eat and when to eat it, fights with my body where I literally felt sick after going from eating around 1,500 (if that) calories a day to 3,500+, and the most challenging fight - the one with my mind.

 Anyone who has suffered a mental disease – and that truly is what any eating disorder is, a disease, will tell you that it’s as if someone else has taken over your body. Even though you might know the right decision, you are unable to make it. I would look in the mirror and see my 5’11 once size 6 body struggling to hold up size 2 clothes and be convinced I was fat and ugly. Satan told me that, and I believed him. The physical part was the easy part to correct. It took some time, but there was a point where I mentally accepted, and desired to gain weight, but even after the weight came back on I still struggled mentally with feelings of unworthiness.

Thankfully God blessed me at this time with 2 amazing women – my mom and my pastor’s wife. Both women became spiritual warriors for me - praying, talking, and constantly reminding me where my true worth came from. I had become so caught up in cultural lies – to be successful I needed to be thin and beautiful (which I thought I wasn’t), I needed to be popular (which I wasn’t), and wear the best clothes and jewelry (which I didn’t). Slowly my heart began to turn to God and his messages:

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
It would be a lie to tell you that I never have body image issues or feel insecure anymore, but I can say my life is completely different today then it was during those dark days almost 8 years ago. But if you asked me whether I would like to go back and erase those years, I would also tell you no – God used them to draw me closer to him and shape me into the woman I am today.

My experience did make me recognize a problem – people in the church very often shy away from talking about issues that don’t fit the “perfect” Christian mold (i.e. addictions, behavioral or mental issues, temptations, etc.).  Now, I talk. If there is anything I learned from my struggle with an eating disorder it was:

1. That my worthiness comes from God, not from man, and
2. If I can do anything to prevent others from suffering from a similar situation, I will.

So I talk – to the high school girls I teach at church, in my women’s bible study, to my friends and to my nieces. And by sharing my story I have found others who have had similar struggles or fought with unhealthy thoughts. If I was walking down the street and tripped in a hole I would stand and call out to warn those behind me so they wouldn’t make the same mistake – how is this situation any different?
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

My name is Julianne and I am a 22 year old child of God and passionate about my relationship with Christ. I am very close to my family, love being an aunt, and love anything chocolate!

 You can read more from Julianne at Between the Lines

1 comment :

  1. Julianne,

    Thank you for taking time to post at Art's Chili Pepper during my absence. This post addressed a topic that is still sadly ignored by so many... even though I believe it is a growing issue among our young girls. And not just anorexia, but image issues in general abound in our society. I also liked your message that we MUST take our trials and use them for growing closer to the Lord and helping others. This is such an important lesson for all of us, and you are very wise to have grasped it so young. I commend your desire to reach out to others. My blog is always available for you to speak to the ladies of blog world. I am saddened by the attitude you received that there might be something wrong with you because you were dealing with this disorder or that you were lacking spiritually because of it. The world is so misinformed! How blessed that you had women in your life to show you otherwise.