Purpose

Over the weekend I attended a wake for a relative that passed away suddenly. While I had only met her a handful of times, her wake left a lasting impact on my heart. The following is a journal entry from this past Sunday that I would like to share.

 

4/24/16

I am still hardcore in my relapse. I cannot stand the feel of my own body inside of my skin. All I feel is my fat suffocating me and the eyes of the world staring at and counting each of my visible rolls. I put on my black dress earlier that I haven’t worn since last summer to attend my relative Gerri’s wake tonight. I have never felt so uncomfortable in a dress in my life. I just wanted to crawl into a rabbit hole and not be seen. The eyes of my uncles and aunts I’m sure were sizing up my body noticing all the weight I’ve gained. Judging my every step. All of these things flooding my mind in a moment where my body shouldn’t have mattered. But somehow, it did. Ed had accompanied me to the wake.

As time went on, and we talked to the close family members of my relative, I began to feel this overwhelming, empathetic, melancholy feeling. I looked around at the grieving faces. I looked at the closed casket covered with the most beautiful yellow roses. I saw the pictures of a young, radiant, beloved, wife, mother, grandmother. I saw the smiles of happiness, and the lines of a journey well-traveled on her face in each picture. And the more my senses were engaged with my surroundings I began to think deeply and it brought me back to a meaningful conversation I had not too long ago with Maiya about snowflakes and purpose. And I thought, someday, when this is me, people aren’t going to remember how many rolls I thought I had on my body; they aren’t going to remember how much food I didn’t eat or did eat. No one will remember how many hours I spent in the gym or my weight on the scale or the size of my dress. What they will remember is all the things I can’t see when I’m stuck with Ed. They will remember (I hope) my smile, my loving heart, my free spirit, my compassion, my talents, the joy they felt around me. They will remember my strength, and how I tried to be a light of God’s love and hope. They will remember things I probably don’t even know about myself. And it brings so many tears to my eyes. My earthly body doesn’t matter because my heavenly father has given me a spirit of love, and that above all else makes my heart swell.

The parlor of Gerri’s wake was filled with yellow flowers. When I looked around, I realized something else. These flowers had a purpose. Gerri had a purpose. I have a purpose. I was not placed on this earth for decorative reasons, but to make a difference. As I continue to struggle with finding my footing in a strong place of recovery again, I am going to try to remember all these things. Although I did not know her well, her wake left a lasting imprint on my life. And now, whenever I see a yellow flower, just as when I see snowflakes, I will smile because I will know I have a purpose too.

Steps of Faith

Yesterday was a very fabulous Friday! I was presented with an academic achievement award at my school for having a semester GPA above 3.0. This was a huge honor for me and really meant a lot. My first semester back at school since being sick and I rocked it. I rocked it when I wasn’t sure I could. I was filled with self doubt, uncertainty, and at times overwhelming anxiety. I spent a lot of time questioning what I got myself into, and was I really smart enough- good enough to start the pathway to becoming an RN? I proved my self doubt wrong. I learned to believe in myself, and accept my strengths and worked on my weaknesses. I learned how much love and support I have around me and that I’m pretty sure that I have the best cheerleaders rooting for me. Rooting for me in my successes, my failures, my self doubt, and loving me through it all. And to me, receiving this certificate meant so much more than just academic achievement. It held all the things I worked to overcome last semester, and a belief that I am good enough, and I can do anything I set my mind to. It showed me that once we throw away the self doubt, let go of our insecurities, and place our security in Christ we can metamorph into all God plans for us to be if we place our trust in him and take those first scary steps out onto the water. All we need to do is hold our hand out to Him, and walk by faith.

The Best Compliment

Monday afternoon I stood on the playground of the preschool where I work. All around me was the chaos of children screaming, the music of their laughter, and the sound of their sweet little feet hitting the playground as they bounced joyfully from one end of grounds to the other. I stood and took it all in. I watched them be so carefree and enjoying every second of their day. That’s the amazing thing about kids. They don’t care who hurt them earlier in the day, they don’t care about the baby fat that still covers their sweet, precious bodies, and they don’t care about being someone who they aren’t just to impress someone. They are just present in the moment. And while all this was going on around me I talked to one of the moms of a little boy in my class. She told me something that really hit me at the deepest point of my heart, and I haven’t stopped thinking about her words since. She looked at me and said, “Alissa, you are so real. And that’s what I love about you.” Realness. Authenticity. Those things- those two courageous, scary, wonderful things- they are what I have been trying to become. To be fully me. To be perfectly imperfect. To take off my shell and bear my heart and my scars to this fake world. To hear those words- it was better than the feeling of hearing how great I looked, or I look like I lost weight, or hearing how smart someone thinks I am. “You are so real.” That was the best compliment I could have received. And to hear those words, must mean I’m doing something right.

Flowers and Storms

Recovery. Sometimes recovery is a garden bed full of fresh, colorful flowers on a warm spring day. Sometimes it’s a tree bending and cracking under the heavy rain from the season’s strongest storm. Sometimes it’s both of these things wrapped up in the same day- even the same hour. It’s a crazy, wonderful, messy, fragile, but still somehow beautiful piece of me. But at the moment, it feels more like I’m the tree trying not to snap in the middle of the storm. I’m digging my roots into the soil as hard as I can trying to stay strong. But every time I start to feel like the colorful garden bed again, the winds of Ed’s storm start to roar and the raindrops of his destruction start to fall around me and flood my mind. He tells me food is the enemy. He tells me I’m worthless when I eat. He tells me my weight needs to be an ideal perfect number. He gets mad when I tell him that by choosing to eat and ignore him that I’m making a bold statement. I am making a statement that I’m worthy. He gets angrier when I tell him my weight isn’t who I am and it doesn’t matter how the world sees me because God looks at my heart. He gets livid when I tell him food is my friend. Food helps my body survive the demands of each day. He screams, he shouts, he bangs his fists against the walls of my mind. But I know in this moment, as I lay in my bed crying from the exhaustion I feel from fighting, that each time I challenge Ed, the smaller he becomes. And the smaller he becomes, the harder he will fight for control. And the harder he fights, the stronger my fight for freedom will become. So I will close my eyes, dream about becoming a colorful, lively free flower again, and wake up knowing I am clothed in God’s armor, and with God, anything, even conquering my hardest recovery battles, is possible.

Boundaries and Old Connections

Recently I was contacted by an old friend from high school who I haven’t talked to in quite some time. During those four awkward years we were pretty tight. We talked on the phone nearly every night, shared numerous inside jokes, took the same classes, shared secrets and family drama with each other, and always knew how to make the other laugh. After high school ended, we slowly started to drift apart as we went our separate paths. We began to talk less and less, and barely saw each other anymore. The connection was diminishing. This continued as I would see pictures on Facebook of her with another mutual friend always going out, and feeling hurt and heartbroken that I wasn’t even thought of. Because we weren’t the type of friends that ever had any drama, I felt I couldn’t express my feelings of hurt and how left out and alone I felt. I would see these pictures almost every week and just feel genuinely sad. The final straw for me was when I told this friend that I was entering IOP treatment and was met with virtually no support. That hurt me in a way that words cannot even express. Throughout my whole treatment, she never reached out, never asked how I was doing, never even invited me to hang out. I felt as though because I was broken, I was just this useless old childhood toy to her that could just be thrown into the garbage. I felt abandoned at a very fragile time in my life. A time when I needed friends the most.

Fast forward to the other day. Suddenly she finds some value in me. She suddenly wants to go and get our nails done together. She suddenly wants to talk to me. But I assure you there is something under that. There were messages about working out, eating, etc. And while this time it was a healthy mindset of messages, and a good part of that was because I steered the conversation that way, I know there will be another time where she finds it appropriate to talk to me about dieting, juice fasting, watching some stupid documentary that will scare me into eating certain foods again. I cannot have that toxicity in my life. I cannot put myself in a position to continue to have relapses. I cannot trust she has my best interest at heart, because it has become clear to me she does not. She hasn’t cared, she doesn’t care, she is probably just trying to use me for personal training tips, or even eating disorder tips, and I refuse to do that. The other day when we were talking, I could not say these things because my boundaries are still weak. I couldn’t tell her she triggers me, she abandoned me, she is not my friend. I couldn’t express all the love I have had from my REAL true friends over that last year. I could not explain to her how toxic she is for me. I could not say NO! But today, on the off chance she is reading this, I am telling her no now. NO I don’t want to hang out. NO I don’t ever want to try a fad diet with you. NO I don’t want to allow your toxicity back into my life. NO I do not want to set myself up to be hurt again because you don’t know what a real friend is. I may be shaky on this path right now, but I am learning my worth. And the one thing I have learned from my real friends over these struggles is that you are not worth my time, my life, my energy anymore.

(Im)Perfection

Perfectionism. A concept so many of us- especially eating disorder sufferers are all too familiar with. Merriam- Webster has two significant definitions for the word perfect. The first one which I believe we all try to unsuccessfully achieve states, “Having no mistakes or flaws.” In the society we live in, we feel the pressure from everywhere- from family, co-workers, friends, classmates, media- the list goes on and on to strive to achieve this ideal person. This person who may not even exist. In fact- doesn’t exist. We try to become this person with the perfect body, the perfect grades, the perfect hair, the perfectly successful lifestyle. Thus painting this false image of ourselves and in turn closing ourselves off to the true beauty of connection and hiding our true, beautiful, authentic selves from the world. We hide our scars so others can’t deepen them. We shield our hearts in an attempt to keep our glass worlds free from the debris of the imperfection that swarms around us. No wonder we feel so lost and ultimately not good enough.

Now, I want to take a look at the second definition. “Having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.” This simple definition says so much when we look at its deeper meaning. There is so much more to each and every one of us than our plastic shells we present to the world. Underneath all our striving, our searching, our glass walls, there are real perfectly imperfect hearts. There are hearts who care for those who are hurting, that long to be free enough and vulnerable enough to touch their scars and feel their pain. There are hearts that have the most painfully, beautiful stories to share that are longing to find the courage to be vulnerable enough to reach out and be honest. There are hearts fighting so hard against the battle of earthly chains longing just to feel accepted in their worldly “imperfections” and fully embrace the perfections God has given them. I know this heart belongs to me. Maybe that heart belongs to you too.

As someone who struggles so heavily with the idea of perfection, and how I want the world to see me, the second definition really opened my eyes, and I’m starting to see what my dietitian means by “the spirit vs flesh battle.” There is never going to be a day when we don’t feel like we screw something up, feel like we have failed, or just feel like these messed up broken people. But those imperfections- that brokenness- our sins- I believe God takes all of it and transforms it, and transforms our hearts into good. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is an unfixable mistake. Nothing and no one is completely lost because his grace saves.

So, as we go into this new week, I am going to work to let go of striving for the perfect body, grades, lifestyle, job or whatever else may flood my mind. Instead, I want to work towards accepting my Godly perfections. I want to open my heart, be honest, be caring, share compassion, and bring hope. I know it won’t be easy, but is anything ever?  

Hope Through The Struggles

So Friday, in an attempt to pull me out of my relapse that I can’t seem to beat at the moment, Maiya (my dietitian), sent me home with a stuffed puppy named Mitchell. The idea being that I am babysitting him and he is my accountability buddy and the only way Mitchell will be nourished is if I am nourishing myself. And somehow it took the guilt away from not feeding myself to feeling guilty instead for not feeding this little thing who is theoretically dependent on me. Honestly, I thought Maiya was absolutely losing her mind when she told me this was what we were going to do because it is just a stuffed animal and I know this! But turns out Maiya is actually a genius. And it’s driving me absolutely crazy that I can’t figure out why this little stuffed animal is helping me get my meals in, but I’m just gonna go with it for a while. Mitchell is actually very comforting to me during mealtimes too and after. I have been abnormally, severely petrified of eating and gaining weight and somehow it is helping me a little with that too. This is so confusing! I wish I could have been inside of Maiya’s head to figure out how on Earth she knew this would be helpful, but hopefully she will explain it next time I see her. The only problem is now I am overexercising to justify eating and burn more calories and it’s not helping with my fear foods that have returned. I guess it’s just important I don’t give up. And if I need a stuffed animal to help me through meals good news is someday I will be able to look back and smile at this right?!?

I also got to spend a lot of time with my best friend Ally over the weekend and it really helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone. I was talking to her about how hard it has been for me lately to not know how I look to the world. She said something that was really profound to me. She said, “It took me a really long time to realize and understand this, but everyone perceives beauty differently. Very rarely is it dependent on appearance. What one person might not see as beautiful about you, will become someone’s treasure. And what the little boy at work said about your belly, he doesn’t know the size of your heart.” Her words just hit me as this overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance and value. I felt valued. And I needed that so badly. And it really got me thinking I only have this one life. There are no do overs. I only have one chance to use the big heart I have to make a difference. Do I really want to waste it worrying about calories, food, weight, inches, BMI, body fat percentage, etc.? Do I really want or need to obsess about how healthy I can eat and how much I can work out so I don’t get obesity related diseases when I’m perfectly healthy and could honestly get hit by a car when I walk out the door tomorrow? Do I really want to live this life only halfway because I’m too worried about not being enough when the cross shows me daily that I am more than good enough, worthy enough, that just the way I am- I. Am. Enough. Do I want to starve myself of the beauty of connection, of love, and wholeness just to obtain worldly beauty? Obviously the answer is no. I ultimately want to live each moment with purpose, not restrained by earthly chains. I want to experience all life can offer. I want to bring others hope. But how can I do any of that if I can’t find that hope for myself right now? How can I do any of this if I continue to dance with Ed? I know I can’t. And maybe by sending me home with Mitchell, Maiya was trying to send me home with hope.