Thursday, 20 June 2013

My Eating Disorder and Jesus

In one of my last posts I wrote about courage and finding your voice. Well, this is me, finding my voice and daring to speak out against the lies which seem to dominate so much of society today.

As I sat on the train I watched the world fly past me. Here, I could become anything, anyone. I could do anything. The possibilities were endless: the only boundary being that of my imagination. I choose to be skinny. Not just thin, but skinny. My collar bone would be pronounced, you'd be able to see the faint outline of my ribcage, my stomach would be flat, and I would have that coveted thigh gap. I choose to be beautiful.

The last sentence jolted me back into reality. I had to check myself. Have the two words thin and beautiful really become so synonymous with each other that I can't be one without being the other? Is my 36-34-43 5"11 frame really that bad? Is my imagination really so warped that I want to look ILL?!

Every time I eat food, I seem to condemn myself to the region of the fat. Yet the hunger pangs, those sharp reminders that I haven't eaten can seem both beautiful and treacherous. A part of me welcomes them enthusiastically: it's a sign of self control. Something I am strong enough to beat.Yet they also scare me. The elation and sense of control which accompany them so often, can rule me in an instant. They can drag me back into the lies, the obsession, the fear and the misery which held me captive for so long, without me even realising it.

I would say if you are reading this, you would almost immediately say this attitude towards food is not "normal". Yet for so long it was normal. It was me. The desire to be thin consumed me. And it wasn't even being thin... it was being better, being stronger than the cravings and the pangs which came at me all the time. But you know what: I wasn't. I never beat them. I was always the loser in the corner, betrayed by my own body, and destroyed by my mind. It was a failed attempt at perfection that cost me everything.

As I sat on the train, still gazing out of the window, I realised that despite having an imagination capable of weaving entire worlds, I was still choosing to weave myself thin, because a part of me still believes that it is the only way I can be beautiful, that this is the only way I can be better and stronger. It's a LIE.

I can hear you ask already "But you're a Christian? Hasn't God got it covered?" or "Where is your Jesus in this?" I have asked myself these questions so many times, and I still don't know the answers. Self image problems are so prevalent in society that they have become normal. And in my experience Church is no different. As girls, we struggle. We wrestle with the world's view of beauty that we've grown up with and because we're so used to hearing the lie that we aren't enough, we struggle to accept the idea that we could be considered beautiful and perfect creations as we are. But we are beautiful creations, made in the image of the one who loves us deeply and powerfully. So why is the truth so hard to believe?

Equally disturbing, is my ability to manipulate the scripture to "justify" my behaviour and my thought patterns. Verses like that in 1 Corinthians were a particular favourite: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body." I believed that any food would corrupt this temple, and in order to make it, to make myself suitable for God, I had to be thin. Again I cannot emphasise enough that THIS IS NOT TRUE. As a temple, our bodies should be loved and honoured, not punished and starved. 

I love Jesus, with everything I have I want to honour him. But sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I fall. But he is always there to catch me. I have days where all I want to do is cry. I have days where those thought patterns creep back, and those temptations return. But all I can do is trust. Trust that Jesus will give me the strength when I have none (Philippians 4:13- we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us), and trust that the word of God really is sharper than any sword (Hebrews 4:12-13). All I can do is hope: hope that God will carry me through the pain. Romans 5:5 says that because of God's love for us, our hope will not be disappointed. The truth is powerful. The truth is the key to freedom: "To the Jews who had believed in him Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) It has changed my life. This is why, whenever the lies set in I pray. I put on worship music. I read my bible. I immerse myself in the truth. And when there is a war in my head, it isn't easy, but it pays. I guess the truth really does set you free.

It's not an easy walk. And there are truly days when it doesn't feel possible or even feasible to bother with the scripture, worship or prayer. This is because sometimes familiarity feels easier than the unknown. But even in those moments when I feel most hopeless and alone, I know God is with me. He is the reason I can stand here today and be happy. For me, being alive is a true testament of God's grace and the way it has transformed my heart.

I want to end this by simply saying: You are not alone. You are never alone. You don't need to suffer in silence. Seeking help is terrifying but one of the most courageous things you could ever do. You are beautiful. Don't ever let anyone make you believe otherwise.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Dreams, ambitions and little things.

I had two of my closest friends round for dinner one evening before I came home for the summer. It was a brilliant opportunity to catch up and possibly one of my favourite evenings of this year. We were just girls, discussing hopes, dreams, the big things, the little things and everything in between. And somehow we got onto the topic of our dreams for the future. I was talking about a writing competition and debating about whether or not I should enter it, and my friend asked "If you could do anything in the whole world, would you write?" I looked at her and thought about it for a minute. If  I didn't have to get a "real job" I would write. I would have a study with a beautiful view and a sleek beautiful machine to write on (alongside the obligatory writer's notebook and a beautiful Parker pen). I would write about the things that I know, the things I love, the things I hate and everything in between. If I could do anything with my life it would be that. I would use my writing to encourage others, to tell them things which aren't necessarily talked about over the dinner table. I want to paint vivid pictures with my words and create entire universes with a million different combinations of 26 letters.

Writing is freedom; the freedom to escape, the freedom to become immersed in a whole other world, the freedom to become someone different and the freedom to express what you can't necessarily say aloud. Writing gives you a voice. Writing is a power which I am in awe of. It allows you to do so many different things and become so many different people. It speaks so loudly and eloquently of what the heart feels, yet without the nervous stammers and stutters, and stumbling over words that seem to occur so frequently in speech. It builds and it destroys. It hurts and it heals. Writing is incredible. And if you love it, if you nurture it you will discover its power.

But this is where I paused to think. Ever since that evening I have been challenged. Why can't I just write? Why can't I chase the thing I am most passionate about? What is stopping me?

If you love something. Chase it. Go after it. Don't spend life regretting those chances you never took and those dreams you let die because the fear of falling prevented you from trying. How do you know what it's like to fly if you don't take the leap?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Courage: Find Your Voice

Life is scary. Life is a rollercoaster of emotions, ups and downs and twists and turns, and it's the wildest ride we'll ever take. And whilst there are plenty of beautiful moments and a few of real ecstasy, often, in order to get to that point, we have to experience moments of gut wrenching fear. Sometimes, that fear isn't even in the big things, it can be in the tiny things too. But strangely enough, in those moments of fear, in those moments where the million what ifs course through your mind, sometimes those are where we find our greatest courage. In those moments, we can find the ability to speak out and to be heard.

A number of people have told me over the years that I am brave. Honestly, it isn't the first characteristic that comes to my head when I go to describe my personality. On reflection, maybe, just maybe, those people are right. Despite the fact that I am scared of a lot of things (both superficial and deeper rooted fears) sometimes I can summon up that little bit of courage. And at the time I don't necessarily feel brave (in fact I mostly felt stupid) but I would feel like what I have done is right. And that bravery has taught me a lot; and though it hasn't always yielded results, it has strengthened me. That's what courage does. It builds strength. Courage is associated with strong people. And they aren't courageous because they're strong, but they have been made strong because they have been courageous.