My battle with clinical depression began when I was 12 years old. I couldn’t sleep at night. I cried every single day. A deep sadness and sense of hopelessness and worthlessness penetrated my being and it felt unshakable. I had no label for what I was experiencing and I didn’t know how to share it with those around me. The deep pain I was in scared me.
I wanted it to go away.
I took control of what I could by dieting. The goal to lose five pounds quickly became 10, 20, then 30. No number could satisfy and as my weight plummeted so did my interactions with my parents. They were worried, angry, upset. I needed their love and support but all I perceived from them was anger and fear. Every meal was a battle ground. Every new day was harder than the one before. My parents didn’t know what to do and that scared me. I wanted control, but this kind of power was scary and deceitful. I felt like I had control but I knew deep inside I was at the mercy of a broken mind and a broken spirit. As the wedge between my parents and I grew I felt completely alone.
I knew that I needed help, but to me getting help meant gaining weight and in the depths of anorexia nervosa that thought is worse than death. At age 13 my 5’7” frame had whittled down to 92 pounds and I knew that I was in trouble as I felt my body slowly shutting down. My mom took me to my doctor and to a therapist and I cunningly convinced both of them that I was fine. Not much was known about eating disorders in the early 90's and though my need for help should have been obvious, I managed to fly under the radar. After dodging her questions about food the therapist tried to address the stress in my home life and I wanted to hear none of it. I couldn’t deal with the realities I was living and their impact on my heart. I kept my emotions in check by stuffing them, refusing them, and berating myself for having them at all. I didn’t want to admit to weakness and neediness. I loathed the thought of being a “victim.” I wanted to prove that I was strong and in control; strong enough to be in control of my eating, my emotions, and my destiny.
In desperate need of rescue I isolated myself. My mother and I could hardly speak to one another. After hearing two "experts" say that I was okay, I threw it in her face anytime she questioned my eating or my health. I had three younger siblings for her to care for and it was easy to slip under the radar again.
One night lying in bed I felt the Spirit whisper to my heart, "stop hurting yourself." My answer was no. I had made my choice and between God and anorexia, God had lost. I was circling the drain when I went to summer camp. It sounds so cliché as I write the words, but at camp with my church youth group God reached into my life through a woman named Terri. One night around the campfire we were told to write down something we wanted God to take from our lives and to throw it into the fire. Watching our papers burn I was supposed to feel a burden lifted but instead the weight of my anorexia felt heavier on my shoulders. Burning words in a fire couldn’t save me. I had refused the God who could save me. I felt hopelessly lost.
I was burdened to the point of tears and when Terri asked me what was wrong I decided to be honest with her. I told her of my struggle with anorexia and of my fractured home life. She ministered to me that night with words of hope and she continued to pursue my heart over the next year with words of love and encouragement and support. She spoke to me of a God who did not have judgment for me but instead of a God of Love. Love. Love. The Love she spoke of and the love she showed began to penetrate my shattered, bleeding heart. God sent Terri, a woman who had struggled with disordered eating in her own life. Terri, a single mom with many burdens of her own, yet she was willing to give of her time and energy to a hurting girl like me. God used Terri to demonstrate His love to my heart in a way that I could understand. He pursued me through her phone calls and cards and time together at youth group. Over time the walls around my heart began to soften enough for the Love to come through. The safety and care of His love was what my heart longed for. His love was the nourishment I needed to survive and Terri's love gave it a door to enter through.
I wish I could say that from there I understood God’s love fully and walked forward into a life of complete freedom and joy! What I can say is that at age 13 I chose to be baptized in front of our church and to answer God differently the next time He called my name. I didn't exactly know how to, but I knew I wanted to choose Him, and being baptized seemed like the first step. I could see that nothing else on this earth was going to save me from my pain or heal my hurting heart. I didn't come up out of that water completely fixed, but I did come up a new creation in Christ. The healing that matters the most has happened in my Spirit and nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. Nothing.
Our hearts are complex and deep healing comes slowly. I have not "arrived" yet but God has provided for what I need on each peak and in each valley that I have faced so far. His fingerprints cover my journey, and I bet they cover yours too. I still have much to learn about His Love and the freedom He offers. His gentle pursuit with patience and kindness has been wooing me all of my life. His love inspires the courage to continue to seek with hope that I will find in Him all that I so desperately long for and need.
To belong, to be carried, to be loved, to find peace.
Where are His fingerprints in your story? How has He met you along the way?