Thursday, April 30, 2009

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

It's story time.

I've done a lot of growing up in the past year. The past couple of years have been dark and difficult, despite obvious joys, like getting engaged and then married. Soon after my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world, however, I found myself plunging into the deep depression and slavery that is anorexia nervosa. I would never have admitted it at the time, of course. I was proud of how skinny I was, at how little I ate and how much I exercised. I thought that thinner was better, and that I was very attractive. I never dreamed that my extreme weight loss not only terrified my husband but also was a huge turn-off.

The worst of my struggle with anorexia occurred just about a year ago, around Easter weekend. Soon after the holiday, I attended a YogaFit training in Spokane, WA, where I ate almost nothing and pushed myself through two days of yoga in a freezing cold studio. It was awful. My chest hurt, I felt constantly lightheaded, and I could not stop shivering. I remember thinking that I was going to die in the hotel room, but I didn't really believe that. Not enough to eat something more than vegetables or single-serve fat-free sugar-free yogurt. I considered eating a LUNA Bar a sin akin to chowing down on a Kit Kat bar. I now believe that I did come close to death during that time, much closer than I knew, and that it is only by God's mercy that I am still breathing today. My husband won't like to read that, but it's the truth.

But I admit that it is an uncomfortable truth. So why write it at all? Because lately I have been marveling at how completely God has turned my life around since Easter 2008. I want to share that gift of victory with the world! I remember weeping silently during last year's Easter church service at how I had enslaved myself to food restrictions and exercise, at how it it was killing me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt abandoned and already dead. But again, not enough to change my compulsive behavior. Thankfully, I soon found myself in the care of a very capable therapist, receiving eating disorder counseling twice weekly. Since then, I have left behind the need for admittance to a full-time treatment center, I have matured emotionally and mentally, I returned to the workplace after abandoning in favor of exercise and anorexia, and I have left restrictive eating behind.

It hasn't been easy. Not by a long shot. It's been an excruciatingly slow and steep climb, but I am closer to the summit of health and wholeness than ever before. I nourish myself with responsible food choices. I nourish my mind and body through healthful exercise choices. I've completed three running races, a feat I could never have hoped to accomplish with my body so deprived and depleted by anorexia. I am working on getting my menstrual cycle restarted. I hope to be able to have biological children someday, and/or adopted children. I have a stronger relationship with my husband, and my health is no longer a strain on both his own wellness as well as the state of our marriage. I can interact with my parents more rationally and with greater respect. I care more about other people, and am eager to repair the friendships I lost or let lapse during my wanderings in the wilderness of anorexia.

My professional life has also grown as a result of my enlarging health. First and foremost, I have a job. Previously, my eating disorder prevented me from being a dependable employee, and it robbed of the desire to even try to work. Now I work full-time with children who have behavior issues due to poor parental relationships, spectrum disorders, or trauma and abuse. At first my eating disorder interfered with my ability to be as good of an educator as possible. All I could think about was the end of each day of work, or the end of each week. But now my struggle with anorexia and the emotional issues has become an asset for me in the classroom. The emotions anorexia helped me avoid now aides me in connecting with these kids, caring about them, and assisting them in developing proper social interactions.

Before my body was something to be controlled, used, and beaten. Now I see it has a thing of curvaceous beauty, strength, femininity, and ability. I am capable of many things, and my battle with anorexia not only highlights this fact but makes me appreciate it as well. In many ways I am thankful to my eating disorder because it has helped make me into the person I am -- and, shock of shocks, I like that person! God is good, and His version of health is wholeness.

Here's a self-portrait I took of myself about 13 months ago during my YogaFit weekend in Spokane, crocheting away on a yoga mat bag. It's hard to get a good view of my entire body, but you can see how thin and emaciated my arms are, how flat my chest is, and how much my collarbone protrudes:

Attractive? Healthy? Not at all, but I couldn't have told you that at the time.

Now here's me in a photo I took just a few weeks ago, on this year's Easter weekend. Can't you see the difference? There's color in my cheeks, breasts of just the right size, no pointy corners instead of shoulders, and -- most importantly -- hope and joy in my heart.

I've come a long way, baby! Don't you agree? So if you're struggling with poor body image, an eating disorder, food issues, or any self-injuring compulsion, take heart -- health is possible! Freedom is possible! God has been so faithful to me, and now I am reaping His victory.


  1. You certainly have come a long way. Thank you for being so brutally honest. I am going to forward this to my three teen girls. I will pray for your continued strength, Betherann.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I know God is going to use this in an amazing way!

  3. Jessa Valence here. I know this is an ooold post at this point, but I didn't know your story until just now and it's moved me deeply. I'm sitting here crying at the keyboard as my sweet cat confusedly chirps and tries to figure out what is going on.Thank you for writing so candidly about this issue. I remember being there: not wanting to have so much as a bite of a "bad" food like a Luna bar because I wanted to be in complete control, being proud of being scary-skinny, being terrified of gaining the weight back. I remember many times thinking, with satisfaction no less, that I would keep starving myself thinner and thinner until I died. Then, hooray! I would win because *I never got fat again!*I blogged about it a bit here.The anorexic mindset sounds ridiculous from this far away, doesn't it? Thank you for listing the many reasons why recovery is worth it; I needed a reminder. Wishing you continued success in your pursuit of health. <3


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King