If you’ve been following my blog this week you know I am drawing attention to National Eating Disorder Awareness Week through the stories of several friends. Previous posts include friend Martha Kate’s Breaking Up with ED and my own I Had No Idea: The Secret Truth of Eating Disorders. Now today meet my dear friend Parker, who we met when she was an 18 year-old college freshman. Ever since she has been like a big sister to my daughter and close friend of mine and our family.
I’ve sat down to write out these words several times now – each moment feeling more difficult than the one before. I tried to pinpoint the hold up on my heart, and this morning – of course while having a food-centered moment over my coconut flour pancakes – it dawned on me. How many people really know the details of my journey?
How many times was I told, “You don’t have a problem,” “It’s really not that bad,” or “It’s just a phase?”
While I’m transparent with almost every part of my life, the depths of my heart hold tight to the anguish surrounding my body. The battle for those corners of my spirit raged on, during the so called “best years of my life,” until I finally gave up the war and surrendered to the only One big enough to win it for me.
I feel like a lot of folks who in journeying an interesting road qualify their story with the phrase “I grew up in a stable and loving home,” as though an ideal setting precludes us from challenge. Well, news flash…the enemy has no favorites. Every heart has equal accessibility to trial.
The minute I turned inward for control, my heart was primed for a takeover. Between the ages of 15 and 29, my relationship with food was tumultuous at best. As soon as I thought I’d reached a healthy balance, I would find myself staring back into the face of the enemy I’d spent so much energy willing myself away from. I would mark events in my life (college graduation, family events, our wedding, our first house) by “skinny time” or “fat time.” The memories illustrated in the photo would fade behind the noisy thoughts in my head criticizing every square inch of my body. Focused solely on myself, the shame attached to my pride only compounded the heartache.
My journey is full of marked moments of desperation. Between bottles of pills used to “balance” my food intake during college and extreme workouts that landed me in back surgery by age 23, I did everything to my body in pursuit of perfection. The breakdown? I allowed nothing for my body.
Let me pause here for a moment and ask you a question: Why should we care so much about this subject?
Personally, why does physical health matter so intensely to me?
One word answer for both questions: Freedom.
I longed for the emotional, physical, and spiritual space to love others, give radically, and live freely. My yo-yo years with nutritional and physical health have taken up so much space, in my head and heart. For a while, it was centered on dropping pounds and losing inches. Ultimately, as my heart began to heal, it was about finding consistency in one area of my life to build the foundation for growth and impact in all parts of my life.
When we counsel others through eating disorders, we often hear “this will always be a part of your journey.” Or my other favorite, “this will always be your fight.” Living within that supposed truth kept me in bondage to this enemy for nearly half of my life. All I could find was temporary relief clouded by the harsh reality that this nemesis would show its face again. My story – the one that began with “this will always be your fight” – became my truth. It was my life banner, until my Creator intervened on my behalf to repaint that banner with His heart for me. In His grace, He rewrote my story. He gave me a new Heartsong.
Here are the two truths of eating disorders: They are not preventable. They are curable. We are a community within a fallen world – crippled by sin and seemingly overpowered by societal norms. We cannot control what others around us see and hear. However, we can choose who we are for our community. We can be a soft landing for a hurting soul. We can speak in transparency and love. We can call the enemy for who he is and what he is – naming the lie and claiming the truth. And more than all of those combined, we can call on a Risen Savior. Christ needs not to fight the battle for us, because by His life, death, and resurrection…the war is already won.
In His victory is our freedom.
Parker is a seeker of human potential, finding God’s artistry in the possibility of others. Released from performance and transformed by grace, she strives to live (and write) with authenticity and boldness – and a deep gratitude for the beauty within failure.
Parker serves as a brand and marketing strategist, committed to developing businesses with a heartbeat. When she’s not ideating with colleagues or blogging in a coffee shop, she enjoys yoga, spinning, giant glasses of sweet tea, and anything on the water. A graduate of Baylor University and UNC Kenan Flagler Business School, she lives in Mount Pleasant, SC with her husband, Thomas, and golden retriever, Jasper.