When faced with difficulty, pain, or challenges, my natural inclination used to be to do whatever was in my power to make it stop.
I would often attempt to run and hide from my problems, numbing myself with various forms of distraction: achievement at work, obsessing about food and my physical appearance, social media scrolling and stalking, shopping, checking off the tasks of my never-ending “to-do” list, making plans to fill my time with “fun” and pleasurable things…so many options to remain busy and provide an escape from being alone with my thoughts and facing the hardships my present reality and wounds from the past offered me.
When you’re numb, you can’t feel. That’s a good thing, right?
My life story and personal experiences prove otherwise.
Sometimes I would use the “compare” game to distract me from the severity of my own issues. While comparison typically caused me to fall down the spiral of despair (feeling as though I was never enough or didn’t measure up to others), at times I could tap into compare’s ability to counter my insecurities and fluff up my ego: “Well at least I’m not like THAT person or struggle with THAT issue.”
Sometimes I would solicit the help of one of the most “useful” coping mechanisms: denial. A go-to record that my past loved to play: “Sure there are things in my life that aren’t great – but they’re not THAT bad. I’ve got everything under control. I can always change tomorrow; but today, just have fun and don’t worry about it.”
Sometimes I would pray for the circumstances to change. I’d ask God to bless the outcome for which I yearned and believed to be best. I needed to know everything was going to be okay, and I thought everything would be brilliant as long as things went according to my plan.
If I’m honest, the substance of my prayers equated to something like this:
“Please God, make my life easy; bless my life with the things that make me happy. Let my life be enjoyable and fun; take away all the pain and struggle. Promise me that if I do what I’m “supposed” to do, then I can avoid hardship. Let me live how I want to live – but please don’t punish me for my mistakes or let the negative consequences of my actions affect me. Don’t ask me to give up anything I don’t want to forfeit, especially my time or the things I find pleasurable. Let me hold onto the things I want and desire to do; but please bless my future. Bless my plans, protect me from pain and struggle.”
Of course I didn’t pray those exact words – I was much more eloquent and “spiritual” in the prayers I lifted up to Heaven. But unfortunately, that was at the heart of the words and requests that ignorantly flowed from my lips in the past.
Fortunately, God didn’t answer my prayers.
Fortunately, God did not simply rescue me from my problems, deliver a “picturesque life” absent any struggles, or provide a life full of constant “happiness” (complete with plenty of sunshine and rainbows). He’s a good Father who knows children need discipline: He will not allow His children to continue on making the same bad decisions over and over, unscathed from consequences. No, He loves us too much for that.
When I found myself backed into a corner by my inner demons, imprisoned by the consequences of my past mistakes, I cried out to God for His help and deliverance. Instead of the “rescue mission” I longed for (providing me with the “quick fix” that I pined for), God allowed great hardship and a grueling, dark season to play out in my life in such a way that I could no longer run from my hidden secrets that were buried deep underneath layers and layers of shame and denial.
I found myself at rock bottom, a place wherein I could no live in the masked persona I had previously used to hide from others (and myself) the limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and low self-esteem that consumed my world. I could no longer deny, distract, or compare any of it away. As the Urban Dictionary so eloquently puts it:
Shit got real.
It was time for me to face those demons.
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In this blog post, I want to let you in on the story of my “undoing” – my journey from “ruin” to “redemption.”
If you have not been intimately connected with my story up until this point, you may not know that the past several years have been a period of intense struggle for me. To put it lightly, this past season of life has been immensely challenging.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook or some other social media platforms, you may have been able to piece together that I was going through something based on the photos and random snip-its of life shared throughout the years. However, I’ve never shared publicly the truth behind what was actually going on these past few years.
Those in my close circles and support system know my story – and for a while, that was what was best for me. However, I’m at a point in my life wherein it’s time to step forth and own my story publicly. I’ve been fighting in the shadows for some time now, but it’s time to step out into the light.
I’m taking off the mask and revealing my True Self.
It’s impossible for me to capture all of the lessons learned, share all the stories I want to tell, and impart all the wisdom I’ve gained as a result of my journey. There are many more days and subsequent posts for me to share various pieces of my journey with you. 🙂
For this post, I want to start by inviting you to have a glimpse into the reality of my struggles from the past several years.
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Unmasked Real: The Parts of my Story that Never Made the Highlight Reel of Social Media
The Fall of 2016 was a monumental point in time for me. For it was at that time that I was snapped out of the slumber and lifeless existence into which shame, deceit, and denial had lulled me. I had known for quite some time (many years) that I was struggling and life wasn’t ideal. Unfortunately, shame, fear, and denial were tools I mastered to avoid having to deal with the real issues trapped deep, deep in my soul.
However, I was awakened to the severity of my situation one fall day in October as my trembling hands examined clumps of hair that had been pulled from my hairbrush. It felt like I was suffocating. It felt surreal.
I thought to myself, “this can’t be happening, this can’t be my life.”
And yet, the mass of hair clenched in my white-fisted hand screamed otherwise. It was at that moment that I knew everything was not okay. I could no longer continue to rely on denial, fleeting pleasure, and distraction to bury my problems in an attempt to “make it” in life.
I was finally at a place where I could finally admit “this isn’t working.” Heck, it was much more dire that “not working.” This wasn’t even living: this was hardly surviving.
Through the sobs that followed my initial panic as I began to numbly ingest the hard reality that I was losing my hair and had hit rock bottom, I stared at the reflection in the mirror of a girl I no longer recognized. In that moment, I was brought to my knees and finally admitted to God that I was no longer in control (note: I was never in control, I only perceived that I was at the time).
For many, focusing on one’s external appearance and managing food in-take in pursuit of “health” is a coping mechanism – a “recreational drug” used to distract from the real problems and underlying issues of one’s own reality. For me, however, my attempt to control my eating and manage my body shape/size was not merely a numbing distraction; it was a life-threatening poison.
That October afternoon, I was finally able to admit to myself that I was battling a disease, a beast that needed to be crucified, a demon that needed to be exorcised from my life: Anorexia.
I could no longer buy into the “you’ve got this” lie whispered constantly in my ear; I could no longer hang onto the hope that it was merely a phase and things would “work themselves out” eventually. I had to admit that I could not rely upon my intelligence or own devices to free myself from the grips of this plague on my life.
I was not in control of my eating disorder – my eating disorder was consuming me and I needed help.
The threat of shame and the fear of what others would say or think once they learned the truth was not powerful enough to keep me stuck anymore. I had reached the end of my rope.
It was either change or die. I chose life.
My fight against anorexia has been the most painful, grueling, dark, terrifying struggle I’ve ever gone through in my life. At the same time, it’s been the most rewarding blessing in my life, something for which I am incredibly grateful (full disclaimer: this is something I heard many times from various individuals who had recovered and shared their stories, but something I never believed I would ever be able to say for myself – I’m so glad I was wrong).
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The Blessings of Recovery
My journey of recovery has been transformational and has awakened me to my True Self.
I rediscovered passions, gifts, and dreams that had been buried and to which I had become blind. God has helped me begin to see myself as He sees me. He’s lit a fire inside of me that drives me to pursue the unique purpose and plan that He has for me.
For the rest of my days, I am determined to perform for the applause of One.
God allowed the turbulent trials left in the wake of anorexia rip through my life and for years, He did not answer my vehement and tearful pleas for Him to rescue me. He allowed me to be stripped of so many things that once defined my worth and identity. He used my pain and my loss of things that mattered so much to me at the time to help tear out the idols in my life that were merely bondage-in-disguise.
In hindsight, I can see how He had better plans for me than those I desired for Him to have for me at the time. I wanted Him to take away the struggle. But He wanted me. He wanted a relationship with me. He longed for me to experience His love. He wanted me to see myself as He sees me, and step into the person He created me to be.
Had God appealed to my initial requests for rescue, I would have forfeited the close relationship I have with my Father today and the changes He has produced in my character.
I would have missed out on the emotional intelligence and self-awareness I have gleaned from the many hours dedicated to recovery and self-transformation: intensive outpatient, group support, trainings, podcasts, courses, therapy, journaling, other recovery exercises I have been disciplined to undertake.
I would have forfeited the amazing network of brilliant women and men I have met along my journey (some of whom I now consider family and my closest friends).
I would have missed out on my pursuit of writing and photography – passions of mine I had forgotten, but now bring me so much joy, fulfillment, and peace.
I could go on and on, listing all of the beauty that has come from my recovery journey. There are so many important life lessons that have forever changed me and my perspective on life and what matters most is completely altered. And I intend to let you in on some of those lessons as we journey forth.
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Challenges are Opportunities for Growth
Challenges have a way of holding up the mirror to our own lives so that we can see for ourselves the faults and weaknesses within that require our attention.
There’s so much truth in the fact that difficult circumstances and trials have a wonderful way of revealing areas in our lives that could use some work: such as mindsets, habits, attitudes, behaviors, and priorities.
In years past, when God asked me to look at myself in the mirror, all I saw was shame, failure, weaknesses, limitations, and lies. God has used recovery to help me learn to see myself as He sees me. He has taught me that the most important thing in life is living in relationship with Him. When I lean into Him and pursue a deeper connection with my Father, I experience His character and am able to love myself in a way I’ve never been able to love myself; and it has created such a passion for me to help others discover the same love for themselves.
Today, I can now stare at my reflection in the mirror and instead of dread, I offer her a wink and say “I love you, you’re awesome.” I want that for you, too.
If you’re wondering where I am in my recovery journey, that’s an interesting question. I initially wrote this blog post a while back (it was one of the first posts I created as I prepared to launch my blog). However, I’ve since had to update this post, as the story and where I find myself today looks a whole lot different than it did a couple of weeks ago.
A monumental event happened to me on November 11th, 2018, which I plan on sharing with you. I want to do that story justice, so I plan on creating a separate blog to recount the events of that special day. Until then, what I want to leave you with for now is this: my mind has been liberated from the bondage of anorexia and the overwhelming need to control. However, my body still requires some healing to find its way to a weight wherein it finds itself healthiest and functions optimally (see also the last portion of the “Rachael’s Story” section on my About Me page for more on that).
The road to a healed and completely weight-restored body will require incredible strength and perseverance; but I’m up for the challenge. And due to the changes that have occurred in my mind, I am no longer in my own way.
This last sprint of this journey will most definitely include highs and lows – just like any challenge. I plan on being transparent throughout the process and show you how I tackle internal demons and overcome challenges in my own life, as my hope is that you can find encouragement and insights that are helpful for you as you muscle through your own struggles.
You are not alone in your struggles. Yours may look different than mine. But, we all have them. We do not, however, need to be overcome by our struggles.
I want you to join me in stepping into your inner-Warrior: take hold of your sword, ready and armed to slay those inner-demons.
We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
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I’m taking off the mask for some full-disclosure here…
My intent is to use this blog space to share pieces of my story in an “unmasked” fashion.
As I mentioned, I want to share lessons learned and insights gleaned from my past, my recovery, and my faith journey thus far. Furthermore, I am excited to invite you in to walk alongside me in the journey forward: providing you with a peak into the “unmasked” realities of my life (which hopefully will provide you with encouragement, hope, or at the very least – a bit of entertainment value).
I also intend for this to be a loving environment wherein we can support one another openly and honestly.
It’s not all about me – you’re a part of this journey as well. 🙂
I want to be transparent in that I feel under-qualified to be on the journey to which God has called me. I have doubts around whether there will actually be a “tribe” of peeps that desires to join in on this journey. I realize that I’m not the “fun-loving” friend that posts happy pictures of puppies or baby girls with cute bows: instead, I post about the hard, the real, and the things people may not feel comfortable talking about. I’m not popular in “real” life or on social media: never have been, and I expect never will be. That’s fine with me, for popularity is not the goal. However, it’s hard for me to envision many folks being drawn to follow my blog, given the sometimes “heavy” content it offers.
But I’ve decided to move forward, despite my doubts. As long as I am willing to follow God’s direction, I know this blog will find whomever He intends to touch with these words. I am solely responsible for obediently listening for and following His guidance; He is responsible for the outcome.
I have also had many doubts around whether I truly have anything valuable to say or anything to offer to you. While I’ve seen a lot of changes in my spiritual, emotional, and personal life, I’m nowhere close to perfect, and am still a work in progress. And if I’m honest: I don’t find my life all that exciting or interesting.
But, I believe that is part of the beauty of this journey together. We are all imperfect, and despite our flaws and self-doubts – we each are uniquely equipped to make a difference in each others’ lives. This blog space opens up the door for us to be “real” about our insecurities and support one another as we shine light into the areas of shame in our lives. And it also provides us with an opportunity to learn from one another at whatever point in which we find ourselves and through whatever challenges we’re fighting.
Sometimes there’s the temptation to think we need to be more “put together” or “have things figured out” before we can pursue our dreams, make an impact on others, or promote positive change in the world. Well, in my opinion – that’s hogwash.
None of us is perfect.
Perfection is unattainable, and the pursuit of “making it” in life is an ever-rising bar (set by who, may I ask – and has anyone actually ever reached “it”?). If we wait to reach such “it” destinations, our “someday’s” to rise to the challenge to make a change, speak up against injustice, or pursue our passions/ dreams/gifts/purpose may never come.
If we wait for a time wherein we “feel” ready for the challenge or dream that awaits, then we may never step up to the plate.
Oh, and then there’s this all-encompassing truth: God is able to use imperfect people to bring about His Perfect plan. As the well-known saying goes:
“God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”
THANK GOODNESS for that fact, because “unqualified” pretty much sums up how I feel. How about you?
I, by no means,“feel” ready (I analogize it to the anxious-yet-incredibly-excitement paradox a mother may feel preparing to welcome the birth of her firstborn). I may not feel ready; but I am encouraged when I remember that I do in fact feel “called.” I also trust God to “qualify” the path ahead and the words from Him that I will allow to flow from my soul through these fingertips.
I can say with certainty in my soul that God has called me to pursue this path and has been encouraging me for some time now to use my writing in order to connect with others and embrace this “unmasked” kind of living together.
And so, I am incredibly excited to embark upon this journey with you, despite the many questions, self-doubts, and unknowns.
I want to be clear that I don’t have everything figured out, and I am by no means a life expert. However, I do have a story to tell and am willing to let you in on the (sometimes incredibly vulnerable) realities of my life so we can learn and grow together.
I am excited to see what the future holds and for the many friends I expect to meet along the way.
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For now, I leave you with this love note.
Dear Sweet, Courageous, Beautiful Warrior,
I encourage you to embrace your Authentic Self and pull off any plastic, manicured, polished “mask” you may be wearing to hide your personal flaws, short-comings, or struggles from the world. Lean in with curiosity to discover what really makes you tick, explore what’s below the surface, and offer yourself an incredible amount of self-compassion each and every day.
I encourage you to redefine for yourself what you find “beautiful.” Question which rules of today’s society you have been blindly following, just because you were “told” to do so. Don’t be willing to compromise yourself in order to meet externally-made standards or rules that do not line up with your core beliefs and values. Reject any societal beliefs or standards that are counter to your values; be brave and be willing to live counter-culturally at times.
I encourage you to seek to love yourself, just as you are. Embrace your uniqueness for what it is: a gift. Live a life that is consistent with a role model you wish you had in you life when you were a child.
I encourage you to remember that while you cannot change the past, you can change how you relate to and the stories you tell yourself about the past. Let past experiences shape you, not stall you.
I encourage you choose to view the challenges in your life as opportunities for personal growth. I encourage you to focus on what you can learn through the struggle you are facing and search for the lesson(s) to be learned. Focus on the opportunity to weed out the parts of you that are not in line with your True Self, the marvelous version of yourself that God intended you to be. During the storms of life, I recommend asking God to weed out the parts of you that are not in line with His character, remaining malleable so He can use the situation to mold you into the person He’s helping you become. Look for the blessing and opportunity in struggle and challenging circumstances. For therein lies the riches. Therein lies abundant life.
And lastly, may you live each day present, releasing the worries of tomorrow and regrets from the past. Each day, remember to:
Be Confident. Be Grateful. Be Radiant.
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Well, my friends, there is much more I want to say. But that’s for another day. Thank you for your time to enter into my story.
I hope to see you in the days to come.