Liberation: what it means to me in my ED recovery journey
In my previous post (My Word for 2019), I revealed the word I chose for 2019 (or really…the word that was impressed upon my heart by God): LIBERATION. This word serves as the heartbeat of my journey in the season ahead.
As I mentioned in my previous post, being a “nerd for words,” I was motivated to do a quick Google search to track down the exact definition(s) of the word “liberation.” My Google search yielded the following:
(1) “the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; release”
(2) “freedom from limits on thoughts or behavior.”Google Dictionary
The words used in the above definitions resonated deeply and were incredibly powerful for me, which I describe in more detail in this post. However, before we jump into that straight away, let me start off by giving you some insight on how I stumbled upon this word: a word that was prophetically spoken into my life by God.
A prophetic word that holds purpose and promise
As I’ve mentioned in part in previous posts, on November 11, 2018, I had a spiritual encounter with God that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I have had many special moments with God in my relational journey with Him; but this one was so different from previous others. In truth, I’m actually still processing through and trying to wrap my mind around the whole thing: what actually transpired…what truly happened…what it means. I have received countless reassurances from God affirming some kind of “shift” or healing took place that day; but I just can’t understand it in entirety from my current perspective today. And I believe that is intentional, for reasons I also don’t currently understand.
As God provides more discernment and clarity, I will be sharing more around 11-11-18 and my healing journey when the time is right. However, for now what I can tell you is what I experienced that day was a sweet taste of freedom.
As I listened to the sermon preached in church that day in November, God had whispered the word “liberation”to my soul. My heart fluttered with excitement, as God has spoken to me through prophetic words over the years. Words or phrases have often been indicators of a new season or an upcoming new phase in my journey: providing me with hope, encouragement, and promise. As with other previous occurrences, I didn’t understand where that word came from or what it meant at the time, but it resonated deeply within my soul, and I knew it held meaning for my journey in some way, yet to be revealed. So I quickly scribbled down “liberation” in my notes, with a mental note to spend some time in reflection with God around that.
Little did I know that He intended to show me a glimpse of what that word would entail for my journey not someday, but that day.
Without going into all the details around the events that transpired (for purposes of this post), let me just say I walked out of those church doors that day as a different version of myself: a truer version of myself.
It was as if a veil had been lifted, and I was able to see things more clearly.
It’s honestly hard to put into words what I experienced. However, since that day, I have seen a shift in my ability to lean into the next right action, the next pro-recovery “healthy” action – even those extremely vulnerable and gut-wrenching moments wherein my emotions claw at my insides and my flesh screams “nooooooo!!”
Throughout my recovery journey, I’ve found myself in moments of highly-intense emotions and extreme overwhelm, which caused me to be consumed by insecurities and ED-related thoughts. I’d intellectually know certain thoughts or beliefs to be untrue or know which action would be best for me to take toward recovery; but often in those times of anguish, I’d come undone. In those moments, I felt as if I was being choked and smothered by anxiety: I felt as if I was gasping for air, frantically grasping for any kind of help…so I could escape anxiety’s crushing weight and finally breathe again. In those moments of weakness, there were times I just could not seem to muster the strength to fight my way forward and choose the “next right” (and very uncomfortable) thing.
In those vulnerable moments, I would often fall victim to my intense emotions and seek comfort by choosing the “safe” option or (or at least a “safer” option) instead of pushing myself to take the hard step forward toward recovery. For me, what this “safe choice” looks like is choosing a food choice that meets necessary caloric requirements (not under-eating), but one that doesn’t battle against the remaining rules/fears established by the eating disorder around “good” and “bad” foods.
For example, at times choosing a slice of bread and butter over my usual favorite (avocado toast) as part of my breakfast may be a the healthier option (the “next right thing”) for me. Since butter is still challenging for me, it can be the “next right thing” for me to choose the butter over avocado (or some other source of fat), so I can prove to the ED voice that all foods fit, food is just food, and food has no power over me. In certain situations, however, my ED would convince me the avocado toast was “good enough” because at least I wasn’t restricting calorically and I’ve continued to put on weight. I would know deep down, however, that this negotiating was not doing me any good in the long run. For me to be fully recovered and free of ED, I need to break down all barriers around food/body – not just nutritionally rehabilitate my body (i.e., allow my body to gain weight and determine its own healthy “set point range”). This is how one attains full recovery.
Since that day in November, however, I’ve seen a drastic change in my ability to lean into uncomfortable challenges to battle my ED. I now also feel more emotionally separated from the BS in my thoughts and the external messages I receive day-to-day. Even when shame and/or fear rattle my inner world, I have found I’m more able to sit with the emotions, internalize the fact that I am not my thoughts or emotions, and then listen to my healthy self so I can choose to believe the “truth” and then also lean into uncomfortable healthy actions that are required to allow me to heal and restore.
In other words…
I’m more able to feel the pain, feel the fear, and do the next right thing anyway. I’m more able to surrender to trust in wordsand deeds…consistently…in firm confidence.
It was as if a barrier of resistance was removed.
For much of my recovery journey, it’s entailed dipping my toe into the pool of recovery, slowly inching my way forward until I became acclimated to the icy waters, and then retreating a bit when the waters became choppy or I felt as if the waters were becoming too much for me to handle.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting my efforts up until this point. I am incredibly proud of myself for all the incredible, hard work I’ve put in and the progress I have made. I believe I have exhibited an incredible amount of courage, perseverance, passion, faith, and trust that has kept me pushing forward through the stormy, dark waters of recovery: intent on claiming my prize of “fully recovered” and complete freedom from ED at the other side.
Yet, despite my extreme efforts to move forward, it seemed I kept bumping into an annoying, paralyzing barrier that made it incredibly difficult to press forward…and at times…completely held me back.
It was a barrier created by fear and my desire to control…or at the very least know and prepare myself for…future outcomes.
This barrier kept tripping me up and made it incredibly difficult certain days to do the actions my heart, mind, and soul desperately longed to do. I’ve been working with God to tear down this barrier and surrender my desire to control my future for quite some time, and have been making progress: slowly…but steadily…with God’s help.
However, on that day last November, I believe God “healed me in part” and lessened my load to help accelerate my progress forward. Since that day in November…
- I feel less plagued by the incessant rumination over possible future outcomes and endless questioning over each step I take.
- He’s loosened my grip around my desire to control the path that is ahead.
- I feel less weighed down by the desire to control my recovery and the fear that would almost constantly plague me as I questioned whether I was doing recovery “right” (fearing each step and questioning every choice in front of me…as well as the reasons behind each choice…as if every step/choice/decision was a life or death situation).
- God helped me surrender my desperation to know, and have my own say in, what I was up against in the future.
This desire to control was instead trumped with a fiery trust and confidence in God and His plans for my future, which enables me to tear through that fear-based “control” barrier of resistance.
I still battle with fear most days – especially when I’m faced with particularly difficult challenges. And honestly, I don’t win every battle. But the need to grasp for control or avoid the pain ahead out of fear has been dramatically reduced. And my desire to push forward, run toward the fear, and face that challenge head on has dramatically increased.
Rather than keeping me stuck, fear instead triggers a desire to fight, a trust and confidence that screams “bring it, God can help me conquer this!!!” Which enables me to take consistent steps forward with determination…despite the discomfort, despite the clawing thoughts screaming at me I’m a fool and begging me to retreat.
The sweet taste of freedom and the gift of my “healing in part” granted by God last November enabled me to release my tight, white-knuckled, firm grip on the need to control or understand what my future will look like.
- What’s God’s plan for me in the road ahead and what does it entail? What’s the next step on my journey? What if I’ve missed His voice and I’m currently on the wrong path?
- What will become of my writing? How will God use me in this area? What if I’m no good? I feel in my soul this path is the one God has called me for (if anything, for this season) – but how will my blog possibly touch others? How will it possibly reach others outside of family and friends?
- What will become of my body as it heals and nutritionally rehabilitates? What if my body’s natural “set point” ends up much higher than I’ve ever experienced, all because of the damage ED has waged on my body?
- What will others think of me as I continue to heal and open up about my story? What if others think less of me? What if people judge me?
- Will I ever learn to accept and have a normal relationship with my body?
- What if I’m too much or people don’t like me?
On that day I surrendered, and continue to surrender daily, the above concerns…amongst many other doubts, fears, and “unknowns” that have continued to plague me. I surrendered them to God with open hands. This surrender, and act of daily surrender, has allowed me to take another step forward…and then another…and then another.
I still face fear, but I stubbornly refuse to be paralyzed by fear or fall victim to worry. Worry and anxiety only causes me to fast-forward into the future and try to plan and prepare myself for possible outcomes ahead on my own – causing me to forget that God is the main component to this equation. He’s always with me, and will be with me as I encounter whatever is up ahead on my journey. But the peace He offers can only be found here: in the present moment.
I also like to remember: fear and worry does nothing to change my current circumstance or the things that await me in the future. They never change anything: all they accomplish is stealing away from my joy and my ability to enjoy and experience the present moment.
There’s no turning back, no stalling in the murky waters of recovery. I am not willing to settle for a taste of sweet freedom in this area of my life. I believe God’s desire for me is complete liberation from the bondage of ED.
And so, I continue to march onward…blazing forth with trust and confidence.
Some last words about LIBERATION and how it’s not limited to my ED recovery journey
As you can see, “liberation” is very meaningful to me as it relates to my recovery journey. However, this word encompasses more than just recovery, as it is only one piece of my story…the story I trust God intends to weave into His even grander story and plan for us all.
I believe there are many avenues down which God desires to lead me in order to liberate me from various sources of other bondage. Bondage that currently exists as a barrier preventing me from living in complete harmony with the woman He created me to be…a woman in closer likeness to Christ…my TRUE SELF.
In my next post, Liberation from Bondage, I share with you some of the areas of bondage wherein I expect God to be working in 2019 (and the years to come).
Some encouragement for you, you Unmasked Warrior, you!
You may or may not be one who struggles with an eating disorder or has a disordered relationship with food and/or body. However, even if you are lucky enough to have a healthy relationship with food/body, I’m guessing you probably find yourself struggling through some kind of bondage or area of shame.
Whatever the source of shame or bondage may be for you, I encourage you to fight and seek liberation!!!
Choose to be brave…be full of courage…be strong. Choose to fight that dragon with all your might.
Shame and fear often drive us to want to put on a “mask” to hide our imperfections or to pretend our struggles don’t exist and “all is well.” Shame and fear can also cause us to want to run away or hide from our problems to avoid having to face them. But here’s the thing: disillusion, escape, or distraction never makes bondage or problems go away. In fact, that only causes them to become stronger, more rooted, more life-sucking, and perhaps even all-consuming.
So then, I encourage you to step into the shoes of your courageous, Unmasked Warrior within and choose to fight. You may not feel strong enough right now to claim victory as your prize…perhaps you don’t even feel strong enough to take that first step…and that’s okay (and trust me – you’re not alone in that sentiment!). It’s okay if you don’t feel strong enough, because you don’t have to challenge your strongholds out of your own strength.
Turn your cares and problems over to God: seek Him for the strength you require to take that necessary first step forward, and also seek out community so you can lean on others for support as well.
Then take that step forward. And then the next step. And then the next.
Perhaps the problem you face seems impossible to conquer from your vantage point today. But please hear this: with God, all things are possible. God is faithful and wants what is best for you. Trust Him to shape you, mold you, and guide you as He battles with you in weeding out any toxic strongholds that are currently holding you back from living as your True Self.
And as you journey forth, remember: you will have not only have the strength and love of God covering you each step of the way…you will also have the support and encouragement of other Warriors beside you (like me, your loved ones, and others who God will bring into your life) to help you as you journey forth and wage war against those demons to claim ultimate liberation.
Be strong, Warrior. Be courageous. Do not be discouraged by the dragons that currently breathe fire into your life. God will be with you always as you face each upcoming battle. He will be with you through all the circumstances you face. And even when you feel as if you’re going to be consumed by the flames lashed upon you by your fiery opponent, remember you’re surrounded by God and He is working all things (even the battles against the ugliest, most beastly dragons) out for good.
(The above is a paraphrase from Joshua 1:9, Romans 8:28).