20 June 2015

I Changed My Mind

This life is a roller coaster ride, full of many ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. A lot has happened in my life lately and I haven’t taken the time to sit down and write, so here it goes—I have nothing better to do as I sit here in a hospital bed, connected to countless wires and an NG tube keeping me alive as I literally fight for my life—fight to survive and take back everything the devil has stolen from me, including my identity rooted in Christ. To many, anorexia just simply doesn’t make sense, and even to one entrenched within its depths, it is a mystery. God is showing me, however, that I don’t need to have all of the answers; that to Him, Anorexia is no mystery and He indeed holds the keys to true freedom. As many of you know, my life lately has been spent in and out of hospital beds, cycling between self-destruction and stabilization; actually, my entire life these past few years has consisted of this hell—of a life sacrificed to ED, or eating disorder, and near-death experiences. But something has changed; something within me clicked and I no longer desire this life, which is indeed no life at all but rather an attempt to become nonexistent and numb my pain—my way of coping with the depravity of this fallen world and the wounds it heartlessly inflicted upon me. This “click” didn’t occur all at once, as I’d hoped it would, but rather was a slow process of coming to the end of myself, testing each boundary, and much prayer—in fact, prayer is what I believe ultimately produced this “click”, along with endless love and support.

On May 17 I received an inbox from a dear friend, asking if he and some close friends could come and pray over me; of course, I could not decline such an offer and agreed to let these “strangers” from Kenya Africa come over to my house and lift me up, never even anticipating such an amazing and miraculous afternoon of prayer and rebuking the devil. At around two ‘o’clock the next day, a dear friend and his wife, who I’d met several years prior at Bethel Camp, arrived on my doorstep along with a pastor and his wife from Kenya, Africa. We gathered in the living room and talked about my thorn in the flesh, otherwise known as anorexia nervosa, and I tried my best to let them into my mind, where the true battle occurred. They so patiently listened, asking questions throughout, and came to a profound understanding of my battle with food. Once a better understanding of my situation was formed, I stood in the middle of the living room and my mom as well as the two couples gathered around me, laying their hands upon me as they each prayed; never in my life have I felt such animation and power coming from the lips of a pastor, as he literally shook me, crying out in faith for God to heal me—truly, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. He ended with “You are Blessed”, and we made a deal, telling the devil “I’ve changed my mind”. Honestly, I expected myself to be healed instantaneously and for my struggles with food to immediately be gone but it didn’t exactly happen that way; this “click” occurred through multiple hospitalizations, doctor appointments and endless prayer.

Along with juggling weekly doctor and bi-weekly therapy appointments, I decided I wanted to get back into volunteering, so emailed my dear friend and volunteer coordinator; we went through the different open positions, but one in particular intrigued me—a position they were just launching. So, I agreed to become their “guinea pig” and figure out how this position would look, and went in the next week for orientation. I then received a tour around the brand new, eye-catching addition of the hospital and then  stopped at the front desk where I’d be located, which had a breathtaking view of the new hospital and all its spectacular landscaping. I enjoyed interacting with the families and growing accustomed to the more calm atmosphere of the Kay Jewelers Pavilion, as well as the haunting aroma of freshly brewing Starbucks coffee located just around the corner of my new desk.

A week later, as I prepared myself for another day of volunteering, I heard God’s voice in the middle of the night, as I lie there awake, unable to sleep. He gave me a vision of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus cried out “Abba,[a] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14: 36), as He prepared for the most gruesome death of all time. I felt God saying, “Chelsea, this is NOT the life I pre-destined for you”. He gave me a vision of “death”, so to speak, and what He had called me to endure in order to find life. Just as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, I cried out to God to “take this cup from me” but felt Him saying, “Chelsea, stop running”; after arguing with Him for a little while, I finally agreed to move forward into what He’d called me to rather than backward, as I’d always done in the past. I told Him, “My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak” and just as He equipped Christ with everything He needed to fulfill His destiny, I was given strength—a supernatural power not of my own—as I prepared to walk through the profound pain of re-feeding rather than retreating back to what had become comfortable and my body had become accustomed to. This time must be different because my body was shutting down, as indicated by my failing kidneys as I recovered from pre-renal failure--my body could no longer take the abuse I’d been inflicting upon it.

That day, as I prepared to volunteer, God gave me an appreciation for “the little things”. “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our heart.” He showed me how to appreciate myself again, allowing myself to feel the water as it splashed against my skin and the tingling sensation of my face wash as it penetrated into every pore. As I got dressed and allowed myself to put on make-up, do my hair, spray perfume, etc. I noticed His hand in all the details and joy overflowed from within me. I could hardly wait to head out the door, but first I had some errands to run for my sister’s grad party I’d been having so much fun planning. I went to Wal-Mart and allowed myself to browse through each aisle, putting the items I needed into my cart and dreaming of this party as the final details came together. For me, I am such a planner and dreamer, so it was incredibly thrilling to plan such a big occasion, allowing my mind to just wander, thinking of each little detail. Once I finished shopping, I got back onto 77 and headed to Akron Children’s. The volunteers were so excited to see me and welcomed me with open arms as I entered through the doors and the love was contagious—I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! While completing my first task, I ran into a good friend I hadn’t seen in months; we’d volunteered together at the surgery desk and formed such a special bond and , so it was just another “little thing” God allowed to brighten my day! After we finished catching up on each other’s lives, I went back to the first floor desk and finished my shift, aware of all the “little details” throughout the day. Overall, it was just a good day of allowing myself to enjoy and take part in the little things of life rather than punishing myself, as I’d so often done.

I spent the rest of the weekend planning and preparing for my sister’s grad party, making sure every detail was complete. However, I’d become so consumed with making sure the party was perfect, with every detail in place, that I forgot how to take care of myself, once again neglecting my needs. The next day I had a doctor appointment and avoided hospitalization by the skin of my teeth but resorted right back to my anorexic tendencies rather than trying to restore my labs into normal ranges. By Wednesday, after doing everything I could to avoid food, I reached my end, both physically and emotionally. I saw how my self-destructive actions were not just affecting me, but also those around me; in fact, my whole family was falling apart. I could no longer continue this way, so agreed to check myself into the hospital the next day. I was terrified as I prepared myself for the vision God had shown me in the weeks prior but I knew there was no turning back now—I had to stop running because I was getting nowhere and my dreams of having surgery and going back to college were rapidly disappearing. So, I embraced what God had called me to, well aware of the “hell” or “death” that rapidly approached. I wrote my doctor a letter, expressing my innermost feelings and plans or ideas for the future, as something had to change and I ached for my voice to be heard; “insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting different results”. As my dad so kindly drove me to my appointment, my mind raced with ideas of how to “escape” this approaching hell and rather resort to the comfort of anorexia. After having blood drawn, we headed over to the clinic, where we patiently waited for the results. After doing vitals and such, we were taken back into a room where we awaited the dreaded knock on the door—there was NO turning back now! I knew I was going to need hospitalization, after struggling to get any form of nutrition in, and braced myself for the dreaded plan—would my voice be heard, finally? The doctor entered and informed us of my “crappy” labs and once again recommended hospitalization—but something was different. After reading my letter and realizing that insanity is doing the same thing while expecting different results, as well as seeing something different in me—a desire for change and a desperation for things to be different, we came up with a plan we both agreed on—a way to approach this disease differently and for my voice to finally be heard. This was my chance; my chance to prove that I did indeed desire change, no matter how excruciating. So, it was determined that I would do NG feedings through the weekend, to provide nutrition to my failing body, rather than trying to force feed me, which only led to conflict and deception. Then, on Monday we would slowly re-introduce solid food; they would turn my tube feeding off for 8 hours and send up two snacks and a meal. If I could handle that, I would work with the dietitian to plan my meals, re-introducing food at my own pace; she would help me plan my meals in the hospital based on a plan for when I return home, allowing me to become comfortable with how to meet my needs out of the hospital, prior to being discharged. Once I was able to orally consume all the calories my body required, without the help of an NG tube, we could discuss discharge and how to approach the future. So, this is the plan for the following weeks, as we wait for insurance to approve and decline treatment.

Once the plan was set in place, with the residents informed, I was sent up to my room, where I prepared my “home” for the next days. An NG tube was placed, placement confirmed by x-ray and a continuous feed started, slowly re-introducing nutrition into my body. The rate of the feeding was increased every hour until my anticipated goal was reached. So now, my body must re-learn what to do with food, since it’s been deprived for so long. The process is excruciating and there are many moments where I want nothing more than to resort back to comfort, but I have to remember that “I changed my mind” and that the pain is only temporary.

After talking with a dear friend, I came to the realization that the reason I have been unable to maintain a healthy weight for so long but instead kept relapsing is because I was so determined to control my weight, rather than simply allowing my body to recover. My surgeon gave a minimum weight I must reach in order to have surgery, and my black or white mind took that as the maximum number I could weigh, with not one ounce more. This is why I have failed to trust my treatment team time after time—because I always knew best—more than my own body and even its Creator! So now, in order to recover and achieve my destiny, I must learn to crucify my flesh and trust—the hardest thing for me to do. No matter what my flesh tells me, I cannot trust it right now, but must lay down my control and trust those God has provided to guide me. So, I don’t know what tomorrow looks like but God is teaching me how to be ok with this and to rest in the calm assurance that He knows the future and holds my life in His hands, which is more than enough! My identity is not found in a number, in sports, or anorexia, but in CHRIST!