14 July 2017

Living without Fear

I know, it’s been far too long since I’ve written, but honestly, I just haven’t been able to develop the courage to sit down and write. I hear the devil whispering things like “that sounds stupid” or “you have nothing to say” and every time I am still, I must come face to face with these lies, as well as vulnerability. Writing and expressing the desires of my heart prevents me from self-imposed safeguards, allowing my fragile heart to be exposed and facing rejection and further abuse. I just want to protect myself and run away into what has become comforting and familiar over time, but I know that this comfort will literally kill me. I can no longer live a slave to the things of this world but am rather called to something much greater, if I will just simply allow God to lead me. I’ll admit—I am not very good at giving up control and trusting anyone but myself, even though my mind has led me astray countless times! God is showing me that it is OK to let down my guard and trust Him because He is not like others who have so violently hurt and abused me. No, I did not deserve this abuse and still don’t, as much as I believe otherwise, but instead He wants to so graciously pour out blessings and joy. “But I didn’t EARN it”, my performance-driven mind screams and then I hear God so quietly replying “you never will”, which is why He sent His Son to die for my sins and imperfections. I am weary and tired of following endless “rules and regulations”; the more I am told what to do the more I want to do the opposite, which frustrates me!
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
Romans 7: 15-24 (NIV)
I have become resentful from years of being rigidly controlled by man-made rules that I cling SO tightly, with my entire being, to any form of control, whether false or true. Sports and extreme fitness protected me from further sexual harassment, as well as gave me a false sense of achievement. Anorexia allowed me to override my very own body and its cries for attention to prove I was “invincible”, or so I thought, as well as allowed me to cling to some form of control when everything around me was spinning out of control. God is showing me, though, that by “following my mind” and the things that ED (eating disorder) tells me to do, control is being lost instead of gained. Starvation leads to a point where one cannot be trusted because the end literally leads to death if no action is taken. Sometimes extreme measures are called for but other times they may cause more harm than good. For many years I was forced to eat whatever was placed in front of me, no matter how revolting and utterly un-appetizing, because I’d proven I couldn’t feed myself on my own; left to my own desires, I would literally starve to death. It became familiar to have every calorie counted and food weighed, as well as pre-determined requirements dictating what I could or could not eat. What was it like to eat intuitively and listen to my body—to hear its deafening cries for sustenance and actually provide? Through countless hospitalizations and inpatient admissions, it had become normal and eventually comforting to have every meal and snack planned for me so all I had to do was eat, which alone was nearly too much for me to handle. It didn’t matter if I “didn’t like” the food that was being placed in front of me because I was an “addict”, which seemed to somehow make me “less of a person” and incompetent of decision-making. If I couldn’t trust my own mind, then who could I trust to keep me safe? If doctors told me I must have a tube forced down my nose or eat a greasy, unappetizing and overcooked cheeseburger, I had no choice but to comply. No matter how much agonizing fear and anxiety burned within me, I had to comply—or else bad things would happen. After years of neglecting the desires of my heart and living a slave to man-made rules and antidotes, this internal God-given voice within me—my very instinct—has become depressed and nonexistent. I’m tired of being told “If you’d just do this, you’d be healed” because when it doesn’t happen I feel utterly hopeless and beyond healing—like a failure to the world. Through much gentle pursuing, however, God is showing me that only He possesses the authentic key to the freedom I was born to desire. Trusting in man will only lead me “so far” and at times make me feel beyond hope but God will never give up on me, no matter how many times I run away into my own comfort and destruction. He is showing me, with much patience, that He has already given me everything I need to walk in victory but I need to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done—TRUST!
It has been over two months now since I had my surgery and the doctor cleared me to eat an unrestricted diet. After feeling tired and weary of being told what was “good for me” but later finding out I’d once again been deceived, I ran to the Bible—the only thing on Earth I know to be constant and unchanging. What does it really look like to be “healthy”, nourishing and loving my “sacred temple” rather than punishing and destroying it for every imperfection? How did they live so long in older days, when medicine was nearly nonexistent yet health and longevity thrived? Even though we now have all these “supplements” and weight loss tools, why is obesity becoming an epidemic and heart disease leading to strokes and even death? I don’t want to be terrified of food, yet when the world around me thunderously rages with constant and ever-changing lies and contradictions, I wonder if food really was made for my survival or if it, too, has become my enemy.
After crying out to God for answers and reaching “my end”, I was led to Trim Healthy Mama. Now I’m not saying that this is the “cure for life” and by eating this way I am exempt from disease but to me it just felt “right” and gave me a peace about eating for the first time in many years. I was tired of being told to just eat x number of calories, no matter how stuffed or starving I was, forcing myself to push aside my body’s intuition. I was tired of being told I couldn’t eat this, or couldn’t eat that or needed to meet a certain number of grains, fruit, veggies, fat, etc. to be healthy. What if my body wasn’t hungry for what had been already planned, but was instead craving something different? I fell in love with the Trim Healthy Mama Plan because it wasn’t just another “fad diet” restricting calories, eliminating food groups or pre-planning menus—it was “food freedom”. Rather than gorging myself on processed, sugar-laden man-made foods that my body cannot process, I’ve discovered that, according to 1 Timothy 4:4-5, “Anything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the Word of God and prayer”. I’m learning to tune into the needs of my body, which is scary after being told for so many years it could not be trusted; I’m learning that, no, I in my flesh may not be able to be trusted, but God is and He dwells inside of me, always ready to step in. I’m learning to eat and enjoy foods that once brought me to my knees in uncompromising fear because God created them with me in mind. It is fascinating to learn how the body was created and processes different types of fuels. I no longer need to fear carbs or fat but instead can enjoy the foods He provides and take pleasure in providing the best nutrition for His dwelling place, as a form of gratitude and honor. This has been one of the hardest changes I have ever made and many times along the way I have failed and wanted to give up, but God is so graciously pursuing me to “keep pressing on” because I was not intended to walk through this journey alone. I must cling to His mighty arms with the little strength that I possess and in turn, He will provide everything, if not more, that I need to be victorious day in and day out. On my own, I am apt for destruction but with His guidance and provision I am free to enjoy every blessing He provides! Sometimes I still want to fade away—to become invisible—out of fear I will once again be taken advantage of, but God is patiently showing me that He is not like other men; I can trust Him to protect and shield me from the destruction I’m destined for in my flesh! 

20 May 2017

Surgery

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this surgery, it’s that I am a very stubborn patient! Convinced this was a simple procedure due to it being laparoscopic, requiring only four keyhole incisions, I thought I’d bounce back in no time, but it hasn’t been quite that easy, mostly because I decided to take up the “I know best” attitude, not letting anyone tell me what to do but instead doing the exact opposite! Yes, stubborn, I know, if not utterly stupid! Post-surgery I was instructed to stay on a full liquid diet for 7-10 days and then slowly (key word) advance to low residue, low fiber solid foods. However, being the “know it all” that I’ve become, I decided after three days of full liquids that I’d “had it” with this way of eating and my body was somehow different and could handle whatever I put it through. Yes, after my seven-hour spinal fusion, fusing my spine into a manipulated 20 degrees using 21 screws and 2 titanium rods, I developed the same attitude, thinking I, the uneducated patient, somehow knew best. If the surgeon said no exercise for a minimum of a month, it was ok to wait two weeks to start back into my old routine of push-ups, cardio, strength training and running “marathons”, right?  I was, after all, invincible, or so I thought. I prided myself in pushing my body far beyond the limits, setting new records and being able to handle whatever obstacle was thrown my way with “ease” (not mentioning the fact that I’d learned to abandon my weaknesses and pain within the dark, brutal depths of my abused and ever-increasingly lifeless heart, convinced I would never again let someone harm me in such excruciating and humiliating ways; I put up walls to keep everyone out, convinced the world was against me and the only person I could trust was myself). This surgery may not have been as serious as a seven-hour spinal fusion, but after all I’ve put my body through I’m discovering it no longer holds the capacity to “bounce back” with such ease and I am no longer (and never was) the exception. After three days of a full liquid diet, I decided I was feeling pretty good and therefore could handle solid food, right? Well, not just any solid food; I decided to give into my cravings of fresh fruit and vegetables (full of high fiber and difficult to process), as well as whole grains with seeds—everything I’d been instructed to avoid for a minimum of four weeks. After about a week or so of eating this way, however, I’ve never felt more miserable but tried to convince myself as well as others that I was “fine” and once again “invincible”. I’ve had zero energy, excruciating gas pains as well as bloating which is complicated by my tendency to restrict my intake any time I “feel fat” or bloated due to years held captive by the nearly fatal chains of anorexia and self-starvation. It was a slow decline, but I’m seeing how the voices of ED crept back in after surgery, which is exactly what we’d all feared. It started with the bowel preparation the day before surgery, requiring consumption of nothing but clear liquids as well as many laxatives to “clear out” my system. Naturally, as anyone would, I lost weight due to the low number of calories consumed as well as evacuating my entire digestive system of all waste. The day of surgery finally arrived and my poor stomach churned with hunger pains due to the fact that I couldn’t eat or drink a single thing after midnight and it was now nearing lunch time. As I was registered for the upcoming procedure, an IV line placed and fluids pumped into me, I heard my ED screaming at me with urges to “restrict, restrict, restrict”, when I knew I was in trouble! The surgeon, who was known for his crazy, bold socks, came to check on me prior to surgery and I meekly surprised him with a gift of superman socks I’d searched for and purchased as a thank you for being my “superman” and FINALLY getting the job done after many years of waiting. His face lit up at the sight of these socks and he promptly changed into them as we waited for the room to be prepped and sanitized following his last procedure. 


As I was taken to the operating room and laid on a cold, metal table beneath many bright lights, the kind staff carefully explained all that would be happening while I was put to sleep. A tube was inserted down my throat, another IV inserted, catheter placed and four keyhole incisions made as my abdominal cavity was inflated with CO2 in order to form a dome over my organs, protecting them from accidental harm. To cover the basics of what took place during those two hours, my rectum was cut from all surrounding tissues and stretched up to my backbone, where it was fastened and secured by many stitches. When I awoke, requiring about an hour to recover from the anesthesia, the first thing I asked for was a grape popsicle to moisten my parched lips. They said I had to wait until I was taken to a room and was then joined by my vivacious, caring surgeon who was still wearing his superman socks; he informed me that I have very “good anatomy” and everything went as planned, without complications. I was then taken through many hallways of the massive Cleveland Clinic to a shared room where I would spend the next day or so. Finally, as it was nearing dinner time, I was given my long awaited grape popsicle and a liquid dinner tray arrived, of which I left untouched due to the nausea and pain. My incisions hurt with each breath and intestines churned with discomfort as my body was still traumatized by the burning through flesh and manipulation of organs which were meant to be left untouched. Once I was settled into my room and pain medication administered, I told my family to leave because they’d been by my side the entire day and we all needed some rest. Doctors and nurses came to check on me throughout the night, awaking me every couple of hours to monitor vital signs and administer pain medication in order to keep my pain under control. Early Friday morning I was awakened by a young resident doctor who asked me many questions regarding how I was feeling, informing me I might be able to go home later that day. However, things did not progress quite as quickly as anticipated and I struggled to force myself to eat due to the pain; the doctors were most concerned, however, by the fact that I wasn’t yet passing gas which meant the CO2 was still trapped within my abdomen, explaining the piercing “gas pains”. I managed to force down about a fourth of my cream of wheat but struggled to get much more in; my surgeon came back to check on me later in the day and we were both uncomfortable with me going home that night, so I stayed overnight to give my body more time to heal. It was also good I didn’t go home that day because my IV had been discontinued but I struggled to drink enough to prevent dehydration and my magnesium also dropped, requiring two bags of IV magnesium. So, on Saturday, after lunch, I was discharged and picked up at the front entrance by my loving dad and sister. The car ride was painful but not as painful as it would’ve been had I not forced myself to make laps around the nurse’s station throughout the day, which promoted healing. 

After three days on a liquid diet, convinced I was now “healed”, I gave in and ate a turkey sandwich. Exempt from any negative consequences following digestion, I decided to abandon all the surgeon’s instructions for another four to seven days on full liquids and slow advancement to soft low fiber foods, choosing to instead eat a large salad with grilled chicken and fresh vegetables, as well as dried fruit and all the other foods I was instructed to avoid for a minimum of four weeks. After about a week of eating this way, my symptoms caught up with me and I struggled to bounce back. I suffered from painful fluid retention and bloating, complicated by the fact that I wasn’t drinking enough to allow my body to rid itself of the IV fluid and toxins. I’ve also been struggling from extreme allergies, which left me beyond miserable but once again in denial; after finally having enough of “trying to be strong and invincible”, I gave in and allowed my body the rest it so desperately needed. I also decided to “give in” and follow the surgeon’s instructions to the best of my ability, despite the fact that it went against everything ED taught me and what had become familiar. Instead of high fiber, low calorie foods my body was desperately craving higher calorie, easy to digest foods in order to allow my digestive system to rest rather than work in overdrive. So, I’ve been learning to “take it easy”, as much as I hate it, which in turn allows me to heal faster and more thoroughly. And yes mom, you did know best, although you couldn’t tell me otherwise! ;) I guess the statement “mother knows best” is true, after all! This surgery is revealing many things about my true nature and stubbornness, as much as I fight against it! God is showing me that it’s ok to let people in and care for me—that not everyone is against me. He’s helping me to tear down the many walls I’ve created for protection which at one time were helpful but have now become destructive. With His gentle guidance, I am becoming the woman He created me to be! 

29 April 2017

Relentless Fight

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?’” Matthew 6:27

      Why do I let fear and worry torment me, I constantly ask myself—it’s not like worrying will make it happen, after all! “What we worry about frequently never happens anyway, and if it is going to happen, worrying won’t prevent it. God’s Word promises us that He will take care of us if we trust in Him” (Joyce Meyer). I remember a time when I was so paralyzed by fear I couldn’t even lift a spoon to my mouth and feed myself—the very requirement of living and breathing—and so admitted myself to the Cleveland Clinic so they could feed me. The guilt and shame tormented me with every bite but without it I wouldn’t survive. In my mind I was “fat”, even though bones protruded through my skin and lanugo covered my poor, failing body in attempts to maintain a normal or even below normal core body temperature. One of the craziest things about Anorexia is body dysmorphia, where one cannot see oneself accurately. According to the Mayo Clinic, “body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable”. “They can't control their negative thoughts and don't believe people who tell them that they look fine; their thoughts may cause severe emotional distress and interfere with their daily functioning; they may miss work or school, avoid social situations and isolate themselves, even from family and friends, because they fear others will notice their flaws” (ADAA). How could something so seemingly small and insignificant become alarmingly powerful and lead to life-threatening actions? I’ve come to realize that because I suffer from this disorder, as well as perfectionism, I will never be satisfied with myself; the number on the scale is NEVER low enough until death occurs, which never seems to be a possibility in the moment. 


Many times I’ve tasted death and come too close for comfort; truly, I have been told by many doctors, it is a miracle I am still living and breathing, with no or minimal damage to my severely abused and tortured body. Days on end without eating and relying on coffee to disguise or numb the agonizing and piercing hunger pains relentlessly churning within me brought me comfort and became the very existence of normal life. Fear of passing out and the world becoming aware of my deepest darkest secret—starvation—paralyzed each moment, afraid someone would force me to consume but even a single calorie. In my mind, this was the worst possibility. No, this is not living but instead the exact representation of death; yes, it was in fact like living within the depths of hell, surrounded by torture and piercing life-stealing screams.
      The day I was told I had to go back to COPE, my worst nightmare, I remember crying out to God in adamant anger; why would He allow such a thing? COPE, or Center for Overcoming Problem Eating in Pittsburgh, took away every inch of control, forcing me to eat whatever was served on my plate no matter how scary or seemingly impossible it may appear. The scariest of foods, including tantalizing and rich chocolate cake, buttery French toast, greasy pizza and cheeseburgers, to name a few, left me in excruciating torment, convinced I would not survive even one bite without blowing up. Each day, every meal and snack, I had to set aside my tortuous fears and find the strength within me to not just take one bite but finish each life-threatening calorie. How could one so malnourished and near death’s door be so violently afraid of the single thing that would bring life and prevent death? No, I have not yet come to a conclusion of why these things occur, but I know how real they all seem!
      Never did I expect life in recovery to be so difficult, but I must remember that nothing worth having comes easy. Since coming home, I have been struggling to consume enough calories to prevent dropping weight, which is a problem due to my upcoming surgery in which I am expected to lose weight. I am SO incredibly excited to finally, after four years of waiting, be getting surgery, but also nervous because I must completely change the way I eat and face many fears; I’m used to a high fiber, low calorie diet but now must maintain a low fiber, high calorie diet to prevent recurrence of my prolapse. No, this will not be easy, but God will get me through, I believe!

13 January 2017

2016

           It’s hard to believe 2016 has come and gone; it seems like just last week I was starting my Spring 2016 semester but now am getting ready to begin my Spring 2017 semester, which is crazy! Honestly, I think 2016 just might’ve been the toughest year for me; spending two weeks in the Cleveland Clinic after almost being killed by fluid overload and refeeding syndrome as well as infection, having to drop out of my semester and almost not finishing the last semester, four months at COPE fighting for my life and countless hospitalizations after near death experiences left me weary and exhausted, wondering if things could ever get better.



    
          For the first time in almost three years, I was home for Christmas, so I wanted to make it really special. Instead of stocking stuffers, I decided to make candy: I made buckeyes, chocolate covered Oreos, chocolate covered strawberries, Reese’s trees, Oreo balls, mint Oreo balls and red velvet Oreo balls, as well as chocolate candy cane pops. I also made “Grinch hats” for watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, which we never then watched but ended up watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” instead, which was hilarious! Everyone loved the candy and it looked so festive, which made me excited! We had a nice dinner together and then opened gifts; I got a gorgeous ring which I am in love with, as well as charms for my locket; my favorite is a crown reminding me I am a Princess, as well as a cupcake which I am obsessed with. I also got a warm sweater, framed picture and glitter Starbucks tumbler. We had such a blast opening gifts and just loving each other and then watched “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”; I bought everyone their own mug, which they then filled with warm, fresh-brewed coffee as we snuggled in cozy blankets. All in all, it was definitely one of my favorite Christmases; I just love holidays!
















           2016 has been brutal, and at times we didn’t know if I would make it through, but God spared my life countless times and I am pleased to announce I am doing well. I found a new dietitian after my stay at the Cleveland Clinic for kidney failure and she has been such a blessing! She gave me a new meal plan, which at first I said I would never follow since it seemed far too excessive, but have been trying my hardest for three days now and couldn’t be more proud, plus I feel a hundred times better! God is good! I also got a new adult doctor, who I absolutely adore! Last week we discussed options for treatment, which really motivated me to “kick it into gear” and get serious about recovery; it has been hard but SO rewarding!

           This semester in college I am doing my preceptorship; I applied for Akron Children’s but still haven’t heard back so am hoping to hear within the next week. I am SO excited to be really getting a hands on approach and get a feel for what it’s really like to be a nurse!