I’M STILL HERE!!!

Despite the fact that I have not written on this site for awhile, yes, I am still around.

I am still tooling around with the keyboard, staring at a blinking computer screen most hours of the day, although my normal blog prose has taken on the form of detailed lesson plans for freshmen on a highly-edited version of The Iliad and emails to students in my AP English class on what book to bring in for their research project.

School is underway, and the time I normally get to spend at the computer, putting my thoughts down on all things family, work, friends, God, and body-related is now devoted to running copies for quizzes and double-checking grammar handouts for the sophomores.

There will be a day, a time, heck, a 30 minute window, when I am sure I will once again be able to put down my insights and thoughts about what it means to be a woman who loves God, loves her family, and has found true grace and peace that allows her to live life free from the mental and physical chains of an eating disorder.  That day will come.

In the meantime, please check out my IG (@freeingfaith) because taking a picture and writing a short caption on my phone has become the substitute for my lack of blog writing computer time.

And I promise…I’ll still be around…and one glorious day, I’ll be able to actually format a wonderfully thoughtful post on all things related to God, family, friends, and true recovery.  😉

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I Could Get Used to This Life

I could get used to this life.

I wake up without an alarm, the room still dark and cool.  My daughter is lying on the floor next to our bed, her waist-long hair splayed out around her head like a dark brown halo.  She has taken to laying out the green and blue patchwork blankets on our bedroom carpet at 7:30pm every night, grabbing her favorite fluffy pillow, and camping out there until I turn off the light and lay on our futon mattress.  I should usher her upstairs to the bunk bed that she and her brother share, but there is something comforting about hearing her deep breaths as she nods off to sleep at night.

I could get used to this life.

I softly walk to the kitchen, take out a cup of cold-brewed Deathwish Coffee (yes, that is actually the name of it), and sip it quietly as I start preparing breakfast for the crew.  Sliced cucumbers and aspargus topped with wasabi sauce, cut up turkey slices, half a banana, and a handful of nuts for me–apple slices or fresh red grapes with peanut butter and jelly toast for the kids laid out on matching pink and blue plastic plates.  Like clockwork, as soon as I am done cutting and arranging said food for the little girl and boy, I hear Shogun jabbering away to himself in the bedroom, which is my cue to head up the two flights of stairs and rescue him from the wooden bunk.

I could get used to this life.

I peek my head into the room he and his sister share, and he is already sitting up in the lower bed, handmade patchwork blanket in hand, a big toothy smile on his face.  “Good Morning!” he jabbers, arms suddenly outstretched to me as I make my way to his bed.  I lift Shogun over the bunk bed barriers, and holding his tiny hand, we make our way down the 14 stairs, counting them one by one.

I could get used to this life.

I let go of Shogun’s hand as soon has his feet hit the living room carpet, and he ambles over to the Paw Patrol pillow situated in the middle of the room.  Sitting on the soft cushion, my little guy remarks to me, “Shi-shi.  Shi-shi.  Poop.”  It’s his cue to tell me, “Hey, mom, diaper!  Change me!”, and so I follow suit.  By this time big sister is awoken because of the noise outside, and she staggers out of the bedroom, hair disheveled and eyes bleary.  Misha sits next to her brother, gives him a big hug, and in an almost inaudible voice, she whispers, “Good Morning, Shogunnie.  I love you.”

I could get used to this life.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are days when this scenario is more “Come-on-stop-crying-go-brush-your-teeth-before-we’re-late” than the picturesque scene I just described.  But more often than not, the morning routine is calm.  It’s (dare I say) relaxing.  It is different than the normally hectic actions that occurred during the regular school year when I was attempting to get Misha into her uniform, grab a pop-tart for Shogun to eat in the car, and getting my iPad and bag together–all at the same time.

Now don’t get me wrong again.  I love my job, I adore my students, and I find inexplicable joy dialoguing with them about literature, writing, and all things books.  But truth be told, I love the simplicity of being a mother.  It’s a bit oxymoronic to say being a mother is simple, but maybe it’s because this summer break is a time when I don’t have to be “on” that I’m finding all the normally stressful duties of the day aren’t as crazily maginified.  Teaching is one of the most mentally and physically exhausting professions, as one is constantly walking around a classroom, drumming up excitement for subjects as enticing as grammar (that was sarcastic, by the way), and rarely finding a spare minute to sit down to drink water and eat a snack.  It’s no wonder that teachers are often times just as excited as the students for vacation days.  By the end of my work day, after meeting with students about papers, lecturing on Edgar Allen Poe and making copies of upcoming assignments for my ninth graders, I was ready to head home, put my feet up on the coffee table, and zone out to “Full House”.  But there was always Misha’s homework to go over, the dinner that needed to be cooked, and the laundry that should be washed.  I rarely got time to take a breath in between school and home duties, and towards the end of this last month, I was starting to feel delinquent in my role as a mother.  I spent hours planning lessons on short stories, grading essays on Thoreau, and designing new curriculum maps for the incoming freshmen.  But when did I have the time to sit with my son and do an alphabet puzzle with him?  When did I have the time to play restaurant with my daughter?

And so when summer break began two weeks ago, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Literally, as soon as I left campus for the last time for the 2016-2017 school year, I let out a huge exhale that mirrored that of my son attempting to blow out candles on his birthday cake (and side note:  he will be two next month!).  Teaching was done.  Now I could focus totally on mothering.

I know I need more balance between work and home, and sadly, the amount of time I spend doing school stuff outside of the campus has drastically decreased throughout the years.  Despite this change, there has secretly been a little inkling of fear in my spirit that was causing me to look down on my own parenting skills.  What was this fear?  It was a fear of being alone with my children because in my perfectionistic mind, I imagined my mothering skills to be less than up to par.  Although I knew that every parent has her own opinions on how to best raise her child, I always felt uncomfortable in my label as “mom”.  I wasn’t one of those snuggly-types of mothers who always wanted hugs and kisses from their child, nor was I a stern-type who showed no emotion at all.  My mother was known as the disciplinarian, and while I do enforce rules, I rarely yell like my mom, and my daughter and son have never gotten a spanking.  I felt uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure what my “style” of parenting was, and since I didn’t know that piece of information, I constantly felt on guard.  Were other people watching me with my children and secretly critiquing the fact that I let my toddler eat ice cream for a snack?  Were other people whispering behind my back because my daughter’s long hair was tangled and not in perfect pigtail braids?

But then I realized that God has blessed me with children for a reason–not to validate my own parenting skills because in the end, He is their true Heavenly Father.  It is my role as a mother to lift my daughter and son up to God each and every morning, bless them with prayers every night before they go to bed, and raise them to seek after Jesus with their whole hearts and bear His light to the world.  In Titus 2:4, the scripture states that mothers are designed to love their husbands and their children–and “loving” another is more than merely making breakfast every morning for the kids or making sure they have clean clothes.  “Loving” another ascertains that a person is emotionally and spiritually there for another, and that individual would also show the same reverence she has for Jesus to another person.  This got me thinking:  Do I love my children the same way I love Jesus?  And vice versa?  How do I show love to my daughter and son?  Do I do the same to God?

When I do actions for my children out of love–cutting their PBJ into cute shapes, gifting them with tiny toys from Target–is it out of compliance to someone else’s expectations or because I WANT to do said actions due to my love for them?  Folding Shogun’s clothes and changing his diaper throughout the day may take on a tiring feel, yet even though those actions are not my favorite, I do it because I WANT to.  I love him and am thus willing to sacrifice sleep or my own desires to bless him.

I think that is the main reason why I am loving this summer so far.  All of the morning routine actions, all of the time I’m getting to spend with my children, are because I WANT to.  I see Jesus in their shinning faces, and no matter how stinky Shogun’s poop is or how much Misha will whine for a cookie, I WANT to be around them.  I am their mother.  I am the person Jesus placed in their lives to grow them into loving children of God.

I still have another twenty-two days with my little girl and little guy before I head back to school.  Twenty-two days to enjoy the early summer mornings, hot afternoons, and calm nights with them before my first teacher meeting.

I still have twenty-two more days to embrace the role of mother, to grow in my knowledge that God will guide me in parenting, and that by loving my kids, I am also showing my love for Jesus.

I could get used to this life.

Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate.

At our last English department meeting for this school year, there was a feeling of jubilation in the air as we quickly went through the nitty-gritty administrative details (Don’t forget to turn in keys!  Don’t forget to update your curriculum map!) and chit-chatted about our upcoming summer plans (No summer school!  I get to stay home with the kiddos!).  Eventually we educators got caught into discussing the popularity of graduations, and how preschool and kindergarten ceremonies are now A THING where toddlers parade across stage in construction paper hats to accept certificates of early education merit.  The discussion then turned to whether or not these types of ceremonies are really warranted, and not just for the toddler set.  Why do high schools celebrate the ending of a school year?  Aren’t there more important life events one could throw confetti for?

This past Saturday, one hundred or so of our school’s seniors took part in such a celebration.  They marched across the Blaisdell Concert Hall stage, smiles as wide as the ocean, enthusiastically shook hands with the president of the school as they grabbed their diplomas, and pumped their arms in a victory call.

WE DID IT.  WE DID IT.  YES, WE DID IT.

Seeing these rudy-faced young adults eager to enter life after uniformed class schedules and curfews made me quite excited for them (I’m not embarrassed to admit my eyes welled up with tears of joy), but the questions about the uniqueness and practicality of celebrating graduations still remain.

Why celebrate the ending of a school year when there are still so many more challenging life events yet to come?  Should we as a society award praise to a child who has attended four years of English, science, and math classes (all required, mind you), and emerged from the tests and homework being able to analyze Shakespeare and compute biochemical equations?

Why do parents, family, and friends shed tears of joy when seeing their loved ones parade across stage wearing a black cap and gown, when in truth, said students still have the rest of their lives to fully experience?

Is it really so impressive that students basically followed our society’s rigorous educational rules (i.e. spending hours listening to lectures and even more hours studying in hopes of getting the “A” that will propel them to a good college) and survived it all?  Are we merely celebrating the fact that they were pushed by us adults to do something which was PROBABLY not what the teenagers actually wanted to be doing anyway?

Initially, I agreed with the majority of the educators in the room in response to these questions.   YES!  Life hasn’t really begun for these students.  Lets not delude them into thinking that high school IS IT.  There’s attending college.  There’s finding a job.  There’s working at a job.  There’s dating (UGH).  There’s getting married.  There’s (possibly) having children.  Life has so much more to offer after the cap and gown ceremony!

But then I realized what my high school years were like.

Midway through my sophomore year, I felt the pull of inadequacy tugging on my spirit when I saw classmates acing tests that I received all red marks on.  I struggled through understanding Japanese characters, and no matter how many flashcards I made, the brushstrokes for kanjis never took to my brain.  After one incident when I had to give an oral presentation in history class but stood there in front of my peers, eyes bulging with fear because I didn’t remember what to say, I realized that I still had two more years of being just “mediocre” in my studies. It was a sobering realization that I would not be the valedictorian, salutatorian, or even in the top 10 percent of my graduating class.  I had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is meant to be great at everything–and it was a wake up call that happened during my high school years.

Ironically, I spent a lot of my breaks completing homework so I could have free time when I got home to practice my oboe.  I thought that since I couldn’t excel in academics, I could at least have SOME talent in music.  Even carving out for myself that chunk of rehearsal time at home, however, didn’t leave me feeling any more relaxed or confident in my musical abilities.  Instead, the more times I played the same run in the Saint-Saens concerto or practiced my chromatic scale, the more my weaknesses were exposed.  And then I got the awful case of the “shoulds”:  I “should” practice at least 2 hours a day to get better.  I “should” play “Metamorphosis” in this manner so that the judges would like it.  I “should” make the first chair of the symphony, otherwise no one will think I’m great at anything.  It was a lot of “shoulds”, and in the end, those “shoulds” left me feeling even more inadequate in my capabilities.  I had to learn that the limitations and expectations I placed on myself could be either helpful (yes, set goals!) or harmful (no, don’t place unnecessary stress on yourself!)–and it was a wake up call that happened during my high school years.

In the midst of trying to attain somewhat decent grades and medals in music recitals, I was also highly influenced by my long-legged, tanned, surfer-like female classmates who seemed to exude the sexual appeal that guys at school desired.  I realized that looking the role of a “popular” girl meant that I would have to turn from the person God made me to be into another creature, and maybe once that transformation occurred, I would find acceptance and inclusion.  I, being only 5’1″, Japanese, and inept at water sports, was aesthetically the complete opposite of what I deemed to be the “perfect girl”, but that did not stop me from trying to transform myself to a surfer chic.  As a result, I used self-tanning lotion to make myself darker, flooded my closets with thin-strapped tanks, and bought a pair of reef slippers that didn’t fit me well, but who cared, because all the “popular” girls had them.  Still, my short legs did not compare to the taller Caucasian gals’, and my stick straight hair did not flow in the wind like theirs.  I secretly desired to have the attention those “popular” girls had, because the smiles from boys, the look of envy from other girls, the carefree attitude they encompassed were what I was missing.  One night, I distinctly remember laying on my bed, eyes opened to the Heavens, hypothesizing that only IF I had the perfect exterior, THEN I would feel special and THEN I’d be internally happy.  The fact is that Jesus made each one of us perfect in His sight–sadly, I didn’t realize this during my time as a teenager, but what it means to have self-acceptance (or lack thereof) reared its’ head during my high school years.

So as we teachers talked about the absurdity of graduation, my knee-jerk reaction of “Yeah, that’s right!!!  Life hasn’t started yet!!!” changed to one of “No.  Wait a minute.  High school is HELLA hard.”  In what other time in one’s life will a person have to learn pretty challenging lessons (how to accept oneself, how to set goals), all the while battling teenage insecurities and (gulp) hormones?  What other time besides during high school will students realize that there IS a big world out there beyond the walls of the classroom, and taking that first step to the unknown is tremendously intimidating?  Even more nerve wracking is that they are doing it all as 18 year olds without any previous experience living on their own in the “real world.”

And don’t forget about all the other “stuff” that high schoolers are dealing with that we teachers don’t see:  parent relationships disintegrating, strife between siblings, sports injuries that can knock a kid out for months on end, friendships changing as social circles collide, and teenage hormones running a muck.  It’s almost like these high schoolers are back in the terrible twos stage where toddlers are asserting their independence and personality, except these young adults have pimples, don’t speak in gibberish, and can drive.

Clearly, graduation is a time of celebration.

We are celebrating a monumental time of inner growth and development.

We are celebrating that many students had to endure much emotional and spiritual learning beyond the academic rigor of papers and tests.

We are celebrating how high schoolers are taking that next step to fulfill the call God has upon their lives.

While typing out this post, I’m reminded of all the graduating seniors I saw parade across the stage this past weekend to accept their diplomas.  Some looked enthralled, while others seemed relieved.  Either way, there was satisfaction in the fact that God was there with each one.  He had knit every single student in his mother’s womb, thoughtfully cultivated that individual with His Holy Spirit, and amazingly, we in the crowd were able to see His handiwork there on stage.  Matthew 28:20 urges believers to “Go forth and make disciples of all nations”, and that is exactly what this graduating group of 2017 are doing.  They are taking a spiritual (and literal) step from the life they’ve known and are seeking to do God’s will in their lives.

My high school experiences were rough, to say the least, yet those times of trial were made all the sweeter when I stepped on the stage at Blaisdell some 18 years ago and received my diploma.  Yes, it was merely a piece of paper that stated I had accumulated the required amount of credits to graduate, but having that certificate in hand meant more than grades.  It showed that I was a fighter, that I was a survivor.  It demonstrated that I could push myself through great mental, emotional, and physical strife, and by God’s grace emerge on the other side ready to do His will.

So celebrate, class of 2017.  Celebrate your achievements, your failures, and the path God is leading you on.  Celebrate.  Celebrate.

 

I Did NOTHING. And I Liked It.

I did nothing.

NOTHING.

And it was glorious.

Since Monday was Memorial Day and the whole Takao clan had a three-day weekend, I initially had grand plans of trekking to Waikiki Saturday night to explore the latest Japanese food court, traversing the crowd at Ala Moana Beach to view the floating lantern presentation, or braving the shopping crowds to see what kind of deals I could get for the kids.

I wanted to do something.  SOMETHING!!!  I didn’t want my children to think to themselves, “Wow, this is boring at home.  Wow, everyone else is going out.  Wow, mommy isn’t fun at all.”

Crazy thoughts, I know.  After much hemming and hawing, I then came to this realization:  rather than schlep an overly talkative six year old and almost-2 year old in their car seats around town, my hubby, kids, and I would instead do the following.

  1.  Wake up WHENEVER we wanted, which was late for our family but still early enough so that the sun was only starting to rise over the mountains
  2. Leisurely lay around the living room sipping coffee (for the hubby and I, not the kids, ha ha) watching, “Paw Patrol” or some other cartoon.
  3. Read a book or two with Shogun while Misha drew extravagant pictures of her friends.
  4. Got ready to go to the gym.
  5. Went to the gym where Misha did BJJ, I got to work on some powerlifting movements, Kyle free rolled or played around with the weights, and Shogun sat in on some of the kiddie conditioning classes.
  6. Food.  Food.  Food.
  7. Nap.  Nap.  Nap.
  8. Woke up from said nap, played cars with Shogun or drew with Misha.
  9. Went out for dinner.
  10. Got back home, laid on the living room carpet with the kids and watched a movie until it was time to go to sleep.

Not a whole lot of excitement.  Granted, we did go out of the house a bit, which is no easy task when one child still needs help in and out of the car and the other child chatters incessantly, always wanting to play a game or look at daddy’s phone.  Despite our frequent excursions, however, there were not a whole lot of (what many folks would label) “educationally stimulating” activities for the kids.  I didn’t hand make play-doh for the little ones using glue, food coloring, and contact solution, nor did we make pancakes into the shape of Mickey Mouse and decorate the breakfast with freshly cut strawberries and whipped cream (something my grandmother did with me).  All our family did was take a break.  It was a break from the daily grind.  It was a time to just be free to do “whatever” and not worry about the productivity of the day.  It was glorious.

We could let be be.

Let be be.

That above line, “Let be be,” is taken from “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”, a lovely Modernist poem by Wallace Stevens.  The basic premise of the writing is to not care what others perceive you as, but instead live life to the fullest and enjoy all the joy and happiness it has to offer.  Upon first reading this piece of literature, I would marvel at how a person COULD merely BE and find fulfillment in that manner.  What did it mean to just sit and not be DOING something?  How could an individual function knowing that she was just taking up space and not contributing to society?

It was this kind of thinking that infiltrated my mind at a young age:  I wasn’t valuable, profitable, or worthwhile if I wasn’t producing something grand.  Being able to sit and rest was akin to slothfulness, and who wants to be known as a person who is lazy?!  Surely, not I!  And so my obsession with continually doing something, whether it be wiping down the counters with Colorx wipes, prepping food for the next day’s lunches, folding laundry, or engaging in some kind of activity similar to those listed above, took over my existence and eventually made me crazy.  It literally drove my so batty that I my heart would jump when I saw Misha drop a cookie crumb on the carpet or if Kyle didn’t wipe up the splotch of toothpaste in the sing.  I was on a stain with cleaner in hand, and pretty soon even my toddler would try “being like mommy” and dusting the sofa with a wet wipe.

My home needed to be spotless.  A clean home meant a happy home.  A happy home meant I was thriving as a mother and wife.  Being an excellent spouse and parent meant I was doing SOMETHING right, when in reality I felt extremely insecure in my capabilities in both realms.  I constantly questioned my parenting and wife skills–why couldn’t I be a “DIY” type of mom who made her children organic PB and J’s cut into shapes of animals?  Why couldn’t I prepare a deliciously homemade vegan dinner–nut cheeses, bean burgers, and hummus from freshly ground beans–for my husband?

And so I thought keeping myself busy, active, and always DOING meant that I was winning in life.  At least if I couldn’t be the model mother and wife, if I at least LOOKED like I was, that was enough, right?  Right?!

No, it wasn’t.  All I ended up doing was obsessing over every flaw I found–I went through the drive-thru to pick up Wendy’s fries for my daughter, there were cobwebs accumulating in the corners of my living room–and soon made myself sick with condemnation.  But then I was reminded of Romans 8:1:  “For there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”

Humph.

Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk the Earth.  Why then was I going mentally, emotionally, and physically insane trying to live up to an expectation (i.e. perfect mother, perfect wife) that I could never fully achieve?  Why try to push away the feelings of guilt and inadequacy by submerging myself in activities that would dilute those feelings (i.e. compulsive exercising and calorie restriction)?  Why equate my worth with what I produced and did, versus looking at my value as a blessed child of the Lord?

In the end, I had to make peace with the fact that just being ME was enough–and since I am a flawed person who is only redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, no amount of DOING will make be a “better” person.  I just needed to let be be.

And so that was what our family did this weekend.  We just “be” (or for you grammatical Nazis out there, we just “were”).  And you know what?  I liked it.  I liked relaxing with my family.  I liked not feeling like I had to vacuum all the hair off the floor or scrub the tub until it was shinning.  I liked that the memories Shogun and Misha will have are the times we read books or sang silly songs together, and that their perceptions of me will not be of a mom that was a fanatical duster and dish washer who couldn’t sit still.

Let be be.

Let be be.

 

 

Truth Here

This may be one of the hardest posts I will ever have to write.

Now that this blog is a few weeks old, and people have told me how great it is to read about how I overcame anorexia and excessive exercising, I have a confession to make.

My family and friends see me as a vibrant, healthy mother who has battled through and conquered the destructive effects of an eating disorder. My students see me as the strong English teacher who can lift a lot of weights and eats “healthy.”  My children see me as the mommy who makes them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and tucks them into bed at night.  I seemingly have everything all together.  What many fail to know, however, is that while the intensely incessant eating disorder voice that troubled me throughout my young adult years has quieted down to almost a barely-there whisper, it still manages to sneak in and wreck havoc on my thoughts.  And even right now, I’m battling that tiring and malicious voice.

It is humbling to say.  The prideful voice in my head fears what my colleagues, acquaintances, and fellow gym-goers will think when they know that I still have appointments with a dietitian and psychiatrist to combat the lure to restrict.

But I need to share this struggle.

In fact, I MUST share.  I must share that while the majority of the day I can distinguish between the reasonable, healthy me and the sinister anorexic thoughts, the eating disorder voice has found a way back into my brain (albeit not as ravenously as in years past), and that only good nutrition, talking with a doctor, and the grace of God can help me find true and complete recovery.  After my initial diagnosis and stint in outpatient treatment with Kailey, I discovered true freedom in eating, exercising, and fulfilling the plans Jesus had for me.  But then I found that during times of emotional stress, whether they be positive or negative, the anorexic voice would try to entice me back into its’ dark cave of restriction and compulsivity.

“Do you really need to eat that cookie?  You didn’t work out today.”

“What’s 10 more minutes swimming at the pool?  That’s only, like, 7 more laps.”

About 75% of the time, I’d turn to Jesus to help me combat against these irrational thoughts.  I would pray to Him to help me ignore the compulsion to restrict or over exercise, and He would come through by giving me a great inner peace.  Other times, however, I’d be so mentally and emotionally drained to start, that it was just easier to give into the eating disorder voice.  One missed meal would soon equal two, and spending ten minutes after yoga class to “work on postures” ended up being another thirty minutes of asanas.  Ultimately I’d find that a month later my clothes were looser, my normally clear thinking muddled to a grey hue, and my relationship with Jesus dwindled to three minute “Hey, thanks, yeah?” conversations before I went to bed.  There are not many people that I confide to about my issues because understanding what it’s like to have an eating disorder is a foreign concept to many individuals.  Case in point:  During a conversation about this topic with someone I had considered a close friend, this individual remarked, “Why do you need to write a blog about all this?  Can’t you just DO IT?  I mean, just eat.”

Well, in fact, no, I can’t.  Writing has always been therapeutic, and sharing my journey is one way the anorexic voice quiets down.  Like I wrote about in a previous post, eating disorders thrive on lies and deceit.  Answering co-workers with an “Everything is OK!” grin when we pass by one another in the halls, engaging in talk about nutrition and dieting with my gym friends, and hiding the fact that I still am fearful of eating certain desserts (uh, cheesecake) because I think I will get fat from them are ways anorexia is still in my life–and if I don’t do something about it now, then that insidious disease will just continue to grow and grow until I find myself shrunken into an eighty pound weakling.

Beside being open with others about my struggles, prayer is another action God has urged me to do more regularly.  With this past month, it was through quiet times with Him that I was prompted to journal and talk with others about my continuing journey in eating disorder recovery.  During one such moment I was meditating on Romans 12:1-2, and the idea that my body is an “act of worship unto the Lord” struck a nerve in me.  When I picture true worship, I think of a person’s hands raised, eyes closed, her whole being opened up to Jesus–this individual is surrendering all to God so that she can fully step forward into the calling He has for her.

It was then that I realized I was only 90% living the life God had for me, and my worship consisted of me sitting in a chair, humming along with open eyes and folded hands.  While I felt like it was ok to muddle through work, home, family, and life (basically just “getting by”), God spoke to my spirit that He wanted me to do more than just “settle”.  I should be thriving, and I couldn’t do so if I was still holding onto any part of anorexia.  I was reminded of the times that I spent running on the roads,performing asanas in back to back yoga classes, or swimming miles at the pool–I could have spent all of those hours playing blocks with my son, pushing my daughter on the swing, or sharing some laughs with my husband.  The energy I could have used to journal and develop a deeper relationship with Christ was whittled away when my physical body deteriorated to a two-digit weight that was on the verge of collapse.  The incessant eating disorder voice that would talk me out of munching on popcorn at the movies or drinking a milkshake with the kids invaded my emotional self so much that I had very little love to give to my family, friends, or the Lord.

It was that realization that I was not fully 100% “recovered” that made me break down in tears.  I had had an inkling of this fact for awhile, and so attempted to “get better” in my own way and on my own terms.  I researched how to gain mass the “right” way, aka putting on muscle size with limited fat accumulation, and I structured my day around what I could eat and when I could eat it.  Ironically, this obsessive type of diet compelled me deeper into the eating disorder, and I was soon measuring out nuts with a serving cup, getting anxious if I didn’t eat a certain amount of protein at a meal, and refusing to lick a spoon I had just used to scoop peanut butter with.

It wasn’t until I saw a picture of my husband and I on Easter that the cold hard truth that I needed someone (namely a professional) to guide me to full physical, mental, and spiritual health manifested.  Although I was smiling, my husband and I with arms linked around one another’s waists, there was a slight emptiness in that grin.  I knew that on the outside I radiated happiness, but internally there was a sense of joy and freedom that was missing.  I still loved Jesus, still turned to Him for help, but He was clearly showing me that trying to control my own life (planning and plotting meals, obsessively agonizing over missed workouts) was negating His power.  If I truly trusted and had faith that He could (and would) help me, why not give all control over to Him?  Matthew 6:25 specifically states to not worry about “…what you will eat or drink…Is not life more than food?”, yet I was attempting to take the reins away from the almighty God who knit me together in my mother’s womb and knows me better than I even know myself.  I then heard Him speak loud and clear:  Follow me.  Wherever I will take you, trust me, have faith in me.  And there you will find freedom.

To be able to share this part of my eating disorder journey is extremely trying, as many see me as having everything together.  I am far from that perfect person, yet radiate that image so as not to make other people judge or pity me.  Ultimately, I didn’t want my family and friends to think that I was weak, or that I couldn’t handle a problem that was seemingly resolved years ago.

I had, and still do have, a great deal of pride in this area.

Pride, however, is insidious, and thinking that I could mask my irrational “fat” thoughts or attempt to gain weight by merely adding in an extra scoop of protein powder or drinking more milk was ludacris.  In actuality I was initially hesitant to seek God in the matter because doing so would require me to strip away all of the eating disorder’s lies, and then I’d have to face the real issues behind why anorexia would still have any strongholds in my thoughts.

This past week I challenged myself to break the mold and eat a dinner I wouldn’t normally cook or order for myself.  The meal was at a well-known sandwich shop that specializes in exquisite desserts, and throughout the dinner I knew every bite of the pastrami sandwich on my plate, every lick of the chocolate mousse served after, was one step closer towards complete freedom from anorexia.  I am going to continue to document on this blog all of the ups and downs of my journey to full and total recovery, the insights into why this negative anorexic voice reappears, and what it feels like to find total freedom in Christ from an eating disorder.  Thank you for being a part of this journey and taking the time to read this post.  This blog has turned into a very cathartic way to expel those anorexic thoughts, and hopefully you are also able to see and be blessed by God’s grace and faithfulness through my recovery story.

The Meeting

Aside from teaching driver’s education or being a stray dog wrangler for the Human Society, I can imagine that being a dietitian and working with eating disorder patients must be one of the most stressful and demanding jobs. Ever. Sure, talking to people about food all day may seem like loads of fun for some, but try coercing a malnourished, defiant teenager to have a glass of milk with her lunch, only to be met with screaming, crying, yelling, and (possibly) threats of bodily harm. All over one tall glass of milk.

Thankfully I never verbally or physically threatened my dietitian (or myself for that matter) when faced with having to eat a double scoop ice cream sundae or an additional serving of meat loaf because my weight was down. I was always
a pretty compliant patient, most likely because God had given me an internal feeling of freedom and faith, so I felt relief and joy at the prospect of having to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast. I had been starved for so long that giving myself permission to enjoy meals with family and friends again felt like a little slice of heaven.

God’s faith has been at the core of my recovery, but full health cannot be achieved without a great support system, and the professionals I saw were just that. Interestingly enough, considering all of the years I’ve known the members of my treatment team, I still vividly remember the first day I met my nutritionist. After that initial appointment I had upon returning home from college, my doctor referred me to a special trio of professionals that specialized in recovery from eating disorders. My pediatrician warned me about “Kailey”, the dietitian he wanted me to see, but even with his forewarnings (and they were positive, mind you), I never expected Kailey to be as fiery and passionate about eating disorder recovery as she portrayed on that fateful summer morning.

I had a mid-morning appointment, right about snack time, and given the breakfast of cereal I had three hours earlier, my stomach was making obscene noises by the time our family stepped into her office. The space emitted an auburn hue, probably because of the orange-yellow painted walls, and I recall thinking she should throw some leaves in the corner and put a pumpkin near the door, and THEN it would feel like autumn, not sweltering hot like the beginning of June.

“HELLO there, you must be Lauren!” Kailey boomed as she stepped into the waiting room to face my parents and I. I was perched surreptitiously on the edge of a cushioned sofa, back rigid, fingers already cold from the air-conditioning. My parents automatically stood up with hands extended, and I almost laughed. Kailey towered over my father, and at almost six feet tall, she eclipsed my dad’s small frame and most definitely loomed over my five foot high mother. Intimidating in deed. As I eased myself up off the seat and held my hand out, I realized how warm and enveloping her shake was. Veins criss-crossed around my bony wrists and the backs of my hands, whereas Kailey’s were a smooth almond cookie hue. Although her large stature would lead even the strongest of men to shrink back in trepidation and cautiousness, I wasn’t in fear of her. Wait, let me correct that. My rational mind wasn’t scared–the eating disorder part of my brain, however, was shaking in its’ boots. Yes, even with God’s peace and prayer, the enemy was trying to find a loophole, a small entryway to worm back into my mind. That’s the interesting thing about freedom. After a wonderful prayer session with my mom, I had discovered what it felt like to have the shackles removed from my thoughts. Romans 12:12 says to be to be diligent in prayer, and just like any kind of relationship where communication is key for it to prosper and flourish, I needed to continue to seek His face daily. Hourly. Whenever I felt over-the-moon with joy or deep in the depths of despair. The relapse rate for eating disorder recovery is tremendously high, and I can only assume that part of the reason why is because patients and supporters see a physical weight gain, but fail to acknowledge that the mental, emotional, and spiritual person needs to be completely whole as well–and one key component in reaching that aim is consistently rejoicing in the pounds gained and food eaten and asking God for help when the eating disorder voice wants one to go for a ten mile run or only eat a bowl of cereal all day.

I never used to like to say that I was in treatment for an eating disorder because most people automatically assumed that I restricted food or exercised for hours on end because I was vain and just wanted to be “skinny.” Yes, I did care about my appearance to a degree, but doesn’t everyone? Don’t we all brush our teeth, buy nice clothes, cut our hair, and clip our nails so that we are seen as responsible and respectable individuals that can function in society? What the majority of the population doesn’t understand is that anorexia, bulimia, or any type of eating disorder for that matter is an actual mental illness, and patients dealing with it are not solely focused on appearance. How humbling it is to say that I have issues with my brain chemistry, and seeing along legged model on a magazine cover would not only lead me to compare my thicker thighs to hers, but to then become obsessed with that fact and strategize ways to whittle away said leg fat.

So when I actually met Kailey for the first time, the healthy part of me was ecstatic because NOW I could finally find hope and recovery from an eating disorder voice that would have tormented me for eating a cookie or berated me for missing a day running. The part of my brain, however, that was fixated on the miles I logged and the calories I ate knew that soon it would no longer have control over my actions, and like a toddler throwing a tantrum because he couldn’t get its’ way, it wanted to toss itself on the ground and have a screaming meltdown.

But the power of God is awesome. I felt that urge to run, the urge to turn right around and bolt out the door, but instead I just prayed.

“Lord Jesus, help me. Help me please. I’m incredibly frightened, but I trust that the person before me, Kailey, was put into my life by you to help me. Please help me.”

And wouldn’t you know, the apprehension, the turning in my gut, the anxiousness in my legs, they all vanished in an instant. And so the four of us–mom, dad, dietitian and me–began treatment.

“Well, why are you here?”

Such a loaded question, one with so many possible answers. Because I’m scared to eat. Because I can’t make myself stop running. Because I may die soon if I don’t gain weight. Because I don’t know how to deal with all the hard issues in my life.

“Um, I need to gain weight.”

“Well, that’s true. You do. And you will. And probably, you won’t like it very much. But first, let me tell you about my approach to recover.”

Boom. Right off the bat, Kailey confirmed to me the truth I knew I’d have to hear: I would gain weight, I may not like it, but it was inevitable. For the next thirty minutes or so Kailey discussed why weight restoration was important and some of the effects of malnourishment on the body. I was briefly entertained by her words, but my stomach was REALLY starting to gurgle by that point, and that gnawing pit of hunger was eating a larger and larger hole in my gut.

“Right. So, now here is the meal plan.”

Meal plan?! My ears perked up with that phrase. I had been on a meal plan too, but I highly doubted Kailey’s diet would be anything like mine.

“These are the requirements for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plus there will be snacks in between, so we’re aiming for close to 3000 calories a day.”

Here is where I know God’s faithfulness and freedom are true. Give me that meal plan a month ago, I would have balked at the notion of eating that much. When Kailey handed me that sheet with the pre-approved foods listed on it, I was like a child at Christmas. What?! I’d be able to eat Ben and Jerry’s and it was ok? I could have hamburgers and fries everyday if I wanted?

“What do you think?” Kailey asked after my eyes glazed over the list of peanut butter crackers and Pop-tarts that constituted appropriate afternoon snacks.
“It looks fine!” I said enthusiastically. Maybe it was a bit too enthusiastic because I saw Kailey raise her eye at my grin.

“Ok, well, there’s a food group tonight I expect you to be at. So get lunch. From the list. Get a snack. From the list. And we’ll see you at Hungry Lion at 5:30.”

Hungry Lion. It was serendipitous that the first experience I’d have with group treatment would be at a restaurant named after what I felt most of the day (hungry) and an animal that represented the God I knew that would quench said hunger.

“Thank you, thank you.” My mother was beside herself with gratitude, a tear starting to form at the corner of her eye.

Group. Food group.  I smiled a true honest to goodness smile of relief and joy as my parents and I stood to leave. Besides the fact that I had a great sense of physical hunger–by that point my stomach was ready to eat itself I was so starved–I was ready. Like a runner, cued in the blocks waiting for the gun to go off, I was ready to start running this race, this road to recovery

The Prayer: Part 1

It’s a hard thing to see tears streaming down your mother’s face because she thinks you are about to die.

On the way home from the airport, my mom was very silent.  VERY silent.  That’s never a good sign.  It was only when we got through the front door did she start to cry, her face full of fear and worry.

“What’s wrong?”  I asked, still a bit oblivious to the fact that I looked like a strong wind would send me flying flat onto my bony butt.

“Lauren, you need to see the doctor.”  My mother was firm on this point.

My heart was stuck in my throat, not because I feared the doctor which was also a bit true, but rarely had I seen my mother this upset.  Even when I returned home from my California music camp to visit her after her initial surgery, my mother was smiling in her hospital bed and optimistic about the future.  She had recently accepted Jesus as her savior at a healing prayer ministry gathering, and ever since then, the Bible became her daily reading tool, and a special warmth and love radiated from her that I hadn’t seen in previous years.  Little irritants that normally caused her much grief (helloooo traffic-induced road rage and angry words yelled at me for not helping with the household chores) ceased.  And so to see her with tears running down her face and eyes filled with questions (Will my daughter need to go to the hospital?  Will she even survive the night?) made ME similarly scared.

Ok, ok.  I’ll go.

Lets just say that when my pediatrician saw me walk through his office door later that day, HE almost had a heart attack.  The appointment was a whirlwind of poking, prodding, and questioning, but after the hour or so with the doctor, our family left with another scheduled meeting with an eating disorder specialist and nutritionist.  My doctor had the same look of fear and terror in his eyes that my mother had, and knowing that all of the Hawaii people who had thus seen me all looked completely terrified at my appearance did not sit well in my gut, and made my spirit turn with uncomfortableness.  Great.  To say I was overwhelmed was correct, but I was also so nutritionally deprived, my brain was not thinking quite clearly.  I knew SOMETHING big was about to happen, but it didn’t faze me.  It was almost like I had taken one too many cold medicine pills, and the resulting head-unattached-to-my-body feeling had resided in my body…for the last, oh, I don’t know, 10 months?  12 months?

Here now is where my faith, and my family’s faith, would surely be tested.

I too, like my mother and father, were believers in Christ, yet the head knowledge I had about Him greatly outweighed the experiential knowledge.  Case in point:  I could recite scripture, tell you all about the book of Mark, and detail history in the Old Testament, yet I didn’t have that ONE life-changing God moment where Jesus truly transformed my world.  I heard people talk about it, that there was a time when it was like flipping on a light switch, and they turned from darkened sinners to individuals redeemed and free from the constraints that once held them back.

I wanted that.

Deep down I felt like a fraud.  I said I believed in Jesus, but (in my mind) I didn’t have a close relationship with Him.

On the way home from the doctor’s my mom suggested we stop at Zippy’s to eat lunch.  Great.  Vegetarian chili, just like what I had in the freezer at college.  My mother’s response:  No way.  Pick something else.

Step one of eating disorder treatment:  Patient must eat, and she should try to eat foods that are not considered “safe”…like the aforementioned chili.  Or veggie burger.

What to eat then?  Once seated at the restaurant I perused through the menu with a fine-tooth comb.  Which dish had the least amount of fat?  Which dish wouldn’t make my thighs big?  Obviously my mother was not going to let me run, so what could I eat that wouldn’t make me feel like a gigantic slob?  Ten minutes later I finally decided on stew.  Granted it was Dr. Shintani’s (aka a macrobiotic-like doctor who prescribed low fat meals for diabetes sufferers) vegetable stew, but hey, it was not chili or a veggie burger.

I devoured the meal when the waitress brought the steaming plate to our table, and while my dad looked at me with pride (he had no idea what Dr. Shintani was all about), I saw my mother’s furrowed brow as she bit into her burger.

The first nutritionist I worked with definitely would have frowned at the stew as well.  At a really low weight, patients need as much energy as possible–although the general public may baulk at the idea that fast food and processed snacks make for good eating disorder recovery meals, these types of food will give a person protein, fats, and carbohydrates without taking up too much room in the stomach.  Going with a carrot, green bean, mushroom, and cauliflower tomato-based soup was not the best method for getting in those calories, but I was scared.  Scared of eating a burger which I really wanted and ballooning up overnight.  Scared that I wouldn’t be able to exercise off the meal I had just eaten.  Scared that my perfectly calculated daily meal plan would be uprooted and turned on its’ head.

My mother’s brow stayed furrowed until we reached home.  It was then that she said that we needed to pray.  Sure, I thought, we can pray.  I knew my mother was a prayer warrior, and would devote hours to reading God’s word and then talking with Him.  I was expecting a short five minute recitation of scripture, maybe a few words to Jesus thanking Him for the day, and a request or two for physical healing for me.

Was I in for a surprise.