Category Archives: My story

Slipping but not falling

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I tried to skip lunch today.

Honestly, I tried to skip breakfast too, mentally hoping the square of dark chocolate and two cups of decaf would hold me over until lunch. It didn’t. After talking with my husband, confessing my struggle with the anorexia voice these last few days, I gained enough motivation to eat a homemade turkey and cheese “Mcmuffin” of sorts. It was good, and my body was so thankful. Continue reading

Goodbye, Martha

Spokane at night: courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Spokane at night: courtesy Wikimedia Commons

My dietitian is moving back home to Spokane, WA. This is a very big deal. I didn’t think it was at first. I was happy to hear that God was speaking into Martha’s life, as to what the next steps in the Plan were for her and that she was listening. She never wanted to move back to her hometown.

Here’s the first lesson: never say “never” with God because he’s likely to stick you smack in the middle of where you declare you’ll never go.

I once told God I would never ask for healing for my anorexia because the disease kept me close to Him. (Conveniently it also kept me skinny.) Nine months later I found myself in anorexia rehab, specifically sitting in Martha’s office.

You guys, I am not being dramatic when I say Martha is half the team that saved my life. When I sat in Martha’s office on November 3, 2014, I was dying. I had no idea how close to death I was, of course, but Martha did. She was so tender and understanding with me, simply listening to my story. Despite all the tragic details in my thoughts, behaviors and attitudes about food and my body, I didn’t want to be there in that office with Martha. I didn’t trust her. I believed she was there to make me fat.

Martha wasn’t offended. She didn’t turn her back on me or chastise me. Instead, she listened and asked me sensitive questions and offered grace. Never once did she judge me, tell me that my thoughts and behaviors were wrong or “bad,” or warn me that I was dying. Instead she developed a meal plan for me. Because I was starving and her first priority was to feed me.

The re-feeding process was arduous and painful, not because of Martha, but because my body didn’t know what to do with the food I was feeding it. My metabolism was severely damaged. It would take almost eight more weeks of eating on my plan before my metabolism even “turned on” again, and several more months before it was healed and working properly. The whole time, Martha was by my side listening to my laments, my confusion, and my bewailing in response to the physical side effects and emotional turmoil that came with eating again. She answered my questions, explained what my body was doing, and helped me understand that even though I had completely disconnected from my body and tried to kill it (my words, not hers), my body was trying to protect me to keep me alive. My body was working really hard to get better.

It's not a program. Or a lifestyle change. Its tapping back into your innate ability to feed yourself well.

It’s not a program. Or a lifestyle change. Its tapping back into your innate ability to feed yourself well.

In the midst of this process, Martha introduced me to the idea of intuitive eating. I’ll never forget the day she told me I could “trust my body.” I had bought in so deeply, even went into debt, on the notion that my body was bad and all the food I had been eating or wanted to eat was bad. Our culture teaches that food can’t be trusted and our bodies are not okay unless we strictly control them. We’re taught that we have to restrict what we eat, how much we eat, when we eat, how we eat, and how often we eat. This is why we have 14,000 different diets to choose from. On top of that, culture says we should concentrate on exercise to burn the calories and the fat and the carbs. Not only do we need to burn off the food, but we should also be sculpting and toning and chiseling our bodies into “that” perfect shape.

So when Martha said, “Your body knows what it’s doing. It knows what you need and what to do with. But it requires that you first listen to what your body is telling you and then to trust your body to do what it does once you give it what it needs and wants,”– this was revolutionary thinking for me. And refreshing. And terrifying. (Read more about intuitive eating here) Oh and exercise? Yes, of course. But do so for the joy of the movement, not for the burn.

In March of this year I had fully transitioned out of my re-feeding meal plan and into intuitive Healthyandwelleating. It’s a long process learning how to trust my body, but my body and mind have never been healthier than it is today. Is my brain completely healed yet? No. It’s getting there. Is my body healed and healthy? Yes! (It isn’t fat either. And I eat carbs… and sugar. And fat. So there.)

I have Martha to thank and a good God who deserves the glory!

Martha was a God-send for me. Literally. I was dying; God sent Martha to bring me back to life. So it is a big deal that she is leaving now. I am sad she that she has to go; I am scared to not have her by my side as I continue navigating my recovery. But Martha has set me up for continued and life-long health (not mention advocacy for intuitive eating). There are people in Spokane who need her now; I respectfully and prayerfully say goodbye knowing she’s in the hands of  mighty God who has special plans for her life and the lives of the people she’ll encounter.  I trust God to stay by my side through the rest of my recovery (I still have my therapist, Tamara, who is the other half of the team that saved my life!).

Martha and I and my children did a radio interview with Rose City Forum about intuitive eating.

Martha and I and my children did a radio interview with Rose City Forum about intuitive eating.

Listen to the interview here: http://recordings.talkshoe.com/rss134258.xml

Exposing the heart of all that matters

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In my last post, I lamented about how God is asking me to surrender my perfectionism. It turns out that I am not really a perfectionist, rather perfectionism is a shield I built to ward off feelings of shame when I’m just being me.

Using my experience at the Shattering Stigma conference, I told you that I wasn’t prepared. I gave my presentation without notes–without organizing my “stuff” into a presentable and tidy speech with bullet points.

I lied (without realizing it).

I was prepared. I was prepared because I had prayed, sought words and ideas through Scripture, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart. God had prepared my heart for the day. I gave a presentation from my heart but my trust was fully immersed in notes that didn’t exist. If God lives in my heart, then I can trust God will shine through me–not my notes. Or PowerPoint. Or anything else I squeeze nice and neat into a box.

This is what I was trying to say but failed to make clear that point. I apologize.

But guess what? While this is a very valuable lesson in spiritual growth for me and an incredible step in my relationship with Christ, none of this is about me.

Did you catch the platform upon which God was teaching me? Shattering Stigma with Stories: Mental Health and the Church. He placed me with a group of other people at an event where the whole point is to be 100% vulnerable, raw, and transparent about how not perfect life is.

This conference was not about me and losing my shield of perfectionism. This conference was about shattering the stigma that shields the community from connecting with those living with mental illness. 

  • This day was about the Allen family bravely sharing their story about Andrew, a son, grandson, brother, and brother-in-law who has been battling bipolar disorder since he was in the eighth grade.Allen Family
  • This day was about a highly educated professional, Dr. Rand Michael, revealing that no amount of education or skill will ever prepare us for the beauty, challenges, and lessons we’ll experience with mental illness. Dr. Michael
  • This day was about a wife, Kelcey, living with both bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, describing how her husband has loved her “in sickness” through psychosis, mania, and suicide attempts (not because she wanted to die but because voices instructed her to).IMG_20150530_134724867_HDR (1)
  • This day was about an aunt, Tara, with nieces who suffer severe mental illnesses and how loving them fiercely wasn’t enough to make them all better.
  • This day was about moms, Tess and Casey, who battle depression and anxiety while learning how to best love their kids and navigate the journey of raising families.

Every single story was raw in honesty and emotion about why mental illness is hard and how we’ve experienced the stigma from our communities. Every single story showed what healing looks like. Every single story showed how God has made himself known in the battle despite the lack of confidence we and/or our families have felt in our journeys.

Loving God is hard when you live with the challenges of mental illness because it’s hard to know if He’s really there. Yet every story showed that it’s through love of people that God makes himself most obviously present. 

Stigmas and stereotypes act as protective barriers against understanding people who are difficult to love. For God, no one is too hard to love. We have to break down the barriers to love like God. In doing so, we show the love of God to people who believe they don’t matter. Love is the heart of all that matters.

In the name of Jesus and for the sake of shattering stigma, I proudly present to you my imperfect, note-free shattering stigma story:

*Conference photos courtesy of Sovann Pen; special thanks to my sister-friend Kelcey Rockhold for recording my talk.

How it feels to walk away from perfectionism

Imperfection

I spoke at the Shattering Stigma conference yesterday and have been battling deep depression since stepping off stage. I felt like my presentation was disjointed, unorganized, emotional, and inarticulate. There was a line of people who were touched by what I said and told me so afterward, but I can’t shake the shame I feel today. I am having a hard time trusting that God’s grace was sufficient and his power made perfect in my weakness.

I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t supposed to be this time. No notes. No PowerPoint. No bullet points on index cards. Preparation feeds my perfectionism and God didn’t want me to be perfect. He wanted me to be me. Experiencing me without organizing my “stuff” so it’s presentable is agonizing.

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When I was 15, I had language arts class with Mr. Logan. We were to write a poem and create a visual to go with it; we would present our poems in class. I was deeply inspired by a song called “The 7 Stars of the Big Dipper” by Mannheim Steamroller. I decided to write a visual poem that went with the song. The story and cadence of the poem matches the story and cadence I hear in the song. I worked so hard on this poem and was fueled with creative fire. When the poem was finished, I was so excited to present. I eagerly brought my page with words and the cd (no iPods in 1996). I read my poem with passion as the music played the story.

When it was over, there was silence. Mr. Logan’s response: “Interesting. Did someone help you with this?” I was honest and said my mom helped me find the names of the stars, but the whole project was mine. He asked me to sit down. As sat down feeling awkward and embarrassed, ashamed that I must have messed up the assignment and stupid for following the passion I had felt in my heart.

Bulls eye Target Showing Focused Accurate Precision Shot

What my perfection looks like.

I have many more projects-gone-bad stories from high school, including one where everyone’s project was displayed on the wall except for mine. Shame was the undercurrent of my high school career. With the baggage from these experiences I went to college. Working for a double-major in marketing and management, I was assigned countless presentations. However, rather than going from the passion of my heart as I had done in high school, I crafted my presentations from a place of manufactured perfection, because I’d be damned if I was going to feel shame again. I poured into my projects with perfect precision, research, and practice. And I nailed every. single. one. I received high praise, the highest scores, and the suggestion from one professor that I might consider public speaking as a profession.

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To not be perfectly poised in preparation is to risk feeling shame.

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What I look like.

As I tried to prepare for this conference yesterday, I heard God quite clearly in my spirit: Trust Me. You have Me and you have your story. That is all you need. I marched up on stage feeling nervous yet confident that the Holy Spirit would provide me with exactly what to say. As I spoke into that microphone, I felt like I was free falling, flailing about in choosing my words, failing in sharing my story in a way the people could truly understand. I crash landed into depression.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning in tears. I came downstairs, and, discovered a text from a dear sister-friend of mine that said, “Watch this video. It’s God’s message to you.”

I hope you will take the time to watch it; there’s a message for you too. Here are the two things He had for me:

1) God is asking me to let go of perfection. It’s a giant wall that keeps me from being fully embraced in the Spirit. Yesterday was my first step; I let go of the wall I’ve been clinging to for nearly 20 years. I am like a toddler taking her first steps on wobbly, unpracticed legs and God has his arms open wide with excitement, coaxing me forward to Him. I am going to fall. It’s the only way to learn how to walk.  I fear feeling shame when I fall, so I want to do it perfectly the first time, every time. It’s not going to happen… and this is why I am depressed. Thing is, He doesn’t need me to be perfect because He’s already so. And, like any parent teaching his child how to walk, God will scoop me up and hug me when I tumble. He’ll tell me how much he loves me and put me back in place to try again.

No more manufactured perfection. I am perfect as I am, in my learning, tumbling, fumbling ways. This is hard to accept. Really really hard. Falling hurts. Shame penetrates.

2)  I’ve been at the airport, giving the illusion that I am going somewhere, when really I am hanging out in baggage claim watching my bags filled with shame go round and round on the carousel.

All the while, Jesus is waiting up in ticketing with brand new luggage and ticket to somewhere new… all I have to do is leave the baggage claim and my old bags behind.

The tattoo God designed for me

 

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Once upon a time, 16 years ago (at the ripe old age of 19), I had a vision for a tattoo. I didn’t know that I wanted a tattoo because somehow it seemed against the rules… of both my parents and I think maybe God. But I wasn’t sure.  However, I was intrigued enough with the idea that if I got one (someday) it would look like this:

Think of a picture of the world, globe-style, in three puzzle pieces. All three pieces look like they are about to come together, but they don’t quite do so. Superimposed behind the world is the cross.

The image represented a broken world that could possibly come together in harmony if we chose to live with Christ at the center of our lives.

I thought about this tattoo idea for years, and, once in a while, revealed my idea to a friend or two if the topic of tattoos came up in conversation. As I thought about this image, I felt like it wasn’t complete. It needed something—words, but I didn’t know which ones. There was a deep feeling in my gut to wait and listen.  Surprisingly, I also found myself at times praying to God for both permission to get a tattoo, and the words this image needed.

Last summer (July 2014), my husband and I were listening to my workout playlist. The song “City on our Knees” by Toby Mac came up, which I had heard a zillion times. But, on this day, in this moment in the car with my husband, the lyric “One choice from together” resounded like a clanging cymbal in my ear so loudly that I felt it moving in my heart. I gasped, “These are the words! These are the words for that tattoo I’ve been thinking about for the last kazillion years!”

There was a funny feeling, though, that this image still wasn’t complete.

As I continued to think more seriously about actually, maybe, for real putting this thing on my body, I still felt like somehow I was breaking rules. Was it okay as lover of God to have a tattoo? Would I be sinning if I got one? I consulted my friend Nikki who, covered in tattoos, has the most intimate relationship with Christ than anyone I have ever met; I read the Bible looking for a clear “yay” or “nay”; I prayed: “Lord, I feel like you are giving me this idea, but I feel like somehow it is SO wrong. Help me understand.”

So I continued to wait.

Several months ago, one of my pastors was digging deep into the meaning of the word “Shalom.” The concept of a godly, heavenly, supernatural peace that integrates into every area of life was so beautiful to me that I was moved to tears. This time, rather than a clanging cymbal in my ears, I heard a whisper so clear as if I was the only one in the room, “This shall go on the tattoo.”

As I prayed, two more words came to my heart: “Agape” and “Life.” These three words were to be incorporated onto the cross of the image, but they all needed to be in ancient language. I prayed again and was led to learn what Jesus’ original language was and how the word Life translated. Chay. Life was to read “Chay.” And with this, the image finally felt complete.

It was time. Somehow in the deepest part of me, far beyond the doubt I felt about “breaking rules,” I knew it was time to get the tattoo. But where? With whom?

I asked God, “Lord if you want me to get this thing, you’re going to have to tell me where to go.”

Last October, I was at a women’s retreat. A young girl, named Mandi, was standing next to me in the bathroom. She had the most lovely tattooed rose vine going down the side of her torso. I had to inquire. “Wow! Your tattoo is so beautiful. Can you tell me about it?”

In the course of this conversation I learned that Mandi and her father spend time together getting tattoos. It was their thing. Her father had just had the armor of God tattooed on his shoulder. I felt the spiritual tap on my own shoulder to get the parlor and artist name: Atlas Tattoo and Jerry Ware.

In February of 2015, I walked into Atlas Tattoo in North Portland and asked for Jerry. I described the TattooSketchimage to Jerry, and for the first time ever, I saw the a rough sketch of the design that had been  in my head for so long come out onto paper. I was in love. It would be another four months before I could get the tattoo, though, because Jerry was in high demand.

Finally, on May 19, 2015, I walked into Atlas tattoo ready. When Jerry showed me the final design, it was about a bazillion times bigger than I had originally envisioned it, but I remember Mandi saying, “You don’t want to be too controlling with your design because remember, the artist is an artist. You want to let the artist have room to be inspired by the design.”

When I saw the final design, it was more beautiful than I had imagined and I knew it was perfect.

Two hours, (and a lot of pain and swear words later), I was forever committed to this image. I was elated! IMG_20150520_164804I knew in the depths of my heart that this was the fruition of a 16-year conversation with God and the beginning of my life-long commitment to God that I am all in for the Kingdom of God–no matter what.

This tattoo was God’s design, not mine. While I experienced great pain, I knew it didn’t even come close to the pain Jesus felt on the cross that day. I am now forever branded into the Kingdom of God, so thankful to have been invited, and so excited to let others know that they are too.

And when we choose Christ to be the center of our lives, we choose godly Love, godly Peace, and everlasting Life. There is nothing more special than this–no doubt.