How Miss America Overcame Her Eating Disorder
In recovery from my eating disorder, one of the hardest things to learn was how to trust. I had to learn to trust the doctors and professionals trying to help me to survive. I had to trust my own body. I had to learn to trust God.
This was probably the easiest step out in faith – if I truly believed Romans 8:28, that God worked all things together for the good of those that love Him, then I could trust that whatever was happening in my life would eventually be for good, even if I couldn’t see it at the moment. Trusting God was easy. Trusting other people was not so easy.
It is one thing to say, in therapy, that you’ll leave the counselor’s office caring less what other people think, making a pledge to accept yourself and be more accepting of others. It is easy to create a culture for yourself that perpetuates a nonjudgmental attitude, that doesn’t always aim to please. It is not easy, to trust that you’ll step out of the safe-zone of therapy and others will not be judgmental, rude, immature. While we can, for a time, reduce the number of people in our lives that have a negative energy, or are just not that pleasant to be around – eventually we have to work, live and play with all different kinds of people, and for both logistical and practical purposes, we have to learn how to trust other fallible, flawed, imperfect people.
This can be hard! Life is so “great” in that we will think that we’ve overcome a particular thought habit, and then it pops up again somewhere in our lives in a different form, and catches us off-guard. We say, “Hello, trust problem – I thought that was you, except you’re wearing a bad wig and mardi gras beads and I didn’t recognize you.” This little issue of trust popped up recently in my life wearing a big, poofy, white, Cinderella dress – in the form of wedding planning.
Compared to some “bridezillas” that appear on television, I am quite the mellow bride-to-be, and the whole process of planning my wedding has been pretty stress-free (chalk that up to a wonderfully helpful and patient mom, and a God-send of a sister-in-law…. who is also my matron of honor)!
However, I realized after the brainstorming appointment with the florist this past week just how much I had to trust her vision for my wedding – the colors, the style, the atmosphere I’m trying to create for guests. I had to tell her “blue and green and peacock feathers,” and trust that that would translate into something pretty and not something scary. I have to trust that my dress will come in on time. I have to trust others to actually help me plan. I am going to have to REALLY trust the wedding coordinator on the day-of, that everything will go just fine, and if it doesn’t someone else will find a solution. That is a lot of trust for one very big day!
Even as I realize there is so much that I can’t control regarding my wedding, at the end of the day, what is most important to me is marrying my fiancé before God and before our friends and family. All the rest is icing on the (wedding) cake.
There was one bigger issue of trust that loomed before the wedding planning stage that occurred with my fiancé when I first opened up with him about my struggle with an eating disorder.
Even after sharing my personal story many times with many different audiences (even lawmakers), when opening up to Ryan for the first time, I will admit I was a little nervous. Not ashamed by any means, and not unwilling to speak, but unsure how this person, with little experience or exposure to eating disorders, addiction or mental health issues, would hear my story. In fact, I didn’t just tell Ryan in one “go”– as we got to know each other, more little pieces of me were explained and shared, until he got the whole picture of a complicated past. When the last few details came pouring out one evening in Denver, huge relief came upon me, and peace.
Why peace? This man that I loved so much now saw all of me. He saw the good but he also saw all of the former pain. He saw the past and he loved the present and future not in spite of but because of that past. After hearing of the self-hatred, the fumbling through early recovery, the imperfection, the starvation and bingeing and over-exercising, he saw triumph rather than a stain, and he chose to love rather than to condemn.
Now, I had to trust this other person in my life. I had to trust that in seeing all of me, someone could love and accept me the way I’d always hoped. Ryan is far from perfect, but he is teaching me trust – and to be able to find someone you can trust, not only with the daily details of life, but with your very heart, is a blessing.
Trusting God can definitely seem easier than trusting another person. Furthermore, trusting a life-partner with your heart is maybe even harder. Relationships are, outside of recovery, probably some of the most difficult things that life throws at us. Whether they are with mom or dad, sister or brother, in-laws, spouses, or co-workers, dealing with other people can be tough – especially when you have to try to trust them. No, especially because you must trust them. We cannot and we were not made to do this life alone. We were made to do life in community and in relationships with others – and that requires trust.
As a beautiful summer comes to a close, many of us look forward to new beginnings this fall whether it be school, sports, family activities, new relationships, new careers, or new commitments. However, the constant challenge to learn how to better trust and engage the people close to us is ongoing. It is one of the greatest things that I personally learned in recovery, and one that I learn in new ways in every new season of life.
Of course, it goes without saying that you don’t go through live trusting everyone and everything, but an open heart is so much more rewarding than a closed one.
Challenging oneself to trust God, to trust others in your life worthy of that trust is a growing and valuable experience. Trust is a daily step in continuing to throw off the shackles of an illness that tells us we’d be better off trusting only ourselves and controlling everything in our own way. We know that that is a lie, and that true freedom from those chains comes through vulnerability, forgiveness, openness, and connection; and that is a leap of faith worth taking.
www.timberlineknolls.com. Used by permission.