Category: Health

Tales of Recovering in College Pt. 1 – “Oh My Gosh, She’s Eating!”

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on December 7, 2017. 

As you may or may not know, I committed to the process of mental and physical healing from my eating disorder and trauma the same week I began college. “Recovering” while simultaneously being a full-time college student has been the most difficult, rewarding, and eye-opening time of my life.

I’ve always been an observant girl, but recovery – and education gained from therapy – has granted me with such a unique perspective on the things that happen around me. In addition, recovery has provided me with some special opportunities for learning, growth, and outreach. I would love to share with you some random, personal stories from this season of my life.

  1. “Oh my gosh, she’s eating!”

Something I’ve grappled with and struggled through is watching how other college students and teachers treat food at school. When I started my first few months of school, I was quite sick, and it was crucial for me to stick to a meal plan of 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Now, at that point, it was a struggle for me to follow the meal plan, because I was not far in my recovery. Food felt like an obstacle for me to overcome every day. I was severely uncomfortable with my body and with the idea of eating around people. To make things more challenging, most of my classes were around lunch time.

In one of my classes – during my first year – I had a stern teacher who made it an actual rule that we couldn’t eat in her classroom. This was really bad for me and my sensitive blood sugar, and I often left her class feeling dizzy or faint. I don’t understand why she was so against the idea of eating, because her class was from 11:30-1:20.

In the classes where I was allowed to eat, it was almost equally challenging. In two other lunch time classes, I knew that I needed to eat my lunch. However, I can promise you that I was the only one who ever ate in those classes…It perplexes me. As a girl who was (at the time) fighting against personal urges to skip meals, it certainly didn’t help to feel like the odd one out. Yet, I chose to take care of myself. I’ll probably never forget the boy who sat next to me and made comments about my food choices every single day. He always drew attention to my lunch, making me feel like I was weird for eating.

(Pause: You’re probably thinking, “Jeez girl, just stop scheduling classes at lunch time.” But it’s not that simple. I had to take specific classes, and most often, the ones I needed were at that time.)

My therapist always encouraged me, saying, “I bet if you continue to eat in class, others will get the courage to do the same.” Yet, our hope never came to be.

I remember walking into a new class one day and seeing that we were going to sit in a circle instead of rows of desks. I knew that if I were to eat, people would certainly be able to watch me. Time went by, and again, nobody else ate in that class during the lunch time hours.

One day I had a sandwich and some veggies, and it was probably the most agonizing lunch I’ve had at school. The boy next to me commented on it, and I was sure the crunching of the sliced bell peppers could be heard by several people. So, I got creative and started making smoothies for that class. I felt like pulling a cup out of my backpack and drinking out of a straw would be less distracting to others, and would keep their eyes off of me.

But hold on! Why should I have to feel alienated? Why should I care or change because of what people might be thinking about my food choices and my decision to eat at school? Sure, crunching can be slightly distracting, but I don’t think it’ll ruin anyone’s day. It’s not like I’m chomping away during a test.

That was a turning point for me. By the end of my first year, I was really tired of feeling like I had to hide or feel like I was “wrong” for eating. It was really inhibiting me from being able to relax and focus on academics as much as I wanted to.

I decided that I didn’t want food to feel like an obstacle at school anymore. Year two rolled around, and I was ready for things to be different.

Of course, then, on the first day of Biology, my teacher said “You can’t eat in this class, because there could be chemicals in the lab. Only drinks are acceptable.” While I understood the safety hazard, I was not sure how I’d get through 12:30-3:20 without eating. (And I had a class that ended at 12:20, so eating lunch before that class wasn’t an option.) But, I care too much about my health to neglect to nourish my body anymore. So, even though I don’t prefer substituting lunch with a smoothie, I had to make lunch fit in a cup. But let me tell you: I have become the best darn smoothie maker there is; and I had fun finding creative ways to pack enough calories and density into my cup.

In that class, I would unashamedly pull out my clear smoothie cup, and others could see it. Sadly, most classmates were often dozing off, having difficulty focussing, complaining of hunger, and running on coffee for three hours. There were a few instances where my classmates would say, “I’m so hungry! This class is so long, and right during lunch time!” In response, I would always say, “Yeah, that’s why I bring big smoothies every day!” But none of them ever did the same. So, yet again, I was the only one who fueled myself each day. I’m guessing some people were able to eat before that class began; but judging on so many people’s comments and tiredness, I think many of them did not.

All of this has made me so curious, and I’ve been trying to broaden my perspective to figure it out. A friend and I were trying to solve this mystery of why people don’t eat in classes at our school, and she pointed out: “For a lot of people, I think eating is like sleeping. It’s a normal thing to do, but we prefer to only do it in front of people we’re comfortable with.” I think this is a good point. It seems like there’s a general stigma or discomfort about the idea of eating in classes. Though, I’m not sure where this discomfort is stemming from. While my personal discomfort stemmed from an eating disorder, I don’t suspect everyone else has the same issues I had. Why aren’t the average, healthy students bringing food to classes?

Possible reasons are that some people eat beforehand; others say they don’t have enough time to make food; and in some classes, engaging activities could prohibit one from eating. Now, I can’t get inside everyone’s heads, but it looks like a lot of people don’t feel comfortable eating in front of others; and some people do not prioritize it. This is something I’d love to see change.

You see, eating is a natural, survival instinct and action. I really think is should be treated as a normalized thing to do at school. I don’t want to feel alienated for being the only person eating lunch. I shouldn’t have to look forward to the days when I getto eat lunch at home, because I won’t feel people’s eyes glide over to me and silently judge (or envy) my food.

Food is necessary. Eating to fuel for success in school is necessary. Eating is normal. Let’s all treat it as normal. Let’s feel comfortable taking care of ourselves.

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Our Minds & Medication (Personal Stories)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on March 10, 2017. 

Luke 10:27: “love the Lord your God. . .with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Today I’m focussing on the idea of serving God and others with our whole mind. I wonder: How can we do this if we aren’t having positive thoughts? If we are depressed, anxious, and struggling to find peace, joy, or confidence?

Mental illness, clinical depression, anxiety, and other disorders and mental struggles are so common and running rampant among us. Because of this, for a lot of people, it can be very hard to think in a way that is pure and beneficial all the time.

This has been especially true for me in the past few weeks. After having gone an entire year without an anxiety attack, I was reminded (shortly after that one year mark) that my anxiety disorder is still very much a part of me. Sitting in church a few weeks ago, my mind was a mess. I was stressed with school, relationships, and worrying about literally like 6 other things, all at once. My mind spiraled so far out of control that I became restless. I got up from my seat, went out into the lobby, and broke into tears and short breathes. This panic attack reminded me of who I am, though. I am anxiety prone.

Following that experience, I started to realize that my anxiety and depression are becoming worse. For a while now, I haven’t been able to focus well, sleep good, or feel joy as easily. I feel like a little grey cloud is hovering over me, taking enjoyment and energy out of my life. It’s making me an irritable girl who snaps at her parents and can’t love her friends well. It’s making me feel tired and like I can’t even open my Bible. But that isn’t normal for me! After some prayer and advice, I decided to ask for an increased prescription of my medication. Some might argue that medication isn’t the way to solve the problem; but I think that there’s only so much self-care we can do for our minds until it’s okay to seek medicine.

How can I serve God with my mind if I don’t take care of my mind?

I’m not saying, “Hey everyone, go get some meds to solve your problems!” I’m reminding us all that it’s okay to think of them as a helpful option. More importantly, though, we should be aware of our mental state! We should try to realize when we aren’t thinking good thoughts; notice when we’re slipping into a darker place; and evaluate how our attitude might be impacting relationships.

Another instance that got me thinking about this is that my brother recently decided to get onto medication. (And he gave me permission to talk about it). He’s in a crazy season of life and has a lot of responsibilities: he’s a senior in college, an intern at a production studio, he has a girlfriend, he’s trying to figure out his future, and he’s currently directing a film at his school! He’s got a lot on his mind; and lately he’s been feeling the way I was describing my own self. I’m so glad that he decided to try medication to improve his mood and calm his anxious mind. He realized that in order to best serve all of the people around him and focus on God and his responsibilities, he needs to be in a better mental state. He evaluated where his mind was; and there is no shame in that.

So, I hope this encourages you to pay attention to your thoughts in each season of life. We are called to serve God and others with our whole minds, so it is important to be aware of them! For some of us, medication might be helpful. For others, simply being aware of the fact that we’re not thinking positive, healthy, or true thoughts can allow us to  fix them. Maybe for some, reading scripture more often will be enough to moderate our thinking patterns! Whatever you need to do, it’s always good to take care of your mind.

A Letter to Those With Mental Battles

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 27, 2017. 

This is for all who are fighting mental battles.

As an observant, self-proclaimed “people-reader,” it’s not hard for me to spot when someone is struggling. Lately I have been noticing how many people around me seem to be going through something difficult. My heart aches with you; and I want to help.

I can read your emotions, your Twitter posts, your subtle hints, your change of mood, etc… I know that there’s something secret going on in your life. Or something that you pretend is not a big deal by keeping it quiet. I know, because I have been there – in that lonesome place – feeling like nobody could possibly “get it.”

I know that you don’t want to open up to anyone about your troubles. You don’t want to be “a burden” on anyone. You’re also afraid of what might happen when you vulnerably admit what is going on in your mind.

You’re afraid of judgement and the stigmas attached to your problem. But listen to me:

You are not a burden. You are not a disease. You are worthy of human help. You are not alone. You are worthy of healing and attention. You can fight through this; and it’s okay if you need help. 

Maybe you have a disorder: anxiety, depression, eating disorder, bipolar, multiple personality disorder, body dysmorphia, etc. Maybe you have an addiction, suicidal thoughts, severe insecurity, or doubt in your faith in God. Maybe you’re living with the pain that comes with being a part of the less accepted LGBTQ community.

I don’t know where you are on the spectrum; but I don’t want to minimize the fact that WHATEVER you are dealing with has got to be hard…I have figured out that mental disorders, and just the mental battles that accompany our insecurities and troubles, are agonizing and isolating things.

The enemy will tell you lies and try to keep you from getting proper help. He will tempt you to just get comfortable with your issue, become friends with it, and deny healing or outside comfort.

But I need you to know that life is meant to be lived abundantly (John 10:10), and that God’s plan for you is not to suffer for the rest of your life on earth. I promise you there is something you can do to escape the torment in your mind. (In some cases, even if you can’t get rid of it altogether, you can at least do something to make life more bearable with it.) You may not be able to see it now, but beyond your life today is a much brighter time. You just have to take one step at a time. And normally, that first step is admitting to someone what you’re dealing with.

We’re privileged to have so many tools to help us: counselors, doctors, like-minded people, friends, prayer, wise spiritual leaders, books, medicine, endless information, and all kinds of other things to aid us in “recovery” (or whatever your healing process might look like). USE THEM. There is no shame in getting help! I can’t stress this enough.

Maybe you won’t be able to make fast progress. Maybe freedom will take years to achieve. Maybe you will face some of the fears that come when you’re vulnerable with someone. But it is worth is, because your life is valuable and full of potential!

Don’t keep suffering in your present state. Don’t let your problems hold you back from the quality of life that you’re worthy of. Don’t let the enemy tell you that you’re stuck. Instead, grab someone who loves you; tell them what you need; get outside of your head; and start fighting for your life.

You’ve got this!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. – John 10:10

More Than I Imagined

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 7, 2017. 

“Lord, I am so tired of being afraid of the future. I know that I’m not walking in the truth, and my anxiety is holding me back from experiencing full joy and pursuit of my dreams. . .Please, I just need you to bring me security and then some joy and a little excitement in my life. . .I don’t know…I just want to feel more at peace and secure. Please help me, God. Amen.”

A prayer written by me,  January 2016

I found the above prayer in my prayer journal. Evidently, I was having a hard time and feeling devoid of security, joy, and peace. The month previous was when I was so terrified for my health that I got onto anxiety medication.

The beginning of 2016 was simply the middle of a difficult transition, and I was feeling a lack of direction for my life. I pictured another 12 months just as hard as 2015.

But, little did I know, I was about to have the most transformational and rewarding year ever! 2016 ended up being the year that I learned the most about myself and became determined to fight harder than ever!

Now, let me be clear that without my faith in him, I would have only sunk deeper into the pits of fear, disordered eating, insecurity, selfishness, apathy, and isolation. I know this because my belief in God was my main motivator in any and all efforts to get better.

My motivation is the fact that I believe He created me for a purpose and has greater plans for my future. And those plans do not include bondage to self-destructive behaviors and thoughts.

Through my consistent asking of God for help and a perfectly orchestrated set of events, God did more than I could have ever imagined.

He nudged me; He made me feel strong moments of conviction that broke me down when I needed to make a change; And He used specific people to say the exact words I needed to hear. And I believe that he even lead me to the scriptures that I needed to read, when I asked him to. There are some events that I give God all the credit for, because the timing was just too perfect. There is no way I could have planned each little (or big) moment of impact so divinely. It was purely the Lord’s doing.

Because of this, I’ve really been loving this scripture in Ephesians that says:

“How long and wide and deep and high is the love of Christ. . .Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be all the glory. . .for ever and ever! Amen.” – 3:20-21

Seriously, I’m blown away at his work in my life!

I compiled a list of positive events and significant changes that all happened within 2016:

  • I started this blog!
  • I went 10 whole moths without any major panic attacks. (WOO!)
  • I visited Biola University, and realized that I actually DO want to go to college!
  • I got accepted to Biola!
  • I shared my testimony with my entire highschool youth group (scary, but worth it!)
  • My anxiety gradually decreased, and I learned how to handle it better.
  • I reached two major clinical health goals!
  • I turned 18, graduated high school, and started my summer job all in the same month!
  • I worked as a middle school leader and went to summer camp with the youth group.
  • I shared the gospel with 3 people and helped lead 2 to Christ. (YAY)
  • My relationship with exercise turned healthy.
  • I started college.
  • I went on real dates with real boys 😉  (I don’t think I could have healthily done this last year.)
  • I found direction for life, felt new passions, and felt joyful.
  • I got asked to be a bridesmaid! AND
  • I made a scary but life-changing decision for my overall health that has been TOTALLY worth it! (I’ll share more about this one later).

It doesn’t hurt that I also made it to Disneyland twice, saw a couple celebrities, and made some friends 🙂

These blessings came at a price though. I had to fight hard. I had to wait patiently, keep going to church, seek the Lord for strength, cry, endure a lot of discomfort, ask people for help, and always ask God for direction. But now I can see that it was all worth it. I can see now that he did hear my prayer in January; and he had good things in store.

Yes, fighting was worth it; and God ended up doing “immeasurably more than I asked or imagined.” And this is my hope for 2017! I’m expecting Him to continually show up and to be on my team. He has never left my side, and He’s not going to now.

God can move mountains in your life as well! He will bless you in incredible ways if you  have an active relationship with Him, ask Him for help, and have a willing heart. Then wait expectantly with faith.

My Difficult Journey with Exercise

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on December 3,  2016. 

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I praise the Lord each and every time I recognize an area of my life that’s he’s transformed. Recently I’ve been feeling grateful for the redemption of my relationship with exercise.

When I was in the midst of my eating disorder and insecurity, I thought my issues were only about food. I’ve never been an exercise “addict,” and I didn’t think exercise was a problem area for me. Yet, I also don’t think I’ve ever had a completely healthy relationship with it. Going to the gym from probably ages 14-18 were torture…The reason being that I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

I would drag myself to the gym and force myself to perform harder than I should, because I wanted to change my body. Working out wasn’t a celebration of the body God gave me. It was an effort to change it. So I’d keep pushing myself in order to maximize my time at the gym.

I have a sad memory from a little over a year ago: It was a busy week, and I was undoubtedly tired. I knew I should study for the S.A.T, but the enemy made me feel like burning calories was more important. When I was on the treadmill, I distinctly remember thinking, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to exercise for the right reasons. This is torture.” After that day, it was a repeated thought pattern each time I’d work out. I would zone out and wonder if I could ever love my body enough to just exercise because it’s something I enjoy.

Then one day I got so anxious while running on the treadmill that my heart rate became really scary, and I had to stop. I went home and cried, feeling simultaneously scared, guilty, and sorrowful. I yearned for the day that I’d be able to exercise normally and healthily.

Fast forward to 10 weeks ago: School started, and I just couldn’t fit the gym into my schedule. That was scary for me, because I was super active in the summer. For the first time in a long time, I went 10 days without any form of forced activity; and it cured me. Somehow, having a break from it was exactly what I needed. I gained so much perspective, and I was able to let go of dependence on it. I think a large part of it was also that I was solely focussed on thriving in school, church, and relationships. There was a shift from where I was receiving my identity.

Now I can go weeks at a time without exercise and feel okay about it. The day that I was at the gym and realized, “wait…I’m not doing this because I hate my body. I’m doing it because it feels amazing, and I love it…” That was a great day.

Now, I know how to limit myself. I don’t go when I’m exhausted, I try new things when i’m there, and I don’t get anxious about it. I love it. But I don’t depend on it anymore. The Lord has been showing me constantly what it looks like to take care of myself, heal, rest, and appreciate the genetics he gave me. And I have discovered that I truly love to use the legs that he gave me to RUN. 🙂 (and release some endorphins)

I hope that you all find your identity from where it matters most and move your body because you want to care for it.”Healthy” looks different for all of us. And it’s never too late to treat yourself well.  img_0622