Tag: My Journey

When the Process Feels Slow or Imperfect

While this post is somewhat of a personal update, I also discuss recovery, therapy, and the concept of slow change and goal-achieving. I believe you can get something out of it, even if you don’t relate to the recovery aspect of it. I hope it leaves you encouraged!

When I was a senior in high school, I was struggling with panic attacks, anxiety, and an eating disorder. But during my senior year I was also accepted to my dream university. At some point I realized that if I didn’t get professional help for the things that were ailing me, I would probably hinder myself from getting the most out of my time at the wonderful school I wanted to go to. Or maybe I wouldn’t be healthy enough to go at all!

So, with new motivation regarding my future, I began seeing a therapist. It happened to be during the first week of my freshman year of college. I had always planned on going to community college for at least two years, so this worked out just fine. Going to my dream school as a junior was still a possibility, as long as I was well enough!

My plan became to fully recover from my disorders before transferring to the university. I became motivated by the image of my future self walking onto campus, being a totally new woman – completely free, happy, and healthy.

I fully expected to “get better” in at least two years, before moving away for my junior year. In the beginning I thought, “Oh yeah, I got this! Two years is more than enough time to do this recovery thing!” I remember telling my mom, “I bet I can do it in like 6-12 months.” But as I came to find out, recovering from an eating disorder and anxiety disorder together is like a full-time job! I totally underestimated how long and hard the process was going to be…

Now, as I’m writing this post, I’m a few days away from my long-awaited Junior year. So I can report that my time in therapy actually lasted 23 months (that’s only one month less than the full two years I had available)!

Something I learned during those 23 months – 99 weeks – is that sometimes change takes a long time, especially in the case of recovery. But in a more general sense, sometimes the things we want to accomplish – the goals we have – take a long time to achieve. If you’re like me, having patience in the waiting and through the struggles is difficult. In the process of waiting for something good, there can be a lot of disappointment, pain, anxiety, and self-doubt, along with the effort we’re trying so hard to put in to our goals.

If you’re in the process or the middle of some kind of  waiting, changing, recovering, or goal-achieving, I would really like to advise you to be realistic about a possible timeline, and to give yourself grace when you feel like you are the thing hindering the process. I wish I would have done this!

You see, I wasn’t very realistic about my own timeline. I had sub-consciously created one in my head. As a result, I remember multiple instances where I felt extremely disappointed in myself for how long recovery was taking. I cried to my therapist and my parents, “I should be better by now! I shouldn’t still be struggling with X, Y, and Z!” Everything took longer than I had expected.

As motivated as I was to get better, I wanted it to happen too quickly. I was making black-and-white “should” statements. So when I evaluated where I was at in recovery, and what I had left to accomplish, I would feel overwhelmed and call myself a failure. My frustration would cause me to temporarily lose steam. The mean little perfectionistic voice in my head would shame me.

And shame is not a good motivator for change. It certainly set me back. I think a better motivating voice is one that sounds like encouragement, gentleness, and grace.

Thankfully, whenever I was hard on myself, my therapist would be that voice for me. She would graciously remind me that there’s no such thing as a perfect timeline. In my case, she wanted me to remember that recovering from a deeply rooted mental illness is pretty hard work!

By creating my own timeline and making “should” statements, I was setting myself up for anxiety and disappointment. She would tell me to give myself grace and to remember that, in the grand scheme of life, two years (or a little more) was nothing!

She assured me that every minute of effort now was going to be worth it later on. This helped me to persevere.

When I began to be a little more gentle and gracious with myself, my goals became smaller, more realistic, and less daunting. I began to recognize and celebrate the small victories and to tell myself “good job!” At some point, I was able to say, “Okay, even if I’m not 100% ‘better’ by the start of my junior year, that doesn’t mean I have failed. Realistically, recovery is still going to be an ongoing choice for me to say ‘yes’ to every day, even when I’m done with therapy.”

My anxiety about the process decreased, and I started focussing on the tangible steps that I could take in the next few months, to get to an even more secure, stable place. I decided to meet myself where I was at. It made a significant difference in my attitude and outlook!

So, here I am, about to start this next chapter of my life. But you know what? Being done with therapy doesn’t mean that I’m 100% free from some disordered, unhealthy thought patterns and urges. However, I am healthy enough and equipped with enough “tools” to be able to go to away for school and to continue on my journey. I’m not where I had expected to be when I was a freshman. But now I see that the past two years of effort were a tremendous accomplishment, I worked really hard, and I get to be proud of myself for all the things I have overcome and improved on.

I recognize that I’m still in an ongoing process, and I’ll have to keep saying yes to recovery every day for a long time. But because of the work I’ve done in the past two years, the decision to say yes is much easier and quicker now.

So, I want to encourage you to be realistic about how long something might take in your life. Embrace the process of waiting or changing, and soak up all that it has to offer you. Don’t rush yourself; be gentle; be gracious; and be your own cheer leader! Whenever you hear that shaming, self-doubting, impatient voice, remind it that there are no perfect timelines in life. 

 

Fear, Breakthroughs, & Rewards (Part 2)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on September 30, 2017. 

This is part 2 of my 2-part blog post. If you did not read the first post, you may want to go back and read it first.

A wise and wonderful friend of mine once said something so true and so powerful to me. It was right after I decided to get help for my eating disorder and right before I actually started the hard work of therapy and treatment. In this season of intense conviction and anxiety, it was a difficult yet encouraging statement to hear. She said:  “The moments before my biggest breakthroughs and blessings always involved a battle of anxiety and fear; But it was worth it every time.”

At the time, I could only imagine blurry images of these so-called “blessings” that she said would come to me; and I could not comprehend what sort of “breakthroughs” I would have. I was too focused on my fears and on the obstacles I would have to overcome first. Anxiety kept my mind on the negatives instead of the potential positives.

However, now that I have submitted to the process of recovery for over a year, I’ve discovered that she was right. The battles that I fought were indeed worth it. Now I’ve been able to believe and apply this concept in other areas, as well.

But let’s rewind a bit. . .What happened after I pushed past my fear and started therapy and recovery?

Well, life certainly did not get easier for a while. I walked around with worry and anticipation during the weeks leading up to my first appointment.  I constantly questioned whether I had made the right choice in pursuing “recovery.” I was so fearful.

In the months to come, I had to do a lot of very uncomfortable things. Recovery is an ongoing process of, “Okay Jessica, now we need to talk about this___,  and work on this ___. You’re going to have to stop doing this ___, and cope with life without this ___.” An eating disorder is, in many ways, like an addiction. It’s not easy or glamorous to give up. I’ve had to change my behavior, my coping skills, my thoughts, and go against my instincts so many times. It was miserable some days.

But something cool happened over time. For every hard day that I got through, I realized I had the power to do something I deemed impossible, before. I think this is a good example of the kind of “breakthrough” my friend was talking about. It’s a positive, uplifting, and eye-opening experience. It’s an “Aha!” moment where we learn something new about ourself, and we let it really sink into our brain.

Every time I got through a day without using one of my eating disordered “behaviors” or unhealthy coping tools, I regained some of my dignity and sense of inner-strength. Even when I had a bad day, I realized that a lot of my fears were coming from made-up scenarios in my mind, and that the pains of recovery were not as unbearable as I had expected. My anxiety and fear have significantly decreased around the things I used to have panic attacks over. By enduring hardships and functioning through them, I learned more about life and about my capabilities; and this has allowed me to fundamentally change in positive ways. The changes in my life and thoughts have been the breakthrough that my friend predicted.

The blessings I have received from this difficult process of recovery are numerous: Resilience, true joy, more peace, self-care skills, incredible energy, new passions, empathy, connections with some of the best people I’ve ever met, a more genuine heart, a deeper understanding of my self-worth, and an understanding of what it means to rely on God in times of desperation.

But remember:  before I gained the blessing and breakthroughs, I had intense anxiety and fear to push through.

Now that I’ve told you my experience, let me give you another example.  My story is just one example of what can happen when we choose to fight through the anxiety and fears we have about something.

Let’s say someone is about to start a new job. They’re intimidated by everything they have to learn, and they’re anxious about making mistakes. They feel inadequate to fill their position. But after a while, they start to get the hang of things. Over many months, they make mistakes, get embarrassed, have to prove their skills to their own self, their boss, their co-wokers, and their clients. They’re exhausted, but they haven’t given up. Eventually, they learn that they are not only capable of doing this job, but they’re also getting really good at it. Through the years of determination, they get promoted and are highly respected by everyone who knows them in this job. They now have confidence in them self, new passion for their job, new skills, and maybe even better opportunities.

If that person had not fought through the anxiety, fear, and initial hardships, they wouldn’t have gained the blessings and breakthroughs.

Here’s another example: New moms often feel terrified before their first child is born. And many often feel doubtful, anxious, and inadequate during those first few months and years of mothering. But they also often endure those hard days, become better mothers, gain the blessings of being a mom, and realize they can handle more than they thought.

I can think of more examples, but I think you get the point. Now, I want to encourage  you to dig deep, and do some reflecting. What kind of blessings and breakthroughs could possibly await you on the other side of your own fear and anxiety? My guess is that if you choose to struggle through something that isn’t easy for you right now, you will eventually be rewarded with feelings of accomplishment and strength; you’ll gain insight; you’ll become more resilient to life’s trials; and you’ll possibly even find joy from other blessings that you can’t imagine yet.

(Also, because of who I am, I can’t leave out the impact that the scriptures have had on me. My motivation to do hard things often truly comes from knowing that God promises to strengthen me, sustain me, provide a better future, and lead me on the best paths. Here are some of my favorite verses for times of anxiety.)

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” – 2 Corinthians 4:16

“”For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

“apart from me you can do nothing. . .If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  – John 15:5,7

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Fear, Breakthroughs, & Rewards (Part 1)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on August 29, 2017.

This will be a two part post: Part 1 is mainly a personal account and background story. Part 2 will be more of a practical application, encouragement, and some insight for others.

There is a part of my story that I’ve only shared it with a handful of people. Now that I’m ready to talk about it openly, what better day to post about it than the anniversary of when it happened?

One year ago from the day I’m posting this – August 29th of 2016 – was one of the most pivotal days of my life. But I need to rewind the story a bit to explain why.

I’ve been aware of my struggle with disordered eating and body dysmorphia for a few years. At some point along the way, I heard about this process of “recovery.” Through social media, I discovered that thousands of girls (and boys)  like me were working towards freedom from disorders. At that point, I did not really want to give in to the process myself, but I was afraid for my life…So I began self-motivated recovery.

For many months before last August, I had been trying to improve my suffering health. I tried to eat more, set healthy boundaries with exercise, and focus on my spiritual growth. I was reading books about recovery and talking to the few people who knew what I was struggling with. However, since I had minimal accountability, my efforts would often fail. It was a roller coaster of small victories and major setbacks.

Last summer, I became increasingly aware that my energy levels were abnormally low; my mood was often unstable; and my mental “space” was often occupied with thoughts about my body and insecurities.

For several weeks, I had this nagging feeling that something had to change. I could not continue living this way, especially as a new college student. When I though about college, I became petrified…How could I focus on lectures and take good notes if I was tired, foggy-headed, and anxious most of the time? How could I be a good student if 80% of my thoughts were focussed on my body and my self? How could I walk around from class to class if my muscles felt weak?

I finally admitted to myself that my suffering surpassed the “benefits” I felt I was getting from my disorder. I was exhausted; I was tired; and my anxiety was intense. However, I felt stuck. I did not know how to move past the point I was at, because clearly my efforts were not enough. My disordered thought patterns were deeply ingrained and creating a prison in my mind.

Full recovery seemed impossible. When I felt like giving up, though, God would remind me of verses like Philippians 4:13, which says:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Or Jeremiah 29:11:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

And especially Galatians 6:9:

“So do not get tired of doing what is good. For at just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.”

So, I did not lose full hope; But I knew I still needed something to change.

The idea of finding a therapist popped into my mind. I wrestled with the idea silently for a while. I would waiver between, “No, I can power through on my own,” and “I definitely need professional help.”

Out of embarrassment, I really did not want to see a professional. I also wondered, “Am I skinny enough to be sick? Will the therapist turn me away?” Among other things, I thought going to therapy would mean I was admitting that I was “troubled” and weak. It would mean I would have to take time out of my schedule to sit in an office and have uncomfortable conversations. It would affect my family’s finances. It would mean surrendering control, giving up my behaviors, revealing my secrets, and probably gaining weight. There seemed to be way more cons than pros!

Yet, I still felt that nagging feeling that I needed to get help; and this feeling increased until I finally gave in.

On August 29th,  I sat on my bed, full of fear. I remember being wrapped in a blanket and shaking with anxiety. In one hand, I held a piece of paper with my doctor clinic’s mental health line phone number; and in the other hand, I held my cell phone.

IMG_3554I was scared, lonely, and filled with regret that I had allowed myself to get the point that I was at. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I thought about all of those cons that I associated with therapy. But because I have hope in the promises and forgiveness of my savior Jesus Christ, I made the best decision I have ever made: I ignored the screaming voices of my perfectionism, the stigmas of therapy, and everything in me that wanted me to remain silent and sick; and I called that phone number.

A man from the clinic gave me an “assessment” over the phone and directed me to a therapist, who I started seeing a few weeks later.

August 29th is important to me, because it was the day I overcame the overwhelming fear, anxiety, stigmas, pride, and vanity that were holding me back from living an abundant life, pursuing a better future, and trusting God. I walked into something that I knew would be painful, but I trusted that it would eventually pay off. That day was the day I said yes to recovery and yes to God’s plans for my future. It was the day that the course of my life fundamentally changed. It was pivotal

One reason I’m sharing this is because I’m proud of myself for doing what was so incredibly difficult; and I know I would be suffering so hard today if I hadn’t taken that step of faith. Just as importantly, I also believe and hope my story can encourage you to overcome hard things, too.

If you’re not sure you can really get past the fear in your life, I will hopefully persuade you in Part 2 of this post…Stay tuned.

 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

” So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed every day.  For this light momentary trouble is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

An Unexpected Part of the Process

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on August 11, 2017. It is my most popular, viewed, and shared post to date. 

I recently experienced something unfamiliar. I lost control for a moment. It was scary. It was ugly. It was uncomfortable; and it was more important than I realized in the moment.

It was during one of my weekly support group sessions. (Yes, I go to group therapy.) As usual, everyone was going around the circle to “check-in,” and share their thoughts and struggles. It just so happened that my turn would be last.

Some parts of the heavy discussion were just really resonating with me that night. The others’ vulnerability was giving me tons of insight into my own self; and I was mentally “connecting the dots.” As we neared the end of the night, I had come to some pretty  significant realizations about why my eating disorder developed in the first place, and how it has deeply impacted my life. (But those may be shared in a separate blog post).

I felt an extreme emotional wave. My face went somber. My stomach tensed up. My pulse rose. Tears welled up in my eyes.

“NO! DON’T CRY. NOT HERE. NOT IN FRONT OF A GROUP OF PEOPLE,” I thought to myself. The song from Frozen may as well have been playing: “CONCEAL, DON’T FEEL. DON’T LET THEM KNOW!”

You see, I don’t typically cry in front of others. I don’t like it; I don’t like people to see my weakness; I don’t even like the way it feels. However, as soon as my therapist looked at me and said a word to me, I lost itThe flood gates opened; the tears came; and all eyes were on me.

My therapist later explained to me – and I further processed – that I had truly connected to my emotions in that moment at therapy. I felt my feelings, and I let myself express them. Normally, I shove those strong feelings down, and they sit in my stomach in the form of anxiety, until the “wave” of emotions passes. Or in the past, I would use my eating disorder behaviors as coping tools. I know these aren’t the best means of dealing with my emotions, but for the longest time I have feared the vulnerability of  crying in front of people, feeling weak, or pondering painful memories.

In fact, two days prior, I had a strong emotional experience in church. As I was listening to the sermon, I reflected, felt convicted, and felt tears form behind my eyes. But what did I do about it? I shoved the feelings down and let anxiety build up instead. Despite the fact that I did connect to my emotions that night, I chose to hide them.

I don’t know what caused me to give in to the tears and reveal my true feelings that night at therapy; but it seems to have been a turning point for me. My therapist actually informed me that my healthy emotional release was something that happens to anyone who is in the process of healing and recovering from an eating disorder! I had no idea!

It turns out that most people with eating disorders have a hard time recognizing, regulating, coping with, and healthfully expressing painful emotions. An article I found explains that most of us turn to “restriction, binging, purging, or exercise” as a way to numb the pain. I think the following paragraph explains it perfectly:

“Eating Disorder behaviors are often ‘used’ to serve the one suffering. . .He or she turns to eating disordered behavior to keep from pulling up the deeper emotional ‘roots,’ and deal with those face to face. Instead, they may binge to escape from feeling painful things or avoid feeling at all. They may restrict to pursue numbness, suppress difficult memories or decisions before they even reach consciousness. All of these behaviors serve to unhealthfully suppress the proper recognition, regulation and expression of emotional states.”

I may have thought I had dealt with the hardest parts of my recovery already; but it turns out that I still have some over-due emotional healing to do. Thankfully, I know that this process is in full effect. Just three days ago I was talking to a good friend about some serious stuff. We were processing something difficult, mourning together, and supporting each-other. As I was affirming her, I instantly felt tears well up again. It caught me so off guard. But this time, I let them come. And ya know what? She cried with me! It was beautiful.

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It was absolutely liberating! To be able to finally cry in front of someone – without fear of judgement – was new and amazing. To share an intimate moment with a friend – and feel a strong connection with her – was beautiful! To be completely vulnerable – and still accepted – was healing for me.

It seems that I’m flourishing into a more emotionally healthy girl; and I’m so excited about what this means for my future. Not only will I gain a healthier mental state, but also deeper bonds with people, more genuine conversations, and a softened heart.

To My Friends & Family (6 Personalized Notes To You)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 20, 2017.  It was a cathartic post for me at the time and incredibly personal. A weight was lifted from my shoulders after this, and I felt like I could let go of my old self a bit. 

(Writing this is part of the positive process of moving on from my past.)

Grab a drink to sip and maybe some tissues if you get easily emotional. I feel that this is going to be one of the most important and personal posts I’ve written so far. I’m going to address several specific groups of people in my life and release some thoughts that have been burdening me lately. Please read the beginning few paragraphs and at least the numbered section below that relates to you.

This post is about my mental and physical health struggles and their affects on my relationships with people: With YOU, the reader. I choose to be open about them, because it helps me heal from them.

When I look back, I see that my disorders really began to take hold of me at age 15 – sometime during my freshman year of high school. They worsened during my sophomore year, but I was still somewhat healthy. They peaked at junior year, and I was dangerously ill. At senior year I realized that I wanted to heal, but I felt like it was impossible. I had such unhealthy thought patterns built up, and I was still engaging in disordered behaviors. Despite those barriers to recovering, I did start pursing health during senior year.

Now, I’m a freshman in college. Since this school year started, I’ve been rapidly changing. I’ve been seeing a new therapist, learning so much about my disorders, pressing into God like never before, and facing multiple challenges that come with recovering. I haven’t reached some kind of end-goal and received a prize that says, “congratulations, you’ve recovered!” Though my parents, nutritionist, and therapist have all affirmed my incredible progress, I’m still on the journey. And I will still struggle.

For the most part – in my mind – I feel like such a different person today (in a good way!) However, I know that you guys can’t fully understand the changes I’ve been through in my mind. For you, my friends and family, I’m sure it’s been difficult to understand me at times. Some days I’m doing really well, feeling great, and feeling secure. Other days I’m feeling crappy, struggling, or feeling insecure. My mood is easily swayed by my circumstances. If you’ve ever been confused or uncomfortable when interacting with me, I don’t blame you. I can be unpredictable…It’s frustrating to me, and I’m sure it’s odd for you. But please know that I’m still in the process of learning new things about myself, learning about God, growing, and “being transformed by the renewing of my mind” as Romans 12:2 says.

That is why I’m going to write these notes. To explain the changes you may have noticed.

  1. To My Friends From My Home School Co-op (ELT):

During my time at ELT, I was a mess. My insecurities began to take control of me the same year I started ELT. In fact, ELT was a huge reason my eating disorder came about. Why? First of all, when I joined ELT, I did not feel very pretty. I was overweight my freshman year, and I felt trapped in my body. I was also the new girl, and I had a hard time making friends quickly. I compared myself to every girl in the gym each week (like most high school girls do). I felt awkward, and I just wanted to fit in. The second reason I struggled was because of the stupid nutrition classes I took…I took 2 different nutrition class in the same term, and they fed me a lot of awful information. Because I was already insecure about my body, these classes made me want to “get healthy.” However, the classes were not professionally taught, and the approaches they suggested were not safe. I was vulnerable, and these classes made me want tocontrol my food and exercise. My teachers told me a lot of bull crap about “healthy” food, GMO’s, glass water bottles, and what not to eat. I began to feel ashamed of the ways I was eating and living, because my teachers were not sensitive to the dangerous messages they were giving. Lastly, during the first two years of ELT, I was struggling because of some relationship issues, and they made me feel very insecure. Maybe you recognize the pattern now…I was just a really insecure girl, trying to figure things out. All the while, I was beginning to seek control and validation through my body and outward image. My ability to have healthy relationships was probably damaged a bit because of my insecurities. So, my ELT friends, I’m sorry you had to know me at my very worst state. I was just struggling a lot in high school. I don’t want you to think that I was being a “faker” or anything like that. I don’t want you to think I was crazy. I was still a fairly normal girl, but I was not very confident in myself then. When I took a break from ELT because of my health, you all seemed concerned and tried to understand why I needed to leave. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you exactly why. Thank you for sticking with me through it all. You guys have been some of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had. Brenna, Cassie, Sam, Jonathan, Kezia, Bekah, Bryanna, Sarah, and anyone else (moms included!) who may be reading this: I hope this helps you understand me a bit better. As I’m now figuring out how to be secure in who I am, please keep talking to me about my journey! Keep getting to know me and notice the changes in me. You may encounter me on a great day, or you may encounter me on a rough day. Either way, I am not the same girl I was in ELT. I am on a great journey of healthy change. 

     2. To My Church Friends, Highlife Leaders, and Community Group:

Right now, I’m on a wonderful and hard journey towards whole health. I love Jesus a bunch. I’m pursuing God, and my relationship with him is very strong! But: At church, I often struggle. I struggle to figure out what kind of face I’m going to wear when I walk in the doors. I want to be joyful, inviting, and smile, because I’m at church. That’s how I should feel, right? But some days I don’t feel like that would be genuine. Some days are just difficult, because I’m still recovering from a mental disorder. Every week, I also know that I’m guaranteed to be asked “how are you?” The hard thing for me is that I don’t always know how to answer. Some days I’m honestly doing so great, and some days I’m feeling severely insecure or anxious. I know that church is a safe place to tell people the truth, however, I don’t always know how to explain the complexities of my mind…So during the socializing time, sometimes I just kind of “shut down” and come off as uninterested in people. I’m sorry about this. I’m trying to work it out.

On another note: I want my highlife friends to know that leaving Highlife was a hard but very important choice for me. I loved Jesus just as much then as I do now. I believe I would have been fine and well equipped to keep leading a small group; but leaving allowed me to have the time to go to therapy and to work harder on recovering from my disorder. I know I’ll dive back in to ministry one day, whether it’s highlife or not. When I do, I’ll be even better than before!

     3. To My Skit Theatre Friends: 

During my time at Skit theatre, I was awkward. Haha, it makes me cringe to think of how awkward I probably acted. In high school, I did not know who I was. I was quite “up and down,” and I was beginning to develop a mental disorder because of my insecurities. During Skit rehearsals I compared myself to other girls in the plays, and I felt insecure and jealous in the relationship aspects of Skit. During Anne of Green Gables and Go Dog Go/ JGP, my eating disorder was beginning. This took up a lot of my brain space. And sadly, during Narnia, I was at my absolute worst point. Not only was I having health problems totally unrelated to my disorder, but I was also depressed, anxious, and not eating a lot. That is why I didn’t do a play during my senior year. So, my Skit friends, I’m sorry you had to know me at my very worst state. I was just struggling. Thank you, though, for bringing me so much joy and laughter during that time. Thank you for caring about me and remaining my friend after Narnia. I love that Skit gave me some of the most amazing friends. Christian, Maddy, Katie, Kim, Jacob, Maddi, Drew, Elysa, and everyone else you all rock my world. Now that I’m in a healthier mindset, I hope you’ll not ignore what I’ve gone through, but take me where I’m at. Talk to me about my journey, and make new memories with me!

     4. To My Long Time Friends (from church, childhood, etc.)

Hey you guys. Maybe you were a large part of my story, or maybe we didn’t talk a lot during my struggles. Some of you are my biggest supporters; some of you have offered prayers; some of you have only kept up with me through social media. Whatever the nature of our relationship has been, I just want you to know that I’m still figuring out who I am and how to be totally secure. I really value our friendship and that you’ve stuck with me through all of my high’s and low’s! In the future, some days I’ll be feeling wonderful, and some days I’ll be feeling “meh.” I need you to do something for me, though. Please don’t ignore what I’ve gone through. Please don’t feel awkward talking about it or listening to me talk about it. Ask me questions, pray with me, tell me the truth about myself. I can’t fight alone, and I need friends to keep me grounded.

     5. To My New Friends:

Maybe we don’t know each other super well yet, but I want you to know that while I have a complicated past, I’ve been changed and transformed through the healing of Jesus Christ. I like talking about what God has done for me, and it’s one of the most important things to me. I’m passionate about Him, and He shapes how I live.

    6. To My Family (in Salem, Vancouver, California, and Illinois)

Last but not least……Guys. Each of you has played a different kind of role in my life and struggles. I guess I just want to thank you for your prayers and for not taking my struggles lightly. I’ve realized recently that I’m being “transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2). I’m really relying on God, and He’s still transforming me and changing the way I think today. I hope my life will forever be evidence to you of God’s goodness and power. The girl you see today has learned a lot about life, suffering, joy, healing, and faith. I can guarantee you I’m going to keep learning and being transformed. But I will have bad days. I will feel weak and need you to encourage me. Never assume I’m doing great, and never assume I’m not doing great. Ask me genuinely, and I’ll tell you. You’re the most valuable people to me. I love you. Thanks for loving me.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  – Romans 12:2

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