Tag: Personal

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. 

 

Your Questions/My Answers

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on June 15, 2017.

Below are some questions that people were curious about and asked me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers and find some of my insights helpful!

Q: How do you manage or re-direct your anxiety? What are some of your coping strategies? 

A: I don’t always handle my anxiety well, to be honest. I’m still working on this and learning new “strategies” that work for me! I think that I am qualified to talk about this, though, because I used to have panic attacks quite often, but now I rarely do. I have come a long way. Here’s a few tools (besides medication):

  1. Taking time to simply breathe can help at times. Often, I unknowingly slip into shallow breathing when I’m anxious, and this is not helpful. It causes my body and stomach to tense up. If I can, I lay down or sit in a position where I can get comfortable; I release every tense muscle; and I pray.
  2. Self-talk is a good technique: I have to literally whisper truth to myself that can combat the lies I’m thinking. For example: In the morning, if something happens to trigger my anxiety, I might start thinking things like, “Today is gonna suck. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to eat. I can’t eat. This ___ is too hard for me to handle.” Lately, when I recognize that this is happening, I start combatting the anxiety by saying out loud, “I’ve gone through worse than this before. I’ve gotten through all my hardest days! I can get though the next 24 hours. I’m way healthier than I was before. God has never left me. Food is fuel that I need for this day.”
  3. When I’m alone, prayer is always my #1 tool. When my anxiety is severe, I feel like God is literally my only comfort – my lifeline. Plus, since I’m a verbal processor, It really helps me to talk to and cry out to God, telling Him what’s grieving me. I find some comfort in knowing that He’s with me, and He hears the cries of those who love Him and seek Him. Talking out loud about what’s stressing me out can also make me realize how illogical my thoughts are. Anxiety usually originates in our minds.
  4. Lately, when I can, I try to find someone trustworthy to talk to. This helps me get “out of my head.” I’ve learned over the years that too much isolation is not healthy for me, as an anxiety prone person. The reason is that anxiety usually comes when we think negative thoughts and allow them to progressively worsen and escalate. I do this a lot. So, having someone else – who knows me well or is level-headed – tell me the truth about my circumstances and rationalize with me is very effective.
  5. Crying…Yeah, it works for me. I don’t do it often, so when I do, it feels really good!
  6. Journaling about how I’m feeling is another good way to process what is going on in my life or swirling around my head.

 

Q: How’d you get through weight gain in your recovery? (In my eating disorder, I lost a significant amount of weight, over 3 years. I reached a weight that was dangerous for me. In order to be considered “safe,” I was told to follow a meal plan and gain weight. And I did.)

A: Weight gain is a difficult thing to feel 100% okay with. I was very resistant to the idea at first. However, once I followed the plan, I started realizing the benefits that the food was giving me. It was my medicine. After so long depriving myself, I felt so much better having vital nutrients! My headaches went away; I had energy; I didn’t need naps; My mood improved; And I was less anxious!…So, the benefits of food outweighed (no pun intended) the changes that my body started going through. Along with appreciating what food does for me…

  1. I also covered my mirror for 10 weeks, eventually put my scale away, and got rid of clothes that were uncomfortable. I realized that objects were having too much power over my self-confidence, related to my body/weight. And that’s pretty darn lame! (I do not feel the need to weigh myself anymore).
  2. Talking with a professional dietician and learning about a healthy, normal BMI was incredibly helpful! She explained to me how BMI is measured, why it’s different for everyone, what type of “frame” I am, why a healthy weight is important for women, and much more. She also told me recently that I’m sitting pretty comfortably in my healthy BMI range, and that there’s also wiggle room for me to gain weight and still be considered normal.
  3. I realized that my genetics are unique to me and my family. My extra weight will distribute differently that others’. A “thigh gap” is genetically unrealistic for me (and most people); and super thin arms are basically impossible for me to obtain. The list goes on. But that’s something I’m okay with now! Trying to force my body to be something it’s not supposed to be is exhausting.
  4. Also, I educated myself on how sick the media is, and how our culture worships the “thin ideal.” (I watched a few documentaries, did some reading and research, and learned about it in Sociology class). Once I learned how much women’s bodies are altered and edited in the media, my thoughts changed. Putting skinniness on a pedestal isn’t something I want to take part in.
  5. I accepted that the my body is no longer an adolescent body. It’s an adult body. I can’t keep it the same as it was when I was younger.

 

Q: How are you so vulnerable about your struggles with your friends and family?

A: I’ve always been pretty honest. I’m a talker. I don’t really like hiding secrets. So, with that being said, it’s pretty natural for me want to open up to people, in general. At least with people I know and trust, it has not been very difficult to tell my struggles.

When it comes to really heavy topics, though, or ones I know my family or friends may not understand, I think vulnerability came once I realized the value in opening up to people. Talking about my struggles can benefit me in a few ways: 1.) It creates accountability. 2.) It makes me feel way less pressure or awkwardness around people when I don’t feel like I have to hide something. It removes huge burden. 3. ) People sometimes surprise me with how helpful they can be! How can I get support, love, or advice from people if I don’t let them know what’s up? 4.) We are ALL broken, sinful people with struggles. So, I think people relate to me in some way when I talk about my problems. Nobody ever really reacts with disgust, shock, or disapproval. They usually say they’re impressed by my honesty. 5.) Conversations about difficult subjects can be mutually beneficial. Giving and receiving of advice, support, and prayer can happen. Plus, I think we can all learn things by listening to someone else talk about their personal difficulties. 6.) I like to educate people on the realities of anxiety and eating disorders, and I have seen God use that in multiple ways.

 

Q: What bible verse is your go-to encouragement when you are facing stressful/tough times?

A: During hard times, I always find some comfort in Romans 5:2-5″

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

And Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Q: How should a family member or friend talk to someone who has an eating disorder? 

A: This is a hard one, because all people, situations, and relationships are unique. I don’t want to make big, blanket statements about all people with eating disorders. In general though, I have learned a few things that I believe should always apply.

  1. Talk to them in private first. Please…Don’t bring up someone’s eating disorder in a group of people. This has happened to me at 2 different parties, and it is SO frustrating. If someone bring up their disorder/struggle in a group setting, then that’s their choice. But most likely, if you bring it up in front of others, you’re going to damage trust with them. Even a small comment intended for good can make someone feel violated or uncomfortable. (Again, this is still just my opinion. Situations may vary.)
  2. If you aren’t sure if someone has an eating disorder, but you suspect that they do, tread carefully…If you genuinely want to offer them help, go to them with utmost sincerity in your eyes and voice, and tell them first what you observe about their behavior or lifestyle. Don’t make them feel personally attacked. You must come off as caring and sincere, or else they won’t be honest with you.
  3. If you’re close friends with someone who has an eating disorder, and this is an open topic of discussion, don’t tell them to “just eat” or “eat less.” The disorders are less about food and more about other issues preventing them from feeling like they can eat normally. Try to instead remind them why eating healthfully is important for their whole well-being (energy, mood, mind, body functionality).

 

Thanks for your questions! And as always, thanks for reading and supporting my blog 🙂 It’s what I love to do. Leave a question below, for next time!

Secrets of Sibling Success

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

I often get comments about how “cute” my relationship with my brother is. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me they envy the closeness I have with John. While I can’t imagine anything less than a best-friend relationship with him, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually pretty rare to have this kind of bond with a sibling (especially a brother/sister relationship). Our small advantage is that we’re the only two kids in our family. So, we only have each other. But I believe that siblings in bigger families can also develop close relationships! Now, speaking from my personal experience and observations, I would like to offer 5 insights on how to have a healthy sibling bond.

  1. Communicate:

The key to any relationship (and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise) is communication. Talking. Using words: Some of the reasons this is so beneficial is because it establishes trust over time; it shows interest in the other person; and it allows you to get to know them on a deeper level. Also, I find that constantly talking with someone lessens the chance that there will be secrets kept. Secrets separate us from knowing someone fully. Secrets (or simply keeping certain topics “off limits”) make fore a more shallow relationship.

John and I don’t really keep secrets from each other. Nothing is off the table for discussion at any time. Of course, we have had to establish enough trust in one-another to feel safe being vulnerable and sharing our deepest struggles and thoughts. This has worked out really well for us over time, and I think it’s the #1 strategy that’s gotten us to where we are now. No topic is too big or too small to discuss.

When we were younger, we talked about who we had crushes on. I remember telling my girl friends, “Yeah, I already told John that I like ____,” and my friends would respond: “What?! I could never tell my big brother that!” So, for as long as I can remember, John and I must have been good communicators.

Now, as adults, we talk about God, heartache, life transitions, stresses, mental health, physical health, funny things, stupid things, and things that the other person doesn’t even care to know. We check in on each other often. We call each other one the phone to share the smallest or biggest news. Whether I’m driving to school in the morning or it’s 11 p.m, I always answer the phone when he calls.

The more we talk, the more we value and appreciate each other. The more we talk, the more opportunities there are to say “I love you!” The more we talk, the more we enjoy and help each another.

2. Be available 

I think that it’s really important to show your sibling that you’ll support them and be available for them at any time.

Yesterday I was struck by how this looks for me and John. Our family was walking around the Disney store at Downtown Disney. He and I separated from everyone else, and he suddenly started sharing his heart and burdens with me. It wasn’t the typical environment to have a heart-to-heart talk, but for me and John, it works. I instantly shifted my focus from Disney merchandise to him and his needs. I made sure to look him in the eyes and show him I was listening.

fullsizeoutput_caShowing your availability to your sibling might look a lot of ways. Maybe it means stopping what you’re doing and chatting with them for 5 minutes if they ask for it. Maybe it means keeping your bedroom door open. These are things that John and I have done. When he lived at home, we would stop into each other’s rooms and say “Hey, how’s it going?” Sometimes it lead into an important talk, and sometimes it was just a simple acknowledgment. Now that we live in different states, it means prioritizing each other on the phone. I always aim to respond to his texts quickly. He tries to answer his phone calls from me, even if he’s walking to a class and only has 3 minutes. And we always end our talks with: ” Talk to you later,” or “We can talk more about this when I have more time.” This shows care and implies that the conversation can keep on going.

3. Be Kind 

Part of why I actually like my brother is because he makes an effort to treat me well. Now, listen…He and I have had our share of conflicts. Sometimes we really suck at being kind and intentional. Because we’re family, we tend to get the worst of each other. We don’t always filter our emotions, attitudes, or words around one-another. However, we’ve never been ones to be hateful or purposely hurtful to each other.

In the movies, siblings are often pictured as being aloof toward each other, fighting, yelling, and name-calling. I hate this…I even see it in real life occasionally, and it breaks my heart. I can remember being at other friends’ houses and feeling insanely uncomfortable seeing my friends fight with their siblings. God gifts us with brothers and sisters, and we have the potential to make them be our best friends! So, why do we treat them like enemies? You can be the exception. Treat your sibling well, and they will hopefully do the same.

    4. Spend Quality Time

Invest in your sibling by spending intentional time with them. It won’t always feel fun. Sometimes you might sit down to do something with them, and you’ll feel like “Umm, why am I choosing to spend time with this person?” But, other times it can turn into such an unexpected blessing. By spending time alone with them, you get to know what makes them happy. You get to know their real self. And you show them you care.

Sometimes John and I go out to lunch, and we have great talks. Other times, we feel like we have nothing to talk about, so we enjoy the food and just applaud ourselves for trying to make it a good date. Sometimes we run errands together and enjoy some music or talk in the car. We also try to do what the other person enjoys. For example, last summer I watched movies that John likes (that I don’t necessarily like), and then he’d tell me why he likes them. Other times, John would take me to Starbucks and go shopping with me. These actions can be so meaningful and allow great memories to be made.

5. Love

This seems like a no-brainer. But are you actively showing your sibling that you love them? Love is an action. Your brother or sister needs to undoubtedly know and feel that you genuinely love them. Otherwise, there’s no chance your relationship can be at its full potential. They won’t come to you, talk to you, or enjoy you it they don’t feel that you love them unconditionally. You have to put effort into them to get the same effort back.

John has also told me the words “I love you” so many times throughout my life, that I will never doubt it. The knowledge of his love for me is drilled into my brain. Even when he’s being lame and doesn’t show his love, I still know he loves me.

If you feel like your relationship with your sibling is a lost cause, it’s not too late. If you don’t communicate well with them now, you can change that. Just be genuine. Don’t fake it. Tell them honestly that you’d like to improve your relationship, and go from there. Or, start the change by simply changing the way you act around them. Be loving.

John, I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m blessed to be your sister and best friend. Thank you for leading the way for me, sharing your heart with me, and helping me through life. Here’s to many more years of memories, hugs, laughter, and occasional trials. 

  • May 27, 2017

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

365 Days of Transformation

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2016. It was my last day of high school, and I reflected on the changes over the past year.

I’m all about dates. My mind works like a calendar. I like to know exactly what happened to me one year ago and how I’ve changed. Charting progress is really enjoyable to me. I especially love looking at old photos and remembering the accompanying memories. When I look at pictures I often also think about what I was like at the time – mentally, spiritually, physically, and relationally. Because I’m at the very end of my senior year of high school and I’ve just become an adult, right now I’m especially reflecting on change. I’m astounded at how much God has brought me through and at the utter transformation of my heart and mind.

A few days ago I was driving to my job in the morning. I was sleepy and getting ready for a full day of my least favorite position to work. But at the same time, I felt okay about it. I was determined to get through the day, and I was able to smile at my co-workers when I got there.

Why does this matter? Well, the next day I remembered something crazy: Last summer, I worked at the same place, but my anxiety was worsening. And something I haven’t told many people is that I would often have panic attacks on my way to work. Yes, while I was driving on the freeway. Sometimes several days in a row…I was anticipating the worst every morning. I lived with an unsettled feeling of danger, and I didn’t think I could handle the day’s challenges. But now, I have confidence in my self.

An even bigger milestone though, is what happened to me one year ago from tomorrow. With fear, pride, and hesitation, I walked into the office of a nutritionist who changed my life. We identified that day that I was on the brink of an eating disorder and that I needed to gain weight.

I remember leaving her office with a huge poster of different food groups and the number of each that I was required to eat every day. It felt like an impossible task to me…But at the same time, I knew I had a deeper issue in my heart that needed to be fixed, and that being healthy was what I wanted deep down. I looked at myself  in the mirror for a long long time. I looked at my thigh gap and said goodbye.

One year later, and I have finally reached the physical health requirements we set that day.  (: I’ve found my worth elsewhere, and I am okay with the changes I see in the mirror because they reflect the change in my heart. (And  I laugh at the unrealistic thigh gap expectation.)

One of my life verses is, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

It’s been a journey, and throughout my senior year and the last 365 days, I have experienced a slow transformation in my mind. I truly feel like the truth of God’s word has  changed me and healed me in some monumental ways. (And I have so much evidence to prove it!) God’s will for my life has proven to be so life-giving, while the things I was experiencing were, by nature, self-destructive.

God is able to transform us all. It doesn’t have to take a whole year either! This gives me so so much hope for everyone around me.

So today while I celebrate my last day of high school, I’ll also be celebrating everything else God has done in my life in the past year.

Passionfruit Doughnut

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 27, 2016. I had just decided that I actually wanted to go to college. After this post was originally published, I dreamed about Biola for 2 years while doing my time at community college. By the time you’re reading this, I’m either weeks away from getting there, or I’m finally there!

If you want to understand the obscure title I chose for this post, you’ll have to bear with me till the end!

SO. I’m going to give you something a little more lighthearted this time.

A few months ago my mom asked me if I’d be interested in going on a visit to Biola University, my brother’s school. I didn’t really care much for the idea at first because:

  1. I’ve never seen myself as someone to move out of state or even go to college. (Mostly because I haven’t had a clear vision of what I want to do in the future, career-wise.) And
  2.  The idea of considering colleges has been daunting and anxiety inducing in the past. So, I didn’t particularly want to go to Biola, but I thought, “Hey, I can hang out in the sunshine with my brother and go to Disneyland for a day.” So I let my mom sign me up.

Tiny back story: For a long time I have been resolved to the idea of going to community college and figuring the rest out somewhere along the way. It seems like the easiest plan. I wish I had a more passionate spirit like some people. My brother, for instance, is one of my biggest role models because of how passionate he is, how he works hard, and chases his dreams. But I haven’t felt very passionate about what I can accomplish in life.

So, as I prepared for Biola Bound, I was feeling unsettled about a lot. I prayed over the trip for weeks in advance. Specifically that I would not have panic attacks, that God would provide me with energy, that I would be joyful and confident in meeting new people, and that God would just reveal something to me while I was there.

The trip started off tricky because I had severe panic on the airplane. But I prayed myself through it. The rest of the night was a blast! The next day I met high school seniors and Biola students from all over the U.S. Though everyone’s cultural backgrounds were diverse, it seemed like the one thing everyone had in common was a love for God. (Biola is one of the biggest Bible Institutes in the country). I don’t even really know how to explain it, but I could FEEL the presence of the Holy Spirit over that campus. And the joy of the Lord was inside so many people I met. My joy increased quickly. I loved being immersed in that positive environment, and I felt comfortable. My normal insecurities seemed to vanish!

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As hours and days ticked away, I noticed all my prayers about panic and having energy and joy being answered. I was having such a good time (and Disneyland was only a sliver of the fun). My mind was clear, and my focus began to shift: I found my apathy towards college disappearing, and I realized I really loved everything about this school. – The weather, the campus, the people, the feeling of Christ-centered community, and mostly how God is elevated above everything that happens there. On day three I was feeling stronger about it.

I had a nice long hour to talk with a communications professor over lunch on Monday. During my chat with her was when It finally sunk in that it could actually be a possibility for me to attend the school some day. And that I now had a dream school. After going to a business class, Bible class, and a communications class; I was sold.

I could hardly contain myself when I ran across campus to John’s dorm that evening. I sat there with my hands on my head because I couldn’t even believe I was telling him, “I want to go here some day…” Could this be the answer to my last prayer? Was this what God was wanting to reveal to me?

I’m confident that If he wants me at Biola, I will get there. Regardless of what happens, I’m thankful for the experience and that he changed my heart toward college. I have honestly never felt so strongly about something in this way…I did not want to go home.

The experience as a whole reflects this AMAZING doughnut I sampled during my trip. When I bit into it, I didn’t know what flavor it was. It tasted like…lemon? But then I kept chewing, and my taste buds danced! There was a curd filling on the inside accompanied by something crunchy AND a whipped cream on top. It was perfect. John read a sign and said, “No, it’s not lemon. It’s passionfruit flavored!” For some reason this excited us both immensely. It wasn’t what we were expecting. That intricate doughnut was just like my trip: I went into it with narrow thinking. “This will be a typical doughnut. Whatever.” Or, “It’s a scary college. I don’t want to go to college.” But the more I experienced and learned about the different aspects, my eyes were opened, I got excited, and I left wanting more! And how appropriate that the flavor was PASSIONfruit, and I gained a new passion and vision for my future. 😉

Thanks for reading!

Waking Up to the Truth

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on January 31, 2016. This was the very first blog post I ever wrote, launching my blogging career. Posting it gave me a feeling of freedom and excitement, as I shared my struggles publicly and received a lot of verbal support from others who read it.

Hello there! Welcome to my blog, and thank you for being interested in what I have to say. I’m really excited to use this as outlet for sharing my thoughts and stories. I think A LOT; And most of the time I either bottle those thoughts up or let them spill out into my family’s ears…But, I believe I’m ready to start sharing my perspective with the world too. Please understand that my intention is not to gain attention, sympathy, affirmation, or anything like that. My heart’s desire is to bring glory to God through what I say. He’s gifted me with the ability to think hard, be aware, feel emotions, and encourage others. He’s also radically changed my life in the past several months; and I hope that by telling my story I’ll glorify him and be able to encouragement others who may be struggling.

Now, this first post will probably be a little longer and different than future ones. I want to set up for you how I’ve been shaped to be who I am today. Though I used to be embarrassed about my struggles, I have realized that what I’ve gone through is not so uncommon. I’m an imperfect human and I mess up like everyone else. I think hearing personal testimonies from others can be impacting. So, sparing some (actually, a lot) of the rough details, here’s my story:

If you know me, you know that I’ve been blessed with a great family who’s always encouraged my faith in Jesus Christ. I have loved my God for as long as I can remember, and I’d say faith is my strongest spiritual gift. I just haven’t truly doubted his existence or that he is who he says he is. – I’ve also had a life with minimal “big trials,” so why worry? Life was good! I was happy! Anything hard that came my way in middle and high school was an opportunity to depend on God and let him comfort me.

Somewhere along the way, though, I started caring too much about people’s perception of me and about the world’s standards. I become very insecure. In the midst of that, I developed health problems that made me feel physically defeated. In my own mind, my body wasn’t good enough. My self-consciousness made me want to hide. My body image got so bad over my junior year that I started restricting my food intake and exercising harder. These secret compulsive behaviors took over me. I wanted the satisfaction of feeling in control. I thought “If I can lose X amount of weight, then i’ll be happy and secure.” This lifestyle and these lies stole my joy. I became increasingly tired, anxious, and depressed. I gave up on social activities and even stayed home from church at times because I had no energy. Normal, every day tasks looked harder to me, and I was afraid of being vulnerable. My heart was hardening toward God and others, but I didn’t realize I was the only one hurting myself.

The world’s comforts looked so appealing to me that I lost sight of God’s will for my life. I eventually lost that X amount of weight…And even more pounds after that…But friends, that didn’t make me truly happy! Happiness from that was only ever momentary. Even after I achieved the thing I had longed for, I was miserable and clinically unhealthy. Migraines, naps, anxiety attacks, and feeling faint all occured more and more. After seeing a doctor, and after lots of tests, It was determined that there was nothing wrong with me except for my weight loss and depression. This was upsetting to me; But a few months later something snapped. I finally got sick of this lifestyle, and I missed my God whose truth I had been neglecting. One hard night I broke down and asked Him to help me escape this nightmare.

I strongly believe that when we surrender to God in prayer, he won’t neglect that cry for help. It IS the first step in any recovery process or escaping/letting go of sin. It says in the book of James,“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This was my seed of hope.

When I started listening to God’s truth again, a verse particularly struck me: Jesus said in Luke 12-

“Therefore I tell you, DO NOT WORRY about your life, what you will EAT; or about your BODY, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

This passage was telling me that all the things I’ve obsessed over are not healthy for me! It also goes on to talk about how valuable we are to God, just the way we are. It convicted and encouraged me to get back on track. I didn’t know how to start; But since the things of the world (and my own self) weren’t working toward my joy, I gave God some control.  Isaiah 40:31 says “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. . .they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” I had to wait on God, and trust in his promises.

I hesitantly started talking to a counselor who helped me with my depression. This was a good step. At the end of my junior year, I was told by professional nutritionist that i had “disordered eating” behavior and thoughts. I also hesitantly began following her eating plan. This was unexplainably hard for me, because I was giving up control. I slipped up a lot. I still felt sick, and my anxiety and body image got worse. But my relationship with God got stronger because I was depending on him more and thanking him when I would have good days or make progress. I recognized that a chance to redeem my past was possible.

This fall (beginning of senior year), overwhelming and sometimes uncontrollable anxiety struck again: Constantly feeling uneasy about possible negative outcomes and feeling so afraid that I slip into panic attacks. I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” this recent December. I have been taking medication and seeing my old counselor since then. These are not things I ever wanted to have to do. But instead of feeling beat up and constantly insecure about it, I’ve pressed into scripture and prayer for comfort.

It’s not by controlling my circumstances, being affirmed by the world, or hiding that I’ve found peace. None of that satisfies and calms my heart for long enough. God tells me to take care of my body because it’s to be used for bringing him glory. So now, I fight my disordered thinking every day. I’ve learned how it looks to surrender in my times of panic and just let God’s truth calm me. I pray and remember these verses:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10

“joy fills hearts that are planning peace.” Proverbs 12:20

Fighting against the battle in my mind is still something I deal with daily. At times I feel so weak. But, I go to sleep every night remembering that I don’t have to fight alone, and that continual growth is happening and shaping me. The physical health I have gained back is also something I think about every day as a reminder that my prayers have been answered. I’ve been humbled and broken down so many times. I go through highs and lows, but it’s only when I give up and surrender that I can see clearly enough to grasp God’s loving truth.

I do my best to listen for God’s directions now, and I believe He communicates with me through the Holy Spirit often. I’ve experienced what separation from Him feels like. It can feel deceivingly good for a while, but I know that there’s nothing as filling as being close to Him. He fulfilled his promises and SAVED me from so much. His plans for me don’t include fear, insecurity, or bondage. My life is in His hands, and I can have peace because of that. I’ll follow Him for the rest of my life because He cares enough about me to save it.

(If anyone is struggling with an eating disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, or feeling stuck; Feel free to talk to me any time! I love to help. 🙂