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Thursday, January 26 2017
Sit. Take a seat. Park it. Take a pew… however you say it, sitting can be the most challenging and the most brave thing you can do in life. As a whole, our society is in constant motion and on the go. We are told to run faster, work longer, be perfect in as many roles as possible without dropping the ball; it is exhausting. I personally wear many hats — I have to be successful in the following roles all at once: wife, mom, teacher, coach, friend, daughter, sister, advocate, recovery warrior, writer, and cat lady. Phew — that is a lot of hats to wear at once! When God says in Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted,” I have to laugh — God, do you know my life!?! But the truth is He does know we can succeed because all He wants us to do is trust Him. We as His children have to sit in His love and His grace and simply put on the role as His to be successful.
This past year, I was in treatment for anorexia for six months. I was addicted to running, I was not nourishing my body, and my heart was failing due to the over exercise and lack of nutrition. To heal both my body and my mind, I was faced with putting all my roles on hold to go to treatment. My first thought to leaving all my responsibilities, comfort zones, and loved ones behind, was there is no way! There is no way I can press pause and put my life on hold to get just better! I had made a career of running… running from my problems, running from my connections with people, running from any of my emotions. The last thing that I was good at was sitting still. When God called me to “Be Still” (Psalm 46:10), I fought Him. “Do you know who you are talking to? Obviously not, God, because if you did, you would not tell ME to sit. I can’t sit. I don’t know how.” God’s reply: I can teach you.
After prayer, tears, and months of fighting, I accepted God’s will for my life and went to treatment. While I was there, I had a 24/7 team that helped me to literally and figuratively sit. All my roles were stripped from me — I only had to play the role of recovery. This was a blessing and a curse at the same time. I longed for my family, I missed my students, and I ached for my friends… but in the absence of the world, I found my savior at the cross. Romans 12:2 states, “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.” The world had taught me to do, go, please, and conform, but God was calling me to sit in who I was in Him and not manipulate His masterpiece.
This concept is not specific to people facing addiction or disorder. This is a concept of accepting where you are and who you are today. God has purpose and direction for every struggle, every joy, every hardship in life — all He is calling you to do is “Be Still” enough to embrace His plan. Currently, my recovery is strong. I now can consider myself a recovered anorexic, but I am still feeling the aftermath of the financial strain of treatment. Restlessness has settled in my heart at times of distrust in His plan, and the “why me” statements cripple my ability to see His blessings upon my life. But sitting intentionally in gratitude and prayer has continued to show me that when you trust, He will provide.
As two teachers and Dave Ramsey believers, my husband and I sit at the beginning of each month to plan out the budget. Satan often likes to join in this oh-so-joyous monthly ritual and turn my heart angry and cold. The act of seeing we are in the red over and over again due to medical loans and bills tests my faith in God’s plan. When my husband has to tell me that as of right now we will not afford groceries at the end of the month, it is so hard for me to sit in the Truth that we should still trust God and not only tithe, but also give… I want to be out of debt. I want to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. But, God tells me to sit. Ugh, did I mention how much I despise sitting!!!
The other day, after an unexpected car breakdown, we had decided that the kids’ Christmas would have to be put on hold. My three-year-old and four-year-old would have to settle for hand-me-downs and grandparent gifts. Well, since we have been faithful in our current financial position by continuing to tithe and give even when it hurts to write that check, God has provided. Two of our faithful friends in Christ asked to meet with my husband and me — they sat us down and told us that God told them to provide our family with some Christmas money this year in the amount of $200... I just cried. Right there in the McDonald’s booth, I cried. $200 was the exact amount we had budgeted to spend on our children before our car broke down. Amazing how God’s plan works if you sit in His truth and be faithful to Him.
Not only did God bless us in this time, but he blessed the family that gave authentically, as well. The woman who gave us the God prompted gift received an unexpected check from a canceled flight she had taken 6 months prior in the mail the next day for the exact amount (ATM fee and all!) that she gave us! Amazing. He rewards those who are faithful and sit.
Although this year has been trying and although it is never comfortable to sit in pain and discomfort, sitting in God’s glory got us through many storms and trials that came our way. Life is not perfect nor is it without pain. The beauty is learning to use your pain to bring God’s glory to the lost so that their eternity can be in Heaven sitting at God’s feet. I am thankful for the ability to sit in anticipation of that eternal seat waiting for me.
Friday, January 13 2017
Why Give to Manna
There are so many non-profit organizations out there raising money for fantastic causes; when you have a heart for giving, it is hard to choose one! I feel led to write an open letter to anyone considering giving to the Manna Fund.
Dear Potential Manna Fund donor,
As you contemplate on which organization is worthy of your hard earned money, I want to tell you about why the Manna Fund is special to me and those who attend and have attended the treatment program that runs because of generous donations.
In the fall of 2015, I was dying. My heart was stopping in the middle of the night, and I was wasting away to nothing while running (literally) away from my emotions and pain. I was forced to seek help or my struggle with anorexia and over-exercise addiction. I found Manna and Dr. Genie Burnett just in the nick of time, although if you would have asked me then, I didn’t need any help. I was “fine”. Manna helped me see that I needed to fight my eating disorder or I was going to die. Dr. Burnett’s knowledge and guidance helped me get placed in an inpatient facility that was structured for my needs. After six weeks, insurance and money ran out and I was sent home before I was fully weight restored or even remotely recovered. If I stopped my treatment at this point, I would have been what professionals call “partially recovered”. Partial recovery is abundant in the eating disorder community because those who suffer from the mental illness often do not have the time, money, or resources available to obtain the treatment needed. Partial recovery feels a lot like when you have been on a trip, land at your home airport with things that you have purchased from abroad, and then your luggage is lost. It feels extremely disappointing and like you remember buying things and you were excited about them, but then over time, you forget and return to the way that you lived before. It’s very frustrating and feels like a huge waste of money and time.
This would have been the case for me if it were not for Manna Fund.
When I ran out of money from the medical loan I applied for, my family and I could not afford to spend another penny on treatment, yet I was still in the midst of the battle for my life. I went to Dr. Burnett and I told her that I was not ready to leave, but our funds had been depleted and I would not be able to continue treatment any longer. She was not going to have it. I was able to attend Manna’s IOP groups for pennies compared to what other treatment facilities charged, all because of your generous donations. I continued to attend groups for a month after my money ran out, and that month, those four weeks made a difference that I can never describe fully in words. That month didn’t give me hope of recovery; it gave me the WAY to recovery. That month did not give me almost enough time to heal my body; it gave me the TIME to heal my body. That month didn’t give me the “I know you can do this on your own” speech that I had been given when leaving other treatment centers; it gave me “I am here to hold your hand through this- we can do it together” support that I needed to cross from “in recovery” to recovered.
If you are wondering how I am doing, I can tell you. I am living. Not only physically living like I was before I found Manna, but I am living to the degree that everyone should get the opportunity in this life to live. I am taking risks, loving hard, laughing often, eating well, connecting with others, and following my dreams in ways I never thought imaginable. This way of living is not possible for someone who suffers from an eating disorder. Manna is truly a gift from God to those who experience it. So if someone were to ask my why they should donate to the Manna Fund, I would tell them, this fund gives life to those who thought it would never possible for them. This fund gives hope to those who have lived in the dark for way too long. This fund gives a quiet mind to those who were constantly trying to drown out the noise. This fund helps connect people who have such worth to the world that they hid away from for years. This fund is life. I would not be living mine without it.
I use to think that recovery was not possible. It would not have been for me and countless others without the help of Manna Fund. Your donations will fund a life. Your partnership will make a person who is suffering feel worthy. Your sponsorship will go towards saving precious lives that matter to their loved ones and the world around them. My children thank you. My husband thanks you. Most of all, I thank you.
Friday, January 06 2017
Ride the Wave and Trust the Process
Eating disordered behaviors are often used as a way of coping. There is a “nature versus nurture” argument on both sides of the spectrum, but regardless, my struggle was real. Because of family chaos and feeling unstable as a child, I used eating disorder symptoms to numb out my emotions and distract myself from feeling sadness and pain. I learned from my life experiences that all good things would come to an end and there is struggle and hurt in everything. I remember telling my husband Derrick “Life is just a struggle- one struggle leads to the next. That is just how it is.”, and he looked at me in awe and disbelief. “Brooke, every day does not have to be a struggle!” To me, with my eating disorder leading the way, it was.
When I started on the road to recovery from anorexia and over- exercise, I had no idea on what I was getting myself into. In my disordered mind, I had a “few bad habits” I had to kick and I needed to cut back on my running. That was it. When I committed to going to residential treatment I figured I would be gone a month at tops, but I did not believe that I would emerge recovered. I didn’t even think it was possible. I decided to go through the program to appease my husband and my therapist, Dr. Burnett and to listen to what they said I needed to do in order to recover, but I assumed that I would just go back to what I was doing before (head back into the comfort zone of my ED) because that is what I knew. My eating disorder was my safety net. It was my constant in a life full of change. When I was in my first few weeks of treatment, I remember Face Timing Derrick and I said to him, “I can’t be here. I can’t do this. I feel as though they (the treatment center) are asking me to jump out of a plane without my parachute. My ED is my parachute and they have taken that away from me!” There was a pause on the phone, and then a sigh… Then Derrick said, “Oh Brooke…ED is the one kicking you out of the dang plane.”
Derrick was right. My eating disorder was something I used as a child to help me survive the pain, but it was now the thing that was taking my life. I was dying, and the eating disorder that I held most dear and at the upmost importance in my life was the very thing that was killing me. From that moment on I had to learn to ride the “emotional wave”. I had to deal with simple, everyday life issues without my ED in my pocket for protection. It was hard. It was grueling. There were a lot of tears, a lot of “whys”, and a lot of anger, fear, and defeat. But I learned that emotions are like waves. They have a build, a rise, a crest, and a fall. There is always a fall. But after the fall comes the calm. The wave always ends. Some waves are longer than others, but I had to learn to trust that the wave would not sink me. I was stronger than any wave that would come my way, and that ED behaviors[GB1] are not a life vest. I had to grab ahold of God, my faith, my support system when I was in the wave… not ED.
It took me a while to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had to start my journey of recovery in disbelief of the possibility of a full recovery, even though so many professionals around me said it was possible. I thought I was “special” in my disorder - “other people may recover, but not me. I am in too deep.” I told this to a therapist one time and she looked at me and laughed. “Brooke, you are not special.” I stared at her offended, and she spoke again- “This eating disorder is not special, nor are you special in it. If you trust this process, recovery is possible, and you will then truly see what makes you special.” Boom. She got me, and she was right. I began to see sparks of hope in the dark tunnel I lived in for so long. Joy was like a candle flickering in a dark room; all of the sudden there would be times my anxiety would subside long enough for me to enjoy a meal. I would catch myself laughing at a movie with popcorn in my lap. I would realize that I just played a game with my kids without thinking of afternoon snack that was looming around the corner. At the end of my journey I even enjoyed conversation while eating a burger and fries with Dr. Burnett at McDonald’s. The feat that I thought was impossible was beginning to become my reality. Recovery was in my grasp, and I was holding it proudly.
Waves come and go, the process works, and joy is possible. All things that ED lied to me about over and over for 16 years debunked by my new-found freedom. There are things worth fighting for in this life, and freedom from an eating disorder is one of them. Fight on my friends. Ride the wave and trust the process.
I did. Now I’m free!
[GB1]I want you to remember that ED is a set of behaviors, and NOT an identity. I just like to make that distinction for folks because many believe that their behavior = their identity.