By Maura Preszler
I strongly disliked being pregnant with my son Pio, who is now nine months old. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is severe morning sickness (I referred to it as all day sickness) and vomiting, along with a return of serious depression. It took me a while to admit how much I struggled being pregnant with Pio. I was ashamed of how I felt. After all, isn’t a woman suppose to just love everything about pregnancy and always be rejoicing and thankful for the new life within her? Isn’t she supposed to just glow with happiness?
What happens if you don’t glow? Because I never got the glow. Trust me, I waited for it but it never came. Just more nausea and vomiting. And there was nothing glowing about that.
To read more about my struggle with depression during pregnancy, click HERE.
Those nine months changed my perspective on abortion and taught me to have greater compassion for pregnant mothers, especially those who are struggling.
Now before I get a hundred emails about that statement, please finish reading the remainder of the article.
When I was younger I learned that life began at conception and I believed it simply because it’s what I was taught. Today I believe an unborn child is a human being through the gift of faith and also through the lens of science. Even if a person was to take faith and religion out of the equation, it can still be proven through science that an unborn child’s life begins at conception. I am vehemently opposed to abortion, but that isn’t what this article is about.
Countless articles have been circulating the internet over the past week about women’s rights, marches, feminism and abortion. While the articles on being pro-life are correct, we aren’t reaching the hearts of the mothers who are the ones with the unborn children in their wombs. And if we aren’t doing this we are missing the point.
I’ll be brutally honest with you, I’ve always desired to be a mother and was elated when I found out I was pregnant with my son Pio. But the days, weeks and months that followed were exceedingly difficult and I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have the gift of faith and know with all certainty that Pio was a human being. I also don’t know how I would have managed without my husband. I did work during my pregnancy but couldn’t work a normal 9-5 job, there simply aren’t enough coffee breaks each day for how many times I hung my head over the toilet. I couldn’t have supported myself without my husband, Michael. But even more than financial support I wouldn’t have made it through without his emotional support, compassion, understanding, love and kindness. I was extremely blessed to have him beside me during that session of life and still am.
My difficult pregnancy made me ponder, how do women do this alone? What if they truly don’t believe the tiny bunch of cells within their womb is a human being? What if they think abortion is their only option? What if they can’t keep down a job, yet have no savings or family nearby? What if they have other children they need to support but can’t keep missing work? What if they aren’t married or the father ran off?
Questions like these made me more compassionate towards women who have had abortions and women who are faced with that decision. It made me see how selfish I am and how I simply talk about being pro-life instead of actually stretching myself to give to a mother in need and her unborn baby.
I can say the following with certainty. If I didn’t believe that my son was a human being and in my darkest moment of pregnancy if someone had said to me, “But you have a life within you–isn’t that just wonderful?” Or if I read some Facebook quote about being pro-life, etc.–I would have said, “What the hell are they saying? They have no idea how hard this is! Back off and keep your comments to yourself!”
We need to be showing these mothers their dignity and worth through our actions, not just our words. Because the truth is, abortion will never end unless mothers’ hearts change. Even if abortion was illegal, mothers would still find a way unless their hearts are touched, healed, and restored.
How different would our world be if all the pro-life people picked a mother in distress to serve, instead of just posting “abortion is murder” things to Facebook. I think we seriously need to ask ourselves, how are we serving pregnant mothers who are struggling, those faced with an unplanned pregnancy and those who get very sick while pregnant? Are we just posting articles, quotes, statistics and pictures on social media about being pro-life or are we actually getting out of our comfort zone and serving others? Are we stretching ourselves in service or just sipping our coffee while liking pro-life quotes on Instagram?
Ways to serve:
How many times have I missed Him? You miss Him when you question who’s needy enough to give to, who warrants the risk. He comes as the homeless guy, the refugee, the child drinking filthy water – and you get to decide. Are you going to fill your life with more stuff, more safety, or more God? What the world says is weak and small may be where Christ is offering Himself to you most of all – and why do we want to be big people when God shows up as the little people nobody’s got time for? You miss Jesus when you aren’t looking for His two disguises: the smallest and the servant.
“The mystery of ministry is that the Lord is to be found where we minister,” writes Henri Nouwen. “That is what Jesus tells us when He says: ‘Insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40). Our care for people thus becomes the way to meet the Lord. The more we give, support, guide, counsel and visit, the more we receive, not just similar gifts, but the Lord Himself. To go to the poor is to go to the Lord.” – Ann Voskamp (The Broken Way)
P.S. You are enough.
By Maura Preszler
To the girl who stands in front of the mirror criticizing every inch of her body, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who thinks she needs to lose 15 pounds for a man to ever love her, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who can’t keep her dinner down because the number of calories consumes her every thought, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who starves herself all day and binges at night, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who exercises for three hours a day because she is driven to lose weight, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who cries on the cold hard tile of her bathroom floor, bloody razor in hand, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who wears a long sleeve shirt in the middle of July to hide all of her scars, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who gulps down pills just to feel normal for a while, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who stays in bed all day crying because she’s too depressed to get up for class, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who thinks she constantly needs to give her body to men for attention, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who reveals her body for all to see, when all she desires is to be seen for the beauty in her heart, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who yearns for physical touch and craves attention and affection, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who drinks more alcohol than water to drown her thoughts and feelings, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who watches the one she loves fall in love with someone else, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who’s mother tells her she isn’t enough, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl whose father beats her, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who locks her bedroom door whenever her dad’s been drinking, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who won’t go home at night because her parents are always fighting, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who feels hopeless and alone, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
To the girl who doesn’t want to live anymore, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.
Sweetheart always remember that a bruised and broken heart is actually quite beautiful, because it reveals the tenderness of the human spirit. Don’t journey through life thinking you have to be perfect in order to be enough for someone. The truth is, we are all broken.
P.S. You are enough.
This is not about food.
This is not about looking good in a dress or wanting to be a supermodel. This is not about wanting the cute guys to turn their heads and stare at your beauty. This is not about going to a store, sliding a size zero skirt over your hip bones, and laughing all the way to the check out counter.
This is not about wanting attention. This is not about enjoying feeling death and refusing food until you need to be force-fed with a tube in an ICU. It is not about deliberately annoying the nurses on the ED unit by hiding your Cliff Bar and Boost under your sweatshirt and stashing butter in the bed pans. It is not about selfless starving for all the children in Africa. It is not about the latest fad diet or losing the holiday weight. It is not about reading fashion magazines and pining for a certain BMI.
This is about having the self-esteem of an insect. This is about having no life because it’s impossible to go out with friends to a restaurant and order a bowl of dry lettuce. This is about weighing, measuring and counting pasta, cereal, raisins and anything that passes your lips, including toothpaste. This is about secrets, lies and shame. This is about not wanting to admit that you need to eat and that you deserve to live.
This is about being scared. This is about being terrified. Of everything.
This is about control. This is about numbing away the feelings of abuse. This is about starving away the pain. This is about wanting to disappear, so as not to be taken advantage of again. This is about hiding under layers of clothing that are mostly black so that no one sees your womanly body. This is about non-verbal communication. This is about avoiding. This is about denying the past. This is about intense self-hatred.
This is about needing so much that you can’t stand it. This is about wanting to not need anything at all. This is about not wanting to be touched but afraid to be let go. This is about having emotions that bubble up and spill out and scare people away. This is about being so overwhelmed and traumatized that it’s easier to avoid everything by obsessing over the amount of calories in a grapefruit. It is about getting lost in the mirror and scale instead taking responsibility and facing the truth.
This is about wanting to be safe. This is about wanting to curl up in a nutshell and ignore the big bad world that’s too noisy and dangerous and can’t be trusted. This is about not trusting anyone and relying on food, or lack of to give you an all enveloping comfort blanket when the feelings bloat you up and make you feel fat, ugly and intolerable in your skin.
This is about really crappy coping methods. This is about a way of life you’ve known for 13 years. This is about habit and second nature. This is about making a choice that could kill you. This is about chaotic relationships, hospitalizations, devastated families, worried friends, treatment programs, trying and failing, and more hospitalizations. This is about losing your period, failed kidneys, and hollow bones. This is about cardiac arrest at age 21. This is about being sick. This is about not being sick enough to think you need, or agree to go into, treatment. This is about being so sick that you have to be court ordered into a hospital.
This is about trying to be understood. This is about fighting with all you’ve got and more hard work than you ever imagined. This is about exhaustion, tears and needing support. This is about fighting a battle with yourself and the world. This is about trying to survive.
This is not about food.
P.S. You are enough.
By Audrey Davis | Guest Blogger
Comparison is something knit into our sin nature, but through the power of the Spirit we can gain freedom. Audrey learned an awful lot about comparison in her summer of some serious boldness and she has thankfully agreed to share what the Lord has taught her. It’s such an honor and privilege to have heard these lessons on comparison (and many more) from Audrey and I’m grateful you get to learn from her too!
Comparison. We’ve all experienced it. If you’re anything like me, you’re very familiar with it. It happens in the blink of an eye. It’s ever so subtle, so that at first we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Then before we know it comparison has consumed our thoughts.
The Lord has surely done a number in my heart last summer. He has humbled me, revealed Himself to me, brought me near to Him, and shown me little glimpses of what He intended life to be like. But of all things He has taught me, the one that stands out among the rest is a lesson in comparison.
1. A lie from the enemy.
Satan is a liar. When comparison fills your thoughts, it tends to cloud things, making it hard to see the truth. When you compare yourself to others, know that it is not from God. Jesus is a truth-teller. Jesus is life-giving. Comparison is NOT life-giving. I think Satan has us convinced that life is a zero-sum game. That if someone else experiences a win, then it must mean that I have experienced a loss. That if someone else is praised, then it must mean that I have failed. That if someone else receives a compliment, then it must mean that I am not good enough. My friends, this is a lie. There is no room for this in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a positive-sum game. When my brother or sister in Christ experiences a win, I also win.
2. A thief of joy.
I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before, but it’s 100% true. Comparison can diminish joy in an instant. One moment you can be confident in who you are, and the next you can be listing off all the ways in which you don’t measure up. We’re left sitting in a puddle of insecurity and doubt. So we try to change ourselves to be more like celebrities, our classmates, or our friends. And what for? So that we can be less than God created us to be? He didn’t make a mistake when He made you. Don’t settle for being a second-rate version of someone else when you can be a first-rate version of yourself.
3. A choice.
Satan is a tempter. He tempts you and I every day. He even tempted Jesus. Whenever Satan tempts you to compare yourself to others and see how you stack up, it takes a deliberate, conscious decision to say no to that. But the good news is that YOU get to choose which voice is going to be louder. You get to choose if you’re going to believe lies or truth. You get to silence those lies by calling on the name of Jesus (whether that looks like worship, prayer, opening your Bible, or simply loving on a person). The choice ultimately is yours. Don’t let Satan tell you differently.
4. Centered around me, and not around Christ.
Comparison often stems from a place of low self-esteem. It comes from the belief that “I am not good enough.” This lie manifests itself in many different ways. Maybe for you it sounds like this:
“I am not smart enough to be a doctor/teacher/minister.”
“I am not pretty/attractive enough.”
“I am not spiritual enough.”
“I am not thin enough.”
And do you know what those statements lead to? They lead to a nasty trail of jealousy and comparison. Those statements turn into this (fill in the blank):
“I am not as smart as _________________.”
“I am not as pretty/attractive as _________________.”
“I am not as spiritual as __________________.”
“I am not as thin as _______________.”
The problem with each of these statements? They all start with “I.” They automatically put the focus on myself and not on God. They find every little thing that is wrong with me and magnify it by ten. The equation is simple, really:
Low self-esteem = High self-focus
My mind was blown when a dear friend and mentor shared this statement with me. For the first time in my life, I realized that my low self-esteem was directly correlated to a level of self-centeredness. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Amidst my tears and struggles in that moment, she assured me that God, when He humbles us, does so ever so gently. He does not condemn us, but rather He in His great love invites us into His grace. She also assured me that one could be healed from this disease called pride. All you have to do is simply turn your gaze heavenward. Stop dwelling on all the ways in which you think that you are not enough, and look at all the ways in that He IS enough. Take a moment to stop focusing on self and instead focus on the One deserving of your attention. When you do this, you are free from worry and you are free to listen. And if you listen, and I mean truly listen, I think we can hear God saying this back to us:
My Dearest _________________,
Why do you compare yourself to others? Why do you wear yourself out trying to see how you stack up to everyone else? Don’t you know that I made you to be YOU? Why are you letting jealousy take root?
Your value does not lie in your abilities. It doesn’t lie in what kind of grades you get. It doesn’t lie in how many likes you get on Instagram. It doesn’t lie in others opinion of you. It doesn’t lie in how many times you’ve failed. And it doesn’t lie in how many times you go to church.
Your value lies in the Jesus in you.
So do not worry so much. You are good enough. You are adequate enough. And when you fail, I am there. Where you lack, I will give you strength. I will get glory, even in your weaknesses. Trust me.
You are fully loved.
You are mine.
You are valuable & incomparable to me.
I would do anything for you.
Because that’s who I AM. A good, good Father. The world doesn’t get that, and you are going to be constantly tempted to compare yourself, My child. But remember, your value doesn’t lie in your abilities. It doesn’t lie in your beauty (which is immeasurable, by the way). It doesn’t lie in who the world tells you that you are.
Your value lies in who I say you are.
And I say this:
You are fully loved.
You are mine.
You are valuable & incomparable to me.
I would do anything for you.
Your Heavenly Father
One of my close friends pointed out to me that I’m really good at preaching this message to others, but I’m not so good at believing this about myself. It’s easy for me to see others for who they are in Christ, and not what they believe about themselves or who the world tells them they are. I decided it was time to start practicing what I preach. And do you know what I found?
Freedom from my fears of not being enough. Free from my fears of being disliked. Free from all the lies that the enemy tries to convince me of. Free from the lie that if people knew me fully, then they couldn’t possibly love me. Free from the self-condemnation that comes along with comparison. Free from being so focused on myself. Once I was free from these things, I became free to believe other things. Free to like myself for the way God created me. Free to trust that He made me on purpose and for purpose. Free to rest in His unending truths. Free to focus less on myself and more on Him. Free to be both fully known and fully loved. Free to see myself the way that He sees me.
My prayer for you today is that you would have the strength and courage to say YES to freedom and begin to see yourself the way God sees you.
P.S. You are enough.
By Maura Preszler | Founder of Made in His Image
Yesterday afternoon I was getting a pedicure as a Christmas treat while holding my eight month old son, Pio. I was thinking about all I had to do that evening when the lady sitting next to me answered her phone. Her voice somber as she spoke, Yeah, I’ve had a really difficult week. My nephew took his life on Tuesday and my brother and his wife are struggling severely. He has struggled with depression for ten years and now it’s over.
I held my son close, kissed him and tried to fight back the tears that were forming in my eyes. My heart ached for the woman sitting next to me and her nephew’s parents. I can’t even fathom the immense pain of losing a child. I drove home, put my son down for his nap, and cried.
There is so much beauty in the world and Christmas is a special time, but it’s also coupled with tremendous suffering and pain. Yes, it’s Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you need to smile all day and put on an act. It’s okay to not be okay. I learned this in a tangible way last year while pregnant with Pio. I’ve debated sharing the following because it’s so brutally honest, but my hope is that it helps someone who is struggling with depression or a mental illness.
As a former collegiate athlete I am very driven to fix a problem or situation and over the past seven years have learned to let go of things that are out of my control. It’s been a challenging lesson to learn, but a good one.
My husband and I were married on July 4, 2015. It was a magical and exceedingly blessed day. Three weeks later I was pregnant with our son Pio. When I found out I was pregnant I was ecstatic. I’ve suffered from depression on and off for twenty years so the next day I called my psychiatrist to make an appointment because I knew the medication I was on wasn’t recommend for pregnant mothers. The following week, I saw her and we worked out a plan to taper off my medication within eight days. For months I suffered from withdrawal symptoms that at times left me unable to drive.
The days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, and I felt like life was being sucked out of me. Each day I sunk deeper into immense darkness and a total lack of feeling. I have tears in my eyes writing this because it was such a dark and lonely time. I was exceedingly nauseous and most days I would literally put a towel on the bathroom floor and just hang my head over the toilet. Other pregnant mothers told me they were nauseous during their pregnancies too and I felt like they handled it way better than I did. I seriously wondered what the heck was wrong with me. This can’t be regular nauseousness I thought.
When people found out I was pregnant or my belly started to show they would comment, Oh you’re pregnant, what a beautiful time, so full of life. Isn’t it just the best? I would fake a smile and nod and think to myself, no this is not the best and I feel miserable. I felt like a horrible mother, plagued with guilt and shame. Why wasn’t I happy? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I feel anything? I was terrified that my son would feel unwanted and unloved. I cried out to God to help me but nothing came. We were living in Palm Springs, CA at the time and I would go to the Padre Pio adoration chapel to pray. We were going to name our son Francis or William and we didn’t decide on Pio until after he was born. Looking back I see that Padre Pio was interceding for us both.
Last December, my low plummeted even lower and the thoughts of suicide I struggled with in college returned. I was petrified. We had plans to fly to Michael’s family for Christmas in North Dakota and I sincerely wondered how I was going to do it. When Michael came home from work the evening before we were scheduled to leave I was sobbing when he opened the door. I told him I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave at 3:00am to drive four hours to the airport, I couldn’t pack, I couldn’t be around a crowd of people, I couldn’t fake anymore smiles and pretend everything was okay when I could barely shower and brush my teeth. I felt like a horrible wife, daughter in law and mother and my son wasn’t even born yet. How could I take care of him once he got here? I didn’t know how I was going to do it. How was I going to take care of a newborn when I couldn’t even take care of myself. I loathed myself for keeping Michael from his siblings and parents. And to make matters worse we couldn’t get a refund for the tickets. Michael kept reassuring me not to worry about the money and he just wanted to help me and sit with me in my pain.
I just wanted to feel something, anything. Thoughts of suicide kept racing through my mind. I didn’t welcome the thoughts, I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t act on them but they were there nonetheless and I couldn’t get them out of my head. The pain was suffocating me and I could feel myself sinking into despair. Michael held me on the bathroom floor as I clutched my Rosary beads. There was no doubt in my mind, my depression was back and I didn’t know how I was going to make it the rest of the pregnancy.
I slept from 12-2am in Michael’s arms and we both woke up at the same time. We talked and I told him we should go to North Dakota. I could tell he was extremely hesitant, as he only desired what was best for me. We ended up going and it was one of the hardest Christmas’ I’ve experienced. I had to mentally get myself through each minute. I had no joy and really no feeling at all. I was numb. On Christmas day I snuck into an empty room and just wept alone. Michael found me and we cried together. I was convinced I was a bad mother already. I thought our son would be better off with another mother. Michael gently reminded me that God’s plan was the best plan for our son. I didn’t want to waste my suffering and tried my best to offer it for our son, for his sanctity, vocation, purity and faith.
In my deepest and darkest moments of depression I tried to remember the following which is one of my favorite quotes. I know I did it very imperfectly but I think God looks at our desire and not perfection. Every tear, disappointment and grieved heart is a blank check. If we write our name on it, it is worthless. If we sign it with Christ’s name, it is infinite in its value. In prosperity, Christ gives you His gifts; in suffering with faith, he gives you Himself. | Fulton Sheen
We returned from our trip and after seeing my doctor I was immediately placed back on my medication. Again, I felt guilty. What if it caused him to have a birth defect? Again Michael reminded me that we had to trust God and the doctor reminded me that I needed to be healthy to bring Pio into the world.
It wasn’t an immediate fix and I worried immensely that I would suffer from postpartum depression. Our son was born on April 17, 2016 at 2:43 a.m. after 22 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing. During labor I was just so thankful that God had brought me to this day safely. The moment I saw Pio’s face I knew it had all been worth it. The doctor placed Pio on my chest and he curled up and fell asleep as I held him. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. I haven’t suffered from depression since his birth. Pio was born completely healthy and is such a joyful and happy baby. My husband and I are so thankful for the gift that he is to us.
Depression is serious and should not be taken lightly. I wanted to be raw and real with you to hopefully inspire you through God’s grace to keep fighting. Don’t give up, He has a plan for you. I can’t even describe how much freedom, joy and peace I feel this Christmas and that is a gift from our Heavenly Father. There is hope, He is here. And even if you don’t feel Him, keep crying out to Him, keep giving him your pain. Keep offering it to Him as a sacrifice. Msgr. Esseff, who use to be my spiritual director once told me, we are closest to Christ when we feel rejected, isolated and alone.
Padre Pio biolocated to Msgr. Esseff so I know he is a very holy priest. Padre Pio has always been my favorite saint and once when I was with Msgr. Esseff for spiritual direction he paused and said, I can see it, Mary and Jesus are right next to you in your suffering. When it was time for me to leave he said, hold on I have something for you. He went to his room and I waited for him downstairs near the chapel. He returned with a small picture I had never seen of Padre Pio. Wow, I love it! Where did you get that? I’ve never seen it before. Padre Pio gave it to me to give to you, he said. I got the chills. I can see in my darkest moments God the Father has never left me, He was closest to me.
Also something important to keep in mind is that so often in the Christian world people can tend to think, Oh if I pray more than my problems will go away. Or if someone suffers from depression or anxiety perhaps it’s a result of not trusting God enough. That mentality is dangerous, as you can’t Hail Mary your way out of a mental illness. Yes, Jesus could cure you at anytime and we need to have faith but we also need to utilize modern medicine. We need to normalize therapy in our society and know that it’s okay to go and talk to someone. It’s okay to be on medication. We need Jesus AND psychology and it’s NOT wrong to think that.
I’m praying for all of you this Christmas, especially those who are deeply suffering. Merry Christmas!
This just seems to be God’s way, and that’s why the Messiah would be born in that tiny town, in an out of the way cave under the earth, because there was no room for him in the inn. Yet, through God’s amazing grace, great things can happen, including the birth of the Messiah.
Looking at the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem teaches us three great messages: greatness comes from smallness, never give up hope, and trust always. With those three convictions in our hearts, we’re almost ready for Christmas. | Bishop Barron
P.S. You are enough.
By Tori Vissat | Guest Blogger
It’s in commercials, in festive dinner conversations, in the gifts we buy, on social media, on TV and on drives with friends. I swear it is in the air. Moving at lighting speed through our bones, our subconscious, making a straightaway for the coveted chamber of our hearts. Never achieved yet always alluring. What is the name for this infamous holiday joy zapper? It’s what I like to call: ‘Christmas Perfection.’
And by ‘Christmas Perfection’ I mean the whole, “I need to have my crap 100% together and know the answers to all 43 of Aunt Judy’s intense questions pertaining to the next 31 years of my life right this second!” or the, “I need to give amazing gifts and post a cool picture on Instagram so everyone knows I’m really happy & having an awesome break.” Ya know these thoughts? So many expectations. So many pressures to be as shiny and glittery as the wrapping paper we use for our gifts! I say it, because I’ve fallen prey to this…virus if you will.
The expectations…they used to choke the living daylights out of me. I used to think, “How can I get through this Christmas season all cheery and singing “Jingle Bells” when there are days I feel straight up like the Grinch on stilts. Days where sadness & hurt gripped my heart so tightly and I wondered why my life hadn’t turned out as ‘perfect’ as I had planned. I thought to myself, “Pretty sure Aunt Judy isn’t going to like my answers this year…”
Where does this pressure even come from? Well, the world for one. The world that is really good at trying to tell us who we are and what defines us; our careers, relationship status, the amount of money in our piggy banks. Yet ultimately I’ve learned that the pressure is exhausting and that none of it is what Christmas is even about.
At Christmas, we celebrate God’s becoming Man for us. It’s the birthday of Jesus! Jesus who is called, “Emmanuel, or God with us.” Jesus who came in a manger, a small, messy and probably smelly manger. By the worlds standards, this was by no means ‘Christmas Perfection.’ He was born into humble and poor conditions with a donkey by his side; no glitz, no bells, no Facebook pictures. Just human, just like us. He came this way so we would know. We would know how He desires us to come to Him. Not with lives that are perfect but with our masks off, vulnerable, in our poverty and our neediness.
P.S. You are enough.
By Margie Achee | Guest Blogger
Once I finally made the decision to get help for my eating disorder, I thought the hard part was over. I thought a therapist was going to come to my rescue with a magic pill and akin to getting over the flu, I would be better in days. A therapist did come; many came, along with nutritionists, and medical doctors. They were all part of my ‘treatment team.’ After about six months I stopped seeing all of them – not because I was better but because I wasn’t interested in recovery, I wasn’t ready to give up control.
Addictions, I think, are unique from other mental illnesses in that part of recovering from an addiction requires the patient to work towards wanting to get better. If recovery were a race, those of us who have addictions, (and I personally classify eating disorders as addictions) are starting from 50 yards behind the starting line. After six months of wrestling with my team of doctors I was still not at the starting line of recovery; I gave up and sought the solace of my anorexic world. This may seem counter-intuitive, to return to the thing that had been so destructive, but to me being anorexic was a very safe existence. Anorexia offered me something that reality cannot offer anyone – it offered predictability, control, dependability and numbness. Anorexia may have been wreaking havoc on my body but it was also giving my mind a rest. I suspect this is not unique to anorexia nervosa or eating disorders in general. Addictions offer escapes for the mind in exchange for destruction of the body. To recover is to reverse the trade, and that is why it takes us a while to work towards wanting to recover.
I wish I could report a grand story about how I finally crawled to the understanding that being anorexic isn’t the way I wanted to be. The disease is illogical and my personal recovery is just as illogical. It was a slow progression of trial and error over several years that brought me out of my love affair with starving. I would say that I have been in solid recovery mode for at least two years now yet I still struggle with my relationship with food and the scale. But my struggles are different. I am confident that being thin does not equate a successful person. I am confident that I would rather live as a size 12 than die as a size 2. What I am not confident in is how to eat for satisfaction and sometimes pleasure without using food as an emotional crutch. For so long denying myself food was a way to avoid negative feelings and induce positive ones. It provided me with an artificial way to control my emotions. I have not yet figured out how to endure the natural roller-coaster of life without leaning on food but I am confident that I would rather live with these struggles than die avoiding them.
Throughout all of this there has been the over-arching question of will I ever return to dance? If so, what will that relationship look like? Dance, more specifically ballet, played a starring role in my eating disorder. It was the platform from which I jumped into anorexia. Standing in front of mirrors all day in a leotard and tights does not help anyone’s body image, it crushed mine. Yet, I love ballet. I have danced since I was three and while it has had an obviously negative influence on my life it has also provided me with an immense amount of joy.
I tried to return to professional dancing by joining a modern company once I felt ok in my recovery. I didn’t have to stand in front of a mirror; there were no mirrors in the studio. I didn’t have to wear a leotard and tights, baggy clothes were encouraged. Yet, these cosmetic differences didn’t change the inner dialogue that insisted I lose weight if I were going to be a dancer, of any kind. I’m not sure if this is more reflective of how far I still have to go in my recovery or how ingrained the idea that dancers have to be thin was in my psyche, or both, but after two years of fighting to keep myself out of anorexia-land it was clear that I was not ready to return to the studio. I left the company and resigned myself to focusing on the other great things that had filled my life since dance and anorexia left.
Recently I have gotten the urge to try again. I have found an adult ballet class devoid of the competitive feelings that come with most ballet classes. I can take class with only the intention of enjoying the art. For me, I think this is the key, avoiding the competitive environment, wearing a lot of black baggy clothes, standing far away from the mirror and focusing on the art. It is likely that my old dialogue will intervene at some point and I will have to take another hiatus, but for now I can say I am enjoying dancing again.
It’s a personal decision, whether or not to return to dance. Some people are able to pursue successful professional careers after recovery. Some people, like myself, have to proceed with caution, jump in and out as needed. Like everything with this disease, there is no ‘one size fits all’ prescription for when and how to return to ballet. It requires acceptance of where you are in the process of recovery and acceptance of both your physical and mental limitations. These are things that don’t come particularly easy to those of us with eating disorders. For me, pushing myself to listen to my body’s limits has allowed me to bring ballet back into my life; it’s my reward for all these years of hard work.
P.S. You are enough.
By Margie Achee | Guest Blogger
Photo credit | Donna Irene Photography
I was 18 when I decided to count calories. Of course this wasn’t my first foray into dieting; as a child I constantly came up with new ways to slim down, creating reward schedules, and binge days if I had been ‘good’ all week. At the time though they were just ideas; fantasies that were eventually replaced with a new thought. My adolescent mind was not capable of the laser focus required to truly starve oneself, however I always knew I wanted to change my body. It felt too big; it took up too much space. I continued with my weight loss games, using my body for experimentation until one day something stuck.
I was home from my first year at college, and I decided I was not going to eat more than 1,000 calories a day. Unlike all the previously failed trials, this time it was working, I was losing weight. My clothes were loose, people made comments like, ‘hey you are looking thin, what’s your secret?’ or ‘Hey, you look amazing, I’m so jealous!’ or my personal favorite, ‘You’re supposed to gain 15 pounds at college not lose it!’ My weight loss was viewed as a positive, as a sign that I was a successful person, and I liked it. Being thin garners such an intoxicating feeling of success it’s hard to accept the boundaries of health.
I returned to college in August, where I was studying ballet and modern dance. Teachers and students alike took notice of my new body. At the end of my freshmen year I was an average dancer, in the average level classes, and never getting cast for any work. Now, 20 pounds lighter, I was bumped up to the advanced classes, cast in faculty, student and guest choreographer’s work. Everything I ever wanted was finally happening and it all hinged on 20 pounds of body mass; if I gained it back I would once again be average, if I kept it off, or even better, lost more weight, I would continue to be special. I thought if a little was good, more must be better; I chopped my daily calorie allowance in half and increased my exercise. I discovered purging and how to do it without making a sound. If I ate, it was in secret. I felt like eating was a sign of weakness, of being average, of needing things like everyone else needs things. Sometimes I binged. Binging felt the most shameful of all so it was always done in the middle of the night, in my car, or my dorm room with the door locked. I weighed myself every time I looked in the mirror, and counted the bones I could see to make sure a layer of fat hadn’t snuck up on me in the night. My ribs were my favorite thing to count, if I could see a new one it was exhilarating, if I saw one less it was devastating. I was spiraling out of control but I didn’t care, I was possessed by my drive to be great.
Somewhere along the line I had confused being extraordinary with being thin. I decided if I was thin then I had achieved something that set me apart from the rest. What I didn’t see was everything that I was losing in my quest for body perfection. I was failing in school, I pushed my friends away and my body began to break down. I was a shell of a person, I was not great, I was dying. This is where so many of us get stuck, in the confusion between what the reality is and what we think the reality is. We think our eating disorder is our ticket to success – however that may be defined, when in reality an untreated eating disorder will always only result in death.
Part of recovery for me meant leaving school and dance. I never performed any of the works for which I was cast, and it took years for me to be able to step back into a ballet studio again. My eating disorder robbed me of fulfilling my childhood dream; it took years from my life. It was an awful experience but it forced me to cultivate a healthy adult identity and for that I am grateful.
P.S. You are enough.
Margie is 25 and currently resides in Connecticut. She hold a B.S. in General Psychology and is furthering her studies to become a psychologist and a nutritionist. In addition to dancing she enjoys yoga, hiking, cooking, and laughing.
By Megan Maire | Guest Blogger
I know I am not the only one who has felt alone and misunderstood. Society tells us to be strong, not to show weakness, to suffocate our femininity, not to feel, that anything other than confidence is unacceptable, that we need to strive for physical perfection and the list goes on and on.
What society wants us to do is possible. However, it isn’t healthy and it is not a road that will lead to true happiness; but rather a disconnection from the Lover and Creator of your heart. And that is a sure road to utter and complete misery.
Society’s definition is not true strength. Contrary to what the enemy wants us to believe, vulnerability is one of the strongest things we can choose. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said we should “love until it hurts.” Loving means to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable you are going to feel, but not just the feel-good feelings. Loving is deeper than just good feelings. When you truly love (will the good of the other person), you are going to feel so many different things and that is okay and healthy. C.S. Lewis has a really beautiful quote that very beautifully explains love:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it careful around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
I also believe that there is great strength in being who God created you to be. God created women to be feminine, and just because we aren’t like a man doesn’t mean we are less or more important. You are equally valuable, but purposefully different and you need to embrace who you are. You will never be truly happy if you are trying to be someone other than who God created you to be. Saint Catherine of Siena said:
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
God created women with such a beautiful femininity. We feel differently. We think differently. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually we are different from men. That is okay. In fact, that is good. Femininity offers the world something unique and vital; and the entire world suffers when we suffocate our femininity.
In all things always look to God, because in Him is the truth.
P.S. You are enough.
By Erin McNew | Staff Writer
Today, this video made me cry.
Because I know what it’s like to look at that girl and compare yourself to her. As if you can be compared to any other person on this planet. As if you are not uniquely made. As if your thighs being larger than that girl’s make your chances of being loved smaller. As if your hips being wider than that girl’s make your chances of looking beautiful when you going out slimmer. As if your hair being shorter than that girl’smake your journey toward acceptance longer. As if your stomach not being lean makes your chances of being noticed as much as that girl’s pretty fat.
Some days I still wish I could somehow be that girl. I could eat less with that girl in mind. I could work out twice a day and look at that girl as my goal. I could grow out my hair and be feminine like that girl. Some days I look at magazines or listen to music or talk to family and friends and it feels as if everyone is hinting at that girl. And, some days I get so caught up in that girl that I lose sight of this girl. The girl that I am. The girl that God created me to be. The girl that is beautiful. The girl that is enough.
I lose sight of the girl I am. I lose sight of my own likeness to God. I lose sight of my own beauty. I lose sight of my own potential. I love sight of my own reality. Because I become caught up in the lie that by looking like someone else I become better. More loved. More accepted. More attractive.
Some days the pressures I entertain within my own mind and heart are so heavy that when I look in the mirror I don’t see any of the things I have the potential to be. I don’t see that girl, but, more heartbreakingly, I don’t see this girl. I see a project. I see something to be altered. Tightened. Reduced. Expanded. I see nothing but things to be improved upon. When, in truth, this girl is perfect. Because this girl is healthy. This girl is loved. This girl is smart. This girl is successful. This girl is driven. And this girl has the will power and the faith to keep that girl from distracting her from how beautiful she is.
People exercise and diet to transform themselves. But sometimes, we need a transformation much deeper than one that can be measured by a scale. Sometimes, we need a transformation that can only be achieved through prayer and self-love. And sometimes, being able to look into a mirror and see yourself as God sees you is all the measurement you need.
Do not let your adorning be external, the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear. But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. | 1 Peter 3:3-4
P.S. You are enough.