MIHI changed my perspective of Eating Disorder Recovery
By Alanna Burtis
Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography
Thanksgiving is tomorrow and this will be the first holiday ever in my four years of having an eating disorder where I am not currently relapsing. There is such grace in all this, God’s Hand has pulled me into a time of Victory; He has won. But I need to declare: this has not been easy. I have wanted to give up numerous times. I struggled for many, many, exhausting years. I would not be where I am today without Made In His Image, my friends and family, or my amazing Church leaders who have invested their time and prayers in the midst of my frustrations of not being “normal” by not having a mind where it would stop giving me eating disorder thoughts. I would cry because I wanted to just be done. I wanted to be done with the pain of not feeling good enough. I wanted to be done with the comparisons I would make throughout all of my days. I wanted to stop staring at models and their pictures for hours on end, thinking of what I needed to tone up next. I wanted to stop exercising at ungodly times; so early in the morning and late at night.
I wanted to be free.
The key to eating disorder recovery is wanting it for yourself. You will not change until you want to change. You have the up-most power because it is your body and your mind. No one can change how your “eating disorder schedule” is until you want to change it for yourself.
It was in April of this year and I had everything I wanted. I was doing well with my position of serving in my Church, was doing amazing with my studies and had an amazing boyfriend. But then I went through a relapse and this relapse took everything from me. It took away my pride, my thought of having a future and took most of my energy out of me. It was a relapse that I knew was not healthy at all. I saw my ribs becoming more evident on my body and felt my hip bones poking through. I was so satisfied! I finally had the body I always wished I would have, but I still did not feel like I was skinny enough. I indulged in only drinking hot tea, protein shakes, and working out vigorously. I heard every day I was pretty and good enough, yet nothing anyone was saying was enough for me. I wasn’t enough for myself. And once I realized the self-hatred I had of my body, I knew I had to change. I could not be depressed about my own self any longer. I broke up with my boyfriend to start from the bottom and build my way up during recovery. I wanted to learn to love myself by myself.
I did. But it was a very slow process. I remember it took me an hour and forty-five minutes to eat my first meal. Beef, rice, and green beans, I cheated by drinking a sip (more like a gulp) of tea after every bite. I refilled my glass of tea so many times. I was an emotional wreck. It was not normal to take so long to eat food. But then I realized: an eating disorder is not normal. I was not normal. This whole process of being “free” from my eating disorder will feel awkward, will have a lot of tears and fears, but it is supposed to be. A life without skipping meals was foreign to me. But I gained my strength by reading numerous blogs on Made In His Image’s website, would hear from other girls and their stories, and was encouraged by Maura and her grace to love those who are going through the same thing she went through. You are not alone. Feeling like a stranger to everyone else, including yourself, during recovery is not different to us who have been fighting this fight.
I re-tore my ACL while on a mission trip in July and had to get ACL reconstruction surgery. This was a test of how strong I am in my battle of defeating my thoughts of relapsing and staying healthy for the purpose of getting back to my athletics and running again. I was very upset that I re-tore my ACL, especially since cheerleading was the cause of my injury, and cheerleading was the cause of my eating disorder. I was angry at God, but I had to get over myself and believe in His Victory. I know God did not make me re-tear my ACL but I know He was teaching me an important lesson of relying on Him even in my weakest moments after my surgery. I wanted so badly not to gain weight after surgery, but I did. I wanted to skip meals because I could not run my first 4 months after surgery. Satan wanted me to act upon my thoughts, but I said no to him and his lies. I know my Victory is in Jesus and through His grace I haven’t relapsed in seven months. It is such a marvelous mystery to me because years ago I thought I would never have a break from my relapses, and God has been with me through it all, through my highs and lows, He has never left me.
It is such a grace to share my story with you. If you are struggling with this battle please know you are not alone. Made In His Image has been such an inspiration for me throughout my years of battling my eating disorder. You get to see a glimpse of some personal stories and see the greatness of God just breaking through and healing hearts. Your heart is not too weak to be healed by our Father. Your cries are not too loud or small for God. He is there to wipe away the tears running down your face when you feel like you are not enough or cannot possibly move forward with this horrible disorder. Your worth does not rely on what your mind is telling you or by what pictures you are looking at. You are made in His image. He calls you lovely. He calls you redeemed. He calls you enough. He calls you beautiful. He calls you precious. He calls you His beloved. Believe in this Truth my dear. You are worth so much more than what you think you are.
P.S. You are enough.