"You must become unshakable in the belief that you are worthy of a big life." ~ Kristin Lohr
Most of us have seen Snow White or even Once Upon a Time. We all know how the story goes right? An over confident beautiful queen and an even more beautiful but unappreciated princess mixed together with a dose of jealousy, insecurity and envy leading to bad things. Before Snow White can get her happy ending the Evil Queen becomes determined to cast a spell and poison her with a ruby red apple. And in real life, that's how it typically begins...something innocent and relatively simply triggers and brings to life something dark, ugly and unseemly. For me it was the fateful day I heard the mirror whisper those painful words back to me, I was not enough. But let's back up a little bit first. If we're being honest most of us have stood in front of our mirrors, many times feeling and yes fearing we just aren't enough. Maybe you've even whispered those famous words, "Mirror mirror on the wall" For so many, both men and women alike, we convince ourselves we've fallen short and disregard ourselves. Our reflections are not meant to harm us, to discourage us but unfortunately many of us never see ourselves as our Father does, perfectly imperfect. So many times we spend our entire lives trying to define ourselves we end up missing the truth all together. You see, "Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about discovering who God created you to be."
Today, I want to talk with you about a very dark part of my life. I guess you could call it my "Mirror Mirror on the wall" moment. It's a place I've not exactly kept hidden but it is a part of me I haven't exactly exposed to the world either. Truthfully it's a journey I had absolutely no desire to start out on but ended up trekking thru anyway. Let me start by being transparent. Today I'm taking a deep breathe, grabbing my courage and with a brave heart talking about a part of my life only a few have knowledge of. It's not really a secret I've struggled all my life with body image. My mom struggled with her body image, so the reality is I was bound to struggle with my own. When other girls were buying their first yellow polka dot bikinis I was the one taking up a long term lease and residence in the dressing room. Better yet, even when I was modeling on a catwalk or walking down a pageant runway I never saw myself as anything other than repulsive. I had no self confidence. As a young woman I'd looked into the mirror and see an unsightly mess. Even when I wasn't big, I saw myself that way. It didn't matter what size I was, my reflection was always too heavy for the mirror in front of me. As a teenager and later as a young mother I managed to keep most of those feelings under control. I didn't always feel fine about myself but I never let those feelings out to do any physical harm. Unfortunately the truth is dare I say it I was fighting back an eating disorder just under the surface my whole life. My body was fine, my mind on the other hand was just waiting for the perfect storm. That day came in early 2014. I accepted the queen's apple, losing 60 pounds in less than 4 months. Unfortunately once I bit into that poisoned apple my life forever changed, becoming slightly tainted.
Yes once upon a time, not too long ago during the onset of my early 40's a perfect storm finally blew in. It was brutal too. Truthfully life had fallen apart on all sides. I was ripe for the old witch at my door bearing fruit. Rejection and comparison fueled this particular storm to be sure. During this chapter of my life I found myself having to confront years of self ridicule and disgust. Before I knew what was happening I was battling more than my thoughts, I was also fighting my body. Most of the time I couldn't eat but If I was eating, I wasn't able to keep it down. If I was keeping my food down I was feeling guilty and if I wasn't feeling guilty I was beating myself up for not feeling guilty. I never truly realized until those dark hours just how little I'd thought of myself until I admitted to myself I have an eating disorder. Saying that out loud doesn't come easy let me tell you. I fight it everyday, good days included. For me there's "constantly a voice telling me : You're not skinny enough." It is truly that simple. Even now, as I've mostly regained control of my eating habits I still fight those demons inside my head trying to convince me I'm too big, too heavy, too plain or not enough.
Looking for a great example of what living with a talking mirror feels like? Well look no further than the movie Central Intelligence with The Rock. It's pretty funny actually. This movie also hits the nail on the head with a really honest approach. In one scene The Rock's character is confronted by his nemesis from high school. You've seen the Rock right? He's a lean, mean, fighting machine. In this movie he's just as fit as ever but his character feels insignificant around the now grown up bully. What struck a cord with me happened as The Rock looks at his refection and despite all his muscles and lean mass, he still sees himself as a heavy kid with no confidence or self-worth. I came close to tears. And you know why, because this is exactly how it feels to have an eating disorder and/or poor body image. This is exactly the poison the apple offers... an unrealistic image of your body forever and always. No matter how small you may be, you're never small enough. It doesn't matter how pretty, thin or fit you are, with an eating disorder you're always fighting the mirror. The truth is I'm in recovery. There is no simple fix. But where there is hope and faith, a desire to recover, and a willingness to face the mirror honestly there is the possibility of a happy ending, imperfect as it may be. So now almost three years later I can can tell you I'm a completely new woman. My life, well it's been put back together in an unexpected but mostly realistic way. Yes I have kept off the weight through hard work and determination, eating right and exercising. I've concentrated my energy on redirecting my self doubt into realistic goals. Truthfully, I still have "those" days when I feel like The Rock's character staring at his reflection with my head down, shoulders sinking. Believe me it's not easy, and it's sure not a cake walk talking about it either but it is my truth. By God's grace I can finally say, I'm the girl who's facing her demons leaving her scale to rot on the bathroom floor.
"I assure you, I'm not put together at all. Nor am I broken. I'm recovering ~ finding the beautiful in the ugly and stitching it into my life." ( Rachel Wolchin) And now years after an eating disorder almost broke me I'm sitting here speaking to you from my heart. I can't tell you I am convinced I'm worthy of God's love on a daily basis, but I know His grace covers me despite all of it. I'm absolutely working each and every day on the idea and belief that I'm unshakable. I know God's work in me isn't anywhere near finished. I'll forever be a work in process. I'm a sinner saved by grace. But that grace is oh so beautiful filling me each and every day. So now on those days when I find myself fighting the mirror handing me another apple I just hum along with Colbie Caillat. "You don't have to try so hard.You don't have to, give it all away .You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up. You don't have to change a single thing ." What I've learned in the process is this: I am a woman, no better and no less than the women standing to each side of me, I am strong, beautiful when I allow myself to accept that truth, and fierce in my faith and my desire to recover. I've fought and continue to fight the demons of self -destruction and self-doubt but mostly I've been the victor by God's grace. Now every time I start to wander down that dark, rocky and sadly too familiar road, a poisoned apple in my hand I remind myself of Psalms 139:13, For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
And so this December life lesson # 106 ~ mirror, mirror on the wall is a declaration of freedom, not a curse. I am no longer ashamed of my struggle. I'm working toward a better me, no longer a woman defined by inches or calories. I'm not ashamed of my story. My body should not be a battleground for my mind to measure my worth. Today I have willingly broken the mirror, tossed the apple and decided to believe in the possibility of me.
" I say to my body softly, I want to be your friend.' It took a long breath and replied, 'I have been waiting my whole life for this." ~ Nayyirah Waheed