Opening up.

A few weeks ago I went and got another tattoo. Only like three people have known about it up until now (hi mom & dad.. please don’t shun me I love you). This is my second tattoo and this time was no different from the last. I gave it a lot of thought, I didn’t talk to anyone about it, and then I just went and got it. I think that’s the best way to go when it comes to tattoos. Tattoos are very personal and the only opinion that matters should be the one who has to live with it permanently marked on his or her skin.

“Tattoos are an odd and beautiful form of art; very interesting and more expressive of sentiment than any other thing.”

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Isn’t it perfect??? It’s a reminder to myself that despite my circumstances, despite what life throws at me, I can rise above it all. It’s a choice I have to make daily and it’s only through Christ that I make the right choice. The choice to continue to rise up and push through whether or not I feel like it.

Anyway, I’ve been going back and fourth trying to decide if I want to write about this or not. A huge part of me wants nothing more than to keep it hidden, but there’s something that’s keeping me from doing that. I think that my story, my daily battles, the things I’ve overcome, are what make me imperfect and human and I think that can be kind of a beautiful thing to share. God allows people to experience things in life and He allows us to go through battles, and I think that the only way to find a purpose out of all of it is to put our stories out there.

Clearly I have a passion for writing and I’ve made a commitment to God and to myself to use what I love to glorify Him. I want to show the power of God through my story and I think now is as good a time as any. I’ve been waiting for so long for the perfect time, but the truth is that there will never be a perfect time. I will never reach a point where these things are easy to talk about. I’ll never reach a point where they are comfortable to talk about. I have to step out of my comfort zone and take a chance despite how uncomfortable it may be and despite the fact that this will cause people to look at me in a completely different way. I have to get over my perfectionism because, whether I like it or not, I am not nor will I ever be a perfect person. I am flawed and that’s ok, because so is everyone else. Maybe there won’t be anyone who will relate to what I’m going to share, and maybe no one will be touched or impacted by it, but maybe someone will be. And that’s why I have to do this. It’s by far the scariest thing I’ve ever shared, but I am refusing to allow this fear to hold me back.

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Most of you reading this know about my mom’s story. And if you don’t you can find it here: https://emilylaurenjohnson.com/2014/09/30/one-of-those-heartfelt-things/. I’m not going to repeat anything from it, and I really have no idea if this experience has anything to do with certain things that I have struggled with. It very well could have something to do with it, but I think I would’ve gone through some of these same things if none of that had happened.

One of the things I’m talking about is depression. Or a deep sadness. It isn’t a constant thing. it doesn’t happen all the time. It comes over me in waves, but it’s a very tough thing to handle when it does. It has a lot to do with chemical imbalances and personality traits.

1. I am a huge introvert. I just am. Large amounts of people exhaust me and that’s just the way it is ladies and gents. I’m not anti-people, I’m just anti-bull crap 😉 I really do enjoy being alone. It’s how I re-energize. There’s nothing wrong with this unless I’m alone for too long, you feel?

2. I am an overachieving perfectionist. I expect perfection from myself in all areas of my life at all times NO EXCUSES. Obviously this is impossible, so obviously this is a problem!!

3. I am the daydreaming creative type. People always describe me as creative, sometimes I tell them they’re wrong, but I know the truth. I tend to turn inward and think deeply. I try to give off this “I’m tough and bulletproof” front but..come on..really HA. (*When you realize you’re totally mocking yourself*) (*When you realize you’re so glad you have a sense of humor*). Creative people have a characteristic that makes them more vulnerable. I just learned that today, and it explains my entire life. I tend to put it all on the line..my goals (hence my millions of lists of things I need to accomplish), my story (hence this post and many others I’ve shared), and my relationships (hence excruciating heartache but new experiences). I expect a lot from my self. I’ve figured out that I try extremely hard to hold back as much as possible and just “play it cool” in situations, but usually it all comes rushing out when/if given the chance. I feel things people. I have emotions. Whatever. No matter how hard I try to deny it, it’s just the facts. Eventually I reach a point where I simply won’t hold back anymore and that either leads to something great or something I’d rather forget ever happened ha. One day it will pay off. One day!

Those are just three personality traits that tend to be more prone to depression. Dealing with depression doesn’t make you crazy. It doesn’t make you weird and it doesn’t make you any less valuable of a person. It doesnt mean that you have to have an “I hate the world” attitude. And it doesn’t mean you aren’t an enjoyable person to be around.

It also doesn’t have to control your whole life. Majority of people I come in contact with every single day have absolutely no idea about this part of me. I don’t need nor do I want them to know. I laugh and smile all the time just like anyone else. I can be outgoing and full of life and seem perfectly fine. Most the time I am perfectly fine. Most of the time, I forget I even struggle with depression. Like I said, it comes and goes in waves. But when it comes, it hits like a pile of bricks.

If I’m completely honest, I’ve had some really, really tough moments. Night time seems to be the most common time for it to creep up on me, and most people I think. Also, it’s definitely more of a seasonal thing. I can go from “I love life!” to “I can’t handle anymore of this” real quick when I’m lacking that vitamin D. No one seems to notice unless they know me like the back of their hand. Nothing crazy happens. I just become a lot quieter. I think I’m pretty good at hiding it most of the time if it happens when I’m around others, although it usually happens when I’m home or alone. I tend to isolate myself mentally (by unintentionally zoning out) or physically (by going somewhere I can be alone). Depression is a strange and powerful thing, but I fully believe that I don’t have to give it the power to destroy me. I know that I’m better than that because of Christ and Christ alone.

Something I’ve had to discover on my own is the fact that I don’t have to let it control me. Although this type of depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, I have the power to rise above it. Just because it’s a chemical thing, doesn’t mean I’m doomed. What it comes down to is whether or not I choose to believe I’m better than that. When it hits me, I’ve learned that sometimes I have to force myself to do things instead of crawling to my bed or isolating myself from the world. Sometimes being alone is ok though, but instead of thinking too hard about life, I can choose to open my Bible and read the truth of God. I’ve also learned that it makes such a difference when I turn the attention away from myself. I have a huge heart for people and all I want to do is help them or make them feel good and be happy. I am a very emphatic and sympathetic person. I think that’s just the way God created me to be. And just because I can get down in the dumps sometimes doesn’t mean I’m not that person. I strongly believe that depression doesn’t change who you are unless you allow it to do so.

3c28399bd2dd9535677e39c9393581dcThis verse has helped me get through some of the most difficult moments in my life. The thief (Satan) is set out to break you. He knows our weaknesses and he is more than happy to use them against us in any way possible. The scary thing is that he’s good at what he does. He’s really good. But you know who’s even better at what He does than Satan is? God. The power of God will beat the enemy every. single. time. Just rest in that promise. Through Christ, we are made new. Through Christ, we are given life. Through Christ, each and every one of us has the strength to persevere through any storm that life throws at us. Without Christ, we are nothing. We are weak. But with Christ, we have meaning. We are strong. I think that’s something pretty incredible to live for.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, might as well go on to the next thing. I haven’t ever been able to talk about this in a completely open and honest way. It’s almost harder to admit than the last thing just because it’s something I swore I’d never share with anyone. Yet here I am.. And I’m sure God is looking down laughing because He always gets His way.

I suffer from an eating disorder. I developed one back in 2012 without even realizing it was happening. It wasn’t intentional, as odd as that probably sounds. But let me try to explain..

I was in my senior year of high school. It developed the same time I was going through a breakup with I guy I had been dating for a little over a year. I didn’t know how to handle it because I had never experienced such a thing. Without really realizing it, I completely lost my appetite for quite an extended period of time. I wasn’t choosing to starve myself. I honestly wasn’t capable of putting food in my mouth. I tried multiple times. I’d walk into the kitchen, open the fridge, and just walk right back out because the thought of food made me feel physically sick. I want to say that just because all of this happened during the time of my breakup, that guy had nothing to do with it and none of this was/is his fault. it just had to do with how I dealt with what I was personally going through.

So that went on for way too long and, needless to say, I became very thin. I didn’t even realize I was losing so much weight at the time because it wasn’t something I was concerned about. I remember getting comments from girls at school about how they wished they were as motivated as me to lose weight, or they would tell me how skinny I was and how lucky I was because of it..I didn’t really know what to think of it, but I liked the attention at the time. There was only one friend who actually came up to me and asked me if I was ok. She noticed how unhealthy I was looking and actually tried to talk to me about it. I just told her that I was hurt from the breakup and I couldn’t get myself to eat.

It wasn’t until this whole “no appetite” phase had gotten way too far when I realized what was happening. I remember the exact moment clear as day. I was about to hop into the shower when I happened to stop and look at myself in the bathroom mirror. All I saw was a thin layer of skin and bones. I had never seen myself so thin before and it terrified me. That was when I completely broke down. I could not control the tears as I showered and once I was done, I went straight to my room and never told anyone or asked anyone for help. Even though it terrified me to see myself like that, something in me kind of enjoyed it. How my clothes fit and how empty and light I felt.. It was addicting. Eating disorders completely morph how you see your body and the way you feel about yourself.

Once my emotional state started to cool down and my appetite was coming back, I decided I wanted to start exercising and eating healthy. So that’s what I did. I was still just skin and bones, and I wanted to stay that way, just not as skeleton-like. It’s crazy how once you get a taste of being so small, even though you know it’s unhealthy, you still desire to be that way. Kind of messed up. Anyway, I started eating again, but looking back it was barely anything. I would eat extremely small amounts of all healthy foods. I wouldn’t even consider eating anything even slightly unhealthy. The thing is I truly thought nothing was wrong with what I was doing. I thought that this is how healthy and fit people lived and I wanted to do it right (shoutout to all you perfectionists out there..be careful ha).

So I was in extremely good shape for quite some time and I felt pretty dang great about the way I looked. As this continued, I reached the point where I was afraid of certain foods. Anything that had too much fat, sugar, sodium..anything that I considered “bad”.. It became an obsession. During this time, my body was lacking key nutrients that it needed to survive and function. And what the body needs, the body gets. What started out as unintentional anorexia, then moved onto being restrictive dieting, had suddenly turned into subjective binge eating disorder (I was told this by a doctor).

According to http://www.recoveryranch.com, “Some people who perceive themselves as extreme binge eaters don’t actually eat extreme amounts of food during their binges; instead, they eat relatively small or moderate amounts of food. Doctors refer to individuals who misperceive the amount of food they consume during binges as subjective binge eaters. Technically speaking, these people still meet the general definitions for binge eating as long as they feel a loss of control regarding their eating BEHAVIORS.

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So it wasn’t full out binges according to my doctor (still trying to convince myself of this), but I would still have moments where I would eat a lot of food in a small period of time. Sometimes they were worse than others. It would only happen when I was at home, so luckily it didn’t interfere with other people outside of my family. When others were around I would still eat in my regular, “healthy” way. It turned into a cycle. I would starve myself and/or restrict, and then I would reach my breaking point and have a “subjective” binge.

It wasn’t until a few months ago when I finally told someone about my eating disorder. My sister, Erika, was the first person who I trusted enough to say anything to. That was a huge moment for me. A few weeks after I told her, I finally built up enough courage to tell my parents. From there is when the recovery process really started. I just recently began seeing a doctor on a weekly basis specifically for those who are dealing with eating disorders.

Eating disorders are so much more than meets the eye. It’s not as simple as eating or not eating. It’s mostly a state of mind and  once you fall into one, you feel like you can’t live without it. It becomes a huge part of who you are, at least it feels that way whether or not that’s true. It’s horrible and scary and it will consume you at times because it’s a psychological illness. It’s hard to find the words to explain it, but here’s a quote that hits it right on the head:

“Most people do not understand the challenges one must face when recovering from a psychological illness. The exhaustion of fighting the voices in your head, the guilt that eating brings, and the constant anguish and confusion over whether recovery is worth it and whether you are worth recovery. Recovery is a choice we must make every hour of everyday. It’s a conscience decision, and it’s going against everything that feels right. It is wildly uncomfortable, but through the discomfort we manage to come out with more wisdom, perspective, and self knowledge than most people absorb in a lifetime. Maybe this entire miserable journey really is a blessing in disguise… Who knows. I have spent years tormented by this disorder and while I’m still a ways from “recovered”, I am proud to say that I am beating an eating disorder.” -Anonymous

Even though I’m in the recovery process, it really hasn’t gotten any easier yet. This is going to sound so twisted, but having an eating disorder, is so much easier than trying to recover from one. I’m not used to eating regular meals. I can’t stand the feeling of food in my stomach. I fear food and every time I eat something I am overcome by a very intense feeling of guilt. I have to force myself to eat regularly because everything in me tells me not to. No one would ever know because I’m excellent at hiding it. What goes on inside of me throughout each and every day is something that people might never guess. If it were up to me, I would go back to not eating at all, but I’m stronger than that and I refuse to let this eating disorder control my life any longer. My doctor has challenged me to eat regular meals (3-4 food groups) and snacks (1-2 food groups) every 3-5 hours. This might sound so basic and normal to many of you, but for me it is almost a foreign concept. It’s scary and it’s quite difficult for me to be honest.

Part of why it’s so difficult is due to the fact that my metabolism is completely shot. It doesn’t work because it went into survival mode way back when I lost my appetite and stopped eating. It never had the chance to heal because, since that time, I haven’t treated it properly. A broken and slow metabolism means that my body automatically stores any and all food as fat because it doesn’t know when it will get food next. Luckily this is something that can be fixed. My body has to relearn how to metabolize and store food in the right way. So I can maintain, lose, or gain (if needed) weight just like anyone with a healthy metabolism. This has been the hardest thing of all. If you want to ask me more about it I’d be glad to talk to you.

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The only reason I’ve come this far and the only reason that I am choosing to fight against my eating disorder is because of God. He is why I keep going day in and day out, no doubt about it. I continually remind myself of the truth of what God says about me. I hate to admit this, but I don’t always want to believe the truth. I have a really hard time believing it, especially lately. But I refuse to give up because I know in my heart that it’s the right thing to do. I know that it’ll pay off and one day I’ll be able to look back on all of this and it will just be a memory. I also know that one day, once I’m completely healed, I will use my recovery story and what I’ve been through to help other girls who might be suffering from something similar. Because if I can do it, so can anyone else.

If I’m going to go through these things, I’m going to try to make something good come from them. I already know I’ve become a much stronger person because of it, but my biggest dream is to allow God to use me to help others and hopefully, maybe even further His kingdom.

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