“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” Brennan Manning

Monday, August 18, 2014

Self-medicating to Survive

I didn't throw up even though I wanted to. I numbed with food again. Why is that my go-to when I don’t want to feel? I lay down and my mind is flooded with memories. As I acknowledge the true reality of my life, I can understand why I have used food as an escape. I let myself feel the feelings I never got to.

I had to be ‘ON’ all the time. I felt so disconnected from myself - like an imposter - afraid someone would find me out. Survival for me was based on pleasing and performing, while suppressing a deep loneliness, sadness, and hurt. Seeing myself in a new light gives me some self-compassion.

One memory came back vividly:

The house was quiet - everyone in bed. I snuck back upstairs, big bowl of ice cream in hand. I ate in secret to feel better... for a moment... But then, was left with a sick stomach and guilty conscience. Why do I abuse my body with food?

A friend was spending the night in the room down the hall and I shuddered at the thought of her finding out the way I really was - so out of control and a mess. She had traveled to see me so we could pass out tracks together and share the Gospel with “lost souls.” I felt ashamed of myself and believed that no one would like me if they knew my deep struggle with self-contempt and food.

My husband and I were living at my parents’ house at that time because we had gotten so far in debt after our first year of marriage. You see, I married a Jesus freak. Even though he wasn’t attracted to me, he married me because “God told him to.” I was a girl who wouldn’t hold him back. I didn’t complain and went along with whatever he wanted. He believed we should “live as if we weren’t married” so he could maximize his energies in preaching. Without a steady job, he maxed out our first credit card to Native Missionaries and we gave our possessions away. Thus, we moved in with my parents…

You see, I am the oldest of five kids in a dysfunctional home. I was the “good girl”, always striving to be perfect and make my family happy. I was told to be the example for my siblings - never making a mistake.

In High School, I became a leader at my school and cross-country team. We pushed each other to run harder and faster. I loved my team and my coach. My coach would tell me the same thing: that others would follow my intense drive and work ethic. He also encouraged me to lose weight even though I was already very underweight. He also told me to encourage other girls to do the same and gave us articles on how we would run faster with a lower percent body fat. That’s when I started throwing up.

All this pressure!

Pressure as a child to hold my family together and make everyone happy despite the constant fighting.

Pressure at school to be a leader and example, to make good grades, and be faster and skinnier.

Pressure as a wife to be a quiet, submissive, godly woman. I use to beg God to make me holy so my husband would like me, and to be skinnier because maybe then he would be attracted to me.

Pressure to share the gospel and pass out tracks wherever I went so the blood of those I passed wouldn’t be on my head, and God wouldn’t be displeased with me.

Pressure when I became a mother to train up my children to obey me so they would obey God later.

I felt like I was always being watched. I was afraid that someone would see through my smile to the hurting girl inside, and see my insecurity, fear, and weakness. Because in my world, that just wasn’t allowed or acceptable.

As I reflect on my life,

I see the little girl stuck in the middle of fighting - longing for safety and love.

I see the runner striving to be my best so I wouldn’t disappoint my coach and team.

I see the young wife - with the zealous husband - eager to submit and follow the rules for approval.

I see the young mother enmeshed in a controlling cult-church trying so hard to ‘abound in the grace of God’ while being beat down and exhausted by rules, condemnation, and shame.

In my circles, struggling meant that I wasn’t trusting God - that God was angry at me. I always felt like I was in trouble, and that I would just be cast out.

You see, I never knew God as Love. I never felt safe to let down my guard. I really wasn’t safe to think for myself or have feelings. Sadly, those parts of me had to be put to death for the sake of Christ and the Gospel?!

I coped with this loss of self by numbing my pain with food. It has served a purpose for me for a long time. But, now I’m in recovery and I am letting my wounds breathe and letting the light of the Son cleanse and heal me. Since I have self-medicated for so long, it is a hard habit to break.

But, I am learning to face the hurts in my life, let Jesus cover my shame, and allow myself to be fully human with emotions, mistakes, and all. Because truth is: I am loved and valued just as I am. God already proved that for me.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Letting Love Dispel the Lies

Have you ever bared your soul only to get blank stares back?  Or shared your heart with a friend without any feedback?  It's vulnerable to open our souls and let another person have a peek.  We stand there naked, exposed, waiting...  It's unbearable really.  Without some reassurance that we aren't the only one, and that our experience and feelings are valid, we want to run away and hide in shame.

Shame has been a constant voice in my head my whole life.  It tells me I'm never good enough.  That if people really knew me, they wouldn't like me.  It makes me want to disappear - afraid of being disconnected from the rest of humanity.  It tells me I am bad and not worth anyone's love, just a waste of time.

In my fight against shame, I remember that God chose me before I was ever born.  One thing that helps me is to write letters to myself from my Maker.  It doesn't have to be "good" because I'm not judged on how well I do.  Instead, it's just truth to minister to my soul and help me to live freely - and loved.

Here's a letter from my Creator Daddy this week:

Dearest Paula,

You are my precious daughter. I love you, little one. You are worth loving. You don't have to prove your worth. I have good plans for you. Don't worry, my child, I will never let you go. Even the smallest acts of love give me great delight. My love lives in you and you are learning to let others love you and give love to others. All of that is Me in you, and it is a beautiful thing to behold.

I'm sorry about all the hurts and loss in your life. This is a broken world full of sorrows, but I come to give you hope and life. I am mending your broken heart, and you can trust that I am working in ways you cannot see in the lives of loved ones you have had to let go. I can make all things new. It's okay to let go of relationships that hurt you. It's not your responsibility to fix others. You can leave that work to Me. You can rest, my love. 

I am with you.  I fight for you.  I believe in you.  I will never let you go. You are mine and I love every part of you. 

With all my love,

Your Maker

By the way, I like the way you are. I made you that way on purpose and for purpose.  Just be you.  
You are loved, my child.