Megan's Testimony Part I
It was five o’ clock in the morning and I had already completed a good chunk of my routine. I had done my sit ups, my pushups, and my squats. I just needed to do a little more. I did a hundred of each yesterday so that meant I had to do more of each today. I soon hit my quota, got myself dressed, ate breakfast, practiced some piano, and waited for my ride to fifth grade.
This is my first memory of when the eating disorder began.
Dotted between the cycles of this exercise addiction were intense food and calorie restriction. In junior high, I would avoid walking the hallways with friends so I could instead focus on calculating my caloric intake.
All throughout junior high and the beginning of high school I was known as the “health nut.” In fact, my friends would try tricking me into eating my restricted foods. When I started eating things that actually tasted good, I felt like I lost my identity as the “health nut,” I wasn’t unique anymore, I was just average.
Then I began pendulum swinging to the other side: binge-eating. It started my senior year of high school and carried me into my first year of college.
I would completely let go when I ate. I ate anything and everything. Granola bars were easy and the most convenient. I would eat my dinner that I took to-go from the dining hall in front of the TV, then I would binge on anything I had on hand.
The next morning I would heave my bloated belly to the gym, but there was no way I could compensate for the amount of calories I ate the night before.
And the cycle continued.
There I am - a first year college student, isolated and stuck in the cycle of obsession, torture, and bingeing. I was unable to focus on school, I would binge to numb the pain, and torture myself to increase the pain. I was obsessed with eating, I was obsessed with being skinny fit, I was obsessed with what everyone else was doing, wearing, eating, exercising. I wanted to be anyone but me.
It was about this time that I was feeling quite chunky. I felt thick, I had never felt so thick before. I only liked wearing yoga pants since they had stretch to them. My stomach was constantly in a state of discontentment that the thought of wearing constricting jeans disgusted me.
My grandparents were headed to my college to visit me, they hadn’t seen the university yet and wanted to see what my new life was like. I remember it was a Thursday night, the day before they were to arrive and I had binged bad time. I knew there was no way I was going to feel right all weekend. And I really wanted to eat good food because when grandparents are involved – usually good food follows. I knew I had ruined my weekend by bingeing on Thursday night. I would feel grossly uncomfortable as my body attempted to metabolize the excess food. I needed a solution, a quick solution.
My roommates were all tucked in their rooms, I had my own room, it was cramped, but it gave me the privacy to binge in secret. I tiptoed out of my room, slipped into the bathroom, and stood there over the toilet. Now, how do I do this? Do I stick my fingers down my throat? So I proceeded to kneel there and throw up anything that was willing to come out.
I felt so much better afterwards. I felt relieved, my stomach felt thin. And I got my first high.
This was a pivotal moment for me and it remains a pivotal moment for most women who attempt to throw up food.
Some women think it’s the most disgusting thing ever and will never do it again. Others, like myself, become immediately addicted.
My mind felt fuzzy, I felt less anxious, I felt all my anxieties and fears drowned with my bile and binge food in that toilet.
I had found my solution. This was the answer all along. I went to bed content, satisfied that I could eat more that weekend.
And I kept doing it. I started experimenting with what foods came up easier, what foods I should eat first, and how much water I should drink. It was a fun game.
I started creating a list of mental rules around what foods I could and could not binge on, how to binge on them, and how to throw up.
What’s incredibly ironic is that I never thought this was considered an eating disorder. Yes, how much more oblivious can I get? This was still a game to me, it was the solution to my binge-eating problem.
Then January 23, 2013 happened.
I was desperate for a fix. I needed the good stuff, I didn’t want to scrounge around that day for some lame binge food, I wanted the adrenaline high with quality, already prepared stuff straight from the grocery store.
So I skipped my morning classes and rented a car. I needed transportation, biking wasn’t going to cut it today.
I rented the car, and in anticipation zoomed over to the grocery store, I found a nice quiet parking space, hidden but not creepy and went inside to find my drug. You see, when I know I’m going to purge, and I have the time to purge, I have access to any food I crave in the whole grocery store, nothing is off limits. I was going to be reckless. I was going to get my high.
I proceeded to gather my favorite binge foods, I had certain rules governing how I binged and purged, so I made sure I had all the necessary materials for a successful binge-purge session. I headed to the car, giddy with excitement. I’m a “good-girl” rebel.
I started bingeing and bingeing until my stomach was incredibly extended. I had my sweatpants on, purposefully to increase my bingeing capacity. But it was too much, it was time to purge. I formulated a little toilet using a Tupperware I had and the grocery bags and proceeded to throw up until I was skinny again and I saw the first food I ate in that bag. There’s no way I’m leaving anything in my body, especially with the unhealthy, forbidden foods I was eating.
I couldn’t find that first food, I made sure I ate something noticeable first, so I could see that I got rid of everything. So I went digging, yes, that was a habit I had gotten into. I needed to make sure nothing was left in my body, so I scooped around in my bile and purged food to find it. There it is. Okay, nothing is left.
I want to do it again.
So I did. And again. And again. That day, I had about four full binge/purge episodes, it was quite the expensive day.
I had to teach my cycle class that early evening. My mind was so foggy, I couldn’t think clearly, let alone stand up without feeling weak and wobbly. But I downed some electrolytes and taught my class, coming very close to fainting in the middle.
I knew I had homework to get done, I proceeded to contact my peers to see what I missed that day. I had a “Family Emergency,” that’s why I couldn’t attend class.
The lies I told my family, others, and myself.
I grabbed a pack of gum. I wanted to eat so badly. While I had little food in my system, my stomach was overly bloated and writhing with pain. My mouth wanted to chew on something. So I sat in the library, attempting to read a sentence in my Biochemistry book. I couldn’t focus, so I binged on the gum. I just kept chewing piece after piece after piece, all in one sitting. My stomach ached for relief.
I biked back to my apartment. It was late. I was embarrassed to see my roommates, since I binged on their food and got caught and confronted multiple times.
I walked in and this part is fuzzy. I remember crying, I remember a phone call, I remember packing, and I remember a quiet drive home.
The next morning, I woke up in my parents' home, in my hometown, the reality of the situation was real.
Before I could convince myself otherwise, I grabbed the phone and dialed the number I vowed I never would.
Hi, it’s Megan Smith. I’m not sure if you remember me, but it’s gotten really bad. I quit school last night, my parents picked me up, and I need to get better, will you take me back?
Of course, Megan. Can you start tomorrow?
Note to readers: I will continue sharing my physical testimony with you in two weeks. Please enjoy next week where Laura will share with you a Spiritual perspective on this physical bondage.
Now Go in God Knowing He is Enough for You!
With Love, Megan
Megan's Testimony Part II: Walking Away from Captivity
January 23, 2013 is when I saw just enough into my situation to know that I needed intensive help. (You can read my last blog post here to get caught up).
The eating disorder recovery program that I walked out of not eight months earlier, had graciously taken me back. This time they weren’t going to let me go, I was a college dropout in an intensive outpatient eating disorder recovery program.
I went through the program and did well. I gained around twenty pounds, which felt overweight to me. I even met my husband, Ben, through Christian Mingle during that time. I moved cross country from California to North Dakota where he was stationed, and I began the nursing program at the local university.
This time in North Dakota, no one knew me. I loved it. No counselors bugged me. No one followed me to the bathroom and weighed me weekly. I could spend as much time as I wanted with bulimia, and I did.
Multiple periods of relapses littered our first two years of marriage.
About the time I moved to North Dakota, this annoying pastor’s wife just planted herself in my life. I didn’t ask her to be there, she just kind of was there. And we met every Friday for a while.
She was different in that she didn’t talk about food and exercise on our coffee dates, like all my counselors had done. Instead she talked about the bondage I was in, how my low self-esteem, the eating disorder, was keeping me stuck in this prison cell. I was not only relapsing at the time, but I was constantly sad and depressed. I always felt empty. She recognized this and started telling me about finding my identity and freedom in Christ. I was not designed to be in this bondage. The enemy wanted to keep me in this prison cell, the enemy didn’t want me to experience true freedom and healing.
She kept using words like captivity, freedom, and identity.
But everything she said could be traced back to turning to God for healing from my addiction.
She gave me this analogy where I was stuck in this prison cell, only the door was unlocked and open, all I had to do was walk out.
I was captive by my own will, I felt comfortable in the prison cell. Captivity was comforting to me because that was all I knew. But I had a veil over my eyes, clouding my judgement.
You see, that veil over my eyes told me a story of condemnation. That I deserved to be in this prison cell, I was too messed up, reckless, and selfish to deserve anything better than this cycle of anxiety, punishment, and depression.
But she was speaking a story of redemption, of a glory I could experience outside of that prison cell. There was more than healing out there, healing was just the first step. There was exponential growth, there was ministry, there were women who needed encouragement because they are going through something incredibly similar.
I loved the story she was speaking, but I just couldn’t see how it applied in my life.
Then about a year later, in my Mental Health nursing class, we covered the eating disorder unit. The instructor left an open-ended remark at the end of her lecture, asking if anyone wanted to share an eating disorder experience.
My heart started racing, my hands immediately got sweaty. For some reason, I felt very vulnerable. Only one person in that class knew I had struggled, so it wasn’t an open secret. I didn’t have to say anything.
Next thing I know, my voice quaking, “Yes, I have something to share.”
I proceeded to share my struggle with anorexia, binge-eating, and bulimia. I was sweating and on the verge of tears the whole time. I thought I was over this? Why am I so emotional?
The instructor waited for everyone to leave and came up to me after class. She said, “Megan, I think you are still struggling with this. I hope this is not out of line, but I would recommend you seek professional help.”
She recommended I commit my summer to another inpatient program, she even provided me a list of resources in cities nearby. I was stubborn and refused because I wasn’t “that bad.” I already went through a program, I didn’t need anymore help.
Instead of leaving the city and going through another program, I proceeded to meet with a Christian-based counselor in town. This was the woman my husband had contacted a year ago, whom I refused to see. I’m quite stubborn if you can’t tell.
“Hi, it’s Megan Johnson. I’m not sure if you remember me, my husband called you about a year ago. I need help with this eating disorder I’m still struggling with. I need to get better, will you take me?
Of course, Megan. Can you start tomorrow?
No. I want to start today.
And thus began my last round of counseling. There was a new level of ownership in my recovery this time. My life had accelerated faster than I had anticipated. Within eleven months of quitting school in California, I had moved cross-country and was engaged! By the end of May the following year (2014), I had finished my first semester of nursing school and was married.
So this round of counseling began the summer of 2015 after having been married a year, struggling through nursing school, and still relapsing. My life was intricately intertwined with another person. Ben knew immediately when I had binged and purged. He knew because my stomach looked bloated but my ribs were noticeable. I couldn’t hide this from him, it was affecting our marriage, our finances, and my health. I was no longer single, now there was more at stake.
A dramatic transformation took place that year. Recovery clicked. The length between binge/purge episodes started getting longer and longer. At one point, my counselor said, “Megan, you don’t need me anymore, go and live your life!”
And that’s exactly what I did. I was walking away from captivity toward my Creator. I was breaking free of the prison cell of the eating disorder.
Then in 2016, my husband received orders to Texas. Then this new thing happened, I started falling in love with God’s Word and I was hungry to share my testimony of deliverance and redemption.
Where am I now? I’m still walking away from captivity. It’s a daily choice, a choice that seems to get easier to make with each passing day. It’s the choice to choose living in redemption and out of the prison cell.
Note to readers: I will wrap up my physical testimony (Part III) in two weeks. Please enjoy next week where Laura will share with you a spiritual perspective on walking away from captivity.
Now Go in God Knowing He is Enough for You!
With Love, Megan
Megan's Testimony Part III: I Will Be Fulfilling My Calling.
I’ve heard those weird church kids say it. I’ve heard those young adults going to Bible school say it. I’ve heard pastors say it. But I never thought I would utter those words.
“I feel called into ministry.”
“That’s great for you,” I would think to myself, “that’s definitely not for me.”
I also was never going to be one of those stay at home women. In fact, I judged them heavily for letting their life “go to waste.” They mooched off their husbands, spoiled their children and didn’t contribute. Or so I thought. I was determined to earn my Doctor of Nursing Practice; I was going to make my own money and carry my own weight. I was going to be that woman bucking stereotypes. And my man was going to stay at home with the children.
I judged people for three things: getting married young, staying at home, and doing the Global University Berean Program. As I write this to you, I’m twenty-five years old, I’ve been married for four years, I stay at home besides teaching exercise classes and piano lessons, and I’m working my way through the Global University Berean Program.
I’ve learned to stop judging others because God sure has a sense of humor at my humbling expense.
Before moving to TX, I had absolutely no heart for ministry, but I married a man who did. A very patient man in fact. I was annoyed by people at church who asked me to serve MY precious, valuable time to the church. Don’t they know that Ben is the one who cares and I’m going to do my own thing? Yet, multiple pastors and mentors spoke over BOTH our lives- you both have a calling for ministry. I think they got their signals crossed.
I honestly never really put much thought into “my calling.” I just figured it was nursing. When we married, the plan was Ben would serve his six-year enlistment in the military then go into vocational ministry. Meanwhile, I would provide by working as a Registered Nurse. It made perfect sense, it was the right plan.
Three days before I was to start my career as a nurse in North Dakota, my husband received military orders to Texas. In my last year of nursing school, I was seriously questioning if this was the career path for me. I really couldn’t describe a specific reason why, I just didn’t feel right about.
I get this weird feeling when something isn’t right. When I was little, I would get this feeling when I felt uncomfortable around strangers or when I lied to my parents. It would make my stomach feel weird, hence, “the weird feeling.” I guess people call it a “gut feeling,” Christians call it “The Holy Spirit,” all the above apply to me in this situation.
I still had that weird feeling even after graduating and passing the licensing exam. I kept shoving this nagging thought to the back of my mind. But I ignored it since it would mean I wasted time and effort. Not only that, it would require MORE time and MORE effort. And I don’t like wasting my time.
The military orders encouraged Ben to reenlist and pursue his career in the military while it gave me the opportunity to figure out what God’s direction for my life.
When we moved to Texas late 2016, I struggled immensely with this idea of “calling.” I had recently graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree that May and passed the NCLEX in June which licensed me as a Registered Nurse. I took college courses for six years straight. Fall, spring, and summer semesters for six years. No breaks. (I even took online classes during my eating disorder recovery program.) By the grace of God, I made it through with good grades. It wasn’t always pretty, but I survived. I remember my parents and I doing a happy dance when I earned my first “C.” It was in Organic Chemistry, that was a rough course, it was pure survival. That was my only “C” my entire academic career, I fought hard for that “C.”
Naturally, you would assume, since I had a degree in nursing, I had my nursing license, I would work as a nurse when we moved.
We moved to Texas and I didn’t look for a job as a nurse. Instead, I signed up for the Monday night Women’s Bible Study. They were going through Beth Moore’s Entrusted 2 Timothy study. Beth Moore loved using the word, “calling.” I walked away from the study learning that we have all been entrusted with the Gospel (“the precious truth”) and a gifting. We must return the Gospel intact – the message of the Gospel (John 3:16) must remain the same, true to Scriptures. We are humans, we are sinful, and we are forgetful. Yet God still entrusts us to share His precious truth. The gifting – we all have a gifting – is what God has invested in us spiritually. This gifting is intended to be invested in for the purpose of multiplying (Matthew 25: Parable of the Talents). My purpose is just this: to spread the Gospel and tell others about Jesus. I do this with the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within me, I do this uniquely with the gifts He has given me, and I do this for the community He has placed me in. I am a sinful but forgiven, loved daughter of Christ who has been set on this globe to be unleashed in spreading the Gospel. How powerful is that!
I didn’t want to waste any more time. So, I labored over this “gifting” of mine. What’s my calling, Lord? What specific purpose do you want me to carry out on this Earth using the gifts you’ve invested in me? Is it nursing? It drove me to my praying knees, it consumed my prayer life, I bugged Ben constantly about it.
Instead of wallowing in a pit of self-despair, I decided to bloom where I was planted. God placed us in a wonderful church, a church I met Laura at, and I started taking on every opportunity that came my way. Including God’s Enough – Women’s Ministry.
I became immersed in studying the Word, I started pursuing my credentials through the Global University Berean Program, and I was head over heels for ministry.
Something really bugged me though. This idea kept nagging me. I saw it everywhere I looked, it was prevalent in conversations with women. I saw a very apparent need and I wanted to do something about it.
I couldn’t find many resources that bridged the gap between eating disorder recovery and finding identity in Christ. There were lots of books on secular eating disorder recovery and lots of books on finding identity and freedom in Christ, but very little of them reconciled the two.
Through the past year, I’ve been very open about my eating disorder testimony. I know women, yes even Christian women, struggle with finding the healthy trinity of eating, exercise, and body-image. It’s a struggle that is prevalent in and outside the four walls of the church.
So I set out to write a book that reconciled the two. A book I’m still working on. Then I met Laura and we started God’s Enough. Then God gave me some opportunities to mentor women silently struggling with eating disorders.
It felt right. I didn’t have the weird feeling anymore. My life became part-time stay-at-home-spouse and part-time co-founder, mentor, writer, church volunteer, group exercise instructor, and piano teacher.
Having my Registered Nurse license created tension and an unceasing dialogue in my mind especially during that first year after moving. “I could be making good money right now instead of writing.” Who’s going to care what I have to say?” “At least nursing is a great back up plan.”
But this dialogue has exposed my root issues and true motives. Every time I went searching for a nursing job, ready to throw in the towel on writing and ministering, it was because I felt we needed more money. The enemy convinced me that I could easily solve all our problems with more money. Maybe we could move out of our apartment and live in a home or we could put more towards savings and retirement, I could build my resume for the future, we could have nicer things, etc.
Every time I severely wrestled with this internal dialogue, God kept making it clear that He has a different plan for my life. I would get an email from someone I’ve never met before reaching out for help. Or I would get a text from a woman in the community who was struggling with an eating disorder and needed a listening ear. Even a stranger I met at a Christmas party last year sat next to me and said, “God told me to tell you that you need to speak to women and bring to light the bondage of eating disorders.” And it's not necessarily that I have anything new or original to say. But I have a unique lens that has been tailored by God through insight and experiences. I’m a vessel for His voice, not my own.
I’ve prayed for over a year and sought wise counsel on this calling of mine. It took a season apart from pursuing a career to allow God to reveal his true call for me. And I believe that my calling may take on different forms throughout my lifetime. (It may take on the form of nursing at one point.) In retrospect, my primary motivation in pursuing nursing was selfish, I wanted it for the money and stability, it was something I had control over. God’s calling on my life is not about me. This calling is confusing, constantly transforming, and frankly scares me. As my mentor would say, “If it doesn’t scare you, then it’s probably not of God.” My calling scares me so I must be on the right track!
My final post in our blog series is titled, Physically I Will Be.
So the question is, “Where will I be?”
You’ll know where to find me, I’ll be fulfilling my calling.
Now Go in God Knowing He is Enough for You!
With Love, Megan
(Disclaimer: If you are called to be a Registered Nurse, I applaud you! I personally know what it takes to get through a nursing program. And I’ve seen first-hand what you go through every time you step into work. I’ve met many women that are called into nursing and they are rocking it! I’m not encouraging every woman to quit their careers and do what I did. This situation is unique to me and what I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to, each situation is different. The best advice I can give you is to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, He will ultimately guide you.)