This week, to support National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we are giving away a free download of our song “Courage.”
This song is an extremely personal song for me. I want to share with you the story behind the song, which is about my own struggle with an eating disorder. I hope that it reaches someone out there who has been or is where I’ve been, that it will encourage those of you who may be struggling with a similar problem. You’re not alone… and there is hope.
Where do you start when you’re about to be vulnerable with people you have and may never meet? I guess at the beginning…
I think I was 12 when I first started feeling the affects of “pretty pressure,” as I like to call it. My best friend was 2 years older than me and she was tall and athletic and pretty and boys liked her and and and… And that was the first time I remember realizing I was short and kinda chubby and that my daddy thinking I was pretty just wasn’t enough anymore.
And that’s pretty much the story from ages 12-15. Those awkward, hard years of realizing boys exist (even though I kinda always liked boys:)) and going through lots of changes and feeling pressure from so many things: friends, magazines (Bop, Teen Beat), TV, shopping malls with ads of people that were perfect on the walls… There were so many things all around that all added up to me being short and kinda chubby.
There was a defining moment though where it went from just feeling not good enough to doing something about it:
There was a boy… and I liked this boy a lot. He was cute and tall and had curly hair and a great smile that would make me forget what I was thinking or doing if he looked my way. I wanted this boy to like me. I would think of things to say if I ever got the chance to talk to him. I planned my outfits every morning with him in mind.
One day I saw him walking towards me and I thought, “Oh this is it. Here he comes and we are gonna talk and it is gonna be magical!” He came up to me and we chit-chatted for a little bit… And then he looked at me as if he was gonna say something important, you know with the head tilted to one side, blue eyes sparkling, so tall I would have had to stand on my tip toes if he ever kissed me. I had every bit of me alert to the beautiful words I anticipated coming out of his mouth.
“Melissa,” he said.
“Yes?” I replied, with many excited head nods.
“You know, you kind of have chubby ankles,” he said, ever so casually.
And that’s the moment that all the years of feeling a little bit ugly and chubby came to their final pinnacle and then crashed down on me and buried me. That’s the moment I knew I would do anything to never feel that again. That’s the moment I decided to do whatever it takes to not be that girl anymore. That’s the moment I became an anorexic.
I didn’t completely stop eating right away because that would be too obvious. I started with little things, like excuses that I didn’t feel well, so that meal got skipped. Then there was the ‘oh I ate already’ – another meal skipped. The ‘I’m gonna eat as soon as I get home’ – meal skipped. And the ‘when I eat in the morning it makes my stomach upset’ – no meal. ‘I’m going out with friends and we are gonna eat at the mall’ – zero meal.
It became lots of little lies every day until I got so good at it that eventually I had enough lies that I could skip whole days of eating… which became weeks… and then became months. The part that really fueled the fire was that I was losing weight and people were telling me that I looked good. So I thought “why in the world stop?” I was finally getting skinny like I always wanted to be and people seemed to like it. It was a sealed deal as far as I was concerned.
After awhile I actually had said that I didn’t feel well so many times that the thought of food actually did make me feel sick. It was awesome…for awhile. Until people stopped telling me that I looked good and started looking at me funny. Until my grandpa one day said to me that it looked like someone had deflated my chest. Until I started feeling ugly again and the same feelings of just not being happy with myself slowly crept back in.
After about 3 months of pretty much not eating, I started looking for something to make me feel happy and pretty again. It just so happened that my best friend had been away at a clinic for eating disorders and when she got home she started telling me things that she learned there. The most important thing she ever told me one day still rings in my head whenever I feel not quite good enough: God created you uniquely and specifically for a reason and a purpose and He thinks you are a beautiful creation.
Now I’m not here to tell you that the moment she said those words to me I believed them and was miraculously transformed. But those words did start something inside of me. Kind of like a little (very little) seed of truth and hope were planted and the more I started to want my life to change and the more I talked to my friend about it, the more it would grow.
I honestly don’t remember exactly how long it took but I do remember the moment I believed it for the first time. I was standing in the bathroom looking in the mirror. At first I was just looking at myself, doing the usual dissecting and scrutinizing every inch and criticizing myself…. and then those words about God knitting me in my mother’s womb came to me as if someone was audibly saying it out loud to me at that moment.
I tried to ignore it, but then again I heard, “I made you exactly the way I wanted you to be – a beautiful creation. You are beautiful!”
God was telling me something in that moment that I will never forget, and when I looked up into the mirror this time it was not with my eyes – I saw myself for the first time the way God looks down on me. The same way He looked down on me the day that I was born and said, “What a beautiful creation!”
And it’s not just about a worldly beauty that changes and fades, but a Godly kind of beauty. The kind of beauty that we see when we look at the mountains and the ocean, the sky, flowers, birds, rainbows and all the other things that God created and that we stop and say, “Wow, that is so beautiful.” The God that created those things created me. I am beautiful… a beauty that cannot be taken away from me because it was created in me before I was even one day old.
I broke that day. I cried and cried and cried, but not because I felt ugly or unaccepted. I cried because for the first time, I felt truly and wholeheartedly loved with no strings attached just the way that I am.
I’m not gonna sit here and say that after that it was easy going. It did get better – way better – for a long time. And then about the third year I was in Superchick I somehow forgot about that beauty that I’d found that day so many years before. I started feeling inadequate and like I needed to be a certain shape and size for people to love me. So I stopped eating again. It wasn’t as easy this time though, because I had people in my life that knew the lies I would try to use. I did give into the anorexia again for a bit, but this time it was harder.
I believe that’s because once you know the truth, you can’t hide from it for very long. You can ignore it for awhile and keep yourself busy and try to push it away, but when everything stops – and there will always be a moment when it does and you are all alone confronted with what you are doing to yourself – the truth will start to whisper in your ear.
And for me God whispered once again, “You are my beautiful creation, Melissa.” I couldn’t ignore it. So I clung to it like water and air. I made it my mantra every morning when I would wake up. I would look in the mirror and say, “What am I gonna believe today? Lies or the truth? Am I going to be courageous? Am I going to choose real beauty or fake?”
And that’s what I have done every day since then.
It’s not always about a one time choice. Sometimes that’s too big or too hard to handle or grasp or deal with. So we make it one day at a time. And some days (I’m gonna be completely honest here), I choose the lie. But the beauty of life is that the next day, or even the next minute sometimes, I can choose the truth.
My name is Melissa. I have struggled with anorexia since I was 15 years old. Today I beat it and choose the truth. I am beautiful. I am loved. I am me.
Download “Courage” this week for free by clicking here. Please feel free to share this link with friends who may also need to hear the song this week during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
There are so many people out there who are struggling with self-image issues and eating disorders. Sometimes, all it can take to help someone is an unexpected compliment to remind them that they are beautiful! Join the OperationBeautiful.com movement and help change someone’s perception of themselves today… because we all need a reminder sometimes that we are each uniquely and wonderfully so beautiful!