I remember the first moment I became aware of how I looked. Rolling back to the late 90’s/early 2000’s, flared jeans were back in (how did that happen?!) and the girl's had slicked back ponytails with two little “bits” (read: stringy bits of hair purposely left out of the bun. ) Let’s just be real here, 10-year-old girls can be cruel and so it’s probably no surprise that I encountered a form of bullying that saw my innocent, naïve mind begin to question who I was and how I looked. Combine that with a full force of dance classes and puberty, I was on my way quite early to being triggered into a form of self-consciousness and self-image issues.
Fast-forward to my 14-year-old self in 2005. I was an average student but had great people skills. Doing whatever I could to make everyone happy and included, I was on a fast-track career of becoming an A-grade people pleaser. I attended a Christian school where I finally felt ‘normal’ for going to church on the weekends. Maybe this was finally my time to be accepted… I was ready to shine. So I pushed myself and pushed hard. I truly loved school, but I do believe I loved the attention and acceptance I gained more. I perfected my grades, attended every sporting event, musical, choir, band, you name it and I was there in it and amongst it. I obtained a ‘name’ for myself and finally those years of primary school felt long behind me. I. Was. A. Someone.
Unfortunately, in the midst of busyness, I developed a need to control things and turned to my weight as another element to perfect. Dieting became more than a hobby, I was thin and praised for my body by the other year 9 girls. I was in control and loving life, but was quickly plummeting into a pattern that would be very secretive and destructive for the next seven years. My friends and mother all knew something was going on, but I was a pro at hiding it and even worse, I hid it and myself from God.
It wasn’t until a very moving moment some 5 years later that I would break down and let God enter my pain. A friend (then mentor) shared her testimony one day at church and immediately I knew, I don’t want to live like this anymore. This friend was real, honest and vulnerable, she was imperfect but she shared how God’s love had made her ‘perfectly imperfect’ and moreover, whole.
Then began a very long and slow recovery process and to be completely honest, it got worse before it got better. Eating disorders are complex, horrible illnesses that come with a myriad of long-term complications and implications on family and friends. But, I distinctly remember one day on a very long run (which wasn’t uncommon for me) God speaking to me so clearly. He told me to run to Him, instead of running into the arms of the world for my worth and self-assurance. My assurance was in Him, and Him alone.
At 24, I can say that I am fully healed from my past. There is so much freedom in Jesus, knowing that He took on everything I’ve ever struggled with, I’ve been able to move forward and truly heal. In 2013, I was baptized on a cold August day that I will never forget. It was a step for me to fully move on. This is what I said on that day:
Today I come with a story not of perfection, not of greatness, not of completeness, not of glory. Today I come with a story, a journey, that has been shaped by God in the most beautiful of ways. Today I come, with behind me a past of an eating disorder that could have claimed my life, of a depression that almost stole my spirit and joy and an anxiety that crippled me. But today I also stand with a hope, a light, a love and an everlasting faith for a God that never let me go.
I used to strive for control, perfection and what the world told me was ‘good’ but was really just a bunch of lies that tore me apart inside. I hated myself and I hated the brokenness and corruption of the world. I used to think that if I didn’t fit a perfect category, then there was no place for me in this life. How wrong I was.
I don’t have to strive for perfection anymore and I don’t have to be complete on my own. I used to want to perfect my life in order to fit in and have a place in society. With God, I know that place has already been created, all I needed to do was accept it and run straight into His arms and not that of the world.
God has restored my love for life, my passion for people and renewed my spirit. I no longer have to worry about my place in the world because He knew long ago that this is where I would be right now.
Each day I’m reminded of Gods grace and love from the very fact that I’m still here today. He didn’t let my ED, depression or anxiety take me away from this world even though it could have. I see what I’ve experienced as character builders and actually rejoice in them as they’ve brought me closer to god and renewed my love for life in more ways than I could have ever imagined.
For this I commit my life to Him and His plan for me, hoping to the beacon of light and hope He wishes the world to see.
By Nadine Wyatt. Nadine currently lives in Melbourne and works for Thankyou.