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Thursday, July 28, 2016

OA- My Story of Healing from Food Addiction and Depression

My name is Jackie and I am a Compulsive Overeater and a recovering food addict.  I am also a semi-recovered perfectionist and control freak.  I have a long history of clinical depression.  Most importantly, I am a child of God who is in the process of healing.

I was born into a troubled marriage - sort of the 'child will fix it' kind of thing.  I learned early to hide my emotions and not cause trouble.  My parents eventually divorced.  They were civil to each other and I got to spend time with both of them.  However, they had very different views on life.  I spent most weekends arguing/debating with my dad about religion, money, and any other topic he and my mom disagreed about.  In retrospect, I think he was just trying to show me a different perspective, but at the time I just felt criticized and rejected.  I began to believe that I could never do enough or be enough to earn his love. 

In school I excelled and enjoyed learning.  Here was one area of my life I could earn the gold stars I so desired.  If I worked hard enough I got validated and I could believe that I had value.  I don't know when this deformed belief that I was only loveable if people loved me started, but I cannot remember a time when I did not feel that way.  Consequently, I was a deep-seeded people pleaser.

I also do not remember when I first started turning to food for comfort.  I do remember being at my grandpa's house in the summers.  He was a loving, sweet man who doted on me.  He had a drawer in the refrigerator that was always filled with mini-candy bars and I was allowed to have some anytime I wanted.  Somehow his love and the candy got connected in my mind. 

I also remember how every year at Easter  I would take my basket to my room and eat until I was sick to my stomach.  These were my early binges.

Thankfully I was young when I dedicated my life to God.  This faith was a great comfort to me and gave me guiding principles for my life as well as an extended family to love and support me through the tough teen years.

Junior high was a nightmare.  I was the geeky, plain-looking, shy, clumsy girl all the boys loved to torture.  I did not seem to fit into any of the typical cliques.  I ended up with other kids who did not fit in.  I guess we were the misfits, but we were good for each other.  We clung together in the waves of teen angst and at least we were not alone.  I think I cried every day, but at least I had shoulders to lean on. 

High school and college were better.  I found friends who drew me out of my protective shell.  I continued to wrongly blame all my 'issues' on my father and on a tough move my third grade year that resulted in changing schools and losing many friends.  It was not until college that I began to take responsibility for my own choices and direct my own life.  I finally began to realize that I could not change the past, but I was in charge of the future.

I married the weekend after college graduation.  One year later we moved to the other end of the country for a job opportunity.  My entire life, my mom had been my rock, my cheerleader, my best friend.  Moving away from her was the hardest thing I had ever done.  Living in a very isolated area with a new job and a new marriage that were not living up to my perfectionistic expectations made it more difficult.  Until then I had been able to control my weight.  I was a little heavy and I sought comfort from food, but I could abstain and diet long enough to keep it down.  After the move things changed.  I indulged more and more and packed on pounds.  I went through my first major episode with depression.  It lasted off and on for years.  With medication and counseling I eventually got stabilized and my life resembled normal.  Still, my weight told the story of how much I was relying on food.

When my step-dad passed away we made plans to have her move in with us.  This new family, including our one and a half year old daughter, relocated together.  We came to a family-friendly town that was not nearly so remote.  We found a great church family and good jobs.  Things were calm for awhile.  One down-side was that my mom and I were binge buddies.  We gave each other permission to eat however we wanted without hiding or feeling judged.  I think we both gained weight.

Then she got sick - very sick.  My mom was disabled and had various chronic illnesses, but nothing life-threatening until then.  We lost her very quickly to a colon infection that poisoned her body.  In just a few months my world shut down.  At first all I could do was hide in my house and hold my children or cry with my husband.  We did bond in a new way as we clung to each other, but I also sunk into the darkest depression ever.  I moved through life in slow motion with no life in me.  I felt my very heart was gone.  What else could I do but wrap my pain up in food and hide beneath the covers?  For four years I didn't really function. There were bright moments, mostly involving my kids, but even those could not part the clouds for long.  I was blessed with friends and family who cared, but still I mourned in my dark place alone.

It was my girls that saved me.  I realized that I was not enjoying them the way I wanted to.  I was not feeling the brightness that their sweet faces deserved.  I went to the doctor and I went to counseling.  I wanted to live my life again. 

God blessed me with an amazing counselor.  We worked through all the painful memories of my life.  I was able to uncover the lies that I was believing that were destroying me.  I began to see that I had value all by myself.  I began to like me. 

The depression had to be dealt with before the food.  I could not let go of my best coping strategy until I had other tools to live my life.  Skipping ahead for just a moment - I am thankful that I had food as my crutch.  I never turned to more drastic forms of self-harm.  Food solved my problems until it became the problem.  It could have been so much worse.

Finally my depression was in remission. (I don't say healed, because it still raises it's head occasionally.  Thankfully, now I have strategies to get through an episode and diffuse it.)  I was ready to face my issues with food.  I was ready for Overeater's Anonymous.

I have written in this blog about my experiences with the twelve steps of recovery so I will just summarize here.  OA taught me to dig out the reasons I was binging on sugar.  I was gently guided through a process of looking at my fears and resentments and learning to accept life as it is.  I learned to surrender my crutch and lean on God.  I learned to let go of the food and grab onto life.  Life isn't always easy but living it is so much better than hiding.  I'm not afraid of my own emotions or those of other people (most of the time anyway.)  I'm not angry and blaming other people for my own character defects.  I had to let go of my trigger foods.  I had to surrender my will.  In return I received peace and joy and compassion as well as meeting so many amazing people on similar journeys.  Now I know how to feel my feelings, how to ask for help, and how to forgive.

I am learning how to live.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I'm not enough

It's been a weird week. 

It started Tuesday.  I was awakened by the doorbell.  One of our church members had passed away.  My phone was in the living room so my husband and I slept through several attempts to contact us.  As a fairly new pastor's wife I feel responsible for the folks in our church.  (I also felt pretty guilty for being so hard to get ahold of.)  I have grown in my love and respect for each one of them.  We have had four funerals in our first nine months of service and each one hurt deeply. 

Sammi was sick on Wednesday.  She is also very clingy knowing I will be gone to teen camp next week.

Summer is drawing to a close and the hopeful to do list I created is still way too full.

Several other church members are having health issues and I feel guilty for not contacting them as well as concerned about their situations.

I'm worried about teen camp next week.  I am looking forward to spending time with the girls that are going and developing a closer relationship with them.  However, my husband gave me a 'pep' talk that totally deflated my anticipation.  He explained that along with going to bed late and dodging pranks, I will be getting up way early for counselor meetings.  (I am VERY attached to my sleep.)  Then I will be leading two Bible studies a day with a group or 10-15 teens I don't know.  Oh, and I should mention how all the other teen leaders on the district are the fun, exciting, big personality types and I am not.  So, yeah, insecurities abound.

As the week progressed I felt the beginnings of depression creeping in and I couldn't seem to shake it.  I know that if I can get ahold of what is upsetting me I have a much better chance of heading off the dark emotions and seeing the truth, but things just seemed cloudy this week.

Today I finally figured it out.  I'm not enough.  I'm not talented enough or kind enough or smart enough to deal with my life.  Don't get me wrong.  I have strong talents and lots of things I like about myself, but I'm not the person I want to be - the person who can fix everyone's problems and make everything ok.  I have what I have to offer, but it's not enough.

The crazy truth is that it's not supposed to be.  I can't heal my friend's skin graft or make sure a new widow has the financial resources she needs.  I probably won't make teenagers laugh or tell a story they will remember in ten years.  Those things are not my job.  My calling is to love them and point them to the savior who can meet all their needs.  I need to let go and let God because -- He is enough.