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.