Abbye, 17, Tennessee, USA
[As told to Then God Moved editor Adira Polite]
I developed anorexia nervosa the summer before 6th grade. At the time, everything in my life seemed out of my control. My parents had divorced, yet they were constantly fighting. My father was battling a pill addiction and, when he was high, did a lot of things a father should never do to his daughter. My mom, meanwhile, had suffered an injury and was unable to support me; with time, she resorted to stealing and check fraud. Despite their own issues, my parents had high expectations of me. Their standard was perfection and worse, they had two different ideas of what I should be. I was living in total chaos — but I could control one thing: what I ate. So, I ate very little.
My doctor eventually caught onto me and sent me to therapy. I began seeing a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. By that point, I was at such a low weight that I honestly thought I would die. Even scarier than my nearness to death is the fact that I was fine with it. I had nothing to live for, or so I thought. I had no hope.
Then, I told God that I was ready to die. I believed “a God” existed, but I didn’t know Him at all. But when I spoke those words, the most amazing thing happened: He responded! In a gentle voice that I felt in my heart, He said that He had a plan for my life and that it wasn’t time for me to come home yet. As He whispered this, He held me. It was one of the most peaceful moments of my life. I’d been slowly drowning for years and now, in a matter of seconds, I’d been plucked out of the water and made to breathe again.
After that encounter, I set out to find out who God was — and Jesus revealed Himself to me. As I began surrendering everything in my life to Him, He renewed my heart and mind. Bit by bit, my fear of food was replaced with appreciation. For the first time in years, I saw food as nourishment for my body. And instead of thinking so low of my body, I began to recognize that my body was created in His image…and it was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) Recovery wasn’t easy, but by God’s grace, it happened.
God not only healed me of anorexia, He also healed my deeper, more easily concealed afflictions. I had so many scars from my parents; like many, this trauma clouded my understanding of who God was. Fortunately, God was faithful in showing me that no matter what my earthly parents did or didn’t do, He — my heavenly Father — would never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Unlike mankind, He keeps his promises and loves His people with an everlasting love.
A year after my recovery, I went on a church youth trip, where the Lord called me to ministry. He spoke in that same gentle voice. It’s still not clear what He wants me to do, but I know that I love writing and performing poetry about Jesus. Each time I perform is life-giving; it’s incredible to know that I can touch others just by sharing what God has done in my life. And He’s done a lot!
That said, my issues haven’t vanished. My anxiety, depression, and OCD are still with me and I was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome from the trauma caused by my father. It’s tough, but even in my darkest moments, I find hope in Christ Jesus. This is a fallen, sinful world, so there is suffering. But as Christians, “He who is in [us] is greater than he who is in the world” (John 4:4). We don’t have to fix ourselves before we can be loved by Him; as the Lord tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Your problems are not a reason to run away from God — they’re a reason to fall on Him.
No matter what you’ve been through, know that you’re not alone. Believers, we are loved and known by a heavenly Father. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). Trust Him! He has a plan for you — not just the parts of you that you like, but all of you. Instead of ignoring your wounds, turn to God and let Him use your story for His glory.