(This is long, but worth the read...)
“…I was 20 years old and starting my Junior year of college. I had spent the previous summer in Panama City Beach, Florida on a Summer Beach Project. This was set up through a campus ministry known as Campus Outreach. We were in discipleship groups. We studied a particular book of the Bible. We were shown how to have a quiet time, how to share our faith, etc. It was a very intense time of learning and growing. At the beginning of the summer, a girl asked me if I wanted to meet with her. I knew that one-on-one time with her would be a blessing, so we sat down and talked. I cannot even remember what was said. By the end of our conversation, she confronted me. She was a recovered anorexic, and could see struggles within me that I, myself, had not yet identified.
I mulled over that confrontation throughout my summer. My denial was so deep and this 'thing' seemed too big to acknowledge. By the last night of the project, I went to L’s room and sat talking to her for a couple of hours. I was still wondering if her accusation could carry any weight (no pun intended:). She was very encouraging, offering hope, while stressing the severity of a struggle such as this.
I was fearful of returning to school. I moved into the sorority house that year. I had a packed schedule. More and more I found myself tucked away in my bed just wanting to sleep. No one knew the turmoil inside of me and I desperately wanted to keep it that way. Normally quite the social butterfly, I became more and more withdrawn. The eating part was, in reality, eating me alive emotionally. I would go on long drives and cry. Since L. was the only person who knew about my struggle, I would call her on occasion, in tears. She gave me the names of some Christian counselors. I decided on a weekend when I felt I could slip away and go unnoticed in order to meet with one of the recommended therapists. I used money I had won in a pageant to pay for the session (irony?). I kept seeing this particular therapist, and after a few weeks, I thought it was necessary to bring my family into the light concerning my situation. I had put this off because I have a very supportive family and I knew that they would do any and everything to help me get better. I just wasn't sure if I was ready to acknowledge what was going on or start a process of recovery. Everything seemed so far out of reach.
Just as I thought, my parents and sister had only words of love and encouragement when I sat down to speak with them. I told them on a Sunday afternoon. I will never forget watching them join hands and walk down to the altar to bow in prayer that night at our church. I also called my brother (I'm the youngest of three) and he was completely supportive and broken as well.
I continued with the counseling and things really started to spiral down. I specifically remember spending the night at my parents’ home one Sunday night. The next morning my mother found me dressed to go to class. I was sitting in my room on the floor, looking out the window and crying because I felt that I couldn't even leave my home. I felt completely engulfed in a darkness I'd never known. My mom lovingly tucked me into bed. In the following weeks I lost the ability to function in the routine of my normal life. My mom went to my college, withdrew me from my classes, and packed up my things to move me home.
I grew up in a very small town. Everyone knew my family. Many of our relationships overlapped among church, work, and community. It was as if I had disappeared. However, the Lord was so powerfully present during these dark times. I experienced a depth of worship that I had never known existed. On one particular occasion, He lovingly brought Lamentations 3:22-23 (“Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”) to mind the night before I was to recall some sexual abuse from my childhood. I didn't audibly hear His voice, but I knew without a doubt that He was speaking to my heart and saying, "Tomorrow is going to be a very hard day, but I love you."
The therapist recommended that I look into in-patient treatment. God placed a wonderful doctor in my path who strongly encouraged me to seek in-patient treatment as well. I cannot recall every single detail as I write, but the Lord clearly showed Himself when it came to placing me in a treatment facility. I cannot remember the first time I heard about Remuda Ranch in Arizona. We were sent videos to watch and pamphlets to read concerning Remuda. My curiosity got the better of me one night and I watched the Remuda video after everyone had gone to bed. I don't recall making the decision to go. My statements just seem to change from "'if I go" to "when I go". Rather quickly, things 'fell into place.' (Insurance agreed to cover 40 out of 45 days.)
My mom and I left on October 31, 2000 to drive to Atlanta and catch a flight to Arizona. I don't know if it was my total denial or a working of the Spirit, but I went from not wanting to leave my house to having a spark of excitement when thinking of meeting other girls like myself 1600 miles away.
As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a small town. My Dad was (and is) the local veterinarian. I was known as "Dr. J’s'' daughter. It wasn't a bad thing, mind you. I just felt a certain level of expectation. I had actually thrived on such feelings in some ways. I found success in various avenues and activities. I really did seem to 'have it all.' Oh and we were a 'nice, christian' family. These things all came into play later. I mentioned this now to let you know that I coveted the anonymity that would come with being 'Amy J., just another patient.’ Later, I found that my own problems with recovering strangely had to do with whether or not I had been the ‘best anorexic.’ Since I went through waves with bulemia and anorexia, I was never at a point to where I was a walking skeleton. I had times of noticeable weight loss, but it seemed to be just enough to garner praises. I was just very unhealthy. Whether it was binging and purging or total restriction, I had some major issues that needed to be dealt with. Lyrics from a Jennifer Knapp song made so much sense to me. "There are ghosts from my past who own more of my soul than I thought I had given away. They linger in closets and under my bed and in pictures less proudly displayed."
As I hugged my family and told them goodbye, I did so thinking that I would arrive in Arizona and be told that I didn't belong there. I expected to return home. (Hello Denial, so nice of you to accompany us.) I arrived at Remuda Ranch on November 1, 2000. My mom was able to walk into the initial area with me and then I had to tell her goodbye. She had been my Rock in many ways, yet I didn't shed a tear as we embraced. I prayed for her (she's fearful when it comes to flying). God later orchestrated a meeting for my Mom. (I mean my Mama- I am from the South.) As she strolled through Wickenburg, AZ she met another couple from Arizona who had just left their daughter a day earlier. God showed Himself thoroughly throughout this earthquake.
Remuda Ranch is a Christ-centered rehab facility for eating disorders that uses horses as a part of patients' therapy. (My last experience on a horse was nearly two years earlier when I was thrown from one.) My problem upon arrival was that I saw all of these pitiful girls whom I grew to love and adore. I wanted to 'fix' them. I thought my 'hurts' paled in comparison to the stories that I was hearing on a daily basis. I wasn't looking to expose what was underneath my surface. I felt spoiled and stupid. Certainly we had taken this 'getting help' thing way too far. I can remember my dietician (a recovered anorexic) sitting down with me and saying, "Why don't you just eat your meals and work the program. You can always go back to what you were doing." That clicked just a little bit for me.
Also, the fact that Remuda was Christ-centered did not mean that everyone was a Christian. This treatment center was sought after because of its success rate. (Any connection there?) So there were girls from various homes. It was literally a mission field. A lot of these women were truly down and out and quite accepting of the Gospel. One girl who entered treatment just after me, told me one day that she prayed to received Christ. Another girl was an atheist. We sat at the same table one night. After I prayed over our food, she told me, "You're good at that." I thought, "Wow. Please take note that we're in the same place. It's not about being 'good' at anything."
I had a major realization on Thanksgiving. We had to write out our life story. This was an ongoing process for me and it caused a great deal of pain. I began 'cutting' on my arm as an outlet. Eventually one of the other girls urged me to tell someone. After that I wasn't allowed to be alone since I had harmed myself. I was also attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to deal with well, alcohol issues. All of this was leading up to Thanksgiving Day. I woke up that day and called my family. It was okay and I thought I could handle it. By that night, I was making my third call to my family. I broke down. I began to see that this 'thing,' this eating disorder, was costing me more than I was willing to pay. It was like being tricked by my best friend who, in all actuality, was no friend at all. Needless to say, this was an eye opener. I remember all of the other girls being so surprised to see me cry because up until that point, they had never seen anything but a smile on my face.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that my previous experience with a horse was being thrown from one? Well, another turning point for me was when I decided to ride (excuse me here) that damn horse. I cannot even tell you the difference in me as I rode on Brando. (If that horse could have fit in my suitcase, he'd be in Alabama as I type.)
In December, I had my family week. My family (minus my brother) flew to Arizona. We were grouped with four other families. Each girl was given a time for their 'Truth in Love". This was when we sat in the middle of the room surrounded by the other families and told our loved ones how we had gotten to this point in our lives. We had a family therapist as well as our individual therapist that we had been working with up to this point. It was a time to accept responsibility where we needed to and also a time to hear as well as be heard.
I was quite possibly dehydrated after my turn. It was like ripping a well-attached scab off and in my case, it was necessary. My family seemed to gain a lot by being surrounded with others who were facing similar struggles. There's so much to knowing that you aren't alone. The week ended on a high note as we were able to have our very own rodeo.
I was blessed to return to Alabama and celebrate Christmas with my family. I even got my nose pierced before returning to Arizona. Craziness. I didn't return to the same facility. I had completed my stay in Wickenburg. I went to Remuda's transitional treatment facility. It was basically a cul-de-sac with five or so homes. I lived with other girls and we had much more freedom.
I returned to Alabama in mid-January. Since I was the ‘perfect patient,’ it only made sense that I would transition perfectly back home. Yeah, right. I cringe at the next 1 1/2 to 2 year period. I take full responsibility for my decisions and actions. The 'returning' part was by far the hardest. Remember how I had disappeared? Well, now I was reappearing. Only now I had cut 10 inches off of my long, dark hair and, oh yeah, the nose ring. Most people didn't even recognize me.
I could not come to terms with the fact that the world didn't stop just because my life had taken a drastic detour. A lot of people (well meaning) didn't know what to do with me. Heck, I didn't know what to do with me. I neglected to have a plan in place upon my return to 'normal' life. It looked as though I was the biggest George Bush supporter as my college transcript was covered with a row of 'W's (for withdrawal).
So many 'wounds' had been uncovered and left that way. A born-again believer since 17, I was now not at all resembling my Savior. I drank heavily and even tried to overdose one time on my anti-depressants. My little recovery puppy, a chihuahua named Scarlet, was killed six months into my recovery. Seriously?!?!
I've struggled with 'my story'. I mourn over my actions and attitudes. I remember specifically asking the Lord to take me at the very beginning of my ordeal. I reasoned with Him that He could gain glory in my departure. So many times I wandered why He hadn't done just that.
Seeing as how I am an'all or nothing' person, I couldn't come to terms with the fact that my road to recovery wasn't nice and pretty. I like for things to look well done. I just wanted my story to have clear transitions. I was sick. I got help. I lived happily ever after singing the praises of the Lord. Period.
The Lord handled me in a way that I didn't see coming. I thought I would experience a Paul salvation moment. A bright light would shine. I would be given instructions about what to do. I would never be the same again. Well, here's what happened:
It was December of 2002. I was at a piano bar in Dothan, Alabama. I saw this really good-looking guy. With a hint of liquid confidence I approached this guy and said, "Has anyone ever told you that you look like Spiderman?" (He favored Toby Maguire.) He told me that his name was Ross and he got my number.
He tried calling me a few times, but I wouldn't answer his calls because I had met him in a bar. (Hypocrite.) So I returned to that same piano bar the following February. Guess who was there? Mr. Ross K. Granted it was only his 2nd or 3rd time ever being there. I, on the other hand, felt like Norm from Cheers when I walked through the door and everyone exclaimed, "Ammmmyyyy." (Only partially kidding.)
I explained my reason for not answering his calls. He said that he would call me again. We realized that he would be in Troy the following weekend at my apartment complex. (We discovered that we had mutual friends.)
The meeting at the apartment led to a date. He picked me up and took me to the beach on a dinner cruise! Our conversation revolved around the fact that we each knew Christ, but we were not walking with Him.
So here's what the Lord did. He showed me that by choosing to stay in my sin, I would be missing out. My sin was costing me... everything.
Ross and I dated two months and got engaged. We married five months later. The Lord lovingly drew us to Himself, both individually and, ultimately, as a couple.
We were married for three months and then we moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Ross began seminary. I did have continuing struggles with anxiety and depression, but the Lord bonded us through those times. My husband comforted me and loved me when I felt so unworthy of either response.
Ross is now a full time pastor and I am a stay-at-home mommy to our two little ones. Ellie Kate is 3 1/2 yrs old and Emmett is 1 1/2 yrs old. I love, love, love what I do. My babies are so precious to me. Emmett's newest thing is to lay his head on my shoulder and hug me while saying, "Awwwww Weeee." I'm “gone eat him aw up,” as Ellie Kate would say.
I am at a place now where I can give my testimony. I have shared with a small group of women, and I was quoted in the Alabama Baptist newspaper in an article about eating disorders. The Lord has brought me to a place where I can accept my story. I know that I made some terrible choices in the process, but it makes me all the more grateful for my Savior's love and mercy. After all, if my story only pointed people to me then it would indeed be a wasted story.
Whatever challenges we face, I know that God is in control and I am blessed to walk with my Lord through today and each coming day.”
Amy, thank you so much for sharing your incredible earthquake story. I know that it will bring hope to many who are suffering in silence, feeling isolated and alone. All of us have our inner battles and demons to fight. But I believe that when we bring secrets out into the light, they lose their power over us. Your honesty, vulnerability, and humor are inspirational. Your voice is powerful and brave. Your story of redemption is a beautiful blessing for all who hear it. Keep speaking your truth, sister. It does set us free.
Amy’s family blog:www.therosskilpatricks.blogspot.com