**disclaimer: this is a story that I am always hesitant to share, even with the people I am closest with. I am embarrassed by how I once acted, and would like to assure you that I am no longer the same as I once was. This story will seem dramatic; I promise I am not looking for attention. I am 100% better now.
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." Ether 12:27 ❤
I was 9 when my sister turned 12 and moved up from Primary to the Young Women's program in my church. I remember one Sunday, she came home with a badge that said Future Missionary across it. I listened in excitement as she told me why she wanted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, she went on and on, and I was captivated. That was the exact moment that I decided I would serve a mission, as well.
Finally, at the age of 18 and after much preparation, I started my papers, turned them in as soon as they'd let me, and I waited. And waited.
They told me that three weeks was the average amount of time it should take to get your mission call in the mail. Well, three weeks passed by, then four, and they kept on building up. Almost two months after I had submitted my papers, my stake president asked me to meet with him. Walking into his office, my heart felt tight. My bishop was there, as well, and the three of us knelt in prayer to open our meeting. I could sense what was coming. We proceeded to sit down, and my stake president looked straight into my eyes, a look of empathy across his face.
"Sister VanWinkle, I have been informed that your mission call was denied."
I had no words. I nodded, stood, shook their hands, and returned to my car. I all of a sudden felt lost; I thought I knew exactly what God had wanted me to do. Why had he changed my plan? I called my best friend and, for the first time, I told her the whole story.
My best kept secret.
I believe it started in the first grade. I critiqued myself harshly starting at a young age. I hated that I was bigger than the other kids in my grade, though I was not overweight, just taller and stronger. But to me, it wasn't how I was 'supposed to look'. Since I was six, there has been a constant demon deep in the back of my thoughts, telling me I'm inferior, that I'm 'less than'. I always thought it was just my own lack of confidence, I didn't recognize that there was a disorder in my mind feeding me lies about myself. I mistook it's voice for my own. For a while, it just chiseled away at my feelings of self-worth, but as I got older it began to tell me how to fix my problems.
Eighth grade. For the first time, I attempted to make myself throw up. I remember sitting on the bathroom tile, crying as the shower ran and music blared, in hopes that no one would hear me. Over the next year and a half, I did this same thing only enough times to count on one hand, but the spark had ignited.
High school. I started rugby. I began to be immensely proud of my strength and the eating disorder was less present than ever before. But then, senior year. There were several events that broke me down, the rugby season was coming to a close, and I just didn't care anymore. I let the eating disorder take over.
Let me pause and explain to you,
An eating disorder is not a choice. Like having depression or being bipolar or any other kind of mental disorder, it is something that is off inside of your brain. In MY OWN RIGHT MIND I knew I wasn't overweight. An eating disorder is like a little person that sits at the back of your mind and tells you lies about yourself all day long, until you end up believing it. You can choose to ignore it, like I did for quite some time, but that can only go on for so long. Once you give in even in the slightest, it gets more aggressive.
An eating disorder is also not classified by actions made. A person can have an eating disorder and never lose weight. The disorder is the part of your mind breaking down your confidence; these are the thoughts that potentially lead to the actions of not eating or throwing up.
The picture at the end of this post is me at the heaviest I have ever been: 175. But looking back, I see that that number doesn't matter. I was mostly muscle, but I hated my size.
Post high school. The worst it got. I had an obsession with the boney look; cheek bones, hip bones, collar bones. I used to admire the athletic build, but as soon as this mind set switched my actions followed suit. I started counting calories: no more than 1000 a day. Whatever I did eat was a fruit or a vegetable, and I was taking handfuls of laxatives a day. I'd work out for two hours in the morning and then another few at night, I'd tell my friends I had plans and couldn't hang out then I'd sneak to the gym, again. I would weigh myself every hour of every day, starting first thing in the morning. I lost 10+ pounds a week, and I was thrilled. These actions, they were the final thing the eating disorder needed to break me, and just like that, my mind was no longer it's own.
All I thought about was how to avoid eating, what I could do to burn more calories. With every step I took further into this disorder, I also lost the feeling of self-worth. I was smaller than I'd ever been, yet I hated myself more than I ever had.
Once you start acting the way the eating disorder tells you to, you also start to believe the lies it tells you about yourself. I hated seeing my reflection; I would literally look in a mirror and cry. I could no longer look people in the eyes. I couldn't even feel the spirit like I used to be able to; I could tell Heavenly Father was disappointed in my actions. But I honestly didn't think it was that big of a problem. I thought that as long as I wasn't hospitalized, there was nothing to worry about.
Well, God disagreed. He prompted whoever it was that reviewed my mission papers to not accept them, and looking back now, I see it was for the best. At the time, it felt like a slap in the face, like Heavenly Father saying he didn't trust me.
So, like in any trial, I knelt in prayer.
I layed it all out on the table for him, admitting everything I thought about myself and the way I had treated myself. I prayed that I would grow to WANT to change, because at that time I was still attatched to the eating disorder. For months, I used Him as a therapist-like figure, telling him my every thought and problem. Every single day, I prayed for confidence. I prayed to be able to love myself the way He loves me.
Then, on September 10th, 2014, it clicked.
I was in my apartment, on Pinterest just like any other casual night, when a friend sent me a pin. She had no idea I had any kind of issue with myself, so I like to assume that she was prompted to do so. It said,
"Love yourself first, so you know what you deserve."
That got me. My best friend's mom says I have 'silly heart', because my whole life long I have been soo excited to know whoever it is that God will have me marry. I've loved him since I was one. I didn't want to be better for myself, but for him? Anything. I realized that whoever it is that I fall in love with deserves better than who I was at that time. My future daughters, they deserve better than a mother who could potentially teach them to critique themselves as harshly as I have. I would hate myself if they learned, from me, to dislike themselves.
So, I learned to love myself. I continued to pray for help, and I truly treated my body like a temple, and I monitored my negative thoughts. Everything negative in my life, I cut it out altogether.
I know that God loves me. Even at my worst, he loved me still. He refused to let go of me, and stuck by my side even when it seemed as if I was pushing him away.
"I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me. I tremble to know that for me he was crucified, that for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine. That he should extend his great love unto such as I, sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify. I think of his hands, pierced and bleeding to pay the debt! Such mercy, such love, and devotion.. Can I forget? No. I will praise and adore at the mercy seat, until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet. Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to DIE for me. Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me."
Now, led by my Heavenly Father, I have found complete happiness. And I am forever thankful.
xo Zo ❤