***I just wanted to open this post by stating that I genuinely contemplated writing about an issue as raw as battling an eating disorder, for fear of readers misunderstanding my intent. I prayed about it over the course of assembling the post, and felt it was necessary for me to use my experience as a voice for so many men and women who may be living the same truth. I only hope this will touch someone in a positive way, and helps open the conversation of those fighting the same battle.***
I was on the phone with my sister the other day and conversation led to me discussing bits and pieces of my testimony regarding my past struggles with body image. The following days I found myself reflecting back on who I once was, who I am now, and even who I strive to be moving forward. To look at my past self is equal to looking at a complete stranger; I don't recognize that individual anymore, and I attribute that fully to the grace that God has bestowed on my life. For those whom simply don't know my past battle with an eating disorder, I find it potentially comforting to some for me to share just one of many transformations God has done in my life.
At the age of fourteen is when I initially remember my perception of beauty beginning to warp, specifically towards my own body and it's features. I'm not certain to what the true root of this issue was, but I can only assume my time being bullied in middle school attributed in some way, along with major anxiety and severe control issues I've had since early on in life. For me, the internet heavily fueled my insecurities and ultimately fed the obsession of comparing my body to those of supermodels, or other females who were "experienced"in their eating disorders. Countless hours scrolling through "thinspiration" blogs as they call them, providing extreme diet plans and even bragging about how few calories they had consumed that day. Photo after photo depicting the scary truths of starvation, and food abuse, all while my parents and closest friends were entirely clueless as to what was happening behind my bedroom door. It overwhelmed my every thought, which ultimately began the brainwashing that would imprison me for six years. I secluded myself from those closest to me, and in turn made excessive workouts and calorie counting my main focus. The number on the scale was never low enough, the amount of skin I could pinch was always too much, and no amount of mental or physical exhaustion would stop my twisted pursuit for "beauty". I was playing a very dangerous game that had no winner.
At eighteen I packed up and left for college, most of which was because I wanted to be alone with my struggles; far from the only people that truly cared about me, and surrounded by the few that were toxic to the last of innocence that remained. Needless to say at that point I was of the world, although my love for God and the morals instilled from childhood were still there, my relationship with the Lord was a passing "hello" at best. Throughout my first year at college, I managed to allow my eating habits to gain full control, which in turn made focusing on school impossible and my enthusiasm for anything "good" nonexistent. I managed to maintain complete secrecy with my eating habits or lack there of, although family and friends had shown concern, the elephant in the room was far too taboo to discuss. In the worst way, I had managed to live a double life in which no one really knew my struggle; in a very troubling way I had mastered the art of manipulation to those who knew me best. After years of torment one very pivotal event occurred, which I believe was the emotional breakdown, and mental breakthrough I needed. My body was weak, and my mind was tired. One night alone in my dorm, I stumbled upon a photo of myself at my lowest weight of 102 pounds (at my current height of 5'7) which shook me to the core. All those years I became blinded to my true reflection in the mirror, but this one photo revealed the living skeleton I had become. My initial reaction was denial which turned into shame in which I quickly deleted the photo evidence from existence, although my earthly body was still present and there was no click of a button that could make me disappear as well.
Throughout my six year battle I always held on to one shred of hope. KING JESUS. Even though at times it seemed to be more of a speck. I solely thank my parents for this. Though they were the two main people I withheld sharing my disorder with for fear of disappointing them, they had always been God fearing people, who raised me to know the importance of a relationship with the Lord. The fact I was raised in a spirit-led household in no way made me immune to temptation of the world, but it protected me, grounded me, and ultimately guided me to where I am now, even when I wasn't actively seeking it. I strongly feel God had his hand in my life, just waiting for me to grasp it and hold on tight. Shortly after this incident, I dropped out of college, moved back home, and began the journey of healing. In no way was it easy nor sudden, but I can confidently say now, I am 100% free from self-hatred and that is ONLY because of Jesus!
Fast forward several years (post eating disorder) when I found out I was pregnant with Gemma, I secretly hoped it would be a boy, because for more reasons than one I imagined it to be "less difficult". I knew firsthand the expectations, and pressures that females face throughout their lives and the mere thought of it terrified me. At sixteen weeks, we asked the doctor to write the official gender on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope, then Chris and I would go out to lunch and open it together. As we ripped open the seal, the paper revealed "girl", which sent a sudden surge of anxiety throughout my body, knowing that "I", Courtney Sutton would be responsible not just for another life, but a baby girl nonetheless. It'd be my sole purpose to instill strength, confidence, and self-worth into this little human; I'd be the front runner as "female" role model. Then that special day came when I met my first born, and like so many women feel, nothing but the safety and security of my child flooded my thoughts. I knew then that all six of those self-torturing years prepared me to guide my baby girl through life and make absolute certain she would never see her Mama live by unhealthy, and unrealistic standards. My baby would never hear "I'm ugly", "I'm fat", or "I'm not good enough". Three years and another precious miracle later, never have I questioned a bite of food, a number on the scale, or a reflection in the mirror. In all honesty, I haven't owned a scale in years, not because I'm afraid to face one, but I now understand beauty isn't defined by a number. I am determined to raise my daughters to love the skin they're in, no matter how the world tries to manipulate what God has already deemed beautiful.God has done a miracle in my heart and even more so in my mind, when it comes to body image and self-worth. I say this is a miracle because in all honesty, this isn't something I would've ever been able to cope with or overcome had it not been for the constant pursuit from God in my life. He never wanted me to fail, or give up, and I'm truly thankful that he saw me fit to rescue from an undeniably toxic lifestyle.
I promise my daughters that I will always be open and honest with the very things God has saved me from, praying that they will never have to experience the same, but even I know that they too are imperfect beings. If/ when they're are confronted by trials in life, I will reassure them of God's love and pray they too grasp his hand and hold on tight, because he will never fail them, or anyone else who seeks him.
GOD IS GOOD.