My Favorite Comeback Story

I write to you today to tell you a tale. It is the story of a comeback, of the power of faith, of a girl who fought death and claimed victory. It is the story of transformation. It is the story of a quest to find the answer to one girl’s purpose, to help her uncover her identity.  And it is one of my personal favorites for it is mine. It is my very own account of coming back to life and light from one of the deepest trenches of hopelessness and pain. It is my testimony of overcoming. It is with gratitude and humbleness that I compose these words for you to read.

I have seen death. I have stared at it in the face, was running into its arms with a body and mind that was at its end and wanting it all to be over. I was ravaged physically; less than a third of my ideal weight, unable to walk or sit upright, my vision going, weary from not sleeping in weeks, hearing loss, hair falling out, a heart straining to beat, organs failing, an unreadable body temperature, a fading pulse, just minutes away from death. I remember waking up in the crash room at the ER, fading in and out, with a mind still only consumed with what my body looked like laying on that table and that I never got to eat the lone food item I allowed myself daily, that I still had laxatives sitting in my body. I wasn’t concerned about it perhaps being the last time I see the face of my mom. I wasn’t concerned about the dreams I would never make come true, my dad never getting to dance with his baby girl at her wedding, my siblings never getting to have future kids have an aunt. I wasn’t concerned about all the places I had yet to see and the people yet to meet. I wasn’t worried about all the suffering I would have let be in vain. The only thoughts my starved, disorder consumed mind could conjure up were surrounding weight and food. It had become the essence of my existence for years so it was no surprise it was what would flash before me as I was closing in on the end of my life. All I could think about was that it still wasn’t enough. I still wasn’t thin enough. I still had not suffered enough. I still had not pleased Disordered Jenna enough. I still was not numb enough. But I had no choice in prolonging it to become “enough”. I knew that it was going to end soon and I would be free.

However, my end and God’s end were much different. God blocked me that night from coming in contact with death. Freedom to me would have meant to leave this world. Freedom to God meant recovery, and that is the path He paved for me and my heart chose to walk. My mind fought it, but as you can tell by me writing this, my heart won.

My encounter with death was the climax to a long battle with anorexia. I have suffered from the disorder since the age of eight. I was in and out of treatment, trying again and again to establish some sort of peace and health in my life. I could never withstand the process of recovery for more than a few months at a time. I reached the point where I was tired of fighting. I didn’t want to do it anymore. The obsessions, the never ending negative thoughts, the skewed perceptions of myself, the tears, the extreme level of self hatred, the pain were all too overwhelming. I craved an end. I planned and performed various means to get it when I realized the starvation was not going to do it fast enough. To my mind’s dismay nothing worked. God wouldn’t allow it. This was not meant to take my life. I was meant to survive, to turn it all into purpose, to be the Jenna I lost, to live a life that only existed in my dreams. There was more to my life that I lost faith in being able to see.

It took years for me to accept that however. Death wasn’t enough to release my grasp over the disorder. I had to go through it a few more times. Each time I tried to outdo the relapse before, pushing the limits of my body and seeing how far I could go with the hopes that I would finally feel enough and could move on. I was waiting for the impossible.

When did it all change? There was no monumental event. There was no huge light bulb moment. I didn’t have some grand epiphany. It was done by giving it all to God, entrusting Him with the greater plan. It was through Him and Him ALONE I was freed. Because He gave me free will, I could choose to walk out of the dark with the strength only He could provide.  

My commitment to recovery cannot be defined in one instance. I did not get to recovery overnight. It was a gradual transition into not becoming better but allowing myself to become what I had always been within. It was an ongoing decline of the need and desire and purpose of the disorder. It was a steady, continuous releasing of the forces weighing me down. It was the daily task of giving myself a taste of life. Every day, it was sample sizes of being alive, of happiness, of health, of freedom. Each one served to make me stronger, freer, joyful, determined, and renewed my commitment which inspired me to do it all the next day.

Recovery is a journey, not a destination. It is walking the path to self love and running from hate. It is traveling to feeling and moving away from numbness. It is stepping into authenticity and away from lies. It is wandering the path leading to my true self guided by the voice of my heart instead of by the thoughts. It is a process, a slow progression of overcoming.  That redefining and acceptance of recovery was my turning point from hesitation into assurance, from sitting on the sidelines of my own life to being an active participant. It was when I accepted the role of being the heroine of my story and saving myself.

I dropped the all or nothing thinking that had me believing I had to face full recovery all at once or nothing at all. That seemed impossible. Instead, I adopted the thinking of one small change at a time. It is one step forward every day. It is one minute at a time. I dropped the thinking that it needed to be perfect. I let go of the idea that if I couldn’t do it right, I shouldn’t do it at all. I accepted mistakes will be made. I embraced struggle. I accepted that the only way out of this is going to be through, wherever that leads me and whatever path I have to take to get there. I accepted I am going to have to rely solely on faith, let go, and let God. My journey forever changed when I allowed myself to surrender to the unknown, to lay down my arms to fear, to submit to faith. No matter what, I was going to keep moving forward. No matter how hard, how cloudy the future seemed, how tired I was, I would not stop. I would crawl if I had to. Whatever it took, I was going to do for giving up was not going to be an option. I didn’t come all this way and overcome death to have it all be sacrificed. I had too much beauty awaiting me. I knew that by choosing recovery, I was standing at the foot of the path to the beginning of a remarkable life.

The anorexia is the greatest gift I could have ever been given. I am the beautiful soul I am because of it and am living out my purpose for it guided me to it. It opened my eyes to what it means to love who you are, create yourself, and to live by the heart. It directed me to my passion, my oxygen, what keeps me arising with the sun every morning. It showed me a strength within I would have never known existed. It revealed in me a beauty that would have otherwise gone suppressed. I treasure life and every moment of it on a deeper level because I fought to have it. I live each minute as the blessing that it is. I now live with a peace that can never be disrupted. I learned the art and healing power of authenticity. And all of those things, I want to teach others and show them how to create it in themselves.

The path of recovery has lead me to uncover my passion; to help others heal, to help them love, to help them live in authenticity, to make them heard. It directed me to life coaching and writing, a calling so loud it could not be ignored. I have a heart transformed from struggle that is made to heal. I have a fire of passion burning inside of me that is ready to ignite the world with light and bring an end to the dark. I have a voice that has been strengthening to bring hope to the silenced. I have a story to be shared to bring inspiration to the defeated, to heal broken spirits.

 I survived this pain for this very reason. I made it out alive so I can stand here today to be used for change. I want to be an advocate for better tomorrows, for second chances, for what faith can do to change your life. This is my purpose in the pain. I fought the battle for the hope of the world. It wasn’t just my fight to win. It was the fight for all those in pain. I have lived this struggle and walked the path so that I could lead others out. To know I can save one life, I would do it all again.

Hope, love, and blessings

J.L.