Becoming Me

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From the time we are born we begin a process of becoming…. I am 32 years old and some days I realize I am learning who I am and there are moments I feel at home in my own skin. It’s funny to me to write that, but if most of us were honest with ourselves we spend a lot of time being someone we’re not, or just not quite feeling like we know who we really are. We all have labels. For example, I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a follower of Jesus, a runner. I could go on and on of the labels that I am. These are concrete for the most part, I understand my role and who I am to be in each of these positions. But then there is the me that doesn’t quite fit into a nice neat label. Here are a few things I’ve been learning about myself.

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-I am learning to love my body for the strength it possesses, not the number on a scale. This is hard, I’m not going to lie. But realizing that a number will never make me a different person is freeing. This is a daily struggle I have to let go of, but with most things…as time passes it gets easier.

-I can be insecure. If you met me, you’d think I was loud, always happy, and super confident. I give off this vibe to most people, but if you really knew me you’d know that I am pretty insecure about a lot of things. I’m getting better at this, but just keeping it real. I have a very real fear of rejection…and as I’ve learned this I understand some of my relational behaviors better. It helps me to grow as a person and the first part of changing is identifying the problem, right?!?

-I’m not nearly as extroverted as I once thought I was. I love to talk. A lot and LOUD if you know me. But over the past few years I have learned the value of begin a listener. Sometimes you don’t need to offer words back, sometimes just an ear at the other end of the phone line is better than any words you have to offer. I have learned to value quietness in my life. As a mother of two young kids, this can be rare….but that makes it all the more precious to me. We all need time to recollect and refresh ourselves.

-I’m an annoying optimist. I’ve always been a positive person, but I realize that I ALWAYS have to find the good in a circumstance. If you don’t want to hear the bright side of any situation, you probably should find someone else to tell it to, I will always find a silver lining. As I told someone the other day…my track record for surviving a bad day is 100% so far. I mean, can’t get much better than that. If its rough, it will eventually get better…just hang in there.

-I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m loyal to a fault. These two things can set you up for much heartache, but I’m learning that most heartaches are worth it for the chance to love and be loved. I also hide my feelings behind a smile, it’s not that I’m being fake, it’s that I ALWAYS smile. Like, ALWAYS! Even in the midst of a super hard, exhausting cycle class or boot camp, I’m smiling. Yeah, something is wrong with me 🙂

-I’m learning that I want to be known. Not the me I put out there, which is slowly lining up with the “me” I’m realizing I am, but the real me. I want some to know my heart, my joys, my fears, my dreams. To know and be known makes life so much sweeter.

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As I learn more about me, and feel comfortable being who I am, its funny to watch the masks that drop away in my everyday life. There have been times I’ve felt like I’ve walked around with multiple personalities trying to be a different me to different people. It’s exhausting, confusing, and I felt like a fraud. I never felt comfortable just being “me.” I didn’t know if I’d be accepted, the fear of rejection is strong and I’d rather pretend to be someone I’m not than be rejected for who I truly am.

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As these walls start crumbling, starting with just being truthful about who I am and who I’m not…more often than not these days I feel like I’m learning to be who I really am, learning to accept myself as I am, love myself as I am….and I have learned that those who truly love me and want me in their lives will still be there. If they are not, then in the long run I’m better for it because they couldn’t accept me for me. Becoming an adult is freeing in some ways when you realize that so much of the stress you live under is self-imposed.

Hi, I’m Jackie….I am definitely a work in progress and you can either love me as I am….or don’t. It’s your loss

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HOPE exists after an Eating Disorder

**This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. I know many still suffer in silence and shame. I am hoping by being brave that maybe even just one person hears a story of hope and healing and seeks help. Check back this week as I continue a series on ED Awareness. -Jackie

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My journey from eating disorder to recovery has spanned 15+ years, but the sweetest feeling in the world is knowing that there IS life after an eating disorder. It doesn’t have to forever be the defining statement over your life, your relationships and your thoughts. Recovery is possible, just never give up.

My struggle with food and eating began in my elementary years, I can’t pinpoint a year, but I know I had an unhealthy relationship with food even back then. I slowly gained weight and by junior high was pretty overweight. The pre-teen/teenage years are pretty unforgiving when it comes to being overweight. It seems that people love to target and pick on the overweight kids. I was bullied and made fun of on a regular basis through junior high, but you would probably never know it, I learned to hide it well. By the end of 8th grade I remember having episodes of purging, but it was scattered here and there. It was often coupled with stress and handling all these feelings that I didn’t know what to do with.

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By high school, in 9th/10th grade, my struggle had become an all out battle. What was at one point a stress relief became an overwhelming addiction that I had lost complete control over. I lost a very large amount of weight through this time and by 10th grade, not long after my 16th birthday, my family doctor recommended to my parents that they seek intense treatment for me. I spent six weeks at an inpatient eating disorder clinic and due to insurance was told I had to leave and pursue treatment back at home. I struggled with depression, anxiety, thinking that this was the end of my story, I couldn’t see hope outside of my eating disorder, it was my best friend and my worst enemy and it had its grips on me.

During this time I became a Christian and wrestled through much of this with the Lord. I begged for healing, I begged to wake up “normal” one day. I knew that God could heal me from this and I struggled oftentimes as to why He didn’t. Now I look back and know that this was all for a purpose, I am who I am today because of this struggle, but in the midst of it, I couldn’t see past it.

Fast forward through high school, as I continued to struggle. I graduated and moved off to college and my eating disorder amplified in my new independence.  I struggled hard through those years. I am an overachiever and push myself to my limits at anything I do. I was trying to balance college studies and my struggle with an eating disorder, and having a hard time. I was pushing to graduate college with a double major in three years, wanting to keep all A’s. I used my eating as an escape for the stress I felt. A binge/purge cycle would relieve the feelings of anxiety that built up inside.

There were times that I’d get a handle on my eating, I’d think I had made a turn for the better, and then without notice I’d be swept into the struggle more fully than the time before. Eating disorders are rough because you always think you have control of it, until you realize that you don’t. I saw therapists. psychiatrist, etc throughout this time, all trying to help me…all aiding in my eating. None ever understanding how I kept falling back into the same cycles over and over.

I got engaged in my last year of college and a year after college, I got married. Shortly after getting married I found out I was pregnant. Eating disorders and pregnancy are hard. You’re already freaked out about your body and then it starts morphing and changing in ways you cannot control. I did my best. My very, very best for my child. Trying my hardest to always put her needs before mine, I did well for awhile, but once she was born the struggles continued to come and go. I know that God had a purpose in giving me that little girl back then. She made me want to be better for her, to be a better mom, better person. So when I began to struggle again, I could not understand it. I didn’t want to, I couldn’t rationalize why God would give me a child, only for me to be thrown back into the woes of my eating and not be able to be fully present when I was struggling.

God has His perfect way of knowing what’s best for us, because four years later I had another daughter and somewhere in between this time, in the highs and the lows, I began to crawl out of the pit I had been sucked into for 15 years. I can’t pin point a moment, I can’t tell you I did x,y,z, and that helped me. I don’t know exactly what it was. I do know I never stopped trying to get better. The Lord was beyond gracious to sustain me. When I had given up on myself, He never did. He was my provider, my sustainer, my grace-giver when I absolutely did not deserve it. He held me tight in His grip through the worst of times. And I can promise you this, He was rejoicing the most the day I declared this battle as done, in Jesus name. He fought hard for me, even when I didn’t want to fight for myself. He never gave up on me.

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Lets jump to today….I have 2 beautiful little girls that are 4 and 8. They look to me as an example, they want to look like me, act like me, be me. That is very scary when you struggle with an eating disorder and you’d give your life to spare them from this struggle. I started working out and lifting weights a few years back and begin to find the strength in my body to be amazing. Just very recently, I discovered my love of running. I just completed my first Half Marathon on February 9 and am still in awe that I ran that far. I see beauty, I see the redemption of the cross, I see a newfound respect for my body for its strength to carry me. I have found my legs to be such an amazing gift to me, food is now fuel for me and I have such a healthy relationship with it that I shock myself on a regular basis. I can truly say running has been a huge part of what the Lord used to heal me. It has given back to me something that I never knew I possessed….worth in myself and a love for myself.

Running has made me feel whole, see my worthiness as the Lord created me. I am a Christian and I thank God always for sustaining me in my struggle. He truly has given me the strength to press on and never give up. My faith carried me in the darkness and that coupled with my running shoes are carrying me places I never thought possible.

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I fought a hard battle, I never gave up having hope that one day I would live without the struggle of an eating disorder. I am a survivor. My voice may be small, but I am not longer ashamed of the battle I fought. I made it, many others are still fighting and I want to give people the hope….just keep going! If one person finds help, if one person sees hope, then my battle has been well worth it. Eating disorders don’t have to stay hidden and in the dark, there is such beauty in the freedom of the truth.

My First Half Marathon Recap (Houston Rhythm & Blues 13.1)

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Well, it’s official, I am a half-marathoner (is that a word?!?) I keep reliving the day over and over in my head, trying to figure out how to place it all neatly into words and realize finally that I can not. So much emotion went into that day, but I will try my best to recap it here for each of you that are following my journey, and for myself to be able to remember this accomplishment years down the road.

I have chronicled bits and pieces of my journey (here and here) that got me to the starting line Sunday morning as I have started to try to work this all out in words. It was an amazing day, filled with amazing support and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my first big race.

So, here we go….I got up super early and did my usual morning routine of coffee and oatmeal. I didn’t want to change anything for the race. My best friend, Lory, met me at my house at 7am and we headed downtown to find a parking spot and get ready for the race. The 5K started before us, but even still we had plenty of time to park and visit the porta potties more than a few times. About 8:15am I lined up with the half marathon start, handed Lory my jacket, said our goodbyes and good lucks and proceeded to wait for the start.

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The start was delayed 10 minutes, but at 8:40am we were off. I fell into a massive moving crowd of people and shuffled to the starting line. As I crossed the start mat and started my Garmin, I was off. The first 4-5 minutes were completely dodging people left and right, then about 1/2 mile in the pack started clearing and I was steadily running, I glanced down at my watch only to see a 7:30 pace! WHOA! Slow down, I’m going to die at this pace (but it felt so easy, said my adrenaline.)

So here is a breakdown by mile:

Mile 1- this is great, all these people are in my way, oh shoot, 7:30 pace, scale WAY back, first hill of many rolling hills-felt easy

Mile 2- wow, that went fast, how did we get here already, this is great, 2nd hill- these are great, I can do this

Mile 3-5- these hills aren’t as scary as they seem, I haven’t broken a 9:00 pace yet…this is awesome! Ate 4 sports beans at mile 4…oops, forgot at mile 3

Mile 6- almost back to the starting point (was a 2 loop course) and by now everyone should be there, I’ll get to see my girls, my family and my friends….keep on going. Yay- there they are high fives, seeing all the littles holding signs, this is awesome! Standing there were my girls, my mom and dad, my best friend, my other “sister” Becky and her two boys. I needed to see them and have that boost…it carried me.

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Mile 7- oh my gosh, I have to run those 6 hills AGAIN?!? and do that whole loop AGAIN?!? That’s so long till I get back to my people. This was my roughest mile…seeing everyone and the finish line and then heading right back out to do it all over again was rough. Got a side stitch here and my toe/ankles starting acting sore on the downhills. Toughen up and COME ON LEGS (as I here my spin instructor Danielle in my ear)

Mile 8-10- more hills, maintaining pace, remembering that I am getting closer and closer to the finish line. Popped a few more sports beans for good measure, its hard to breathe and chew and doing it on a hill was a bad choice…Reflected on where I had been, what I had walked through and my journey to get me here. I said over and over to myself over the 13 miles…I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM DOING THIS!!!

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Mile 11- I want chocolate milk (this is a thing I have when I run, I always crave chocolate milk, although I don’t like it most other times, just after running) About this point my legs begin to feel as if concrete blocks have been attached to them and I am fighting to keep my pace.

Mile 12-13- I start to see the familiar sights from the beginning of the course as I’m heading back, I get closer to 13 and I hear the finish line bands. I have a conversation in my head with myself at this point that goes something like this, “Take that stupid eating disorder. You didn’t win this one, I did. I am one of the lucky ones who made it, who fought and never gave up, who SURVIVED.” It was so funny, but I just needed a moment to myself to declare this battle as done.

Mile 13.1- words fail me here, I see my girls, I see my friends and family….I choke back tears, I see victory, I see the cross and the strength that the Lord has given me to sustain me. I see redemption, I see beauty, I see a me that I’ve never known was there, the one who feels worthy of being herself.

and then I crossed that finish line…..Jesus! That’s the first word that came out of my mouth….it was exhilarating, it was redemptive, it was a moment that I can truly say I was PROUD of myself. I had done the hard work, the months of running, the mental work (and yes, running is VERY mental if you didn’t know that), the tears and the sweat and everything else had been worth it.

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And you know what? I finished in under 2 hours. My official time was 1:57:58. (I had a secret goal, but was too scared to say it because I didn’t think I could do it)

I did it. I ran a Half marathon. In under 2 hours. I can keep reliving that moment OVER AND OVER and it doesn’t get old.

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A Letter to my 15 year old Self

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Dear 15 year old Jackie,

I look at a picture of you and I remember being you like it was yesterday, not 17 years ago. There are days I look in the mirror and I still see you, I joke that my eyes are broken, but you are ingrained in my memories. Jackie, I have so many things I want to tell you, but as I look at this picture of you at 15, I want you to know that you are beautiful. You will come to learn, many years down the road, that beauty has nothing to do with the physical appearance. Beauty is the heart, the love, the concern and caring. You are all of these things. You are a giver, a loyal friend, a joyful spirit. You are God’s precious daughter, created in His perfect image. You are not a mistake, Jackie. Hear me again, YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE. You were never overlooked, you were never forgotten, you are living through each and every day for a specific purpose.

Sweet girl, do not listen to the words that come from ill meaning peoples mouths. The taunts, the laughs, they are not about you ultimately, I know it seems like it at the time, but they are coming from people that probably harbor more insecurities than you do. Wait 15 years, you will learn that hurt people, hurt people. I wish you could block out those voices that haunt you and realize that everyone is walking their own struggling path, each hard in their own ways. We all need to give one another grace. But also, do not be afraid to let it hurt, hurting isn’t bad for you. You don’t have to stuff your emotions and turn to food to make it through. It’s okay to cry, to be hurt. Growing up is hard, teenage years are hard, shoot, life is hard and when someone looks like they have it “all together” they are putting on a mask, because we all struggle.

Many years from now you will look back at this time that was hard and appreciate the struggle that you are walking through. You will see the woman you have become is better and stronger because of it. She’s more loving, more empathetic, and more determined than someone who may have had an “easier” path. You will dig deep in the hard times and remember where you came from and what you are made of. You will learn to rely solely on God for your strength. Sweet girl, He carried you through when you couldn’t even walk some days and He has never, and will never abandon you.

Life doesn’t get easier just because you move out of the adolescent years, it just takes on different, more adult problems. You have a strength that you didn’t know you had. God had His hand on you from the very beginning and even when you didn’t see it, even in the darkest days that felt like they would never end, He brought you out.

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Just wait, Jackie, many years down the road you will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, concerning your eating disorder. You will have defied the odds, been one of the lucky ones that made it through and by God’s grace you were able to have children. Two precious, amazing, spunky little girls that want to be just like their mom. You see redemption each time you look at their faces. You see His grace that brought you through what you thought would be the end. You see His face, shining on you, pushing you to be better than you would be for yourself, for those 2 girls. He knew best…He picked the perfect ones for you.

Jackie, you will learn you possess strength you never knew you had. You will set goals for yourself and surpass them. You will still struggle, we all do, but you have learned that the struggle is part of the journey. Without it, the victories are never as sweet. Be brave. Every. Single. Day.

Jackie, you have become someone you never thought you could be, you are doing things you never thought you’d be able to do. By His grace you keep going, just as you did when you were 10, 12, 15, 23….you have never given up. Hang in there…it will be worth it.

and PS….You are going to CRUSH your FIRST Half Marathon in a little over a week (yes, you, the one they called un-athletic your whole life)….try and hold it together 🙂

Love,

Jackie (at 32 yrs old)

3 1/2 weeks and counting…..13.1 bound

The day I run a half marathon has been on my mind and my bucket list for years. This actual race date (February 9) has been on my calendar for only a few months, but the journey to get here has been years in the making. If you have known me for awhile, or maybe even in recent years if I’ve shared it with you, you know that I have spent all of my teenage years and a majority of my college and adult years struggling with an eating disorder. There was a time that I thought I would never get to be “normal” in terms of eating. That every day would always, for the rest of my life, be a constant struggle in my eating. I never stopped trying, never stopped giving up hope that one day it would all end. But truthfully, deep down I wondered what would be the after effect of such a long struggle with an eating disorder. Would my body have long lasting effects, would I be able to enjoy my later years or had I damaged myself beyond repair?

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Today I am healthier than I have ever been, happy with the strength I am finding in my body and in each new obstacle I throw it’s way. When I cross that finish line, I will be standing in victory. I will have defeated the odds, I will have earned every single mile through tears, struggles, and so much more. The Lord sustained me when I couldn’t hold my own, He held me in every moment, and never let loose of His perfect grip on me. Every step is a miracle to me. I never thought I had it in me, and I never thought I’d be given the chance to find out.

I’m not afraid of failure. If I don’t try, I will never know what I am capable of. The journey is the miracle. I am the miracle. I overcame what I thought would be the end of me….and not only am I surviving, I am thriving. God has placed in me a strength that I didn’t know existed, and we are journeying to places I never thought I’d go. I am a fighter, I am determined, and when I cross that finish line, I can guarantee you I’ll be a different person than I was when I started this journey. I am learning a lot about myself, and I’m loving every second of it.