Updated: Jan 10
In a story, there is always a plot, a climax, a setting, a character, and so on. These elements in their structure, all play significant key roles in how a story unfolds. All tales must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. In addition to these criteria, there is one central driving force which paves the purpose and reasoning for a story all together- conflict.
While conflict is unpleasant, it is necessary in achieving resolution and triumph. In order for appreciation, excitement, overcoming, and success to occur, there must be some source of conflict. That being said, it is no surprise that each of us deal with our own relative struggles daily. Conflict is certainly not always welcomed, yet very often expected in life. Our challenge, then, is finding the peace within ourselves to accept conflict in faith of the resolution that lies ahead, and the graceful joy of overcoming.
A Little Backstory..
Roughly six years ago today, my life took a very unexpected and rather dramatic change, that no one saw coming. Raised in the “Bible Belt” of Charlotte, NC, where fried food, sweet
tea, and Jesus, are staples in every home, my life has always been fairly easy going, and faith driven. My family taught me from an early age the importance of love and God, and to never eat my corn on the cob without a little butter and salt. We may have not always gotten along, but I can certainly say that God could not have blessed me with a more loving and warm home to grow up in. All that being said, the tragedy which unfolded once I reach my 20s, came as quite a shock.
After attending two years of college at a small arts school set in the beautiful and rugged North Carolina mountains, I decided I was ready for a change. I chose to pack up my things and move to the sunny beaches of Florida. I got into a small Christian arts college, located directly on the Palm Beach Intercoastal. The school looked like a resort, and it was on the beach! It seemed like a dream come true! It was a dream, that quickly transpired into a nightmare; a nightmare that was, indeed, coming true- whether I liked it or not.
Nanny Passes and School is Tough
Just before getting into the school in Florida, my grandmother, whom I was very close to, passed away. This made transitioning harder, especially being that I was moving to Nanny’s old neck of the woods. Nanny lived in Palm Beach for nearly twenty years, so it goes without saying that the whole place reminded me constantly of her- her Eternity perfume, her paper white short curly hair, her bright wide smile, her infectious laugh, her clever sarcasm and wit, her sweet and sassy charm. I missed everything about Nanny, and Palm Beach was bitter sweet in how it made me think so much of her. I had hoped that my living in her area might actually bring a sense of comfort; it may have at first, but soon became more haunting than healing.
In addition to the constant reminiscence of a deeply missed grandmother, the school was not at all what I had hoped it to be. Unlike my college in the mountains, where I was heavily involved in nearly every production the school put on, here I could not make a role in a single show. I had lost one of my greatest loves- performing. I was taking very in-depth courses in Musical Theatre, but could not manage to find a place to actively take part in the art. Unfortunately, my grades began to reflect my frustration with not being a part of any productions. I have always been more of an active learner, so being bound to text books and writing didn’t do me any favors in true comprehension of my subjects.
Living With Aunt Alice
Friends were just as sparse as my performance opportunities. When I moved to Florida, I was desperate for a place to stay, as I could not afford to live on campus. My estranged, yet very
sweet, Aunt Alice opened her home up to me, on the condition that I help her out with getting around town, house chores, and other odds and ends. Aunt Alice lived in one of the gazillion gated retirement communities lining the beautiful sunny shores of West Palm Beach. If you’ve ever heard the joke that Florida is, “Heaven’s waiting room,” it is. I think Aunt Alice might have actually seen dinosaurs walk the earth- let’s just say that every day I come home from school, I prepared myself for the worse; but there she was every day- sitting on the couch with a cup of hot black coffee, watching yet another traumatic episode of Dateline.
Despite her age and oddities, Aunt Alice was my only friend. Apparently being a commuter to school meant you had the plague or something. My efforts to hang out with peers outside of school were almost always shut down with excuses relating to homework, too tired, too sick, extra scheduled rehearsals, you name it. I eventually just quit asking. Instead, I settled with tiny 4’ 8” wrinkled, bony Alice- who had to lean her head all the way back just to make out who she was talking to. Years ago, she suffered a traumatic brain aneurism, causing her slight blindness in both eyes; making this uncomfortable head tilt the only way which she could really see anything. I gotta say, her old smoker’s laugh did have some sort of charm to it though.
Along with getting used to my quirky aunt, and living among people who thought Bingo and Silver Sneakers yoga was full day’s load, I also had to learn Jewish customs. My mother’s family holds a great deal of Jewish lineage, and many of our relatives are still practicing Jews. I was, however, raised with Christian beliefs and standards- never learning much of the Jewish cultural traditions and practices, except through various teachings from Nanny and Poppy. Learning Jewish customs from Aunt Alice was certainly challenging at times, but did enhance my perception of faith and the art within culture and tradition. I celebrated my very first Rosh Hashanah with her, and have absolutely loved the holiday ever since. Discovering my Jewish heritage, and learning of the culture that thrives within it, was perhaps one of the only positives that came from Florida.
Boys Will Be Boys
Needless to say, in every great epic tale, there is always a guy. I met Frank at one of Aunt Alice’s fancy family luncheons. Frank and I both had a passion for music, and hit things off right away. He was the band director at one of the local high schools in Palm Beach and I have studied music nearly all my life. It would have been odd if we didn’t date. Frank, however, fell pretty short a Prince Charming. Soon after we began seeing one another, he boldly pushed for sexual indulgences that were far beyond what I had ever done or known. Where I came from, a mark on your neck better be a curling iron burn- or else! I still remember his words to me, “You’re a big girl now, so it’s time to do big girl stuff.”
I can also thank Frank for introducing me to what I call the, “Florida body image.” Frank never held back when discussing his opinion of relationships, along with what body type was attractive, and what was not. He relentlessly critiqued both men and women, mostly women, on their appearance. He adamantly professed the value of what your body looks like- and how to “fix” it. On dates, he liked to people watch, relishing the opportunity to gossip about other couples. He either poked fun at how big someone was, or noted what great shape someone was in, or how much money someone had. Never had I been around, or even witnessed such a shallow perception. His views were clearly twisted, but my emotions were so fragile.
Other than Frank, I had no one remotely close to my age to talk to. I was lonely, and Frank seized my vulnerability. Four months prior, I would have kicked an egotistical jerk like Frank to the curb the moment he opened his mouth. I was desperate for friendship though, and longed for the attention. Before I knew it, his facile outlook on life crept into my mind and shadowed every thought and decision I made. Within about a month, the “Florida body image” had me in it’s tight, relentless grip- Frank, being my ever so determined coach throughout the whole process.
I was very small throughout the time we were together, weight roughly in the neighborhood of about 98 to 100 pounds. Frank never said that I was too big. He did, however, consistently comment on my weight. He questioned me on my meal choices often and encouraged exercise whenever possible. The less I ate, and the more I worked out, I received praise. The satisfaction I got from his encouragement and compliments, was enough to boost the entire charade up to another level. This was just the start to the nightmare that would take years to break free from.
Once Frank and I cut things off, it was too late. The storm had already swept me off my feet. I felt hurt and frustrated when my grandmother passed, when I changed schools, when I moved in with Aunt Alice, when Frank and I dated, when I lost my chances to perform, when I lost my friends- now I was just gone. Randi had checked out, and something very dark had taken over. Dreams, passions, excitement and adventure, interests, doubts, worries, even fears- it was all gone. Everything personal to me; everything that made up who I was, had simply vanished, without my even realizing it. I had no thoughts, no desires, no concerns for anything- except food and the puzzle of how to lose it.
A Fight for Life: Anorexia Versus Me.
While Frank may have broken the final barrier, I do not place full blame on him for the obsession that ensued- nearly taking my life. It was a whirlwind of events which sparked this tragic onset. From the moment which I skipped my first meal, a snowball effect took place. Over the next seven years, numbers would consume my life. I thought of nothing but calorie counting, weight, clothing sizes, and rigorous exercise routines.
Throughout my trial, I lived in and out of hospitals, residential treatment facilities, and day treatment establishments. Doctor’s offices and hospital rooms became my home away from home, and my arms were never without a bruises or brightly colored elastic tape covering the holes from where my blood was drawn. I learned all forms of psychiatric care and modules, and could recite the nutritional contents of nearly everything in the grocery store. In fact, I still can. Various medications and forms of vitamins were strictly placed in my daily morning and nightly routines. The taste of Boost and Ensure became just as familiar as water. The worst of these was the nauseating ache I felt in the pit of my stomach, when I thought about the harsh reality of what my life had become.
Aside from my own issues, this time in my life opened my
eyes to many other areas of need that I hadn’t considered, or even given thought to before. The relationships I formed with other patients throughout my years in treatment, changed my perception of life and people, all together. These individuals, who essentially became my temporary family, reminded and exposed me to the cruel struggles that exist within the world, some of which I was totally naïve about. We all may have been there for the soul purpose of gaining weight, but there were many other unique underlying factors that manifested a different reality for every person I met. Whether it be depression or anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, family dysfunction, or something else, it was manifesting itself now in a very physical form- through sunken eyes, and skin and bones.
Rescued and Redeemed.
Then there came a breaking point, a climax, in my story. I still remember when it happened. The feeling of icy cold tile hitting my bare, bony knees as I knelt on the bathroom floor of the last treatment center I ever lived in. It was the first time, I really, really asked God to help me. My prayer was not the same meaningless repetition of empty words that it had been in the past. I cried, and I begged. My prayer was not just a conversation, it was an emotional confession, a pouring of secrets that I had held deep within me for so long, a plea for rescue. Then, within a matter of seconds, I felt a familiar peace flood through my spirit.
Tears continued to gush, as I spiritually and physically felt a tight grip loosen. This pure and sweet sensation enveloped me, leaving me feeling weightless and frozen in time. I felt overwhelmed with love as the Holy Spirit embraced me. “You are not perfect, and that means recovery will not be perfect. The road will be rocky, but you can get through it, if you trust in me. I’m here. I never left you, and I never will forsake you,” God spoke this to my heart. In Him, all things are possible. Breaking past anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and even eating disorders, may be a giant of a challenge- but merely a pebble in God’s eyes.
It has been roughly seven years now since I left treatment, and it is time to share my story. I want my journey to bring hope to others; to help others see that there is a glimmer of light in the midst of what might seem like complete darkness. While it may appear nearly impossible, we have to remind ourselves that, “With God, ALL things are possible.”- Matthew 19:26.
He made us strong enough to overcome, if we trust in Him, and cling to His word. The enemy knows that the greatest battle is found within ourselves, and that is why his torment mostly lies in the things we cannot see. The real truth of the matter though, is that stress and anxiety are mere opportunities to build strength within ourselves as we grow closer to our Father in Heaven. The awful times that surface in life become raw and precious moments in which we cling to Him, and pour out a very genuine need from our heart. He then equips us with a power much greater than ourselves. He provides us with just what we need to overcome thoughts and emotions that could hinder us from achieving what He made us more than capable of. One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which patently reassures us that God will never allow us to be tested beyond our limits.
My God is Greater.
I was told that I would never make it out of treatment. I was told that I would never be able to live a normal life. I was told that I would never get married. I was told my body would never be the same. I was told by several medical professionals that I would never be able to bear children.
I am now married to the love of my life and have a beautiful baby girl who will be turning one in just a few months. The world is not in control, God is. Eating disorder thoughts and behaviors have crept into my life a number of times, but nothing I can’t handle with a little faith and prayer. Life is not perfect for anyone, no matter what the battle may be. Whether your struggle is with alcohol, or pornography, the enemy knows just how to press your buttons. The great news is that, he can’t win! He can never win, if we don’t allow him to. My husband and I have literally prayed our way through too many troublesome times to count. Somehow each time burdens became too great, God always carried us over whatever mountain that was too great to climb.
My dream is that God will use my experiences to bring hope, and eventually, healing to God’s lost sheep. In Matthew 18:12, Jesus illustrates the love that our Father in Heaven has for us. He gives an example of a shepherd looking after his sheep. Just as the shepherd will leave the 99 to find the missing one, so will our Heavenly Father. Once I was lost, but now I’m found. The Shepherd found me. Despite all the moments I felt like giving up, even wanted to give up, He never stopped reaching for me, searching for my heart.
We all have a story, each one different and unique from the other. I guess you could say that the chronicles that make up one’s life are soul foundations, the building blocks responsible for creating our past, present, and future, as a whole. Make your next chapter the start to your greatest adventure.
View my story on the 700 Club: https://youtu.be/fLXJsQIQMhI
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