Trigger Warning: This post will discuss weight to some degree, though I do not discuss specific numbers. This post also discusses menstrual cycles. I do not intend to trigger and refrain from using what I believe to be triggering language, but please do not read if you are easily triggered at this time.
It’s almost too much to take in.
I’ve alluded, in SEVERAL posts previously, to the fact that I wasn’t going to provide explicit health advice, or call myself fully recovered, until this happened. Until 3 consecutive periods happened. Read those posts here for context:
And they weren’t even just consecutive. They were HEAVY, painful, symptom-filled. I had a CLEAR cycle, with all of its phases (and all of its glory… ;)), all the cramps, 5-7 day periods… all of it. Normal.
I literally feel like I’m dreaming.
It’s also mentally been some of the most emotional months.
Let me explain. And preface by saying that I have so much to say, and so much passion and desire to say it clearly, so forgive me if it’s a little jumbled. I will do my very best to make this clear for you all.
First of all, the stages of my actually WANTING my period back, knowing it would mean weight gain and more food and less exercise, looked like this:
From age 15-17, not at all, or very little.
Age 17 – I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, and started to become very convicted in my pursuit of thinness and control. I knew I needed to get my period and freedom and life back, to live for Him.
Age 19 – the Lord accomplished an amazing thing in my life, and I ripped up all my food rules. I started eating freely. But, my appetite wasn’t normal enough for me to trust my hunger signals on my own, I learned after a year. I didn’t gain weight, and I didn’t regain my period.
Age 20-21 – more of the same. I was eating freely, but not gaining weight. I went “all in” on recovery a few times, gained some weight, got a light period or two, but would lose the weight quickly in fear. I began to realize I still had great fear of weight gain.
Age 22 – December 2019, I gained 25 pounds. In a month.
The month before my WEDDING. I had spent parts of 2019 wrestling with my soul and spirit in fear of weight gain/not being the thinnest on my wedding day… and the Lord just destroyed all of it and said, “Nope. I’m all that matters,” and started me on the path back to health.
That month, I hit a place mentally and physically that I had never been in the prior 7 years… a place in which the hunger and restriction become painful, and I needed to actually eat what I was hungry for.
So I did. And the weight came on.
And, January 2020, about four days before my wedding day… I got a very, very normal period.
At this point, I was within the healthy weight range for my height (according to BMI). Still on the low end, but healthy.
I was determined to keep getting periods.
I kept eating. And resting. And letting my body do what it actually needed to. I didn’t try to control anything. I didn’t eat anything I didn’t want to. My appetite remained quite high from December-June. In that time, I got periods in early January, early February, late April, early June, early July, and, just about a week ago… August.
Now, I’m not trying to make three consecutive periods the halo of eating disorder recovery or anything. But it is what doctors use as a marker of physical recovery, of SUSTAINED recovery, and of mental freedom often being reached. The regular hormones, more natural-to-that-person body weight, and likely now declining hunger after a period of intense hunger all help with that.
I also didn’t want to provide concrete advice to others, or call myself a fully recovered person, in the past, as I know now that I’ve done so naively before.
So let’s get in to what has changed.
- I used to have certain parameters around my recovery. Having access to a scale all the time made it easy for me to keep it in check, obsess over the number, and fear weight gain. Not having the gym scale, or any other scale, throughout COVID times has been a blessing in disguise… because I’ve known that I’ve needed to give this idol over to God. To stop relying on it.
The day I got my August period, my third period in a row that I’ve been hoping and working for for YEARS… was the same day that, hours before, I found a scale to weigh myself on. I hesitated, and I was fearful, and I hate to tell you that I gave in. I just wanted to know the number.
It felt like a huge mistake.
The number showed an increase of another 20 pounds from my already 30 pound weight gain this year.
A total of 50 pounds.
I didn’t think I could take it. My “goal weight” used to be 50 pounds less than this. Anorexia made me promise I would never weight more than 50 pounds less than what I weigh now.
Upon finding out this weight, everything in me wanted to crumble. I let horrible thoughts and voices scream at me for several minutes. I wanted to tear my insides out.
But then I submitted my soul to the Holy Spirit in me, and I immediately knew the Truth.
I am not defined by the number on the scale.
50 pounds ago I was on my death bed.
This weight means I can have babies one day, and serve God by raising godly children.
This weight means my body is closer to what the Lord designed it to be.
This weight is the result of food freedom.
This weight may go down as a result of my appetite finally being a little bit lower after extreme hunger — but I will NOT force it to go down.
And, a few hours later… I got the best reminder and affirmation of all of these things. My period.
Also, Johnny. Who sang “Just the Way God Made You” by Parmalee to me two times in a row, belting out the lyrics and squeezing my hand while I bawled my eyes out (thank you, hormones). Who spent as much time as needed to tell and show me all his favourite parts of my body, and explain how much more they were my favourite now that I’d gained healthy weight. Who caught every tear, whispered Truth in my ear, and prayed over me countless times. I have the best husband ever. No, truly.
So, here’s the thing. If you had told me a few years ago that I would need to weigh what I do right now to get regular periods… I would have said I’ll go without the periods, thanks. I hate to admit this absurd selfishness, but it’s the truth of the disorder (or should I say, the lie of it). Jesus did it. Jesus brought this healing as I gave myself to Him daily… and now, even though it’s painful and it feels really hard to accept, I know that through Him, my flesh is dead. He is strong.
2. I used to say in my head, “I want my regular period back… but only on THESE terms.” Unfortunately, I still find myself struggling with these thoughts sometimes, and it is for that reason that I am seeking spiritual counselling again. I believe that having someone else intercede and work/pray through these lies with me will help, and that I would be naive to think otherwise. Lies keep us sick, and I want it all exposed. I want freedom that I know only comes from Christ from these thoughts and fears surrounding being this weight. I know that I shouldn’t even be stressed about it, but that the old thoughts want to keep me distracted and bound to them. All there is to do is to confess that I’m struggling, and to recognize that I’m not meant to heal myself. I know that freedom comes from surrender. I know that I need to surrender, and that it’s selfishness keeping me from doing it.
I think one of the biggest things that holds people back from real eating disorder recovery is saying, “I’ll recover, but only on these terms.” The “terms,” ie. laws, rules, etc., are the eating disorder’s terms. Not yours. Not God’s.
To truly recover, the terms need to be thrown out the window… but that may feel impossible to do on your own. Getting to the root cause of your sickness, and dealing with that often spiritual matter, is what needs to be done.
3. These points are all really similar, because they really all lead to one thing, one answer…
If you grew up a Christian, you may have heard that answer a million times. “The answer is always Jesus!”
We may know who Jesus is. We may know that He died to save us from our sins, and that believing in Him sets us free.
But do we experience this sweet freedom? Do we experience our purpose: being selfless, others-devoted, Jesus-seeking, submitted priests of His mission?
Johnny and I have been talking a lot about the “first” and “second” things, re: C.S. Lewis.
Essentially, if we put the first things second, and the second things first, we will not receive either. But if we put them in the right priorities – namely, Jesus is everything therefore we’ve forgotten about and forsaken the second things, we receive both. We may not receive the second thing in the way we thought we wanted to prior… but it won’t matter anymore, because Jesus’ way is the far better way. His is the only way.
For me, that has meant trusting God with the size of my body – which isn’t even a secondary thing. It’s meant putting that at the cross. The issue comes when we have to be honest with ourselves about whether we have *truly* put an idol/fear at the feet of Jesus.
Something I feel very strongly about, and compelled to say specifically to eating disorder recovery and regaining your period, is this:
Giving it to Jesus may not heal your appetite and restore it.
Of course I believe our God is capable of all things, but I don’t necessarily think He would take away the work of needing to eat extra, to do that hard thing of not exercising for a period of time.
When I surrendered everything to God and gave up my food rules 3 years ago, I thought I was healed. I thought that surely I would get my period back in a few months.
But I couldn’t trust my appetite at that point. It was so suppressed and my stomach shrunk. I had also lived succumbed to diet culture for years and years – I didn’t really know what eating intuitively looked like.
In order to repair the damage done by restriction and regain your period, extra energy is required. For some people, a non-strict meal plan to at least get adequate calories may be necessary. Under eating is not an option.
If you find yourself in this position, seek the help of professionals who can come alongside you in the physical aspect of your recovery. The disorder tricked me for a long time that I was “healthy,” and, even though I didn’t have explicit rules anymore, the life I had lived for so long prior had become normal.
Don’t let it turn into forever normal. Don’t allow it to be your story.
Let Jesus in. Let Him be your testimony. He’s been standing right next to you the whole time, see?