I peered through my bedroom window. Morning sunlight shone through the gum trees in golden shafts. Sheets billowed in the breeze as Mum wrestled them into position on the line. A tall mound of wet washing sat in the basket in front of her.
She’d be out there for a while.
Here was my opportunity.
Heart pounding and muscles tense, I crept down the hall, slowing my steps outside my parents’ bedroom. The bathroom scales were in there – waiting for me.
Tiptoeing into the room, I dragged them out and stepped on to the platform, my breath held tight.
What would they tell me this time?
Every day it was the same. Measure, eat, count calories, exercise, re-measure. This routine had ruled my life for months now.
I’d never meant for it to be this way. My strict diet and exercise plan was supposed to be a fleeting thing – a quick snatch at the slender days of my teens…when men said I was beautiful. It was supposed to transform me from the girl I loathed – unwanted and lonely – to someone attractive. Someone worthy of love.
Months before, my world had changed suddenly. The departure of a loved one had set me reeling, flailing about like a tiny boat tossed in stormy seas. This rigid plan provided an anchor point – a solid structure I could cling to. It was supposed to rescue me – to sculpt my outside and somehow fill up the holes at my core. Instead it became my obsession – my first thought in the morning, my last whisper at night and every heartbeat in between.
Little by little, I shrivelled under its demands. The faith and passion of earlier years ran dry as losing weight became my sole focus. All that mattered now was the numbers – the calories I ate, the distance I walked, the weight on the scales.
When the numbers were good, relief came – though only for a little while. Happiness was a fleeting visitor. Whatever fragment I shaved off my frame, it was never enough. There was always further to go – more weight to lose, more flaws to fix.
I thought attaining my ideal size would give me confidence. But when I reached that point, my deepest fears were realised. I still felt the same – empty and unlovable.
My appearance wasn’t the problem.
I was the flawed one, ugly inside, smeared with failure and shame. No diet, however strict, could erase the grime of my past.
Still, I tried. Maybe if I pushed further, tried harder, then I’d feel better.
My body began to protest but I ignored its cries. Fluttering heart, skin turning yellow, strength declining – what were they but whining complaints from one already rejected?
What would it matter – really – if my tormented life came to an end?
Friends and acquaintances frowned and tut-tutted, sending me scurrying like a cornered mouse. They didn’t understand – had no idea what I felt. Fearful and angry, I retreated into my own narrow world – a tunnel with room only for me.
The way ahead was dim and my eyes strained to see. Where was the light?
Didn’t tunnels always have light at the end?
Reality crashed down on me like a heavy weight. There was no light, no way out. I’d built this world around myself and now I was trapped inside it.
Life became a sombre march, one foot plodding in front of the other. Every day was the same routine, a desperate cycle of striving that only took me deeper, lower.
Through the blackness, a clear voice beckoned. You need to give this up.
My Father God – the one I’d hidden from – was speaking to me.
His words were soft, yet urgent. Give it up. Turn around. Let go.
He was right, I knew. This tunnel led to death, as sure as the darkness.
But He was asking the impossible. I couldn’t let go. Not ever.
If I did, I’d drown.
Friends were watching, talking, praying. Urged on from above, one group approached me. “You can’t stay in there. It’s dark. And dangerous.”
Angered by their comments and terrified of judgement, I withdrew further.
They followed me.
“We want to help you. Please. This isn’t who you are. Take our hand. We’ll walk with you out of this – for as long as it takes.”
Cracks rippled across my determined facade and a tiny light began to glimmer, drawing me towards it. These women stretched their arms wide, embracing me just as I was. Slowly, gently they helped me pull down the walls I’d built around myself. Professional help was arranged and paid for. When fear tried to overwhelm, they offered peace and held me steady. All the while they enveloped me in prayer.
Their kindness gave me courage to face my inner turmoil.
Slowly, gently, I was led through the process of healing. The lies which had entangled my heart were removed, strand by strand, and replaced with life-giving truth.
My worth wasn’t in my size.
Nor was it in the attention of males.
I had worth simply because I’d been created. I didn’t need to fit an image or achieve great things to be loved. I already was loved, cherished by the One who’d formed me as a unique reflection of Himself. He was the source of my value.
Pure, heavenly light shone on my greatest wounds and deepest shame – exposing infection and offering forgiveness. God’s abundant love poured over me like a waterfall, washing me clean, filling up all my empty places. This love was pure and perfect, strong enough to set me free from my past and launch me into a future full of promise.
Where despair had dwelt expectancy began to bloom. I turned my back on the tunnel’s ruins as one year came to a close and a fresh new season unfurled. The path stretching out before me was bathed in warm sunlight.
I launched out, my hand firmly grasped by my Father.
With Him beside me, I knew everything would be alright.
And it was.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
“(Jesus said,) ‘Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:32
A note to my readers:
Do you relate to my story? If you’re struggling as I did, please consider talking about it with a person you trust. Letting someone in was my first step towards recovery – so terrifying but so worth it.
You may find professional help is needed. Psychologists and counsellors have the experience to help you deal with the issues behind your struggle. Getting help is not a sign of failure. It’s a proactive step towards freedom and a better life.
Can I also encourage you to get to know God, your Maker? He is the One who knows you better than anyone. There’s not a moment of your life when He hasn’t loved you. All His plans for you, even through the hardest of times, are good. Below are a few verses you may like to read.
The process of healing can be both painful and exciting. Beyond it is a life too good to miss.