I’ll tell you what, internet culture is a fascinating thing.
The way in which viral trends can literally sweep the globe in a mere matter of minutes is nothing short of miraculous.
Everything from planking, to gangnam style, to the ice bucket challenge, to KiKi-ing, to the mannequin challenge…it seems like every couple of months, a new craze is flashing across our desktops, each one more ridiculous than the next.
Well, if you’ve spent any time online in the last week, you know that, yet again, another fad is making the rounds. This time, originating on ye olde Book of Faces…The 10 Year Challenge.
If you’ve somehow missed it, people are sharing photos of themselves, from 10 years ago, along side a recent photo from today, to see “How Hard Aging Hit You.”
And while some conspiracy theorists are saying that this is just a data mining ploy for facial recognition software advancement, you can’t deny: there has been some pretty premium content, as a result. I mean, some of the photos celebrities are posting are pretty priceless.
But I’m going to be honest: sitting here as a young woman, who has been in recovery from anorexia for ten years now — looking back at old photos, and going back to that time — it’s a painful exercise.
Because even though my recovery is thriving, and I am embracing the abundance of joy and life that God is calling me to, there is still a lot of pain in my past. And even though I have been forgiven and freed, looking at it — literally in the face — is not something I want to do, let alone blast on the internet.
But, of course, as often happens, my curiosity got the best of me, and I found myself one chilly weekday night, scrolling through my private Facebook albums, hidden in the dungeon under lock and key, and looking at my photos from ten years ago.
And it wasn’t fun. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that, Oh, I had this earth shattering experience that resulted in me billboarding it across social media that I LOVE ME!
Because…no, that didn’t happen. The fact is, the photos I saw – they were of a girl, fresh out of inpatient treatment, and in the midst of a relapse.
Relapse is a really scary word, that I don’t often talk about. Probably because of my struggle with pride, but I hate to admit that I “failed” that first round of recovery. Or maybe because I’m afraid that people will think I could relapse again. I don’t know. And to that end, I will just say that, I think that relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. Recovery is a marathon, and a journey. And I personally believe that relapse is part of the process. You’re going to have hiccups and slip ups, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It means that you’re trying. And getting up the next morning, and rededicating yourself to your recovery is part of the growing process.
My relapse, it was more than just a hiccup. It was an entire semester of my first attempt at college in South Carolina, where, arguably, my anorexia gripped me tighter than before. And not only did my weight and health plummet, but my hair fell out again, for the second time.
So looking at those photos of my hairless, hurting, self, I felt a sense of deep sadness, for the destructive life that girl thought she deserved.
But then, as He so often does, the Holy Spirit swooped into my heart, before I could start down that terrible road of “coulda/woulda/shouldas.” And I don’t really know how else to say it, so just…here’s what was placed on my heart:
There is so much more to my story, than can be captured in a stupid Facebook post of my two photos pinned, side by side.
There is so much life that was lived. So many lessons learned. So much growth that occurred between those years that no photo could ever, ever be able to capture.
I feel like I have lived a thousand lifetimes in that 10 year span!
The woman today is a result of the challenges and trials I went though – The relationship I established with our Father – The surrender to His plan – The plodding and trudging through the mud of hard work that is recovery.
In that ten year span, I had the incredibly difficult task of restoring my then osteopenic, severely malnourished, and nearly destroyed body. The road to becoming the healthy young woman I am today – was a long and arduous process, that only through Jesus’s help was I able to do.
In those then years, I’ve learned how to take care of myself. Not only have I fallen in love with nourishing my body, but I’ve adopted a therapeutic diet that has healed that Ulcerative Colitis, and I am now in my 7th year of remission, symptom and medication free.
And I’ve found peace with my story! And have embraced it to the point of sharing it with others in a book, with the hopes of helping even one person.
None of those things can be seen in that photo of a sick, hopeless, and terrified girl who is hiding behind a smile, and hanging on for dear life.
And most importantly, none of that growth could have been possible, without one very important person: Jesus.
It was only until I gave my recovery to Him, and surrendered all my fears and anxieties into His hands, that I left the eating disorder – and the desire to relapse – behind for good. It was His comfort – His strength – His guidance that I clung to in those moments where I felt I could not go on another day.
I young woman I am today: she’s a fighter. She’s an overcomer. And together, with Jesus, we’ve clawed tooth and nail to emerge from the pit of hell I was in, depicted in that photograph.
You, too, friend, are more than your photographic history.
There is a depth to you that cannot be captured in an image, because you are a dynamic, soulful, work of art, that is constantly being shaped by the Father’s masterful hands.
He is never finished. No story is ever over. It has only just begun. Let’s look ahead to the next ten years, and pray for the transformation that He will facilitate in our lives, one day at a time.
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