Breaking Through the Shame of Mental Illness (Interview 3)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thank you all for tuning in to our Thankful Thursday Interview series. Joining us today is one of our fellow SWAPs who will be graciously speaking on the topic assigned for this month, Breaking Through the Shame of Mental Illness. She has chosen to remain anonymous, yet has decided to give her story a name!

Today, we’re on the SWAP couch with: Appetite for Almighty

S.W.A.P: Hi Appetite for Almighty! Thank you for joining us for our series this month on Mental Illness.

Appetite for Almighty: It’s my pleasure to share my story especially through this venue!

SWAP: Wow, let’s get started then! What comes to your mind when you hear the words “mental illness?”

Appetite for Almighty: I think shame automatically because that’s what I felt everyday. I was born into a family of beautiful women; spiritually, intellectually, and physically beautiful, so the pressure to be thin was always there. Even though my family didn’t put the pressure on me, I felt the pressure from all around me: peers, advertisements, and society’s obsession with thinness. However, I was the one in the family diagnosed with Bulimia at 17 years old. I never thought in my few short years of life that I would be plagued with a mental illness.

SWAP: Have you ever or are you currently battling feelings of shame?

Appetite for Almighty: My battle with shame is real. I used to wonder was it my mouth that was the traitor or my mind. I was often ashamed of my body when I looked in the mirror. I felt ugly when I looked at the beauty of my heritage. I was ashamed of what I thought about myself all the time. I used to diet profusely and it wouldn’t help; that brought shame. I always felt full and fat, and even disgusting for purging all the times. That’s more shame. Sometimes, I would binge eat at school, hide out in the bathroom and would purge the food before going back to class. I think my friends knew. That’s shame on top of shame. 

After talking to my therapist, I learned that the shame I was feeling had less to do with the food I was hoarding, eating, then purging; and more to do with my loss of control and lacking feelings of acceptance. When this was first revealed to me, you would think I would have had an ‘aha’ moment. Nope! The horror I felt about what I was doing to my body [because my mind was out of whack], just made me do it even more until I actually had to be hospitalized. Being admitted to the hospital in front of my family and neighbors caused a whirlwind of shame.

SWAP: Have you found a way to give thanks to God for your diagnosis or is it still a struggle for you?

Appetite for Almighty: I’m on a long and arduous road to recovery. I know that it won’t happen overnight, and often feel like God has cursed me; but I’m working daily on changing my mindset on what God sees as beautiful and worthy. People may tell me I’m beautiful, and it takes everything within me not to feel like a cow or a monster. So, I’ve learned to say thank you yet also speak up boldly about the inner woman who is just as beautiful. Sometimes people, especially women, get caught up on physical beauty… telling people that they’re blessed because they have long/wavy/ straight/naturally beautiful hair, perfect white teeth, long legs, a banging body. Yet what many don't realize is that some women struggle every morning to see themselves as beautiful even if they have those features. Some are feeling the pressure to be someone they’re not, so they overcompensate for their unworthiness in outer beauty. 

Back to your question, I’ve been reading scriptures on self-control, denying myself, and finding worth in Jesus. I thank God every morning and I ask for His hand to guide me as I make better health decisions. I realize that my appetite is no longer for the comfort and control of food; my new appetite is for the Almighty. Even when I feel like giving up, I take my medication, am consistent in therapy, and I hunger and thirst for Him!

SWAP: What words or thoughts of encouragement would you like to share with someone who may be going through something similar?

Appetite for Almighty: I know God may or may not take away this thorn in the flesh of a mental illness, but I hope and trust that if there is any woman out there suffering like I was, to not give up hope! Be kind to yourself and allow room to fall, so God can pick you up! I encourage women not to study their bodies, but to study their spirits on how to be a living sacrifice for the Lord and also to thank Him for creating them wonderfully! 

If you know someone that’s struggling, don’t try to tell them to "just stop eating," or to "get over it," or "don’t you want to be healthy;" truly pray with them, because 9 times out of 10, they already know they are struggling and telling them what to do just piles more shame onto their suffering. Be a friend. I would also say, don’t always compliment people’s physical/outer appearance. That's easy to fix, it's the mind and the soul that needs the embrace. Acknowledge things that people with Bulimia or other Eating Disorders are good at and tell them that you’re proud of them, because most issues with mental illness are triggered by feelings of low-self esteem. Again, be a friend that listens.

***

SWAP: Thank you Appetite for Almighty! We hold your testimony sacred and pray for your complete healing daily! We know God has shined a light on the mental illness of Bulimia and given someone hope because of your boldness in sharing your story!


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