Anorexia: Blessed and Beautiful Beyond Bones with Caralyn, Part 1

Caralyn grew up as a child actor from age five. Blessed and beautiful go together for her now, but not always. She hasn’t always felt worthy of God’s love. In fact, her spiritual battle with anorexia began with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. Her tendency to perfectionism was honed on the stage.

“I lived to please my directors. Directors loved to work with me because they would always say how coachable I am,” says Caralyn now, chuckling at the irony of her early life. “I thought my worth and value were based on my performance. It (perfectionism) really screwed my self-perception.”

I hope you will hear this courageous young woman’s story in her own voice by clicking above or finding our interview at CathyKrafve.com. We believe you will love her as much as we do!

The Battle is Real

Perfectionism is a very common thread among anorexia sufferers. In fact, by high school and college many young people, both male and female, suffer with full blown, life-threatening symptoms. (A list of symptoms is included below.)

“Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Sufferers need doctors; they need a therapist,” declares Caralyn. “Their body is literally wasting away. The organs are shutting down.”

Eating disorders are not about the weight loss, according to Caralyn. (For more on mental illness, click here.)

“The weight loss is really a manifestation of that inner wound, that lie they believed,” she explains. “For me, the lie I believed was that I was unworthy of love. And that I needed to be perfect in order to be loved.”

Anorexia: A Battle for the Mind

Christians know our enemy, the devil, loves to lie to us. So, I asked Caralyn how to redirect our thoughts about anorexia. 

“It’s all about lies. I always say an eating disorder is a battle for the mind,” she explains, “In the mind of every sufferer of anorexia or eating disorder is a lie. I call it the capital L lie.” 

Certainly, the capitol L lies are topics we must address in families and churches. Yet I notice we rarely hear the word anorexia at church. As Christians, we need to counterattack the lie with the truth.

The capital L lie is any falsehood sufferers “believe to absolutely their core enough to literally die for,” according to Caralyn. “At the helm of that lie, I truly believe, is the enemy.”

Her Own Personal Battle

“I fully believe—and I say this at the risk of sounding absolutely bonkers—that eating disorders are a form of spiritual warfare,” says Caralyn. When she shared the following story on our interview, I totally understood. (Please click above or click here to hear more in her own voice.)

“I was at a therapy session. It was as though I was watching this from above,” she begins.

“Whatever darkness was controlling my thought was released,” she says, describing a voice coming out of her. “I cannot replicate it. I was curled up in the smallest little ball possible. Out of my mouth came this deep dark cavernous ‘I lied!’”

When the words expelled from her mouth, her whole chest shook. Instantly, she told her therapist every secret, everything. She told him of obsessive secret exercise. How she secretly threw away food.

Before she hid whole aspects of her secret life. Now, suddenly everything came gushing out of her heart openly. 

Loving Family and Friends

She called her parents from his office within moments. She credits them with enlisting the attention and help of many others. (For how fervent prayer changes lives, click here.)

“I have the most amazing parents and families. They forgave me and they were just so grateful I was getting help.”

Deeply Spiritual Freedom and Comfort 

Almost immediately she experienced another spiritual moment of freedom and comfort. The treatment center where she received help was a Christian facility. She sat still in a pew at chapel service quietly contemplating. All around her people began to sing a beautiful worship hymn. The words—here I am to worship—touched her soul.

“My knees buckled. I fell to the floor. I smiled genuinely for the first time in two years,” she recounts. “My anorexia was on the cross. Jesus died to free me and forgive me. His forgiveness and love broke through.”

A New Mission

“I knew my mission was  to share my story to offer hope and encouragement,” she says. Telling such a personal story would take courage and confidence in the cross. Still, she was motivated by an important truth based on the experience she and her family had fighting their battle. “The biggest thing was there were no resources for me or for my loved ones.”   

Her blog, entitled Glorious Wounds, reads like a book, recounting her most personal struggles. With over ten years of recovery, lately, she’s been speaking in churches or anywhere else where people want to understand anorexia.

Symptoms of Anorexia

In case you are wondering if someone you love is suffering with mental illness, like eating disorders, here are the symptoms of anorexia. Please consider taking action today, like starting a conversation, to help those you love. (Thank you to Mayo Clinic for the following lists. For more, click here.)

Some signs may include:

  • Abnormally low body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted perception of weight
  • High value on controlling their weight and shape
  • Extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with their lives.
  • Severely restrict the amount of food they eat
  • Calorie intake restricted by vomiting or by misusing laxatives, diet aids, diuretics or enemas
  • Excessive exercise 
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Equating thinness with self-worth

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Extreme weight loss or not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Thin appearance
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Constipation and abdominal pain
  • Dry or yellowish skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling of arms or legs
  • Eroded teeth and calluses on the knuckles from induced vomiting
  • Overcoming Denial for Victory

    Sufferers need doctors; they need therapist. They need professional dietitians. They need professional supervision, according to Caralyn. Getting help may be difficult because sufferers are often steeped in denial.

    “I was kind of taken aback. Especially because I didn’t admit to having an eating disorder,” she says chuckling at her own denial, another common thread among sufferers. Caralyn’s parents staged an intervention, enlisting the help of her youth pastor. 

    “I came home from school and my entire family was there. My brothers had flown into town. My youth pastor was there from church,” she says, “It was tense.” In desperation, her youth pastor finally got right in her face and asked her a tough question. 

    “Caralyn, do you know what you are doing to your Father?” (For more on how you can begin a personal relationship with the God of the universe, click here.)

    “In that moment it was as though I was looking into the eyes of Jesus. It (His love) is what finally broke through. I’m so grateful he (her youth pastor) had that courage,” she says.

    Jesus Glorified

    We’re glorifying the One whose Spirit empowers us when we get to the place where we’re sharing what makes us tremble. I admire Caralyn’s courage very much. (For more on how leaders can hang in there, click here.)

    “Some of the things I’ve shared on the internet, I’ve thought, ‘Caralyn what the heck are you doing?’” she laughs. “But they all point to God’s love and God’s redemption and His saving power.”

     

    Everybody’s got a story. We highlight God’s own divine nature when we tell the truth, especially about our human frailties. (To sign up for free weekly encouragement and interviews with amazing leaders, click here.)

    “I’ve been given a second chance in this life. I’ve got to use it to point to Him and give Him the glory,” Caralyn emphasizes, adding with a chuckle, “If that means sharing some embracing stories, so be it!” 

    Next week, we’ll hear from Anna about defining romance to fit your own family style. Then, watch here for Part 2 from sweet Caralyn; Freedom: No Exceptions, No Exclusions, No Exemptions. You will love the rest of the wisdom Caralyn shared with us. Don’t miss it!

    May we pray together?

    Dear Father in heaven. You love us with unfailing love. You place incalculable value on each one of us. When we reject ourselves You still seek us out. You desire companionship with us in all the most tender, best ways. We turn to you now because You love us so much. Bless this dear reader with much-needed help. Please, surround this dear one with people who will demonstrate Your unfailing love. Have mercy on us, O Lord. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

    We LOVE to hear from YOU!

     

    When has someone stepped up to tell you a hard truth? How have you found gentle ways to express your love when you saw suffering? What is your most comforting Bible truth about suffering?

    Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang.

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