By Karen Kay Smith
God's Brave Women - Karen's Story
Twenty-four hours remained, and instead of enjoying my family and life to the fullest, I was hysterical and terrified.
I know I’m supposed to write about being brave, not afraid. However, on my journey, I have come to understand brave does not mean without fear. Brave is terrified, yet, doing it anyway.
Terrified one night that I was dying, I allowed my friend to take me to the emergency room. As my heart was struggling to beat correctly, the ER doctor looked at me with concern in her eyes. “Mrs. Smith, your heart is shutting down from lack of nutrition. I am going to give you fluids in an effort to settle your heart back into a rhythm, but I can’t fix the ultimate problem; only you can do that.”
A defining moment in my life. A diagnosis. Anorexia.
"Mrs. Smith, your heart is shutting down from lack of nutrition. I am going to give you fluids in an effort to settle your heart back into a rhythm, but I can’t fix the ultimate problem; only you can do that.” A defining moment in my life. A diagnosis. Anorexia."
Several months later, the pounds continued to drop. No matter how hard I tried, I could not eat enough. With much encouragement from medical staff and great apprehension in my heart, I agreed to go to eating disorder treatment.
My heart didn’t beat correctly, and the room went dark every time I started moving. I wore a toboggan and layers of clothes because I was in a continual state of cold. My hands were purple, and I could not think clearly. I was convinced that anything over 500 calories in a day was a terrible idea. I also believed that running would keep me healthy. Lack of proper nutrition and exercise regimen was killing me.
I was at the end of myself. I couldn’t do the most basic tasks—feed myself, much less care for my family.
Twenty-four hours before I left my family for eating disorder treatment, and I was falling apart. I sat in tears with my pastor, informing him that I had changed my mind; I wasn’t going. I called the treatment center and told them I had a sore throat and congestion, and I didn’t need to come.
It was not a sweet twenty-four hours. My insides were sick with anxiety. My eyes were swollen from non-stop tears. I was scared to death! What on earth had I agreed to do?
I was terrified, yet doing it anyway.
"I was terrified, yet doing it anyway."
I left my three kids and disabled husband to enter eating disorder treatment two hours away. Upon departure, I had no clue when we would see each other again. I went through admission, signed my life away, and kissed my husband goodbye. I watched our sweet friend assure me that I was brave and that I could do this before he took my husband and left.
Alone. In a strange place. Overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.
It was here that I began a journey with Jesus like no other. When we are at the end of ourselves, God begins His great work in us.
"Alone. In a strange place. Overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. It was here that I began a journey with Jesus like no other. When we are at the end of ourselves, God begins His great work in us."
There were many tears during meals. Counseling sessions were exhausting. Digging deep into my heart and mind did not come easy. However, I trudged forward in this strange season.
God began to whisper His truths in my heart again. For so long, my eating disorder had drowned out every word He said. I longed to hear Him again. In my alone and afraid place, I received the help I needed to hear God whisper again.
I learned so much during this season. I began to understand food was not something to fear. There are no good foods and bad foods. I also realized that our bodies needed calories to do the most basic functions, such as your heart to beat correctly, your brain to think rationally, and your organs to do the job that God assigned them to do.
I began to understand how my emotions fueled my eating. I needed to rewire the way my brain thought. I needed significant comfort for the pain that existed in my heart. I needed to be cared for and loved instead of caring and loving for others. Also, I needed help in learning how to take care of myself in the middle of taking care of others.
As a new year comes, weight loss is a hot topic. It makes the top three goals for many people. However, instead of thinking about weight loss, I have learned that I need to think about how I can keep God’s sanctuary healthy. He dwells inside me, and my focus should be on healthy living—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
"Instead of thinking about weight loss, I have learned that I need to think about how I can keep God’s sanctuary healthy. He dwells inside me, and my focus should be on healthy living — physically, emotionally, and spiritually."
I would love to tell you I do this perfectly all the time. I do not. I still struggle with the desire to control and restrict my food. Some days, I change clothes ten times and look in the mirror fifty. I am confident that one day there will be complete freedom from eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Until then, I choose to fight because that is the brave thing to do.
Terrified, but doing it anyway. What is it in your life that terrifies you, but God is calling you to do it anyway? May I take a minute to encourage you today? If God has called you to it, he will get you through, no matter how scared you may be.
"What is it in your life that terrifies you, but God is calling you to do it anyway? May I take a minute to encourage you today? If God has called you to it, he will get you through, no matter how scared you may be."
I look back at all my family and I went through during my four months at treatment and am in awe of what we survived. However, we know we survived because of His strength in us. He is a good God, and He works His best when we come to the end of ourselves. It is there that He begins to mold us and make us into who He created us to be.
Being brave wasn’t easy, but the gifts that have come from this brave season of mine are too numerous to count.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means you are full of His strength and power. I would love to connect with you more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my lovely email tribe.
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Karen lives in Madison, Alabama with her husband and three children. Karen graduated in 1996 from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR. Karen has served as Preschool and Children’s Pastor and has been involved in women’s ministry for many years leading small groups, making hospital visits, organizing retreats, and encouraging the hearts of women. Karen now blogs at www.karenkaysmith.com.
What started out as communicating medical facts, has become a place where Karen takes her readers from struggles to faith. She uses her life experiences to empower others to live life transformed. Karen is a regular contributor for A Wife Like Me, a website dedicated to encouraging wives in their marriages. Karen has a testimonial published in the book Homeschooling You Can Do It by Kirsten McTernan. She also has a Bible study published in Memoirs of a Headcase: Held by the God of Hope by Jacqueline Roe. She is in the process of writing a book to be published offering guidance to others on how to walk alongside loved ones who struggle with eating disorders.