October 12, 2016.
The date my hip surgery would finally be "the answer" to all my problems.
Oh silly, naive Janie :) Will you ever learn?
After 2 years of frustrating, unknown pain around my hip and groin, doctor-hopping-galore, and a year of failed physical therapy, I finally was diagnosed with a torn hip that needed quite a bit of mending.
Although I am so grateful I went through with this surgery, it was not "the end-all be-all," and my life has not been all rainbows and unicorns since October 12, 2016 like I thought it would be.
There have been too many ups and down over this past year to count, but I can without a doubt say that God has used this surgery and a messy year following to open my eyes a bit wider and to teach me more things than I ever thought I would learn in a lifetime.
With that being said, I just wanted to share a handful of my reflections, areas of growth, and lessons I've learned throughout this past year since I had this hip surgery that kinda sorta...okay REALLY...flipped my life around and gave me a new perspective on health, my faith in Jesus, eating disorders, nutrition, bodies, and a just a deeper understanding of who I am in Christ and what I'm actually living for.
So, welcome to my life and inside my head and heart! Here are some things God's been graciously teaching me again and again, even when I keep forgetting and turning away...wow this alone amazes me that God never gives up on me...maybe that should be my number one thing I've learned...
1. God never gives up on me!!
I have been through hell and back dealing with body image struggles, a full-blown eating disorder in high school dealing with anorexia/orthorexia/excessive-exercise. And though I have time and time again turned my back towards God and tried to control my life, my time, my body my way (only to destroy my body and idolize my image to the max) God has been oh-so-gracious to keep pursuing me even when I'm far from faithful to Him. When I haven't wanted to look up and listen to him as he was continuously nudging me to stop doing what I'm doing whether that's related to under-eating, over-exercising or tearing apart my body when I look in the mirror, he just has not stopped trying to run after me. I was either 1) so oblivious to him trying to tell me to "Hold your horses Janie with all this body idolatry!!" or 2) too stubborn, selfish, and prideful to even try to listen because I liked the way I was doing my life. I LOVED control. So it was probably both actually. Hip surgery obviously leaves one unable to exercise (and barely able to even move at all for that matter), soooo that finally got me to listen to God for the first time in quite a long time. It was like the loudest wake up call. But I SO needed it! God finally got my attention
2. "Listen to your body" took on a whole new meaning
After a major surgery like this, "listen to your body" becomes a lot more mandatory unless you want to rip your hip again and go through the whole recovery process. #NoThanks. It's been a rocky year with random hip flare-ups (still get them!!), but I've learned/am learning what my body can and can't take and how long I can do certain things before I've gone too far. It's a process -- a frustrating process -- but it's been so important for me to finally learn to put this phrase of listening to my body into practice. One full year later -- as of October 12, 2017 -- I am able to go to the gym again. It makes me happy. It fills me with joy that my hips (and knees...that's another story) allow me to do some exercise again, but also I've had to learn to be SO discerning and wise about when to go to the gym and when to take a break and refrain when in my heart I want to go but my body is telling me otherwise. For example, just a few weeks into this school year I made the decision when I was physically hurting to take a week off of exercise completely. A year ago, I would never let myself take even a single week off of exercising though I was dealing with a lot of pain. Now I can take a lot of days off and strangely enough, sometimes I feel BETTER when I don't exercise and go to the gym (My hips, knees, shoulder, and GI tract will second that). Rest (looooong rest...like not just a day off people) can be amazing for our bodies. I promise. So, I'd call this "listen to your body" learning a win in my books!
3. Thankful heart for what my body can do
At first, not being able to even walk or stand was so mentally frustrating to me. It brought me wayyy down. And I will say, there many tears shed this year over not being able to do what I love anymore. Even still, I so quickly can go down the path of dwelling on what I can't do these days, like long-distance running and fun circuit workouts, which I absolutely loved so much. But this year, I began setting aside those negative emotions involving the inability to do certain activities and replacing those negativities with a new sense of thankfulness for what my body CAN do. And man oh man, I can do a lot. I can do a lot that other people with worse injuries and disabilities cannot do. Reminding myself of this has totally helped shift my negative feelings to thankful feelings. Though I cannot run much or very far at all anymore and though I have to be hyperaware of the exercises I can do, I am able to get up in the mornings, walk around campus, walk a handful of miles without hurting much, do yoga, sometimes zumba, spin classes, and elliptical (though awfully boring!!). I am able to do so so much even if my favorite things are taken away. I need to continue to look up and thank God for all that he is still allowing me to do. I don't deserve it, but I gotta say it sure is fun to move again in little and big(er) ways :)
4. Amazement and a new fascination with the human body and the healing process (kinda relates to #3 I guess)
My body went through hip surgery at age 20.
My scars may still be there on my hip for the world to see when I'm in a swimsuit, but the incisions HEALED, the torn hip HEALED (...well...with the help of anchors lol). 12 months later, though not perfectly better or like my body used to be a few years ago, I am healed enough to walk, cycle, hike, yoga, and EVEN jog a teeny tiny bit without my hip and knees hurting too bad.
Our bodies are smart enough to heal after big traumas, and that just goes to show that God created the most marvelous masterpiece with these human bodies. They are truly amazing, and it's so fascinating to me to learn more about how our bodies work and how food especially can heal a wide array of diseases, disorders, etc. Our bodies flippin' rule. Let's appreciate them for all they can do!!!
5. I felt God kicking me in the butt (in a tough-love kind of way). My eyes were opened wider to see my sin with body and exercise idolatry and comparison.
God definitely used this surgery and long-recovery process to reveal to me some lingering fears, struggles, and battles that came with having an eating disorder and mental illness. For example, God challenged me with the lie in my head with having to "earn my food" by exercising. When you get a surgery like this, you're sitting on your butt for a lot of your life afterwards. There was absolutely no way to "earn" my food. None. At first, it was scary to be honest. But quickly, I fought that fear and realized that my body still needed quite a bit of food to help heal my body from the surgery trauma I went through. Our bodies NEED lots of food even if we don't exercise. If I wanted to be healthy and be good and kind to my body, I had to eat despite barely moving besides flexing my quads and glutes on that couch in front of my TV. Lol. I'm having a major "TBT" right now to my first round of PT exercises on my couch which literally involved flexing my glutes and quads to prevent blood clots. Even that was SO PAINFUL TO DO!! Anywho...God also used the surgery/recovery to reveal to me how strongly I cling onto trying to control how my body looks and how I constantly deal with comparison between other girls. I get so jealous, which leads me to being extremely judgmental and critical of my own appearance and personality sometimes. This year has been an eye-opening experience to see more of my sin and to run to Jesus more often asking for major help to turn away from it.
6. Thankful for wise (and some cute:)) doctors who can diagnose and heal
Not only am I thankful for my very attractive surgeon (Oolalaaa) who put some anchors in my hip but also for my physical therapists (all like 10 of them) for sticking with me all these years despite my oh-so-complicated/confusing/uncommon pains I'd come to them with. They always stuck with me even though they were probably sick of seeing me basically every other day.
Fun fact: There was a time when they were looking for some assistants to hire. Since I knew the place like the front and back of my hand and I was a pro at all the PT exercises you could possibly think of and I knew how to work with all the equipment, they joked about just hiring me because they wouldn't have to train me at all for the job.
7. Thankful for god providing money
God provided my family with ample money to pay for too many MRI's, endless doctor's appointments, follow-ups, chiropractor appointments, PT appointments, and a pricey surgery. He didn't have to do this, but he did. What a Guy! I am SO undeserving, but he cares for his little hurting children's hips, and he graciously has provided for my family and I year after year.
8. There is more to life than exercise and my image.
When something you love is taken away from you (for me: sports and long-distance running), it is incredibly painful to come to terms with it even if it just temporary. Like SO painful. When running and all the other things I loved to do were taken away because of my mysterious physical pains and then surgery, it broke my heart to pieces (heck I'm still broken and sad! I won't ever be able to do what I used to do and that is HARD to take in still), but it forced me to see beyond these things. It forced me to question myself and my motives for running, over-exercising, obsessing over my food, and my constant thinking about my outward appearance.
I'm far from perfect and still am prone to falling back into the trap of thinking my body has to look perfect, thinking I need to exercise more in order to look more beautiful, and thinking I have to eat completely healthy 100% of the time to achieve that "ideal image." However, this year has challenged me to continue facing these lies I put in my head and start counteracting them with truths that there is more to life than exercise, food, and looking "perfect." I once thought I would be satisfied if I lost "X" amount of weight and achieved my "ideal look," but I am continually challenged that that satisfaction will never come from looking a certain way. In Christ, I am more than my outward appearance.
9. God deepened my love and passion for nutrition.
Since I got surgery, something sparked in me with deepening my love for nutrition and our bodies (probably because I became so in tuned with my own over this past year). AND I LOVE IT. It became more clear to me this year that this major of Nutrition and Dietetics is what God has been shaping me for. I have dealt with multiple eating disorders. I have been underweight. I have been slightly overweight. I have been underweight again. I have had numerous nutrition-related issues that are NOT talked about in a textbook in school. I had to learn I have to often go against what I read in my nutrition textbooks and online because not everyone fits into the typical "healthy-living" lifestyle they teach in school. I have been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder called SIBO, which goes deeper than the typical IBS and leaky gut. I have dealt firsthand with the mental battles that come with having an eating disorder. I have dealt with depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, and control issues which all often come up in this world of nutrition and eating disorders. I have played all the sports. I have dealt with SO many injuries due to the sports and overuse. This surgery was like a "cherry-on-top" of all the bumps and hardships I've experienced thus far in life, and I am positive it won't be the last "cherry-on-top."
But I am thankful for every single part of my story with all these things. I trust God is using them for his glory and my good, and I will continue to pray that he will guide me in my pursuit to become a Registered Dietitian one day and that he will keep using my struggles and previous battles 1) to have compassion on others who are in their own dark valleys and 2) to drive my passion for nutrition and helping others overcome their own nutrition-related problems.
10. Jesus is my everything.
I am nothing without Jesus. When I am weak and hopeless and hurting and sad and walking through dark valleys, Jesus is always strong and loving and caring and mighty and compassionate and merciful and forgiving and life-giving and light-giving. God has been showing me once again through this year of hip surgery recovery that Jesus alone is my lantern in the suffering and dark valleys I have faced and will face in the future. He is all I have, all I need, and all I should be looking to instead of turning to control of image, exercise, and food. He is my everything. He alone satisfies.
And I will need to relearn these lessons and constantly be reminded of all of them again and again in my life because I am a silly little forgetful, sinful, broken lady. But praise Jesus for never ever giving up on me even when I slip, fall, bruise myself, get lost, and am one stubborn girl with fingers in my ears saying "La-la-la-la-la I can't HEEEAR YOUUU" when he's trying to teach me something or tell me to stop doing what I'm doing.
God, I am underserving of your continuous grace, but man, do I love you or WHAT. Thank you for all you've taught me in this one messy year of recovery, and thank you for teaching me these things again and again in the future. I know I'm going to need some review and more drilling into my head (as painful as it is sometimes). You're the real MVP.