CS Lewis and Complete Freedom from Anorexia

I hereby designate C.S. Lewis “My Favorite Author”. But then, maybe by simply reading Predatory Lies, you figured that out before I did.

This morning, I got an email called, CS Lewis Daily. Never one to disappoint:

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.

It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.

When I was fighting for freedom from my eating disorder, I ran up against this conundrum.

Could I not retain “myself” or the habits I had established that afforded me some imaginary modicum of control?

Could I give up counting calories but continue obsessively exercising?

What if I was willing to get treatment, as long as I could weigh myself everyday?

Could I continue to pursue the self-centered desires of my heart and keep personal “happiness” as the great goal of my life and at the same time surrender my will, my life, my eternal salvation to a God that I claim to love and trust?

And this is what I found: Just like cutting the grass can keep it short, but will not produce real, nutritious wheat; managing aspects of my eating disorder might keep me alive but would never result in freedom.

To mature and blossom in freedom, I must necessarily uproot the  grass and allow Christ to remake me–to make all things new. The change must be complete, a destruction of the old to allow the new to take root and flourish.

There’s a new press release out about my book!

Abby Kelly’s new book Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia has just been released in an ebook format, by well renowned international lecture and counsellor Bettie Youngs publishing company, Bettie Youngs Books.

In this book Abby reveals her compelling story and battle with overcoming Anorexia. She describes the root causes to her illness, and shares extracts from her journals. Her family members will also inform what it was like for them to see her suffering with this disorder.

Read the rest here…

“Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia” is HERE

my book

It’s the holidays, brutal times for any family plagued by an eating disorder. This book will be an encouraging and enlightening read for anyone seeking understanding of this disorder and light at the end of the tunnel.

Click through to view it on Amazon. Below are a number of other ebook formats where you can purchase it.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/389934

New Book! “Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia”

book 2

Dear Friends, I am thrilled to announce that my book, Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, will be available in ebook on all formats in January! Bettie Youngs Book Publishers will be publishing my book and stay tuned, the print copy will be available soon as well!

I’m so honored to share this review of, Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, by Ramsey Coutta.

Everyone has needs and wants, but imagine if yours are so deep and so strong that they lead you to self-destructive behaviors that imperil your very life. Imagine that in your profound need to be noticed, admired, and loved, you literally starve your body of the nourishment it needs to survive and thrive. Sadly, such is often the life of those afflicted with anorexia.

In her compelling new book, Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, Abigail Kelly courageously lays bare her personal struggle with anorexia and the heavy toll it has taken on her life and those closest to her. She does not flinch from sharing with the reader how anorexia magnified her natural flaws causing her to act in ways that will seem inconceivable to those not familiar with this disorder.

Kelly insightfully reveals that her lifelong battle with anorexia is more than just a human battle against mental illness; at its core it’s an ongoing spiritual battle, a theme which she skillfully weaves in and out of her story. At one turning point on her road to recovery she acknowledges the power of God to strengthen her against the force of anorexia, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13…It was the only truth I actually believed. The road ahead was long; my ambition to stay well, still shaky. But I knew that Christ was in me. I knew that He was going to have to do this because I still wasn’t sure I wanted to.”

Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, spans a significant portion of Kelly’s life from when she was a teenager to the present as a grown woman married to a career military officer. She details the beginnings of her experience with anorexia and how as a teen it started as a personal choice in order to appear thin and desirable as well as a way to compete for the attention she longed for. Eventually though, the anorexia took on a life of its own to the point she was no longer able to control it, even during the rare moments she actually wanted to do so.

Repeated stays at inpatient facilities and ongoing therapy with counselors brought periods of insight and healing, but inevitably relapses occurred leaving Kelly and her family feeling desperate and defeated.

Marriage brings Kelly a sense of purpose and fulfillment on one hand, but on the other she experiences intense feelings of loneliness and searching. At one point, throwing herself into long distance running she once again finds the demons of her illness rising up causing her to grow thinner and thinner greatly worrying friends and family.

The illness of anorexia along with the stress of repeated moves and deployments from her husband’s career eventually bring their relationship to the point of collapse. However, God is always present in Kelly’s narrative and it’s through His power that the couple are able to face their adversities together.

Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia, is a compelling true life story of ever shifting hope and despair in the life of an amazing woman. The reader will simply shake their head and wonder at how one person can go though such a tremendously long and painful struggle and still come out so hopeful and determined. The redeeming power of God’s love and grace is never far away in Kelly’s saga. Those who read her book will come away feeling inspired and better as a person for having been introduced to the life of this extraordinary woman and author.

This review was graciously written by the founder and editor of Believer Life, Ramsey Coutta.  Ramsey is a successful author in his own right and has many books available on Amazon. I will be posting an interview with Coutta in the coming weeks.

Letter to a Friend

Recently, a new friend admitted to me that she has struggled with an eating disorder for many years. As we shared pieces of our stories, she asked a question that launched a mini-sermon in me. Don’t worry, I’m preaching to myself really! But as I clicked “send”, I realized just how much of my response encapsulated all that I’m learning about my eating disorder and recovery in the process of prayer and writing.

I want to share my letter with you.

Dear Friend, 

You asked about the “why”. Funny, I have thought about that a lot lately as I penned my book and prayed and relived all those years of my own eating disorder. And yes, I’ve come to a conclusion. 

 
The treatment community spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to unearth our issues, figure out what made this happen. We say that we aren’t “blaming” anyone, but that family dynamics, abuse and a plethora of other things must have all combined to make this happen. Exactly as you said though, “Why not everyone?”
 
My sisters grew up in the same household and under the same parents that I did, in the same communities. Personally, I don’t have a history of abuse to blame my issues on. I have a fairly perfectionistic father (toward himself more than toward anyone else) and at time I believed he loved my sister, Jennifer, more than me. And, Jennifer was incredibly talented and smart so I was jealous of her for years. But really? I don’t have a good reason. 
 
The more that I’ve prayed about it, I think the common treatment modality, “figure out the root and fix the underlying issues”, does us a huge disservice. I have really, really come to believe that my anorexia was nothing more than addiction and idolatry on my part. No, I’m not blaming myself either. I don’t believe there’s a “why” to be found or blame to be placed, at least not in all situations. 
 
It’s really no different than any other sin. It’s the way you and I chose to react to the circumstances and catalysts within a fallen world. Because we believe in Jesus as our Savior, our sin does not banish us from God or cause Him to hate us. So, I’m not saying that as we struggle with an eating disorder God is upset with us. Quite the contrary – and this where I get so excited!! – The pain of living in my sin, the pain of struggling with body image constantly, or starving myself or brutal workouts, the mental anguish of an eating disorder DROVE me to Jesus. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. It’s because as I was falling apart, He didn’t turn away, but reached out to me and loved me anyway (while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me).
 
Anorexia was what drove me to my knees before a loving Father. I can honestly say that I would not know Him like I do if I had not struggled. He might have used another issue, but He chose this one for me that I might seek the only one who could save me – not just from anorexia but from sin altogether. Does that make any sense?
 
We are stubborn creatures as humans. We will not naturally admit our need for a savior, so in order to open our eyes, humble our hearts and cause us to seek Him, sometimes God allows us to intimately feel the savagery of a sinful world. It is then that we know how much we need Him.
 
I hope that helps. Kinda got on a soapbox there, but I get so excited! 🙂
 
I’m just figuring all this out.

Missing Peace, Chapter 15: “Failure to Drive”

Three months at Remuda set me behind the power curve of normal teenage life. Add to the list of my insufficiencies the fact that I celebrated my 16th birthday in a hospital and now I was two months late taking my driver’s test.

Dad had instated a rule long before any of his girls turned 16: No one gets her driver’s license until she learns to drive a standard transmission vehicle.

Months before, in November, I had mastered the clutch, taken driver’s ed and passed the test with flying colors. Dad remained true to his promise and drove me to take the written and practical tests the first weekend after I got home.

“Are you ready?” he asked as we shut the door from the house to the garage.

“I hope so,” I replied. “But I’m happy to let you back out of the garage anyway.” I grinned sheepishly.

My only pre-license driving disaster occurred as I tried to back the truck out of the storage shed. The passenger mirror caught on the garage door frame, bending it backward and leaving a long scar in the paint. The kicker was that Dad had just sold the vehicle and the new owners were on their way to pick it up.

“My pleasure.”

Dad put the white Honda Civic, the truck’s replacement, in gear and released the emergency brake. He backed out, then climbed out into the sunshine to trade me seats. I settled into the driver’s seat and took a deep breath. I don’t think I exhaled, feeling the tension inside me mount like an overfilled balloon.

Our driveway was almost a quarter mile long, gravel, framed by end-to-end railroad ties.  A few years earlier, I had helped Daddy lay all those railroad ties. He was a big do-it-yourselfer. His determination and ingenuity employed my sisters and me quite a bit, and served us well.

It was another mile or so down the main dirt road before we came to the first turn onto pavement. Highway 86 was the artery of my family’s social life. It connected our small town of Perry to Stillwater where we went to church, shopped at the nearest Wal-Mart, and where I attended Trinity Christian School.

I pulled into the parking lot at the testing location. It was near the airport and my friend Amy’s house, so I felt comfortable having been there dozens of times before. I parked in front of the nondescript brick building and followed Dad, ducking under his arm as he held the door. Within seconds, I was seated at an old fashioned school desk facing the first test I had seen in months.

“That was easy!” I wiped my sweaty hands on my shorts as soon as I finished. “How long do you think we’ll have to wait to take the driving part?”

“Let’s go, young lady.”

I turned to see a hefty, brusque woman already glaring at me impatiently. She had ridiculously long, artificial nails painted dark blue. A strand of gray, messy hair was caught between her face and glasses.

I tried to be cheery, “Hi.” Wordlessly, she handed me the keys, “Thanks.”

I backed out of the parking lot, drove through Amy’s neighborhood and parallel parked on the side of the road between two trash cans. The woman never said a word, but made a few indecipherable notations on a legal pad. I focused on the road and tried not to look over at her scratchings.

Finally, she pointed in the direction of the testing facility. Relief flooded me. I was almost done. One hundred yards from the entrance, a tiny hill, really a bump, was the only thing between me and my last left turn.

As my front tires crested the bump, I saw a pickup truck coming toward us. Quick calculations ran through my head, The speed limit is only 30 mph, plenty of time. Deftly, I turned the wheel left and coasted into a parking space.

Dad wasn’t waiting outside. He’d found the most recent copy of AOPA (Associate of Private Aviators) among the sparse reading material left for bored parents in the waiting room. Nervously, I unbuckled and stepped from the car.

“Nice job.” The woman still couldn’t smile. “You maintained the correct speed limit and parallel parked beautifully.”

My hopeful smile began to stretch into a sloppy, deliriously happy grin.

“However, you should have waited for that truck to pass before you turned into the testing facility. I’m going to recommend you come back in two weeks and take the test again.”

My heart crashed through my feet and dissolved on the pavement between me and this terribly mean woman. Humiliated, I accepted the piece of paper where she had written her suggestions. Through my swelling tears of disappointment, I saw a paper on which she had scrawled a big, fat “F” across my best efforts.

I hated to go inside the building. I knew Dad would read my face before I had a chance to explain. Fortunately, he noticed us talking and came outside.

“Mr. Blades, your daughter did very well except for one mistake. As I told her, I am going to ask her to come back and test again in two weeks.” With that, she shuffled inside. I noticed the large sweat stain on the back of her shirt as she left. It disgusted me.

Daddy was kind enough to accept the keys and drive home in silence. How I hated to go home and explain to the rest of the family that I had failed.

Sweet Sixteen, Chapter 12

Before you begin, I beg you to remember that this is the first and roughest draft of my fledgling memoir. Please read gracefully, knowing that it has not been fully edited. And by all means feel free to offer comments and suggestions.
Lastly, I’m still in flux as to the title. I welcome any ideas!!

Sweet Sixteen

Love is:

The purpose for living

Important to express

A hug, a kiss

Forgiveness

A compliment

Caring

More than a feeling

Healing

What you want to focus on

The solution

Peace and joy

Priceless and invaluable

Free and abundant

The shining light that guides us

###

The Truth in Love is a critical component of treatment at Remuda. It’s staged at the halfway point, 30 days into an adolescent’s minimum stay of 60 days. Parents and family members who play a significant roll in a patient’s life are invited to The Ranch for one week. It’s a time for family counseling, large group therapy and a chance for the patient to practice healthy behaviors in their family environment.

My family shared a week with three other families. Each family was given one day that week to have their Truth in Love. The rest of us sat in a circle around them, offering emotional support, solidarity and praying to learn something we could apply to our own story.

Each patient’s personal therapist directed their family’s conversation. Similar to a twelve step program, we made lists of offenses and amends. Then, according to Ephesians 4:15, we tried to share our feelings truthfully, but gently and in love.

Throughout the first month of treatment, Keri and I discussed the family dynamics that had contributed to my eating disorder. Once a week, we had conference calls with my parents, and often my sister, Jennifer was included. As our week approached, Keri suggested that Jennifer join my parents when the came to Arizona.

“I think Jenny plays a big role in all of this,” Keri tread lightly. “Remember, the eating disorder isn’t anyone’s fault. But because Jenny and Abby are so close in age, I think it will be really helpful if she’s here to be a part of this.”

Keri stressed that no one was at fault, it was simply the way we perceived each other, just the way things were. But, at the time, it seemed so easy to play the victim and pin blame on someone for making me act out through anorexia. As I made my lists of offenses and amends to share with Mom, Dad and Jennifer, I faced the impossible question: What caused me to develop an eating disorder?

My Truth in Love was scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, the day after my birthday. Dad, Mom and Jennifer flew into Arizona late Sunday night. I hardly slept. What if they were put out having to come here to help me? What if they were exasperated that my brokenness cost them money, time and energy? What if they didn’t want to be here? And worst of all, what if this was wasted, and I couldn’t get this recovery thing right?

I was grateful that Monday breakfast was always a bran muffin, cottage cheese, canned peaches, peanut butter and milk. It was a relatively “safe” meal for me, and satisfied my required exchanges of three bread, two meat, two fruit, two fat and one milk. The butterflies in my stomach were able to focus solely on the arrival of my family and not worry about breakfast.

Did they remember it was my birthday, my 16th birthday? Or had my family forgotten since for a full month they hadn’t had to be aware of me. Maybe I was a non-issue in the Blades family by now.

“Abby, as soon as you’re finished, can you come to the med window, honey?” Evelyn, my favorite nurse waved at me from the edge of the dining room.

“Am I in trouble,” I mouthed. She shook her head and disappeared back around the corner.

I liked Evelyn because she had mastered the art of being everyone’s mother. She was the supreme comforter when you had to eat all of your fat exchanges in one sitting because you had declined them earlier in the day. She was the one who would rub your back in lazy circles while you cried yourself to sleep.

Evelyn was part Hispanic. Neither too heavy nor thin, she always wore light purple scrubs and smelled like lavender. Everything about her was soft, from her deep, black eyes, to her wavy, untamed hair to her large, capable hands.

Evelyn daughter named Shani who was also a nurse at Remuda. Shani was still in school and didn’t plan to make Remuda her career as her mother had. But she was as spunky as Evelyn was maternal. Her right ear had eight piercings, including the tragus, which made her all the more daring and edgy to me.

Usually, no matter who finished first, everyone at the table waited for the slowest person to suffer through their last bite. Thankfully, Shani was our table monitor that day. With a slight nod, she released me to go find out what Evelyn wanted.

“Surprise!”

The shout came from in front of and behind me. Standing in the same hall where I had first entered Remuda, before the med window where I had first seen Alicia, stood both my parents and my sister.

“Happy Birthday!”

This time the shout only echoed from behind me as I buried my face in Mom’s familiar black jacket. All the girls, still dutifully planted in front of their plates, turned and shouted again, “Happy Birthday!”

Jenny stood next to Daddy holding a heart shaped mylar balloon that proved they hadn’t forgotten my special day. Daddy reached to hug me next.

“Happy sixteenth, kiddo,” he whispered into my hair. “I love you. When you get home, we’ll get your driver’s license first thing.”

I pulled back and grinned at him. “Really?”

“Yep! But we did bring something for you today, too.”

I broke loose from Dad and threw my arms around my little sister. In those minutes, it seemed impossible that I had ever doubted their love for me. It seemed crazy that I might accuse these wonderful people of making me sick. Of course they loved me!

“Come on in here, Abby.” Evelyn beckoned me into the dining room. “Bring your family in here so we can meet them!”

“I heard them say they brought you a gift! We want to see it, too. Open it! Open it!” Alicia bounced lightly in her chair, and for once no one shushed her or accused her of trying to burn extra calories.

I took a light blue bag from Mom’s out stretched hands. No one in our family does elaborate gift wrapping, but Mom can do a great curly ribbon bow. I grabbed a butter knife from the table and sawed through the white ribbon. Beneath wads of crushed, voluminous tissue paper, I found a small jewelry box.

I laughed, “Is someone proposing?”

I lifted the box from its cocoon of paper and pried it open. A huge aquamarine, my birthstone, gleamed from the crease in the box.

“I bought that stone and a topaz just like it in the Brazil on my last business trip,” Dad said. “I had them set in identical settings, this one for you and the topaz for your mom.”

“It’s gorgeous, Daddy! Thank you, thank you!”

“Oh, and we can’t forget these,” Mom pulled a large manila envelope from her purse. “These are all the birthday cards from your church friends, school friends, grandparents and everyone else. See, you’re unforgettable.”

I heard the truth in Mom’s words. For that day, I believed her. The lie would resurface; it was one of my grievances or offenses listed for the Truth in Love tomorrow.

I feel unimportant.

 

 

Missing Peace, Chapter 10, Admit One (Only)

Susan, a perky Remuda staff member picked us up at the airport. Dad swung both of my suitcases into the back of the van, then climbed into the back seat. Irritated, I sat in the front next to Susan. The thermometer on the dashboard said it was 65 degrees.

It’s the middle of February, I thought absently, at least it’s warmer here. I tried to eavesdrop as she and Dad made small talk on the short drive to The Ranch, but despite valiant efforts I kept dozing off. My chin dropped to my chest and my head lurched violently to the side when a bump in the road jolted me awake.

“I know she’s really excited about the horses. We had a couple at home,” Dad said.

“Well, she won’t be able to go down to the barn for at least the first week,” Susan had explained. “For the first week we restrict all exercise, including walking beyond the yard, just until we have a full medical evaluation and each patient proves compliance with all the rules.”

After we turned off the last road, the gravel drive to the main lodge seemed eternally long. No trees waved, no breeze, just a blinding sun leaning toward the western horizon. Dad unloaded my bags, but Susan took the handles of both as soon as he set them down.

“I’ll help her carry them inside,” she said. “We ask that the parents say goodbye outside instead of coming into the treatment center.”

“Why?” My hope that Dad would change his mind and take me home with him was slipping away.

“It’s easier actually,” Susan said. “When we get inside we need to start the admissions process right away, let the doctor see her, check Abby into her room and dinner is in less that two hours. It’s less emotional if you can say goodbye out here.”

Five wide, sandstone steps led toward the lodge. I took the first one and turned so that I was closer to eye level with Daddy. But I couldn’t look at him. Instead, I scanned the yard. It was mostly lava rock. I recalled Daddy saying once that he wouldn’t mind having a rock yard, less maintenance. One or two cacti looked as lonely, bleak and barren as I felt.

Fear rushed into my heart, overflowing its banks and pushing the anger aside. “Daddy, don’t leave me. Please, please don’t leave.”

My usually sympathetic father kissed my forehead, drew me into his chest, whispered, “I love you,” and walked away. I watched him fold his long frame back into the van where another staff member waited to drive him to Holiday Inn for the night before he caught a 9 a.m. flight back to Oklahoma tomorrow.

“Come on, Sweetheart.” Business taken care of, a motherly side of Susan emerged. “Chad will come get your bags, let’s take you inside and get you settled in.”

Comatose, I followed her.

An eternity passed in those twenty feet to the double wooden doors that opened into the lodge. We stepped into a long, rustically decorated hallway. Along the right wall, a full length entry table held stacks of mail, each pile with a different girl’s name on it. At the far end, the entryway T’d below a waist-high window. Black, wood-burned letters above the window designated it as the nurse’s station.

A small figure leaned into the window from the outside.

“Hey! Come on it’s time for evening meds! Dani, I didn’t get my Citrucel at lunch.”

The little one had a big voice for someone so small. Lavender sweats hung from her shoulders, pooled at her ankles. I thought perhaps she was five years old. But this was an adolescent unit. No one under 12 was admitted. With a huff, the child turned around and leaned back against the window, arms crossed.

“Oh, hi!” Her friendly tone was a full octave higher than her demanding one. Chestnut colored hair swung scraggly around her face, less than half of it remaining dutifully in her ponytail.

“I’m Alicia. Are you new here?”

She moved toward me and only then did I notice the five foot metal pole that she clutched like an oversized staff in her right hand. Dangling 10 inches above her head was a large plastic bag with a tube, like an IV. It was filled with a clear fluid. The tube snaking down the pole was taped to her cheek just below her nose, then turned sharply upward and disappeared into her right nostril. I’d been threatened about feeding tubes.

Alicia rolled the rest of the way toward me and addressed Susan.

“Where are the nurses? I want my Citrucel or I’m not eating dinner. I haven’t crapped in two days.”

“I’m sure Dani will be there soon,” Susan promised. “You’re still 30 minutes too early.”

“Whatever.” Alicia turned to me. “Hi again.” She smiled a cherub smile, like the kind my youngest sister, Rachelle, gives. They light up a room and tell you that you’re the only person that matters in the whole wide world.

I wondered how on earth she could seem so instantly genuine to me, a stranger. The new girl. For a year now, I had been given sideways glances by those who first met me. A walking skeleton, everyone gawked as if I was a piece of angular modern art. Oh God, don’t let me get a feeding tube.