For as long as I can remember, I have always been a people pleaser. I have always put other people's happiness before my own. When I was 14 years old, my parents told me they were getting a divorce. Although I was not thrilled at this news, I thought that this was a chance for me to prove to my parents the strong kid I was. My parents would get into many arguments and I thought it was my job to help dissolve the situation. They did not want me to be involved in their situations, but I still felt I needed to be there to ease the tension. It may have looked on the outside that I was handling their divorce very well, but on the inside I was broken. I felt I had lost control of everything. My sense of belonging felt non-existent. I could not control my parents divorce and it felt as if my whole world was crashing. As a result of feeling broken and worthless, I started focusing on other aspects of my life that I could control, things such as diet and exercise. What started out as simply eating healthy and exercising 20 minutes a day turned into calorie counting, many hours a day in the gym, and weighing myself daily. Food and exercise became all I ever thought about. It was the perfect way to keep my mind off other painful things. It was a pain that I could control. I started losing a lot of weight in a very short period of time. My parents started to notice my weight loss and along with this, they started paying attention to my eating habits. Needless to say, they were not very healthy eating patterns. My dad took me to my doctor who suggested I should go to an eating disorder clinic. My dad was perfectly happy to take me to this clinic, my mom had a bit more resistance to this idea. We went for a consultation to the clinic and I was very scared, as were both of my parents. We talked to the counselor about what treatment would be a good option for me. The counselor recommended individualized therapy. At this moment, I realized the path I was going down was not the path I wanted to go down. From that meeting on I focused on my personal needs. I did not completely disregard others, but I needed to be less of a people pleaser in order to heal. I started moving my body in a way that felt good to me, and also nourishing my body in a healthy and sustainable way. I still have hard days with food, but I encourage myself to “feel” that feeling and let it resonate with what is going on in my day. But, I would not be able to do this on my own, I have had lots of support along the way. My counselors, parents, teachers, and friends have helped me along the way. A quote that has really pushed me through those hard days and I want to end off with is, “You can get through anything because you’ve gotten through everything”. There are many things that one can battle themselves, but there is always support out there. I wish I had known about different online support earlier on.
Written by: Claire, MN High School Student
When I finally learned I had a dad, I was 6 years old. At this age, I went to live with him for a time, and then began bouncing around between my mom and dad and their chaotic lives. I was a vagabond, moving 3 times and attending 5 separate kindergartens as a kid, and feeling like I never had a spot to land. Home, the idea of having a place and a people to call your own, was something foreign to me.
I tasted the pain of exclusion, since I compared those around me with a “normal” family to my own unpredictable parents. I tried to hide in larger friend groups and avoid opening up or showing my true self, since this never felt safe. When I had the opportunity to move to the United States at the start of 7th grade, this was an easy decision. I could escape the constant flux of my life, eliminate distractions, and start anew.
However, just because I was in a different setting, this did not mean my habits changed. After living in California for 2 years, I moved to Minnesota. I realized looking back on my experience in California that the way I interacted with those around me was much the same, and I had a void inside of me because of it. I remember how my host family would encourage me to attend family gatherings or stay with them for the holidays, but I would always refuse. I felt the sting of regret for not engaging because I didn’t want to open up and get hurt again.
One day during my sophomore year, I felt particularly saddened by seeing my host parents attending their son’s game. I was jealous of the close relationships among the members of my host family, and yearned for a similar sense of connection. I had never experienced family in the way it was modeled by my host family. Later that day, I broke down crying. My host mom asked me what was wrong, and at first I was afraid to be vulnerable. However, my inner voice kept pushing me to confide in her because I knew I could not keep silent forever. So I did. I told her about my family, about the hurt I had experienced, and about my longing to belong and feel connected. She didn’t run away and she didn’t yell. She listened and sympathized, and I felt closer to her after the conversation.
Socrates famously said, “a life without examining is not worth living.” This conversation with my host mom was the first step in my own self-examination. Since then, I have opened up to some of my friends and mentors. I also had constructive conversations with my dad, and found this process healing, years removed from the checkered past. I have cultivated deep and meaningful relationships and have experienced some pain in revisiting past childhood trauma. But ultimately, I have begun a process of healing that has allowed me to interact in meaningful ways with my host family and peers. I feel part of an ecosystem.
Though I came from a dysfunctional family, I feel that God is behind a lot of the turning points in my life, by bringing me to homes and communities where I continued to grow and encounter Christ. Like the prodigal son, I once was lost in the world but God did not let me go, instead he prepared the road before I even knew his reasons. I am slowly opening myself and deepening my faith. As I look to the future, I am excited for another new beginning through which I might continue to fix my mind to the truth. In College, I want to learn how to be a good friend, student, and leader, interacting with the world without fear and with a willingness to be vulnerable and fix my eyes to Jesus.