What must I do to be free?

The other day when I was going through my old therapy journal I found this entry and I thought it might be helpful to others. Forgiveness is so exceedingly crucial to the healing process and it is my hope and prayer that you may ask and seek the grace to forgive those who have harmed you.

Sometimes the pain feels like it’s about to suffocate me. I try so hard to breath, but I can’t escape the weight of the pain. I breath in and out and the tears come. I let the tears come, like the morning welcomes the sun, because through them I know this pain is real. I know I need to face the past, no matter how traumatic it was. If I don’t own it, I will never heal and be free. I desire to be free with all my heart because the weight of the pain is unbearable. I want to feel love, authentic love. I want to be able to be vulnerable with a man. I want to get married and have children. The nightmares are frightening and I lock the door to try and keep them out. The lock doesn’t hold them back and I wake up with tears that won’t subside.

What must I do to be free?, I ask between sobs. From a voice that is gentle and safe I hear, Forgive Maura.

Forgive. But why? I did nothing wrong? Where is the logic in forgiveness?

And the same voice said, Tell me where you see the logic in the Son of Man dying on cross for you? 

Love defies logic.

To err is human, to forgive is to mirror the Divine. – Alexander Pope


Vulnerability and Relationships

Last night I did some serious thinking and came to the following conclusions: God the Father has profoundly blessed me. My life and life experiences are immense gifts from Him. And I do a horrible job at thanking God for the gift of my life and the events of last night put things in perspective for me.

I was cleaning off my desk as I pondered those thoughts and more. I had a tall pile of papers that I was filing. As I came to the end of the pile something caught my eye: my therapy journal of two years. That journal to me is a representation of tremendous pain, but also immense joy. In it, I tracked my progress of a 2 year journey of healing, it’s basically a shorter version of my book.

Then I thought of one of my favorite quotes: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I thought about all the progress I had made over the years in letting others get close to me, and I thanked God for His goodness towards me. I certainly have much to learn and more progress to make, as I am always striving to live and change for the good. But, it was refreshing to reflect on all the progress I have made and to focus on the beauty of learning, growing, healing and ultimately the love of the Father.

So what about you? Have you basked in the light of the progress you have made? Sometimes it’s hard to note your own progress and if that is the case for you, then ask someone who knows you well to verbalize your progress to you. And in all things, give thanks to the Father, for His love, mercy and healing Hands can transform a broken and wounded heart into a heart brimming with freedom: a heart that can learn to be vulnerable again in a safe way.

It’s healing to let others in, give it a try.

HOPE: That’s why I’m alive today!

A fairly evident theme in many of the emails I receive is that people have a very limited and or no conception of the Father’s love. Another common one is, How did you keep getting up when you were recovering from your eating disorder? That is an excellent question and my answer can really be applied to any struggle you are faced with. When you fall down in any type of struggle you must make the resolve to get back up. And when you fall again, as you will, you get up again. Then when you think you’re doing fine and suddenly fall again and are tempted to stay fallen, you must get up again. No matter what you have done or what you are struggling with you must reach out your trembling hand to the Father and let His gentleness guide you to freedom.

I am alive today because of Him. Without His love and hope I would have despaired and  taken my own life.

One time I asked my Spiritual Director, Why didn’t God stop the abuse? He looked at me and said, The same reason He didn’t stop the Romans from killing His Son.

God gives us free will and while He doesn’t will evil to happen, He allows it because He will not take away our free will. It it up to us to decide how we will use this gift He has given to us. I challenge you to use your free will to fight for freedom, whether that be an eating disorder/abuse and or any type of struggle. Be a solider for Christ, walk with Him to Calvary and as you fall along the way, ask for the grace for the cross to be placed squarely on your shoulders as you rise again.

The last fall is the worst fall. In it Christ identified Himself with those who fall again and again, and who get up again and again and go on- those who even after the struggle of a lifetime fall when the end is in sight; those who in the last fall lose the respect of many of their fellow human beings, but who overcome their humiliation and shame; who, ridiculous in the eyes of others, are beautiful in the eyes of God, because in Christ, with Christ’s courage, in His heroism, they get up and go on, climbing the hill of Calvary.

In the third fall, the showing of Christ’s love is this: He does not indwell only the virtuous, only those who are successful in overcoming temptation, only those who are strong and in whom His power is made manifest to the world; He chooses to indwell those who seem to fail, those who fall again and again, those who seem to be overcome even when the end is in sight. In them, if they will it, He abides; in them He overcomes weakness and failure, in them He triumphs; and in His power they can persevere to the end, abject before men but glorious with Christ’s glory before God. – Caryll Houslander

I realized that I CAN do this!

Several nights ago I received the following email from an exceedingly courageous woman. I want to share it with you today in the hopes that her determination will inspire you in your fight for recovery and freedom! Let us all learn and grow from one another.

I want to thank you for all of your feedback from the accountability program. Your words mean so much to me and have helped me in many ways. I continue to read your blog as well and I honestly cannot believe how perfect each post is for me when I read them. Seriously, a few of them have made me cry because they are so perfect. Now, there is another reason for why I am emailing you tonight… I have some big news that I think you would like to hear! Today, April 19th, marks two amazing milestones for me! Not only is today the three-year anniversary of my coming fully into the Catholic Church through RCIA, but today also marks 30 days since the last time I self-harmed! When I realized that it has been 30 days, I was overcome with joy because I realized that I CAN do this!

I can overcome the voice inside my head telling me to hurt myself every day. Yes, I have been tempted a lot over the past few days, but I have never given in! I have kept my rosary with me at all times and still sleep with it to help me get through the night. I really do believe that I have you to thank for being able to get myself this far! Without your help through the accountability program and also through your blog, I have been able to find the strength I need to continue to fight.

I have a list of people on a note on my computer who I continue to fight and live for… Your name has made that list of people. Truly, without your strength and inspiration, I would not be able to say that I am where I am today in recovery. You help me to remember that it’s okay to fall down sometimes, just as long as I pick myself back up and keep moving in the right direction. You help me to keep my eyes focused on Christ, even when I don’t feel Him with me. Thank you, Maura, for everything! 

Blessed be God! All the glory and honor to the Father!

So, what are you doing to recover?

Need a plan? Email the founder of MIHI (Maura) at ifightHimwithlove@gmail.com. MIHI exists to help you!

I can’t look at myself, she said.

The other day I received an email from a young woman who couldn’t bare to look at her reflection in the mirror, window, shadow or any body of water. My heart ached as I proceeded to read her eloquently composed words.

Our culture today is polluted with a cesspool of lies fueling young woman’s minds and hearts into believing that happiness rests in looking a certain way or reaching an “ideal weight.”

Our culture is plagued with false truths about beauty and self-image because often times women don’t know what their true and lasting identity lies in. Confused, women turn to the media for reassurance and guidance. And what does the media tell them? It tells them that in order to be considered beautiful they need to look like the latest ninety-five pound manufactured celebrity on the cover of People Magazine. So, because of society, countless women strive after false beauty, perishable fame and attempt to quench their thirst for happiness with fleeting pleasures. But Truth tells women that lasting beauty stems from virtue and character, which is found within.

In regards to looking at yourself in the mirror – that was so hard for me as well. And I completely understand how you feel. I wanted to suggest that each morning when you look at yourself in the mirror, instead of being hard on yourself and seeing all of your imperfections to say the following – Father in Heaven, please show me the dignity I possess as Your daughter. I’m beautiful because I’m your daughter, created in Your image and likeness, show me the beauty You see. Show me how precious I am in Your eyes, for I long to see it. 

Do the following each day as well:

1. Look at yourself as a whole person, don’t just focus on bodies parts you don’t like.

2. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it to enhance your body’s health and function, not to burn as many calories as you possibly can.

3. Make a list of 5 positive things about yourself, excluding appearance and keep the list in a visible location – example: bulletin board, desk, locker, gym bag, Bible or refrigerator.

4. Wear comfortable modesty clothes that fit your body, work with your body, not against it.

5. Make the choice to see beauty in your body (temple of the Holy Spirit).

6. Don’t restrict, eat when you are hungry and learn to recognize your hunger cues, so as to avoid binging.

7. Don’t over exercise, learn to give your muscles and body rest when you are tired.

8. Surround yourself with positivity and friends that will support you in your journey of recovery.

9. Put a Post-it/index card on the mirror in your bathroom that reads, I’m beautiful because I’m a daughter of God, created in His image and likeness.

10. Have a role model and learn from them.

11. When you see a ninety-five pound model on the front of a magazine, remind yourself that they aren’t happy and that their appearance doesn’t radiate true beauty.

12. Protest things that you see in the media that fuel poor body image.

13. Take time everyday to thank God for your cross and all that He has blessed you with.

14. Every morning when you wake up, look in the mirror and say, Father, I’m beautiful because I’m your daughter. Please show me the beauty You see, show me how precious I am – I long to see it. Even if you don’t feel like saying this, do it anyway.

15. Be patient and kind to yourself. Remember, sometimes you are your own worst enemy.

16. Tell yourself that you are worthy of love. In fact, the Father adores you and created you in His very image and likeness.

The Monster in the Closet

I have received countless emails and requests from readers and young women, asking me to write something addressed to parents. Knowing that I am not qualified to address the topic I asked Catherine, Made in His Image’s counselor to write something for you to give to parents or caregivers. Please use her article and share with all you know.

“The Monster in the Closet” – by Catherine DiNuzzo, LPC MS

(An Article for Parents of Children with an Eating Disorder)

Some situations scare parents.  Other situations REALLY scare parents.  Imagine that your child, who you have spent every moment protecting, comes to you and says “Mom and Dad, I need to talk to you.”  Your mind begins to race, frantically traveling through every scenario that could follow a statement like this.  You attempt to remain positive.  You think that maybe they are going to tell you something about school, like “I’m flunking algebra.” Not that? What if they tell me that they’ve met someone?  Or maybe something completely different, like “I want to be a doctor.”

As you stare at your daughter, a beautiful young woman, standing there in front of you, you notice the scared look in her eyes.  This isn’t about school, a relationship, or her future career.  You can tell that this is something much bigger, which obviously pains you greatly.  You venture back to the nights, many years ago, when she used to come to the side of your bed, with the same scared look in her eyes, asking for you to save her from the monster in her closet.  You realize that this time the monster is not a figment of her imagination.  The monster is real and even scarier now.

She then tells you that she has an eating disorder.  You are shocked, devastated and you experience a waterfall of emotions.  Fear, denial, and guilt top the list.  Then you question yourself… Wasn’t I a good parent?  What did I do wrong?  Did I not tell her ‘I love you’ enough?  How could I have not known or seen the signs? What now?

As we look at the answers to these questions, it is vital for parents and loved ones to understand that eating disorders are a very tricky subject.  There are many factors that go into the development of an eating disorder.  A child can come from a very loving, affectionate and affirming family and still develop an eating disorder. There is no proof of causation between good parenting and destructive eating habits.

In difficult situations like this, it is very easy and natural to focus on the past, rehashing various scenarios, incidents, relationships, and arguments.  This can be very dangerous and detrimental to you and your daughter.  By focusing on the past, we forget about the future.  To truly help your child, it is important to accept the past and focus on the future.  Therefore, the new question should be “What can I do now to help my child exterminate this monster?”

First it is important to have a basic understanding of eating disorders and some of the factors that feed this monster. In much of the research that has been done on eating disorders, it has been consistently shown that eating disorders are complex and that there are numerous contributing factors that can lead someone to an eating disorder.  These contributing factors include psychological, interpersonal, social, and biological.  The following information is from the National Eating Disorders Association and can by located online by clicking HERE.

Psychological factors that can contribute to eating disorders:

• Low self-esteem

• Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life

• Depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness

Interpersonal factors that can contribute to eating disorders:

• Troubled family and personal relationships
• Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
• History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
• History of physical or sexual abuse

Social factors that can contribute to eating disorders:

• Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”
• Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes
• Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths

Biological factors that can contribute to eating disorders:

Scientists are still researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders.  In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be unbalanced.  The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances remains under investigation.  Eating disorders often run in families.  Current research indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders.

With the complex nature of eating disorders, it can be intimidating for loved ones to know how to help those in their life who are suffering.  Fear of not knowing the right thing to do or say can be paralyzing to some, which may lead them to do nothing.  In actuality, the best thing to do is simple.  What your daughter needs more than anything right now is to be reassured of your love.  This may be a new scary road for you, but it is even scarier for her.  It is vital for her to know that no matter what, you love her and that you will be there to support her on the road to recovery.

As parents we want to take all of our kid’s pain away.  We want to shoulder the burdens of life for them.  This is a natural response.  Yet, in order for someone suffering with an eating disorder to fully heal, they must take the reins of their own recovery… we cannot do it for them.  Your role can be to stand strong beside them and offer the continual support they need to stay on the path to recovery.

The path forward may appear narrow, with high hills and deep valleys, but it is important for you know that you are not alone on this journey.  There are support groups, counseling, and informational websites that are created specifically for parents of a child with an eating disorder.  This “eating disorder monster” is big and scary, but there is hope!  With a dedication to recovery and a solid support system, just like the monsters of your child’s past, this monster can be conquered, with new and brighter days are on the horizon.

To contact Catherine, please click HERE.

I was absolutely terrified, but I made it!

Often times our society inflicts a stigma upon therapy, which is false. Therapy changed my life and I desire it to be a catalyst in yours as well.

Below is an email from an exceedingly courageous woman who heard my talk at James Madison University. It is my hope that her determination, perseverance, and faith will inspire and instil within you the courage to seek professional help for your recovery. Her bravery is to be extolled.

You are one of the first people I’ve heard to come out and say that getting professional help is okay and, above all else, normal. I think I REALLY needed to hear this. I am scared to death of pushing myself to get professional help- I am scared of the possibilities that my friends and family will believe I am crazy. I’m afraid of feeling like I’ve failed myself. Nevertheless, I really think I should and will be looking into it, thanks to your encouragement.  I have a moral obligation to get help for myself; I don’t want to be stuck in this vicious circle forever.

Thank you SO much for all that you are, and for bravely sharing your story!  You are giving so many girls like me the strength to believe that there is a way out of this darkness, and the inspiration to fight for the betterment of our lives while building a strong and healthy relationship with God the Father. 

I feel compelled to write to you- your entry tonight (Thursday) on your blog really resonated with me. I’ve never been able to really think of our God as the Father. I am so much more comfortable with thinking of a judgmental and angry God. But I feel like He has been reaching out since I heard you speak at JMU. Especially in the past two days. 

Yesterday, I pushed myself to finally go to counseling- it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Right before I left, I came across Philippians 4:6-7 about how God wants me to give up my anxieties to Him. Still, I was 10 minutes late to the appointment because I literally had to persuade myself to get into my car. I was absolutely terrified, but I made it!  Little victories. It was awkward, it was scary, it was completely draining… but I’m glad I pushed myself to start this journey. Before I left, my therapist told me that the Lord wanted me to run to Him; His arms are open and waiting to hold me close. That was hard to hear, especially after having read Philippians a couple of hours before. I’m not sure I really believed it. Then tonight, I came across Ephesians 3:16-19, about how much deeper God’s love is than anything we could ever possibly know. And an hour later, I read your entry about our worth as daughters of God… and I almost lost it. I’m still on the verge of tears.

Tonight, I am wholly overwhelmed with God’s love. Though I feel so undeserving and unworthy, at least tonight, the depth of His love feels like a reality. Tonight, I feel like through Him, I CAN recover. Though worldly men have made me what I am now, my Father has bigger plans for my future. There is hope for me.

Thank you for the initial nudge to go get help for myself- Even though I know this is going to be so hard, I can already see that this is where He wants me to be. I’m doing the right thing. I am sure there are still so many more hard days ahead, but hopefully I can look back on this night and remember what it feels like to be filled with God’s perfect love. I just felt like sharing this joy with someone who has been there.

So what about you? Will you not let our Heavenly Father love you through the compassionate guidance of a doctor or counselor? Try it…I gurantee you, you won’t be disappointed.

“God passes through the thicket of the world, and where His glance falls, He turns all things into beauty.” – St. John of the Cross