They Do Exist.

My Heart Was Broken At 17 When He Chose A Cheerleader Over Me

Editor’s Note: Today’s story is by Lauren Bersaglio. She has created the Libero Network to bring awareness to and support for those recovering from eating disorders, depression, addiction, anxiety & abuse. She also tweets at @lauren_b_sag! – Lauren

“Thus the end of the commandment is love, and that twofold, the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Now, if you take yourself in your entirety,—that is, soul and body together,—and your neighbor in his entirety…you will find that none of the classes of things that are to be loved is overlooked in these two commandments….When it is said, “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself,” it at once becomes evident that our love for ourselves has not been overlooked.”

-St. Augustine

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

My heart was broken at the age of seventeen when he chose a cheerleader over me.

I assumed his decision was based on one thing: Me.

I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. And, most importantly, I wasn’t skinny enough. Never did I consider that maybe his choice had less to do with me and more to do with him. No, it was all my fault.

I would lie awake at night, praying, pleading with God: “God, if You love me, please, please just let me wake up skinny.” And usually I’d throw in the classic: “I’ll never ask for anything else again.” But despite my negotiation, my prayers weren’t answered. So I did what many of us do: I took matters into my own hands – I stopped eating.

And the self-destruction began: weighing myself, starving myself, over-exercising, cutting myself, weighing myself again – I was at war with my body and that is a battle one can never win.

A few months and too many lost pounds later, I decided to ‘smarten up’.

I started eating again, but mostly because I felt if I went on much longer my cover would be blown and my ugly secret would get out: I had an eating disorder. That couldn’t happen. So I kept on pretending that I was OK, painting over the wounds with denial.

I became obsessed with eating only ‘healthy foods’ and avoiding anything that years of diet commercials and ill-informed ‘health’ articles had convinced me was ‘bad’. I later found out the term for this obsession: Orthorexia.

As my disordered eating and compulsive exercise continued I would still flirt with old behaviours; when life got hard, I’d stop eating. When I felt fat, I’d stop eating. And when I felt guilt or shame, I’d self-harm; attempting to numb the internal pain by creating an external one.

This process went on for a couple of years; and then something happened: another heartbreak.

This is when Bulimia walked through my door, or maybe I walked through its door – I’m still not sure.

Bulimia became a lifestyle for me, a priority – I was in my second year of University and yet all I could think of was: binge, purge, repeat.

I was out of control.

The fear of purging led me to fear food; I couldn’t look at it, I couldn’t smell it, and I most certainly couldn’t eat it. I went three days without putting a single thing in my mouth. Not even juice. I asked my professor how long I could live like this. “Without food, a human has about thirty days.”

Thirty days? Thirty days was sooner than exams, thirty days was sooner than summer, thirty days was simply too soon.

I didn’t want to die!

It’s important to realize that with eating disorders, like with any form of self-harm, the goal of the individual is [typically] not to end one’s life; instead it is a way of coping with negative feelings and/or punishing one’s self due to low self-concept.

That’s what I learnt when I entered recovery; I learnt that my eating disorder behaviours were not the problem, they were the symptom.

And in order to stop the behaviours, I needed to address the source: I would need to learn to love myself.

As St. Augustine says, loving yourself isn’t just about loving your body, it’s also about loving your soul. It’s about loving who you are – inside and out – and so I began the journey to acquire self-love.

It wasn’t easy; a lot of emotions unravel when separating yourself from your eating disorder: guilt, shame, regret, anger… Everyone kept telling me I had to forgive myself. They kept telling me I had to love myself. I kept asking them why.

“Because Jesus forgave you, because Jesus loves You.”

It’s not that I didn’t know this – I’d heard the song, I even knew the actions to it – but my question remained: “Why?” Not why should I love myself, but why did Jesus love me?

“As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Genesis 2:7)
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

So there’s the answer; that’s why Jesus loves me. And that’s why I needed to love myself. He created me, ME, an individual, beautiful in my uniqueness. Beautiful in His eyes. And that’s the only beauty that matters.

I had been praying for the wrong thing seven years ago; rather than pray that I’d wake up and find myself skinnier, I should have been praying that in the morning I’d wake up and see myself the way Jesus saw me.

Recovery was a process, and it took a lot of physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. But I can now sit here today and say that it was worth it. It was so worth it. I can also say that, though I believe that self-love is an ongoing process, I do love myself – inside and out.

I want you to know that if you are going through an eating disorder, or disordered eating, or troubles with accepting your body the way it is, you can overcome this! And you can learn to love yourself. Recovery isn’t just for the ‘chosen few’; it’s for anyone who wants it, just like God’s grace. And recovery is possible: it has been 1.5 years since I last purged – and that is nothing less than a miracle. And every time I sit down to eat a meal, I am a witness of God’s grace and the freedom that comes with it. And that freedom, it’s a gift – for me, for you, for all of us.

I will leave you with this quote:

“It is finally so wonderful to have learned to eat, to taste and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, that I’m not uncomfortable calling it a small miracle. A friend who does not believe in God says, “Maybe not a miracle, but a little improvement,” but to that I say, Listen! You must not have heard me right: I couldn’t feed myself! So thanks for your input, but I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can’t get here from there….So it was either a miracle…or maybe it was more of a gift….But whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live – and deciding to live; and it is one of the most radical things I’ve ever done.” –Anne Lamott


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20 Responses

  1. I've been in recovery too for a year now, it was binge eating for me, thank you for your story, yes recovery is possible, it's a process but it really works, one thing I'm learning right now is that hearing and knowing the truth and believing and making it your own is 2 complete different things, yes now I know that when I have a really bad day, I know that not wanting to eat is not the truth, that eating is to feed your body only and that emotions shouldn't get in the way of that but really loving yourself, I guess I'm still trying to learn that. But I'm in progress, everytime you don't relapse is a victory and I know that one day I will be free, for now I'm just going through the process, knowing that God loves me and one day I will really believe it…

    January 15, 2013 at 5:44 am

    • LaurenB

      Thank-you so much! Congratulations on your year in recovery-that's sch an amazing accomplishment!
      " I'm learning right now is that hearing and knowing the truth and believing and making it your own is 2 complete different things" <- I completely agree. This was something I had to learn in recovery, too. First came the hearing, then the believing and making it mine. And the most important thing I learned: it's all about PROGRESS, not perfection. Remember that! And don't get caught up in the slip-ups, they happen, and, like you said, you learn and grow from them and KEEP MOVING FORWARD. And you already are free – I believe breaking the secrecy and standing up against our inner demons is when freedom begins :) I wish you all the best on your journey! -Lauren B.

      January 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

  2. Kate

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I had multitudes of crushes in high school that never paid any attention to me, giving me the idea that I wasn't good enough for them. I exercised obsessively, counted calories compulsively, and left my "goal weight" in the dust. My dad had me get my nutrition checked, but it came up fine. I checked myself into counseling when I couldn't stop losing weight. I had known the whole time that I was being unhealthy, but told myself it was all right because I was only going to lose a few pounds. Counseling helped me to see that I hated myself. Learning to love myself and my body has taken years, and I still haven't arrived. It's been 6 years since counseling, and I'm within a few pounds of what my doctor says is my healthy weight. I really appreciate you delving into how eating disorders and cutting are only symptoms of greater problems.

    January 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    • LaurenB

      Katy, thank you so much for your comment :) I am glad that you've taken steps towards recovery, recovery is a journey, and everyone's journey is different, and the time frame is different for each of us, all that matters is that we stay the course and keep moving forward :) Learning to love yourself, in my eyes, isn't a destination so much as a journey of it's own. It's a decision, really, a daily decision. You have to wake up each morning and say "today I WILL love myself" and some days it comes easier than others, and that's OK. I wish you all the best on your journey, and remember, you aren't in this alone-there are so many of us walking this journey and we are here for each other, and, more importantly, God is always with you. Much Love -Lauren B.

      January 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

  3. Thank you for writing. Wow. I've been trapped in a very similar pattern, as I was bulimic for 7 years. Love the quote from Anne Lamott! She's my favorite.

    Isn't it amazing how something an innocent as food can seemingly swallow us whole until we can't breath? I used to walk around feeling possessed by food/throwing up. AND NOW IM FREE!

    January 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm

  4. Eternal Grace

    Thank you for the article. On one hand, yes I would agree that eating disordered individuals cannot escape the cycle of self-loathe, especially on their own. On the other hand, it is recognising that God loved us, Jesus died for us ESPECIALLY when we were unlovable and unloving, when we are on our knees in front of the toilet bowl sticking a finger to purge food out, when we are crazed from frantically selecting "healthy foods", when we are dazed from hours of over-exercising compulsively. He loved us when He formed us, when we were born sinners. The love that Jesus showed us far extends beyond our faith and feeling good about ourselves or putting a piece of bread in our mouth. Recovery starts when we gaze at the cross, and fix our eyes on it. The rest is a process, each journey and duration different according to the individual.

    The love He shows, far extends our understanding and vision. And that, is the love shown by a God worthy to be praised and glorified.

    January 16, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    • LaurenB

      I fully agree! Thanks for the comment :) -Lauren B.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:42 am

  5. Brilliant post.

    January 17, 2013 at 7:01 am

    • LaurenB

      thanks, Lauren! :)

      January 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm

  6. Heather

    I just want to say thanks.

    I don’t struggle with an eating disorder or even very low self-esteem, but this post was incredibly beautiful and encouraging.

    For 1: You being so vulnerable and transparent and willing to share is just such a blessingto me personally. To have a stranger share something so real and intimate with me is something I don’t take lightly. Thank you.

    And 2: Sometimes I can become numb to how awesome and incredible God’s love is for me. I can go to any person and get excited to show them Jesus because I can feel His love for them, but I sometimes forget to worship Him because of His intense love for me.

    “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

    Just hearing this verse today has undone me. It’s one type of amazing for God to make us with His hands, but a whole other level to know that our first breath (His breath into our nostrils) is powerful enough to make us His for eternity.

    So thank you for sharing. It’s no small thing.

    January 18, 2013 at 2:20 am

    • LaurenB

      Heather, thank you so much for your comment! I was so honoured to get this opportunity to share my story, and I am so encouraged to see my story inspiring others :)

      It is true that we can take God's love and grace for granted – that's why I always tell people, every time you see me put a piece of food in my mouth or post a picture of food on Instagram, celebrate & remember God's love, because it is nothing short of a miracle :)

      -Lauren B.

      January 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm

  7. thankyou for this post.
    Jesus heals.

    January 18, 2013 at 3:54 am

    • LaurenB

      thanks, Stephanie :) And yes, He does!

      January 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

  8. Pingback: On Eating Disorders, Self-love, and God | laurenbersaglio.com

  9. Great story! I am Glad that you’re shining the light on these resources. LaurenB, your story is heartbreaking, your strength, courage and inspiration helps others find hope. Many teenagers are suffering this disease. Always be moderate with food. Otherwise, it’s harmful for health.

    February 13, 2013 at 10:20 am

    • LaurenB

      thanks, Jennifer!

      February 13, 2013 at 11:54 am

  10. loewesa

    I went through a depression and ate alot and gained weight and now I have a hard time fitting into my old clothes, God pulled me out of that depression and saved every once of me!!!!! Thanks for posting this article.
    Dr. Powell:  Chicago Diabetes Center

    November 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

  11. asinusspinasmasticans

    I'll bet there was a guy whose heart you broke at 17.

    I wonder how he dealt with it.

    November 25, 2013 at 8:40 am

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    December 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm

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