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Praying Woman

Speaking Up Can Save a Life

Speaking Up Can Save a Life

by Hannah Bollinger

This blog originally appeared in Woven Beautiful.

I wanted to wish away the horrible tension building in me. College was supposed to be a fresh start, an escape from the past, but there I was, away at college and on the brink of turning 18 years old — and fearful that my buried secret would be exposed. It wasn’t until later that I would recognize the blessing of what was unfolding.

Some friends were concerned about another friend who appeared to be struggling with anorexia and they wanted to help her. So I sat through numerous conversations on the topic of eating disorders, occasionally chiming in but in my gut feeling like the biggest liar.

Because what these friends didn’t realize was that while they were on a mission to help another friend, who they were helping was me.

I tried many times to overcome my several year battle with bulimia on my own strength, but I could not break free — not fully.

My friends’ boldness to talk about the very thing that I was struggling with stirred up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings in me, awakening me to the reality that I needed help. And while at the time I didn’t like it, God was working every detail together for good.

Sometimes we need to feel the tension to get better — sometimes that’s what it takes.

The end of the semester rolled around and I experienced insomnia on the night before my first final. All the conversation about eating disorders spun through my mind, the tension almost unbearable. And then—

I heard Holy Spirit whispers. And while I didn’t literally see Him, I believe Jesus sat at my bedside — He came to my rescue. In pure love He came to usher me out of the darkness and into the light, inviting me to trust Him and assuring me that He would lead me to greener pastures.

I accepted His invitation, I let go…

And the battle was no longer mine to fight on my own. The One who has already overcome, the One who leads His people to victory, the One who breaks every chain — came to break my chains and set me free.

As surely as the sun will rise You’ll come to us Certain as Your word endures…

Chains be broken Lives be healed Eyes be opened Christ is revealed ~ You’ll Come, Hillsong United

While treatment looks different for each person, full recovery is possible and today I know freedom.

God the Good Father sent Jesus to break every chain and set us free, and His Love is the healing balm for every struggle, addiction, or obstacle that seems too great to overcome.

Up until about a year ago I only shared my story with close family and friends, but I’m learning to authentically tell my story and speak up because I want to raise awareness about eating disorders and be a part of the conversation that has the power to bring about positive change.

The stigma surrounding eating disorders and mental health in general makes it hard to speak up, creating silence around issues that need to be talked about — not ignored. Not everyone with an eating disorder is 60-pounds, skin and bones; I never was. And disordered eating and distorted body image are big issues in our culture, full-blown eating disorder or not.


• Eating disorders affect people of every age, race, gender and socio-economic status (in other words they’re not just a teenage girl problem). (NEDA)

• In the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives. This includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and OSFED (other specified feeding or eating disorder). (NEDA)

• Only 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder will receive treatment. (ANAD)

• Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (some sources specifically say anorexia). (ANAD, NIMH).

Eating disorders steal life and isn’t that just what the enemy who comes to kill, steal, and destroy wants? My eating disorder thrived in the dark and that’s exactly where Satan wanted it to stay — in the dark where I was a prisoner in my own body.

But God had different plans for me because He is the Life-Giver. Ultimately, it was my choice to either submit to His plans or choose what felt more comfortable by keeping my struggle in the dark. Stepping out in faith and putting my trust in Jesus was the beginning of me becoming healthy in mind, body, and soul.

Once my struggle was exposed to the light I began to experience healing.

God is all about setting us free so that we can enjoy abundant life in Him. And so, especially as Christ followers…

If we know that eating disorders enslave, shouldn’t we be doing everything that we can to be a part of helping those struggling? Shouldn’t we be a safe place for those terrified to speak up, like I once was? Shouldn’t we walk alongside those who are hurting?

No one should have to journey this journey alone but so many do and I once did. I’m thankful my friends spoke up and I’m thankful for the tension it created in me and I’m thankful Jesus offered me a way out of the dark. Because as difficult as it was to bring my struggle into the open, it was the doorway to my freedom.

And today, as a redeemed daughter of the King who has tasted sweet freedom, I speak up in the language of hope. Even if my voice only helps one person it’s 100% worth it.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (MSG)

The problem won’t go away by keeping it in the dark; it will only intensify. We need talk about eating disorders and the surrounding issues more. As uncomfortable as it might be, it just might save a life.


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