You know those people you meet – you didn’t know them for long, you may not have talked to them in years… but they changed your life forever. Yea, me too.
As I’ve said before- I haven’t always had the greatest relationship with food. In fact, it was pretty horrendous. Starting when I was a freshman in high school, I remember looking at magazines and wishing I looked exactly like the women I saw there. This lead to a very unhealthy and obsessive relationship with the food I would put into my body—or lack of. For years this went on. But when you are a young, impressionable girl, with no concept of [proper] nutrition or body metabolism, starvation coupled with strenuous workouts seems like the only solution. I remember eating nothing but dry ramen noodles during the day, and every night when my family would eat burgers or lasagna or chicken pot pie…. I would make myself a bowl of steamed vegetables—THAT’S IT. But when you are the mind of a young girl that has been warped into thinking your BODY is your biggest asset, this only makes sense.
Despite my LOVE for food, I had a lot of will power. A lot. During college I would eat one egg for breakfast, walk to class, skip lunch, eat ½ a pack of peanut butter crackers and then go work out in the afternoon for 1-2 hours. I could count the days I skipped a workout on one hand. Even if I didn’t sleep at all—I would work out. I would get home and eat vegetables for dinner.
Well, I had will-power-- until I didn’t. Late night studying was frequent and with the early hours of the morning, came less and less will power. Until I would quite literally SNAP and binge eat on anything and everything I could find in the home I shared with my roommates. Peanut butter, cookies, chips, ice cream—you name it. The overwhelming guilt at something like this, when all your self worth is found in depriving yourself of food and being “skinny”, is crippling- and would lead to more gym time and less food.
I was a sad, sad case. I didn’t find too much joy in anything – anything except my friends. They were truly my lifelines. They were a supporting and nurturing community … without them I do not know where I would be today. But I would not be the same. Of course, they knew my struggles and would encourage me and counsel me the very best they could. But it’s hard to listen when you are so trapped into a certain way of living and thinking. It’s hard to admit you have a serious problem when you think no one understands. It’s all you know. I contended to myself many times— “I will live like this and eat like this forever.”
You may think that during this whole time I was a pencil thin 5’5” 90# girl. On the contrary, while I was typically thin, my weight fluctuated a lot. It ranged from the pencil thin I wanted, to being “skinny fat” and rather dysmorphic. Honestly, my metabolism was so slow that I gained weight very easily and in the face of binge eating, my body stood no chance. It took extraordinary effort and lack of nourishment to remain at the weight I wanted. Nonetheless, it was a challenge I took on every single day.
In comes John. I was sitting at the coffee shop right by my house that I frequented very often to study. I was there for the first time since the summer break. I remember looking up and being overwhelmed with emotion. Quite frankly, I was draw to this guy- and I did not know why. I continued to frequent the coffee shop—J&B it was called, and John and I became close. And honestly- it’s not that I knew a lot about the guy… I actually didn’t know that much about him… but we connected on a deeper, emotional, spiritual level. He too, struggled with eating, food, body image, and exercise bulimia. For some reason, I was able to connect better with John- than I had anyone before. I listened to him. Maybe because he shared HIS story with me, and that gave me hope. He had recovered. He told me that I did not have to live this way. He told me that I could be helped and I deserved to be helped. He encouraged me to love me for me—not for how I looked or how I amounted up to the world’s standards. He told me I was beautiful. So beautiful. He encouraged me to be brave… to take the steps toward recover and normality; to do what I should have so many years before. He walked me through it. He was there every second of the way. He told me what would happen- that I would gain weight as my body adjusted but reminded me why it was so SO worth it. He was there when I freaked out and doubted my self will – nearly every day. I looked to him for the will-power every day- he has done it, so I could too.
See, at this point, it took more self-determination and will to begin eating again than it did not to eat. This was exponentially heightened in the face of weight gain due to a slothy metabolism. Essentially willingly gaining weight went against EVERYTHING I had trained my body to do. It went against anything and everything I had worked for in the past 6+ years. But I trusted John. I wanted to make him proud and show him I could do it. That I was strong.
And I did it.
Not over-night- as these things never are. It took many years after that to actually feel fully “recovered” (as much as anyone with this type of things ever does), but I am certain that without John, I would not be where I am today. I may still be sad, starving, unhappy in my own skin, and constantly seeking some sort of fulfillment. Of course, I would always come up empty because I was looking for fulfillment in myself- instead of things eternal.
God put John into my life. God gave me help and counseling when I did not want it myself. John was my angel. He changed my life forever and left a lasting impression on me.
The last time I saw John was in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was traveling through and called me up. We ate pizza and went bowling as good friends. And then we parted ways forever.
In the back of my mind I always thought I’d see John again- that our paths would cross and I’d be able to thank him again. I think about him quite frequently and wonder how and where he is. John and I always talked music. A song came on that reminded me of him yesterday—Matthew and the Atlas, In Winter. This prompted me to Google his name. There I found the obituary of John Charles Braddock.
So here it is, my first blog post dedicated to the human who changed everything. You were a beautiful soul John. I can only hope that I can be as influential to one person as you were to so many.
So take heart friends. When the world hands us brokenness and lies, God hands us freedom. Freedom from this world and the strength and courage to live for something greater. We live in a dark time. It feels like the world is falling apart around us. Let us remember that love, relationships, intentionality—these are the things we have left to hold on to. There is a time to mourn, but also a time to dance. Be thoughtful, aware, and saddened by this fallen world—NEVER become numbed or complacent, but always hold on to joy and hope. There is good in the world still. Foster it and be a part it. I haven’t been on this earth for long, but the more I am, the more I realize it is all about relationships. Relationships have a rippling effect—you never know the lasting impact you can have- even when you are gone.