Kelcey Rockhold is an exiled Portlandier now living in Tuscon. I ran across her story as I was browsing for personal narratives about depression. We have followed each other over three years now and I have found our writing relationship very enriching and inspirational. Kelcey is in a much different place than where she was three years ago and it has been a blessing to see her grow.
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For years, I was told by medical professionals that I most likely wouldn’t have kids. Sometimes I would hear that I “shouldn’t”. My mental state for quite a few years was rocky to say the least, due in large part to an eating disorder I was battling.
My heart was broken for so long, believing deep down that I would never have kids, even though that was the only thing in the world I truly wanted. I was in an Outpatient Program a few years ago, and after leaving, I found that I was pregnant. It was such a miracle, and I was over the moon. While still in my first trimester, however, we had to say goodbye to our little baby, and I was devastated. After that loss, I truly believed I had nothing left to live for, and the disorder I had been trying to conquer took over like a mighty beast, with it’s claws of depression and anxiety out in full force.
The disorder told me that I couldn’t have anything. Friendships. Love. Joy. Food. None of it. It told me that I didn’t have worth. I thought that I was without value or meaning, and I had lost hope.
There are some preconceived notions that struggling with food and weight loss is a vain attempt to look a certain way. While in some instances those can be surface issues that are dealt with, they are usually not at the root of what causes the disorder. For me, it meant disappearing. I didn’t want to take up any space, or be seen by anyone. I felt like a failure, and I simply wanted to hide. Starving myself away and retreating from the world was the only way I knew how. It gave me a false sense of comfort and control, to find order in a seemingly uncontrolled world.
Last summer things got ugly, and I ended up in the hospital. Only a few weeks after I came back home, I found out I was pregnant again. I was terrified in ways words cannot explain, and sobbed as I told my husband. I was sure I was going to lose this baby too, and knew that I didn’t have it in me to go through that again. The next day, I ate. I made salad and I sobbed as I ate it, begging God to keep my baby alive, while also hearing the screams of the disorder in my head telling me I was getting fat. Those first weeks were so hard.
Week after week, I prayed and cried and begged God to just let me get to my first appointment, to let me hear the heartbeat, to see that little life growing. I promised I would eat anything if it meant my baby would be okay. My emotions felt so clumsy, and unusual. I was feeling everything for the first time, rather than numbing my fear and pain with alcohol, medication, or ED behaviors.
My pregnancy became a beautiful time of communion with God. He invited me close to Him, invited me to trust Him fully, and even though I felt like a manatee, I also felt as though I could fly. The weight of the eating disorder chains were falling off piece by piece, and I felt alive for the first time in years.
Over Thanksgiving, I started feeling movement, and I held my breath at each appointment, bracing myself for the worst. At each and every appointment, Jesus sat with me as my husband and I received news over and over that baby was perfect, healthy and thriving. Months passed, and I stopped feeling the need to weigh myself. I stopped counting calories. I allowed myself to feel joy, to taste food, to meet other people and to enjoy community with them.
Some days the reality of where my body was came crashing down like a burning house, but the fear always lifted after a time, and Jesus would remind me that He loved me so much, that how I looked didn’t matter to Him, and that I was growing a baby He had given me to care for.
When I went into labor, I was so excited, and those 24 hours before and after were the closest I have ever felt to God. He had taken me through a year I was told I would never experience. I was off medication, I had a healthy baby boy, had experienced a beautiful delivery, and then a week later it hit me:
I had spent all this time focusing on being pregnant and accepting my larger self, but now he was out, and I had all of this baby weight people kept bringing up, assuring me it would “melt away”. I hadn’t been very worried about that until I started hearing comments about “getting my body back.” I’m sure they meant well, but I actually loved how I looked! I didn’t want my old body back. I was sad and lost in that body, and unhealthy. Now I felt so strong, and was amazed at what my body was able to do. Those eating disorder voices started creeping in though, and I spent some time feeling so down on myself.
A month or so later, I realized that during this whole time, my heart and relationship with God had changed, but the way I viewed healthy weight management and nutrition had not. I noticed I had been counting calories in my head, and was also eagerly anticipating the six week mark when I could go back to the gym. One day I stumbled onto a website of a mom of three whose husband had experienced a heart attack a few years prior. She was a fitness coach and had created a program with her husband, and had a new program for postpartum moms. I felt that nudge from the Holy Spirit to not hesitate but just message her, and we talked on the phone not long after. (Her name is Michaela Rainey and her blog is: michaelarainey.com
Blown away by her transparency and ability to speak the truth in love, I signed up. I knew I needed accountability, not just to lose weight safely but to be strong, healthy, and mindful. I wanted to learn what it actually looked like to be healthy, and not simply focus on losing weight. Right now I am learning how to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, which is far more valuable that short term “quick fix” weight loss programs offer. I’m learning about balance, and how to honor God with how I treat my body. It’s helped tremendously in keeping postpartum depression away, and has been a beautiful experience for me in learning how to further challenge myself in a way that is glorifying to Jesus rather than making it about myself.
There is still so much for me to learn, and there is so much room for me to grow. Some days creep in like dark clouds, but I’ve been working on my healthy voice, and using it to tell the thoughts I don’t want to deal with to go away has been the BEST feeling. I want to set an example for my son of what true happiness is, which is pursuing God’s best for us, even if it’s confusing or not easy.
My son is now three months old, and is my daily reminder that God’s promises are real. He hears our hearts, and knows us each by name. His responses to prayer are different for everyone; sometimes the answer is “yes,” “no,” and sometimes it is “not yet.” The promise that is always the same for every single person is that there is hope. No matter how dark or difficult your situation, there is still hope ahead, even if it’s not seen until we reach the other side of eternity. In my story, I learned that I have to reach back and hold onto God’s hand, rather than run from Him and try to do things on my own. Sometimes I have to reach out to others whose arms are held out as well. We weren’t created to do things alone. We were made for community, for relationship, for love. There is more for us, we just have to reach out and take it.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, depression, or anxiety, here are some resources to help you find support or get plugged in to a community: