WAIT! Before you write me off as a Jesus freak and exit the browser, just hear me out. You clicked on this link for a reason, and humor my thought here for a second that maybe just maybe, everything happens for a reason… and for whatever reason, you are meant to read this article. At the time at which the incidents in this article took place, I was not a believer of any God, and even after this mysterious chain of events, I did not become a believer until several years later, actually not until just two days before I moved into college this semester. But that is a different story for a different day, my friends.
Ok…. So, I was seventeen years old and had been secretly battling anorexia for over a year. I had completely isolated myself. It was just me, myself, and my dirty little secret. Short story is, I felt worthless and was more or less committing a very slow and painful suicide. I had no friends, no hope, no motivation to live, and definitely no God. But God… He sure had me.
You see, when your body is malnourished it quickly starts conserving any little energy it gets for the most important functions of living (like keeping your heart beating) and cuts out the less vital things (like keeping your hair on your head.) My heart may still have been beating and a fake smile plastered on my face, but not to be fooled, I was SEVERELY malnourished. Because of this, it was no surprise that my hair had begun to fall out. I was in denial, after all I had thick hair to begin with and my eating disorder’s voice was pretty damn convincing that being skin and bones trumped having hair on my head, or really anything, any day.
I remember that night like it was yesterday. I went through my evening routine, and as I got out of the shower and started brushing my hair reality hit me like a train on a track. Clump after clump of my hair fell out. Not just handfuls here and there like before, but full on clumps were coming out. The more I brushed, the more that fell. In the past, although my hair was quickly thinning, you could not really tell from the outside looking in. But this time, this time... it was real. I looked in the mirror and you could clearly see bald spots. Multiple. All over my head. I was seventeen years old, and I was not just going bald, I was dying.
I broke down. Every tear I had ever held in through my eating disorder began to flow out. I was not typically the break down type, I was the fake a smile and hide your emotions type, so hearing myself break down scared me more, which in turn broke me even more. I lay on my cold bathroom floor balling. Desperate, and alone.
And then, just like that…. Just like the way I broke instantly, I was instantaneously picking myself back up, with some strength that I did not know still existed. Next thing I knew, I swung open the bathroom door and stormed through my dark house into my mom’s bedroom where she was sleeping. What was happening? Where was I going? Who was leading me? Because it sure did not feel like I was in control, and for the first time in a year it was not my anorexia in control either. But what was it? WHO was it?
I did not have to say a word, my sobbing said it all. And she knew, my mom knew, what every tear was about. She rocked me and held me for the first time since I had shut her out over a year ago. The body she wrapped her arms around was much different than the body she remembered wrapping her arms around so many times before. The Natalie she remembered was strong and healthy and beautiful. This seventeen year old resembled a small child emotionally and physically. She was emaciated, weak, and frail. For the first time they both saw it. They saw her, they saw natalie, they saw IT within her, and IT was killing her. She was dying.
As my mom coddled me she promised me she would find me the best help she could. She wrapped me in her love and the very next day sure enough we were driving two hours away to see the closest eating disorder specialist she could find. That day was the start of a very long chain of therapy appointments with a team of beautiful people who were all determined to help me save my life.
I saw my very first specialist on that Saturday. Just two days later, I was on my way to school at 7:30 in the morning on a Monday, starting off my week the same as always. I was cruising down a tight two lane country road and heading up over a hill. When I got to the peak of the hill I was completely startled as a huge truck came speeding up over the other side hugging the yellow line. In order to avoid a head on collusion I swerved to my right. I do not know how and I do not know why but this swerve was different than the kind that I had made so many times before in my driving career. I lost total control. I tried to correct my swerve and went speeding off into the left side ditch, so I corrected again and this time was not able to jerk the wheel back over but instead my tires hit the ditch, one tire blew out which then caused my car to begin to flip. It still boggles my mind that a single swerve to avoid a collision is the reason I found myself spinning over and over in my two door, tiny Honda civic. It is like I did not have control of the wheel at all. It is like I had not had control over the past few days at all. Someone else took the wheel that day. The Monday, on a frigid October morning, that I thankfully lost control of my car, my eating disorder, and my life. The day that Jesus, took the wheel.
With every rotation I could hear and see my ceiling caving in a little more. I was completely conscious during each flip and I can literally remember thinking “this is, I am going to die.” I just waited consciously, and patiently, for one of the loud flips of my car to be the last thing I heard in my time on earth. But with every screeching crunch my eyes stayed open, my heart kept beating, and my lungs kept breathing. Until after what felt like hours of waiting to die, my car came to a rolling stop. A stop. It stopped. And I was, I was alive.
Not knowing if my car would blow up or not I quickly sped into action. I unbuckled my seatbelt, not knowing at that time that my car was upside down, and then I fell headfirst into my broken windshield. As soon as I became oriented enough to see what was In front of me, I saw that within the pieces of shattered glass I was laying in, there was something else sparkling that for some reason, caught my attention.
Just like most seventeen year old girls, I had some bling hanging around my rearview mirror. I had several necklaces, key chains, sparkly items, and a small car rosary that my grandma had given me. My grandma was a diehard Catholic and she gave all of her grandchildren car rosaries when they got their license. To please her, I had it hanging around my mirror, although it meant less than nothing to me.
So what was this gleaming little spec that caught my attention as soon as the world stopped spinning? Through my blurry eyes and with my bloody little hands, I reached out a grabbed it. Every single thing I had hanging on my mirror was still hanging, except the tiny little cross of my rosary that now lay in my shaking palms.
I’ve never felt such a calm come over me. Not only had Jesus taken the wheel, but now he had taken his arms and wrapped them around me. A God I DID NOT believe in, sent me this little miracle to calm me in the raging storm and tell me that I was going to be okay. Although I did not believe in God, I clung to that cross for dear life, and something, something told me…that I was going to live.
I was trapped in my car for over an hour before the ambulance and EMT's were able to break me out of my car. Every single sheriff, every EMT, every family member, every friend who caught even a glimpse of my car all mustered the same phrase “There’s no way…” There was no way, that I was alive. There was no way that a healthy person could have survived this kind of an accident without more than a scratch, let alone the weak heart of someone battling anorexia could come out unharmed. But I was, I was more alive now than ever, and little did I know this was not even close to the beginning, of my brand new life.
After I was released from the hospital and recovering back at home in the company of my mom, her and I had a conversation. She knew what had happened with the cross and the comfort it brought me, she also knew that just two days before we had started a journey together of fighting for my life against anorexia. She knew that we needed some ammunition to fight this together, and she knew there was no coincidence that I was alive. We decided it was time. Neither of us believed in our faith any longer, but we felt an obligation to return back to church to thank whatever God, whatever entity, that we did or did not believe in, for saving me and keeping me on this Earth. So the following Sunday, after being absent from the church for years, we returned to the church I was baptized in as a baby, with empty hands, nothing to offer, but a whole lot to thank someone for.
Now it’s no secret that eating disorders are a bit of a taboo topic. Not something you talk about at the dinner table, on a date, and definitely not in church. We had been gone from the church so long that there was a new priest that we had never seen before, and we had no idea what to expect. Honestly we were just impressed that we made it through the doors, down the isle, and into a pew without the church bursting into flames.
So, the sermon started. We took a deep breath and settled into our seats. My back and butt ached from sitting on the wooden pews, I had no fat left on my body to protect me even from the seating in a church, and somehow I had just survived a horrific car accident. I was lost in thought when suddenly something snapped me back into the moment. “Eating disorders.” My mouth nearly dropped as I watched our priest speak these two words loudly. The sermon. The entire sermon was about eating disorders and how they were one of the devil’s cowardly attempts to steal the lives of the oh so worthy of living.
My mom and I looked at each other and broke into tears. If there is one thing I did not believe in more than God, it was that everything could happen for a reason. Now I know without a doubt though that, there are no such things as COINCIDENCES. Ever since the day, that beautiful day, that I learned, Jesus has the wheel.