Finding a Place to Belong: Claire’s Story

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Claire grew up in a small town on a quiet street with her parents and younger brothers. “A normal life,” as …

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Claire grew up in a small town on a quiet street with her parents and younger brothers. “A normal life,” as she calls it. In fifth grade though, that all begin to change. Her family moved to the country and the rough transition began. She found it hard to make friends in her new school, her brother started school and became defiant, causing issues at home. All the change was causing struggles and her mom said, “You have lost your spunk, just snap out of it.”

Growing Pressures

The issues at home continued to weigh on Claire throughout middle and high school, and she was sad, but she did not know why. However, when she went to college, the struggles from home became too much. Her brother took a rebellious turn and her parents leaned on her for more support. The pressure grew and she could not meet their expectations to help him and focus on her studies. The struggles left her feeling out of control. Running more and eating less gave her something in her life to control. In her mind she did not deserve to eat; she was punishing herself.

In her senior year of college, things exploded. Her brother had turned to alcohol, drugs, and suicidal thoughts. To make matters worse, Claire became sick and went home to rest. While at home, her dad became ill and was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. Claire’s world seemed to be crumbling around her. Despite the family turmoil, she had no choice but to return to school. “Solider on,” is what her mind was telling her. That message was not the answer. Issues with her brother persisted, her mother was stressed and blamed her for causing this stress.  The happy, loving family had turned into one of deep stress. Things were not the same, and it was taking its toll on Claire’s mental and physical health.

Hitting Bottom

As time moved forward, Claire continued to control her eating. She felt isolated and had a secret. She went into a troubling relationship that only escalated her behaviors. Although she felt she did not deserve to eat, she found a solution for when she did. Purging. She was spiraling down a dark hole; even telling her co-workers she was going to point to a place on the globe and go. “I have nothing here.”

In a dark place, and keeping a secret, Claire’s life finally hit a bright spot. She met Ted, who brought her back to what normal relationships look like. A man of faith, Claire had met the person that could help bring her back to normalcy. After they married, Claire began to feel better and she was in a positive place. However, that stability did not last. Claire and Ted struggled to conceive, and Claire felt her body had failed her because she could not create a child. The crushing blow led her to struggle physically and emotionally. Her weight fell to an all-time low and she was told that if she did not seek treatment she would not survive. Claire had hit bottom.

A Place of Belonging

At the time, Claire was teaching, something she loved. Although she did not want to leave her students, kind words from many trusted friends convinced her to take the next step, “This can’t wait, because the kids need the best teacher they can have.” That is when Claire turned to Selah House.

She came to Selah House feeling she did not belong there. “When I first got to Selah House, I asked them every day if I really needed to be there. I did not think I was in danger. I felt fine. I had seen how others looked and that wasn’t me.”

Claire could not accept she had an eating disorder, and it took a group therapy session at Selah House to make her realize she was not alone, and she really did need help. “I remember walking into a group therapy session and the women were openly talking about their eating disorders. That is not something I expected. Mine was a secret. The more I heard their stories, the more I was able to validate my purpose for being there. This is what turned me around and made me realize I needed help.”

Something that helped Claire throughout her time at Selah was an encounter with another client while they were at the dinner table. “It was my first or second week at Selah House and I was just mad. Another client could see I was not engaging, and I was just bitter. She took me to the art room after dinner. I reluctantly went. I didn’t do art, so I was unsure of the purpose. She tore off a large piece of paper and begin to paint with her hands and even her feet. She let go of her frustration. She then told me to try. Don’t think, just paint. I felt so free at that moment.”

A few days later, Claire was given an art assignment. As she sat in the art room, she could not think of how to begin.  Another client told her to just put something on the paper.  This became a saying that has stuck with Claire ever since.  Claire realized that she could put herself out there and create and if it wasn’t perfect, she could start again.

Selah House helped her understand that she is a creation, she can start again as many times as she needed. She is accepted, loved, and not alone. During her commencement from Selah House, Claire realized she could recover.

“This is possible. I found hope and learned, if they can do it, I can do it.”

The women Claire met at Selah House have become her support system and a part of her life that is invaluable to her recovery journey.

Selah House helped Claire learn to set boundaries with her family.  They are slowly spending more time together as these boundaries stay in place.

Selah House is a place of acceptance and a place where women are empowered to learn who they can be as they find freedom from their eating disorder.

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“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

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