Learning to Love the Girl in the Mirror

Written by Barbara Alpert

I lost my dad to suicide at the age of five. Shortly after that a family member started sexually abusing me. Several years later I lost my step dad to a horrible fire that destroyed our home. We were left with nothing except for haunting memories.  Later, I turned to drinking to ease the pain that tormented me day in and day out and also developed a disorder called BDD – Body Dysmorphic Disorder . The abuse and scars from my past made me think I was the ugliest person alive. All I desired was to take my life just like my dad had.

No matter how much I tried to get better, I kept falling flat on my face. The unbearable anxiety and suicidal thoughts occupied my soul. The ugly reflection from my mirror flooded my mind with atrocious lies. You are never going to get well! You will remain living with this hell! You will never escape and be free! I picked up drinking again, hoping to find relief. Escaping from the monster in the mirror forced me to run towards things even more gruesome.

I needed a way out

Then one night my turbulent way of living caught up with me. I couldn’t handle my extreme highs, lows, and the stack of baffling conditions I juggled. I didn’t want to continue on the wild roller coaster ride any longer. I couldn’t handle the disabling hours in the bathroom, nor tolerate the self-destructive behavior in the bars. I felt ashamed of my life and needed the madness to end. Out of dire desperation, I prayed to God.

“God, I don’t want to wake up to see another day. I’d rather be dead! If you must keep me alive, then you have to help me get better. Please rescue me from this misery! God, let me die!”

To my surprise, when I awoke the following morning, I prayed to God to guide me into a church. It was Sunday morning and for some odd reason I longed to be in his presence. I fought a dreadful conflict in the bathroom as I prepared myself to get ready. The tormenting obsessions nearly destroyed me but I survived the onslaught, the hideous grooming ritual.

As I got into my car, a strange feeling encompassed me. I had no idea which church I was heading to. As I drove down the street, it felt as though a gentle hand was chauffeuring me. I pulled up along the side of an unfamiliar church. I hesitated for a moment, deciding whether to park my car or not. Is this the one? Look at all the people. Will they stare at me because I’m ugly? Should I go in or not? Within a few seconds, an incredible sensation empowered me, urging me inside.

Finding relief in a church

As I walked towards the entrance, several parishioners greeted me with open arms. This made me feel welcomed, so relieved. I found a seat and immediately participated in the singing taking place. I’d never done this before, but my heart longed to connect. The songs were uplifting and joyous.  I cried as I joined in. I don’t recall the exact message spoken, but it infiltrated my heart. As service was about to end, the pastor asked everyone to close their eyes and bow their heads for prayer. After a minute or two of prayer, he announced an altar call, something unfamiliar to me.

He asked, “Is there anyone who would like to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? Please raise your hand.”

Without hesitation, I raised my hand.  I knew in my heart, right there and then, that I needed Jesus Christ in my life. I had no idea the pastor was going to ask all of us, who raised their hands, to go up for additional prayer. Right away, I walked up to the front. The pastor had me recite a special prayer, accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord.

Shortly after, elders of the church prayed over me. Tears poured down my face as we prayed together. Later, as I walked towards my car, I felt different. I didn’t feel dirty and ugly. I wasn’t troubled! I feel like I was finally alive!

Everything changed

Something inside me vanished. I felt all cleaned up inside. The obsessions and anxiety disappeared. For the first time in years, I felt good about myself in a healthy way, not in a self-destructive manner. I attended church on a weekly basis. I began to break out of the shell I was locked up in. The greatest feeling anyone could ever experience—imagine a prisoner, set free after being wrongfully locked up for over thirty years.

If you feel lost there is hope for you. There is hope for the aching heart that can not love. There is hope to the one that might be thinking about taking their life. Cry out to God and He will send you help.

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.

Do you want to accept Jesus just as Barbara did? All you need to do is pray. Prayer is just talking to God. There is no right or wrong way to do it. God is not concerned about the words that you choose, he cares about the state of your heart. He hears you, the words aren’t that important. You can pray a prayer something like this:

Jesus, I want to know you personally. I know that I am a sinner and that nothing I could do can make up for that. Thank you for dying in my place and paying the price for my sin. I know that my sin doesn’t separate me from God anymore. Thank you for forgiving me. I know that you love me and that I will spend eternity with you. I want you to be my Savior. Come into my life and take control, make me the person you want me to be.

God invites us into relationship with him. He’s not here to condemn, although our sin makes us guilty. God is inviting us back, ready to welcome us home.

66 Responses to “Learning to Love the Girl in the Mirror”

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Karen, so good to hear that your Stephen Minister is awesome. What a blessing to have someone who cares and is there to walk along our side as God brings us through certain valleys of life. So happy for you!!! I totally understand and can relate to what you said, “All I can do is take it one day at a time but there are times where I can only take it one minute at a time…”. I’m certain in time you will come to have more and more stabilized days as God continues to heal and bring you through all the changes and adjustments you are making. One of the best things I have learned when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with many things is to pull back and take a little nap…it does wonders for my body and mind not to mention how much better I feel in carrying on with the rest of the days stuff to do. Praying that you have an awesome week ahead!!! God Bless, Barbara

  • Karen says:

    Barbara,

    Hi there–my Stephen Minister is awesome..thanks…there are definitely days I can only take it one minute at a time…I can only hope I have more stabilized days eventually..they don’t happen often for me though.. :-( I have to take naps sometimes anyways due in part to the major fatigue that comes with Fibro–but even then—I don’t get much sleep when I do lay down for a nap–no matter how hard I try–I just don’t reach the healing sleep you need….but anyways—going out of town Wednesday for the day…so yea..am still struggling a bit–low energy and stuff…some days I can’t stabilize myself mood wise…eating disorder is prevalent–very strong and winning against me some days…anyways, that’s all I have for now…get back to me when you feel like it.

  • Sharon says:

    to Barbara, I agree with you taking a nap when I feel overwhelmed is good you wake up looking at things differently from sharon

  • Karen says:

    Barbara,

    Hi there–been a few months now—3 months or so—just thought I’d let you know–I am still struggling with things–and going to be looking at other options for treatment stuff again–ranging from the possibility of more intensive stuff, quitting group I’m in (long story), adding a second day of IT possibly—I will see what other options are out there on Wednesday when I go to group…so yea–other news—my mom was sick again for like the 100th time this year alone–fortunately it didn’t result in a hospital stay this time, but it was difficult..um–eating disorder still prevalent–keeping food logs again though–My IT suggested or wanted me to–so I am…I am either very overly emotional or numb—I’ve had some breakdowns since I last sent a message–was very emotional recently–but now I am back to that numb place…thinking bout a lot…lot going on—anxiety is getting worse—working on social security disability stuff–again—-so yea—that’s all I will say for now—have a good day or evening..wherever you are…

  • Elkay says:

    Hi Karen . . . life is filled with struggles that reveal our human inadequacy but these can be turned into blessings: physical problems leave us weak and unable to cope; relational troubles bring confusion and stress; continual battles with bad habits and addictions make us feel defeated. No one likes the fear and anxiety of dealing with challenges that are too big to handle, but God can use them for our good. He can turn the negatives into blessings if we acknowledge our helplessness, depend on His strength, and step into our challenges with confidence in Him.

    Paul talks about this in his letter to the Corinthians . . . “We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:4-6)

    Hard as it is to grasp, anxiety and a sense of weakness can be a blessing if it:
    • Drives us to God as we recognize our helplessness.
    • Relieves us of the burden of trying to do God’s will in our own strength.
    • Motivates us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
    • Provides an opportunity for the Lord to demonstrate what He can do.
    • Increases our usefulness to God by replacing pride with humility.
    • Allows Christ to receive all the glory.
    • Gives us peace as we rely on Him.

    Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to endure difficulty and accomplish whatever the Lord calls us to do. By claiming the adequacy of Christ, we can face every circumstance with a greater sense of confidence—not in ourselves but in God, who is capable.

    I know God’s love seems like a worthless thing if it doesn’t translate into rescuing from the painful things in life. I wish I could tell you why God was allowing all this to happen to you, but I don’t have that answer. You are a person of value.

    Let me repeat a prayer for you: Heavenly Father, I pray for Karen and ask that You would bring relief from all the painful circumstances that have bombarded her life. I ask that You would show Yourself to Karen and renew her confidence in Your love and care. Guide her decisions and actions so that she avoids pitfalls that often come with anxiety and discouragement. Amen.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Karen,

    Good to hear from you! Glad that your mom is doing better. Sad to hear that things are still rough for you at this time. Are you still connected with your Stephen Minister? I know how awesome you said that person is and I pray that the two of you are still connected. It is so important to have people of faith in our lives that offer God’s love, hope, and encouragement.

    I know how you are feeling with possibly having to change treatment plan options and the anxiety that comes with it. During my road to recovery I too went through similar things that you mentioned. It was scary when doctors would say my case was to difficult for them to manage and they’d have to send me out for additional help and services. I got to a point in my life and told God, “God, if these doctors can’t fix me then how am I ever going to get better?” During that rough time I was upset with God that there seemed to be no remedy for all that I was going through. However, as I pressed on and believed that someday I would become well…little by little healing and breakthroughs came. I believe that God is working on your behalf Karen even if at times you may not recognize it. Don’t give up! Hang onto hope and believe that victory is in the making for you. The Lord is mighty to save and set us free from all that has us captive. No “ed” or anything else that is stacked against you can separate you from the love of God and you becoming well.

    I Look forward to hearing back from you!!!

    God’s blessings of peace, provision, and protection be with you and your mom too!

    Barbara

  • Karen says:

    Elkay, I don’t know you—but thanks for the message I guess….

    Barbara,

    I am still connected with my Stephen Minister, she is great and is working with me on trying to get back into reading the Bible and such…and helping me step out of my comfort zones. It’s hard–but I appreciate her so much…I am a little upset with God at the moment–because I do feel like if the doctors I have can’t help me–then I may not ever get better…but anyways—I am headig out to do some grocery shopping and stuff, so this will be continued when I get back…

  • Karen says:

    So–I am finally back–just made dinners and stuff when I got back—so–took me longer to come back on—but anyways—yes, I am upset with God because if the doctors can’t help me, then I may not ever be able to get better. God doesn’t seem like he is answering my prayers and such..I do pray and everything–but I never get an answer it seems..changing treatment plans is such a hard thing to do…I don’t handle change well and such…but anyways, just struggling a lot…so…doing what I can–if anything….

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Karen,

    It is so good to hear that you are still connected with your Stephen Minister and that she is a wonderful encourager to you. I agree, stepping out of our comfort zone is hard, but it is rewarding when we do challenge ourselves…even if they look like baby steps to others but huge to us.

    I agree, change in recovery treatment plans are hard, but sometimes they work out to our advantage when someone knew steps in and offers a different approach. Several years ago when I was still in the height of battling with BDD and suicidal thinking I nearly lost all hope in being set free to be the woman God created me to be. I knew I was spiraling downward into a dark abyss, again, and knew I needed help badly. I prayed and asked God what He wanted me to do? I felt His Holy Spirit was prompting me to reach out to a Pastor at my church. I obeyed and went in for some counseling.

    After a few sessions with her she realized that my situation was beyond her ability and she asked if I was okay with bringing in another lady who was a trained therapist in the area I was battling with. At first I was reluctant because I didn’t want to have to repeat all my stuff all over again to yet another person, but after a few minutes I told the Pastor “yes” I was opened to allowing her to bring in the trained professional. I felt at that point in time I had nothing to lose because I was on the path to ending my life because I could not even see a mere flicker of light through the dark tunnel I was traveling. The following week I met with the two of them. The trained professional did not say much…she just wanted to sit in and observer. However, the following week she and I talked and she offered me hope and insight that made a huge difference in how I began to view things and it was a pivotal turning point to my recovery! She said that I was striving for perfection and it was unreachable for me to perpetually be doing such. She shared with me one piece of bible scripture that made a big difference in my thinking. It was Geneses 1:25 (when God made the sixth day), “…And God saw that it was good.”

    The trained professional explained that I needed to “reframe” my thinking. God said that what He created was “good” He did not use the word perfect. She simply told me I needed to stop striving for perfection and seek “good enough”. From that day forward I applied what she said to my situation with the BDD and OCD and changes began to take place and I did not even have to go back for any further sessions. So, sometimes change in our treatment plan can be scary, but it is so worth it when we the right people come along and offer us a new approach.

    As far as being angry with God, I can relate to how you feel. However, as I began to make progress in my recovery I realized that the “ugly” thorn in my flesh that was hurting my so badly and affecting every area of my life: employment, relationship with others, going out in public, etc. actually was a blessing in disguise because it was causing me to keep crying, praying, and asking God for help.

    I pray that you will come to realize that although you get angry with God and it seems like He is not answering your prayers He is right beside you and desires that you become well, happy and whole. Perhaps you can embrace this new change in treatment plan as good thing….a blessing in disguise. That God is orchestrating it and it is going to be a valuable piece to your next step to recovery, healing and victory! Remember, the road to recovery, for some of us, is a very long road. Mine was forty years in the making! But, God never gave up on rescuing me from that “ugly” disorder. And I am certain that He is never going to give up in seeing you healed and become that marvelous woman He has destined you to be!

    Write back when you feel up to it!

    Blessings,

    Barbara

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Father God, I pray on behalf of your beloved daughter Karen today. I ask that You usher in healing to Karen’s mind, body, soul, and sprit. I pray that Your Spirit would give courage to go forward all that You would have her do. We thank You, Lord, for blessing Karen with a wonder Stephen Minister and we trust that You are strategically placing the right people into Karen’s life that will guide her through her recovery. By the wounds of Jesus she is healed! In His mighty name we pray, Amen

  • Karen says:

    Hi there–I just came on for the first time today–I’ve been exhausted all day—gloomy weather—had treatment stuff today–and I am just wiped out…I don’t have much energy. but anyways–thank you for the nice long message. I have a list of other options of treatment now—I’m supposed to make calls–but I am terrified to—I don’t like talking on the phone and it’s very anxiety provoking me and I can’t seem to get past that anxiety–it’s worse than ever…but anyways—that’s all I’m going to say for now–as I am exhausted and need to finish some other things and then just lay down and try to get some sleep….

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Father God, I pray on behalf of Karen this morning. I ask that You would give her strength and courage to take the next step towards recovery and healing. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I ask that healing take place within Karen’s body, mind, and soul. May Your Spirit arise in her…helping her every step of the way. Thank You, God, for Karen and the wonderful things You are and will be doing in and through her. In Jesus name, Amen

  • Karen says:

    Thank you Barbara.

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Karen, I have just read the article above and some of your comments as well as your on going remarks to Barbara. I really thank God for your determination to keep going in spite of the disappointments and pain that are part of your daily life. It is also great that He gives us encouragers along the way too. We cannot understand how some people get healing almost as soon as they ask for it and others have to wait but we should remember that God is there for us even in our deepest despair and He will make a way for us so please, keep on looking to Him and be encouraged by those who care about you. Blessings, Kathryn

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for the nice message Kathryn person—appreciate it…I keep fighting but there are a lot of times I don’t want to fight anymore…I don’t know why I keep fighting sometimes…when it would seem so easy to just give up on everything….but anyways—thank you again for the message.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Karen, I’m praying that you have a good day today and a blessed weekend! I understand how you feel about the “fighting and wanting to give up!” The road to recovery is hard at times, but so long as we continue to do our best and trust God to fight the battle taking place within us…healing and victory will take place! Keep working your program, keep connected with your Stephen Minister, and most of all keep the faith that through Christ you will be set free. For He who the Son sets free is free in deed!

    I’m going to share a little victory that is about to take place in my own road to recovery form anxiety, BDD, and sever social paranoia. Over the past two years I’ve been registered five times to attend a three day Women’s Encounter weekend at a campground. Each time I was to attend FEAR, ANIEXTY and the BDD disorder would arise and I would have to bail out the night before or even that morning. However, now that the Lord has finally delivered me from the Body Dysmorphic Disorder that I’ve been held captive to for so many years, today I am happily heading to that same Women’s Encounter event with ladies from my church. I share this little victory with you I hopes that it will encourage you. I pray that the Lord be with you and that victory from ‘ed’ is already taking place for you.

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