Have you ever shared your story?
I’ve shared pieces of mine plenty of times on this blog, on Instagram, once on my friend Janice’s podcast, and to individuals here and there—but never in front of a live audience. That is, until November 12, 2022 at the TELL Women’s Conference in my hometown of Union City, MI.
That same friend, Janice, hosted the conference and asked me to speak.
To be honest, I never thought I’d speak at a Christian women’s conference. There was a time when I never thought I’d be brave enough to even write about my story, let alone share it live to 100 women. But God’s grace is beyond big enough to cover past guilt and shame. And, His strength will empower us when we’re out of our comfort zones.
Was I nervous? Ohhh yes!
But once I reminded myself, “It’s not about me,” my nerves (almost) completely vanished and I felt the Holy Spirit’s power as I spoke.
To all those who weren’t there, the following text (below the videos) is pretty close to the transcript of what I shared.
Or, if you’d rather listen vs. read, you can watch me share in the videos below, recorded live during the conference. (Note: these videos are from Janice’s YouTube channel, under Tell Women’s Conference Part Six and Part Seven.)
My Story: Part 1
My Story: Part 2
My Story: The Written Version
Hi everyone! I’m Jayme Muller and I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. But my story started right here in Union City, MI. I grew up in this town as Jayme Hicks.
My story is about striving for perfection, falling for the world’s lies, running from God, reaching a point of hopelessness… and then, finally learning to trust God’s way over mine.
I’ve been a Christian since the age of 4, and grew up believing God wants a relationship me… and you… and has a unique plan for each of our lives.
But here’s the twist. I’m a naturally independent, goal-driven perfectionist, who tried so hard to be the A+ student. The people pleaser. And, the good, Christian girl.
I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, and devotionals, and Christian books. I thought I had a good relationship with God. I knew I was saved by grace. Yet, I was still so focused on my own works.
Do you ever feel like you’re striving in your own strength? I’m here to tell you, that is NOT how God created us to live.
But, I learned the hard way.
How my restrictive diet became an eating disorder
As a teenager, my perfectionism and self-reliance took a very negative turn. At 15, I went on what I thought was an innocent diet to lose a few pounds. But, the perfectionist in me believed a lie that losing even more weight would solve my issues with confidence, feeling invisible, and overall discontent with who I was.
Sadly, I didn’t look to God to fulfill those needs. Instead, I did it my way. I kept dieting. And, of course, I wanted to be perfect at dieting.
This was back in the 90s, the era of low fat everything. Believing the lies of diet culture, I cut out as much fat as possible, and limited my overall calories to just below some “magic” number I must’ve read in a magazine.
Not surprisingly, I lost more weight. So much, that my mom took me to a doctor… which scared me into gaining back just enough weight to stay away from the doctor.
I spent the rest of my high school years obsessing over food, exercise, and weighing myself every single day, because I was terrified of gaining even one pound more on the scale. My entire life revolved around maintaining that level of perfection. That is, until my food cravings got so intense that I binged. No one knew, and I felt SO guilty that the next day I severely restricted what I ate and exercised for hours.
But, when I didn’t gain any weight, I decided maybe it was okay to binge every once in a while.
Well… in college, every once in a while turned into every other day. And on the days I didn’t binge, I restricted my food and exercised a LOT to make up for it… which only caused more binges.
Because of the bingeing, I gained noticeable weight. So, on the outside, I probably looked healthier, but inside, I was a MESS. Every time I binged, I felt SO angry with myself for not being strong enough to stop. I wanted to be skinny again. I wanted to look perfect.
Bad choices that led to bulimia and divorce
Let’s fast forward to my senior year of college. It was 2005. I was engaged to be married and I knew I had to change my extreme eating habits and excessive exercising before living with my husband. He couldn’t find out how messed up I really was.
So, I… in my own strength… managed to stop bingeing. I even ate significantly more calories than I did when I was dieting in high school. I was so proud of myself.
What I didn’t expect was that once I stopped bingeing large amounts of food, I actually lost weight without even trying. By the time my wedding arrived, family and friends were commenting that I looked too skinny and needed to eat more. I ignored it because they didn’t understand. I felt like I was in a much better place! But eventually, their comments got to me. I remember thinking, Fiiiiiiine. I’ll eat a bunch of junk food so I can say that I did, and get people off my back.
Unfortunately, doing that triggered more binges.
One night, when my husband was working late, I ate so much I felt sick and could hardly move. Prior to that night, I swore I’d never throw up food. But vomiting seemed like the only feasible relief. So, I threw up in the toilet.
Immediately, I felt better. And, then the lies flooded my mind… “That wasn’t so bad… If I throw up just a little every time I binge, I’ll get rid of SOME of the calories!”
Oh, how quickly I believed those lies. How much I wanted to believe them. The next time I binged, I threw up again.
Eventually, I was doing that a few times PER DAY.
I felt like an addict. All I could think about was my next binge. And once I binged, I was desperate to get rid of all that food in my stomach AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
It was such a vicious cycle. I loved it. Then I hated it. Stopping felt impossible. But there was a part of me that didn’t want to stop.
Oh, I knew it was wrong, yet I still chose my way and my desires over God… all the while pretending to be a perfect Christian with a perfect life.
Now, you may be wondering how I hid this from my husband. Great question. It was almost too easy.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my husband suffered from his own deep insecurities that led to depression… I’m not sure if it was a coping mechanism, but he would intensely fixate on certain hobbies and often didn’t pay attention to what I was doing. You can bet I took advantage of that.
Neither of us shared our struggles, and unfortunately, our communication slowly suffered until it felt like we were roommates.
Not only was my health deteriorating, so was my marriage.
The breaking point came when I convinced myself he didn’t love me anymore. Whether or not it was true, his words and actions felt pretty clear to me. Eventually, he started pushing me away when I kissed him. And, at one point, he literally told me he was unhappy with everything in his life and that would never change. When I pressed him to talk about it, he shut down. But, again, I didn’t know he was depressed.
So, I left him.
Even though I said “I do” with the intention of NEVER getting divorced. Even though I knew it was a sin. Even though I knew I was also guilty of not communicating with him.
But, you see, I believed a lie that if I left him, we would both be happier.
I also had another secret besides bulimia.
The last year of our marriage, as we grew further and further apart, I allowed an innocent, online relationship with a guy in Florida to become more serious.
And then, I did something drastic.
A week after my husband told me he would never be happy, I wrote him a letter, confessing to my online relationship and to my bulimia. I left it in an envelope on our bed when he wasn’t home, then drove straight to the airport and flew to Florida to meet this guy in person for the first time.
It felt like one of those bad Lifetime movies.
In my head, I knew it was wrong. But I felt trapped in my life, and instead of turning to God, I thought the only way out was to go to the extreme.
After a quick weekend in Florida, I returned home, filed for divorce, and moved to Florida ONE MONTH later.
Have you ever run from God?
That’s exactly what I did. I ran away from God, and literally EVERYTHING in my life… husband, family, friends, job, and almost everything I owned.
But, you know what? When you run from God, He doesn’t stop pursuing you. I am living proof.
Running from God
In Florida, I stopped going to church. Not only was I tired of being the perfect “good girl,” I was also ashamed. The guilt was HEAVY. How could I face God after what I just did? It seemed hypocritical.
Plus, the guy I left my husband for was an atheist… so he had zero interest in God.
We were living together, and, similar to what I did before my wedding, I attempted to recover from my eating disorder… yet again, in my own strength, and to please someone else. Not surprisingly, I relapsed after about 3 months and really lost hope of ever recovering after that.
But God was still there.
Months later, I was in the car with my atheist boyfriend, and we passed a random church. In that moment, I heard the LAST words I ever expected to come out of his mouth. He said, “I know you used to go to church in Michigan. If the reason you’re not going now is because you don’t want to go by yourself… I would go with you, even though I don’t believe it.”
I was SHOOK. It felt like a kick in the pants and I knew it was God trying to get my attention… because He does not give up on us!
Oh, you better believe I found a church that very next Sunday. And, it ended up being my home church all the years I lived in Florida.
But, my bulimia didn’t stop because I went back to church or let God back into my life.
Even meeting with a Christian counselor didn’t help… for two reasons:
- I wasn’t ready to let go of bulimia yet. Recovery is a choice that no one can make for you. YOU have to want it… and a part of me still didn’t.
- I didn’t trust my counselor’s advice because she never struggled with bulimia. How could she possibly understand?
But, above all, I still didn’t fully trust God enough to recover. Deep down, I didn’t believe God was big enough to replace bulimia in my life. It was such a major part of me that I didn’t know who I was without it.
At that time, I was back to bingeing and purging 2-3 times per day. Back to my addiction. I couldn’t imagine a future without bulimia. That’s how hopeless I felt.
Trusting God in my bulimia recovery
Eventually… and thankfully!… I reached a point of desperation. After 10 years of bingeing and throwing up I was exhausted… physically, mentally, spiritually. As much as living without bulimia seemed impossible and terrified me, the thought of living with it for the rest of my life suddenly terrified me more.
So, I cried out to God. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like:
Lord, I can’t live like this. I know I have to let go and trust You with my fears, my insecurities, the cravings, all of it. Your way has to lead to a better life than this.
Shortly after that, God led me to a book that He knew I needed… The Bulimia Help Method. It was written by a husband and wife who conducted extensive research and plenty of trial and error to find a recovery solution for the wife’s bulimia. And, get this! She struggled with bulimia for 10 years… just like me.
For the first time, I felt understood. But, even more importantly, I felt like recovery was possible. So, I started following the book’s suggestions… but this time, in God’s strength. Not mine.
To put it very simply… because it was actually one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… I stopped bingeing and purging one day a wee… then two… and so on, till I went a full week. Then a full month.
Instead of demanding perfection from myself, I embraced small progress, truly let go of my way and let God take control. I clung to His strength when I desperately wanted to binge, or had a bad body image day, or was afraid to eat higher fat foods without throwing them up.
At the end of that first full month without bulimia, I rewarded myself by going skydiving for the first time.
I was SO afraid, but had a feeling I would LOVE skydiving, so I did it in spite of my fear.
And, I was right. As soon as I jumped out of the plane… that freefall felt like FREEDOM… It was so symbolic of how my recovery felt, and I knew, 15,000 feet above the earth, that I could never go back to bulimia again. And I didn’t.
In all my years of being a Christian and knowing the definition of “God’s grace,” I have to say I didn’t truly understand until I experienced it so unconditionally in my own life. After living for myself for so many years and even turning away from God, He forgave me completely.
And, get this! He didn’t just forgive me. He gave me more than I deserve. More than I ever thought possible. I truly believe I am living the life God wanted to give me all along because I finally got out of God’s way. That is grace.
Saying YES to God
Okay, remember when I shared how God spoke to me through my atheist boyfriend to get me back to church?
Well, I want to share two more times that God spoke to me AFTER my bulimia recovery. Two pivotal moments in my life that changed everything. (You can read more about God speaking to me here.)
The first time, I had a crush on this Christian guy, who I thought might like me, too. I prayed, “God, should I pursue him?” I mean, I thought that was the right thing to pray. But guess what God said? I’ll never forget. I was standing in my bathroom, and it was as if the words dropped out of the ceiling: PURSUE ME. Whoa! It was another kick in the pants that kept me from settling for the wrong guy. Yes, I did go on a few dates after that, but I knew I had to wait for God’s best.
The next time God spoke, He told me to move to Knoxville, TN to be with my sister, who was moving there from Michigan. She didn’t want to move, and I work remotely, so I told her I could visit anytime and work at her house. I remember praying for her while folding laundry, and the words MOVE TO KNOXVILLE blared in my mind. Let me tell you, I had no desire to leave Florida, so I knew it was God. After lots of prayer and talking with my family, I moved to Knoxville a few months later.
How I met my husband
And guess what?
About five months after I moved, I met my now husband, John. He is without a doubt, God’s best for me and proof of God’s grace in my life. John is a gift I don’t deserve. I know, full well, that I would not be married to him right now had I never let go of my way and trusted God with my life. (You can read more about how we met here.)
Here are a few things I’d love for you to take away from my story:
- If you’re struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, I want you to know there is hope to recover, and freedom is possible. I’m living proof!
- God doesn’t want our perfection or our striving. He only wants our hearts.
- The world is full of lies… but we serve the God of all truth!
- We are never too far gone. God doesn’t stop pursuing us when we run away. He simply loves us where we are and longs for us to return, because that is who God is.
- Say YES to God and watch what happens when you do!
And I’ll leave you with these verses that are so fitting to my story:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,Proverbs 3:5-7 ESV
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
TELL Women’s Devotional
So, that’s my story… or at least the part I shared at the TELL Women’s Conference. Mine was one of several stories shared by other women. Because, the reality is, we each have a story to tell. A unique story that can point to God’s glory and help others at the same time.
My friend Janice understands this. In fact, before she dreamed up the TELL conference, her initial idea was to create a devotional, featuring stories from women around the world. And, she made it happen.
That devotional is available for pre-order right here, with an expected print date of early December 2022. It features 52 women’s stories… including mine.
If you’re seeking hope and wanting to feel less alone in your life struggles, I believe there’s a story for you in this devotional. At least one of the 52 stories will resonate with you.
And maybe mine already did. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear from you!