Rhonda's Recovery Journey

“The footprints we leave behind show clearly where we have been, but they do not dictate where we can now go.” ~Ralph Martson


A little girl in need of affection, attention, and acceptance—a sweet little girl full of life and happiness who needed to feel needed.

My story begins in a tiny little West Virginia town where everyone knew everyone. There was peace and security until my family (dad, mom, and 2 brothers) had to move. Dad felt he was being led by the Lord to leave the church he was pastoring at the time, so we moved to Ohio.

I felt like a tiny fish in a tiny fishbowl that had been thrown into an unknown ocean. Dad had to bring me home early from school often because I would get so sick to my stomach from anxiety.

Anxiety found her at the age of 8, fear and doubt encroached on each side.

The neighborhood in Ohio wasn’t very safe and the school was creepy. Cement floors, dreary hallways, and varieties of kids who were not the tamest of the pride were among the vast differences between Buffalo, West Virginia and Cincinnati, Ohio. Yes, I had now experienced fear and anxiety.

When I was 9, my dad became the pastor of a church in Indiana, so we moved to Lawrenceburg. It was a breath of fresh air. It was a safe place, and the school system was excellent. My new best friend lived 2 houses away. I was the shy one and she the outgoing, so we were a perfect duo.

At the age of 10, my world was shaken. I experienced a quick weight loss, loss of energy, and extreme stomach nausea. I could barely do anything other than drink gallons of water and urinate frequently. It didn’t take mom and dad long to conclude that I probably had juvenile diabetes. After being diagnosed, I spent 8 days at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. My parents were taught how to administer insulin and plan meals. I loved the hospital food and all the attention, so returning home was bittersweet. From this point on I would be different. I had to eat snacks during class, get a lunch meal specialized to fit my needs, and learn to cope with, and treat, high/low glucose reactions.

One boy on my bus began calling me “diabetes” every time I sat near him. I cannot tell you how much this hurt, and it happened for years until the day my best friend turned around and told him to “f***ing shut up.” She then laid her fist right into his precious little face.

There was another bully on the bus that no one wanted to sit with because he was bad news. One day when the bus was packed, I had to sit with him. He sexually harassed me. I was devastated. I forced his hand off of me and did all I could to not to bust out crying. There was no one I could tell. I could never bring it up with my parents because sexual things had never been discussed in our home, and it was too shameful and embarrassing to discuss. I dreaded riding the bus but had no choice.

My grandma began telling absolutely everyone she knew (and didn’t know) that I had diabetes. It deeply wounded my tender soul. I felt so helpless because I could not control her gossip. I didn’t want others to view me as being different.

I’ve never questioned God and why He had allowed me to have this disease, nor did I complain and whine about having it. That day in the hospital when we were waiting on the results of tests to see if I was diabetic or not, I sensed a peace and inner “voice” that told me I was diabetic. God gave me grace in that moment to accept that which I could not change. It was not having diabetes that was the issue; it was the possibility that other people would treat me differently.

One of the most devastating events of my youth occurred in my 6th grade Home Economics class. Several weeks were allotted for Sex Ed. and parental consent forms were sent home. My parents would not allow me to be taught sexual education under the public school’s curriculum. I was the only student who could not take the course and was sent to the library every day for the entire period. I felt so alone; so afraid someone would make fun of me for not being allowed to be in the class. The anguish I felt from this isolation and separation was traumatic. Every day I sat by myself in that library chair, struggling to hold back the impending tears so that I wouldn’t be noticed. I was a crushed little girl. God blessed me with a History teacher who was a Christian. He passed through the library every now and then and must have known something was wrong. I don’t even know what he used to say, but just to know someone cared helped. I found out later that my brothers got to take the class. I bottled up my anger and felt that my mom and dad let them get by with much more than I did.

My dad had to take me to Children’s Hospital once every month to make sure everything was in check. The little hospital room where we waited became the place where he taught me the alphabet in sign language. I still find myself doing it from time to time. On the way home we’d go to Shoney’s where they put the little green toothpick flag on top of the hamburger. Several specialists passed through the room to check different things and to take blood. One doctor sticks out. He would ask my dad if he wanted to stay in the room or not. Dad chose to leave for privacy sake. I remember this doctor pressed around on my stomach which is normal procedure, but one thing, in particular, wasn’t normal; he always looked down my underwear. I always felt so violated and shameful, but assumed it was routine. Normal or not, I felt violated and could not voice it.

In 8th grade, I found something I excelled in—track. I loved the attention and the ribbons. I ran just as well in 9th grade, but then things went downhill. I gained a significant amount of weight and could no longer be Speedy Gonzalez. It was devastating for me. The only thing I knew to do was to start dieting. The problem; I was ravenously hungry because of a dieter’s lunch, so I overate at other times. I also began eating more to appease anxiety.

My junior year was another traumatic time in life; lunchtime that is. There were 3 different lunch times. All of my friends had a different lunchtime because they had band class together, so I was alone. Who would I sit with? My school had its many cliques and I would never have the guts to sit at any table except one—the loser’s table. This was the only place I would fit in. We were the ones who felt insecure, different, shunned, etc… It was I, another girl, and 4 boys. I dreaded lunch and couldn’t wait until the bell rang. My new friend wasn’t at lunch everyday, so on the days she was gone I’d skip lunch and sit in the hallway on a bench. Here I was again, alone, just trying to shove back the flood of tears and emotions.

The continual weight gain led to purging. I wanted to eat much, but not gain much. Cha-ching-bada-bing—the magic cure-all.

My mom began seeing signs of an eating disorder and called my doctor because she knew I had an appointment coming up. I’d expressed to him that I just needed a meal plan that would help me get to my body’s healthy weight range. He acted as if this was not a matter of concern. In his words I was just “big boned.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being big boned, but I was an overweight teenager. If he wasn’t going to help, I’d have to do it myself.

I began exercising with a neighbor. Advancement into college wasn’t easy. I was a commuter, and found it very difficult to make friends. I was, once again, alone. By this time, I wasn’t eating hardly anything and increasingly purging and exercising. My weight continued to plummet over the years. I weighed myself every day but decreased to once a week when I reached a double-digit weight. I looked like a skeleton that had been released from the grave.

I went to an outpatient program at Christ Hospital but honestly don’t remember anything about the program except for the leader falling asleep during each session.

A diabetic doctor in Kentucky referred me to an eating disorder program in Crestview. This support group involved sharing our lives and processing different emotions, but really all I could think about was how much more I’d have to exercise that evening to max out for the day.

A young woman who felt unheard by her parents, overlooked by people around her and swept away by a comfortable life of addiction.

I was very protective of my parents, like a guard dog is with its owner. I’d developed deep bitterness and resentment toward my youngest brother because he manipulated my parents, treated them with much disrespect, and told lies about our family. He took personal items that weren’t his, which included a joyride in my new Nissan truck I’d saved up for. I wanted my dad, head of the family, to step in and take control of things, but was disappointed time and again. I felt as if I was the one who had to watch my brother like a hawk, retrieve stolen items, and ultimately set him straight. I took on the parental role that was not mine to take. Through this, I learned the most invaluable lesson of my life; bitterness and anger is detrimental. It almost cost me a relationship with my little brother. I was in the wrong and begged for forgiveness. I was the fool! I thank God that He restored our relationship and that my brother would even give me a second chance. I do not condone his actions, but God has given me a deep compassion and love for him now. All hatred is gone. I have come to understand that his childhood years and beyond were not peaches and cream either. Thankfully, the very same God who rescued me on June 8, 2016 can also do amazing things in my brother’s life. I pray and believe his life will change and his testimony will shake the earth’s foundations!

At age 25, I found an eating disorder facility called Remuda Ranch. By this point mom and dad felt helpless and ready to do anything to save my life. I didn’t know how it would be paid for, but I knew in my heart this was where I needed to be. My mom and dad worked hard and made little, but gave of what they had—selfless love. My eyes cloud with tears as I type.

I experienced much physical and spiritual change during my stay. I met and bonded with so many women who had many of the same issues I did. It was truly a growing experience. I was there for 60 days and mom and dad thought it would be detrimental for me to come home at this time. They talked me into staying at the step-down program in Chandler, Arizona for another 45 days. I didn’t want to, but agreed. My self-esteem was growing by leaps and bounds, as was my state of mind. I was a happy critter.

I returned home with a plan for aftercare. Each week mom drove me to Kenwood to continue recovery with a dietician and a therapist. The psychiatrist was useless, but the dietician made up for it. She was excellent. Little by little, I began falling back into the eating disorder. I had to stop going to Kenwood because they said it was part of the new policy to also be in a support group to continue. I couldn’t afford it, so I stopped.

Over the next several years I tried to find help, affordable help. I’d spend hours on the internet trying to find support. There was so much free assistance for those with drug and alcohol addictions, yet nothing for eating disorders. It all led to more dead ends and frustration.

Relapse became a reality and I was, once again, a walking skeleton. By true “Godumstance” (circumstance) I heard of Rae Lynn DeAngelis through a member of my church. I called Rae Lynn and through her continued friendship, mentoring, prayers, love and faith, I have been changed. God brought us together even before “Living in Truth” was born. This program has placed many valuable stepping stones on my path toward freedom. The more time I’ve spent in relationship with God, the more the freedom I’ve experienced. I’ve had many ups and downs, but have found much growth and recovery through each Living in Truth group.

When God sends a “Rae Lynn” into your life you too will be forever changed. She has dedicated her entire self to God, which has meant going above and beyond what she, in her own power, could ever do. She has been faithful and obedient and has a passion to see others free from bondage. Rae Lynn’s faith and trust in God continue to amaze me. She has been my light in utter darkness and God chose to use her to nurse me to spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

There are many details I have eliminated, but hope to share much more in the future. Writing has never been at the top of choice pickings when it comes to things I would want to do with my time because I was so ALL consumed with exercise to the point where, if I had to sit, I would shake my leg to keep moving. There is no physical movement in writing, but when the Holy Spirit moves a heart, it takes up wings and flies!

Behold, I am a renewed creation in progress, and all glory and honor goes to my Savior and Redeemer!!