Today is a proud day. Today, the woman who agreed to become my bride nearly twelve years ago is taking part in her first figure competition. After months of training hard and eating clean, she will don her green competition bikini and she will take to the stage to reveal the result of hundreds of hours at the gym and day after day of determination.
At the age of thirty-one, as a wife and mother to two girls, ages six and seven, she set out to make a change. For two years, she’d been through some very trying times to say the least. Without dragging up too many painful memories, situations arose that caused her to be painfully rejected by both her church and her immediate family.
During this season where she was being rejected by her family, one of her siblings once sent her this note:
I don’t know where you went so sideways with mom and dad, perhaps when dad tried to make you run to lose weight as a child. seriously though are you going to just let your children become 280 pounds. I have to ask were you went so terribly wrong, the rest of us turned out fine.non of us have depression issues, weight issues, issues with mom and dad, issues with ourselves like you do. So like I said before where did you go so terribly wrong.
I remember the day she read that note to me. My heart broke for her, I cried with her, but I knew I could never feel or understand the pain she felt. Initially, she was indeed sent into a deep, dark depression, unlike any I’d ever seen. As her husband, I was helpless to fix this one. Though I would stand by her, the healing would have to come from within her. She would have to journey through it on her own.
And what a journey it was. And is.
Her journey towards becoming whole once again began in her mind. It began with therapy, and she met with Dr. Richard Harrison, a clinical psychologist who provided an ear to hear, and wise counsel that touched her mind and touched her soul. This ‘secular’ counseling was quite frowned on by the church we’d attended in the months prior to her breakdown, but now that she was free to make her own decisions, she made the decision to reach out and received life-giving healing through the words and strategies of Dr. Harrison, unlike any she’d received by well-intentioned but far less qualified pastors in the church.
As the months past, she began to rise from the fog, and the painful, dark thoughts eventually left her. Light began to penetrate her once again. Hope began to fill her and as it did, she made a choice to continue the journey by turning her attention from her mind to her body.
She made a choice to rise above the kind of rejection that some people never recover from, from both her family and the church – and find strength - spiritually, emotionally and physically.
She decided not only to accept herself, but love herself. She stopped criticizing the woman looking back at her in the mirror and instead she embraced the woman God created her to be. Where she observed weakness, she chose to improve by overcoming with a newfound physical and emotional stamina she’d never before had the courage to tap into.
She approached a physical trainer, Dawn Allison of Fit Body BC in Vancouver, and began to challenge the deep-seated insecurities that had been deposited into her subconscious over the years. While she had indeed struggled with her weight throughout her life, she took the painful, cutting words that had been spoken over her throughout her life and translated it to more time on the track. Where her posture had suffered because the church had taught her ‘boobs are bad’, she learned to stand up straight, and not hide the breasts she’d been blessed with.
As the weeks went by, Dawn, her trainer, asked her if she would like to enter a body building competition as a figure competitor and join the Fit Body team a few months later in Kelowna. She’d always wanted to do something as brave as this, and though she had a fairly decent level of self confidence, there was always someone there to knock it out of her. But not this time. This time, she said yes, and began the nearly six month journey that will culminate with her walking out on that stage and standing in line with many other empowered, beautiful women celebrating the blood, sweat and tears that got them there.
She’s no longer one of those women that feel jealous when other beautiful women are nearby. In her heart, she’s become assured in herself, and finds her confidence in God. She no longer hides her beauty and she celebrates in the beauty of those around her.
Having lost nearly forty pounds, and having found the kind of confidence I didn’t know was possible, she now walks a spring in her step. Her daughters have a role model that they are proud of beyond words. Her husband revels in her beauty and confidence, and is blessed beyond measure by her love.
Will she still struggle? Yes. Will she become depressed again? Probably. I hope not, but with the kind of pain she’s had to face in her past, it’s very likely she will feel that low feeling again someday. But the difference is, she knows who she is. She is not a member of a church, subjected to the whims of a pastor or leadership team insecure about beauty or ill-equipped to handle or understand sexuality. She is no longer a child, subjected to parents or siblings unable to accept or honour independence. She is Brandee, a broken woman made whole, in love with Jesus, her daughters and her man.
She knows who she is. When she looks at the woman in the mirror, she smiles.
And the woman in the mirror smiles back.
Have a great show Brandee! You are my inspiration. I’m proud of you. I love you.