Mercy Ministries graduate Tara is a local college student who is confident, happy, and full of life. But she hasn’t always been that way. Better Nashville recently met up with Tara to get her story.
Better Nashville: From the outside Tara seemed like any ordinary teenager. But on the inside lived an eating disorder, a battle of self-worth.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: My best friend and I would eat lunch every day in the cafeteria and I would just be sitting there ya know throwing things under the table or like throwing it in my purse or just saying, “Oh you know I already ate” or whatever. And she had no idea. So I would do the same thing with my family.
Better Nashville: This habit of restricting food started back in the fifth grade.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: That was the year that my granddad passed away. And he had been somebody who was really special to me and really the only person I felt like I didn’t have to be perfect around. Ya know I’ve just always been a perfectionist. And so I sorta had this thought of like ya know I’m not good enough or not smart enough or not pretty enough. But I always felt special when I was with him. And so when he died I really went into a depression.
Better Nashville: Things got even worse in high school before anyone found out about Tara’s secret.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: And it got to a point where I couldn’t even walk anymore and that was when my parents, they had sorta suspected that something was wrong before that but I would just lie and say “No, I’m fine.” But I couldn’t deny it anymore at that point.
Better Nashville: That’s when her parents put their eighty-pound daughter in an eating disorder treatment facility.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: It goes back to when I was in the hospital and the eating disorder treatment center and I was at a point in everything where I absolutely had no hope left. And I actually had a psychiatrist tell me that she was going to be speaking at my funeral so it just completely, um, really I was just ready to give me.
Better Nashville: After several failed attempts of healing at different treatment centers, Tara was finally taken to Mercy Ministries; a place she says was totally different.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: When I first got to Mercy Ministries I tried to be rebellious and get kicked out because I thought if Mercy Ministries saw who I really was they would realize they were just wasting their time. They didn’t. The Mercy Ministries staff kept loving me and just telling me how much God loved me and they really helped me learn to trust Him. And that made all the difference.
Better Nashville: Tara began looking at herself in a different light.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: They have you write down the negative thoughts about yourself and then you go to the Bible and you find verses that sorta correspond to it. So for example, ya know if my negative thought was I’m ugly then I would go to the Bible and find verses that say that God has made everything beautiful for its own time. And then that really meant something to me.
Better Nashville: Now, more than a year since Tara arrived at Mercy Ministries, she now knows she’s loved and beautiful, inside and out.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: I feel happy now. And I told myself I was happy before when I was sick and it was all completely an act. And so it’s been really weird to actually be genuinely happy.
Whitney Nall – Mercy Ministries Staff: When I first got to Mercy Ministries I saw these girls come through the doors and they couldn’t even look us in the eyes. And I would be giving tours of the Mercy Ministries home and just no eye contact or a girl just really seemed down. Compared to on their graduation days or the days before when they are truly a new creation and just singing at the top of their lungs during morning worship… And just truly transformed.
Better Nashville: Tara carries that reminder with her every day.
Mercy Ministries Grad Tara: All the girls that graduate from Mercy Ministries get this ring on graduation day. And you can see it has three little stones in it and it’s called the Trinity because it represents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And then in the middle it actually has an “M” for Mercy Ministries. And so it’s obviously very symbolic and very special to me.
Better Nashville: It’s a reminder of how far she’s come. Tara is now a sophomore at Belmont University majoring in journalism.
You can help out Mercy Ministries by running or supporting their run for Mercy team in the Country Music Marathon. The race is on April 24th (2010). Whoever raises the most money for the Run for Mercy team will win a concert by Christian artist Jamie Jamgochian at the Nashville Mercy Ministries home. Pretty cool stuff!
Learn more about Mercy Ministries at http://www.mercyministries.com