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You Are Not Your Body Image Issues: Rachel & Campbell Faulkner-Brown

with Rachel Faulkner-Brown | February 20, 2024
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Who does God say we are? Campbell Brown opens up about overcoming her body image issues and eating disorder as she integrates a Christian perspective on mental health.

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Campbell Brown opens up about overcoming her body image issues and eating disorder as she blends a Christian perspective on mental health.

You Are Not Your Body Image Issues: Rachel & Campbell Faulkner-Brown
2024-02-20

You Are Not Your Body Image Issues: Rachel & Campbell Faulkner-Brown

Who does God say we are? Campbell Brown opens up about overcoming her body image issues and eating disorder as she integrates a Christian perspective on mental health.

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Rachel Faulkner Brown & Campbell Brown and catch more of their thoughts at bestillministries.net and on Instagram @bestillministries.
Want to learn more about eating disorders, check out this FamilyLife Today episode and get more on the biblical view of eating disorders
This week, for a donation of any size, we’ll send you The Worry-Free Parent: Living in Confidence So Your Kids Can Too by Sissy Goff’s our way of saying a huge “Thank you!” for partnering with us toward stronger families around the world.
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You Are Not Your Body Image Issues: Rachel & Campbell Faulkner-Brown

With Rachel Faulkner-Brown
|
February 20, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Campbell: The other day my mom said to me, she said, “When is the moment of your life where you feel the most loved?” And I was like, “The day you hospitalized me.”

Ann: What?

Dave: Did you feel it then?

Campbell: No.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.

This is FamilyLife Today.

Ann: It's crazy when you think about the memories that you have as a kid. One of the memories that stands out to me is: my sister and I were best friends; we slept in a full-size bed all of our years growing up. She's six and a half years older. I didn't know it at the time, and she didn't know it about me, but both of us had been abused sexually.

My sister had an eating disorder. She was bulimic and so, she would binge. She'd say to me, “Ann, go in the kitchen and get,” and she'd name all the foods to get. And so, I'd bring them into the bedroom, and we put them on the bed, and we'd have this picnic at like midnight, and we would gorge. And I was like, “How can she eat this much?” I think I was probably nine.

Rachel: Wow.

Ann: And I would eat and eat and eat, not knowing that she was getting rid of it by throwing up. But we would do that over and over, and I didn't even know what bulimia was.

Campbell: It’s so interesting.

Ann: But then I started catching her throwing up, even on vacation. We’d camp, and she'd go into the woods. And then her bulimia, at one point, turned to anorexia, and I saw Jesus do the most amazing transformation in her life. I bring that up as a memory because we're going to dive into this.

Rachel: Yes.

Ann: Re-dive into this today.

Rachel and Campbell: Yes.

Dave: If you're a parent, you better listen.

Rachel: Yes, totally.

Dave: Because you're hearing a mom and a daughter over here; that's Rachel Faulkner Brown and her daughter Campbell. We started yesterday talking about your journey with this eating disorder. But you know, I want to go one place we didn't spend a lot of time in yesterday and then jump from there. When you're in that hospital room, and you're thinking you're going to lose Campbell—

Rachel: Oh yes, all the things that you know, they’re there. I remember Karen. You know, I would just call her and just wail because Campbell was having such a hard time during meals. She couldn't finish the meals in the hospital, and so, she would have to take a supplement because she was so weak and so low; her heart rate was in the 40s and the buzzers are going off all night. We weren't sleeping. It was terrible.

Campbell: I was.

Dave: Heart rate in the 40s.

Rachel: Heart rate in the 40s, which is, you know typically they do like paddles about that, and so it was consistently low.

Ann: How did you know to get her hospitalized?

Campbell: So, basically, leading up to the hospital, I'd say I got diagnosed with anorexia nervosa on August 31, 2022, so my doctor was already pretty aware of it. And at that point, it really actually hadn't—it wasn't terrible at that point. The eating disorder had not—

Ann: —and when the doctor said to you, “Campbell, you have anorexia,” what was your response? What did you think?

Campbell: I don't think they actually ever, like said that.

Rachel: They didn't say those words.

Campbell: They never said those words to me.

Rachel: They said you have an eating disorder.

Campbell: They said, “I think you have an eating disorder, and you know, it's not that bad right now, but like if it gets bad, there's places for people like you.” And honestly, I knew. One hundred percent I knew. Like, “Really? I never noticed.” [sarcasm]

Ann: It's not like an alcoholic that says, “I don't have a drinking problem.”

Campbell: I knew! I knew. I hadn’t eaten in like—

Rachel: I think I was the problem. I mean, this is the reality, and this is one of my main things that I would tell parents is, your gut knows your child has a problem. My intuition knew. I was trying to make it a thyroid issue, because I was just like—

Campbell: Oh, yes.

Rachel: —she's a chef. She likes to cook. She makes treats every week for her friends and she helps me cook dinner. She loves to buy the groceries. I was like, “There's no way my kid could have an eating disorder.” I was just like, “It's incongruent.” And so I think, at the same time, I knew; I knew.

There was a friend who had called Campbell out in June and said over Instagram, “Do you have an eating disorder?” I remember being offended at that child and knowing I'd seen some disordered eating, but I never thought it could be—

Because at this point, we weren't at the hospital level. You know, we were just, it was this low hum.

Ann: But you had lost weight, Campbell?

Campbell: Oh, tons of weight.

Rachel: Fourteen pounds.

Ann: Okay.

Campbell: I remember from the first time that I, like, started weighing myself, it was insane. I think I had lost around, probably from December to August, I'd lost like 20 pounds but on someone with like a 5’3” frame, a teenager, a growing teenager—

Rachel: —a growing teenager who'd gone gluten-free, so it was like all these inflammation markers. I was just like, “Well, I mean, she's gone gluten-free.”

Campbell: “She’s healthy.”

Rachel: “She's healthier than she was. I mean, she's paying more attention to what she's eating.” Yes, so it was—and that's why eating disorders get diagnosed at holidays. Because grandparents see grandchildren—

Ann: —oh!

Campbell: —for the first time.

Rachel: —and they’re like, “What happened?” and parents—

Campbell: —parents don't notice.

Rachel: We don't notice because they're living with us.

Ann: It’s gradual, too.

Campbell and Rachel: It is so gradual.

Dave: I mean, what did you do with that feeling, “I think she has this,” that you pushed away? Why do we as parents do that?

Rachel: I don't know, Dave. I mean, I think there's some shame involved. I'm not going to lie.

Dave: Yes.

Rachel: I mean, there was just like, “not my kid,” “I don't think this is our story.” And then my friend, we went to the lake—my friend Ginger. She had a college roommate who had an eating disorder, and she said, “Rachel,” she was like, “She's got”—I didn't—I had never Googled it, because I wasn't thinking—

Campbell: —the rabbit hole.

Rachel: I was like, “She's cold!” You know, “She's got a thyroid—” It was like, “Anything but that,” but I think my spirit knew. And Ginger said, “She's got”—

Campbell: —"lanugo.” When you go into malnourishment. It actually happens a lot in children [who are] impoverished. Lanugo is basically your body's last resort at keeping warm, and it's this long, frail hair that grows from your head to your toe; really long, wiry hairs that grow all over your body, and I had that coating my whole body.

Dave: So, Ginger tells you that—

Rachel: She said she ate lettuce with mustard on it, and that is very classic anorexic.

Campbell: It’s so embarrassing.

Ann: Campbell’s covering her face.

Rachel: Yes. She said, “Rachel, I'm telling you, she's got anorexia.”

Ann: What did you feel?

Rachel: Well, we already had an appointment that Monday at the pediatrician because it had gotten to the place where she was refusing to eat meals, and I was really struggling to get her to eat breakfast. I was like, “I'm just kind of over this resistance. We’ve got to go get some big guns to help us.”

Ann: And Campbell, you were at the point where you didn't even want to eat at times.

Campbell: I would throw up. If I ate, I threw up. But I think the longest time that I went without eating is like three days.

Ann: Nothing.

Campbell: Nothing; just water.

Ann: And so, when your mom was asking you—

Rachel: —to eat.

Campbell: I’d be like, “I'm eating, I swear.”

Ann: Oh, so you wouldn't get—

Campbell: I had so many things that she never noticed.

Ann: —secrets.

Rachel: Oh, secrets.

Campbell: She would buy these—

We went to my cousin's wedding, and she was like, “You got to eat more protein, Campbell” and I was like “I’m just not hungry.” She bought me this smoothie. We went—okay, I remember this exact thing happened. This was like one thing that I think if she would have known, she’d have been like “We're going to doctor right now.”

We were in the line at Tropical Smoothie, okay, and she was like, “Let's get breakfast.” And I was like, shaking; literally shaking. She was like, ”What's wrong with you?” But I'm sitting [there]. I'm trying to find the lowest calorie smoothie on the thing. And like all of them are over 100, which is like, “No, that's too much.” That is the dumbest thing ever. Anyway, she got me this smoothie. She’s like, “You have to get protein!” So, she added protein powder and of course, to this already terrifying smoothie. [I was] shaking, and then she adds more calories to it. “What? No, this will not enter my body.” So, of course, I take a sip and it's like the greatest thing I've put in my mouth in the past six months, but I'm like “This is disgusting and gritty and too sweet. It tastes like sugar. Sugar is bad.”

Ann: That’s what you told your mom?

Campbell: Yes. Anyway, I made her—I threw it away and made her take me to Walmart and get like, I don't know, like nonfat, non-sugar Greek yogurt.

Rachel: But it was just constantly me trying to figure out and just, you know all this jockeying, like food jockeying. And she was eating dinner with us, putting it in napkins, throwing it away—

Campbell: —spitting it out—

Rachel: —right in front of us.

Campbell: —in front of her.

Rachel: And I didn't—I was—I don't know how because I'm like an eagle eye, but I missed it. I just missed it.

Campbell: I would chew it up, wipe my mouth, spit it into a napkin, put it in my pocket.

Ann: So, Campbell, talk to the moms that are listening that are wondering about their daughter.

Campbell: Like some warning signs maybe.

Ann: Yes.

Campbell: I would say some of the earliest warning signs would be starting to weigh yourself. And things, I actually brought some with me if you—can I look at those real fast? Some of the big ones would be—

Ann: —and were these true for you as well?

Campbell: Yes! Tons of them are true for me, like dressing in layers like sweatpants, sweatshirts, which is really common.

Rachel: —baggy clothes because teenagers are wearing—

Campbell: Yes, and it's so common, but you couldn't tell I lost weight for the longest time because all I would wear were sweatshirts and sweatpants, and [I was] covering my head even, because I looked horrible. And a preoccupation with fat grams and dieting; and making [comments like,] “Oh, I feel fat.”

Ann: Walk us back to, how did you end up hospitalizing Campbell, Rachel?

Rachel: Well, we went to the dietitian, and it was insanely hard to get a treatment team. I will say any parent—

Campbell: —it is not easy at all.

Rachel: It is so not easy. And the reality is, for parents: trust your gut and be aggressive, because I was not aggressive. I was aggressive getting a treatment team, but honestly, she, the eating disorder was so attached that no treatment team could help Campbell outside of a treatment center. And I think that is the reality for most parents: we want to just keep them in the home. We want to, we do. We know, for mental health, that is better—

Campbell: —every single parent that we talk to does not want to send their kid away.

Rachel: They don't.

Ann: Why is that? Because it feels too traumatic.

Rachel: It is.

Ann: Are we worried that that will scar them as well?

Rachel: Yes, yes; but, you know, it saved her life. And that's—as I look back, I think, “Do the hard thing now so that she can live.”

Ann: Were you glad to be hospitalized, Campbell, or were you mad?

Campbell: Oh! The other day my mom said to me—she said, “When is the moment of your life where you feel the most loved?” And I was like, “The day you hospitalized me.”

Ann: What?

Dave: Did you feel it then?

Campbell: No, I hated her. [Laughter] I feel like that is something that we should go into—

Rachel: —yes.

Campbell: —because the mom is the bad guy. I'm just going to put it that way. My mom was like, “I'm going to be the strong arm. I'm going to lead us through this.” And I hated her for it. I didn't talk to her. I did not love you anymore.

Rachel: No.

Campbell: Like, I had a hate wall for her.

Ann: Rachel, how hard was that?

Rachel: Yes; well, I didn't know this until about three months ago. [Laughter]

Dave: Until about three minutes ago.

Rachel: I mean, yes—

Campbell: —three months.

Rachel: It's so funny. And we can go into the—

Campbell: —I kicked you out on Thanksgiving. I don't know how much clearer—

Rachel: —yes, oh yes. I mean, I got kicked out of the one hour visit a week on Thanksgiving Day. I mean, she was like, “You can leave now.” And I was like, “Are you even serious?” I mean—

Ann: —did she walk out and cry?

Rachel: Yes!

Campbell: I didn’t.

Rachel: I mean, it was—it was devastating. Campbell was, like, thrilled to—

Campbell: “Get out!”

Rachel: —get me out of there, because she needed someone to blame. And I knew that was happening.

Campbell: I hope my dietitian is listening to this right now.

Rachel: Yes. [Laughter] I think the reality is, you know, between me and God, we were kind of one and the same in Campbell's mind. Like, “I'm mad at God, and I'm mad at you! And you're just here on Earth, so I'm just really going to be mad at you.” But yes, she had a hate wall.

Ann: Were you mad at God?

Campbell: Yes. I flushed the Bible down the toilet.

Rachel: Yes, she flushed pages out of the Bible. I mean just the wrath and the anger—

Dave: What was your anger at God about? Did you feel like it was His fault?

Campbell: I think I just had a lot of anger that my parents would even do this to me. Like, “I have not been to my house in three months”—

Rachel: —right.

Campbell: —okay? I am getting weighed every morning, and having my blood drawn every five minutes, and I have a tube in my stomach. I don't get to choose. I have no choice. I have no free will.

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: I'm monitored. I have a security camera in my room. I have anti-suffocation sheets. I can't go anywhere without getting followed by a heart monitor. I got home that first night and refused to eat—

Rachel: —out of treatment for three months and that first night, December 14th

Campbell: —December 14th, yes—

Rachel: —I will never forget it.

Campbell: —screaming, crying. They were like, “You can't have your phone in the bathtub.” And I was like, “I hate you. I'm never talking to you again. I'm not eating my snacks! A snack? What’s that?”

Rachel: Screaming in her room; and they were, you know, they had given us a protocol, like, “These are the things that need to happen if she doesn't do what she needs to do; take the door off the hinges.”

Campbell: Put the mattress in your bedroom.

Rachel: Yes, “put the mattress in your room.” You know, there were all these things, and I was like—

Ann: Rachel!

Rachel: I know.

Ann: No wonder you said this is the hardest thing you’d gone through.

Rachel: Yes. Oh, yes. You know, I think she got out of treatment and, in my head, she's going to be healed. We're going to start eating meals together. It was the holidays, which adds a whole other layer to food issues with kids because it's like, “You’ve got to see the grandparents, and you’ve got to go home, and you’ve got to do all these happy things.”

Campbell: Which we didn’t do.

Rachel: [And] we’re anything but happy. And so, we had to make that hard decision to not go and do Christmas. It was just the four of us, which was very difficult for me. I'd never not been in my hometown; but it was just—

Ann: —hard—

Rachel: —honestly, it was really traumatic for me and for Rod, because we'd given her what we felt like was the best option to heal. And then she comes out after all these hard things, and she's still not healed. I'm like, “What are we going to do?” And I think every parent feels that. We were trying to decide, do we do partial hospitalization, outpatient—you know there's all these terms—PHP and IOP.

Campbell: You want your kid back.

Rachel: I just wanted her to see, “Can we do it with just a counselor?” And what we quickly found, and I would say this: this was our mistake; we didn't send her to partial hospitalization, where she went—

Campbell: —looking back, I wish I would have gone.

Rachel: —from 8:00 to 4:00 every day, where she ate two meals; she was forced to be there. She had to do the treatment. She had to be with other girls; but honestly, treatment had been so traumatic. “I just want to get her out of this place!” And the reality really was, it was saving her life. We caused ourselves a lot more pain by not just staying and doing PHP, so I will say that to any parent.

But tell them about when you went to camp, because that was the turning point.

Campbell: So, from around like December to March, April, May, I was still very, very deep in my disorderedness and just lacking for control and socialization and just all of these things. I was like, “I want to go to camp.” My dietitian was like, “This is not a good idea. You are just not okay.” And I was like, “Whatever, major loser! [Laughter] I'm going to camp and there's nothing you can do to stop me.”

So, I went to camp, and there was like no food, alright? There was, what? Scrambled eggs, chickpeas, and ranch dressing. That's disgusting.

Rachel: Little harder for the gluten-free fare.

Campbell: Yes; so, I was just like living my life, eating what I could. And then, we go zip lining and they had to weigh us. I went in the bathroom after that, and I was so anxious because I knew, like, this is going to be bad. I immediately slip back on my tennis shoes, run to the van, grab every single food that I could get, shoved it down my mouth, and I was like, “Food is nourishment, Campbell.” And that's when it hit me. I don't need to be skinny to have fun!

Rachel: Right.

Campbell: I don't need to be skinny, just period. I can just be me.

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: I can just be Campbell. And food is like really, really, really good. So, it was over for me in that moment. I was like, the low weight on the scale no longer equated to my happiness. It scared me, and that's how I knew, “This isn't me anymore. I don't want to be this thin.”

Ann: Where did Jesus come into this, because you talked about that, even a few Scriptures?

Campbell: Yes, this is a Christian camp, so I was just kind of like doing the things, going through the motions for the first three days or whatever. At the end I was like, “Who does God say that I am?” Like that song is like the peak for me.

Ann: —the Lauren Daigle song?

Campbell: Yes. It's like, “I am chosen, not forsaken. I am loved.” And reading through the Bible, [we] who God says we are. We are His chosen children. We are beautiful, wonderfully made. There are just all of these things that God says that we are. And I just kind of  thought—I was like—“Jesus, what do you have for me? What is left for me? I have no friends. I am lonely. All I have left is my eating disorder. Who am I without my eating disorder?” And He was like, “You're beautiful. You are creative. You are loved.”

I just got all of these pictures in my head of all the things I used to love to do, like art and cooking and dancing and listening to music, and just all of these things that made me so passionate for life and just give me that zest for living. This just looks so much more than what I've been living for. Is this really what I've been wasting my life on? What if I just kind of switched my trajectory a little bit? What if I just started living for God? I got home and I was like, “I think I'm going to do that.” So, that's kind of what happened to me at camp.

Dave: I mean, Rachel, when she came home, did you see a difference?

Rachel: I did, yes. I mean, she was very partnered with the Lord and with food, and she was sharing bits of it with us; just breadcrumbs.

Campbell: I used to be very embarrassed about it. So, back in July, I was just very embarrassed that I kept it up for this long.

Ann: I’m sure there’s a lot of shame.

Rachel: And there was a lot of grief.

Ann: Yes.

Rachel: I think that's the thing that we're going through even—you know, even—now.

Campbell: Yes.

Rachel: Just grief for what I missed. I missed her 15th birthday; and, even this week, we had her 16th birthday with her friends and there was grief attached to it.

Campbell: Yes, that was really difficult for me—

Ann: —I bet.

Campbell: —having my birthday party, and I was feeling all these confusing feelings. And it's actually really difficult to articulate how you feel when you're on an anti-depressant, because you're just very numbed, and you're not feeling everything 100 percent. Everything's kind of suppressed. Yes, just trying to articulate that and then not being very good at it and then being frustrated.

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: I mean, your mom gets frustrated because she doesn't understand what you're feeling. She goes through all this work to make your birthday special, and you are just like this emotional train wreck, like—sorry. [Crying] It kind of makes me emotional, because—I’m sorry.

Rachel: It’s okay.

Campbell: [Crying] I wasted so long trying to be something that wasn't meant for me, and once I got to treatment, I felt so alone. I was just like, “How is this my life? Why am I here? I'm alone. I don't have any friends. I'm just sitting here on this couch, having to eat this food. I just don't know what I'm doing here.”

Rachel: Yes.

Campbell: My parents weren't there. At the time, I had like a boyfriend situation, and I felt really loved by him. He kind of like just loved me for who I was. And I was like, “He's not here, and nobody's here. And I just”—

I was really, really feeling that the other day. I was just like, “I feel so much grief for that girl sitting in that room by herself, alone on her 15th birthday, when she should be out playing with her friends, getting her permit.” And now, I'm 16 and I'm living the life that I've always wanted.

Rachel: Yes.

Ann: You're not only doing that, but you're impacting others, and you're giving people hope that maybe they're in it and you're saying, like, “Jesus can help you get out of this.” You are super-brave to be able to talk about this, and I just want to thank you.

Campbell: Thank you for having us on.

Ann: I wanted to—you said that John 21:25, why do you like it? It says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Why that one?

Campbell: Because I love Jesus so much. [Laughter] I think that that's so real. Anytime anybody asks me like, “Why are you a Christian? You have every reason not to be.” I'm like, “Have you even picked up the Bible? Have you ever prayed before?” [Laughter]

The most meaningful “I love you” is the one from Jesus. I feel like once you really realize He died for you, He got stabbed for you, lived for you, and He still loves you; and He wrote all the words you could use to describe how much God loved you. There aren't enough books to fill it.

Ann: That’s really good.

Campbell: It's probably one of my favorite verses ever.

Shelby: “The most meaningful ‘I love you’ is the one from Jesus.” That is such wisdom from someone so young. And you know, authenticity is one of the best character traits that largely defines the next generation, and Campbell is a wonderful example of that. I really appreciate her vulnerability and honesty in sharing her story. I hope it's really encouraged you to pursue authenticity with the people in your life as well.

I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Rachel Faulkner Brown and Campbell Brown on FamilyLife Today. You know, if you found that, maybe you could relate a little bit to this story, maybe relate a lot to this story, or you know, someone who has dealt with these issues specifically, we wanted to let you know that Sissy Goff, a licensed therapist and author has written a book called The Worry-Free Parent: Living in Confidence So Your Kids Can, Too. This book is really ideal for parents seeking practical guidance and tools on how to break free from some of the things that you heard today, including anxiety and the stresses that come with living in a culture like the one we do today.

This book by Sissy Goff is going to be our gift to you when you give today. You can get your copy now with any donation that you give online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You just click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” And feel free to drop us something in the mail if you'd like, too. Our address is 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, FL 32832.

Now, I just mentioned Sissy Goff, and she gives expert advice for parents who really need proactive approaches and emotional well-being tips on how to deal with some of the things that we presented in the last two days here on FamilyLife Today. And Sissy Goff is going to join us tomorrow with Rachel Faulkner Brown and Campbell Brown to talk about crucial topics like eating disorders, body image, and mental health in children. We hope you'll join us for that tomorrow.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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