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Danielle’s Story – Behind the Scenes of an Observation Video

How did your playing the character of Danielle first come about?

I had an eating disorder back in high school and that was something Jim and Caroline were both aware of, so I think that’s where the idea of it maybe came from. The specific story line was something that Craig and I talked about…trying to make it realistic but more honed in for a specific counseling session that I might be coming in for.

What factors went into your creation of Danielle?

A lot of it was taken from personal experience so I think that’s where the emotional side of it draws people in. I had read lots of my journals from that time in high school before I did the counseling sessions for the videos. Those were humbling to read but having all of my rants and rages made it very fresh on my mind. I did counseling earlier so those weren’t fake emotions. Those were real emotions I had in the past about counseling and thinking I didn’t need it and not wanting to be in the Word.

What was the filming process like?

I had never done anything like that before. I had my youngest daughter there with me so there were a few times that you could hear these little whimpers in the background. Craig faithfully watched her, held her the whole time. It was interesting because Caroline and I knew each other, but we weren’t necessarily close by any means. But you’re coming in and you’re having to act out a scenario that’s not real at the moment. Being mean to Caroline is really hard. I just had to really put myself back into my journals and think I’m gonna forego all the times Aria would cry and we’d have to stop it. And it would be right in the middle of this really great crying scene, and I’d have to start up again. That was hard.

BTS LineupHave you watched the videos since you filmed them?

Yes. There were pieces of it where I cried. Not when Danielle was crying, but I just cried at the bitterness of my heart cause I knew that that hardness was real and it’s sad to watch. Even when I watched them a couple nights ago I was so thankful that was not my reality anymore.

When I was in the thick of it I didn’t think anything would ever be different. I think Danielle said that in one of the sessions. “I will always be this. This is who I am.” I honestly felt that. I wrote that over and over again in my journals. There will never be a way out of this, and any time there would be a piece of food set in front of me there would be massive struggle. So to see that that is not an issue at all is a huge freedom that the Lord gives. When you can put yourself under His teaching and be in the Word that is key. There’s still times in my life that I’ve been out of the Word and that gets messy.

So as someone who has gone through this struggle in real-time, as you’ve gone back and watched the videos do you feel like they are an authentic representation of the process you went through?

Yeah, I mean especially in cutting this down into three sessions and trying to work with the time-lapse between them and still tie in the first session to the second session. I do think it’s a pretty good picture of what it could look like. You know the timing depends on the willingness of the counselee to do the homework and how the Lord changes the heart ultimately. But I do think it was pretty true to form in terms of emotions that were felt. When somebody feels like they really can be honest in front of someone…and say things that they don’t want to say to anybody else because they are embarrassed about them or because they think they are wrong, I think you can really get down to the heart of the issue.

You start out at the beginning not wanting to be there. It’s almost uncomfortable watching you give that attitude to your counselor. Were you ever surprised by what you said or how you came off to her?

No. Watching it I feel like realistically that would have played out longer if we had had lots of sessions to go through. Me personally going through my eating disorder and people encouraging me to go to counseling that I didn’t want – I was not kind for many sessions.

It was a pride issue and it’s an embarrassment issue about not wanting to admit that I have an issue that I cannot fix on my own. Because you want to go in and say I can fix everything on my own and that I’m choosing willingly to do these things and they aren’t really as bad as everyone around me is saying they are. So realistically if they could’ve been longer I would’ve been worse.

So what was it in your life that finally won you over?

I got pregnant with my first daughter and that was a huge piece in the puzzle of realizing that my body is not my own. What I am doing is not only selfish because of my parents who love me and are concerned about me, and I had just gotten married so it was my husband who was concerned about me, but now I was sustaining a little life inside of me. I think the Lord used that as the pushing-over piece. I had to stop and so by His grace I did. It didn’t mean that the thoughts went away right away, but as the Word says He will change the way that you think. Even as Caroline says in the counseling videos it’s a way of thinking, you have to change the way that you think. I know that lots of people were praying for me. And being honest with more people. You know, letting them see that I lied in the past about it and now when I lie about it in the future it really is not doing me any good.

Now that you’ve put this out there for people to see do you have any regrets?

No. The Lord will use what He wants to use and He works all things for good and I trust that. I don’t have to protect myself from man’s views or thoughts; the Lord sees it all.  If it can be of encouragement to someone struggling or even just give hope to counselors that the Scripture is what’s going to be what changes the counselee’s heart. If they are faithful to give them the Word, the Lord is in charge of what happens in that person’s life.

I do think that too often struggles get shuffled under the rug and you don’t get to talk about them and you kind of just pretend they’re not really there. Although my thinking has changed from thinking that every woman in the world has an eating disorder, I know that’s not true, but I still know there are a lot of women that struggle with their image and with eating disorders and even with the deeper issues that got brought out with Danielle. We’re judgmental of one another and we’re critical of ourselves and of others, and whatever sinful form that gets played out in, it should be talked about.

And we need friends. I think that was one of the things [I realized] as I was watching Danielle talk to Caroline. Danielle probably didn’t have any real friends. Not even her husband. She was afraid to talk to him about things that were embarrassing. I think that the counselor became a first true friend to her. People need real friends that will teach them the Word and walk them through Scripture.

So how can one go about being a friend to someone like Danielle?

I think just being constant in that you are going to be there for them no matter what. When the real truth comes out about how really bad the sin is or what exactly they do, I think just to let them know that you will be there. And I think if you can know the Word and find Scriptures that relate to the situation and to the lies that they might be telling you…if they can come back from Scripture that is saying what I am thinking is wrong, you know the Word convicts the hearts of those who are ready to have their eyes opened by the Lord and the Word is very powerful. I think you have to remember to come from a place of being selfless. Even if they don’t respond the way you want them to respond at the moment, who knows what the Lord might be doing in their life?

What would you say to someone who struggles like Danielle? Is there hope?

Oh yeah, there’s lots of hope. I would say to grab on to somebody who is safe that can lead you through the Word. I think at that point for me, and I imagine its true for many others, the Word on its own can be a very daunting confusing place. You can have hope that the Word can give you answers and there are many people willing to sit with you and listen to you and not be judgmental. You want to find people that are looking at internal characteristics and can walk you through the Word and pray for you even when you are mean and nasty to them.