Sunday, April 24, 2016

Who I Am

Being raised not only in an LDS family but in a predominately LDS community, I grew up knowing who created me and who I was---a child of God.

I grew up singing the song, "I am a child of God".

I am the daughter of a King, of a God who loves me unconditionally. No. Matter. What.

I don't think this concept sunk in very well until I became a mother. I can remember back to when I first stared into those bright blue eyes of my daughter and felt this surge of love for her, far different than any love I had experienced up until that point.

Did God really love me more than I loved this baby girl? Was that even possible?

It was. It is. 
He does. 

I've been thinking about what my beliefs mean to me and how I came to the conclusions that I did. I've stumbled to try and explain the past few years to my closest friends and family members but it never comes out quite right.

It's hard to leave something you've been so connected to for your whole life. 
Like achingly, confusingly hard. It isn't easy on your people.

*In my second to last post, where I stated, "Would I change...the religious beliefs I was raised with versus my religious beliefs now or any of the other things that have brought immense pain and confusion into my life?", I wasn't trying to state that I regretted the way I was raised or that religion alone had caused immense pain and confusion into my life. I meant to state that my religious changes have been confusing and they've caused pain for myself and also for some of my people who love me so deeply.* 

I wouldn't have done it if I didn't wholeheartedly feel like it was the right decision for my family.
I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't prayed about it. 

I often tip toe around talking too deeply about my religious beliefs and changes because I love my LDS people so very much and I know how sacred the temple and the priesthood and The Book of Mormon are to them. It's often hard for me to feel like I can speak up about my beliefs because I hate thinking that doing so could make another person feel bad.

I've tried so hard to transition smoothly, without anger or resentment following me through my journey. Because the thing is, I'm not angry or resentful. I don't hate the religion I was raised it. It isn't painful that I was raised in the church.

*And I almost typed out "It isn't painful that I was married in the temple." but then I realized that would be a lie. But not because I hate the temple or resent the fact that I was married there---quite the opposite. I have had many peaceful feelings inside those walls and try so hard not to take those memories for granted. It's painful because I tried so hard to keep my marriage together and continue going to church and doing everything right and it didn't help. It still fell apart.*

And you guys, that's ok. Life is messy sometimes. Things fall apart.

My failed marriage is not the reason I no longer attend the LDS church anymore.
In fact, none of my trials have been my reasons for leaving.

Sure, I have questioned my faith numerous times in the past few years. Sure, I've felt like I was a foreign object at church before. I have felt pain there---but not necessarily doctrinal pain. Although I've had messy experiences at church and haven't always felt like I belonged there, I didn't leave as a result of those experiences.

My pain isn't the reason I left. It was real and valid at the time but I tried so hard and fought through it.

I left because it was right, because I had some pretty spiritual experiences elsewhere that shook me to my core and had me questioning my whole life of faith up until that point.

And I am so thankful for those experiences. They have shaped me and brought me to a place that I didn't know existed.

I don't advocate for others to leave the LDS church. I advocate for people to follow their hearts. And for the majority of my people, that means staying true to their LDS beliefs.

I've found such beauty in knowing that my people love me regardless of my religion. That is how it should be and for me, that is how it has been.

I have found that if you're willing to be vulnerable and open, the right people will listen and love you. They might not understand but they'll be there for you.

That has been my experience this past year. 

The truth is that Christianity in general can be hard sometimes. I don't attend Mission or Redemption or any of the other churches I've attended this past year and feel like life is just going to be easy from here on out. {But if there's a church that can make me feel this way, sign me up...just kidding.} I still have to question and ponder on the things I learn, just as I'd be doing at ANY church I attend.

I didn't make the easy choice for us. 
I made the choice that I believe is right for us. 

Right now, today, this very minute, I have an enormous amount of faith that we are right where we are supposed to be.

And that conviction alone is the reason I continue to try and help my people understand me as best they can.
Because I love them and they love me and however messy my past has been, they continue to support me.

And really, is there anything more beautiful than that? 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

My Reality

I can remember back to when my eating disorder was at it's worst a couple years ago.
I can see the patterns, recognize the spiral, and remember how it felt to be SO in control and SO out of control at the very same time.

I can remember the things I used to hear inside my brain so vividly.
You are worthless. No, I'm not. Yes, you are. Ok.
You are lazy. But I exercise all the time. You're still lazy. Ok.
You are not worthy of another relationship. Any man worth my time would love me as I am. No, he wouldn't. Ok.
You don't deserve food. Yes, I do. No, you don't. Ok.

I used to fight with myself daily, constantly. 

And as I was sitting on the couch tonight, watching a movie with my kids, I felt those same words come into my head. They were so loud tonight. And I couldn't just fight them off with a positive thought. Sometimes, when they're so intensely loud, it's extremely hard to fight them.

It's been hard lately. It's been hard to differentiate between the truths and the lies in my head. It's such a nasty cycle and I hate it.

I hate eating disorders. 

Hate. Them.

I got up from the couch halfway through movie night and told the kids to grab their cups of ice cream and meet me in the garage.
I needed to get out of the house. 

I hopped on my bike and the kids climbed in the trailer and we started riding. I rode up and down streets, past so many houses I've spent the last eight years driving past.
I ached and felt lonely.
I smiled and felt free.

Because that's about where I'm at right now---somewhere in the middle, somewhere in a confused state where sometimes I feel good about myself and sometimes I hate myself.

And as vulnerable as this is, it's honest.

It's real. 

And it's really hard. 
A. Lot. Of. The. Time.

I can look back on so many memories from the past two years where I've hopped on that same bike in very similar moments of confusion and pedaled far away from my house to find a park where I could sit and think and write in my journal and cry and dance around in the grass.

Sometimes I'm hit with anger that this is my life and these are my demons to fight. I wonder why. I think about how inadequate I feel when it comes to opening up or helping others or fighting for myself---mainly because I'm overweight and I worry that people will think I'm making this all up---and then I remember that if I'm not opening up or helping others, none of this would be worth it and my anger would never subside.

I can blame the media or God or my childhood or my divorce or probably a million other things but really, this is mine.
However it started. However it continued.
It is mine. 

Nobody can fight my battle for me. I get that.

I know you might read this and think I'm crazy or weak or dramatic but the truth is, I am the opposite of those things.
I am strong and brave and resilient. 

I can remember back to a time a few years ago in therapy when my counselor had me acknowledging the different parts of me that make me into who I am. The sensitive me who wants everyone to feel loved and happy, the self-abusive me who gets so angry with herself for the tiniest mistakes, the fearful me who is afraid of so much more than I could ever type here.
At first, I felt a little schizophrenic for acknowledging that there are different components of who I am but as I was leaving that day, I felt this surge of energy to study each piece of myself and learn from that part of me.

That therapy session has opened my eyes and helped me not feel so crazy when I go from being super happy to angry with myself to lonely and sad. All of these feelings are valid. They are all me. And they don't make me crazy. They just make me human.

So today hasn't been the best for my recovery. I don't like saying that. I don't like the stigma of 'weak' or 'shameful' or 'unstable' that I feel often goes with knowing a person has an eating disorder.
Because when I open up, I feel like my people will start staring every time I eat or exercise or maybe that they'll wonder if I'm going to throw up later---and you guys, I just want to feel like me. And throughout this process the past few years of opening up, I've learned that MY people, the ones who really care and try to understand me, they aren't hovering over me and viewing me as unstable. They check in every once in a while but the rest of the time, they let me figure this stuff out on my own.

They treat me like their friend and I love that. 

I love how beautiful it is to know that someone is struggling and to be able to treat them as equally as you'd treat a person who seemed to have it all together.

It takes an incredible person to be able to do that. And I have so many of those incredible people in my life.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How did we get here?

Sometimes I just stare at old pictures of my kids and think to myself, "How did we get to this place in our lives so quickly? How did you both grow up from babies into children who are independent and kind and busy and intelligent and sassy?"

How did we get here?

That question has been on my mind with many things lately.

How did I get to this particular place in my life, living in this home, going to school full time, with friends who love me and people who really dislike me, working at a dance studio, single?

Each of those pieces of my life have their own story, their own patchwork of tiny stories that make up what brought me to that particular spot at that particular time.

And I've often wondered what would've happened if I had made different choices, said different words, reacted differently---would I still be where I am right now?

Would the same people still love me and the same people still dislike me? Would I be pursuing a degree in Counseling? Would I be a mother of two children? Would I be single?

And then I tell myself, "Well, Suzanne, hindsight is always 20/20." 

For all of the mistakes I've made that have brought me here, I actually couldn't have done any differently than I did in those moments---because I didn't know better.

And now that I know better, would I change it? Would I change my divorce or my failed friendships or my eating disorder or the religion I was raised in vs. my religious beliefs now or any of the other things that have brought immense pain or confusion into my life?
No. I don't think I would. 
Because I was forced pushed to grow from each of those experiences.

I look back on who I was a year ago, back to the days where I thought I was going to die or maybe even that I wanted to die, and I am so glad I didn't give the people who disliked me enough power over my thoughts to control my choices.
Even the anger I experienced and the bullying I experienced---I wouldn't change it. None of it. Because although it was painful, I managed to hold my head up high and love the people who loved me a little better.

I learned what to do and what not to do. I learned who I want to be and who I don't want to be. 

So as I look at my kids and how much they've grown, I think about what life was like when they were little and my bubble felt so much safer---and today? Today I'm ok with the fact that my bubble isn't as safe.

I may have to fight harder. I may have to struggle with my eating disorder every single day right now. I may have to work through anxiety when I'm trying to open up and trust someone.

But I'd rather be this girl than be wrapped up in a bubble where I'm not able to empathize or love as deeply as I've learned how to do. I'd rather be this girl who knows what she wants and who she is and why she's here.

Because although my life isn't perfect, I can tell you my response to each of those statements.
I know who I am. I know what I want. And I know why I'm here.
{And maybe in another post, I'll write down my responses to those statements.}

And I am so grateful that I am me. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nine: Our Famiversary

I know it is weird to a lot of people how obsessed I seem to get with dates and anniversaries of things that have happened in my past.
I've always been this way. And the messiness of the past few years has seemed to heighten my obsession with certain dates through the year.

I believe it is because I'm sometimes still in shock that I've made it this far and survived another year.

Nine years ago, I got married. I wore the hugest, poofiest tulle dress. My hair was dark brown and medium length. It was straightened and half up---simple, just like most of my wedding details.

My colors were red, orange and yellow. Not maroon, burnt orange, and mustard---but bright red, orange and yellow. I've always loved sunshine and those colors make me very happy.

Nine years ago. 

I was 19.5 years old nine years ago---exactly. I got married on my half birthday.

You guys, I was so in love. I thought my world had landed on a huge bubble that would forever protect me.

Nobody told me there could potentially be huge obstacles. Nobody told me I might be choosing to battle between fighting for my husband and my own self worth. Nobody told me about addiction---that my husband could choose to lie to me even if he acted like everything was fine the majority of the time.

And should they have?
I don't know.
It wasn't any of their faults. In fact, I think throughout the past few years, my people have learned and grown with me.

At 19, I was clueless to anything other than the fact that I was in love. I didn't care about anything else. I didn't ask deep questions. I was in love and I thought love always won in the end.

And it can. Love can win. But only if both parties agree to it and fight for it.

It doesn't work as a one way street.

And we weren't both fighting for it. 

Two years ago, as I was nearing my first marriage anniversary since our divorce, I wasn't quite sure what to do. I knew I didn't want this day to be sad or negative. I wanted it to be happy.

And so we celebrated our "famiversary", my kids and I. I told them stories from our wedding and from various times throughout our marriage. I wanted them to know about the good times. And last year, we did the same thing.

This year, we were busier with dance so we were only able to squeeze in a Chik-Fil-A date today to celebrate that nine years ago, their dad and I made a decision that would bond us as a family forever, a decision that would ultimately bring them both into this world.

As I was talking with Hayley while driving today, I told her how this special day is the reason she is a part of our family. Her dad and I chose to get married and we were so excited to have a baby and without the commitment we made that day, she probably wouldn't be here in our family. And her response was, "Oh, kinda like how your first baby died and how if that didn't happen, I wouldn't be here?"
I guess I had forgotten that we'd even semi-explained miscarriage to her a year or so ago. 
Although her statement caught me off guard, it reminded me that everything really does happen in the timeline it is supposed to happen. I was devastated when I miscarried but months later, when I got pregnant with Hayley, the timing was so different and better and I am so grateful she is here with me today.

I don't regret getting married at 19 or marrying my then-husband. Those choices gave me the two most precious gifts I've ever been given.

Today was a happy day and I was able to remember some happy times from the past year.

And for that, I am sincerely grateful. 

It's still hard to believe that it's been nine whole years since that day but I have learned and grown so much in the past nine years and I am so thankful for everything the past nine years has taught me.