Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Eating Disorder Awareness 2017

I kind of cannot believe that it is 2017---that I am now participating in National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week for the FOURTH time.

I remember the first year I spoke about NEDA week in 2014, it wasn't the full story. I wasn't yet ready for that. I wrote about my past history with an eating disorder here but I wasn't ready to speak up about how my struggle had not only come back but, this time, with a vengeance.

I was so afraid of what people would think about me.

Eating disorders seemed like a taboo subject if you were talking about current life events. 

In July of 2014, I started to open up a little more about my eating disorder struggle being a current event and not just a past life event. You can read about that here.

But one of my favorites, one of my most cherished memories is the night I hit my rock bottom. Instead of being in control, my eating disorder was now controlling me. 
And that night, while sobbing on my kitchen floor, my little red-headed boy poked his head around the corner and brought me a pillow and a blanket and just laid there, stroking my hair while I cried.
You can read that beautiful post here.

The thing is, I've talked about this subject a lot since then. I've been up and I've been down. I've felt like a fraud and I've felt like a warrior.

And this year is a time where I genuinely don't feel like a fraud. 

I have fought so hard for this. 

I don't need to retell my story. You can read that post here.
Instead, we are going to go back in time, back to when things weren't always so rosy.

And I made this decision to share some personal journal entries with you because I want you to be aware of the power of eating disorders.

These words are all mine from various times throughout the past three and a half years. 

Oh, also, I swear a lot in my journals and I didn't change any of the words here so...you know...you've been warned in advance.

"I broke down yesterday.
It was one of those moments were, on the inside, I had completely lost my shit, but on the outside, I was acting totally fine.
I was fighting within myself---eating disorders are good, no they're bad, no they're good, no, no, no, no, no---*brain explodes*.
And I'm pissed. Because I have so many reasons to be happy. In fact, there are so many reasons why I AM happy.
But on the inside, when I allow my thoughts to turn to body image, I lose control. I cannot handle it. I fail at every recovery measure I've tried. I hate my body. I get angry at it for not being perfect.
Recovery tells me that my body has birthed two children, that it can dance and still do incredible things.
Ed tells me none of those things are good enough, that I'd be worth something if I'd just stop eating.
Stop. Eating.
I tell myself this daily. And then when I do eat, I hate myself for making such a bad life decision.
Because even though my life is so beautiful, it'd be even better if I was beautiful. My body doesn't match the life I'm living. It isn't beautiful.
I want to be beautiful.
And the only reason I'm still fighting is because I've heard stories of the damage and the heartache. In fact, I've been those stories. I've been ruined before. But if it weren't for journals, I wouldn't remember those broken stories because right now, when I look back, all I remember is feeling so strong and accomplished and worthy.
And I want to feel those things all of the time.
A part of me still feels like fighting is the right choice. And the other part of me feels like fighting isn't worth it.
So badly, I wish this wasn't my life. You have no idea how much I wish this wasn't my life.
To feel happy with your life while fighting or not fighting inner demons, that just doesn't seem fair.
I want to feel happy without hearing so many hurtful things being said about me inside of my brain.That girl in there, she is mean. She is cruel. She has extreme standards. Not for everyone, just for me.
Sometimes I don't get how I can be her, how I can be so concerned with loving and accepting others without being that way with myself.
Sometimes I feel absolutely crazy." 

"Fighting is hard.
I feel this sense of pressure that I'm supposed to be fighting for myself every day and a lot of times, it's too much. It is too damn much.
People say I'm strong. I even say I'm strong. But at night, when I think back on the day and the amount of times I gave in to my eating disorder, I realize just how weak I am.
I don't know if the trauma from the past month has made it worse but I feel like crap all of the time these days---obsessing over my food intake, purging many times a day, looking in the mirror and seeing fat fat fat fat fat fat fat and a whole lot of ugliness, weighing myself in the morning and wanting to throw the scale out the effing window.
I act like I'm fine. Am I fine? I feel fine. I feel like this is who I'm supposed to be. I feel like if I can just lose weight, I'll be happier than ever before. I believe that. I remember last March/April when I was going to the gym daily and starving myself or obsessively purging. I was beginning to look better. I was beginning to feel in control while simultaneously getting out of control---irony? Sure.
I think that's the thing I hate most about eating disorders. I crave the control but after a while, I lose control. But in a weird twisted way, the loss of control also feels good because my brain is saying, "This is what you've wanted! This is total commitment and you will love yourself soon.".
When does "soon" happen? Does it end with the specific amount of weight I've dubbed as "worthy" of my approval? Or will the number just get lower each time I reach a goal?"

"There is so much fear involved with an eating disorder. Recovery and addiction both involve fear. Neither seems 100% free of it.  
I was sick this weekend and unwillingly threw up a few times. I went to church today still feeling a bit nauseous so I didn't eat beforehand and I slept in and missed an hour of church.
As I walked the halls, I was getting stopped over and over again by women asking me how I've lost so much weight. At first, I felt awkward. Would they like to know what my real secret has been? But after the first two stops, I started to feel good. I felt a little more confident and a lot more beautiful. I felt the attention and I soaked it in. 
And I couldn't bring myself to keep food down the rest of the day. 
So tonight I tried to reel in my safety nets by reading my journal and as I read a few key entries, I remembered.
I remembered the night I blacked out in my own bathroom and all I could do was crawl into my bed and hope I'd be awake the next morning. 
I remembered the times I would be running at the gym and my vision would blur as I pushed my body beyond what it should've been capable of doing." 

"Ed tells me a lot of heavy things when I compare myself to the people around me. He tells me that if I lose 20 more pounds, I'll suddenly feel "good enough". He tells me that I am a horrible mother and that I am the reason my spouse was addicted to pornography. He tells me that I should be more self-conscious than I currently am. When I start to feel any amount of confidence in myself, he laughs in my face and tells me the people who say nice things about me are doing so because they feel sorry for me. It's so hard to believe that people say things because they truly mean them. It is so scary to trust people.
At church today, a woman asked me how I'm getting so skinny. I looked at her with bewilderment. Me? Skinny? Ha! But I told her a friend had referred to this as the "divorce diet" because I just don't have an appetite right now because of stress. It was a lie. I hate lying. I wanted to tell her how I'm struggling with an eating disorder---and not just "an eating disorder" but bulimia, an eating disorder that doesn't come with loss of appetite very often. I wanted to tell her how I hate the girl I see in the mirror. But I have no idea what to say in these situations. I am not ready to just be "the girl with the eating disorder" or "the girl with the eating disorder because her husband left her". I want more of an identity than that and I'm afraid if I tell my real story in the middle of my struggle, I will get lost somewhere in there. When I'm stronger and have the confidence to help others with all of this, I know I will be able to tell my story and still be me."

"Today I tried hard. I mapped out my safe foods and put each of them around a meal time and I've been doing good so far. Only a few times have I had to talk myself out of unhealthy habits. 
I've been putting off this fight because I was afraid of it. I was afraid of weight gain and I was afraid I would feel more out of control again. 
All morning, I've had visions of taking a hammer to my scale. Seriously. I haven't been brave enough to do it because I cannot fathom NOT having my scale. 
But I ate breakfast and lunch. They were very small meals but they felt ok. I wasn't afraid. I didn't panic. I wanted so badly to fight. And I did it.
And then tonight I did it. I knew it needed to be done. I grabbed a hammer and my scale and I smashed it on my back porch. I smashed it over and over with the hammer and when that didn't do the job well enough, I grabbed the shovel and annihilated it. I'm sure my neighbors think I've lost my mind. It felt so completely liberating and scary and amazing, all at the same time. Now that I'm sitting here, without a scale in my bathroom, I feel like maybe I can fight this. I feel a lot of anxiety but mixed in, there is a sense of peace."

The majority of these are from 2014, back when I was pretty engulfed in my eating disorder.

How thankful I am to NOT be in that place today---but instead to be in a place where I choose recovery every single day of my life now.

And the truth is that it is a constant effort and choice on my part. I could go back there at any time---but I don't want to.

I like where I'm at right now. 

And the fact that I have been able to eat healthier lately without restricting or eating everything in my kitchen late in the evenings is a testament to how well my brain is doing.

You guys, my brain is healing! 

I haven't felt this way in a very long time and it is worth every moment where I've fought and failed and gotten back up again.

Friends, eating disorders are real and they're not all that fun to talk about. But they're also not all that fun to live with.

Because of that, I tell my story.
Because of that, every February/March I support eating disorder awareness week.

It's time to talk about it. 

It's time to stop ignoring the signs because it feels too uncomfortable to talk about it.

If you or someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, please reach out for help.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

1,095 Days

February 18th.  

This is a weird day for me to remember---the day I received finalized divorce paperwork in the mail.

Because there were positive and negative feelings that accompanied that paperwork. 

The months leading up to this day held some really important decisions---decisions that caused me to feel like I was drowning.

But in the end, when I look back on those months, they actually went pretty smoothly. 

We took one morning in late November of 2013 where we sat in a room and screamed and cried and laughed and yelled with/at each other and settled on a parenting plan. We finished our divorce paperwork and split up our assets. It was done. All in one single morning.

That was a hard time for me because I felt like I was losing a piece of myself---not only with the loss of my husband but moreso in realizing I'd be without my children every other weekend and possibly losing my "stay at home mom" title.

Our divorce affected motherhood and for me, that was the lowest blow. Because now, instead of having a cohesive unit of parents who work together for them, our children have two parents with two different opinions of how they should be raised.
*picture taken two months into our separation*

I never expected it to be like this. 

In the beginning, I always expected that we would remain friends and find a new normal. I always envisioned us doing activities together---because even though we didn't love each other, we loved our two precious children.

But it isn't all rainbows and butterflies like I thought {Go figure!}. There have been major bumps in the road for our family.

I couldn't have anticipated the things that have happened. They've surprised me each and every time.

The frustrations have been at boiling points way more often than I ever expected. 

*picture taken a week after our divorce papers came in the mail*

And one of the weirdest things about divorce, for me, is growing apart from someone who had made the commitment of eternity with me.

Maybe that's why it's harder now than it was in those first 6 months. Maybe it's because we no longer know each other.

Like how he came to pick them up one day and he was wearing glasses. Or how I've been straightening my teeth with Invisalign.

It's these weird, unimportant, little things that catch me by surprise every once in a while. Because when we were married, we knew so much about each other.

And now he's just my kids' dad. 

Three years have passed since I walked through the doors of that courthouse and filed the paperwork.

We have grown up so much in that time.

I have grown up so much.

I can remember when he left, how I was so incredibly surprised and heartbroken but also how I put my armor on and quickly learned how to fight for myself and my kids.

I remember how scared I was to live alone but how I adapted to it so quickly.

More than anything, I remember how my people rallied around me.
The night I got that paperwork, I sent out a group text with some joke about being able to go on dates now (which is more of a joke now that it was even then).
But I remember as the days went on and I let it sink in, how painful it started to feel that I was divorced.

The D word. 

The word we promised never to even bring up in our marriage---because it wasn't an option.

The truth is that it was always an option. 

And when things got hard in our marriage, it seemed that one of us would fling the word out into the universe to see how it tasted.
And each time, it tasted bitter. 

Now I know why. 

Now I know why the thought of losing my husband was so bitter.

Because in the past three years, there have been more bitter moments than I can count.
There has been so much hurt and so many accusations.

Because we don't know each other anymore. 

And I think knowing each other is what used to get us through our rougher patches.

But even though a lot of it has felt bitter, the sweet has been equally outpouring. In fact, I think I'll change the word 'equally' to 'more' because I cannot see my life different than it is right now.

I mean, a husband would be nice for so many practical reasons but I have been pushed and have grown so much over the past three years.

As painful as it's been, I just don't think I would change it. Because even though we aren't friends and my visions of our divorced life did not come true, my story isn't over. And I have faith that it won't always be like this, that someday the pain and heartache will dissipate and that I'll look back and see the beautiful moments outshining any of the low moments we've had.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Relief: Part One

 Reliefalleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression, etc.

I have prayed for relief in many of my life's storms. 
Lately, my prayers have been geared toward loneliness and lack of companionship.

It really is hard being single and watching your friends go on Valentine's dates together and doing other things as couples.
My heart feels like it's ripping apart each time. 
It's never gotten easier---if anything, it's gotten harder. 

I've blogged about my dating woes in the past and each time, it seems like I'm met with a "you just need to be patient" or "your main focus should be your children" or some other response about how I shouldn't be focusing on these feelings.

And you know what? I'm sick of those answers. I'm absolutely sick of them.
Because they are completely apathetic and dismiss feelings that are very real for me.

Heart-achingly real. 

In six days, I 'celebrate' the anniversary of the day my marriage was severed legally.
It's been three years now. 
Three years---and I've gone on four dates since then.
And although it seems like I'm doing quite well---I'd even say that myself most days---the loneliness I experience has become a dark cloud that I have to fight each and every day.

I am so angry tonight, a feeling that I do not like at all. But anger sets in occasionally and I scream out to my Heavenly Father when life seems so unfair. And tonight, it seems extremely unfair. 

I spend my weeks giving everything I have to my children and often forget about myself.
My self-care involves choosing to relax instead of clean the house which then backfires because the house turns into a disaster and then I'm too overwhelmed to know where to start cleaning.

I keep thinking I've got the single mom thing down completely but then I look around at the messes and realize I am not taking care of everything like I should.
I am failing at so many things right now.

So many things. 

And I know you'll tell me I'm not---I'd genuinely tell you the same thing about your own life---but it often feels that way.

It feels like I'll never measure up to the expectations men have. Our culture depicts thinness as one of the most important factors when looking for a potential relationship and oh my gosh, it is so damn frustrating.
So even if I am comfortable with my body, which most of the time these days I am, it doesn't make a huge difference.
There have been times in my single life where I've thought to myself, "All I need to do is lose 50 pounds and then I'll be date-able", and that thinking is so backwards.
It's so sad that my brain even thinks that way on occasion.

But the truth is that it does. 

And I'm just trying to be truthful with you, as hard as that may be for me right now.

I have been in such a good place the past few weeks but tonight, I'm not.

Tonight I absolutely hate that I sit in this house alone each night.
I absolutely hate that every other weekend, my heart physically hurts pretty much all of Sunday but more specifically during church and at dinnertime because my two littles are gone.
I absolutely hate that the time I have to spend on dating and singles activities and relationships is almost non-existent and that their dad gets the thing I want so badly because he has 25 kidless days a month.
Tonight, I hate all of it.

And although I wouldn't change it because my kids are such an important part of my life, it is so incredibly hard.
And I'm not going to sugarcoat that because I believe it is important to talk about the crappiest of things and be open so that I'm not shutting myself off from the world and closing my heart to the beauty that does currently exist in my life.

So this is me not shutting down---even though it completely feels like me shutting down. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Her Baptism

 Eight and a half years ago, a tiny little baby was born that changed my whole world.

My marriage had practically started with a miscarriage (only three months after our wedding) and this tiny baby quickly became a light in my world.

She cried for about the first year. Those days were pretty hard. And yet, she was still our light.

Always has been, always will be.
Last year, a few months before turning 8, we started having conversations about her birthday and she voiced her excitement and concern about baptism.

She had people from all different sides telling her what the right choice was. And it seemed that every time she was with someone, she would change her mind to align with their views because she wanted to please us all.

But in the end, I believe she made the right choice---because the right choice wasn't just to get baptized because she had hit a certain age. The right choice was to get baptized because she knew that is what she wanted.

And when she turned 8, she didn't know. She had an actively LDS father and an actively Christian mother and she didn't know.

Maybe she was afraid to disappoint me---although I wouldn't have been disappointed. Maybe she didn't know what she believed yet---and if she did know what she believed, I think those kinds of things are more fluid than most of us realize.

Whatever the reason, she didn't get baptized. And although not everyone was happy about that decision, I was proud of my brave 8-year-old for making her own choice.

The months went on and we were doing quite well.

School has been good to Hayley this year and she has loved being in the same class as her best friend.

Dance team has been a huge blessing in her life and the transition to her new studio was smoother than it ever should've been for a shy little girl like Hayley.

In fact, now that I think of it, she has been brave through ALL of our transitions this past year.

In December, we had a family meeting about another huge transition---mom's transition back to the LDS church. When I brought it up to the kids, I knew it wouldn't be as big of a change for them as it was for me because they were already learning about the LDS church every other week with their dad.

But when we started talking about it, baby girl started asking about baptism and what my thoughts were.

I reassured her that my thoughts were the same as they had been in May---this was her decision. If she believed it was the right thing to do, she should do it.

Her reply to me was, "Well, if I'm gonna do it, I only want to do it next week." As in, before Christmas. As in, before I had even told my family I was going back to church.
As in---no.
I told her that couldn't happen, partly because mom needed some time to adjust and get things ready and partly because we would need to set it up with the bishop.

It's funny to even say we 'compromised' on January. I was hoping she'd say February or March but she insisted that she wanted to do it as soon as she was able.

So we scheduled it for one whole month after God had told me it was time to come back.

Crazy, fast whirlwind. 

The weeks leading up to that day, I wanted to make sure she understood her decision so we poured over scriptures and bought books about baptism at the store. We prayed about it together and talked about it almost every day.

She seemed ready---and that helped me to be ready.

And the day finally came when I slipped that white dress on her and did her hair in the tightest bun possible and we drove over to the church together.

I was still so nervous----because I'm so protective of her and wanted this to be a good experience. I didn't want her to be scared or anxious.

But you know, I can't protect her from everything.

She still got anxious. In fact, during the second talk in the chapel, she began to cry because she got embarrassed and didn't stop crying until she was about to get in the water. I was so worried for her. I held her in my arms and whispered to her how brave she is and how much I love her over and over again.

And although she insisted I stay right at the top stair going into the baptismal font, she did it. With her dad in the water and her mom standing a few feet away, she was baptized.

I wish I could describe the tangible feelings in that room as Hayley was baptized.
As her dad started to cry and then I started to cry, I felt so close to my Heavenly Father. I felt very distinct feelings that our family is still a bonded family.

The moments leading up to Hayley's baptism were also overwhelming. As we walked into the room where she was going to be baptized, I hadn't realized how many people were there for her. All of the chairs were filled and a large number of people had to stand up in the back to even fit in the room.

Our bishopric member said it was the largest turnout he has witnessed at a child's baptism.

This. Girl. Is. So. Loved.

I got really emotional seeing so many people that I loved so dearly there to support my baby girl.

It was an incredible day. 

A day filled with love from both sides of her family and from a large group of her friends too.

A day where it wasn't his family and my family but Hayley's family---where we were all united together because our only focus was the celebration of Hayley's life and decision.

It's pretty safe to say that I've been taught more by Hayley than she's been taught by me. I like to think I'm shaping her into a responsible human being but in reality, she is shaping me to focus on my eternal perspective.

Her love and compassion for others is truly remarkable. I often watch as her sensitive little heart feels things so deeply and hope I can become as genuine as she is. I also hope she stays genuine to herself because I wouldn't change a thing about her---well, maybe I'd wish for her to clean up her room a little more. ;)

I am proud of my brave girl for making the choice to be baptized. I know this decision was hard for her and came with a lot of confusion because she has witnessed a lot of coming and going from her parents in the LDS church in the past four years.

And quite honestly, I'm mostly just proud of her because she is an amazing little girl.

An amazing little girl with an amazingly huge heart.