Her Story #9

                Isn’t it funny how life doesn’t turn out how we expect it to, or look like anything we envisioned. If you told me that this is how my life would look, I never would have believed you, because of course I try to do everything perfect and the way it’s supposed to be done. My life looks very different than I ever expected.

                I grew up well loved by my family, did well in school, not a super social butterfly, reasonably secure in who I was. I have always been incredibly independent, competitive, a force to be reckoned with, outspoken and can and will get it done; “I’ll show you, “try me”.

                I moved into college and out on my own at 17 after my parents divorced, put myself through college. My relationship with both parents was strained. I found myself making my way through life and college, struggling with depression and what I didn’t know for another 13 years, high level functioning anxiety.

                I married the first guy I had a “serious” relationship with because honestly I thought, it’s this or I will be alone forever.  We had two beautiful kids together, but in this he showed his lack of maturity and an inability to keep a job.  The responsibilities fell solely on me.  Looking in hind site, I suffered with postpartum depression after my second child, but was completely clueless, I just could not figure out why it was so hard having 2 kids.  My relationship with my now ex-husband continued to disintegrate, he lost job after job and I found myself struggling to support our family and try to be a mom and keep our home afloat. After a couple of years of this constant fight and struggle, losing myself in the midst of it, miserable and exhausted, falling down this pit of despair. I hated the person I had become, the mom that I was, and there was no relationship, my marriage had turned into two people living in the same home and all I could think was I am teaching my children how to have a very dysfunctional relationship. My ex lost yet another job, all jobs in that area had been exhausted and I decided enough was enough. I told him I was done.

                I hated how I looked, felt, and the person I had become. I had become a tired and exhausted monster.  I decided I was going to try to start running. At first I couldn’t run at all, slowly I started to get better. I decided I was going to eat better, started losing weight, the running made me feel powerful, gave me an adrenaline high. The divorce finalized, I was free of that weight and in the midst was losing weight and had become a runner. It became a game. I had a goal weight set in mind, that if I ever could achieve that, it would be amazing. I got more into exercise and fitness, I was a running beast, all the while eating less and exercising more. The weight kept falling off. I got down to that weight I had in mind, looked in the mirror and said there is more to lose and this is easy, I bet I can lose five more, lost that 5 and decided I could lose 5 more. All the while I was on the scale multiple times a day, and if the scale was up, I didn’t eat, if it was down, I ate, I became more and more paranoid of food.

                I was sitting on the couch one night in bible study with a dear friend who had brought me back to church, I don’t remember how the conversation even started, but it came to light that it in fact was not normal behavior to weigh yourself 10-12x per day. We discussed my eating habits, how I ate based on the scale and that I must always expend more energy and calories than I took in. That night we both sat there and just cried and decided to remove the scale from my house and she took it home with her. Over the next couple months things only got worse. It was the 2nd week of December, I grew more paranoid by the day of food and exercised more and more, I hadn’t eaten in 5 days, I was too afraid to eat, I couldn’t. I showed up at said friends place of employment in tears and told her I was scared. I hadn’t eaten in 5 days and was too paranoid to eat. My friend said enough is enough and said she would get coverage for her work and take me to get help.  She begged me to eat, I went home that day and ate 2 eggs. I called and scheduled to get into a therapist and that began months of driving to see a therapist. All the while, my paranoia got worse, I continued to lose more weight. I told my friend how disgusting and fat I was, and she said there is nothing left to you, you are skin and bones. She and her husband discussed taking my kids and getting me into inpatient for eating disorder. I would go to the grocery store and have a complete melt down and leave with nothing because it was too overwhelming and scary.

                It took so much time, but the eating, the exercise amount and life slowly improved. I had to deal with and fight with my perfectionism that had been engrained into me. I had to dig into my bible deep and rely on friends, I had to learn to turn down and try to mute the voices that constantly reminded me how worthless, fat and disgusting I was, how I was an utter failure as a mother, daughter, friend… The weight on the scale, the way I looked determined the person that I was. It didn’t matter what else I was good at the voices screamed. I was paranoid of food. How ridiculous is it to tell people you are scared of food.

                I don’t know at what point that my desire to get healthy became sick and twisted, but it had been an all consuming battle for my life. To this day although I have gained significant ground in this battle, I know this is a fight I will always have. I look in this mirror and I am disgusted by my appearance most days. People tell me I have to learn to love myself. I am just happy the days that I can accept myself and not be disgusted, those days are huge wins. I have to dig into scripture and remind myself of who I am. I have friends who I can call and tell them the struggle and that I am failing and we bring me back to grips, but ultimately I have two beautiful kids I never want to fight this struggle and I don’t want to ever fight this disease. I will always fight and struggle with orthorexia and anorexic tendencies.

                A few years ago, I had some weird symptoms show up, seemingly overnight, I had to promise my friend that I was in fact eating, then seemingly as overnight as the symptoms showed up, they disappeared. A couple years ago some other weird symptoms showed up and just as mysteriously disappeared. This winter/spring, a horrible 12 weeks of weird and progressively worsening symptoms and the longest 8 week wait to find out what I already knew was wrong. It was MS (multiple sclerosis). I have the best kind you can get. Relapsing/Remitting MS, or as I like to call it, the trial version. When I decide I don’t like it, I will end up with the full secondary MS. 85% of RRMS turn into secondary progressive in 10-20 years. I am on meds and in the middle of another flare up now. 

You see, I have tried to do everything “right” in my life and if you told me this is what my life would look like, I would have laughed in your face. I am in my late 30’s divorced, single mom, with depression and anxiety, an eating disorder and MS. I can only say I get up every day because by the grace of God he grants me each new day. I can see all the ways he is constantly working in my life and preparing me for the next step/trial. He always gives me what I need, even if I can’t see it. He gives me the resources, the strength, but most importantly, he gives me the people who he uses to guide and strengthen me. I used to be so secretive about all my issues, afraid of what others may think, but I have learned the more I share, I take away some of the power that issue has hold over me. This has become so freeing, and I am thankful for those who have given and continue to give me the strength and support to press on; for being Jesus with skin which sometimes we just need. God is not done with me yet. I have two girls to continue to love and raise, Lord willing I will be here to complete it. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Mandy’s Story #8

Describe yourself: I am happily married, with the cutest golden retriever (Whiskey) and feel grateful for our sweet life. I’m 41 years old and have been a professional coach for 20 years. Next year I will be launching business with my best friend sharing our experience working in the self help industry and what we discovered is the untold truth about happiness: it is not found in a guru, money, or fame. Happiness is only found within. 

What are your biggest insecurities? 
My health issues and eating habits. I get migraines, and have many triggers I know I need to avoid. I’m insecure about going to parties, out to eat, and anything social because most of the food I can’t eat. I get uncomfortable when people ask me about my eating because I know how sensitive others get about their own eating. I don’t like it when people say “Sorry Mandy I’m eating this in front of you.” The last thing I want is for others to feel guilty about their eating habits around me. 

What are your biggest fears?
Losing my husband. I met him when I was 35 years old, and have witnessed two close friends lose their husbands tragically. This fear isn’t logical, my husband is loyal and healthy, but that is my deepest fear because I’m very happy and deeply in love. 

How do you get through your fears?
Speaking to close friends, and having a very good therapist. 

If married, what are the biggest struggles you have in your marriage?
Our political and social beliefs, and our eating habits. We are both very passionate with our beliefs, and it has been the one area that can bring out the ugliness in both of us. We rarely eat together because our diets are vastly different, it’s not really a struggle but more of an inconvenience. 

If ever divorced, what do you think caused the divorce? Do you ever regret getting the divorce? 
My husband was divorced when I met him, I’ve never been divorced but I believe divorce is necessary unfortunately. There are so many in toxic and abusive marriages who stay together just to avoid the stigma of divorce, to me that is sad. 

How do you get through those struggles in your marriage?
We have an incredible therapist on call. 🙂 

We also have rules: 
*Never insult one another 
*Never call each other names
*Never say “whatever” 
*Never say “we need to talk” 
*Never say “shut up”
*Never flip off the other 
*Never lie to one another
*Always kiss the other when one leaves
*Always text morning love text to whoever wakes up first 

If we do, the other has a 5 minute time out. We have successfully kept these rules in place for 7 years. 

What is a trial that you feel alone in?
The quest to cure my migraines. Everyone feels pity for me, but no one knows what to do. I feel alone in my search for answers and all the things I do to find answers. 

How do you get through that trial?
I listen a lot to Medical Medium podcast, and read about other success stories for inspiration. 
Meditation. Prayer. Yoga. Good friends, and my husband. 

Have you ever had something traumatizing happen to you? If comfortable sharing, what is it? 
My sister was put into a drug rehab program at 17 years old, I was 11 years old. This “rehab” was worse than prison. In fact there is a documentary being made about it because there has been a high suicide rate of those who were patients. I had to attend mandatory meetings every Monday and Friday for 9 months straight, while I briefly saw my sister being held like a prisoner. These meetings were abusive to me as a child (100xs worse for my sister). It was illegal how they were treating these young troubled kids, and my sister didn’t even have a drug problem. 

I was also in a very abusive relationship for 3 years. He was an alcoholic with a very scary angry problem. I had never experienced being called names, yelled at, and head butted twice leaving me with a black eye. Even though it was traumatic, I was grateful for this relationship because it led me into therapy that helped me heal the parts of me that were attracted to him in the first place. 

Do you feel like you are alone in life? If the answer is yes, What do you think could help you feel not alone? 

Rarely do I feel alone, because I would say my biggest accomplishment in life is having amazing friends. 

 What advice would you give someone going through similar trials? What are your biggest blessings?

Best advice I can give anyone is to invest in friendships. In our isolating culture we need a lot of support and the safety of being truly vulnerable with safe friends. 

Jessica’s Story #7

This amazing woman has a podcast that she does with her husband and ex-husband. I have had the pleasure of hearing her story in person. She is definitely living the 2nd greatest commandment to the fullest and I have so much respect for her.
If you want more details of her story, then go listen to her podcast, Husband in Law. The first episode and you’re hooked!! We were on our way to get family pictures taken when I got the email…  We were officially divorced. The irony of this moment has always made me laugh.  Yes we were almost divorced and I scheduled family pictures. Our daughter had just turned 2 and we had not had family pictures taken since she was born.  I wanted her to have those. I wanted her to know that even though her parents marriage ended in divorce, we loved each other for the seven years we were married and we planned on continuing to love each other.  I wanted her to see that she brought us so much joy and that she was treasured.  

You read that right, we got divorced even though we loved each other, were happy, and had a daughter.  We had created an amazing relationship that was strengthened because of the struggles we went through. But even though the struggles brought us together, they were also what separated us in the end. 

Six months into our marriage I stumbled upon gay porn on our computer and while I knew Steve, my husband, struggled with pornography (something we felt strongly was a detrement to our relationship) until that moment I had no idea it was gay porn.  I knew at that moment that he was gay, some thing Steve didn’t come to terms with until a year later.  

We stayed married because we were happy.  We loved each other. We were in a safe space to get to understand ourselves better which in turn brought us closer together.  But at some point the desire to experience what living a gay life would be like took over. One weekend when I was out of town, Steve had an affair with a man.  He thought he would be repulsed and disgusted. While he felt shame and was torn up for cheating on me, he also felt something that was natural to him and ultimately decided to leave our marriage. 

We got divorced.  I felt like I was losing my best friend and everything I had imagined my life would be.  In spite of this, I felt strong and confident. I realized I had grown, I had changed. I could make this new challenge into something beautiful, just as we had done in our marriage.  We had an unconventional marriage and now we could have an unconventional divorce. One that wasn’t full of anger and resentment but instead we filled it with love and understanding. It was not easy but it has been worth it.  

I remarried just a year and a half later.  I was lucky enough to find an amazing man who was willing to understand mine and Steve’s relationship.  Matt understood why it was important for me to keep a positive relationship with Steve. Matt loved me exactly as I was, he admired and appreciated my strengths and weaknesses.   That being said, Matt and I struggled deeply for the first 2 to 3 years of our marriage. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through. I thought this time around was supposed to be easier.  I had already been through so much, why was this happening? I was married to a straight man, who did not have an addiction to pornography. Why was this so hard? 

A year into our marriage, I had had it.  I was done. I had hit the point where I was struggling to see who I was.  I was worn down and tired. I was losing myself. So one night after Matt went to bed, I left him and note and went to my parents.  I accepted a full time job the next day, I had turned down a couple days before and started looking for places to live. It was going to be so easy to start over again.  I knew I was capable, but it was not what I wanted and I knew that.  

After talking to one of my church leaders I decided to go back.  I went back to our house just a couple days later. Matt was not happy I was there but I was determined.  I let go of all those things we tell ourselves we need to happen to make things right again. “If he does ‘this’, then I will go back.”  “If he apologizes and begs for me back then I will stay.” I let go of the entitlement I felt for things to be perfect, because I had already been divorced once, so things should be easier this time.  “I deserve this.” So I humbled myself even more, and hoped he would do the same. I knew that if we could make this work, we could do anything. I also knew we were perfect together we just. We just needed to figure out how to work through all of the crap we had been through in our first marriages.  It took a couple more years before things started to feel steady.  

We have been married for six and a half years now.  It was a lot of work but we are so happy together and are perfectly matched.  Right now my hardest struggles and insecurities have to do with being a step parenting.  It is hard to find my role and space in this position. Especially when there are so many things out of my control within that realm and so much negativity thrown in my direction from other people in our co-parenting dynamic.  I have to remind myself that I am doing my best. I am learning a whole new level of setting boundaries to protect myself and my family.  

My ex and I have an amazing relationship that brings so much joy into my life.  My daughter is doing amazing. She knows she has parents that love her. She enjoys the blessing of a bonus dad as well as bonus grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings.  I have a husband who pushes me to be my best self, to chase dreams I never thought I would even consider pursuing.  

I don’t have a perfect life but I have a life I love.  I know there will be more hard things to come but for the moment I am going to enjoy every blessing I get right here right now.  

My heart goes out to all of those who are struggling in their marriages with addictions, mixed orientation, remarriage, step parenting, and feelings of losing yourself and sense of self-worth. I share my story to help others know they are not alone.  Things might not go as planned but just because the plan changes does not mean you failed or that you can’t have a beautiful life. There is always hope.  

Her Story #6

I am a mother and a wife.  I am creative, talented, smart, and loyal.
I never feel good enough.  I have a hard time keeping up with everything.  
I worry I will never be happy.  I worry that my husband and kids all hate me.
My marriage has been very bumpy from the start.  It seems like if it is ok for a little bit I have to be prepared for a big fall.  The ups are less than the downs.  I have contemplated divorce a lot.  
We have tried counseling many times.  I have read books on marriage.  I have tried bettering myself.
I sometimes feel like no one has been as unsuccessful in their marriage as I have.  Yes, everyone has trials in their marriages, but I feel like it has been one big never ending trial.  I feel like everyone else has picture perfect marriages.  They all look so happy.
My mom was my dad’s second marriage.  His ex-wife was excommunicated from the church.  She had live in boyfriends that did things to my oldest half-brother.  My half-brother then sexually abused my brother, sister, and I.  My parents and I didn’t understand each other.  My dad sometimes hit me.  I remember hiding bruises from my friends.  My siblings didn’t like me.  I couldn’t wait to move out.  I was close to God, but that was it.  I thought about suicide.  My brother attempted suicide and moved out to a youth home for help.  I got married at age 20.  My husband and I fought a lot.  I was considering a divorce when I found out I was pregnant with our oldest.  Our relationship has bordered on abusive on and off.  I have thought about leaving many times.  My husband had an emotional affair with a woman at work.  He quit talking to me about anything and would email, text, and Facebook message the woman from work at all hours of the day.  I was seriously contemplating suicide.  Then, my oldest full brother committed suicide.  I had recently had our youngest child.  It was hard to grieve.  I blamed myself for his death because I had ignored several promptings to call and tell him Heavenly Father loved him.  My youngest had an accident and fell and hurt himself at a memorial for my brother.  The doctors said our youngest was ok, but it woke me up from grieving and I started to focus more on my kids again.  Recently our youngest was diagnosed with high functioning Autism among other things.  I can’t help feeling guilty and wonder if it is due to his fall.  I still struggle with thoughts of suicide.  
I feel very alone.  My kids prefer their father because he is the fun parent.  I am an introvert and not good with people.  My husband is charismatic and well liked.  I think in a different way than most people and find it hard to make close friends.  I prefer one on one friendships and avoid large groups.  I have made a few close friends, but they have moved and live in different states.  I don’t talk to people about my trials because I don’t want people to think less of me, my husband, or my family.
The thing that has helped me the most through all my trials has been a relationship with God.  Sometimes it was the only thing keeping me from being completely alone.  I have recently lost touch with that relationship and it has only made things worse.  Even though it is not easy, I would say that is the most important thing to give time to in your life.  Faith is very important in keeping perspective and hope.  
I am very blessed.  I have a beautiful home, good food, and all my needs met.  My husband recently got a job where he is much happier.  I have been able to be a stay at home mom and raise my kids.  I have great kids and my husband is a good man that loves the Lord (we don’t always get along, but he is a good man.)  I do love the gospel and am very grateful for the part it has played in my life.