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

This Title is Hard to Swallow

When Dan and I were first married everyone was telling us to wait a year to have children and to get to know each other first.

I mean we just got married so clearly we know nothing about each other. We are still ignorantly thinking the other is perfection.

After visting my brother and meeting his fresh, new, nonjudgmental, non-damaged, baby, Dan and I knew we wanted kids right away. So we decided to start our little family.

Lucky for us, while on our honeymoon I got this HORRIBLE bladder infection. It was so painful I could not walk and I ended up going to the ER.

Now why is that lucky? Because when I was put on antibiotics for the infection it canceled out my birth control and BAM! We were pregnant with a honeymoon baby.

We both were jumping for joy and so happy to not even have to wait to become pregnant. But… almost 3 weeks later to the day I ended up getting deathly sick for about 6 months. I couldn’t eat or drink. I coudn’t even swallow my spit. I know Ewe! (Insert Jimmy Fallon) I was picc line fed every night for 14 hours, I had an in-home nurse, and there were several trips to the E.R., with very little to no showering. At that point I packed up the “honeymoon stage”, puked, and sent it packing.

Normally when your spouse has to wipe your butt you’re well into your 90’s. Unless you have some other arrangement and then to each their own. (shrug) You have had the time to grow and have some chidren. I would have never guessed Dan would be wiping my butt before one of our kids. Just saying. The romance is now dead.

To say our marriage was strained is an understatement. I would have moved out if I had a stable home or any home for that matter to go to. My dad was just sentenced to 4 years in prison and my mom had just moved in with her mom. I absolutely didn’t see it at the time, but now I see that, that “problem” was a blessing. I had to stay and deal with the strains of our marriage. The strain of becoming severly sick and a non-existent human being.

After Ezekiel was born our relationship started to attempt to crawl out of the vomit I burried it in and clean itself off. Except I did something crazier then Kanye West going gospel, I got pregnant AGAIN!! Now I am not saying Zara was an accident because she was not. But! I was nursing full time a 4 month old baby! Yes, you can get pregnant while nursing full time. Luckily I wasn’t as sick with her but I did get deathly sick with the next 2. All my boys about took me out. The girls made me sick but spared Dan wiping my butt.

You can only imagine that our marriage needed some tender loving care and the memory swiper from Men in Black. We both had our views of what happened. I was holding resentment at what I felt was unfair treatment. He was frustrated with his brand new shiny wife becoming sick and lets be honest probably a little peaved for having to wipe my butt. I wasn’t exactly sure how to come back from that but I knew I was going to try.

I was then introduced to a book written by Dr. Laura called, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. I know ladies the title alone makes you want to find the nearest husband and punch him in the face. I can’t remember who introduced me to it but I am glad they did.

As I started reading it my death grip loosened a bit and I found myself nodding in agreement. I started thinking, this is genius!!! and so is Dr. Laura!

The book title is a guise to get men to think it’s about proper care and feeding of them, but what it really is are tricks and tips on how to get your husband to do exactly what you want!! It only takes a few statements and gestures to have your husband putty in your hands.

For example, when they walk through the door from work you say, “Hello, how was your day?” Bam!! That’s it!! Mind blowing crap like that all through the book! OR, Let them sit down and take a minute before telling them how you want to adopt out the kids. I did this with my husband and it totally worked! He started seeing that I was trying to put him first and caring about his feelings. Then the darnedest thing happened, he started doing the same exact thing for me!

Then it became habit for both of us.

I am not saying that all our problems stopped with Dr. Laura and I now send her a Christmas card every year. But it helped me to realize that if I want a change in my marriage, it has to start with me. I have to swallow my pride and read the book with a title that could kill a feminist right where she stands. If you can’t read the feminist killing titled book that could potentially help your marriage, then I am going to go out on a limb and say, that is why your marriage is hurting. Pride. What is the end goal you want to have? To win? Or to have a healthy, thriving marriage?

Pam’s Story: #4

These stories are to help others, not to be criticized, judged, or looked down on. If I see any comments that look even a bit judgmental I will remove them and block you. This is your only warning.

Describe yourself:
I am a strong 53 year old woman who has been married for 31 years and has raised two amazing daughters age 20 and 23.  I went back to work 3 years ago as a psychotherapist after taking almost 20 years off to be the primary director of our family life.  I have extraordinary relationships with my daughters and husband and am grateful for our time together.  

What are your biggest insecurities? 
My biggest insecurities are around my abilities…am I good enough to do what I do…I have imposter syndrome. 

What are your biggest fears?  
My biggest fears are something bad will happen to my family.  I also fear financial insecurities…

How do you get through your fears?  
I get through the fears by trying not to focus on it…just having faith that everything will be ok.

If married, what are the biggest struggles you have in your marriage? 
My biggest struggles happened after we were married around 10 years.  We had 2 young children and were in the start up years of our first business.  I felt like my husband was always focused on work, even when home he was only half here.  I felt neglected and became more distant as a result.  Our relationship suffered and we began to disconnect from each other. 

How do you get through those struggles in your marriage?  
We learned to really talk to each other.  We went to counseling and really started talking about expectations and how we could meet each others expectations.  For instance, he didn’t have to come home every night for dinner and bedtime rituals, but I needed to know when he was going to come home so I can learn what to expect from him.  I became very open and honest about what I needed and what I was willing to do if he was not able to meet my needs.  

What is a trial that you feel alone in?  
I’m not sure that I really feel alone anymore.  When I was having struggles in my relationship, I definitely felt alone.  I think that from the outside we put on the image we want to portray to others – but it is not real. 

How do you get through that trial?
I have learned to be more congruent with the people in my own circle.  If I am afraid, or stressed, I learned to talk about it – to trust other people.  Letting other people in was the biggest adjustment for me – and the biggest gift.  When you let other people in you learn the true meaning of friendship.  

Have you ever had something traumatizing happen to you? If comfortable sharing, what is it?  It’s traumatizing in a different way…my dad became sick when I was 10 but my parents didn’t talk about it.  I came home from a visit with my grandparents and my dad was picking me up from the airport.  I had a fantasy of running into his arms and him picking me up.  However, instead of that fantasy, my dad was standing slumped to the left, he looked disheveled, and he didn’t hug me.  For months I was told he was just tired.  I discovered my dad had MS by reading papers on the kitchen table.  The next 6 years were filled with medical trials and tribulations that ended with my father dying in a nursing home when I was 16. 

What advice would you give someone going through similar trials?  
I think the most important thing is to talk about what you are going through.  Everyone has a story – there isn’t one person who is walking around that doesn’t have a scar from something – no one goes through life “unscathed”.  

What are your biggest blessings? 
 My biggest blessings are my family.  I have a partner who is always pushing me to be a better version of myself and showing me each day how much he appreciates me.  He has become an “all in”  father and partner and even my children know this.  I have learned that we cannot control other people, we only control ourselves.  When we make changes then everything shifts – and we always have choices.