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

Her Story: #3

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.

I have been married for almost 24 years.  We met in college and pretty much have been together ever since.  We have had lots of trials; infertility which led to adopting 2 babies from South Korea.  My husband has been laid off multiple times so we are always careful with money. We have had several family members die and we even moved across the country on a little more than a whim.  We are different religions, something my parents were ok with, his parents were not. 

The biggest trial had to do with our son, Sam.  When he was in third grade, it was like a switch was flipped.  He became angry, somewhat aggressive, sad, depressed, anxious, etc.  It took many years but when he was 15 he was finally diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  This was the fourth time he was tested. Not sure what caused all the anger. Was he bitten by a tick?  (He was diagnosed with Lyme when he was 17), was it something genetic? Was it PANS/PANDAS.

We tried all kinds of meds, therapies and tests. I took him to every doctor, listened to every suggestion.  Luckily I was a SAHM by this point because I would never have been able to keep a job.

I would get constant calls from all the schools he was in.  I would slink in, so embarrassed, not able to make eye contact. He threw tantrums at school, he destroyed property, he stole from us.  We felt broken. Sad. Angry. Our house, our lives were a living nightmare. We were exhausted. He would sneak into our rooms at night because he couldn’t sleep.  He was addicted to technology so we had to severely limit his usage. That made more fights. 

He was in 3B several times and we had to put him in a Group Home for awhile because we needed respite.  I didn’t think our marriage would recover. It is hard to see your spouse not get along with your child.  I was constantly in the middle of fights. I was beaten down and broken, literally. This all took a toll on my health.  I had back issues. I had pain, anxiety and depression. I cried a lot. My heart hurt. I was diagnosed with Lupus and Lyme, osteoporosis, infertility.  Hard to determine which came first and why.

We worked with what I referred to as The Posse; social workers, counselors, he had OT, VT and bio feedback.  With everything we did, it really was the biofeedback that made the biggest difference. Sam has a good heart, he is a GOOD kid but he couldn’t control himself.  We have been so lucky with great workers, teachers and doctors. They all seemed to see the GOOD in him.

This experience with Sam made me feel totally alone.  How could you tell people that your son stole from you?  Made holes in your walls? Broke your things? Was in 3B? He sounded like a monster.  I did know that some friends who knew, talked behind my back or openly “joked about it.”  It wasn’t funny. I didn’t trust anyone. I started isolating myself. Luckily I have a great Counselor.

His Junior and Senior years of high school were amazing.  He had a one on one para with him at school from Freshman year until the end of October of his Senior year.  For someone who is really smart, his grades weren’t great but the fact that he wasn’t having meltdowns and began advocating for himself was tremendous.  

Sam did 40 sessions of bio feedback and that has made the biggest difference.  That is my opinion because some doctors don’t agree. He graduated high school on time, has had a part time job and is taking 2 classes at the community college.  I never thought I’d see these days.

Sometimes he has a slip up and I am instantly transported back to those days.  Trusting him has been a process. It’s been difficult but we are trying. My husband and Sam have a better relationship but it could be better.  That is still a trial.

I am more open to talk about these times but it took a long time for me to get here.  If I can help another family go through something like this, I am happy to try. It is a very lonely feeling.

I also have a daughter who is 2 years younger than her brother.  She had to grow up quickly. She saw things she shouldn’t have had to.  I couldn’t hide my tears or fears. She was right there in the thick of it too.

Sometimes I get bitter.  Motherhood didn’t come easy for me and it has been one thing after another.  But I love my kids and I love my family. I know that we all have something going on in our lives.  Nothing and no one is perfect.