The One That Started It All

August 19, 2013.

The night before senior year. I should have felt euphoric. Looking forward to all the “lasts”: last first day of high school, last football game, last pep rally, last homecoming, prom, last last day.

My classmates were filled with excited jitters, quickly texting in group chats and tweeting like crazy.

I should have been texting. Tweeting. Excited. Happy.

But instead, I was with you. Frozen under your grasp. You and I under a blanket. Your friend just feet away. I had no idea why I froze and went silent while you violated me. But I would find out. I would find out what that response was and what it meant. I would learn that I had frozen before. Learn? Remember. I would remember.

You were the one. That night was the night. The one that started it all.

That night, frozen under your grasp, started the years of remembering. The memories I would never be able to forget again.

What you did wasn’t even “that bad”.

God, I hate that I still say that.

But compared to other experiences I would have 3 months, 3 years, 5 years later, it wasn’t “that bad”.

Yet forgiveness escapes me because you were The One. The one that started it all. Or restarted it I suppose.

The one that started the floods of memories. The nights full of nightmares. The one that taught me what “intrusive memories” mean. Like what it reeeaaaalllyyyyy means.

You are the one that left me susceptible to him. And him. And him. And him.

Because of you, I learned what anxiety, depression, lack of self-worth, dissociation, nightmares, and flashbacks are.

You are the one that started my journey of learning and researching. I learned the definition of PTSD…..aaallllll too well. I learned that I was hurt long before you. Would I have ever known if it weren’t for you? Man what a concept. Obviously I’ll never know. Because of you. You were the one.

I hate you so much. But it isn’t even YOU that I hate. I hate what you started. I hate that you reminded me. I hate that the memories of that night, and every night before, and every day, every night after, replay in my mind day and night. I hate that I break into panic attacks at the smallest trigger. I hate that my anxiety is so high I can’t function and my depression gets so low that I can’t stand.

You were the One. The one who ruined the new school year. My senior year and every one after that. You are the one that makes August feel chilling instead of warm and scary instead of fun. The one that hurt me so badly you unlocked the vault I had slammed shut a decade before.  You were the one that made me quit therapy. Lose friends. Cycle through coping mechanism after coping mechanism. You were the one that taught me what abuse is. The one that retaught me, I mean. I keep forgetting. Because you were the one.

The one that started it all.

What It’s Like to Have PTSD

What is it like to live with PTSD? What is a day in the life?

PTSD is constantly being on guard: tense muscles, constant exhaustion, debilitating anxiety.

PTSD is looking behind you while you walk down the sidewalk…..even in broad daylight.

It is the fear that someone will see which building you walk into and know where you live.

PTSD is fearing the guy in the elevator will see which apartment you live in.

It is questioning everyone’s motives when they make a change in plans: are they doing that to follow me or to get me cornered? Why isn’t he getting off the elevator on this floor? Am I safe here? What if he hurts me?

PTSD is having flashbacks when your spouse looks into your eyes a certain way.

It is cringing at the cry of a newborn because she is so helpless and you don’t know how to protect her.

PTSD is all day anxiety and panic attacks through the night. Chest tightening, tears streaming, hands shaking, can’t catch your breath attacks.

It is your heart racing while you do nothing but lay motionless in your bed.

PTSD is using coping skill after coping skill, as each one fails you.

It is praying for an end to the crippling fear and anxiety.

Feeling alone in a house full of people.

PTSD is no longer being able to watch your favorite TV shows; or date someone with a certain name; or eat that specific food; or go to the movie theatre down the block.

It is pushing everyone away because no one is safe and you can only trust yourself.

It is waking up wishing you hadn’t and making plans of how to end it all if it gets to be too much.

PTSD is lying in bed, unable to sleep. Or fighting to stay awake for fear of the nightmares.

PTSD is crying in the fetal position. Lying on the bathroom floor sobbing. Wanting someone to come rescue you; to hold you tight enough all your brokeness is glued back together.

It is being too resistant to relationships or to physical touch that you can never get clsoe enough for that to happen anyway.

PTSD is never knowing if you will have a great day with joy and bliss or be triggered and suffer anxiety attack after anxiety attack.

It is being unsure if you will hop out of bed and take on the day; Or remain curled up, shaking, unable to fathom rolling out of bed.

PTSD is swirling thoughts and uncertain emotions.

It is spending hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours on therapy, just to have yourself overwhelmed by the emotion of processing and out of commission for days after.

PTSD is cuts on your arms and burns down your legs: because that’s the only thing that makes you feel alive.

It is coping in any way you know how, whether or not it is beneficial.

PTSD is a nightmare.

One you never wake up from.

40 Non-Food Related Lenten Resolutions

Lent is often a time where people make sacrifices and fast. Usually, that takes the form of fasting from food or giving up some specific item (chocolate, sugar, bread, soda) But there are plenty of people for whom “giving up” foods can be detrimental: pregnant women, those with histories of disordered eating, people with medical conditions.

For me personally, giving up foods can be really triggering and harmful, rather than it being a genuine sacrifice that can lead me along in my faith in preparation for Easter.

So, I decided to make a list of 40 non-food related resolutions you can try!

  1. Yoga pants/Sweat pants: it is a sacrifice of comfort, convenience, and modesty
  2. Your bed: sleep on the floor or the couch, again, giving up comfort
  3. Hot water/Hot showers
  4. Socks: big sacrifice if you live in cold weather….especially if you have tile floors :/
  5. Snooze button: get up on the first ring of your alarm!
  6. TV
  7. Social media: even if it is a specific platform. Spend that time intentionally instead: Read a book, pray, reaching out to friends
  8. Using your phone: I gave up this 2 years ago. Gave up using my phone while commuting. I spent this time praying or intentionally looking at my surroundings, greeting others on the bus. Set a time: no phone after 7pm, no phone while with family, etc.
  9. Your favorite blanket, stuffed animal, comfort item for sleeping
  10. Jewelry: Simplicity, humility, modesty
  11. Your wardrobe! Pick 5 items and wear only that for Lent: 2 t-shirt, 1 pair of pants, sweater, etc. Camisoles, under garments and work-out clothes are freebies! This idea comes from Leah Darrow, who is an amazing speaker! Check her out!
  12. The dishwasher: all about that sacrifice and intentionality as you can see! Spend your time washing dishes meditating, praying, making a gratitude list for the day; talking with your kids or spouse.
  13. Disposable dishes: no paper plates, no disposable silverware, no styrofoam or plastic cups; Only reusable water bottles and coffee mugs
  14. Your car: take public transportation, walk or bike when you can. This can increase humility, help you get more active
  15. Nail polish
  16. Make-up: simplify and humble yourself
  17. Uber/Lyft: again, walk, take the bus, etc. Donate the money you save too!
  18. Cussing
  19. Complaining
  20. Arguing: with your spouse, partner, siblings, parents, etc.
  21. Yelling: at the kids, the dog, your partner, in general
  22. Negative self-talk: Replace it instead with positive affirmations….I am loved, I can do this, I will grow stronger
  23. Any form of self-harm: this includes things that are less recognized, like talking down to oneself or putting yourself in situations where you could be hurt or taken advantage of
  24. Dating: if you are a serial dater, take a dating fast. Spend time on yourself. Get to know yourself better
  25. Spending money on non-necessities: of course, still pay your bills, buy groceries, get your medicine. But limit yourself from going out to the movies or picking up impromptu items when you are upset, sad, or bored
  26. Gossip: commit to not speaking about others when they are not around. Walk away from situations where people are spreading gossip
  27. Alcohol
  28. Impatience: practice being more patient and present with your loved ones. Take a deep breath before answering, walk away if the heat of the moment is too much.
  29. Music: I use music and/or podcasts during my commute too. So instead, you can use that time in the car or on the bus to meditate, think about what you are grateful for, pray, or look around at your surroundings and really learn to appreciate the nature, people, and things around you 🙂 This can also help with clearing your mind of negative or hurtful language and topics, if the music you listen or what comes on the radio is full of cussing, adult themes, etc.
  30. Smoking: this could be cigarettes, vaping, hookah, or even marijuana, as that has become more popular and legalized across several states
  31. Bad habits: nail biting, skin-picking, leaving dirty clothes lying around; whatever it might be for you!
  32. Your credit card: use only the money you have, no charging or racking up debt
  33. Working from home: unless of course you actually do work from home. Give up checking emails, responding to texts, etc. when not at work. Set limits for yourself.
  34. Your pillow: if you feel like you can’t give up your whole bed, at least put the pillow away for 40 days. It is still a big sacrifice!
  35. The microwave: I did this last year and man, oh man, was it hard! Originally, I did it so I could intentionally cook my meals and pray and contemplate while doing so. But then it turned into additional sacrifices because I had leftovers that I ate cold the next day
  36. Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts/Buying lunch/Etc.: instead of buying your coffee, tea, or breakfast each morning, make it at home. Collect all that money you saved and donate it instead!
  37. Procrastinating: This is one I could probably use myself :/ Get that stuff done!
  38. Netflix/Hulu/Etc.: spend your time more intentionally with a good book, extra time with your family, going for a walk
  39. Big box stores: Instead of going to the chain grocery store or other big box places, support local businesses instead! (if you can’t totally give up your regular routine in #36, try local coffee shops instead)
  40. Your favorite lotion: if you are like me (and live in cold weather), giving up lotion altogether would be disastrous and result in very chapped hands. But you can at least sacrifice the fancy, yummy-smelling lotions and fragrances and opt for the simple creams.

A Decade of Joys and Hardships

I was sooo totally NOT gonna do the whole year/decade-in-review thing that it seemed everyone else on the internet was doing. Instead, I decided to just mentally inventory some pros and cons of the last 10 years for myself. After all, it feels like there will be no other 10 year span that contains so much personal development than ages 14 to 24.

But when I began trying to recall a pro and con for each year, it became painstakingly obvious that it was much easier to recall the hardships than it was to think of the good things that have occurred across the decade. Even the things that should be reflected on positively, I view through a tainted lens at times. And that led me to ponder just how much change can occur in 10 years. Full of joys, accomplishments, and adventures; also bursting with sorrow and difficulties: isn’t that just life?

Let’s start at the beginning……

2010 was the year I “graduated” 8th grade (as you do in private schools), which meant it was also the first year since I entered kindergarten that I would be attending a new school in the fall. Beginning high school is a milestone, for sure, and like many other 14 year-olds, I wanted to believe that 2010 would be just like the movies.

But instead, I traded straight As with little effort, being a 3-sport “athlete” (they don’t cut in grade school, okay?) and on student council, for drowning myself in books, desperately trying to maintain that star-student reputation, being cut from the basketball team, and having separate classes from the only friends I knew.

2011 was the year my brother graduated high school: a probable highlight for him, but something that turned out to be less fun for me. As he moved out that summer, to begin his training as a college athlete, I quickly learned I did not like being an only child with all the parental attention on me.

Because freshmen year had been so demanding academically, my friends had moved on to befriend peers from other grade schools, and it seemed my brother was the talk of the town having gone to a Division I school to play football, 2011 is marked, for me, by the first time I had suicidal thoughts.

The night before school was to be back in session, I stood in the darkened kitchen, tears streaming down my face, a bottle in my shaking hands. I took a few pills and then a thought flashed into my mind. If I died, would my brother give up his dream of playing division I college football? I promised myself that night I would not be the reason he abandoned his dream. So, I told myself, as long as he was playing football, I would not take my own life: I had no idea then how fateful that promise would become in the following two years. I put the bottle back into the cabinet and went to bed.

By the fall of 2011, my brother had contracted mono. The diagnosis was discovered accidentally during routine going-to-college bloodwork. He never had any actual symtpoms. Yet, that fall, when a lump appeared on the side of Nick’s head, all the doctors said it must be left over from the mono. “Nothing to worry about” seemed to become just about the only phrase a medical profressional could utter.

By December, my brother realized just how taxing, both physically and mentally, juggling college football, classes, and a proper social life could be. So, he decided to quit the football team….felt too worn out physically, like he couldn’t keep up. The day my mom told me Nick wasn’t playing anymore, that night back in August popped into my head. But sophomore year was MUCH easier academically, and I had formed a solid friend group at school; so it was nothing but a fleeting thought.

2012: my mom dubbed it “the year from hell”.

With that title, it is easy to forget that I spent spring break that year in Italy with classmates and attended what ended up being that pope’s last Easter blessing over St. Peter Square. A Catholic girl’s dream come true!

The lump on Nick’s face was still there and it was beginning to look a little unsightly. So, for cosmetic purposes only, a surgeon agreed to remove it: reiterating repeatedly that there was no medical reason to do so.

May 17, 2012. I was approaching a red light, exiting the highway, on my way from a class field trip to my cousin’s second birthday party. My mom called, sounding stoic, and told me to stop at home first. There, I found her sobbing on the couch; her best friend holding her. My mom told me Nick had cancer. With one apologetic phone call from the doctor, my family’s entire world got turned upside down.

We spent that summer playing card games in the chemo clinic and monitoring my brother for fevers. The day of Nick’s first treatment, my cousin had a baby boy in the very same hospital. From the start, my family’s cancer journey was bittersweet: always intertwined with something beautiful.

By October, Nick was declared cancer-free: a sense of relief falling over our entire community. We were so excited, that that year, we decided to extend my parent’s annual Christmas party into a surprise “no more chemo” party for Nick, since his treatments finished the day before. I secretly notified his friends from college and the party went off without a hitch……until the following Tuesday when Nick spiked a fever and ended up in the hospital just days before Christmas.

Nick was home for Christmas that year: got out just in time. On New Year’s my family was so happy for a fresh start in 2013. Nick returned to school in January with a clean bill of health, and that meant I no longer had any distraction from the relentless bullying that had been taking place at school.

The scratches that I subconsciously made on my arms became cuts, increasingly getting deeper and deeper. Though I didn’t realize it then, now looking back, the first four months of 2013, I made more suicide attempts than I could even count. I spent my brother’s golden birthday getting admitted to the psych unit after confiding in a new friend from church. Oddly enough, I was so relieved when the therapist told my parents to take me to the hospital. “Finally” I thought….”some real help”. Unfortunately, as I have come to learn well, an admission to the psychiatric unit does not necessarily mean people will see how much pain you are in.

I was released 5 days later. Nothing at all had changed, except for the fact that while I was gone, my mom (disguised as me) signed me up to be class president senior year.

The school I had begged to tranfer out of, the one I had no friends at, was now the very one I would apparently be leading through student government.

The rest of 2013 was about the same. Seven months after my stint in the hospital, on my parents wedding anniversary, I ended up in the ER again. No admission this time. Since I was 18 now, things were apparently a lot different.

Within the same year, I was sexually assaulted and then raped on two separate occassions. From 2013 on, my whole life, it seemed, would revolve around trying to forget those days and the lifetime of memories they helped to resurface. In July, my grandpa died; a few weeks later, I turned 18, traveled to Hawaii and went parasailing for the first time.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Because, of course, life is just a bunch of joyous and sucky times all intertwined together. I did not end up leaving that high school. But I spent only a few hours a day there each morning and got ahead in my college work at the local university through post-secondary classes. I found a new, amazing group of friends in my youth group, something that likely would never have happened had the bullying, rapes, and suicidal tendencies not also occured.

2014 brought my high school graduation. I was more than ready to leave that school and my hometown in the rearview as I moved to the big city. This year was perhaps the biggest in terms of positive changes in my life: I got my first real job (which ended up leading me to find a passion for my future career), I graduated, moved to Chicago, and began college studying psychology. I made a lot of new friends at school, some came and went, others stuck around. I lost friendships too: lost touch with people back home, had a few falling outs with those friends from church I thought would be forever by my side. 2014 into 2015 brought a lot of grief with friendships, that’s for sure.

2015 I finished my first year of college,worked for the city fire department, moved into my first apartment solo, and picked up a minor in American Sign Language (something else I have to attribute to that first “real” job” back in high school). Living alone for the first time certainly had ups and downs. I enjoyed the time to decompress after a long day, but It did get lonely sometimes; especially after a year of dorm living where friends were just a knock at the next door.

In 2016, after finishing my sophomore year of college, I spent 5 weeks volunteering in Sri Lanka. A trip of a lifetime in so many ways. It afforded me the opportunity to dive into a completely different culture; I was gaining experience within my chosen career field; it looked amazing on a resumé, which landed me an internship that turned into a job in 2017 and 2018; and talk about independence: flying across the world completely alone, to meet total strangers and work in a second world country.

As much as I wish I could say Sri Lanka was the perfect once-in-a-lifetime trip they advertise, it should be obvious by now that nothing is black-and-white in life. Nothing is all good or all bad. So, while I did gain invaluable experience working in psychiatric hospitals, living like a true local with my host family, forming intimate friendships with people from all over the world, and shadowing psychiatrists in a foreign country, I also experienced things in Sri Lanka that cut me deep into my core.

We were warned day 1 at our training that we ought to be vigilant. Many people in the local villages did not care for foreigners, and understandably so. (That whole white savior thing). On top of that, as far as their culture has come in treating women more equally, there is still a long way to go. So, as a white-passing, female volunteer, we were warned that things may happen and we were told the proper protocols to follow. Unforuntately, the supervisor was a very overworked new English graduate, just a year or two older than me at the time. So when I reported the assault that happened on the local bus, it was pushed aside by more “pressing” matters.

Thanks to my hypervigilance after that, I took some xanax and ended up sleeping it off alone in my hostel the eve of my 21st birthday while all the other volunteers celebrated the weekend off. I spent my birthday laying on the beach, drinking cocktails, but the anxiety and low self-esteem lingered inside.

Just 6 days later, I would find myself separated from my friends, pushing my hotel door closed as the manager of that hotel held it open with his foot, begging to come in. I glanced quickly at the lock and realized there was not chain like American hotels. More than twice my age and size, this man had a key to my room and I feared what would happen if he entered after I was asleep. With that, my arms gave out and I released the door. The manager came in and we…..I was……how to label this evening still haunts me. I did **eventually** say yes; after much protesting physically and verbally. So, what that constitutes, I’m still not sure. But I know it is not a fond memory looking back.

Later in 2016, I was a bridesmaid for the first time! The parties and festitivies leading up to the wedding were more fun than I  could have imagined previously. And the wedding itself was gorgeous: it’s been referred to as “the wedding of the century” in my family.

In 2017, I went on a date. Everything seemed okay at the time. Then things got blurry as I passed out in the comedy bar bathroom. Someone led me to my date and he took me home. I woke up bruised and sore the next morning, trying to piece together what happened.

I started interning at the children’s hospital and found my heart strings pulled every time I was there. I saw my own face reflected in the patients on the psychiatric floor. And their stories echoed my own.

That internship became a full-fledged job in 2018, after I earned my bachelor’s degree. I walked in the ceremony just one week post-bridesmaid again. This time the wedding was in Colorado. I looked great in the dress, so I am told. A feat that I accomplished by systematically starving myself from the fall of 2017 through the wedding date in June 2018. The stress of being in a wedding, standing next to my gorgeous cousins (again), and the deep need to take back control over my life in the only way I knew how manifested itself in my not eating for days at a time; subsisting on coffee and water alone; falling asleep midday from lack of energy, and sometimes having to literally crawl around my apartment for fear of passing out.

To this day, I am not sure exactly what motivated me to start eating more normally again. But, as has been the case in my life before, even the bad times have their value. The poor experiences I had in ERs and hospitals as a teenager and my deep-seated fear of my parents discovering how anxious, depressed, and suicidal I was, pushed me enough to eat little-by-little, until the compliments on my body stopped coming, and the critiques restarted in full force.

Fall of 2018 I began graduate school in clinical counseling. The dream of that 18-year-old me, impassioned by the therapists that surrounded me at my first “big girl job” coming true before my very eyes. That was just weeks after attending the funeral of an acqauintence and former coworker who had taken her own life at just 22 years old.

2019 was spent living with my two best friends….and then moving out after the great schism that tore apart their friendship and left me wounded in the crossfire. I was set to move in with my friend J. She and I went apartment hunting one night….the next night she texted me from the hospital after a suicide attempt. I bawled on the bathroom floor, sobbing into my classmate’s ear through the phone that I of all people should have seen this coming. I should have been able to stop it.

J moved home to Maryland and I found an apartment on my own again. My brother got engaged and I’m in another wedding. In the summer, I met a nice guy online and by September, I had my first real boyfriend. My college roommate from freshmen year, the one that became my best friend; she got engaged too so now that makes 2 more bridesmaid dresses to fit into.

Over the holidays, I went home and spent Christmas with my family. My cousin had another baby and I was grateful to be there for that. We now have 7 kiddos on that side of my family, and one more on the way.

I saw streams of engagements and pregnancy announcements via social media. It’s funny to think that at the end of last decade I planned to be married by now. Ring by 24 and first kid by 26. That’s what I always wanted.

Three days into 2020, I have 6 weddings to attend, at least 3 bachelorette parties, 4 bridal showers, 1 baby shower,  a baptism for the baby I was just asked to be godmother to, and, of course, I am graduating yet again. I won’t be walking across the stage at the ceremony this time, but I think 3 graduations is enough for one decade.

Reflecting on this past decade, I cannot believe the amount of change that has taken place. I know little of what the next ten years holds. Several weddings and more babies to come, I am sure. I pray my own wedding and babies will come this next decade. I will (hopefully) get my first job using my newest degree and become fully licensed in the next few years.

Likewise, I am sure I will say goodbye to more people, as well. There will be friends that will lose touch; people will move to different states; some will pass away. There will be many tears shed and a lot of laughter and good memories, too.

It is hard to imagine what 10 years can look like. In 2030, I am sure I will be looking back and laughing at the things I am stressed about now. Some things seem so unbearable, so insurmountable at the time. Yet, with perspective, some of the greatest joys have taken place within the same time frame.

That’s life, after all. Just a bunch of joys and hardships, all intertwined together.

Screaming

I feel like I’m screaming,

I am begging for help.

“I’m not safe, I’m so sick, I’m numb and I’m lost”

There’s the jeans, the wedding, but all at what cost?

Forget the weight, control, and that certain look.

This thing snuck back in and became my own crook.

Now it’s just coping and dealing with stress.

Why can’t anyone see I’m trying my best?

I feel like I’m screaming,

I am begging for help.

I tell friends, therapists and peers,

Yet all I am given is more and more tears.

There are some that give aid,

But what’s worse? No food or the blade?

I feel all alone,

Yet I keep reaching out.

My voice when I ask must not be too loud.

What other excuse could there be?

To hear and see the pain yet ignore my desperate plea?

I feel like I’m screaming,

I am begging for help.

Slowly, I grow tired and want to give up.

I’ve asked and I’ve begged, yet little has come

From my efforts to stand and not feel quite so numb.

Don’t say I ain’t trying,

I have begged, pleaded, and haven’t been lying.

Why can’t anyone hear me as I shout?

I  don’t want to go back down this route.

Yet I’ve been left with no choice

I can’t do this alone; no one hears my scared voice.

I feel like I’m screaming,

I am begging for help.

The Missing Piece of My Story

TW: some details of rape included

It is not a total secret that I’ve been raped. While it’s not something I necessarily share easily, I am also relatively open about much of my past with important people in my life and those who I feel would benefit from hearing it. The rapes that occurred throughout the past five years of my life are something I have written about on this blog before.

However, there is a part of my story that I share with very, very few people. I have told a few friends but even that I regret because they do not seem to grasp the meaning this piece of my story holds for me.

This part of my story is a detail that I hold very close to my heart and think about often, though I rarely share how it continues to impact me. It impacts me so greatly, I believe, because it is a perfect intersection of my values (of which very few around me share) and the experiences I have had. This part of my story shaped my faith, my values, and my passion in ways no other piece of the story has. Because I have shared about my experiences of being raped before, I’ll skip to the part that I’ve held dear and quiet for so long. But a warning here, this is not going to be an easy story to read.

We will pick up near the end of that cold November day over five years ago……

“Are you on the pill?” his gruff voice brings me back to reality with the whisper in my ear. Internally, I scream and even more tears spill down my face. I hadn’t even had the thought cross my mind.

“N-n-o,” I muster.

“WHAT THE HELL!” his voice booms as he slaps me across the face. “I’m not going to be raising any baby of yours!”

Like I would ever even want that, I think to myself.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he gets off of me. My crying, pleading, begging and fighting had had no effect. Yet, the potential that he could have impregnated me had him jump off the bed faster than I could have imagined was possible.

“Clean yourself up,” he snaps as he heads up the stairs.

Staring at my tear-stained face in the mirror, I close my eyes and pray that I am not pregnant.

I gently put my clothes back on over my sore body and slowly climb the stairs of Hell. He tries to wrap me in a hug but I push past him, muttering something about having to get to class.

I climb into my car and race down the street, barely checking for traffic before whipping out of the driveway. Once I felt a safe distance from that house of horrors, I pulled to the side and googled “when is a female fertile”.

18 years old with no sex education. I was as naive as they come. All I knew for sure was that I was nowhere near ready to care for a baby, my dreams of leaving my hometown for college were crashing down in front of me, and when sharing the news that I was pregnant with my parents, I would quickly become homeless.

The google search bar finally loaded. I pulled up my calendar and matched it to the search engine findings.

I tossed my head back against the head of the seat in utter pain and fear. November 22, 2013 was one of my most fertile days of the month.

I threw my phone onto the console and began driving toward the hospital. I was scared, in pain, and in utter disbelief. Thoughts ran through my head so quickly…..when should I call my parents? Should I let the nurses do it? Should I lie? Maybe I could avoid telling them altogether and instead intercept the insurance claim when it came in the mail. What will I say when I walk up to the hospital triage? When they call the local rape crisis center, will they send one of the two counselors there that work for my dad? Will they send my own therapist, the one I’d been seeing for months?

I’d seen movies. The image of a nurse holding a silver tray with two or three pills on it telling me which one of the three was optional burned into my mind. A whole new set of thoughts. Would I take it? Could I stand never knowing? What would I tell my parents, my aunt, all of my family and friends if I did take it?

All at once, these thoughts flooded my overwhelmed teenage brain. I turned the car around and I drove to class. I knew if my dad left without seeing my car in the parking lot, he’d call my mom and the manhunt would begin. And I knew that that was not the way I wanted my parents to find out that their 18-year-old, high school daughter had made the stupid decision to go over to a guy’s house whom she had only met once, in the middle of a Friday afternoon. That was not the way I wanted to tell my parents I’d been raped. That was not the state I wanted to be in when I got into the fight about whether or not I had had sex, if I had sinned, if I was pregnant.

Still in shock, feeling completely alone in a hazy, fogged mind, I picked up my cell phone and called my best friend.

“I…I’ve been…I….I just had sex.” I stammer, unable to even formulate the truth into words. “And I think I might get pregnant.”

I confirm with T what my google search had told me. She agrees that it is possible, if not probable, that I  could conceive.

“You have to go buy the pill. I’ll go with you. I’ll buy it for you!” my friend’s voice gets increasingly urgent through the phone.

All I knew at that point was that I had to get to class before my dad left campus. I told my friend I’d call her later.

Not sure what was taught that day in Introduction to Psychology 120. But I know I was there. In pain, scared out of my mind, and wanting nothing more than to burn the clothes on my body.

The next couple of days consisted of more google searches: how long until a pregnancy test shows positive, how much does Plan B cost, how long after sex is Plan B effective, nearest Planned Parenthood. T and I went to Walmart the following week. By then it was cutting it close whether it would even be effective anymore. I had finally made my decision. I wasn’t going to take the Plan B. I could not live not knowing what could have happened. Instead, I’d wait the most agonizing few weeks of my life. I’d find out whether I was pregnant (which I was thoroughly convinced by this point that I was) and I would have an abortion.

For the first time in my life, I saw the issue from the other side. I felt what it was like to be the terrified teenager who could not fathom raising a child, or even carrying one to term. I knew what it meant to have no other options and only to know that without this, my life would be put on hold. I’d lose my family, my home, many friends, and a lot of respect from most everyone around me. I’d be jeopardizing my future, my graduation, college, awards, and so much more.

So I made my decision and I put it into motion: I made the appointment, I bought the pregnancy tests, I planned how and when I would drive outside the city limits so as not to be seen and get the abortion.

It was another typical afternoon during those agonizing first weeks. I was home alone after school and sitting in my dad’s recliner, watching TV. Out of nowhere, I noticed my hands were resting perfectly on both sides of my belly, as if cradling a baby; the same position I had seen my cousins do time and time again while pregnant. Without warning, an image I had once seen on Twitter popped into my head: a teenage girl looking downcast at a pregnancy test, thinking to herself “my mom is going to kill me” pasted above a photo of an ultrasound, with the fetus thinking the same thing.

I was awestruck. Again, the thoughts raced: where would I live, how would I tell my parents and friends and family, how would this affect my ability to continue in school, what would I do if I could not go to college…. I still didn’t know much. But I knew enough. I knew that if I was indeed pregnant, I could not terminate. Instead, I would just have to figure everything else out around this new baby.

I cancelled the appointment at the clinic. I kept the pregnancy tests hidden in my room for when I could finally use them. In the meantime, I was purely convinced. I was so sure that I had become pregnant in the worst way possible, with a son more specifically. As sure as I was that I would need an abortion, I was that much more sure now that I would somehow have to navigate my senior year of high school, graduation summer, and the beginning of my first year of college pregnant. It sounds so silly, but I actually even chose a name. Really, the name chose me. It just came to me one day. I knew this baby, should there be one, was going to be my strength to get through all the consequences and hardships headed my way. This baby was a gift to me. He was my strength and my gift; and with that, I had a name. The idea of a baby gave purpose to the question I had cried myself to sleep repeating for weeks: why.

It made sense that if I was meant to raise a baby, if a baby was going to be born to teach me something or to impact my life in the way I knew it would at 18, then there was a reason. There was a solid and tangible reason why I had been raped.

The nervous anticipation was now coupled with a sense of joy and even, dare I say, a small bit of relief. At least my big existential question had been answered. I would figure everything else out along the way. Weeks passed, and I took the test….then another….and one more to be sure. They all read the same: negative. I suspect most high school girls would be elated if they saw that outcome of three different pregnancy tests. But for me, the devastation, anger, and confusion all came flooding back with each failed test.

If I was not meant to carry a baby, my question remained: why? Why would he rape me? Why would God put me through this? Why didn’t anyone believe me? Why did I go over there? Why did I say “sex” when I called T? Why was I being put through all of this agony and becoming more and more isolated from anyone who could support me?

Days of asking those questions turned into weeks. And weeks into months. I’m not sure when exactly I came up with my answer to those countless “whys”. It came in pieces. Some of the whys got answered for me sooner than others. There are still some I struggle with now. But one thing I am sure of. Even the potential of being pregnant taught me an invaluable lesson that I have not forgotten since.

I spent my childhood mostly surrounded by people who had the same ideas and values as my family and me. I was fiercely pro-life and unable to see the arguments for abortion. Yet, on one cold November afternoon, and in the agonizing few weeks that followed, I saw the terror, the uncertainty, and the pain of having your whole world turned upside down without your consent.

I was given a gift that cold November day. I became armored with the knowledge and experience to carry with me into college and adulthood for when I was no longer sheltered from opposing viewpoints. I was given an intense empathy for women who have had abortions. I was given real-life experience for when people use rape as an argument for abortion.

It is still a very hard load to carry. Like I said at the start,  this is not a part of my story I share; which means for years I have sat back and listened to people say how anyone who is pro-life has never experienced the terror of being raped. I pray one day I muster the strength to share my whole story. And this will be the start of that.

 

#WhyIDidntReport

Because I was 3, 4, 5,  6, and 7 years old

Because I didn’t know any different

Because I would destroy his career….and my family

Because he told me my mom would be jealous; he told me not to tell

Because I thought it was normal

Because he was suppose to love me

Because no one would believe me against him

Because he was a professional

Because he was bigger than I

Because I was scared.

Because I was 18,

Because he was the first guy to show interest in me

Because my friend told me to “go for it”

Because it wasn’t “that bad”

Because I wanted to feel wanted

Because a rape crisis volunteer told me not to

Because they told me without evidence, there was no point

Because my therapist told me not to

Because it could have been worse.

Because I didn’t scream.

Because his friend was there and it would be two against my one voice.

Because it was just 3 months ago, yet it happened again

Because I didn’t know him

Because my parents would be mad at me

Because we went to church

Because I had class to get to

Because I froze while driving to the hospital

Because I shouldn’t have gone over there

Because I called a friend and said “sex” instead of “rape”

Because I was scared and I panicked.

Because I was wearing leggings

Because later that same friend told me she didn’t believe me

Because I thought I was pregnant,

Because I could have been.

Because I left for a weekend retreat

Because I knew I was dirty.

Because I thought it was my fault….thought I did something bad.

Because that’s the only way a man has ever treated me.

Because I was 20

Because I was in a new place

Because I DID and my supervisor said “I don’t have time for this”

Because she told me to write it down and she would talk to me later

Because she never did

Because she told me  I was disrespecting his culture

Because I was newly 21

Because I was in a foreign country

Because I was alone.

Because he was more than twice my age.

Because he was in charge

Because he had a key to my room

Because women aren’t respected there

Because woman aren’t respected here.

Because eventually, I said yes.

Because he was powerful.

Because I was almost 22

Because I was drunk

Because I was scared….again

Because I was sick

Because it was unsafe for me to be alone

Because my friends weren’t there

Because some random girl led me to him and said “your boyfriend is looking for you”

Because he wasn’t my boyfriend

Because he looked like the hero

Because I didn’t have my phone with me when I saw the hotline on the bathroom stall

Because I was embarrassed

Because I was in so much pain

Because the bruises lasted for weeks

Because my roommate told me it made her feel unsafe

Because my friend said “take a shower, wash him out of your hair”

Because it happened in my bed

Because I couldn’t sleep there for weeks

BECAUSE HE TOLD ME IT DIDN’T HAPPEN

Because I believed him…………..

Because it’s been 19 years and 6 different men.

 

 

What People Don’t Understand about Passive Suicidal Thoughts

People hear “suicidal thoughts” and they think oh my gosh, this is an emergency! Call the hospital now!

Then I’m like, no no, I don’t have a plan. I’m not going to act. They are thoughts.

And  then they’re all like “oh, okay so it’s nothing”………

Basically like why did you even say anything?

What people don’t understand though, is how debilitating these thoughts are. Even if I do not have a plan and am not in imminent danger of acting right now. These thoughts are terrifying! Honestly, in my personal opinion, I’d rather be actively suicidal. At least then you have people around you; you aren’t expected to be quite so high-functioning; others are checking in with you. Essentially, when I am actively suicidal, I feel taken care of.

Don’t get me wrong, it is scary AF to be actively suicidal! And man oh man have I been there. The constant fear of losing freedom, never being alone (sucks for introverts like me who like their space!), the difficult conversations that come with it. Being suicidal–no matter the level–is something I would not wish on anyone. Passive or active, suicidality is 100% scarier for the person experiencing it then it is for those around them.

And from my experience, passive suicidal thoughts are 100X scarier than active. But other people don’t see it that way.

People don’t understand the fear in my heart every moment of every day…and night. I am afraid to close my eyes because I see images of ways to die. Whenever any minor inconvenience occurs, automatically, without my conscious control over it, my mind jumps to “I want to die….I hate my life.” I find myself looking for new and creative ways to hurt myself, to quiet the voices in my head.

I avoid going to new places. Everything triggers me. I feel like I am going insane.

Most importantly, I feel like it’s never going to be any different. No matter what, this is a part of me and that is something I am not willing to accept right now.

I want these thoughts to go away. But I don’t know what else to try, to do, to take, to talk about to make them stop. And I am terrified of what I may be capable of in an effort to try and get some peace of mind. Because I have been actively suicidal, I know I have the capacity to injure myself badly and with how desperate I am to get rid of these thoughts, I fear I could lose control, that I may unwittingly do something to try and silence the incessant images and words that flood my brain constantly.

At least when I was actively suicidal with a plan, I could choose not to act. Now it feels like I could lose that control at any moment.

Just because I do not want to take my life right now, doesn’t mean I’m not in danger…………………………..And that is the scariest place I’ve ever been.

100 Ways to care for yourself with PIES

P.I.E.S is an acronym I learned my freshmen year of college in a group meeting prior to a service trip. It is a way to “check in” how feelings….PHYSICAL, INTELLECTUAL, EMOTIONAL, SPIRITUAL.

In our meetings, we began by going around and saying how we felt in each domain. I thought I would start a list (for myself and anyone else who can use a reminder every once in awhile, which, let’s face it, is all our us inevitably at some point) of ways to care for yourself with PIES so as to live to the fullest abilities.

PHYSICAL

  1. Get enough sleep

This is so crucial! Life falls apart in every other aspect when we are sleep-deprived

2. Stay hydrated!

Drink plenty of water! Flush those stress hormones right out!

3. Eat well- eat enough, eat a variety, get fruits, veggies, carbs and proteins!

4. Exercise

Take a walk after dinner, go for a run, play a sport, whatever gets you moving!

5. Take vitamins and supplements- Vitamin C and D are VITAL for happiness and well-being. Melatonin can help you sleep if your body isn’t making enough. Fish oils are good for mood, sleep, skin, nails and just about everything else TBH 😉

6. Visit the doctor regularly-especially crucial for those with chronic conditions or family history but important for everyone too! Regular tune ups prevent bigger issues down the line 🙂

That goes for eyes, GP, gyno, dentist, and any specialists that care for you! These visits can help you identify if something is wrong, like if you are vitamin deficient, have a chronic condition, and to prevent issues from getting too escalated so you can treat it early or prevent issues from developing in the first place!

7. Follow doctor’s orders and take all necessary medications

It isn’t enough to just go, you have to take the advice and maybe that means adapting your lifestyle a bit. If you need medication or daily supplements, don’t be ashamed or feel too proud to take meds for depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, whatever it is!

8. Take care of your skin

You will look good and feel good when your skin is healthy! Moisturize, exfoliate, use sunscreen, wash your face nightly (especially if you used products, lotions, make up, etc during the day)

9. Wear the right shoes

You have no idea how quickly the wrong wardrobe can ruin a night and your mood! Whether for running, walking while out on the town, at the beach, etc, make sure you have the right footwear. Blisters can be a bitch!

10. Stretch- before and after exercise is a must, but daily stretching can boost your mood and keep your body healthy too!

11. Shower

After a long day, sometimes a hot shower is a great cure!

12. Get a massage- sore muscles are common with chronic stress, and sometimes you don’t know how much tension your back, shoulders, or neck hold until you work the knots out

13. Wash your hands

Keep things sanitary, keep prevent yourself from getting sick, and honestly, feeling grimy takes a toll emotionally too

14. Take time off when you are sick- don’t go to work or school if you are sick. Not only are you making other people susceptible, it will take a lot longer to feel 100% better if you keep running on empty

15. Treat injuries immediately

Ice your knees after a run, rest if you sprain an ankle, etc. Better to play it safe now and avoid serious injury that needs surgery or more intensive treatment later.

16. Put exercise into your daily routine

Aside from planned exercise mentioned above, like going to the gym or out for a run, incorporate exercise into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Park far from the store front or ditch the car altogether if possible. Bike to work. Walk on your lunch break.

17. Regular self-checks

Again, prevention is key. Monthly self breast exams can find lumps before they become large enough to need surgery. Males should do testicular screenings. There is now even screenings for colon cancer you can do at home. Look over your skin: notice any new moles, marks, etc.

18. Take care of your spine

Back pain….well….it’s a real pain! Flip your mattress monthly, get adjustments by a chiropractor if needed,  keep a good posture

19. Take breaks from alcohol

Most of us drink. It can be social, or just nice after a long day. But it can also wrack havoc on your liver, other organs and waistline. Taking small breaks every once in awhile can allow your body to re-calibrate so to speak. Our bodies can often heal themselves when given the chance!

20. Take care of your mental health too

Whatever that means for you (ideas coming below too!). Mental health can manifest as headaches, nausea, sore muscles, chest pain, or any number of other physical symptoms

21. Wear safety gear: helmets, seat belts, knee pads

22. Take environmental precautions: pollution, noise, bright lights at night can affect sleep, breathing, and your overall health. Keep windows closed during peak pollen and pollution hours. Be sure to investigate any local bars, businesses, transportation before moving into a new place.

23. Indulge: prohibiting yourself from certain foods leads to “cheat days” and sugar binges galore! While you shouldn’t subsist on dessert, have that cookies after dinner; eat that chocolate; add sugar to your tea once in awhile

24. Probiotics!

Yogurt, green tea, fiber are great for your digestion and can help you feel less bloated, ill, and keep you “regular” 😉

25. Break those habits: whether it is smoking, overeating, addiction, they all affect your whole self, but physically especially. Getting your body in order bleeds into the rest of the self.

INTELLECTUAL

26. Read books! Get those brain muscles and juices flowing; whether it is fiction, mystery, romance, or nonfic.

27. Play brain games: download an app on your phone, do the newspaper sudoku or word searches. Keep your mind sharp!

28. Adult field trips!

Don’t stop exploring just because the structure of elementary school is gone! Go to museums, farms, factories. Learn about new places

29. TRAVEL

What better way to learn about new places, people, and cultures then by going there yourself! Immerse yourself in a new language, culture, and environment

30. Listen to podcasts

31. Watch documentaries

32. Stay up to date on the news: newspaper, magazines, television, radio. Stay current on world events.

33. Learn a new language

34. Find scholarly articles about things that interest you! The learning doesn’t (or shouldn’t) stop after school. Even if you are still in school, read outside of required

35. Take a class: it could be on anything! Accounting, sales, psychology, painting, writing, interior design

36. Tutor children: often teaching others is the best way to learn!

37. Pick up a new useful hobby: knitting, crochet, trivia…..

38. Watch tutorials and how-to videos then try them out! Bake the cake, try the new fishtail hair, put together the table

39. Do mental math: it is soo easy to rely on our phones and calculators, but it’s remarkable how quickly you lose abilities when you don’t use them

40. Spend some time doing some mindless work too: trash tv, doodling with no real purpose….our minds need a break too!

41. Use paper maps and written directions occasionally

Just like with the calculator-at-our-fingertips, technology also means GPS in every car, on tablets, phones, etc. Keep your brain working sometimes too

42. Chew gum: studies have shown that chewing the same type of gum during studying and a test can help increase scores. Same rule applies for a job presentation, standardized testing, job training

43. Commit yourself to learning a new fact every day.

This is seriously so easy and even fun! Google “fun facts” “fun national holidays” (like national ice cream day or national take your pants on a walk day) or “today in history” You can learn so many little things…may help at a cocktail party too, who knows?!

44. Use a variety of vocabulary.

Just like the fact of the day, dictionary.com has a word of the day

45. Eat salmon: it’s great for the ol’ noggin

46. Memorize

Forcing yourself to commit things to memory trains your brain to recall things quickly . Memorize the presidents, state capitals, countries in Africa….whatever floats yo boat!

47. Listen to classical music

Just like how music helps babies’ brains develop, classical music exercises the adult brain too

48. Take the “ink blot test”

Google it and use your brain to find meaning  and images in all sorts of shapes

49. Write it down

Writing helps you remember things and keeps you organized. Make lists of things you need to do; things to get at the store; places you want to visit one day; even a bucket list!

50. Read poetry

The rhymes, vocabulary, artistic talent all sharpen your mind

EMOTIONAL

51. See a therapist

52. Cry it out

53. Take58.  days off

54. Journal

55. Take a hot shower or bubble bath

56. Self-soothe: paint your nails, apply lotion, give yourself a lil massage

57. Color

58. Watch a funny movie

59. Draw/doodle. Sometimes thoughts and feelings come out best artistically and not through words

60. Reach out to loved ones, near, far, recently made friends, and those you haven’t spoken to in awhile

61. Make time for leisure and hobbies

It is all too easy to get caught up in work, school, raising a family, daily stresses. Make sure you have time to just chill and enjoy some activities

62. Walk away from toxic or stagnant relationships

If it does not serve you, let it go…EVEN if it had served you in the past

63. Take occasional social media breaks

64. Take alcohol and caffeine breaks

These substances really impact your emotions. So plan a little fast from one or both every month or two

65. Take care of your physical health

(see #1-25)

66. Use 5 senses to ground

5 things you can see, 4 you can feel, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell and 1 you can taste

67. Play with clay, dough, putty, stress ball to de-stress

68. Use essential oils or other scented fragrances: lavender, eucalyptus, frankincense are good to start with for mental health

69. Take a vacation

See the world, take some time off work

70. Spend time in nature

Whether it is a trip to the beach, or just a walk to the park, getting outside in some fresh air, sunshine, and connecting with plants and animals an have some amazing benefits

71. Re-decorate

Re-arranging furniture, getting some new wall decor, or reorganizing a closet can bring a breath or fresh air and some new perspective, allowing you to feel rejuvenated in your own home or office

72. Curl up with a warm beverage and a nice blanket

73. Take deep breaths

74. Take a few minutes at the end of the day to take inventory of what you learned, did, and felt throughout that day.

75. Stretch it out…muscles can hold a lot of tension. Release that tension and feel more relaxed.

SPIRITUAL

76. Read holy texts

Whether it is the Bible, Torah, Qu’ran or another book of Scripture, delve into it. It can be amazing how the words seem to speak right to your heart when you need it most

  1. Go to services

Go to mass, church, temple, meditation, whatever it is for you!

  1. Find community

Bible study, Torah talk, youth group, Theology on Tap, prayer or meditation group. There are even online forums and prayer groups now and that can be a God-send when you are crazy busy (like me…oops!)

  1. Learn from scholars and history

There is more to read and learn than just scripture. There are saints, prophets, scholars, historians. Follow them too. Read, gain knowledge, research their lives, learn from them.

  1. PRAY

Goes without saying doesn’t it? However you do it, do it.

  1. Meditate

Even if it isn’t exactly part of your religion or spirituality, meditate on the holy texts, common prayers, or just be silent and allow your higher power to speak to you

  1. Go on retreats
  2. Make a pilgrimage

Could be to another country or to a local holy place

  1. Learn about other religions and spiritualities
  2. Attend services from another religion
  3. Church/temple/mosque/etc “shop”

Go around to different churches, find one that works for you: music you like, people you click with, groups you want to join. You can go to youth group at one place and weekly services at another even!

  1. Sing and dance to praise and worship
  2. Watch tv/movies/music/books with holy/spiritual themes
  3. Talk to a spiritual advisor

TBH I have not done this yet BUUUTTTTTT I really really want to! And I’ve heard great things! Having a mentor to guide you is invaluable, especially with spiritual life

  1. Speak about your spiritual life

This is can tough because spirituality is so intimate, and also because it is a big point of contention, right? But it can be so humbling and such a special occasion of learning to talk to others, to witness to your faith, even debating. I learned so much about my own faith life by talking to people of other faiths and of no faith at all

  1. Bring spirituality into your environment

Hang art, display statues or altars, wear jewelry or religious materials on your body. This is another way to simply witness and to have your faith with you always

  1. Find spiritual podcasts/radio stations/ etc
  2. Celebrate holidays and holy-days

Both the exciting, celebratory ones and the solemn, fasting days. Grow in humility, community, joy

  1. Ask for forgiveness and Forgive others

So tough. So so so so tough! Forgiveness is the hardest thing for me but it’s always a work in progress and is so important to lighten your heart

  1. Find new ways to grow in virtues….patience, humility, joy, forgiveness, kindness

96. Get involved at your place of worship

Can you be a part of the service? Is there a ministry or group you want to start? Are you good with kids? Do you have a gift others would benefit from like music, reading, speaking, art?

  1. Seek pastoral counseling

I am extremely biased, BUT everyone needs counseling at some point in their lives to deal with various changes and stressors. I have found the best counseling I have received has been with people who are open to discussing my faith and the importance of it to me and its implications in my mental health

98. Attend a healing service/ritual

Even if you are not afflicted yourself, take a family member or friend or just go to witness others’ healing and thanks

99. Learn about the life and death ceremonies of other cultures and faiths.

Ceremonies of initiation and death practices teach you so much about other people

100. Use tangible materials to aid in your spiritual life

Be it prayer beads, chakra rocks, prayer shawl, Rosary, water, drums: bring the spiritual into the tangible. It makes it more concrete and real and serves as a reminder to engage with your spiritual life

 

10 Signs I Am Still Struggling with Disordered Eating

Honestly, the title was hard for me to come up with because I’m not sure how to classify myself. Never been formally diagnosed….with an eating disorder that is: I have plenty of other diagnoses though. Yet the severity of my behaviors were extreme and long-lasting enough to warrant a diagnosis. Lest I forget that that vicious ED brain of mine likes to tell me that “disordered eating” means it’s no big thing and if it isn’t an actual disorder I don’t deserve help, etc, yada, yada. Shut up brain!

Hindsight is 20/20 they say. It is true in this case. At first glance, it seemed to me disordered behaviors popped up outta nowhere. But the more I think about it, talk to loved ones, and read old journal entries, the more signs I see that I was in trouble long before I even conceptualized that I was unhappy in my body or was leaning toward certain behaviors.

After a number of months of severe behaviors and a period of intense change, transition, and lots of traveling, the behaviors ceased…at least the super big, loud, noticeable ones. My roommates stopped worrying about me. My friends stopped asking. My therapist never even brought up my eating patterns anymore…all of which to me meant that I was fine and had obviously gained weight because my therapist was no longer basing her line of questioning on “being able to tell I had lost weight” which caused her “to worry about (me).” Stupid brain again. That could be a sign right there that I am still struggling!

Anyway, thought I’d list some observations of how I am still struggling, even if not actively restricting, purging, etc and so on.

  1. I hate my body

It’s like I can feel my belly getting fluffier, my thighs expanding, my arms misshaping. I hate what I see in the mirror and long for the body my brain was ok with. I still obsessively body check in a variety of ways…that is the most significant behavior I have not let go of….and the one that, in hindsight, I’ve been doing since I was just an innocent little girl.

2. I only allow myself to wear certain clothes…..still

It’s actually kinda backward. A lot of people talk about how those deep in eating disorders or people with a lot of self-image issues tend to wear baggy clothes, hide their bodies, say no to shorts or sleeveless tops even in intense heat. For me, it is the opposite. My behaviors had gotten me to the point where my ED brain was actually approving of my body. It was when I stopped using those behaviors that I put my shorts away for the summer, avoided looking in mirrors, and brought out those ugly, boyfriend-type, oversized t-shirts to hide my perceived too-large belly, flabby upper arms, and elephant-sized calves and thighs.

3. I feel guilty when I eat

Just because I’m eating, doesn’t mean it’s easy. What people don’t understand, and probably why my support system stopped asking questions and checking in, is that it’s when the behaviors stop that you need the most support! Behaviors are a means of coping, stripping that away is one sure fire way to anger the ED monster. Constantly after every meal, my brain screams at me that I shouldn’t have eaten. The urge to compensate gets that much more intense. I dream of skipping the next meal. Just ’cause I don’t, doesn’t mean I’m okay.

4. Comfort comes from hunger

I…read: my disordered brain….LOVES the rumbling belly that comes from hunger. It is a comforting sensation. It is a form of self-punishment. It feels like an accomplishment to push my body to its limits before giving it nourishment.

5. I miss feeling ill

Just like with the hunger pangs, dizziness is one (very VERY disordered) symptom my ED loved! My ED brain received so much satisfaction when professionals would explain how dangerous allowing my body to deteriorate to such a level was. To my sick brain, it sounded like praise, not a cautionary tale. And I sometimes miss that. I miss the light-headedness, the unsteadiness.

6. I still crave (and use) my disordered food products

I’m not going to name them here, out of respect for not wanting to trigger others or provide materials for ED brain to use, but there are certain types of food and drink that my ED used to “help” me restrict, compensate, silence hunger cues. I didn’t really realize how odd it was for me to still crave these items until a couple of things happened. A.) A professional and advocate in the recovery field whom I follow religiously on social media wrote a post about how when she embraced intuitive eating, she stopped craving the foods her ED told her she used to love. I don’t have that feeling, and in fact, I would feel much more comfortable and satisfied eating a “safe” food than the dessert my friends are having. B.) When moving a friend into a new apartment with the help of our coworker on a hot day, our coworker was feeling sick and needed some sustenance. He had overheard me tell my friend I have (a specific food, that my ED uses) in my purse. He asked me if he could have one, and I agreed. It wasn’t for a few more weeks, when in a conversation at work, where that coworker remarked how disgusting that food had tasted. Hearing that, my clear mind could understand that it may not be me, but rather my ED who thinks that food tastes so yummy.

7. Using behaviors to get my body back seems acceptable

I was happier in my sick body. I was never “underweight” and people complimented me relentlessly when I was deep in behaviors. I miss that body like no other! I miss feeling confident in my own skin, being able (read: “allowed”) to wear whatever I want, liking what I see in the mirror for the first time in 7 years….the only time in my adult life. And using behaviors to achieve that body does not (yet?) sound unreasonable or undesirable to me.

8. Thinking others “deserve” to intuitively eat because they are thinner than I am

As if I need to be a certain size to deserve the basic human right to eat

9. The lesser of two evils

Like I said earlier, ED behaviors are used to cope: to gain control, numb feelings, block thoughts, deal with stress. Without actively engaging in ED behaviors, the urge to self harm using other methods has become overwhelming. Thoughts of wanting to die, ways I could kill myself, have skyrocketed. So, my ED brain uses this to convince me it is better to use behaviors than to kill myself. And when framed like that, it becomes hard to logically argue against it, doesn’t it? Well I’m still figuring this one out. But I’m not gonna let my ED convince me that dying more slowly is somehow better.

10. Behaviors are always my plan B

I satisfy my ED brain by saying I’m not using behaviors right now. About a month from now, my life is about to get hella stressful (even more so than it is now which sometimes seems impossible) and I know that ED brain is gonna become my default again. I told my therapist that I know I’ll probably start using behaviors again once I start school again. Said it casually, like it’s no big deal that I recognize I’m gonna start engaging again. It is going to take a lot of extra opposite action, tons of support, and me having to be brutally honest with friends and therapist to fight against this ED monster.

 

To loved ones and treatment team members of those struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating/thought processes, please, if nothing else, take away from this that when behaviors stop, they need you more. The thoughts get louder, the urges become stronger, they feel even less worthy of your love and support. Reach out, keep asking questions, stay present.

 

To my fellow warriors, recovery is a (long ass) process. Forgive yourself for slip ups and celebrate even the small victories! But keep in mind that ED may also be looming overhead, telling you things like “this behaviors isn’t as bad as another so it’s okay to use it.” Or that such-and-such doesn’t “count” as a behavior. Or that your weight-restored body is unacceptable. Or that ED is better than seemingly-worse alternatives. Or that you can always fall back on it if you need.

Stay strong, keep fighting.