These posts are old to me but new to some. Enjoy!
The Reality Check (for Domestic Violence Awareness month)
I’m 35 with three kids.
My body has been through a lot of changes.
Before kids, which now seems like eons ago, I struggled with my looks and weight. I’m 5’2″ and not the most athletic type. I have curly hair which I used to hate. Growing up, I rarely saw models in magazines that looked even close to me. If I did, they were skinny with straightened hair.
I just wanted to look like everyone else but that was not possible. I couldn’t change my skin tone, hair or any other physical characteristics. I got busy with school and work but stayed at a decent weight. Over time, I even started liking my curls.
These pictures represent my weight loss and gain in the last few years. After kids, I got up to almost 200 lbs. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in late 2009 (which I no longer have thanks to diet, exercise and losing weight) and got serious about my weight. I wanted to be healthy for my kids.
In 2013, that weight loss took a different turn. My anxiety kicked into overdrive because of the issues I was having with Matthew. I began thinking if I was skinnier, things would get better. I tend to not eat much when I’m stressed so this became a bigger issue. I would eat one meal daily for days on end due to stress.
Sometimes it felt like I was punishing myself in a way for not being the wife and mom I was “supposed” to be. I may have been punishing myself for making Matthew so angry. I also spent lots of time in the gym- at least an hour four days a week. I’d have done more if I had time.
At my lowest weight, which was August 2015, I was 125 lbs and a size 4. I was so small that my co-workers asked if I was sick. My doctor told me that my pancreas, already not able to produce all the insulin I needed, might give out entirely and result in Type 1 diabetes if I didn’t stop losing weight and pushing myself so hard. I’m not sure I cared.
I loved the way I looked- I finally fit into a string bikini but I was so nervous about it I didn’t want to take off my cover-up. (A friend yanked it off, but in a good way.) I don’t think Matthew cared either way- he had seen me before and after three pregnancies. It’s not like he saw me naked much at this point.
Jake was worried- one of his last worries about me was that I was too skinny. He told me I was still gorgeous but I needed to gain “like 5 or 10 pounds.”
Jake got his wish, but he didn’t live to see it. I gained 60 pounds after his death. I ate, drank and didn’t think about exercising for a long time. I was deep in a hole of grief and depression.
I stopped drinking and move around a bit more these days. My pancreas survived and it’s functioning quite well. Thanks to having RA, it can be a bit rough but I do what I can to exercise. One of my medications has a side effect that messes with my appetite but I’m not going to be upset if I lose a few pounds.
I don’t weigh myself- there isn’t a scale in my house. I’m not entirely sure what I weigh, my best guess is around 170. I’m a size 12/14. I’m okay with this. I’m happier, I’m funny again, I love food, I’m healthy as I can be, and I got my curves back. The second picture is me in Daytona Beach in August. I look much better.
I can’t say there was a moment where everything clicked and I stopped going so hard on my body. I was a little sad when I didn’t fit size small sweats in late 2015, but I had much worse things to deal with. While I was in therapy, I worked on how I saw my body. It’s been through a lot, and I realized I should have a lot more love for it.
There are three people that are on this planet because I grew them inside my body. I lived through a mini-stroke. I have two chronic health conditions but they are manageable. I’ve had three major surgeries (tubal, gallbladder removal and a partial thyroidectomy). I may have a few rolls but there are curves, stretch marks, surgery scars, and tattoos.
I still have bad days like every other woman but I remind myself of where I have been. I remind myself that I’ve looked a lot worse and that I’ll probably look different in a few years. I’m good where I am now.
It can be very difficult to change how you feel about your body.
My helpful tips?
1. STOP LOOKING AT MODELS FOR VALIDATION.
I’ll confess, I’m a huge fan of Tess Holliday. She’s a plus-size model, and I love her message. I don’t look at her or other models anymore for what I should look like. I like her because she has amazing red hair, great makeup and #effyourbeautystandards is empowering. If you’ve never heard of her please look her up on Google. I like a handful of other models but for makeup and other reasons. Models work extremely hard to look like they do and it’s almost unrealistic for most of us to pull it off.
2. Remember what your body has done for you. Have kids? Even one kid changes your body permanently. If you’re a runner like my friend Lauren, there’s a lot of maintenance involved that I don’t want to imagine. She looks fantastic. I’m sure she will thank herself later in life for keeping herself in such great shape. (I hate running. I don’t even run to my mailbox.)
3. Realize that you are more than just what your body looks like. This may take a bit of work in the self-esteem department (lots of work for me) but it is well worth it. Everyone has interesting and/or quirky qualities about them that are likable besides what their body looks like. Do the work- make a Pinterest board of quotes, write in a journal about it. Talk to someone if you need to. The work will be worth it.
Have you had issues with body image? How did you work through it?
Quotes courtesy of Pinterest
*Trigger Warning: this post discusses emotional abuse. If this is something you have a hard time processing please feel free to take time to do self care and/or come back to this post when you feel you can.*
I wrote The Reality Check to discuss my own issues with emotional and verbal abuse within my marriage. I didn’t, however, discuss the aftermath. It’s not pretty. I had to work on it in therapy. I had to relearn self-esteem and self-worth. I’d lost both. Jake had helped me regain my self-respect- I learned a lot about what I was willing and not willing to take from someone.
Those two things aren’t easy to learn, much less a second time. The decision to stay wasn’t an easy one. I stayed up many nights wondering if I’d screw myself, and more importantly, the kids, over, by staying. Did I? In a way, yes. Things have happened that I didn’t forsee and changes are ongoing. If I’d known these things would happen, I’d have left in 2015.
I was guarded. I didn’t trust Matthew to not hurt or leave me. I wouldn’t let him in, talk to him about anything major. Bills and kids? Sure. Anything else? Forget it. I ended up walking around with all kinds of thoughts and feelings.
What if he goes back to being who he used to be? This stays with me daily. I think it always will. Matthew has made so much progress, but even my former therapist said this is a legit fear. I believe her.
If we get into an argument, is he going to blow up? Therapy helped me learn tools for this- arguing can be done in a healthy way. Taking breaks is very effective.
It’s okay to talk to him..right? I’ve got to try to trust him. This remains a daily struggle. Even with therapy, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully trust Matthew, much less any man, again. I know it’s okay to trust people, but I don’t want to ever be broken again.
I need to make it all look okay.. I didn’t know it then, but everyone around me knew what was going on. Even his dad knew. I withdrew a lot from everyone. I was severely depressed.
Am I going to mess up again? Is this going to be the day everything goes to hell? This has gotten better, thanks to a lot of self talk, progress and therapy. There are bad days but I am able to get through them a lot easier. This is also known as “walking on eggshells”, when you feel everything you do might upset your partner. This is a terrible frame of mind to live in.
I do not blame Matthew at all for my drinking. That was my own decision. The situation we were in, however, crushed me. I could have stopped drinking. I just liked it too much. It was a fun escape, but it got a lot worse after Jake died. My former therapist almost sent me for an inpatient evaluation. As of this post, I’m almost 20 months sober. Many abuse survivors do turn to some sort of substance abuse and that’s a sad fact. It helps dull the pain for sure, but it’s right there the next day.
My liver took a hit, and I’m forever grateful to my primary care physician because she might have saved my life. I’m pretty sure I would have ended up drinking my way into rehab otherwise. It may take years for my liver to return to normal. I damaged my own body because I let someone else destroy me. Let that sink in.
I drank to forget all kinds of pain- the pain of being what I thought was a horrible mom, definitely not a great wife, and the crumbling of my marriage. I kept drinking to forget the pain of losing the future I’d planned. I’m so glad I stopped.
Abuse, in any shape or form, is wrong. I chose to cover emotional abuse because it’s not discussed nearly enough. What happens after needs to be looked at so much more.
The effects can last for years, even if the survivor is able to move forward and find a loving partner. The scary thoughts remain in the back of their mind. Some, like me, always have a backup plan just in case the nightmare comes true- they end up where they never thought they would be again. Some avoid relationships altogether for a long time out of fear. Some, sadly, end up in a chain of abusive relationships.
No matter how things turn out for you, please remember that the abuse is never your fault.
I’ve had a lot of comments thanking me for my honesty and openness on this blog. In an effort to continue that, I decided to not write the post I had planned, but one that needed to be written: about the inner thoughts of someone struggling in sobriety.
My sobriety date is 1/1/2017. I hope every single day that I never have to change that date. I continued therapy for another year after that, because I needed to do more work on myself. I needed to finish the work Jake started. It was a promise I made to myself when he died. I finished therapy in May 2018.
I have the phrase “One day at a time” tattooed on the inside of my left wrist. It really is the best I can do. It’s the best that anyone in recovery can do.
I look fine on the outside. I have great kids and a husband. I finally got myself back together. Not too far below the surface, however, lies the thoughts that can ruin my life.
I don’t have thoughts of drinking every day, or even every week. I do get stressed, I do feel pain. I’ve had issues in my marriage lately that are breaking my heart. I didn’t see this stuff coming but yet, here I am.
One night recently, I barely slept. I was able to sleep for a couple hours but woke up and was awake for hours. I sat in my bed, in the darkness, and among many other thoughts, I thoughts about having a couple of drinks.
I knew that my pain would be gone for a while, but when I was done drinking, it would be there all over again. Plus, I’d feel awful for ruining my sobriety and letting down everyone that’s supported me. I also knew one drink wouldn’t do it, thus a very fast slide back into heavy drinking. The kind of pain I was dealing with would have required a huge bottle of Fireball or vodka.
I’m not sure what my tolerance looks like these days, but I’m almost certain drinking doesn’t go well with RA meds. My record is tied: 7 shots on the day I learned of Jake’s death(and I barely felt that) and the night I fell off the barstool.
I didn’t drink that night. I am glad to say that. I literally talked myself out of it. I’m not sure how long it took me to do so, but I did it. How? I reminded myself of a few things:
Self-talk does work wonders if you do it the right way.
A few days later, the same thoughts came back. This time, I listened to music. This is one of my best coping skills. I left “Starting Over” on repeat until I felt better. I went through my reminders again and I was okay. I’m still struggling but I haven’t wanted a drink in a few days.
I know everyone’s got their own ways of coping but these are two of mine. I wanted to highlight this issue for those who are going through it. It’s not easy. It’s far from pretty. Drinking can and will ruin your life- I’m so glad I stopped. The challenge is to stay sober.
This series was inspired by a Facebook post I read six weeks ago. A member posted this question “Does having a special needs child affect your marriage?” Post after post, people shared examples of how their marriage was tested. Some made it, others did not. I always wanted to create a platform where people could talk and share their experiences, the good and the bad. I cannot thank my collaborator Wrae Meredith Sanders enough for her open and honest contributions. Whatever your decision is, I hope you know you’re not alone and you will make it.
This is the last part of this series. Please feel free to like, comment, and share.
There are many things that I can look back on now and wish that I could change. I’m unable to change the damage that was done to our marriage- both of us did things that we regret but we have been able to move forward together.
If I’d known that we would disagree so much and loudly, I would have shut the door a little more. I would have stopped and asked for a break–this would have helped more than we realized at the time. I would have asked why we had to be right all the time instead of coming up with a compromise.
If I’d known then that I’d spend many nights crying myself to sleep for so many reasons, I would hit the rewind button. I would figure out each separate reason instead of letting it all become a big ball of depression.
I thought I was doing the right thing–fighting you for Julian’s needs. This turned out to be two evaluations, a diagnosis of ADHD (combined), traits of Asperger’s (later amended to High Functioning Autism) and medications. He also needed group therapy.
Moms are supposed to do what it takes for their kids, right? The only thing is, I did it alone. I didn’t listen to you. You didn’t want any of these things to happen because you were in denial. If I had known what to say and not be confrontational, I would have done it. But I didn’t. That’s where I went wrong.
I tried explaining, even in a way you could understand but that didn’t do it. In your family, disabilities aren’t real unless you see it. Julian has the kind you can’t see. You couldn’t see it, so it didn’t exist. This even applied when Julian almost broke my nose and I had to get X-Rays.
I sought out ways to deal with the loneliness. When your husband is in denial and emotionally bashes you daily, you have to find a way to cope. I drank. That was not productive at all.
I went out a lot with people who turned out to not be good for me, you even tried to tell me, but I didn’t trust you enough to care. I worked out in the gym obsessively and lost 60 lbs. Even my doctor was concerned. I barely ate for days on end. This didn’t help my decision making.
We worked hard to put this family back together. I still have problems opening up to you this day. I finished therapy two months ago. You were there from day one to the last and cheered me on the whole time.
During that time, Julian has grown, and he has done well. He finished group therapy and dealt well with a change in providers. He is going into the seventh grade after a few bumps adjusting to middle school.
You’ve become so supportive of Julian and I. When he has a bad day, I know I can tell you about it. You’re happy when he does well. Raising kids isn’t easy and we have three. Having a kid with special needs makes things a bit more interesting and sometimes difficult. I’m glad that both of us decided to make this work.
Thanks. I know Julian wouldn’t say it but I’m sure he likes his mom and dad being together.
Never at the age of forty did I dream I would marry, then become pregnant a few months later. It took us both by surprise yet we agreed to go on this wild journey called parenting. I had a little more experience with raising a child as my daughter was fourteen when we tied the knot.
I was fat, tired, and cranky–everything a pregnant woman is and probably will be as long as little humans continue to beautifully invade our personal space. There were precautions because of my age and health, but I was sure I would go full term.
But I didn’t. He came nearly three months early. After a long stay at the hospitals, oxygen tanks, and therapy, our baby boy could live a normal life.
We both noticed how energetic he was, how once he started talking he couldn’t stop, and how sleep evaded him. No worries though, I sleep trained him. Plus, kids are naturally talkative and hyper, right?
But he never slowed down. After being kicked out of two daycares, we had him evaluated. I already knew, but I wanted to hear the doctor say it. He had ADHD.
I ran straight towards the ADHD armed with books, natural medicine because our pediatrician refused to help him, and age-appropriate behavioral techniques. You ran in the other direction, straight to the door of denial.
Days grew into weeks, months, and even years. Six years isn’t much time to some, but when a person feels like they’re carrying the load alone, it can seem like a millennium.
The feeling is familiar because I went through the same thing raising my daughter alone. I felt overwhelmed all the time. I feel that way now.
As the primary caregiver, I stay on top of his meds, homeschool him, and take him to the doctor’s appointments.
I know you can argue that since I don’t have a nine to five, I should be doing this anyway. I remember carrying the same load as a full-time working mom too.
Yes, you went to the doctor with us sometimes. You ‘yessed’ your way through the appointments, but the heavy part of the load rests on my shoulders.
When he’s having a bad day, I try to redirect. You punish him by sending him to bed.
If he talks back, I remind him that his behavior is inappropriate, you yell at him and say things he will repeat later when he’s frustrated.
Even when you excuse yourself from spending time with him, he loves you anyway.
If I thought you would really listen to what I have to say, I’d tell you that you are creating an insecure man who will be afraid to share his feelings, think he isn’t good enough and may do inappropriate things to get attention.
But I’m not brave enough. What I am is strong. I’m strong enough to walk away and do it on my own.
I don’t want to, but his well being comes first. The only reason I haven’t walked away now is that much like a little girl, I have hope.
You’re not a bad person. That’s why I haven’t left yet.
Until then, I pray we can fix these broken wings.
Thank you so much for reading this series! We appreciate your support during this month. If you missed any of the previous parts, you can catch up here: