The Darkness

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The darkness threatens to overwhelm me. It whispers terrible things in my ear.

You are a terrible mother. Matt doesn’t love you. Your Mom doesn’t like you. The kids wish you weren’t their mom. You annoy your best friend. You’re fat. You’re old. You’re ugly. You’re not a good teacher anymore. You don’t deserve to be happy. Stay here in the darkness with me. Stay in bed. Be quiet, be sad, be in the darkness with me.

Don’t tell anyone because they will laugh at you. They will blow it off. They won’t understand anyway. They will be annoyed that you are not ok yet again. They will worry, they will want to fix it, but there’s nothing they can do. Just stay here with me in the darkness.

Put a smile on your face. Very few will notice that it doesn’t reach your eyes. Go to work, go to the gym, take kids to soccer, make dinner, pretend everything’s ok. No one cares anyway. No one really wants to know how you are.

The darkness threatens to overwhelm me. I’m tired of fighting it. It’s too much, it’s too hard. I feel like there’s a thousand pound weight on my shoulders. I cry. I get angry. I lash out. I say things I don’t mean. I cry some more. I’m all cried out. It feels weird to laugh. I don’t want to see anyone. I just want to be alone.

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Get help. Tell Matt how you’re feeling — all of it. Go to therapy and tell her the truth. See a doctor. You can’t do this alone. You need help and that’s ok. You don’t know what will help or what you need but you can just tell someone…I’m not ok. Ask for a hug. Ask for a walk. Take a day off and do nothing. Rest, write, read, do whatever you feel like to help yourself. The darkness won’t last forever. Listen to P!nk’s I Am Here and know that you are here for a reason. YOU. ARE. HERE. You deserve to be here. You deserve to take up space even if you can’t see it right now.

This is not your fault. This is not happening because you are weak. It’s happening because you’ve been so strong for too long. Reach out your hand. Borrow a smile until yours comes back. You’re worth it. You’re a warrior. YOU. ARE. HERE. You can do this. You will feel better. The darkness will subside. It will. You can.

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Happy This Week

Or I should say happy…lately!

P!nk’s new album Beautiful Trauma. It’s AMAZING. If you’re a fan of her music, you will love it. I don’t think she gets enough credit for just how well she can sing. I can’t wait to see her in concert in March!

Thinx period underwear. I’m serious. If you tend to leak during Aunt Flo’s visit, these are a lifesaver. I can’t imagine using them by themselves, but as a backup, they are great. I no longer have to worry that I will embarrass myself in front of my class of 8th graders. Well, at least not in this way. 😉

My new AirPods. I am really bad at buying things for myself, even things I will use every single day. But I just got so tired of my headphones falling out of my ears and getting in the way while I’m working out. So I splurged. They are amazing!! They stay in, they have a good quality sound with noise canceling and no wires! They are not super loud, so if you like to hurt your eardrums, these probably aren’t for you.

Matt was very cute this Christmas and went on my Pinterest page for ideas for me. He got me a Gilmore Girls keychain which is the cutest thing ever and makes me smile every time I drive. He also got me an aromatherapy diffuser for my classroom which I am obsessed with. Now I need one for home!

My Mom got me new sports bras for Christmas and I finally got to try them out this week. Whoa, did I need them! You know how you don’t realize you need something until you get a new version and then you’re like “yikes, what was holding the girls in before this”? Yeah, that was me this week. They’re Victoria’s Secret bras that zip in the front (The Knockout and The Incredible). I will say this, and you won’t be surprised, but clearly VS makes things for women who are size 2’s with big boobs because I had to let mine all the way out to even get it on!! She got me another style that I couldn’t even get into (the Angel Max)…but it was hilarious trying!!

Speaking of working out, I bought myself some new music this week and it made working out even more enjoyable. Here are some of my faves that I bought: Taylor Swift’s new album (don’t judge, I’m a Swiftie. I get to see her in July!), Humble by Kendrick Lamar, Get Your Freak On by Missy Elliott and Run the World by Beyonce. (P.S. Don’t you think we should just all have Beyonce’s song on repeat right now after the Golden Globes and Oprah’s speech???)

Matt also got me the illustrated Harry Potter books and I am enjoying reading them again with all of the gorgeous illustrations.

My two favorite podcasts (My Favorite Murder and Who? Weekly) just make my day when they are new (or old, really) and I can listen to them on my way to and from work.

Speaking of my favorite podcasts, Karen of MFM liked one of my tweets and I about died of excitement!

Olivia got a karaoke microphone from my Mom for Christmas. We all thought she would love it because she loves to sing. Well, the first couple of weeks she wouldn’t even touch it and freaked out if we even suggested she try it. Last week she finally tried it and LOVES it. She has been using it for hours at a time, cracking herself up. I like to lay on my bed down the hall and just listen to her sing, talk and giggle. She makes sure to ask every night that I charge it so it’s ready to go the next day. (Follow me on Instagram if you want to see videos! elastamom417)

Gabe has been driving with his temps since September! He’s actually a really good driver. I can’t believe he gets his license in March! It’s been fun and frustrating and scary teaching him to drive. He also earned really good grades first semester and has a new girlfriend that I like a lot!

Matthew is just the cutest. That’s all.

I had a wonderful two weeks off of work but it was nice to go back and see my friends and my students this week!

We got a snow day today! My school NEVER gets snow days!!

What made you happy this week?

 

 

So What.

I have a menopause-ish pouch that I’ve never had before on my lower abdomen.

SO WHAT.

I also have an amazing ability to listen to a husband having a bad day, a son who needs to vent, a friend in need, a co-worker in distress or a teenager with problems no one else understands. 

I weigh more now than I ever have before without being pregnant.

SO WHAT.

I can make my family laugh at any given moment and join right in. 

I have cellulite and dimples and have to buy wide-calf boots.

SO WHAT.

I am a wonderful, thoughtful, fun, loving friend. 

My arms are bigger than I would like them to be even though I lift weights.

SO WHAT.

I am stronger than most women, and some men, I know. Mentally and physically. 

I have the metabolism of a post-menopausal woman who doesn’t move much.

SO WHAT.

I work out almost every day, listening to music I love, moving because it makes me feel good, healthy and strong.

I have laugh lines and crow’s feet and the beginning of those annoying little lines between my eyebrows and around my mouth.

SO WHAT.

I’ve been successfully raising my three kids, one of whom has significant special needs, with great love for the past 17 years. And killing it most days, I might add. 

I have to go to the back of the rack to find my size of pants and shirts now instead of towards the front like I used to.

SO WHAT.

I have been through my parents’ divorces, a miscarriage, diagnosis of my firstborn with 5p- syndrome and cancer. And managed not to become bitter and still have a smile on my face. 

I don’t feel comfortable in a bikini anymore.

SO WHAT.

I can love and teach 150 14-year-olds each year like nobody’s business. 

I am more than a number on the scale. 

I am more than the size label inside my jeans. 

I am more than wrinkles on my face. 

I am more than my body. 

I am me. My body shape and size doesn’t matter one bit in the grand scheme of who I am and what I offer to the world. I am SO much more than that.

And so are you. I hope you needed this today too and it helped you.

SO FUCKING WHAT, am I right??

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Stop. Start.

I advocated for myself and my health. That was HUGE for me. I’ve been feeling off for a while, even before my cancer diagnosis. But, of course, it took a backseat while I was going through treatment. And after treatment? I felt worse. My depression has been terrible; I know it’s normal after going through something so traumatic, but it was bad even for that. I was exhausted constantly. I had gained weight, which was normal for the type of breast cancer I had, but couldn’t lose an ounce no matter how hard I tried. But because I’m GREAT at faking it, I just kept going. I didn’t have time to worry about myself. I had lessons to plan, kids to take to activities, household duties to perform, and on and on. Until I couldn’t take it anymore.

I found a new endocrinologist. I got new meds. I feel so much better. I haven’t lost much weight, but this might just be my new normal. I am in pseudo-menopause, you know. But you know what’s different this time? I’m beginning to be ok with it. I am not constantly exhausted and my depression is better. I feel…back to normal. It feels so good.

I have said this every year since…1990? I’m going to stop berating myself for not being perfect. But I think this year is my year. I feel like I might be able to silence the demons in my head.

STOP:

Trying to be perfect

Worrying about my looks

Comparing myself to others

Trying to lose weight

Trying to have the perfect body

Wishing I had my old body

Feeling lazy if I’m not constantly busy

Feeling guilty…for everything

Talking negatively to myself constantly

Feeling like I don’t measure up…as a mother, a wife, a friend, a teacher, a daughter, a sister

Putting myself last

Going and going until I feel like I might collapse.

You know what I’m going to do?

I’m going to START:

Practicing gratefulness for everything I have

Saying positive things about myself

Take time just for me

Rest when I’m tired

Eat because I’m hungry, to nourish, to be healthy

Work out because it makes me feel good and not to punish myself

Being proud of myself for everything I am

Remembering that I’m a freaking warrior for everything I’ve been through and all I still have do deal with

Loving the crap out of this life I’m blessed to live.

What are you going to stop this year…and what will you start?

 

Books to Read in 2018

Hi, friends! It’s been so long! Happy New Year! I thought to start off 2018 right, I’d share the books I read during the last half of 2017. Warning: there’s a lot because I haven’t written a book post since May. Oops! I’m going to keep the descriptions short because there are so many. Enjoy and please share what you’re reading!!

Fredrik Backman books: Loved them all! None of them were as good as A Man Called Ove, but they were still really wonderful. Here are the ones I’ve read:

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella This is a short story about a boy and his grandpa. The grandpas has Alzheimer’s and is trying to explain it to his favorite boy.

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry Told from a little girl’s point of view, she discovers interesting and wonderful things about her grandma, mother and all of the other people who live in their complex. Their lives are intertwined in curious ways. (This was my second favorite after Ove.)

Brit-Marie Was Here Brit-Marie is a central (and annoying) character in the My Grandmother story. In this novel, Brit-Marie has had enough of her dull life and takes a job in a small, forgotten rural town and her life is changed for the better.

Beartown This is all about hockey and the lives of the coach and the players. The star hockey player is accused of rape by the coach’s daughter. Way too much hockey, but the story is very good.

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase One of my favorites of 2017. I read it in two days. Each chapter alternates between the original Wildling sisters in the summer of 1959 and the new family that has purchased their house in current times. The sisters are abandoned by their mother that summer and shipped off to their aunt and uncle in the countryside of England. Adventures and mysteries abound. The family in current times is struggling to blend after a new marriage, a new baby and a new house. The two stories come together at the end in excellent fashion.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King I’m slowly working my way through King’s books but MAN is he verbose! His books are so long with a lot of extra prose, in my opinion, and I end up skimming quite a bit. But, his stories are so incredibly creepy and good that I do enjoy them. This made my skin crawl now that I have read it as a parent. Definitely scary!

Pretty Girls Dancing by Kylie Brant This is another one of my favorites from 2017. You know I love a good murder mystery and the creepier, the better. This one was both. It is set in Ohio, which I always enjoy, and there is a serial killer on the loose called the “Ten Mile Killer”. He hasn’t been active in 7 years, but now that a local girl has gone missing, the community is wondering if he’s back. I read it in one day if that tells you how good it is! (I should also mention I’m on break with nothing to do!)

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan This was very mediocre. The only reason I kept reading was that I thought something was going to happen to make it more interesting…but it never did. A teenage girl who is frustrated with her home life joins a cult. It’s very blah.

Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler I heard about this on my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder, which is a comedy/true crime podcast. Ressler was the man who “invented” the term serial killer and criminal profiling. He walks you through many of the cases he was involved with and describes how he built his profiling career. Super interesting if you are into true crime. Lots of gory details, so be careful if you’re not into that!

My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews Speaking of my favorite podcast, they recommended that we all read this vintage Andrews book “together” and then they would discuss it on the podcast. Well, they flaked out and didn’t read it but I still did. It was AWFUL! I understand how I was drawn to these books as teenager (because I LOVED them back then), but now that I read this as an adult, I realized just how awful these books are. It was fun to read it for the podcast though! If you read it for MFM, or for any reason, you should listen to the Teen Creeps podcast episode about it; they’re hilarious!

All the Little Children by Jo Furniss This was ok. Worth reading, but just ok. I didn’t like the ending because it obviously set it up for a sequel that I just wasn’t buying. A family goes on a camping trip only to discover that they are one of very few people still alive after a plague of some kind kills everyone. They have to fight to survive. Meh.

A Tangled Mercy by Joy-Jordan Lake This was a very good book. Again, it alternates between two time periods: told from a slave’s point of view before the emancipation and told from a young woman’s point of view in current times. Again, the two stories converge in an interesting way. At certain points, it will make you disgusted in how it parallels our current society’s feelings towards race, but it is a worthwhile read.

A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White This was another favorite from 2017. The main character, Sarah, was the only survivor of a serial killer 12 years ago. She has changed her identity and started a new life. The killer was caught…or was he? It seems as though he’s back and after Sarah once again. Excellent murder mystery!

Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine This was a great read too. A suburban housewife discovers her husband is a serial killer. She flees to a new town and adopts a new identity for her and her two children. But is she ever going to be free of her ex-husband? (Spoiler alert: NO!) It’s a very fast-paced, interesting read but I thought the ending was VERY far-fetched. There are several books in the series so I guess they were setting it up for a sequel but I was disappointed.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng This is definitely a buzz-worthy book that I was anxious to get my hands on. It’s very good, but I was disappointed in the ending. It felt like Ng just decided to be finished and ended it abruptly. This is also set in Ohio. A single  mom and her daughter have just moved to Shaker Heights and rented an apartment from a wealthy family. Their lives converge and secrets emerge and disaster strikes. Again, I really enjoyed it but was bummed at the end.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green I haven’t read a book until this one that does such an excellent job of describing what it’s like to have a mental illness. Even if you don’t suffer from the same one as the main character, a teenage girl named Aza, you will identify with her descriptions if you have suffered from any mental illness. I loved it. It’s basically how Aza struggles with her illness while trying to fall in love, solve a mystery, have friends and survive high school. I highly recommend this one.

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter Man, oh man, do I love this author. I eagerly await every new book of hers and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s a stand-alone book (not from her Trent/Sarah series) and is totally different from what she usually writes. It’s still a murder-mystery, but definitely not as gory as her other books. It also explores a family’s relationships in-depth and focuses on the two sisters specifically, which was a departure from her usual tales. I loved it, of course, and hope she writes more with these characters. Two sisters are threatened at gunpoint, one escapes and one doesn’t. The story picks up years later when the sisters are forced to see each other and interact once again.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly I love a WWII-era story and this one, based on a real-life person, doesn’t disappoint. It is told from the point of view of three women: a socialite in New York, a doctor working for the Nazis and a teenager working for the underground resistance. It is riveting especially if you like books set during this time. I loved how it ends and it made it even more special because it’s based on real people.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Maloy This is definitely worth the read. It’s quick and fast-paced. A family is on vacation and sets off for a day trip. The mothers fall asleep on the beach and the kids disappear. Very good and very scary if you’re a parent!

Cross the Line by James Patterson Another typical Alex Cross story (#24 if you can believe it) but very good and worth the read. Pretty much the same story: killer on the loose, Cross’s family in danger. If you’re in the mood for an easy read (what my mom calls mind-candy), this is a good one.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley This was another podcast recommendation. I didn’t think it was as good as Georgia said it would be, but it was still worth the read.  A family is departing Martha’s Vineyard after a summer stay and a bachelor that has befriended them decides at the last minute to fly home with them. The plane crashes and only the bachelor and a little boy survive. This follows the bachelor, Scott, as the police and the deceased’s families try to figure out what caused the plane crash. It was good, just not great. I was expecting a better ending.

Ok, I think that’s it. I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, but I think this is most of them. I won’t wait so long next time!!! Let me know what you enjoyed in 2017.

 

Happy This Week

I always feel like I have to do these on Fridays…but then it doesn’t happen…so I’m throwing caution to the wind and doing it on a Tuesday!!

1.) Depression is no joke, in case you didn’t know. I am AWESOME at faking like I’m ok when I’m not and it’s exhausting. I have been in a serious fog the past few weeks and it has lifted slightly. Yeah! I have therapy tomorrow (thank God!) and I’m going to try and teach myself how to meditate. I also am making an appointment with my doctor to have my meds checked. I’m tired of feeling this way all the time. I’m more tired of faking it.

2.) I still get my nails done every 3 weeks and it makes me extremely happy! You should try doing something little for yourself…it makes a big difference!

3.) NEW TV STARTS THIS WEEK!!!

4.) I was in my pjs and reading my book by 5 p.m. last Friday and asleep by 9. It was amazing. School has been extra stressful and exhausting this year so I really needed it.

5.) Olivia showed up at our bedside early one morning last weekend. She looked at us and said “I’m here…(long pause)…because I pooped.” It was so hilarious and we haven’t stopped saying that to each other all week!

6.) Matthew is in junior high school and has a 4.0! I thought he’d have a hard time transitioning to keeping track of all of his classes but not so much! I’m super happy that he has no missing assignments and is doing so well.

7.) Gabe and I had a 20-minute long conversation the other day that didn’t involve any eye-rolling or discussions of why I’m annoying. It was epic.

8.) Olivia is having a GREAT school year so far. Everything stayed the same, including her awesome teacher, so it’s been a MUCH easier transition for her. Thank GOD.

9.) I’ve been reading a lot of wonderful books…new book post coming soon!

10.) I GET TO GO SEE MY FAVORITE MURDER LIVE ON FRIDAY!!! Not only that but with my friends!! Woohoo!!!

What made you happy lately???

Raising Teenagers

I think I’ve figured out part of the reason why raising teenagers is so damn hard.

We don’t like to talk about it.

When they’re newborns, there’s tons of information out there and everyone’s willing to talk about it. When they’re three and acting out, it’s totally normal to share, commiserate and discuss strategies that might work. When they’re school age, it’s still totally normal to talk about problems they’re having with friends or in school or at home.

But the true teenage years hit…and no one wants to talk about it. You know why I think this is? Because if something “bad” is going on with our teenagers, we feel extremely guilty and think we will be judged for our bad parenting.

If your teen is being disrespectful in a major way, it’s hard to admit it and say it out loud because you feel as though you will be judged. I didn’t do a good enough job raising him and that’s why he’s acting this way. Even though it’s TOTALLY NORMAL for your child to act this way, it’s hard to admit.

If your teen is doing poorly in school, or having trouble making friends, or didn’t make the team they had hoped for, you don’t want to talk about it. Again, you are afraid of being judged. Is it my parenting that is making him have these problems? Did I do something wrong? Is it my fault?

If your teen is doing drugs or drinking or having sex, you definitely don’t want to admit that to anyone. Again, you feel you will be judged. You never know if the person you’re talking to is going to be helpful and understanding or look at you like you have three heads because their kid would NEVER do anything like that. Even if they’re a good friend.

All of sudden you have this child, who you have loved, taken care of and cherished for years, looking at you with hate and contempt and disgust and it hurts. It hurts so badly. You just want him to look at you like he used to when he was little; like the sun rose and set on you. You want him to hug you, to appreciate you, to tell you he loves you and knows how much you love him too. And it sucks. Big time. He only wants to be in his room, on his phone, on his Xbox, hanging out with friends, certainly does not want to spend any time with you.

You are at the point where they will be in situations where they are going to have to make major life choices. Did I prepare him enough? Is he ready to make these choices? Did I screw it up? Will he come back to me eventually? Am I a bad mother?

And this is why, I think, we don’t talk about it. We don’t want anyone to know that our kid isn’t perfect. That we might not have done the right thing. We’re afraid of being judged. But when someone is brave enough to open up and speak the truth, more often than not, you find out that you’re not alone. Knowing that helps immensely.

So…who wants to talk about how hard it is to raise teenagers???

 

 

 

 

Demon Thoughts

I should try harder. If I just ate better, worked out more, I could look like her. I am not good enough. I wish I was taller, thinner, prettier, leaner, better dressed. I AM DISGUSTING. Pinch stomach rolls and cellulite on the thighs and want to cry. Wish I could just cut it off. I can’t leave the house today I’m too gross. I wish I could wear that. Or that. Or that. If I just can lose X amount, I’ll feel better. I’ll look better. All of my problems will disappear. Oops, I’m at X weight and I still feel exactly the same. Nothing works. Nothing helps. I AM SO GROSS AND UGLY. Why does Matt love me? My Mom is probably embarrassed by me. People look at me and think she’s let herself go. I need to wear a sign that says “I WORK HARD FOR THIS BODY, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” I would be devastated if someone thought I didn’t work hard. I work out hard, I eat healthily, yet I still look like THIS. That number on the scale is ridiculous. I can’t buy clothes because I’m not buying THAT size. If I thought I was fat before, what must I look like NOW??? Can I go back to the first time I thought I was fat and be that size? Is Matt disappointed in the way I look because I’ve changed a lot since we got married? Are my kids embarrassed by me?

Is my hair too short? Too long? Too masculine? Not edgy enough? Are my teeth yellow? Are they moving and not straight anymore? Is that another fucking wrinkle? Is that another gray hair? Why do my hands all of a sudden look like my Grandma’s? You shouldn’t wear that. You’re too big. You’re old. You’re not cute enough. Did my nose get bigger? Did my lips get smaller? Why aren’t my eyelashes longer? Where did my eyebrows go? I wish my collarbone and shoulder blades stuck out more. I wish my legs were smaller and longer. That picture of me can’t really be what I look like, can it? BURN ALL THE PICTURES.

I can’t believe I worry about this shit. I survived cancer for god’s sake. I should just be thankful to be alive. This mental illness is so fucking hard to get over. I’ve made tons of progress but I still have these demon thoughts. I’m so done with them. I need to focus on acceptance. Say positive things only. But my demon doesn’t want to let go. It’s been with me for over 30 years. It’s comfortable. It’s my go-to. Great, now I feel guilty and vain when I should just be thankful to be alive. I don’t want to have wasted another minute on these stupid, diminishing thoughts. I need to be a role model for my teenage girls and boys that I teach every day. For my sons. I need to stop thinking these thoughts. I need to be done with this demon. No one loves me for the way I look or the size of my pants. They love me for me. That’s what I need to focus on and realize. Be gone, demon.

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My Demon

I think I’ve been avoiding blogging for a long time because this post was inside but I wasn’t ready to get it out yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever be truly ready to write about it, but I’m going to anyway.

As a child, I didn’t even think about my weight. I knew I was tall, I knew I was a “big girl”, but I was never ashamed of the way my body looked. I never even really gave it a thought and, up until that point, definitely not a negative one. I could swim super fast with my strong legs; I could hit a softball over the fence with my strong arms; I could ride my bike for miles and miles and miles. I would just eat without thinking about it like any kid should. I would eat an ice cream sandwich or birthday cake or chips and not feel guilty. I was normal. I was healthy.

When I was 11, the perfect storm hit. My parents were in the middle of a bitter, terrible divorce. I was about to hit adolescence. My Dad made a comment about me weighing too much. It was the first time I remember feeling ashamed about my body. If my Dad thought I weighed too much, then it must be true, right? Basketball tryouts were coming up. So I decided to try and lose weight. I got books from the library about how to do it. At first, I just decided I was going to try and eat a little less and exercise a little more. Try and get in shape for basketball by running.

So I lost weight. And my mom let me grow my hair out, finally. And we got my horrid acne under control. And I started getting attention for something besides my brain. I would hear how skinny I was getting, how great I looked, positive reinforcements left and right. Things I had never heard before and, evidently, craved. I attributed it all to losing weight. Losing weight meant positive attention and what 11-year-old girl doesn’t want that? And if losing a little weight was good, then losing a lot of weight would be better.

Right around this time calories were printed on the labels of food. Up until that point, I didn’t even think about calories. But all of a sudden, in the midst of trying to lose weight, I knew exactly how many calories were in everything I was putting in my mouth. I became obsessed. I was a calorie savant telling everyone the number of calories per serving of anything anyone was eating. I started categorizing food as bad and good. I started restricting myself to only “good” foods. I started exercising a lot. I’d do a Jane Fonda tape and then go for a 5-mile run and then do sit-ups. I lost a lot of weight. In less than a year, my 11 to 12-year-old body lost over 30 pounds. And that was more than I needed to lose.

Before I knew it, I was eating an apple and a piece of cheese and that was it for the entire day. I’d skip breakfast, drink a diet pop for lunch, go to basketball, go home and do Jane Fonda, maybe eat a little dinner if my Mom was home, do some sit-ups. Go to bed. Repeat over and over and over. I started passing out during track practice in the spring. My spandex running pants were baggy. My aunt started showing me pictures of people who were anorexic and asking what I thought. My friend Carlos told me I was way, way too skinny. My friends said I was the skinniest girl in our class. These words were like winning the lottery to me. I had done it. I was not just thin, I was skinny. And I kept getting smaller.

We moved right before my freshman year in high school. I went from a class of 40 to a class of 250. It was terrifying. I didn’t know a soul. I made friends and joined the swim team and started eating a bit more. I realized that I needed some strength for 3-4 hours of swimming a day. One day, we had to get our body fat tested because, if you want to swim faster, you have to have low body fat, according to my coach. He then posted all of our names and body fat percentages outside the locker room. Mine was 25% which was average. AVERAGE. My skinny, blonde, gorgeous friend’s was only 14%. I knew I had to go back to what I was doing before and try harder. I wanted to be the best swimmer. I didn’t want to be average. I ate enough to get by for swimming hours upon hours each day. I got smaller and leaner. I won races. I made it to districts. It was working.

Throughout high school, my weight fluctuated a bit. I exercised every day but partied. I ate too much. I gained those 30 pounds right back. I got to college and went to the gym and weighed myself and saw that horrible number that had started it all in the first place. And I lost my mind. I started working out between 4 and 6 hours a day. I ate very little. By Christmas, I had lost the 30 pounds and then some. I got so many compliments over break about being too skinny and that it was so awesome that I didn’t gain the freshman 15. I was back.

I taught aerobics and worked at the rec center so I could constantly work out. I ate but I ate only to exist. I never ate food with fat. I never ate dessert. I never ate meat. I mostly ate fruit, vegetables, oatmeal and an occasional bagel. I don’t remember enjoying food ever. I got my body fat tested at the end of my freshman year and it was 17%. I was happy that it was better than average, but it still wasn’t less than 15% which is what I wanted. So I kept trying. Working out more and eating less. I was the skinny-workout girl again.

But guess what? Throughout this whole entire time, I was miserable. I hated my body. I hated my face. I hated myself. I’d stand for hours and hours in front of the mirror and pinch and turn and suck in and stare and just wish that I didn’t look like me. I’d ruin entire days obsessing over food, over calories, over workouts, over the number on the scale. I’d work out even when I had bronchitis or pneumonia. I didn’t sleep much. It was awful. I like to think I hid it pretty well because I managed to have friends and have fun but those who were close to me knew at the very least that I didn’t like myself at all. I was so rigid with my eating and my exercise and my obsession with it, that I know my friends knew at least that much.

Then I met Matt. I still don’t know why he ever asked me out on a second date because I didn’t eat a thing on our first date. Not a morsel. We went out for dinner and I ordered a diet Coke and watched him eat. Who asks that girl out again? I’m so thankful he did. With Matt’s help, I slowly started to eat again but I still worked out like a crazy person. I just traded one obsession for the other.

I had Olivia and gained 85 pounds. That makes sense, right? It was the first time that I ever ate normally because I knew I needed to in order to make sure my baby was healthy. I got pregnant with Gabe when Olivia was four months old so I didn’t have time to lose it all. I got back up to the same weight with Gabe. After he was born, I lost all of it. And then some. Can you imagine how many compliments you get when you’ve gained 85 pregnancy pounds with two kids and then lose it all and then some? My demon was back with a vengeance. I obviously didn’t have hours and hours to work out anymore with working full time and having two kids, but I could restrict. I could count calories. I would wake up at 4:00 a.m. to workout before I went to teach all day. I’d eat 300 calories while at work. I’d eat a small dinner. I was obsessed yet again.

This continued. On and on and on. I could convince myself that I wasn’t really doing anything wrong as long as I was eating something. I tried new diets and new regimens that required hours of planning and thinking about food. Finally, a few years ago, I started therapy. Having an eating disorder is a mental illness. I didn’t even know that until I started therapy. I thought it was just me being obsessed with being thin at all costs. But I’ve discovered it’s so much more. It’s not just about control like everyone assumes. It’s not about being thin even. It’s a mental illness that totally consumes your life and manifests itself with the obsession over food and exercise. It’s been my demon since I was 11. I look at Matthew, who is 11 now, and think he is so young and small and innocent and I can’t imagine him starting to do this to himself. Therapy has finally helped me get rid of my obsession with food. I still struggle with the “good foods vs. bad foods”, but I never restrict anymore. I just eat. I can’t even begin to tell you how great it is to just eat. I still eat healthy, for sure, but there are no more instances of me making myself a separate dinner from my family or not enjoying ice cream on a summer night.

My exercising is under control. I workout 5-6 times a week for about an hour. I work out not to punish myself anymore or to try and make myself better; I work out because it makes me feel strong and healthy and because I love it. I no longer feel like a crazy person when I miss a workout. I no longer feel like I need to be punished.

The one area I’m still struggling with is self-acceptance. Since I was diagnosed and treated for cancer, I’ve gained 20 pounds. The type of cancer I had, along with the treatment, commonly causes weight gain and the inability to lose it. It’s been very hard for me. Very. I feel desperate at times. I feel ashamed of my body. But I haven’t once engaged in my former behaviors and, for that, I am proud. However, I really and truly want to get to the point where I can just accept my body for what it is. I’m not sure I’ll ever love it, but I think I’m close to acceptance. I definitely am getting closer every day.

For 30 years, I have loathed my body. I have tortured it. I have starved it. I have never once loved it. I was always trying to make it better, make it smaller, make it fit some crazy standard I had in my head. I really want to be done with that. I want to wake up in the morning, get dressed and go about my day without obsessing over the size of my pants or the number on the scale.

I have had a miscarriage. I have given birth to three beautiful children. I have survived breast surgery, a year of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and all the toll that took on my mind and my body. I have taken care of Olivia for almost 17 years now. I am raising two awesome boys. I am strong. I am healthy. I am done feeling bad about the way my body looks. I am working on accepting it just the way it is. I am a warrior and I need to start believing it.

The eating disorder demon is no joke. I wish I could have gotten help when I was younger. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t seriously hurt myself along the way. I was so unhealthy. Whenever I start to think how great it would be to be “skinny” again, I remind myself that the former me was not healthy or happy. Was not strong. Was not a warrior. She was scared, ashamed and angry. I am happier than I’ve ever been even though this is the heaviest I’ve ever been without being pregnant. I don’t obsess over food and exercise. I am working on my inner dialogue and acceptance.

I am a warrior, damn it, and it’s time I start believing it.

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My Girl

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This girl has my whole heart. If you are a parent, you know what I mean. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you really know what I mean. I don’t know who I’d be without being her mother. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

She is pure joy personified. This summer has been such a wonderful reminder for me that I want to live more like she does. She is the happiest person I know. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t hold grudges. She isn’t spiteful. She just loves.

We went out west for two weeks and then Florida for a week. She was so great. But, like all of us after we travel a lot, she was so very happy to be home. It’s her favorite place in the whole world. She hangs out in her room, with a sheet over her like a fort, plays her iPad while she listens to the director’s commentary on a movie playing on her T.V. She lines up all of her stuffed animals friends and plays with them and talks to them. She likes to take them and hide them under her fitted sheet and then take them back out again.

I used to get so upset that she didn’t have friends to play with, that all she liked to do was be in her room. But now? I get it. I get her. This is where she feels safe, loved and happy. Her stuffed animals ARE her friends. She loves them and gets upset when she can’t find the one she’s looking for. She loves to play with them. She enjoys being alone knowing we are right downstairs. She is happy. What else is there?

I think we should all try to live more like Olivia. She doesn’t worry about her weight, her looks or anything. She lives in the moment. She is happy with who she is exactly the way she is right now. She doesn’t apologize for who she is or feel bad because she’s “not normal”. She’s the happiest person I know and I, for one, am going to strive to be more like her in every way possible.