Thursday, September 22, 2016

Taking My Power Back

It’s possible this is one of the most difficult pieces I have written.  Because when you hide something from even yourself for so long, it becomes swathed in shame.  Recent narrative in the media has finally given me the words I needed to be able to understand what happened.

Until very recently (and by recently I mean the last few weeks), if someone were to ask me what I majored in college, my answer would have been a jovial “parties”.  I would then laugh about the times I would leave my Wednesday night American History class early so that I could make sure I had enough time to get properly ready for karaoke night with my sorority sisters at one of the local pubs that would serve alcohol to minors.  I would laugh about the times I would show up to work and class still buzzed from the night before.  A little more seriously, I would say that there are so many things about college I don’t remember because I was likely still drunk from the day before when I started drinking the next day.  It all seemed so funny.

In Good Company: Taking My Power Back
80's night with my sorority pledge class (I'm top row on the right)

A few years ago I requested an official transcript from college.  My first semester of college I passed one class.  One.  For five semesters as a full-time student I earned 30 credit-hours.  I dropped and failed and didn’t attend more than 40 credit-hours’ worth of classes.  And I had the audacity to wonder why my parents were so pissed off at me regarding the education for which they were footing the bill.

As I mentioned several months back, I have been seeing a therapist to help me wade through the grief following infertility.  As it is with therapy, layers and layers of issues are peeled back – the problem at hand is rarely the only actual problem.  We discussed my severe eating disorder that began in 5th grade and ran rampant until I graduated high school.  It continued to linger well into college but was significantly better than it had been.  People have asked me repeatedly through the years how I recovered from anorexia and bulimia; I have always said I just sort of stopped.  But I think the real answer is that I began drinking and smoking.  The addiction and self-destruction didn’t stop, it migrated to a more socially accepted place.

About a month ago, I had revelation.  As I was discussing sex with my therapist – the fairly common narrative about being an exhausted mom who is tired of meeting needs by the time the end of the day comes – I said something that even surprised myself.  I said, “You know, I haven’t ever said this out loud, but I think I might have been raped.”  She asked me to continue.  “I guess I never really thought about it until recently with all of the talk in the media about what rape is.  But, yeah, I think I was raped.  I never had the words to call it that before because all I knew is that I felt ashamed.  I mean, put myself in that situation and I trusted him, and I had slept with him before, but I said no and no wasn’t good enough.  I didn’t scream and kick and fight, but I had said no.  I said no.  And then I fell asleep, and when I woke up he was raping me.  I always felt like it was my fault and I felt dirty and disgusting and ashamed.  I felt like my power was taken away that night.  I feel like I’m standing on the edge of this cliff right now and I’m either going to stay where I am and explode or I’m going to jump forward and land on a meltdown.”

She confirmed that, yes, what happened was rape (and also that meltdowns are sometimes necessary to begin healing).  It doesn’t have to be a violent, dark-alley, gun to the head situation to be rape.  Rape is ignoring lack of consent and proceeding anyway.  As the truth and weight settled around me, I became angry.  Infuriated.  I had hated my body enough already, and this person who I trusted thought my body was his for consumption.  And I let him keep his claws in me even after the assault.  This asshole created in me shame that I kept bottled up for more than a dozen years.  I am pissed that the lack of control I felt over my body in that singular moment has transferred into my marriage bed.  When my appointment was over I felt like I needed to bathe in bleach and peroxide to wash the years-old filth off of my body.

When I arrived home I immediately left for a walk, my face and body language screaming to Mr. B that there was a huge problem.  When I got back, sweaty and slightly calmed, I was able to finally tell him about the rape.  He was flabbergasted and concerned and offered hugs and sympathy.  Slowly with each person I have felt brave enough to tell, the shame has lifted just a little.  I still have a hard time saying it out loud, maybe because I feel detached from that powerless underweight girl, or maybe because I’m still wrapping my head around the reality of it.

I recently read an article on The Huffington Post by an autistic woman who said that calling her sexual assault what it was felt melodramatic.  Yes, I wanted to scream as I was reading her words.  Exactly, I thought to myself as she said all the things I wanted to say.  She wished she had been like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and fought back, but she didn’t.  I felt her words with every fiber of my being.

I have also been reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, which touches deep in my liberal feminist heart.  Her story of eating disorders and substance abuse was so personal that many times I read her story through my tears.  She says that pain demands to be felt, that you will deal with it somewhere if you try to ignore it.  You have to sit with the pain and feel it to be able to heal.

This is exactly why I write, why I tell things that many people would keep hidden (and I have heard many times that I should share less).  Because I want someone who is sitting in shame to read this and be able to say “Yes, that!  Exactly that!”  If my story can help bring strength to someone else, then my personal pain will have been worth it.

So then how did I recover from my eating disorders and get off that path toward alcoholism?  Honestly I still don’t know.  Mr. B came into my life and offered me a love more honest and true than I had ever experienced.  We married when I was 20 and then I became a functioning adult with anxiety and depression.

In Good Company: Taking My Power Back
Mr. B and I when we first began dating.

I do know my story makes so much more sense now.  It’s not laughable that I dropped out of and failed and skipped so many classes, and that I was instead partying my pain away.  I had never healed from my eating disorder so I was drinking instead.  Then I held that new shameful secret of rape so close that even I didn’t truly understand what it was I was running away from.  I felt embarrassed and guilty for something that was not my fault.  But owning what happened to me, calling it what it is, it takes away the authority it once held over me.  By understanding that my body is my own, that what happened to me was not my choice, by having the courage to say it out loud, I am taking my power back.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trunk Club

I have a love-hate relationship with shopping.  I love looking around, eyeing and feeling all of the fabrics.  I love seeing all of the new seasonal colors and putting together outfits.  I love finding a new shirt or dress that really makes me feel like a million bucks.  On the other hand, I hate that I rarely am able to actually find anything that makes me feel great.  I hate trying on pants, I hate the glaring lights of the fitting room that enhance my cellulite and stretch marks.  I hate not knowing what size I wear in each brand.  I hate that I’m too fat for the cute clothes, and too young for the clothes that seem to be cut for my body.  Love-hate.

After reading this article from BuzzFeed, I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and try a styling service.  I tend to get stuck in a style rut, and lately seem to have forgotten how to actually dress up.  Stitch Fix seems to be popular, but I’m turned off by their size limitations and their monthly fee.  After searching around, I settled on TrunkClub (not Trump Club, as one of my friends thought she heard me say – no definitely not that).

What appealed to me specifically about Trunk Club was that they offer plus size styles – because while I am not thrilled with how my body looks right now, I still want to wear cute clothes and feel good in the body I live in today.  Also there is no monthly fee.

The sign up process was easy, and the survey was fairly thorough.  After being matched with my stylist, Erika, I answered a more in-depth series of questions that focused on my style, sizes, and lifestyle.  I opted for an email survey, because, well, I’m awkward on the phone.  I also provided her with a link to my Pinterest style board and a few pictures of myself for reference.

After a few days, in the Trunk Club app I downloaded, Erika showed me a sampling of the clothes that would be included in my trunk.  I was able to remove any items that I disliked or that were out of my price range.

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my trunk, and was thrilled when it finally came.  It was literally a trunk.  A trunk of clothes, picked just for me.

Because I had just gotten home from the gym, I hopped in the shower before peeking inside.  While I didn't style my hair or put on makeup, I did shave my legs (it just felt like a special occasion)!  I expected angels to sing when I opened my trunk of clothes, but alas, I heard only the sounds of my snoring dogs.

After sorting the items into categories, I made Mr. B stand by to take pictures while I began my fashion show.

First up was a pair of blue pants that felt a lot like old lady slacks.  I threw on a white tank from my own closet, and paired the blue pants with a grey slouchy shirt.  I didn’t mind the shirt and briefly put it in my maybe pile, but ultimately decided I didn’t love it enough for the price.

I wish I wouldn't have chosen to stand in front of this super bright window!

Next up was a gauzy scoop neck off white tee.  I don’t feel like the picture does it justice.  I fell in love with it immediately, and it was priced perfectly.  Because I had only been sent one pair of pants, I paired the top with my own favorite Big Star jeans.  The shoes were okay, and were actually pretty comfortable, but the white soles were just asking to be scuffed.

I'm standing so weird because I wanted to show the shoes.

The next top was a great color, but the style didn’t do much for me.

Maybe a little matronly?

This blue top was adorable in cut, but I didn’t love the blue daisy pattern.

I think I used to have a "Blossom" hat that would've matched this.

Following were a series of plus-sized tops that were all way too big.
Fiesta time!

Maternity was not what I was going for.


The absolute worst was this tropical bat-wing poncho top.  It was just awful.

Smiling Sarcasm.

Also in my trunk were four dresses.  I had high hopes for the dresses, particularly because we have an upcoming beach vacation.  The first was the same pattern as the terrible shirt from above.  It didn’t seem quite as bad in dress-form, but it still wasn’t my favorite.  Although I did love the cut of it.

This dress was the only plus-sized dress in the bunch, was too big, and made me feel like a water-color painting.  The tan sandals were surprisingly hard to walk in; I literally fell over.
Paint me like one of your French girls.

This blue dress was amazing, but was unfortunately too small.  It fit great in the waist, but my damn wide ribcage didn’t allow it to zip up.  That green belt was such a great pop of color.  I hope to be able to try it in a larger size (and with a different bra).

The one that got away.

The last dress was also too small.  But I wouldn’t have kept it anyway.  The pleats in the skirt didn’t do anything for me, and the flower pattern just felt old.

This would've been great with keds and a 4:00 dinner.

After I decided what I wanted to keep, I packed the other things back into the trunk, provided feedback on the Trunk Club app, and scheduled a time for UPS to pick up the trunk.  For free.  It was so simple and easy.  I was only charged for what I kept and shipping was free both ways.  And I got to try on clothes in the comfort of my own home, with my own lighting, my own mirrors, and my own wardrobe nearby to create looks using what I already had.

Ultimately I only kept the plain white top.  But I’m thrilled with it.  Every wardrobe needs a great plain white top.  I apologized to Erika and she assured me that it is to be expected for the first trunk.  At the beginning of the whole process, she told me the first trunk or two are “get to know you” trunks, and that the more feedback I provide, the better she can understand my style needs and provide options I will love.

The winner, plain and simple.

I was surprised to find that I didn’t really fall into the plus-size category (at least not in women’s sizes – in juniors I am absolutely plus sized).  If I was modeling, I would be way too big even for a plus-sized model – but, as you can tell in the photos above, I have exactly zero modeling talent.

I am excited to receive my next trunk and to see what items I might find that expand my style repertoire.  I hope to collect a few things that make me feel good in my skin in the size that I am right now.  Pieces in my price range that maybe I wouldn’t be able to find in stores locally.

Dress up.  Treat yourself.  Love your body for what it is today.

Thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Peace Settles In

Peace.  Peace is a feeling I have been unsuccessfully trying to achieve for the past two years.  Contentment has evaded me; serenity out of reach.

For the past two years, depression has been swallowing me whole, and anxiety has been eating away at my brain.  Though these are issues I have fought my whole life, this particularly long and grueling episode was brought on by our failed fertility treatments that ended early spring 2014.  All of the pain resulted in me protecting myself by turning off the ability to feel and process emotions.  Depression and anxiety became the only feelings I could appropriately identify.

In order to begin taking the necessary steps toward living a healthier life, I began seeing a therapist.  Therapy isn’t something that most people will talk openly about, or talk loudly about at the grocery store (which is a fairly uncomfortable).  But I think the vast majority of us would benefit from seeking at least short-term therapy.

Therapy isn’t easy, but it’s also not laying on some strange man’s couch in a dimly lit office.  I’ve found it incredibly uncomfortable, yet emotionally beneficial.  Unearthing the decaying feelings that have been long buried under the unsteady foundation of everyday life – that is challenging and frustrating work.

What I have only recently realized is that by protecting myself from pain, anger and sorrow, I had also stopped allowing myself to feel grateful, peaceful, joyful, and happy.  I felt the first glimpse of true joy one day last week when I was watching Little K play soccer.  The sun was out, the breeze was perfect, and he ran past me with the smile and gusto that only a 6 year old with missing teeth can manage.  He made eye contact with me briefly and smiled a little brighter.  My heart suddenly felt warm and I couldn’t help but smile.  My guard had lowered just enough to feel the presence of happiness, my old forgotten friend.

It only then that I realized that I have been so busy mourning the child that will never be, that I have missed out on the last 2 years of enjoying the beautiful child with who I have already been blessed.  Enter stage left: my familiar frenemy, mom guilt.

This weekend Little K and I traveled to my hometown to meet my best friend’s new baby.  Leading up to the weekend, anxiety was very present.  I had worked myself up, anticipating the tears that would creep up as I held this tiny new life in my arms.

As it turns out, the only tears that crept into my eyes were tears of pure joy for my best friend of over 20 years.  There was no jealousy, no yearning for a second baby of my own; just very real happiness.  Her baby is beautiful (all three of her children are), motherhood suits her beautifully, and our honest friendship is beautiful.

As we spent most of the day together, laughter took over, old stories were told, and new memories were made.  Best of all, peace started to settle in.  And though I know I still have work to do, I think peace will be hanging around more often.

Thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Muffin Tops and Mickey Mouse

Last weekend my mom came up for a visit.  Sometimes, even as an adult, you just need your mom.  Sometimes I like to think she needs me too.  I’m lucky that once I grew up, she and my sister, Ber, became my very best friends.

Per usual, Mom and I spent the day Saturday shopping in a nearby town.  We had coffee, ate lunch, and wasted time together – my favorite sort of day.

After lunch, we lazed our way through a department store and finally made our way to the fitting rooms.  The store was busy and the fitting rooms hadn’t been emptied for a while; so when we entered our room I spotted a few pairs of crazy leggings.

I held up one pair and said, “Oh I have to try these on and send a picture to Little K.  He’ll think it’s great!

So the way-too-small Captain America leggings picture was sent, and Mr. B reported that Little K thought they were very cool.

In Good Company: Captain America Leggings
Don't those shields look impressive on my thunder thighs?

Mom and I were missing Ber, so we decided she needed to see the picture too.  Ber was trying to be so nice and not hurt my feelings, not knowing that 3 hours away we were laughing so hard we were snorting (and likely bothering anyone in a 40-foot radius).

Me: Yes or no? 
In Good Company: Captain America Leggings
Ummm…probably no
Me: Damn.  Ok thanks.
Ber: Do you like them?  They look fine.  I don’t like the pattern.
Me: Maybe I just need a bigger size…

As we are cackling at ourselves, I decided to mess with Ber just a little more, and try on the even smaller, uglier leggings that were also abandoned in our fitting room.

So I take the picture, and because I am howling with laughter, I accidentally sent it to someone with the last name Berns.  Yes, some random dude had is lovely Saturday interrupted with an unsolicited picture of my big ass in too-tight Mickey Mouse leggings.  I don’t know this Mr. Berns.  Mr. B’s iTunes account synced with mine and it had never been a problem before.  I have no clue if this is a high school buddy, a work contact, a CEO, a consultant, or the next Kansas governor.  I quickly send a text telling him “Sorry… wrong number.”  He quickly replied, “No problem.  Nice picture though LOL.

In Good Company: Muffin Tops and Mickey Mouse
Muffin tops and Mickey Mouse.

I am in tears laughing, and thinking about how annoyed Mr. B will be was only making me laugh harder.

Not giving up the opportunity for Ber to be impressed with my fashion choices, the charade continued:

Me: Are these better?
In Good Company: Muffin Tops and Mickey Mouse
Ber:  I guess…  I’m not a huge fan of theme stuff on my workout gear.  I would rather just have a pattern or design.
Me: Totally messing with you.  They were in the room when we went in.  Couldn’t help myself.
Ber:  Ok good.  They are ugly!
Me: Sure are.
Me:   Also some guy in my contact list also got the second picture because his last name is Berns and I selected his name instead of yours because I was laughing so hard.
Ber: I just choked on my water.

I was right in thinking Mr. B wouldn’t find this whole thing nearly as hilarious as I do (he also requested I find a way to un-sync our phones).  But lucky for me, he is used to me being ridiculous.

Have fun, be silly, and thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Infertility: 2 Years Later

I have been suffering from a serious case of writer’s block.  Not in the sense of that there are no words pouring from my brain, but in that there is so much swirling around that I haven’t been able to make sense of any of it.

Maybe that’s not entirely true.  I suppose, more accurately, I’ve been avoiding writing down any and all of the nonsensical word tornado in my head.  And when you actively, yet miserably, ignore the lime green elephant in the room, it’s hard to make sense of anything else.

I’m not making any sense.

This April, it will have been two years since we stopped the fertility process.  Two years.  Twenty-four months.  One hundred four weeks.  And it still hurts.

I’ve done a pretty good job of ignoring the hurt – until it gets so big that I just can’t – because, mostly I feel like I’ve met the allotted amount of time allowed for grieving.  Because, when something sad or tragic happens, people around you will eventually get bored of listening.  And if they aren’t bored, then the run out of things to say.  And it has become so uncomfortable to talk about that I have gotten into the habit of dismissing it when it comes up in conversation.

But the truth is, it hurts.  It hurt when my coworker had her baby, it her when another coworker got pregnant.  It hurts every single time I see a pregnancy or birth announcement on social media.  Right at this moment, my very best friend is pregnant with her third child.  And while half of my heart is thrilled for her good news, the other half of my heart is selfishly breaking.  When she called to tell me she was expecting, I cried true happy tears on the phone – and I waited all day until after Little K was in bed, to sit on the stairs and sob for myself.  And I would never ever tell her that because she deserves my happiness for her joy.  It is incredibly conflicting to be simultaneously overjoyed and heartbroken.

I keep saying that other pregnancies don’t have anything to do with me.  Because they don’t.  It’s not like anyone has gotten pregnant at me.  And if I say out loud that their pregnancies makes me sad then there is a guilt from them that comes from my sadness that makes them feel they can’t be happy about their babies in front of me.  And every mommy should be allowed to be happy about the life she is growing inside of her.

As I said, conflicting.

Racing through my brain are all of the things people have said to me about a second child – “Little K will be so lonely if you don’t have any more”, “ I hate only children”, “It’s about time to have another one, don’t you think”, “Don’t you feel like you gave up too early?” “Well at least you have one”, “Have you considered surrogacy?” “Why not adopt?”

Believe me, we’ve considered all of these – and running through all of the alternative methods over and over and over are not helpful to me at this point.  The thing is, Little K is lonely.  He asks on a weekly basis why he doesn’t have any siblings besides the dogs – and it breaks my heart to tell him over and over again that mommy has a broken tummy and can’t make any more babies.  Also, I’m sorry you hate only children – I don’t feel all that fondly of you now.  It would be a lovely time to have another one, thanks so much for the reminder.  Yes we probably did give up too early on fertility, but when you are feeling legitimately suicidal from all of the hormones, it’s probably best to make some changes.  You are right – I am so thankful for the child I have.  But that doesn’t stop secondary infertility from hurting any less.  Surrogacy would be tricky, because I would still have to use hormones to mature an egg to be fertilized and implanted into someone else.  And if we went through all that trouble, I may as well carry.

Then there is adoption.  I would love to adopt.  If someone was handing out babies on a street corner, I would take one without question.  But Mr. B isn’t open to it.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not making him into a bad guy.  But adoption is a huge decision, an expensive option, and an often stressful process.  I firmly believe that both parties should be 100% on board with the choice before moving forward.  It is not a decision to take lightly or to push someone into.  If his heart isn’t in it then it’s not the right decision for us as a couple.  I know that part of his reservation is protecting me (he knows how it would destroy me if we showed up at the hospital to be given our child and the birth mother changed her mind).  And the rest of his hesitancy are all of the unknowns.  I respect him enough to understand that, for the foreseeable future, adoption is off the table for us.

So then what?  We’ve run out of options, but my heart still hurts.  My heart aches for the baby we never had, it grieves for the loss of our second born that never was.  I feel an emptiness that makes me feel something is missing from our family.  I think about it every single day.

I am angry.  Still, nearly two years later.  I feel like I got cheated.  I am angry at the shitty parents I see in the grocery store (the ones who aren’t even attempting to do the best they can).  The rage boils and boils until I can’t keep it in any more.

And Mr. B gets the brunt of it, because I feel like I’ve met my quota of bitch sessions with my friends, and I try to avoid making expectant mothers feel guilty.

The biggest toll this has taken on me has been spiritually.  My faith has taken a huge hit.  I’ve stopped praying.  I’ve lost my desire to attend church.  I become cynical when people mention the word miracle.  It’s not that I no longer believe in God or that I’ve abandoned my Christian faith.  Because that belief is still buried somewhere deep inside of me.  It’s more that I feel hardened and hollow.

I don’t understand why drug addicts and abusers can have a multitude of children, and I was lucky to have just one.  I don’t understand why horrible awful things happen to children, when I know I could have kept them safe and protected.  It has made me want to sit at God’s feet and tell Him exactly what I think of this plan He had for my life.  Because, I’m pissed at Him.  And I have enough Baptist left in me to know that’s not something I should admit – but it’s true.  And when I get to the point of trying to turn it over in prayer, I snatch it back because I am not done being angry.  I am not done being angry about having a desire to have more children (and the need to nurture to go along with it) but not the ability.

But I’ve seen what loss can do to people who have never let it go.  I’ve seen what people become when they stay angry their entire lives.  I don’t want to become that person.

I think Mr. B is maybe a little frustrated that he can’t fix the problem for me.  That’s what he does, he fixes things.  He is an engineer and his brain is wired to find solutions.  He fixes things at work, and around the house, and on his dad’s ranch.  He’s a fixer.  So I’m sure it’s frustrating that he can’t help me by telling me to cheer up and that I’m pretty.

So I decided to begin seeing a therapist.  Therapy isn’t something I’m a stranger to, as much of my adolescence was spent with counselors who tried their best to get me to eat (and congratulations to them, because I eat so much now).  Therapy also isn’t something I’m ashamed of participating in, because sometimes we just need someone who was trained to help us better align our thinking, someone who can dig a little deeper and help us heal.

I had my first appointment earlier this week, and I think it’s going to be a really great thing for me.  What made me feel better than I have for some time was when she said something that no one else has told me.  She said that it’s okay.  It’s okay to feel this way.  It’s okay to be angry and sad and jealous.  It’s okay to feel those things for as long as I need to.  And it’s okay to cry.  And cry I did – I cried for a long time on the couch in her quaint little office with positive messages displayed on every wall.  And it really was okay.

So I guess I’m on a path to acceptance – it’s really my only option.  Being swallowed in negativity and sadness and anger is making me an edgy mother and a distant wife.  And tense and detached is not the sort of person I want to be.  I desire to be kind and loving and patient and forgiving and optimistic.

Thank you, as always (and not nearly often enough), for keeping me In Good Company.