“Mistreated” — A Poem from My Book, Free to Roam

Mistreated

Beads of envy line your forehead—
in your sick game,
you brought fire to the fight.
My impressionable spirit whets your appetite for attention.

Peck away at my frazzled brain.
My secret thoughts run down your chin.
Sour doubt and anxiety
appease your fickle cravings.

You could be anywhere—
watching, waiting, stewing in your misery.
Nowhere is safe.
You assert your crumbling power with fear.

A captive victim of your abuse—
your overbite stabs at my fragile existence.
You’ll never know the cost of your actions—
a price I’ll pay for the rest of my days.

I want vengeance
but I want freedom even more.
You’re gone but still very much present
in my broken brain.

Thoughts of progress are fleeting,
pain erodes hope.
Your suffocating grip lingers.
I’m shackled from my next chapter.

The cold shadow of trauma
blankets my world.
Maybe with time
healing light will creep back in.

 

My poetry book gives an atheist perspective on being a Midwest Mom. It is for sale on my publisher’s site freethoughthouse.com, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. (Signed copies are available at freethoughthouse.com.)

What does marriage look like?

How do you feel about polygamy? Hear me out…

I’ll admit it – I’m a huge fan of the show Sister Wives on TLC. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a reality show following a husband, his four wives, and eighteen children. It’s been on the air for a long time. In fact, many of the children are now grown – some even starting families of their own. I was really fascinated with this show since it showed a lifestyle so incredibly different from mine, however, in the later seasons, I was a little disgusted to see how arrogant and controlling the husband had become. I’ve seen all the episodes so now I need to find a new embarrassing guilty pleasure.

Today I didn’t have much going on, so while my husband was at work I started watching another show – Seeking Sister Wife. It’s a reality show that follows polygamous families searching for a new wife. This show is also really fascinating. Many of the families on the show aren’t religious at all, they just choose the lifestyle and want a big family. The families definitely weren’t what I was expecting. They were a very diverse group and not modestly dressed like you might picture with wives from plural marriage.

Now that I know you don’t have to be religious to be polygamous, I really wonder what that must be like. To be honest, I’m a jealous person and I demand a lot of my husband’s attention, so bringing another woman into the picture would probably be extremely difficult. But then again, after everything I’ve been through in the past few months with my mental health struggles, maybe it would be nice to have support from other adults in the house. Extra help raising my daughter? That sounds nice, too.

Okay, so I see a few benefits to this lifestyle…or maybe I just need more friends. Has anyone else wondered about this? Just me? And where are the brother husbands?

This also makes me wonder what I’m going to tell my daughter about marriage. Really, marriage can look just about any way you want it to as long as it’s between consenting adults. I got married at twenty-seven and I was so nervous on my wedding day. At the time, I felt marriage was necessary for my life. My husband didn’t feel as strongly about it. He married me because I wanted to get married. He’s made it clear that he would have been with me either way. 

I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she has to get married. I want her to be in whatever relationship makes her happy.

What does marriage look like for you? Parents, what have you taught your children about marriage? 

Sexy Stranger Poetry — “Chance”

Chance

I lay awake at night
thinking about you
picturing your smile
imagining your touch.

I don’t want it to end.
Night will soon be morning
so I close my eyes
and hope I dream about you.

Always be with me
even if it’s just in my mind.
I wonder what it would be like
if you felt the same.

I won’t ever let go.
Life is too short
to not be in love.
I just want a chance to meet you.

Praying to Cover All Bases “Just in Case” God Exists

Have you ever encountered someone who says they pray “just in case” god exists? I once heard that compared to leaving garlic above your door just in case vampires exist. 

They say they want to “cover all bases”. 

Nobody really knows what happens after you die. It’s not like someone can come back after dying to tell us what it’s like.

But common sense tells me there’s nothing after death. I feel that’s all atheism is – common sense. 

I personally feel it’s a little dangerous to play the “just in case” and “cover all bases” game. Whether you truly believe in it or not, I feel that’s condoning religion and all the evils that come with it. It’s similar to that saying, “If you’re silent when there’s injustice, you’ve taken the side of the oppressor.” 

Maybe people will say there’s a difference between just believing in god and practicing a religion but I feel the idea of god only exists for greed and power. To me, god is oppression – keeping people in their place. Make people complacent so you can control them. 

Death brings out the fear of the unknown so I can kind of see why some people say “just in case” but it still gets under my skin considering everything it symbolizes. 

How do you feel about people who say they pray “just in case” or to “cover all bases”? Do you think they truly believe in god at that point? Also, do you think it’s possible for some people to completely separate god from religion? Have you ever been a “just in case” person?

Eating Disorder Recovery — I survived Christmas in treatment.

Last December I was admitted to a treatment center for eating disorders. I spent the holidays there and was discharged in February. I want to share with you my journal entry for Christmas Day. As an atheist, I don’t give a fuck about Christmas but I do give a fuck about spending time with my family and that just wasn’t possible last year. 

Just a few days before Christmas there was a Covid outbreak at the treatment center and we were quarantined in our apartments just a few blocks away. Our groups and appointments were done virtually. All of our meals and snacks were delivered to us and we ate on camera. 

Christmas was like any other day as far as treatment was concerned. We had groups and supervised meals all day. 

I often took notes in my journal during group therapy sessions and I decided to leave the notes in this entry because I thought they were interesting. We discussed anger and judgment on this day. I wrote down a few quotes that day as well.

Christmas was surprisingly hard.

 

12/25/21 Day Ten

I am slipping – with my meals and my attitude. I’m feeling hopeless. I fantasize about the day I’m discharged and get to go home with my family but there’s so much work ahead of me to get to that point that I don’t know if I’ll ever get there – or even if I want to.

This morning I’m doing a video call with my family to watch Karly open her gifts but I’m thinking of texting my husband to cancel. I’m already a mess and I don’t want Karly to see me so sad. Christmas should be happy for kids.

I didn’t think Christmas would bother me but this sucks so bad.

I texted my husband and he said the right thing – “Okay if you’re sure. We love you so much!” We’re going to talk later in the day.

I feel bad for feeling hopeless earlier. Time is going fast. I need to put in the work. I sure as hell don’t want to go back to feeling sick all the time. That’s why I’m here. I need to take advantage of this opportunity – even if it isn’t quite what I thought it would be. I know I can try harder.

Do I have too high of expectations for my recovery right now?

I’m still tearing up thinking about not seeing Karly today. This is going to be a long day. Tomorrow isn’t going to be any easier – it’s my wedding anniversary.

“I confuse familiarity with safety.”

If I was with my family on Christmas, I wouldn’t actually be there. This is where I need to be.

“You can feel multiple feelings. They can coexist.”

“Loneliness is an invitation for self-care.”

Can you dip grilled cheese in ranch? I’m afraid to ask. I really wanted the leftover ranch from my carrots. I was going to stick my fingers in it but I didn’t.

Meals have been rough today. An apple and part of a banana for breakfast, pretzels for snack, and grilled cheese for lunch. I gagged and spit the grilled cheese out. I tried so hard and took several bites. Is it okay to just not like things? I’m forcing myself to like things and it doesn’t seem to be working.

 

Purpose of Emotion Group: Anger

What does anger look like? How do you know you’re angry or that someone else is angry?

Cry
Need to get out – visceral feel
See things through a different lens
Smallest thing bothersome
Don’t communicate
Irritability
Yell
Shut down
Harder to use direct communication
Body gets hot
Shake
Feel the need to pace/move
Fall asleep, escapism
Crossed arms
Short responses to questions
Impulsive
Affect relationships
Antagonize others
Catastrophizing
Take it out on myself or others
Core beliefs
All or nothing thinking
Taking sides
Bursting – no longer holding it in
Racing thoughts
Social media, angry scroll/post
Reinforce labels/stereotypes
Red hot anger
Lose control
Feels unheard
Feels invalidated
Scream, trying to be heard
Punish self
Overexplain, need to prove
Tunnel vision
Mask
Not responsive, shut down
Sarcasm, using humor
Cold
Norms may be different

Anger Iceberg

Embarrassed
Hurt
Worried
Offended
Regret
Disappointed

Emotions you’ve noticed under anger –

Fear
Hurt
Out of control
Helpless
Powerless
Hopeless
Scared
Frustration
Confusion
Low self-worth
Anxiety

Benefits to anger –

Feel powerful
Release
Tell us something, morals and ethics
Passion
Shows who/what we care about
A way of taking care of yourself
Reaffirming
Validating
Social justice movements
Protective
Tell a story
Can be empowering
Make changes

Cost to acting on anger – not underlying emotion

Reacting instead of responding
Losing relationships
Increase in depression, SI
May not help situations

How to honor underlying emotions –

Speaking the truth
What is this telling me?
How is this emotion serving me?
Using coping skills
Not masking or bottling up
Being honest with self
Valid feeling, choose how to express it
Self-compassion

Anger is a spectrum, not necessarily bad or just one thing.

Anger is a secondary emotion.

 

Group: Judgment and Nonjudgmental Stance

What does judgment look like?

Criticism (from self and others)
Disapproval
Rejection
Quick decision
Labeling someone as their actions
“Right way”
Should statements
Unempathetic
“No excuses”
Backed by past experiences

Benefits to judging –

Can keep me safe
Reading a room
“Is this okay?”
Brings awareness
Helps me create boundaries
Gathering information
Protective
Starting place for insight
Impacts worldview
Honest

Costs to judging –

Past can keep us stuck
Might not get to know others, assumptions
No benefit of the doubt
Jumps to conclusions
Isolating
Comparing
Increase in insecurity
Increases anxiety
Lack of curiosity

Skills for nonjudgmental stance –

Differentiating between “I did a bad thing” vs. “I am a bad person”
Look at your own biases
How could this be serving me?

It’s easier to have a judgment than to sit with the unknown.

Can be a filtering system

 

Is it weird that so much of this relates to my relationship with food? Maybe that’s my relationship with myself? Core beliefs?

Maybe that’s ridiculous. I don’t know.

I judge food and my eating habits as well as others’ eating habits.

Food scares me if I’ve never tried it.

 

I’m having an urge to binge. I had a blueberry muffin and it was fantastic. Now I just want more.

Today has been so hard. I don’t give a fuck about Christmas but I do give a fuck about my family. I’m sitting on my bed letting myself feel my feelings for a minute. I was going to say I’m a mess again, but that’s not fair. I am a mother missing her child and a wife missing her husband.

Tomorrow is going to be hard – it’s our wedding anniversary.

Today is Saturday. I haven’t left the apartment since Tuesday. Everyone keeps saying that it’s quite a bit warmer than usual outside. I wouldn’t know. I keep saying I’ll be good and go for a walk, but I really don’t want to. I thought that was one way I could lose weight while I’m here, but I just can’t get off my lazy ass and do it.

I’ve also had a headache for the past few days. After program, I just want to lay around the apartment.

I really enjoyed the group on anger today. My anxiety often manifests as anger. I get irritable and impulsive, and the underlying emotion is fear.

But sometimes the underlying emotion to my anger is feeling unheard. People know me as quiet but I’m quiet because I feel like I’m never given a space to speak. I feel people view me as childlike and therefore my opinions don’t matter. It hurts. Maybe that’s why I like writing so much – I can say what’s on my mind and no one can stop me or interrupt me. I’m not exactly sure how to fix that. I could try to speak up more but sometimes I think it’s better just to write more.

Feeling unheard makes me feel powerless which feeds my low self-worth. Writing gives me back my power and raises my self-worth. I’m proud of the projects I’ve worked on. I’ve grown as a writer over the past year and that also improves my self-worth.

It has to be me because I feel unheard in many different situations with lots of different people. The anger sits with me and I think my core beliefs come into play –

No one likes me.
I’m not very smart.

Sometimes I feel I am ambitious so I can use my successes to prove that I’m worthy. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone cares or is paying attention.

I looked at everyone’s body here and compared them to mine. I can’t help it. I’m relieved that I’m not the fattest person here. I’m somewhere in the middle. I wish a dress code could be enforced because I’ve been triggered by what some people wear.

God that sounded bitchy.

How is this judgment serving me?

I’m insecure and don’t want to stand out in a negative way. I need reassurance. I want people to like me and think I’m pretty.

For some reason, that’s all important to me.

I shouldn’t want people to see me as pretty. When this is all over I want them to see me as resilient.

Costs of this judgment?

Assumptions, increased insecurities and anxiety. Eventually I think no one likes me and I isolate.

I survived Christmas.

It was an introspective day. I’m fucking up pretty bad with my meal plan but still feeling okay physically.

It’s pretty amazing sitting here by the window twenty-five floors up in downtown Chicago. I can see in the windows of hundreds of apartments. There are lights, people, Christmas trees. It’s just this tiny glimpse into other people’s lives. I don’t know how anyone lives here but I’m still curious.

 

Staying in Chicago was hard. Being away from my family was even harder. I survived Christmas but shortly after I was moved to a higher level of care. I will share more on that later.

Times have changed, but has Henry County?

I love living in Toledo, Ohio. It’s very different from where I grew up even though my childhood home is only about forty-five minutes away in Henry County. 

I grew up in the country. My family wasn’t very religious but still, indoctrination was all around me. There were things that happened when I was little that was seemingly innocent at the time that I now see as very wrong as an adult.

For example, like every good country kid, I was in 4-H. We would have a camp every June and I remember praying before every meal at camp. We would sing our prayers and to this very day, those little songs pop into my head. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think 4-H is actually a Christian organization. I think I was around nine or ten years old and I didn’t question it. My family didn’t pray before meals but it still didn’t seem out of the ordinary. 

But it gets worse. I went to public school and I remember teachers discussing god and Jesus. My kindergarten teacher sat us all down on the rug and told us the “true meaning of Christmas”. Unlike the songs at 4-H camp, that felt awkward to me, but not enough for me to bring it up at home. 

In high school, prayer was everywhere – at many events and games. I was in the marching band and we had a chaplain. He would lead prayers at our banquets. 

My math teacher has religious posters on the walls of his classroom. I failed Algebra 2 so I was in that classroom twice. 

My proudest moment in high school is when my best friend and I walked out during the last prayer at a Friday night football game. We were in the marching band together. We got a detention for it the following week.

Times have changed, but has Henry County?

I can’t help but wonder if things are different now back home. All of these things that I’m describing happened twenty or thirty years ago. 

When I was in high school, many of us had internet service at home for the first time. It made that crazy dial-up sound and was slow and unreliable, but would it become a game changer?

I’ve heard the internet service still isn’t the greatest out there, but I’m sure it’s better than what we had in the 90s. 

What happens when you open up Henry County to the world? Does anything change? With Covid, we now can work and go to school from anywhere so hopefully, that gave a lot of people back home more opportunities. 

What does this do to the conservative religious views that so many people back home shared? Are they still cramming religion down kids’ throats? 

I’m curious but I don’t have the answers to these questions. I have a bad feeling though.

Country Girl, Atheist Woman

How did I escape my country home? I got in my car and I left. Higher education was calling. I left after high school and I’ve only been back a handful of times. When I got to college my friends called me “fresh off the farm” because sometimes I have a tiny twang.

I left country life and religion far behind me. I decided several years back that I will only live places within twenty minutes of a Target store.

 

Any other country kids out there? How has it changed over the years? Or has it?

Finding Motivation and Healing in This Mental Mess

It’s no secret – treatment tore me up and I’m pretty fragile. My mental mess has spilled out into every aspect of my life. Right now I’m just trying to hang on. It’s been one wild ride.

I have a good life but uncovering the root causes of my eating disorder revealed that it’s not as good as it seems. Now that I really see that, I know I have a lot of work to do.

I spend a lot of time alone during the day which unfortunately gives me ample opportunity to ruminate on hard feelings. Sometimes all I can do is write about it.

I cry every day and many nights I don’t want to go to bed because I don’t want a new day to begin. I’m holding on by a thin, frayed thread. 

But then I get some sleep – my body and brain get some much-needed rest and I find a tiny bit of optimism in the morning.

Every day I walk around feeling like I’m going to fall apart but for some reason, I still get up in the morning and do shit. Even after everything that’s happened – the trauma, the treatment, and the exhausting range of emotions – I still think better things are yet to come. Obviously, I can’t see the future, but I think my situation will improve.

I’m not blowing sunshine up anyone’s ass. This is truly how I feel and how I’m making it through the day.

Feelings are temporary.
Feelings are temporary.
Feelings are temporary.

I don’t need god. I know how to ask for help and I have the strength to heal myself.

I just have to hang on. 

 

What motivates you? How do you find hope when everything’s gone to shit?

How do you feel about aging?

I will be turning forty later this year, and while I don’t think that’s old, I am definitely noticing signs of aging.

I’m already shrinking. I’m under 5’ now. I didn’t know that that can start in your thirties. I was really shocked and blown away when they measured me at the treatment center. My grandma who lived into her 90s was tiny and frail. It’s hard to imagine that might be my future. 

I can see signs of aging when I look in the mirror which is more upsetting than shrinking. My face is dull, dry, and not as firm as it once was. In the last few weeks, I’ve developed rosacea on my cheeks. There are dark circles and creases around my eyes. I’m spending money on skincare products I didn’t even know existed.

Despite noticeably aging, I actually feel pretty good. Since getting treatment for my eating disorder I have more energy. The only physical complaint I have is that I don’t like it when my daughter wants me to sit on the floor with her. Sometimes it’s hard getting back up.

Looking at my face can be a bit troubling, but I’m not as upset about aging as people might think. I think I’ve done a lot for someone my age, and except for a couple of morbid blog posts, thoughts of my own mortality don’t really come up that often. 

We get this one life. That’s it. Since I don’t believe in an afterlife, should aging scare me more? Is it harder to accept aging when you’re an atheist? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about aging? Does being an atheist affect that at all?

Eating Disorder Recovery — A Little More from My First Journal

I want to share a little more of my first journal. This entry was written two days after I found out I was going to a treatment center in Chicago and four days prior to my admission. I was starting to prepare to leave. It was incredibly difficult dealing with insurance and admissions but now it was becoming real.

12/12/21

A couple of days ago, my husband said he doesn’t know anyone who obsesses about food like I do.

He’s right. It’s an obsession, addiction.

 

3:30pm — Ordered Tropical Smoothie Cafe (again). Got the same wrap and smoothie. 

Couldn’t finish it even though it was the first time I’ve eaten today.

We order from Door Dash almost every night – mostly because of me. I don’t want to cook and fast food is gross. It gives you a lot of selection and variety but I tend to order the same things over and over.

But it’s very expensive. My husband said they’ll save money when I’m in treatment and not ordering Door Dash.

 

My Amazon packages came – new jeans, long shirts to cover my butt when I wear leggings, and extra toiletries. I still need to do some shopping locally before I go.

 

I’m still waiting for something to blow up – something has to go wrong. Finding treatment has been an absolute rollercoaster and I don’t think the ride has come to a complete stop yet.

I’m getting ready to go but I’m cautious.

I’m so nervous about having to eat food I don’t like.

My daughter is starting to get upset. She knows I’m leaving. She mentioned it a couple of times today. She cried a little this afternoon and tonight she said she wants to go with me.

Deep down I was thinking she’s closer to my husband so it won’t be as big of a deal if I leave.

This might be harder than I thought.

 

My eating disorder is so ingrained in my life and it has been for years. I don’t know how I’m ever going to overcome it. It’s every day – every meal.

I feel I will be focusing on minimizing symptoms rather than doing away with them.

 

I keep thinking about how I’ll introduce myself once I get there. Of course I will tell them about my family. Do I tell them my age? Do I tell them I’ve been through this before? Do I tell them I have schizoaffective disorder? I mean, they’ll see the muscle tremors from the lithium. I definitely want to tell them I’m a writer.

 

7:30pm — Got to get high now! I won’t be able to do this in treatment.

 

9pm — Ordered Pizza Hut. Had four slices and two breadsticks. I still want more.

 

Leah left a voicemail – possibly Thursday at 9am?

Will it be worth it? I’m going to be putting my whole family under a lot of stress in order to get treatment. It better pay off.

At the time I wrote this I was at a point where I knew I was really sick and I also knew if I ate I would feel better but my hunger and satiety cues were completely gone. Most days I felt nauseous. In addition to recreational use, I would often use weed to have an appetite. I would get high, eat, and for a couple hours, I would feel normal.

I had no idea what was in store for me at treatment…or that it would change everything.

Are meditation and prayer the same?

I have come to rely on meditation. When my anxiety feels out of control it is one surefire way to calm myself down. I am on several psych meds but sometimes it’s important to find other ways to help yourself — especially in a moment of distress. However, meditation has become a daily practice for me.

Busy day? Meditate.

Distracted mind? Meditate.

Big event coming up? Meditate.

Can’t sleep? Meditate.

You get the picture.

I have quite a collection of mala beads and I like to use them for chanting and breathing exercises. 

I often wear mala beads around my wrist and one day a relative said it looked like I’m carrying around a rosary. For something that’s so meaningful to me, I couldn’t help but be a little offended.

I’ve heard people compare meditation to prayer. Do you think they are the same?

Maybe they have the same effect but I can tell you my intent is different.

When I meditate, I’m not expecting some genie in the sky to grant me wishes. Nope. It’s all on me. It’s work that I do. It’s an exercise. It’s a way to keep me mentally resilient. It’s a part of staying well.

But do people feel the same way about prayer?

The one major parallel I can draw is that meditation and prayer are both for yourself. You may think your prayer is helping someone else but it’s really just a way to make yourself feel better. Meditation is something I do for myself. I never expect it to affect others except for maybe I’m more pleasant to be around (or at least more tolerable). 

I know there have been studies done on the effects of prayer and meditation but I’m really curious to get your opinion – do you think they’re the same?