Sharing My Fight: Why Reading and Writing are Crucial to My Recovery

I’ve had mental health struggles for most of my life. I like to write about it because I often feel lonely and isolated with my symptoms. I just think there are others out there who can relate and that’s always reassuring. 

Making It Through the Day

My most recent battle with my eating disorder revealed that sometimes the smallest things are the hardest. Just nourishing my body – something that should be instinctual – is difficult. 

As miserable as it was to be at a treatment center, it was somewhere I could catch my breath. It’s a safe place to let go for a minute. Everyone already knows you’re crazy – you don’t have to hide it. Trying to function and live a normal life is exhausting when your eating disorder has taken over everything.

It’s been nearly five months since I was discharged and I’ve learned that the real world is not as forgiving as the treatment center.

The emotional impact of going through treatment has definitely taken its toll. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a dream but I’m actually awake.  I’m stuck in my head and I can’t always tell what’s inside of me and what’s outside. I talk to myself. I have very little attention for anything else.

It’s hard to focus on the positive when you feel you are being ruled by the negative but somehow I grab on to the light in my life with everything I’ve got and make it through the day.

Reading and Writing

In the past few months, I’ve learned that reading and writing are crucial. I mean, they should be anyway but especially now in my recovery. Reading has become an act of mindfulness. It’s a distraction from the mess going on in my head and it keeps me present. It gives me something to focus on. Concentration is very difficult but I feel it has improved with reading.

Writing on the other hand is not only an outlet, it helps me process my thoughts and feelings. It’s how I organize and express what’s on my mind and it’s one way I have allowed myself to really experience my emotions. Sometimes it’s painful but other times it’s just a good release.

Reading and writing have both shown me that there is a world outside of my head — and a world outside of our little house. I’ve always carried books and journals with me everywhere I go but now it’s even more meaningful.

As I continue to see a therapist and dietitian, my eating disorder has slowly loosened its grip. Things are getting a little easier. 

A Secular Childhood: Letters to My Daughter — No. 31 “Swimsuit Season”

Dear daughter,

As I write this it is summertime…which also means swimsuit season.

Now that you’re older, I’m going to let you in on a secret; I never liked wearing a swimsuit. Every time we’ve gone to the beach or pool you’ve seen me in a swimsuit and I’ve never complained.

Before you were born I very rarely wore a swimsuit. I was always self-conscious about my body. I was embarrassed and ashamed.

But then you came along and I decided that I would wear a swimsuit no matter what. You love to swim so it happens somewhat frequently. 

I never wanted you to see me unhappy with my body. I never wanted you to think you have to be a certain size to wear a swimsuit.

The truth is swimsuits are for everyone and come in all sizes.

So many women despise swimsuit season but having an eating disorder can make it even more difficult. 

But still, I put on that fucking swimsuit. 

You’re six years old right now and have unfortunately witnessed my struggle with food, anxiety, and weight. However, you have also witnessed me in treatment. I just feel that wearing a swimsuit is one way I can make a difference and send a message.

My hope is that no matter what changes your body goes through as you get older, you will always wear a swimsuit as well. I hope you will send a body-positive message to those around you — especially to those who are younger — just as I’m trying so hard to do right now.

You are beautiful and always remember you can wear whatever the hell you want no matter what size you are. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. 

Love,
Mom

 

PS In just a couple months, we will be taking our annual trip to Kelleys Island. I look forward to watching you play and splash around at the beach!

Dreams and Memories: Our Brains are Fascinating

I want to share a strange experience I had a while back.

First a little back story – my mom was killed in a car accident when I was five years old and my dad was a single parent for most of my childhood. I don’t remember my mom – what she looked like or what her voice sounded like. I have to rely on photos and stories from family and friends.

My earliest memory is of the day she died. I remember getting picked up from daycare and my dad telling my sister and me what happened. Those memories are actually quite clear. My older sister can remember things from when she was a toddler and preschooler so it seems odd that my memories stop there. 

So now my strange experience…

When I was in my twenties I had a recurring dream. I was a little girl in the backseat of the car. It was storming out. All of a sudden the car parks at our neighbor’s house. Someone pulls me out of the backseat and holds me with one arm like a sack of potatoes. This person starts running through our neighbor’s yard and into our yard. I couldn’t see who this person was and I was aware that there were others running.

That’s where the dream ends. 

I had this dream several times and I finally told my dad. To my surprise, he said that really happened. My family had spent a day at the lake in Indiana and we returned home to strong storms. There was a tree that had fallen across the road and that is why we parked our car at the neighbor’s house. Dad said it was raining heavily and that’s why we were running.

Who was carrying me? While this happened long ago and the details are fuzzy, it could be a memory of my mom.

This is proof that I have memories earlier than age five and possibly of my mother.

This wasn’t my only recurring dream about my mom. Another one happened a few years later.

I think this is absolutely fascinating. I am sad that I don’t remember much but it’s a tiny bit encouraging to know the memories are there – somewhere in my brain. These dreams prove I know more than I think I know. 

I would say brains are mysterious but I’m sure there’s an explanation for what I experienced.

Have any of you experienced something like this? How old were you in your earliest memory?

Curiosity of the Topic of Suicide — Religious vs. Secular

I should probably start this post by saying I’m in a safe place and doing well. I am not suicidal I just have a bit of morbid curiosity on the subject.

I was watching a documentary the other day that mentioned the Suicide Forest at Mt. Fuji in Japan. (If you haven’t heard of it, I would suggest Googling it. It’s dark and sort of fascinating.) This had me thinking about views on suicide.

My Own Experience with Suicidal Thoughts

As a mental health worker, I would obviously do anything to prevent that final outcome for myself or anyone else. 

I have only felt suicidal a couple of times, and both times I had an overwhelming feeling of being stuck – like nothing will ever change and there’s nothing I can do about it. Somewhere along the line, I asked for help.

I’ve always had a lot of help with my mental health. I have continuously seen a psychiatrist since I was twenty-one and I have seen therapists and other professionals off and on throughout the years. I feel very fortunate for that.

One thing that has always helped me is knowing that feelings are temporary.

Breakfast with My Husband

I’ve noticed I feel a little more passionate about this topic than many of my friends and family. Some of them feel it should always be the person’s choice, especially if they are truly suffering.

Sitting over breakfast at Bob Evans, I told my husband about this post and he had a few thoughts. My husband is a dispatcher for our local 911 where they receive many calls regarding people who are suicidal. For these calls, they always send police and EMS and the police are always the first to enter the scene. The police obviously are going to use force to try to stop someone from killing themselves and you can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a better way. Is force really necessary if they’re not hurting anyone else?

He also pointed out that we value free will and suicide is the last free choice a person can make.

Also, if you stop someone who is truly suffering from dying by suicide, is it for you or for them?

We both agree with assisted suicide in the case of a terminal illness.

It was an interesting breakfast. I miss having conversations with my husband like this.

Your Thoughts…Religious vs. Secular

I’m just really curious to get your thoughts on the topic. I think in Christianity it is a sin to die by suicide. Do you think that ever prevents anyone from doing it? Also, if you take religion out of it, should people view it as a viable option for ending their suffering?

Spending Time at the Library

The coolest place to hang out in Toledo is the library! It is also where most of my blog posts are written. It’s a beautiful building. I’m sitting in a study room as I write this and I wanted to share a few pictures I just took of the library.

Toledo Library atrium   

   

   

I just wanted to share how much I enjoy coming here.

 

What’s your local library like? Do you spend a lot of time there?

How do you talk to your child about death?

A couple of nights ago my husband and I were conversing about aging and death. Specifically about my grandmother who passed away a few years ago. She was 91 and still very sharp mentally – she knew everything that was going on as she was dying. It was painful to watch. 

My grandpa, on the other hand, who died a few years before her had dementia so by the time he died it was like we had already lost him long ago. I asked my husband if he thought it was better for your mind or your body to decline first. 

Maybe we should have been a little more cautious in our conversation because our six-year-old daughter was in the room and after a few mentions of the word “death” she burst into tears and said, “I don’t want to die!” 

I let my husband take the lead on this one. I thought my explanation of death would be too depressing. I don’t believe there’s anything after death. You die and that’s it – you’re gone. But how do you say that to a crying six-year-old?

I said, “Everybody dies. It’s a part of life.” My daughter then said she wants to be a ghost so she can live forever. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t really knock down the ghost idea. We really had no idea what to say.

My husband added that it’s important to live your life to the fullest because we will all die one day. I definitely agreed with him on that one and I was hoping that would be my daughter’s main takeaway from the conversation.

My daughter said she’d wish upon a shooting star to be a ghost and then as she left the room she said, “Say goodbye to the real world and hello to the death world.” It was pretty creepy. 

I thought I was better prepared for this. 

My mother died when I was five so I had to deal with death at a very young age. I remember feeling a lot of confusion. I would ask where my mom was, and no one would answer me. My daughter deserves a better explanation than what I was given – which was no explanation.

So please help me out – what did you tell your kids about death? 

Also, my husband never was able to answer my question – would it be better for your mind or your body to decline first? If you feel like answering that I would love to hear it.

Sex Ed Scare Tactics – If I Only Knew

I was terrified of sex growing up. I knew very little about my own body and talking about sex always came with a negative connotation. It was always taught to be a bad thing.

I went to high school in the late 90s in rural Ohio. At the time, schools in Ohio were not required to have sex ed and if they did, it had to be an abstinence-only curriculum.

Forget training about orientation and identity (which I later learned could have saved many of my classmates some heartache, frustration, and fear) – we were lacking in even the fundamental basics. I didn’t even know how my body worked.

My classmates and I assumed if you have sex, you either get pregnant the first time or you get sick and die – either way you’re going to hell. It didn’t help that there were a lot of pregnant girls at school. See! You really do get pregnant right away!

Shedding Light on What Was Never Talked About

I was a little more fortunate than my classmates because I was an exchange student and spent my junior year in Denmark, a place with very comprehensive sexual education. I was 16 and for the first time heard about masturbation in a positive light. We were always taught back home that it was wrong to touch ourselves. I had never explored my own body. I had an orgasm for the first time in Denmark and at first, it scared me. It was new but I soon enjoyed it. Why didn’t I know about this? 

I returned from Denmark armed with knowledge that made me less fearful. Of course, I was more than willing to share this knowledge with my curious and repressed teenage friends in Ohio. 

My Path and My Daughter

I lost my virginity at 18 to a person I was serious about. It was his first time as well. It’s a fun memory and I had no regrets.

I’ve also been very fortunate in only getting pregnant when I really wanted to.

If I went to high school now, with my late-30s horniness and experience, I would definitely relax and have a little more fun – maybe fuck the football team.

Would I say that to my daughter? Probably not. But I don’t want my daughter to fear sex either – maybe just have a healthy respect for it. I don’t want her to see it as a bad thing.

In Denmark, there seemed to be this rite-of-passage where a mother takes her daughter to get birth control around her fifteenth birthday. I think that’s a great idea and I plan on doing that with my daughter. I don’t know if she’ll need birth control then, but I’m going to make sure it’s readily available and she knows how to use it.

Sex Ed in Ohio Today

I graduated high school over 20 years ago. So what’s it like for kids in Ohio today? A quick Google search revealed that not much has changed. Sex ed is now required in schools, however, the curriculum is not required to be comprehensive and it must emphasize abstinence. 

A little further research showed that now even anti-abortion groups have affected sex ed in Ohio. The curriculum must also emphasize adoption for unintended pregnancies. 

The consequences of having a child out of wedlock must also be taught.

Check out Ohio Code Section 3313.6011 for the full list of requirements for sex ed and see why I’m disappointed in my now red state.

I hope my daughter will be more knowledgeable than I was as she works her way through childhood but it’s pretty clear she’s not going to get that from school. It’s up to me.

 

What was sex ed like in your school? Did you fear sex? Did you see it as a good/bad thing? I’d love to hear your stories.

A Little Pick-Me-Up

Here’s a little poem I wrote while in treatment…

Rise from the rubble
like the badass that you are.
The world came crashing down
but you have the strength
to build it back up.
Brick and mortar,
concrete and steel —
don’t let anything knock you down.

Some recent events have really put my recovery to the test, but I made it. I survived.

In this moment, I’m feeling a lot of strength and love. I don’t believe in prayer or good jujus or anything, but I hope in some way you’re feeling it, too.

A few questions…are atheists typically arrogant? Are we smarter?

Do you think atheists are typically arrogant? That’s definitely a stereotype out there; sometimes I fall into that category. Why can’t everyone see religion in the way that I see it? It’s just common sense to know that religion is bullshit, right?

As atheists, is it our duty to expose the evils of religion? In a way, “spread the word”? 

We may have science on our side, but it always seems to be our word vs. theirs. 

But take your average Christian in middle America – going about life, doing what they know and maybe don’t know any different – are they doing anything wrong? Is it their fault for not questioning their beliefs?

Is being skeptical a personal responsibility?

Are we smarter for questioning? Is being inquisitive an inherited trait? Why do some question and some follow blindly? I’d say that a lot of it has to do with your environment, yet so many people rebel against their upbringing. Could there possibly be a nurture vs. nature argument when it comes to faith? 

I’d like to think I’m not an asshole. Deep down I know we are all just humans with our own experiences, trauma, abilities, and flaws and most of us are just trying to get by. 

Hate the belief but not the believer? Maybe this is a case of live and let live.

Wanna take a stab at the many questions I vomited onto this post? I’d love to hear it.

Post-Roe Plans for a Mom Nearing 40 in a Red State

When I heard the news of Roe being overturned, I felt I needed a plan. I am a woman still in her childbearing years. I have an amazing daughter but I know I do not want any more children. 

I also live in Ohio – a red state. The very same day Roe was struck down Ohio’s Heartbeat Law went into effect, making getting an abortion in our state nearly impossible. 

The first step in my plan is to get an IUD. I am currently on the pill and I’m not going to lie – I have occasionally forgotten to take it. I don’t want to take any chances.

The next step is to get a new passport. I let my passport expire a few years back and didn’t really have a need (or the money) to renew it. I don’t know what the states bordering Ohio are doing, but Canada is only an hour away from my home in Toledo. Seems like that would be a safe bet if I ever needed an abortion.

The trickiest part of this whole equation is my six-year-old daughter. What will this country and this state look like as she gets older?

My husband and I have actually talked about moving because it’s not just Roe – it’s everything. This is absolutely heartbreaking to me. My family has called Northwest Ohio home for 170 years. 

Are you making post-Roe plans?