Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Porn Pandemic: Part 1

When I was younger and the internet became a thing, I remember listening to warnings from my church leaders about pornography and how evil it was.

Pornography was bad---I knew that. In fact, that's all I knew. I had no idea how harmful pornography actually could be. And at the time, I don't think many people did.

We didn't understand pornography because before the internet, it took a lot more work to find it. It took actually leaving your house and going to a video store or finding a magazine. It wasn't available in the same magnitude as is now available.

Because of the internet, pornography is available in your home, on the electronic devices you use, and on the electronic devices your children use---but there is hope. There are protections you can take to keep your home a safe haven for your families. But let's save that discussion for another day.

Today, I want to focus on why pornography harms.

In mainstream media, pornography is portrayed as normal, healthy, and fun. How often do we hear about the other side of pornography, the side that states pornography causes real addiction and harms relationships?

Fight the New Drug states that pornography harms in 3 ways: the brain, relationships, and society.
So today, let's talk about the brain.

Researchers used to think that addiction was caused solely by outside substances that are physically put into a person's body {drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc}.

"Once we got a peek into the brain, however, our understanding of how addictions work changed. It turns out, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs have more in common than you might think. Sure, on the outside, some are poured into a glass while others are lit on fire and smoked. But once they’re in the body, they all do the same thing to the brain: flood it with a chemical called dopamine. That’s what makes them addictive. And porn does the exact same thing." source

Pornography causes the "reward pathways" in the brain to react, in the same way cocaine does. And as you probably know with addiction, things don't get better before they get worse. People with addiction often consume more and more because they feel like they need it. They have to have it.

"Setting your brain up for an overload of feel-good chemicals might sound like a good idea at first, but just like with junk food, what feels like a good thing, in this case isn’t at all. Because porn use floods the brain with high chemical levels, the brain starts to fight back. Over time, the brain will actually cut down on its dopamine receptors—the tiny landing docs that take the dopamine in once it’s been released in your brain. As a result, porn that once excited a person often stops having the same effect, and the user has to look at more porn, look at porn more often, or find a more hardcore version—or all three—to get aroused." source

Scary. That is the first word that comes to mind when I read the above quote.

Think about a fully developed brian on porn and then think about the damaging effects that pornography can have on the developing brain of a teenager. The damage is different. The brain develops in a different way when an undeveloped brain is exposed to pornography.

"...for teens, the risks are especially high, since a teen brain’s reward pathway has a response two to four times more powerful than an adult brain—which means teen brains release even higher levels of dopamine." source

SCARY.

The effects pornography has on the brain cause addiction.
Addiction is a hard thing to overcome.
But in case you were wondering or feeling hopeless right about now, addiction is possible to overcome. Resources are available. Help is available.

Hope is available.

If you are as worried as I am about how readily pornography is available to our society, help me take a stand against it.
Join the Street Team.
Learn how to keep your home safe.
And talk.
Talk with others about how harmful pornography is. Stand up against the pornification in our society.
Watching pornography is not the norm and even if it was, it is still harmful. It is still ruining relationships and brain development and societal views.

Keep the conversations going about how harmful pornography can be. Keep speaking up about why this is NOT OK.

Fight with me, friends.
Fight the new drug.

Monday, July 28, 2014

When my bravery is challenged...

I'm trying to be brave and strong and inspiring and honest all of the time but you know, it just doesn't work that way.
Because sometimes I feel cowardly and weak and annoying and dishonest. Sometimes I feel like there are pieces of me missing that no one, not even I, will be able to put back together.
I can't seem to break out of my recent fog. It's present and it challenges me to fail---and I try to challenge it right back. I try.

I am thinking today will include early bedtime and a lot of prayer. Feel free to include some of your own in there because today, that is all I ask for. I'm pretty good at bouncing back but prayer helps.
Prayers always help.

Cookies help too. Good thing I have plenty of those laying around today.


That is all, friends. Today, that is all I have for you.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Tornado

She shakes, anticipating the outcome. It is here. The tornado has arrived. Her legs quiver with each sign of lightning. The earth beneath her cracks and the sky is full of grey.

Life as she knows it is over. Everything she has trusted to keep her grounded is now uprooted. The steps she will take will determine parts of her outcome but it is not all up to her. Forces cause her to tremble, to fall, to move in directions she never planned on going.

She runs. She walks. She crawls if she has to. Determined not to let this hell engulf every part of her, she continues on her journey. She will make it. She has to make it.

The only other choice is to give up but she is a warrior.

Her army rallies around her. They can see that she is struggling to find a path around the tornado and she needs their help. And help, they will. They have been there before. They know what this tornado feels like and they know how to find a way. They provide her with flashlights, food, a first-aid kit, and water so she is prepared to make her journey.

She is never alone. Some days, she stands tall. Other days, she lays down on the ground. The tornado lasts longer than anything she has ever experienced. She wonders when it will end. She wonders how it will end.

Can her marriage survive? Will her children survive? Does her soul survive?

She braces for the storm and she prays. With everything she has, she prays that she is strong enough to handle the outcome.

Suddenly, the tornado has wrapped around her. She couldn't get past it, no matter how hard she tried. In the middle of the tornado, she remembers all of the hurtful things her husband has done and said, all of the insecurities she has about herself, and all of the ways she has failed as a mother. She falls to the ground and tries to come to grips with her ending. This must be how it ends. Nothing this painful can possibly be endured by one person.

But when she looks up, she finds her warrior sisters fighting to make their way to the middle of the tornado. They have come to be with her. They realize they cannot rescue her. They cannot pull her from the middle of the tornado. But they can wait with her until it is all over. They can make sure she isn't alone.

The storm finally ends. She is bleeding but not completely broken. Her arms are filled with cuts and bruises and her heart is still aching. Her sisters gather her in their arms and help to heal her. The process is slow. She doesn't fully believe she can ever be healed from the trauma of her tornado. But she lets them in anyway.

She trusts her warrior sisters, for they have been there when no one else would come. They have taken on her heartache and empathized with her pain. They have given her tools she couldn't find on her own.

She used to look at tornados and wonder how anyone was able to survive them but now she knows. She has done it. She has survived the very thing she thought was unsurvivable.

She will make it. There may be other storms that come her way but she will make it.

She is a warrior.

Monday, July 21, 2014

God Loves Me: Lessons from a 4 year old

 I find it appropriate that this post came to mind on a night where I am snuggling up next to my favorite little boy while his sister spends the night at her grandparents.
Spidey and I have always had a special connection. From the time he was a baby, I would wear him around the house in the sling or moby wrap and he would stare at me with his perfect hazel eyes. I always had this strong feeling that he was going to help me in some significant way, I just didn't think it would start at such a young age.
 My eating disorder started to take over when the divorce became reality. I was done. I couldn't handle life. I couldn't handle the fact that I was overweight and worthless and that he probably left me because I was no longer good enough for him.

I was trying to hold on and fight for my children. I had been doing well for eight whole years and I was scared that I was breaking. How could this be happening? How selfish am I that I couldn't fight hard enough for my kids?
I blamed myself and shamed myself every day. I believed I was stupid for not taking care of myself when I should've had my focus on the aching hearts of my children. Why was I so selfish?!

I was struggling in school and struggling with friendships. I needed help but I was pushing people away because I no longer felt worthy of the friends who had been there from day one. Honestly I felt worthy of no one.

Once I found out about the pornography addiction, I broke. I couldn't hold on any longer. I was done. My counselor had seen that things were getting worse and we had talked about how I might need an eating disorder therapist but I hate change and I had learned to trust her. I didn't want to leave. Cancelling my final session with her was an extremely hard thing for me to do. I sent that text as quick as I could before I could back out of it.

And when I say I broke, I'm telling you, I completely broke. My final breaking point will be left detail-less on this blog because it is too hard for me to re-live but I knew I needed to heal.

The night of my eating-disorder-hell-wake-up-call, I was texting a friend and I was struggling to believe God loved me or that anyone loved me. I was trying to put groceries away and right then and there, I fell to the floor and started sobbing uncontrollably. I felt so alone and broken and scared.

I was laying on my cold tile floor when I saw a little red headed boy peek his head around the corner. It was late so I was surprised to see him there. And as soon as I noticed, he was gone. I figured he had gone back to bed and I was in no condition to pick myself up yet so I layed there and continued to cry.

But without another second to think, that little red head came back around the corner, this time with two pillows and a blanket. He lifted my head up and placed a pillow underneath and then he layed down beside me and pulled the blanket over both of us. And he said to me, "Mom, I'm just going to lay here with you until you feel better." and we layed there and I cried and he wrapped his arm around my neck.
A four year old boy was prompted to do what God knew I needed that night. A tiny four year old boy.
 I felt God's love that night. I felt His presence and I trusted that He would be able to help me overcome this trial in my life.
I can do this with Him. I can do it with the people He has placed in my life to give me strength.

It was the most beautiful ending to one of the worst days I have ever experienced.

I think back on that experience and I am in awe of all the things my son has taught me in his four and a half years on earth. He taught me an extremely important lesson that night, a lesson that has helped me continue to fight and recover and beat the crap out of the nasty lies in my head that tell me I'm not good enough.

I have learned that I will always have an eating disorder. But I am a fighter and I am strong enough to challenge the lies in my head and recognize them as lies.

I am so thankful that I can look back on some of my darkest days and compare them to where I am now and realize I have done this. I have fought to get here and be this new person and have the courage to continue on with my life and make it a beautiful life.
Spidey will always be my baby boy. Always. And I will never forget the time he reminded me just how much God loves me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Truth, A Thousand Lies

I am a chain breaker. A lot of hard things have happened in my life and I want to be the one to fight them, to challenge them until the chains are broken.

Addiction is full of chains. Addiction is full of heartache and lies and secrecy.

I am the addict and the person affected by addiction. I have had to re-learn how to live life since April because in some really dark moments, my world was shattered and everything I had trusted as truth had turned to lies.

It only took one truth to learn about so many lies.

I don't know if I've ever felt lower than I did in April. Maybe as a teenager I got close, maybe a little bit when I was first diagnosed with infertility, but never quite as brutal as April.

Journal entry from February 2014: The thing is, if I would've been a different person, maybe none of this would've happened. If I would've been more patient or less controlling with him, maybe he would've loved me more. And if I would've taken better care of myself and stayed skinny, he wouldn't have left.
Now that he's gone, I don't want this to happen again. I want to be a different person so I don't drive anyone else away. I want to change some of the main things I used to like about myself because it's more important that other people like me."

When I wrote those words, I never intended to share them with anyone besides my counselor. They were raw surfaced emotions I was feeling about the things happening in my life. And unfortunately, they happened to be feelings I had and wrote about before April, when I found the missing puzzle piece to my broken marriage.

So you can imagine how much worse I felt after finding out I had been second (or third or fourth or fifth) to the devil's internet for years. You can imagine how discarded and empty and worthless I felt when I realized I was broken in a thousand places.

But God knew I wouldn't be able to handle it on my own. He had already set up the support and love I would need during this extremely confusing and dark time.
Some family members thought I already knew about the addiction because I attended The Togetherness Project and in the main description, it states: Join with other courageous women who are gathering together in a spirit of sisterhood to help overcome the betrayal of trust and emotional pain associated with a loved one's pornography addiction and/or infidelity.
Yeah, surprising, isn't it? I honestly didn't know.
I was attending the project because a friend had invited me. I was going through a divorce, life felt super messy, and I welcomed any and all support in the form of a sisterhood.
And support me, they did.

I've learned a lot about pornography addiction in the last three months than ever before in my life. I've written an essay for school on the subject, I've discussed among friends, and I've read a ton of statistics.

I've become a fighter because I feel like it is a part of me. I feel like I can make a difference just by bringing awareness to the *fact* that pornography kills love.

Artificial love is not the same thing as real love.

Satan is trying and he is succeeding. Men and women are getting lost in the internet world of pornography and most of them are feeling an incredible amount of shame and worthlessness because they can't just kick their habit.

Within my church, we often shy away from talking about the nitty gritty of pornography addiction because it is uncomfortable. I've heard people preach that "good men/women don't look at pornography" and it makes me want to throw up because guess what? THEY DO!

Good men and women are trapped in this world full of lies and heartache, not only for themselves but for their spouses or future relationships. These aren't disgusting people, they are our family and friends, our very own loved ones! They are struggling in secrecy because if they came out and talked about their addiction, they would risk judgment and people looking at them in a whole different light.

But what makes them different? Nothing, really.

Because it can happen to anyone. It isn't just an addiction for boys or girls or teenagers or adults or poor people or rich people; pornography takes anyone and everyone it can. That's the way Satan set this up.

Did you know that pornography literally changes chemicals in the brain? "On the surface, cocaine and porn don’t seem to have a lot in common but studies are showing that viewing pornography tricks your brain into releasing the same pleasure chemicals that drugs do. What’s more is your brain actually begins to rewire itself because of this artificial stimulation." source

Covenant Eyes states that 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls have been introduced to pornography before they are 18 years old and the average age of exposure is now 7. SEVEN!

The statistics are scary. You can go to either of the websites I linked and you will find more.
I have joined this fight in the way that I can, by bringing awareness and also by opening the discussion about judgment and what our purpose here is; because I highly doubt God would put us on this earth to judge and ridicule each other.

But along with my fight to bring more awareness, I am still a woman affected by pornography addiction. I have still felt a lot of loss and pain and confusion these past few months, mourning a huge part of my life that now seems too painful to remember.

Divorce life brought a lot of heartache into my life. Learning about the pornography brought a heartache I didn't know could even exist.

My eating disorder is one of the main demons I refer to when I talk about my brokeness after our separation. And I've viewed my eating disorder the same as some people might view their pornography addiction or some other type of addiction; it is shameful.

But it is common and I am choosing to open up to you because you may be struggling too. You might be feeling broken and bruised in an otherwise safe-looking world. Because eating disorders tell us we aren't good enough and that controlling our eating or exercising will bring us the happiness we are searching for.

My eating disorder tells me I wasn't as skinny or beautiful as the women in the internet. My eating disorder tells me that he left because of my physical appearance. My eating disorder tells me I'll be happier when I weigh a certain amount or control the hell out of my eating.

Because control is a huge part of this. When my life was pulled out from under me, I felt unstable, out of control, and absolutely defeated.

And if you're wondering the most important lesson I've learned from fighting my eating disorder and fighting the lies it tells me about myself, it is that I am not happier when I'm listening to my eating disorder. I am not happier when I am starving myself or purging to avoid weight gain. I am not happier when I hyper-focus on my flaws and decide I have to do whatever it takes to get rid of them.

I'm not.
Because this girl
And this girl
And this girl
And this girl are ALL the same person and not one of them is better or more worthy than the other.

They are all me. I am every single one of those pictures.

My eating disorder tells me a lot of lies and it is often hard to distinguish between the truths and the false information inside of my brain. I am on a journey to healing myself, learning more about my disorder, and challenging the lies inside of my head.

I've learned that a spouse's pornography addiction can directly coincide with a person developing an eating disorder. Although that wasn't the case for me, pornography addiction seemed to validate everything I had been fighting not to believe about myself for years. It brought a lot of insecurities I already had and magnified them by three thousand.

But I guess I'm here to tell you that it is a fight worth fighting. The life I live, although messy, is beautiful beyond anything I could've comprehended. I fight for my children. I fight for you.

And I'm learning that I am worth my fight too. I am worth more than any amount of money or weight or artificial love. I am worth fighting for. 
We are all worth fighting for.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Utah Trip 2014

 So we did it. We took a trip to Utah last week and it was marvelous--and as you're reading this, I hope you read that as mahhhhh-velous.

The roadtrip on the way there was full of breathtaking sights, a book on tape called Wild, Wise, and Witty Woman, and a slew of new songs to listen to. Other highlights of the roadtrip included RAIN (which is so fun since I'm from Arizona and suck at driving in the rain at high speeds), never stopping to eat, and a fatal car accident that put traffic at a standstill for 45 minutes.

It was an adventure.

I arrived in South Jordan to pick up my kids around 7pm and we were in Layton to see our friends by 8.
My kids weren't too excited...oh wait, YES THEY WERE! The Hislops moved back in March and we have missed having them as neighbors ever since. When my ex-husband moved to Utah and had talked about the kids coming up for the 4th of July, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to keep my promise to my friend and come see her!
Cassie, my friend/the mom/Mrs. Hislop, is the daughter of a really cool guy who is over the parks & rec and they were having fun events that week. First up? Movie in the park, complete with bull rides. I was so proud of the kids for giving it a try. Petey was pretty scared but she did it anyway!
 
On Tuesday night, we had some evening plans and my hair was a mess. The pink hadn't fully taken and it looked like rasberry/orange sherbet. Also, the ends were horribly fried. Well, LUCKY ME, Cassie has a hairstylist for a sister and she fixed my hair on Monday and I love it!
Ombre red. It is awesome. Seriously awesome.


We spent Tuesday afternoon doing one of our favorite things to do together---Bachelorette, anyone? Cassie and I used to get together every Monday night with another friend of ours and we were so sad when she moved back to Utah. I still get sad every Monday night...
 
 
Tuesday morning (yes, that Bachelorette picture was taken after...I'm a little jumbled here), we headed to a trampoline park. As you can see above, my monkey climbed up those ropes all by herself. She was actually pretty intimidated and I told her she would earn a quarter if she would just try---and look at that! She succeeded!
 Miss J was so awesome and brave and kept practicing the tight rope. I wish I had a picture but she actually made it more than halfway across!
Mr. T is one of the cutest babies in the world. I was the very first person privileged enough to babysit him when he was a few weeks old and I used to cuddle him almost every week in church. I have missed him since they moved and he grew up so much!!!

Thursday we went to the pool and had a great time together! My boy, my awesome brave litle toaster was told he would get a quarter for going off the high dive (Can you tell I like to motivate my children to try hard things?).
 
Although he didn't do it, HE TRIED! He climbed up that ladder and stood up to the edge and then decided he'd rather come back down. I was a proud momma.
 
Sadly, that was going to be the last adventure we would have with the Hislops. We were headed out after swimming to go visit my fake Aunt and Uncle in Lehi.
But the kids had one last thing up their sleeve...
They put on a goodbye show for us in the backyard. We loved it!

After our goodbyes and trying to get the dvds to play on my Kindle (which never ended up working...darn.), we headed on our hour drive to my fake Aunt's house (She is my mom's best friend.).


The weather was perfect. Perfect! The kids played out in the dirt for over an hour and came inside full of smiles and dirt in their ears. What a night.
Absolutely perfect for our very last night in Utah.

Our drive started out early---5:30am AZ time. The kids were tired and a bit grumpy and ten hours of driving was shaping up to be FANTASTICALLY psychotic...and it was.
Spidey took a nap for a while which was great except Petey was bored and whining at me. But she's adorable and I love her.
Luckily, I had packed some coloring and art supplies. My kids eat that stuff up! So glad I grabbed these things the night before we left.
By the time we got to Flagstaff, Petey was done. Look at that face. She was a serious little bugger and was finding any and all reasons to cry or complain about something.

But again, I love her. She's my kid. She's my gal and I wouldn't trade her for all the money in the world!

It was a fabulous trip. I miss my friends already. I hate that we can't live near each other but I love that I was able to see her and let our kids see each other.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Nastiest of Nasty

Divorce can bring out the nastiest of nasty in people. I've seen it happen many times. Not only are there two people trying to navigate through this scary hell, families are forced to figure out their role in the divorce and often times, ugly things are said about people who used to love each other.

This isn't me just talking about my divorce in particular. It's everywhere. It happens often. You can be the loveliest person, inside and out, and you still find things said about you because you have been involved in a divorce. 

Often times, when I write about divorce or the things caused by our divorce, you'll see this after my post on Facebook or Twitter: #divorcesucks. And that hashtag is truer than true. Navigating through this new life while trying to figure out my role as an ex-wife seriously sucks a lot of the time. Missing out on time with my kids seriously sucks. Having the kids by myself without a spouse helping me along the way seriously sucks. Arguing with my ex-husband because we aren't understanding each other seriously sucks. Need I go on?

It isn't that marriage was better because most of the time, it wasn't. The sucky part is that marriage could've been better than divorce. It was possible. It wasn't this unreachable thing because "we weren't meant to be together". I don't really believe in that phrase. Two people can make a marriage work if they are both willing. The trick is that they both have to be willing. 

Navigating single life just seems like a mess most of the time because I've got all of this baggage that constantly parades through my mind and I don't know where to put it. Do I talk about it? Get over it? Pretend it never existed? The thing is, the answer is different for everyone. My stage of divorce grief is different than yours. It never looks exactly the same.

A lot of relief came after the initial shock of divorce. Months into it, I felt free and my home felt peaceful again. The kids and I were closer and life felt better. But demons were present in my fragile mind and those moments where I believed I was my strongest ended up being some of my weakest moments to date. I thought peace meant control but peace is about giving that control to God and trusting Him. The road I travelled down after separation/divorce was full of messes but I lived through it all and I learned from it all. It wasn't about being strong...it was about learning that it's ok to be weak. I've always had a hard time showing weakness, true weakness, because I felt like if people knew my weaknesses, they would see me as a failure. But I am not a failure. I may fail sometimes but I am not a failure.

This week I did something new and if you know me, you know that isn't always easy. I'm the girl who orders the same thing at a particular restaurant because I do what I know. Trying new things isn't my forte. But I took a twelve hour road trip by myself in the car. By myself. Not even with children.
For me, this was one of those "I can do hard things" moments because everyone was worried about me but I believed in myself. I knew my wings were ready for a new flight, an adventure I had only tried as a married woman with my husband in the drivers seat. I curved through hills, navigated my own directions, went through books on tape and new cd's, never stopped to eat, and made it to South Weber, UT with a smile on my face because I had conquered something I was afraid to do on my own.

Because although I act tough and strong and awesome most of the time, I'm usually afraid and feeling weak and stupid on the inside. My internal dialogue is full of "I can't's" and I have to shut them up with a few strong "I can do this's". I've always been ok to be the passenger wife because I felt like my husband could take care if everything. He could fix the sink, keep the fruit trees alive, and gosh darn it, he could take us safely on road trips. But I've learned in the past ten months that I am capable of doing everything he has done for our family. I am strong enough to be on my own. 
{And when I'm not strong enough, I call my dad.}
I'm now the girl who made it past Lake Powell and all the way to Utah. I am the girl who took apart the sink disposal because it was clogged and put it all back together effectively. I am the girl who remembers to water the fruit trees and mow the backyard. 

The fighting isn't going to end tomorrow. Our families are going to side with us, as they should, and once in a while, rude comments will slip out because of their protective nature over each of us. We are divorced. We are just kids ourselves. We are navigating horribly and wonderfully, depending on the day. We aren't perfect and often times, we will drive each other frickin nuts. 

But hopefully we continue to remember the importance of an "I'm sorry" and a humble heart because I believe that is what gets us through the nastiest of the nasty.