Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Goodness

I feel like Suzanne today.

Even among the depression and the heartache and the painful memories, there are days where I feel like me. The real me.

The girl who loves to make others happy and doesn't tell herself she is selfish. The girl who reads books to her children and gives them extra snuggles at night. The girl who exercises because she loves her body, not to punish herself.

This is me.
School started yesterday.

School started and my anxiety kicked in full swing. Ok, fine, the anxiety kicked in the night before.

I went to my math class and was welcomed by a bubbly, tiny young woman who made us decide what shape we identified with most and then showed us a Ted talk on having grit. I really hope her personality, as cheesy as class felt, will be helpful to get me through this math class. Have I mentioned I hate Alegbra?

Then I headed to the class I was nervous to start---Philosophy of Sexuality. I know it's going to help me become a better therapist. I know I need to take this class. I am just not excited about the sometimes explicit material and the open discussions about SEX. Part of the reason is because it's intimidating to talk about sex with people I don't know and trust but a bigger part of the reason is in regards to the trauma from my failed marriage.

But I did it. I focused, I read through the required material today, and I finished my first assignment. And if you're waiting for me to stop tooting my own horn, it might not happen yet.

I have spent my morning doing things Suzanne does. Spidey and I jogged the neighborhood at 7:15am. We played with our bunnies and fed them breakfast. And I finished my work out while my boy watched PBS.

I even cleaned the family room.

I'm figuring life out. I hate it some days. I love it other days. But at least I seem to be figuring it out.

There are two parts of me and today I am Suzanne.

TODAY I AM SUZANNE.

That is such a victory, friends.

Because depression and anxiety have taken so much from me. When I feel like me, I NEED TO CELEBRATE THAT!

So today I celebrate who I am. I celebrate the brave things I conquer and the good things that I do. There is good within me---a lot of good. And it doesn't counteract the bad, it isn't a replacement for the bad...it is it's own thing. I am good because I am compassionate and funny and loving.

I am a good person.

This is me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

One Year Stronger


I've written this post a hundred times in my dreams and today it is my reality.

On this day, a year ago, I held the phone close to my ear and begged with the man on the other end to help me understand the lies and the secrecy that I had found out had been happening for months. And the phrase that pierced my soul was the answer I received.

"I don't care about you anymore."

I went numb. I tried so hard to protect my heart from shattering. I didn't yell or scream but tears fell down my cheeks as I looked in the rear view mirror at the two perfect children who were giggling with each other, completely unaware that their lives were about to change forever.

"You don't cook enough. The house is almost never clean. I can't do this anymore. I want to separate."

I barely remember these words. I fought my insecurities. I tried to doubt them. I tried to remember that I am still worthy of love and acceptance.

But I couldn't do it. 

Instead I believed him. And in doing so, I blamed myself for ruining my children's lives. I couldn't see a good life for them with divorced parents. My parents weren't divorced and I had never really seen good examples of divorce situations. My kids were going to be ruined. I was so worried that because I hadn't been good enough, my children's lives were ruined.

I went to my best friend's house and melted in her arms. I could hardly spit the words out. Because it certainly isn't easy to say, "My husband just left me.". I felt ashamed and scared and so incredibly defeated. I didn't know how to react. I didn't know what to say or do.

We ended up at the temple that night. I received a blessing from my best friend's husband. We talked until midnight. And then I drove to my parents where my kids had fallen asleep and I laid awake on the couch, crying and pleading with God to turn back time. 

This couldn't be happening. 
I didn't sleep well for days. I cried late at night as I wondered what was going to happen. 

As much as I tried to keep it from happening, my children have each had their hearts shattered this year too. It happened at different times, in different ways, but it did happen. 
There were so many nights of comforting my sensitive five year old as she pleaded with me to bring him back home. There were nights where she yelled at me and blamed me. There were nights where my four year old would tell me he didn't love me and that all he wanted was his dad. He would scream that he no longer wanted to live with me. 
Each kid has been angry. Each kid has needed me to hold them all night long. Each kid has learned at their very young ages that sometimes life just sucks and it isn't always fair.

I put on a brave face in public but every day, I would come home, fall onto my bed, and literally shake with fear. I felt anything but brave. 
I know without a doubt how I got through this year, even though I often throw my hands up toward the sky and ask Him, "Really?! Now this?!" 

Today as we spoke about faith in Relief Society, I was reminded of how my faith has changed so much in the past few years. God has placed building blocks that have prepared me to get stronger with each trial that I face. I learned through infertility that sometimes even when we desire something really good, like more children, Heavenly Father doesn't always give it to us. I learned to have faith in Him and His plan for me. 

Divorce has been the same way. My faith in God's plan for me has been something I've had to rely on because most of the time, I have no clue what my next step is supposed to be. 

Without faith in God, I would have completely broken a year ago. Without faith in God, I know things would've been much worse. 

God has helped me through some of the darkest nights I have ever experienced. He has helped me to smile when all I wanted to do was spew swear words and punch walls. He has sent some of the most incredible people to comfort me and remind me that I am never alone.

I couldn't have made it through this year without my friends. I don't care if that is super cliche to say, IT IS THE TRUTH! 

With divorce comes a lot of speculation from the peanut gallery. I've heard a lot of advice this year that I just couldn't apply to myself. I've heard opinions from all different sides about whether this was right or whether we are just a couple of really stupid people. The thing is, no one knows but us. And even moreso, no one knows but me. I have prayed so many times this year for things to be different. I have prayed about whether divorce was of the devil. And without a doubt, I can sit here and tell you that it isn't. As much as I believe in marriage and as strongly as I am devoted to the covenants I've made in the temple, Heavenly Father has helped me to face my fears and sign divorce papers, completely separating me from someone I loved so much. This isn't some on a whim decision that was made without faith. It took more faith for me to sign those papers than anything in my life ever has. 

I've done a lot of things alone this year. I've made a lot of grown up decisions and nurtured my children as their hearts broke and learned how to live on my own. It has been a scary year. I have had to face a lot of fears this year.

But I have become stronger this year.

A huge part of me is still in disbelief that it has been a year. I'm still full of anger and I don't always deal with divorce in the right way.

But each day, I get up and I try. I try to be brave. I try to help others. I try to be a good mom. I try not to judge. And I figure for now, that is good enough.

And someday, I won't be so full of grief for the life I used to live and the life I live now. 

Today we are one year stronger. We know we can do hard things. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Grade

I've never really been an overprotective mother. At least not overly protective.

I let them figure some of their sticky situations out on their own. Germs don't bother me. Kindergarten wasn't too hard for me to accept.

But there was just something about sending my six year old to school all day long that I wasn't dealing with very well. I assumed my anxiety would get better once I dropped her off that first day but we were late for school on the first day and I didn't even give her a kiss goodbye.

And for the six remaining hours before I'd see her again, I worried about what she was feeling, what she was doing, whether she was eating her lunch and making friends and liking her new teacher. It was a mess.
Of course, she came home all smiles and telling me all of the cool things about full day school and my worries were immediately eased. I even had tears in my eyes listening to how well the first day had been for her.

The second day was another story. My girl came home in tears because she had gotten a stop sign for something she didn't even do and that was a hard lesson for her to learn.
 Because sometimes even when we are telling the truth, life doesn't end up treating us fairly.

I resolved the issue with her teacher and after a ton of worrying about the future on my part, I felt at ease late that Thursday night. Holy rollercoaster day!

Day 3 was it's own kind of mess because Petey came home saying she had received two stop signs (both for legitimate reasons...talking!) which meant she had to sit out for 5 minutes of recess. She said, "I cried for a minute but then I realized it's fun to sit on the wall." Hmm...
So then I became the mother that worried my kid was going to start getting into trouble on purpose.

Gah!
 But my goodness, I am happy to report that although she tried to convince herself that sitting on the wall was indeed fun, she has done really well at following directions and listening to her teacher since then.
 Luckily for my anxiety, she has come home every day since then, all smiles and ready to tell me about each day.
 She excitedly talks about the new friends she's making and the old ones she gets to play with again.
 She tells me about how first grade is so cool because you get to study science and social studies
 and how eating lunch at school is quite possibly the coolest thing in the world.
 She likes to report which kids weren't listening and which ones were on their best behavior that day.
 This week, she came home to tell me she is the hall monitor all week. And boy, is she excited about that one! We had a talk about the responsibility that is in her hands as the hall monitor and how she should always be honest when reporting incidents to her teacher.
It has been an incredible whirlwind of two weeks for us!

And this is just the beginning!

There will be more tears, more fights, more smiles, more frustrations, and more learning opportunities.

I am so proud to be the mother of this kid. She is one of a kind. She is kind, loving, and sensitive and first grade is teaching her so much already.


PS: I took a picture of her every day for the first two weeks, to hold the same tradition as kindergarten. Here is the flashback to last year's collage. She has grown up so much!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No One is Youer than You

 
I've always loved that Dr. Seuss quote, "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."

Truth be told, no one is better at being you than you are. Even on the worst of days and especially on the best of days.

I have to admit, there have been many times in my life I've wished to be someone else---someone skinnier, someone richer, someone smarter, etc. When I let my insecurities run my life, I become unhappy with the woman God intended me to be.

Although I don't believe God intended me to be a divorced mother of two when He created me, I know that He intended for me to be brave and strong. I know that He intended for me to fight my battles and love who I am. He knew I was going to go through these things and He placed building blocks along the way to teach me how to deal with them.

I firmly believed in that through my teenage years, miscarriage, marriage trials, infertility, and divorce.
But recently, I lost it. I lost some of my faith in allowing God to be in charge. I lost some of my faith in seeing the plan He has and knowing He can help me feel better. Because it just kept getting harder instead of better.

And hello? Not fair!

Amiright?

I needed a change.

Anger has been the first phase I allowed. When I first started to feel all of my anger, I fought it off because I just don't want to be that person. I want to be happy all of the time. But I have realized that I need to allow my feelings to come OUT so they don't stay in.

So I have been writing my anger out and working on the things that cause me to feel hurt.

Booyah, right?

And vomiting my feelings onto paper really did help me to see a glimpse of the hope I used to have. It also helped me to realize that I cannot do this on my own right now. And that's ok.

It's ok to need help. Ugh. Even writing that sentence kinda made me feel yucky. I still don't like needing help but my heart does tell me that it's ok. If I was giving advice to someone else, I'd tell them it was ok to need help.

So it must be ok for me too.

And thankfully, when I start to really doubt and lose my hope, God sends me little reminders that He loves me and has my back...always and forever. Last week, it was in the form of a song a friend sent me.

That song has become this week's theme song.


I hope you know you're not alone. I hope you know that there is a God and that He loves you for you, not for the choices you've made or the way you look.

Even though that's hard for me to believe all of the time, I'm grateful I can hold onto the things I write in my journal and on this blog of the good days, the days where I can fully see how much better it is that God is in control and not me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Grief: Part 1

 
Truth:
I am not always doing as well as it seems.
 
Truth:
I deal with pain and trauma every day.
 
Truth:
I do not cry often because I hate feeling like I'm not in control of my emotions.
 
So here's a big truth...I usually write about my struggles in past tense form. When I'm in the midst of doing horribly, I don't like to talk about it here because I don't want you to think I am always angry or sad or ungrateful.
 
But I'm here today to tell you some truths. These are present tense.
 
Lately, it has all been hard; trauma from divorce, motherhood, finding myself, resolving my anger. I often fear that I will never get better because I go through these small ups and huge downs. I fear I won't be able to resolve the fact that I cannot trust anyone with my heart.
 
I am angry today. Actually, I've been angry for a few weeks. Well, in all honestly, I've been angry for a year now. But never like this.
My grieving process is so much slower than I anticipated and I'm just now hitting anger, real anger. And when it hit, it hit hard. I've resented a lot of these things that I have to accept as 'my story'.
 
Seriously? I'm a divorced 26 year old woman with 2 kids? Is this some cruel joke? This certainly can't be real. WHEN DO I GET TO WAKE UP?!
 
I'm trying to accept it. I really, truly am. I'm trying to be ok with my messy life because of the beauty it holds but sometimes, I just cannot see the beauty. Sometimes I just cannot focus on anything but the ugly, messy, screwed up parts of my life that make me question everything I've ever learned.
 
It's a mess, really.
 
I'm a mess.
 
In 12 days, I will have to come to grips with the anniversary of the day my husband left me. Ouch. It is a pain I cannot even begin to describe. It was the ultimate rejection. It has been an extremely painful year. I have made some really stupid decisions. I have cried more tears than in all of the other years of my adult life combined. It was traumatic.
 
And I'm still grieving.
 
Remember how I once said you just cannot put a timeline on grief?
Yeah.
I did put a timeline on my grieving. It wasn't a conscious decision but I now realize that I did that. Because I assumed that by a year, I would be fine. I assumed that by a year, I would be free of the shame and the guilt and the pain.
 
But that didn't happen, friends. I was wrong.
And the fact that I was wrong, the fact that I am still so broken makes me so damn angry.
 
All I want to do is be strong and happy and ME. I want to be me.
 
I wish I could accept that life is hard and uncertain and scary sometimes. That is my goal. I want to be ok with letting God take the reigns. I want to be ok with not knowing.
 
So today I'm angry.
And tonight I'm going to punch my pillow and scream swear words because, well...therapy!
 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

You Are Not An Object

***Dear Mom, Don't read this one. It talks about sex. You have been warned. 

At the splash pad yesterday, some friends and I were talking about this article that has been popping up all over Facebook called, "Five Reasons to Have Sex with your Husband Every Night".
Immediately, I wanted to barf and send swear words through the air in the biggest megaphone I could find.

But I hadn't read the article so yesterday, my opinion was invalid.

And today my opinion is no longer invalid.

I even read the article with the best possible scenario of an open mind. I tried to understand the writer's thoughts and feelings but as soon as I got to reason #2, my mind was mostly made up.

This article is not only unrealistic, it borders on possible objectification of women. And yes, it was written by a woman. I will say that a few of her suggestions were fine. I just cannot get on board with this idea as a whole. Are you seriously telling women what they should or shouldn't do with their own body? Because I have a major problem with that.

My least favorite line stated, "Men are far simpler. They need to be fed, they need to be appreciated, and they need to have sex." (I guess since I used a direct quote, I have to add the source as well) Correct me if I am wrong, did she just say they need sex? As in, if a wife doesn't "give it up", her husband might possibly die or search high and low for a female WHO WILL KEEP HIM ALIVE.

Let's try to keep the word need out of a sentence when also using the word sex, mmmmmmk?

Sex is great but it is not a necessity.

The thing is, when most of us imagine marriage, we imagine a lot of perfection. We imagine a lot of bliss and laughter and romance. And some of us get that for a while or maybe even for the long haul.

But most of our marriages don't end up the way we thought them in our heads.
The images we created become foggy. The day we said our vows becomes a distant reality, far from the reality we currently face.
We have financial instability, marital strife, late nights with puking children, etc.
 Our perfect family life becomes mixed with arguments and stress and LIFE.

Life isn't perfect. Marriage isn't perfect. And I am so sick of these articles that depict SEX as a way to make your marriage more perfect. In so many relationships, that can be an extremely damaging subject to talk about.

Because we are not objects and we do not owe anybody anything, not even our spouses. Wait, especially our spouses. Because marriage is an EQUAL relationship and is about intimacy on a level much deeper than anything phsyical. Marriage is about two equal people who feel safe with each other.

And the very second you start telling someone what they should or shouldn't do, regardless of how safe they feel doing so, you walk a dangerous line of inadvertantly showing that person they are failing. They are failing because they've said no when they are so worn out, all they want is to hold hands as they fall asleep. They are failing because after a full day of raising children they cannot please the one person who should love them regardless of their physical intimacy.

Marriage isn't all about sex.

And the second we learn that, the better off we will all be.

The second we stop telling each other what we should and shouldn't do for our marriage or relationship to be better, we will be better off!

Because you have never been in my shoes and I have never been in yours...so why in the heck are we giving each other advice on subjects that are so intimate and sacred between two people?

What happens when the abusive husband reads that article? Or the addict spouse?

Pieces of advice as blunt as the one I am currently discussing are dangerous and can give people a narcissistic power. They can also cause the submissive spouse to give in more than they feel comfortable.

My brain reads articles like this and says Danger! Danger! Danger!

So I guess I'll end with this. I don't fault the author. I don't fault those of you who agree with the article. In a normal, healthy relationship, that article might have pieces of advice that could help the healthiest of healthy marriages.

But as it is with most of our cases, we have ALL gone through or will go through patterns in our marriage that are lower than low, where we may feel like we need to make changes.

So if it comes to that point for you, please remember that you will always have the right to safety in your marriage. You will always have the right to make decisions and not feel pressured to change things you don't want to change.

You have choices at every turn of your life.

Make your life what YOU want it to be.

Because you are not somebody's object.

You are God's child.

The end.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Porn Pandemic: Part 2

This is a hard one to write about because it's a hard one to explain. Because this is the part that affects ME. And maybe it has affected you too.

Finding out your partner has chosen pornography over you is hurtful---actually, it's more than hurtful.

Damaging.
Distressing.
Wounding.

It isn't what the media wants you to believe. Pornography does not strengthen your relationship. It hurts your partner. And it hurts you.

"While porn is something users can choose to do on their own, that use doesn’t just affect them—it affects their partner too, and not for the better. Studies have shown that even casual use of porn can cause the user to feel less attracted to their partner. And when a person frequently uses pornography, they’re far more likely to feel less satisfied with their partner’s looks, sexual performance, and willingness to try new sexual acts.
Why all the sudden disappointment with one's partner? It's likely due to the fact that porn promotes a completely fictional version of how people look and behave (See Porn Is a Lie), and makes it look like an exciting reality—one that their partners often feel they can never live up to." source

It is painful.

A lot of women blame themselves. Oh my goodness, I blamed myself. It has to be because I'm overweight. I could never compare to those women. It must've been the way I looked or the way I acted.

It is a trauma that is indescribable unless you've experienced it.

If you were self-conscious before, it is multiplied by ten thousand.

You question everything. Everything. You wonder how you could've reacted differently to some of the crappiest situations in your marriage so you can fix this ugly thing. You can fix this! You can erase it, right? Please oh please, it just needs to be erased!

 I could tell you all about the heartache I've experienced and the emotional trauma that has been placed in my life because of this hurtful story but instead I asked some of my friends who have been through this, in the very thick of this, what they would say to someone who wanted to know how pornography affects relationships. This is what they said:

"Pornography - every time I made a new discovery a bomb went off in my world. I was a part of the rubble. Damaged & destroyed sometimes. I didn't even know if I could crawl to all the other pieces to pick them up. Let alone - reassemble. It was a daunting task and no help in sight.
 I lost all respect for the man I married. I resented him. I was angry like never before. Trust was obliterated . Only once ever in my life did I hurt like I did now - my heart physically hurt. Trapped in a war zone, isolated & alone, hurt & lost. Despair came and nearly caused me to end my life. Even feeble attempts to seek help were ignored until it was almost too late. I am much better now. It's still tough at times, but there is hope & healing happening for me. Seeking my own recovery has been a lifesaver. He has no interest in recovery or acknowledging there is a problem. But...there is hope for me"
"Porn, when I didn't know about it's grasp on my husband, made me feel like something was off, but I could never quite put my finger on it. My life felt happy and spiritual, and then my husband would get home and everything in the atmosphere would change to darkness and emptiness. Every day. For 4 years. Porn made my husband unable to be truly intimate with me. I never felt like we were on the same page. Happy times felt lacking. Sad times felt empty. He was emotionless and I was made out to look like an emotional lunatic. Porn caused my husband to use me as an object. I was expected to perform to his needs and wants perfectly and when I didn't, I was met with dissatisfaction. My body was not my own, I was used as just another form of acting out in his addiction. Sometimes I would cry during sex because of how used I felt and he never even noticed. Porn sucked the life out of my husband and almost caused him to take his own life. When he was in the thick of it and couldn't get out, he almost left his wife and three children to escape the emptiness that porn gave him."

"It almost killed me. The end."
-Make My Burden Light-
 
"Porn made me feel like a second-class citizen in my own marriage. It made my feelings and thoughts secondary to Addiction's. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership but with porn it wasn't. At all. The relationship that is supposed to be the ultimate in safe spaces was decidedly UNsafe and hostile. I was alone and fightened while my husband who swore to protect me and love me was kept from me because of his addiction to pornography. It was like the real him was locked away somewhere I couldn't be and in his place was someone who DIDN'T love me and DIDN'T care about my feelings and overall WASN'T really him.
After a long and arduous journey through recovery including therapy, LDS PASG groups, SA, and (the greatest catalyst for him) a weeklong stay in a local mental hospital as well as meeting with psychiatrists about medication for his panic and anxiety disorder, my husband is with me. like, really WITH me. He listens when I have something to say and he holds me when I am sad. He tells me stuff like "that makes sense" and "you're not crazy for feeling that way, it's okay". And that means we can actually have a REAL relationship now. Instead of having porn between us, it's just us
 
"Simply put... pornography destroys relationships. Relationships cannot thrive and grow when pornography is present. Pornography, and all the fake and unreal ideas that come along with it became Mr. Wonderful's reality and his expectations of marriage and real love and connection were jaded. I can NEVER live up to what Mr. Wonderful "expects". No matter what I do, it is impossible. Because Mr. Wonderful chose to indulge in pornography and sexual behaviors, I am married to a man who is always disappointed with me, who feels entitled to "more" and "better". What my husband believes is "real love" and "true connection" is anything but that. But what do I do? What can I do about it? I can't morph into a new girl every night, it is impossible. His reality is impossible. Unless Mr. Wonderful spends dedicated years to "retrain" his brain, we will never make it. And in the meantime, I have to TRY desperately to MAKE myself believe that this isn't my fault, and that I am enough... over and over again. This is what pornography does in REAL life. This is how it has affected my life and my marriage and my children. Pornography kills love. It kills the true meaning of love. -Alice Alice Looking for Wonderfulland

Not every story is the same but every single one of these stories is real.

Pornography kills love.
Real love does not exist within the realms of pornography.
I have seen the hand of God in my life as I have dived through this journey. I have also seen the effects of Satan because HE DOES NOT LIKE THIS. He hates that we are putting up a fight.
When I posted Part 1, it only got 46 reads which is quite abnormal for my blog and I felt like that was a testament of how many people turn their heads the other way because it is more comfortable! Satan does not want you to read about my journey or other womens' journeys. He wants us to believe that pornography is good---and if it isn't good, he will at least try to convince us this is too shameful to ever speak of.

We cannot let him win. Pornography is infiltrating our societies and ruining relationships.

We need to talk about it to fight against it, to bring awareness to the ICKY, SCARY, DETRIMENTAL crap that is so readily available around us.

We are fighters.

We can do this, friends.