On Abusive Parents…

Growing up, my mom became abusive. Verbally and emotionally, she destroyed mostly me but also my siblings, in varying amounts. She abused her romantic partners. She abused her mom. I had hoped she would grow out of it.

I hadn’t lived with my mom in four and a half years, and then in October I had no choice but to move back in with her when I quit my job. The speed with which she returned to her verbal abuse towards me astounded me. Here I am, twenty-five, getting ripped apart by the person who’s supposed to love you the most. Gosh.

My friends who know always tell me that what she’s saying isn’t true, that it’s not me and that she would just find something to be angry about anyway even if I did everything she wanted all the time. And while I understand that on some level, it still hurts when my mom says the awful things she says about me. I wish she could see what she’s doing and stop. Or maybe she knows and doesn’t care.

Something I’m trying to remember is that her words don’t dictate who I am. Her opinions are not the end all, be all of me. Some days this is a more difficult task, but I know I need to get it deep into my brain so I don’t let her ruin every single day that I have to live here.

For now, I do have to live here. I don’t have the means to live somewhere else. But someday, I know I will be able to leave again, and this time for good. I will not let her hurt me forever. My children, should I ever have some, will not be exposed to her toxicity. And I will heal, even if the wounds are deep and covered with many layers of bandages. I will heal.

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On Least Favorite Days…

This is a hard one. Trigger warnings abound.

Six years ago today, I tried to kill myself. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the worst. I was the lowest I had ever been and my life dropped from under my feet in an instant. The reason I decided to kill myself isn’t important now, but then it felt like the only thing that mattered. And when I decided to do it, there was no changing my mind.

I broke that night. Everything inside me shattered. I failed, and nobody knew I had even done it. For months, for years even, only a handful of people had any idea that I’d tried to end my life that night. How I did it is also irrelevant now, but let’s just say it changed how I could interact with the world for a while.

Every year, when this day is approaching, I begin to think heavily about what I did and why I did it. I start to remember the feelings and the brokenness and how alone I felt through all of it. And it makes me dread living through this day.

November 11th, 2011 was a terrible day for me. And some November 11ths that followed have been pretty terrible too. But last year, on the fifth anniversary, some of my friends held a celebration of life for me. We had sparkling cider and just hung out and people said nice things about being in my life. It was so helpful, because it gave me a good memory of November 11th.

This year, I spent the day with two of those same friends. We went to some stores and baked (even though I’m terrible at it) and just spent the day doing happy things. And though it doesn’t take away the sting of what happened all those years ago, it’s nice to have a new day dedicated to love and friendship and joy rather than just the darkness of the past.

I hope in five years, in ten and twenty, I can always remember to celebrate life on November 11th. My own life, the lives of people I love, the life that we each get to have if we don’t take it for granted… life is important. I want to remember that.

On Being Afraid of the Dark…

Last night I got caught in a swirl of anxiety as I was trying to go to sleep. It was dark, and raining, and I began to hear sounds. My brain convinced me that these sounds were scary things rather than rain on trees or branches hitting other objects.

I turned on the light, thinking this would alleviate some of the anxiety. Sometimes I am afraid of the dark, even being 25. Then, there was a window directly past the light, and I was somehow convinced that someone was standing outside the window, watching me. Eventually, I had to turn the light off.

I got to sleep, though I did wake up terrified about an hour later. But this is a thing that happens.

Anxiety grips me and my brain finds all these reasons to be terrified even though I’m probably perfectly safe doing whatever it is that I’m doing. I wish I knew how to not follow the thought spirals down, but thus far I’ve been unsuccessful.

On Disordered Eating…

Honesty time. I’ve had an eating disorder for about fifteen years now. Sometimes I do better with it, but it is the most consistently disordered behavior-related issue I’ve had in my life. And it’s gearing itself up to get worse.

I’ve struggled with binge eating and closet eating since I was nine or ten years old. When the closet eating happens, the binging gets worse. I lived by myself (or independently from my mother) for the past four and a half years, and during those years I saw a lot of the shame and anxiety that fueled my closet eating lessen. However, I have recently had to move back in with my mother and it’s already starting.

I would say that the majority of my feelings about food and its relationship to my body have some sort of connection to my mother, but it was never really this outright thing she said to me that caused this.

When I was a little kid, I was very skinny or average. I ran around a lot and did cheerleading and rode my bike all the time, and I was a healthy, average kid. But when my parents split up (for good; they had separated many times before that) I started eating more and gaining weight. I was still average for a kid my height and age, but I began to hide much of my eating.

I would sneak into the kitchen at midnight and get a snack. I would go in during the daytime and tell my mom I was getting a snack, then take two and hide one, showing her that I had only taken one, then go eat the second in my room. I did this constantly, and it was terrible.

I became terrified of the way people could see me if I was eating, so in school, if my friends weren’t at lunch, I would just not eat. I COULD NOT eat alone in public. And during my last two years of high school, I began sleep eating as well, which was ultimately out of my control but did not help with my body image or weight. By this time I was pretty overweight.

When I was a freshman in college, I realized that there were going to be times when none of my friends could eat with me but that I had to eat, and I did manage to force myself to eat alone in public occasionally. And since I wasn’t living at home, I didn’t have to hide how much I was eating. I gained a lot more weight during my freshman year of college.

Then I moved back home for my sophomore and junior years of college, and the closet eating came back hard. My senior year I lived in an apartment with two other people and I found myself still trying to hide a lot of the food I ate. The next year, though, I managed to force myself in the other direction, though, and began undereating daily in order to lose weight. I lost 25 pounds in maybe six months by essentially eating half the calories my body needed at its REST each day, so I wasn’t nourishing my body the way it needed.

I went to seminary and ate as much as I wanted, and gained back all that weight I had lost and then some, driving me to feel more negatively because I had convinced myself that the way I lost weight was me “working hard” and I was so frustrated at myself for gaining it back.

And now, I live with my mother again. It’s a new thing, but the old behaviors kick in so quickly. I am already hiding and sneaking and it’s really hard because I live in the living room because there’s no bedroom for me. And I don’t want it to be like this.

I guess my point is that eating disorders are hard and pervasive and persistent and very damaging. I want to lose all this weight I gained but I’m pretty sure if I do, I’m going to use the undereating method and that’s not right at all. I’m just all messed up right now and it’s unpleasant.

On Giving Up…

Sometimes, you can’t just keep trying. Sometimes, it feels like the weights of your efforts don’t quite balance the scales with all that’s being expected of you. And sometimes, even though you know you tried your hardest, it’s not good enough for the people who check the scales.

When I started this journey more than two years ago, I never thought any of this was even possible. I worked so hard to do everything asked of me, and in many cases I believe I exceeded expectations. And now, I’m making the decision that’s best for my mental health and the worst for all the effort I put into it.

I lost parts of myself trying to do this. I hope I can get them back.

On Fixing Broken Things…

This is going to be a little self-pitying, because that’s how I’m feeling right now and if I can’t say that honestly, I’m not being real. I want to be real.

I like to say that you can’t fix something if you don’t know that it’s broken, and you absolutely can’t. Why would you even try? So when, in the course of me trying to do the things that I know need to be done, I find out that I’ve been doing it wrong (or am perceived to have been doing it wrong) this whole time, I get angry. Why wouldn’t you be up front about that? Why wouldn’t you tell me when it first became an issue that you noticed? Why would you wait until the higher-ups come and ask about my progress?

I’m frustrated. I’m heart-broken. I am literally just trying to do the best I can but evidently my best isn’t good enough. The hardest part of all of this is that it didn’t make sense in the first place to put me in this position. I did better academically than so many of my classmates. I excelled in preaching and my previous supervisors had little to nothing bad to say about me. And yet.

This whole thing feels like the worst dream ever. I don’t know when it’s going to end. The hardest part is that it keeps feeling like people are seeing broken things and not telling me so I can fix them. I don’t always think that they’re broken, but at least give me a chance to try! At the end of all of this, if there ever is an end, I want them to look back and realize that they made a mistake. It’s not likely that it’ll happen, but I wouldn’t be upset if they did.

On Anxiety…

I am aware that to be anxious about the possibility of bad things happening is a privileged position to stand in, especially when it’s very unlikely that those bad things will even happen. However, sometimes my anxiety feels more sensible, more legitimate, and today is one of those days.

My dad isn’t the world’s greatest dad. I mean, I haven’t physically seen the guy in over seven years. We’ve been in contact the past few, even had some video chats, but let’s be real that he’s not winning any awards.

My dad lives in Florida. Florida is in the path of Hurricane Irma. My dad lives right near the coast. He’s going to Orlando, which is more inland, and it’ll be safer there. Still, I’m anxious for him.

More than just him, I’m feeling anxious for all the many millions of people who are going to be or have already been affected by this hurricane and Harvey and the hurricanes yet to come. And for the people in southeast Asia whose towns have become completely covered by water. And for those in the western United States where these forest fires burn and burn seemingly without end. I’m worried about it all.

Anxiety sometimes gets me (and others) into a downward spiral thinking of all the things that could go wrong and all the reasons I can’t do anything about it. I don’t want that to be my thought today. I want to do something to help.

Luckily I work for an organization that is one of the most reliable and responsive when it comes to natural disasters. I hope they send me to help. I hope they choose to use me in the cleanup and rescue efforts.

Anxiety can be fuel for the fire to want to do something. I hope it can be my fuel.

On Disharmony…

I’m sad. Heartbroken, even. The United States is a country full of anger and hatred and it’s hard to think that I’m going to have to live here for the rest of my life, watching people use violence to move forward their racist, xenophobic agendas. And that’s nothing compared with the people who risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, fighting back against the hatred and intolerance.

What happened in Charlottesville is not an isolated incident. There are acts of violence across this nation every single day, perpetrated in the name of “white pride” or whatever other ridiculous label they want to put on it. What it really is is downright inhumane treatment of other people.

I’ve heard some of these people claim to be Christians and say that the Bible is what lets them know they’re on the right track, that the Bible encourages the hatred and bigotry and violence. But that’s not the Bible I’m reading, and the verses they quote are always taken out of context.

What saddens me most is that these hateful individuals seem satisfied with the death in Charlottesville. They come out naming the countless young black men and women whose lives have been taken by police and hate groups and they smile, pleased and content that these people are dead. That’s sickening.

I won’t say I don’t understand how anyone could feel this way. I understand how indoctrination works and I’ve seen the devastating effects that arise from listening to hateful rhetoric. There’s a choice that must be made, but all too often people choose to believe that they’re right, no questions asked.

And I recognize that confirmation bias is a real thing and that it’s sometimes hard to get out of the mindset you’re in when all you see is information that seems to back up what you already believe, but let’s not play games or mince words. Hate is wrong, and these people choose to perpetuate the hate they’ve learned.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sick of seeing people dead and having other people be happy about it. It’s wrong.

On a Wrench in the Works…

I was this close to graduation and ordination. Nine days away. And then, nothing. It’s the strangest and most disconcerting situation I’ve ever lived through, because I genuinely cannot understand how the decision was made.

Sometimes, everything seems laid out so clearly in front of you and there’s not even a question that it will come to pass. Then, with only the shortest notice, someone throws a wrench in the works (I had to google that, honestly, but it popped into my head). Everything was working out so smoothly, I should’ve expected a disaster to strike.

This all just adds another year until ordination. I finished my degree, luckily, but that’s a crumb in comparison to what was supposed to happen. Ripped away from my friends early, sent to a place that was hardly prepared for me, missing the experience of walking across the stage with what has become my family. But I need to look to the bright side of things.

There is a bright side. I see it. But for right now, the dark stands out so much more clearly.

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