Saturday, February 25, 2012

Recognizing recovery... a milestone

This past week, my husband and I took his son to Washington, DC for a family vacation. It was our first family vacation since we got married, and originally it was just going to be the two of them. I decided sort of last minute to join them. I was nervous, because even though I have been in their lives for more than 6 years, I have always been intimidated by his youngest son. Why? I have no idea, but it probably had a lot to do with how quickly I bonded with his oldest son who left us abruptly to go live with his mother a few years ago. I had been afraid to get "too attached" to the younger son as a result.

In spite of my fears, I had a blast. It was an amazing trip, and the little guy really enjoyed spending time with me and his dad. It was definitely the best decision I could have ever made to go on this vacation - I actually don't feel like an outsider any more, I feel like we are a family. A real family. Which is all I ever wanted.

The fourth day we were in DC, the boys went to the White House early in the morning and left me to go do what I wanted to do. I took a shower, and within ten minutes... had to evacuate. Fire alarms. "Please evacuate immediately - a fire emergency has been reported in the building. Please evacuate immediately..." Really?! So, without panic, with nothing but calm - I grabbed my pocketbook, my shoes, and made sure I had my room key and walked down 14 flights of stairs with the other building occupants.

I didn't realize it until later, but I was CALM! I'm not afraid any more!! What an incredible feeling!! I was so happy when I had this epiphany, and I can't wait to share this with my therapist. I had told her about my insecurities about taking this vacation, and she gave me "homework." To do something for myself - and I did SEVERAL times. I met up with a friend for lunch; I went to the Pentagon Memorial, and then the Holocaust Museum and African Art Museum by myself... and it was great. But the best part of the vacation was bonding with my stepson. I am sitting at home, after my husband dropped him off at his house, and I actually miss him.

One of the things that I took away from this vacation was at the Women in Military Memorial at the Arlington National Cemetery. It was a video of a soldier, who was talking about her own fears and doubts. She said that if she could conquer her greatest fears, she could do anything she wanted. And she's right. You can find strength within yourself by overcoming those fears inside you, and you are a super hero.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Why me?" and "Unbearable Lightness"

out of habit, I've avoided reading books about subject matter that hit too close to home. Since I began intensive therapy, I have been finding that hearing about others' struggles and learning how they overcame them help me to find strength to cope with my own (or sometimes recognize the strength I didn't realize I had). Recently, I read two such books. The first is called "Why Me?" by Sarah Burleson and the second is "Unbearable Lightness" by Portia de Rossi.

I found "Why Me?" while doing a search on the Barnes & Noble website one day when I was bored and looking for something stimulating to read instead of my usual fluffy chic lit books. I downloaded the book after reading the summary and a few reviews and it remained on my nook for several weeks before I could summon the courage to open it. Sarah was raised by a very unstable and abusive mother, and reading what she went through was all too familiar. While my mother did not cheat on my biological father, she was rarely "there" growing up. Sarah's struggle to connect with friends because of the shame and embarassment she felt was all too familiar. I read this book and sometimes felt like I was reading my own story, as Sarah still does not have a relationship with her own mother even as an adult, never quite able to forgive or move on from the brutality that she was subjected to as a child. I highly recommend this story to anyone who has ever lived through an abusive situation, as it will inspire you to want to be better than the situations we have no control over as children.

The second story I downloaded was "Unbearable Lightness" by Portia de Rossi. I came across this story while I was shopping with my husband one Saturday night. We often browse through the aisles of the book store after going out to dinner, and look for new releases and ideas to download to our nook devices. I read the back cover of this story, knowing Portia from her being on "Ally McBeal," "Arrested Development," and a few other shows. I had always found her fascinating, and knew that she was a celebrity wife. I had no idea how fucked up her own disease had been, nor did I even know she had struggled her whole life with a positive body image and eating disorders.

Portia's writing style is a little bit rough, and at times fragmented, but the story resonated. She was a young girl when she started modeling, and someone once told her she needed to work out, which set the mindset in motion that she was never good enough. By the time she hit mainstream Hollywood, she became obsessed with perfection. What was perfection? She didn't know, because she was only focusing on what she did not like about her physical body. Little did she realize, she was hiding who she truly was - a gay woman living in a very closed-minded world.

Reading how someone who everyone saw as stunningly beautiful, feeling that she was ugly, fat, and not good enough blew my mind. I've often felt that way about myself, and never believe it when people pay me compliments. Instead, rebuffing those compliments as someone "just being nice," or "trying to make me feel good." Portia's insecurities made me realize something - even the most beautiful women in the world have felt the same exact way I did. And she starved herself to attain something unknown, and then binged herself to twice her body weight to hide from the world.

As a woman who has starved herself to be noticed by people, and then binged myself to where I am now... I am starting to "get it." Bingeing is something I did to protect myself from hurt - and dealing with the trauma that triggered this whole thing has helped me to realize that. I still have my moments where I want to eat everything in sight (usually every 28 or so days), but I am actually recognizing it, writing it down, and owning it. And I'm losing weight. I'm recovering. Slowly, but I'm getting there.

We are all beautiful. We are all strong. And we are all worth it. YOU have to remind yourself of that, because there is nobody on this earth that can tell you that where you will actually believe it. YOU have to believe it yourself.