LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH, TIME FOR CHANGE

#MeToo // It’s Time To Start Telling Our Stories

10/18/2017

   

When the #metoo posts started showing up in my feed I stayed quiet.  Despite being a victim of sexual assault and having been harassed for my gender and sexuality uncountable times in my life, I try to stay positive in my facebook feeds and promote positive energy.  I see the purpose of this hashtag, but I didn’t want to participate.  Perhaps I did not want to be lumped into a group or a statistic.  As a victim, each of our stories are unique (regardless of whether they have commonalities) and becoming a stat can feel more demoralizing than helpful. And although I tend to be an open book and am happy to share my life stories with anyone who asks or may be positively affected by them, I wasn’t ready for the whole world to know.  I don’t carry my #metoo as a badge of honor and truthfully, there are still seeds of shame so intrinsically woven into my spirit that I wonder if I’ll ever get them out.  So I didn’t want to water those seeds by adding my #metoo to the masses.  

But then in my feed I see this post – written by someone I love and the seed of shame began to grow.  I felt like someone punched me in the gut. I felt angry and hurt beyond words. This person wasn’t talking to me directly, but at the same time, he was.  

I reached out to my older sister, who is quite the bulldog in these circumstances, and she let him have it.  Her comments even sparked interest of other women who were infuriated with the post who gave them their thoughts as well.  I still felt paralyzed though and didn’t want to get into the conversation until I saw another loved one – a male who is significantly younger than me – stand up to the post. This is what I wrote (names removed):

“I hate getting involved with facebook arguments. But I found this beyond hurtful. To the point where I reached out to to my sister to vent and she was willing to speak up. I don’t speak up because it is comments like these that continue to shut me down. I fully admit to being a people pleaser and one who doesn’t like to rock the boat, but enough is enough. I was sexually assaulted while in grad school. It tore me apart and broke me down in ways I can never fully express. He stole something from me that was not his to take. It put me in a dark hole for a while. It was NOT my fault. It was horrible, but it is a part of my history now and it makes me a stronger woman. I’ve used my story to help other women who have been assaulted work through their own pain and suffering. Working as a college counselor for 6 years I worked with numerous students who were sexually assaulted. It is terrifying to know how many of us don’t stand up because of the retraumatization that is caused by going to the police, standing trial if it goes that far, having fingers pointed at you telling you it’s your fault because – fill in the blank (or see your above comments). It truly infuriates me and breaks my heart to read this post and this thread. I wrote so many responses to this and erased them because I was scared. I don’t mind talking about this to people as a way of healing – but don’t you EVER tell me I deserved to be raped. EVER.”

I received no direct response and the back and forth banter continued.  I chimed in another time to express my feelings yet again – trying to come from a place of peace and understanding, but I’m not sure that this is the right forum or if this person will ever truly understand the power of his comment.

What I did realize from this interaction is how important it is to stand up for ourselves and to share. There is a piece of me that will always regret not going straight to the police station and filing a report, but I was in shock and I simply reacted.  I don’t know if Facebook is the perfect place for these dialogues, but I know that without awareness and without dialogue we cannot change.  It takes grit, honest conversation, understanding, and a willingness for change.  We cannot simply come at each other with our fists up because if we do, we are destined to fight. Perhaps it is hard for some to understand the concept of a social media hashtag as a prompt for serious discussion, but it is a platform where dialogue can begin and people can take notice of how many people are truly affected by this. It is a movement to bring awareness to how pervasive the issue of sexual harassment and assault is. I truly believe that there are individuals out there that are using the #metoo as their very first time to share what has happened to them in their own lives.  

It may be too much for some, so you can stop reading here, but I am choosing to share my story for the very first time outside of therapy. I have shared with others that I have been raped and used my own experience to help others in their healing, but I’ve never shared the story.  I wrote this awhile ago as a way to help me heal. If you read this, please do so without judgment.  Perhaps I did not make perfect decisions, but in no way did I ask to be or deserve to be raped. And that is true of EVERY individual who has ever been raped or assaulted. Rape is by definition non-consensual. Here is my story:

I finished my shift around 3 am.  The bar closed at 2 and it always took a while to closed down the bar.  That evening I was working with two other employees.  A barback and another bartender.  He sat at the bar with his friends and we chatted as we typically did.  He was a regular and someone I had considered a friend.  I enjoyed when he came to the bar. He had a sweet personality and a great smile too.  Soft and trusting.  He was charming, but not in a way where he seemed to be trying.  Just sweet.  

I looked forward to the days that he would come in.  He made me feel special and I felt like we had a good connection.  I often would hook him up with reduced or free drinks and he tipped well.  Our friendship had never deviated much from this.  Once in awhile if I had the night off and found myself downtown, I may run into him and talk for a bit, but that’s as far as it went. I never had any romantic interest in him.

This night was different though.  He stayed while I closed the bar down.  We had a few drinks after work as we typically did.  My manager was very laid back and as is notorious in the world of nightclubs and bars, the staff were big drinkers so we’d often have a couple of beers while closing the bar.  I had a beer as well while I cleaned up the bar.  When I was all done, he asked if I was interested in hanging out.  I was excited and intrigued.  Could this turn into something more than just a friendship?  Was he interested in me?  Although, I had always thought he was cute, I never really looked at him in that way – he just wasn’t my type and my heart had been stuck on someone else, but that night he seemed appealing and I thought perhaps it was worth exploring.   

He invited me over to his place to watch a movie.  To others, going to a guys house at three in the morning to watch a movie seems like the stupidest idea, but neither of us were intoxicated and my life had a different time schedule to it than others.  Working at a bar, we often hung out with coworkers till 6 or 7 am watching movies, drinking, playing games, or just simply hanging out and talking.  It did not seem outside of my normal at the time, albeit an obvious choice I would make differently in retrospect.

He offered me a ride to his apartment.  He was only a few blocks away.  I was hesitant as I knew he had been drinking, so I declined.  I also had no intention to spend the night, so I wanted to have access to my car.  My dogs were at home and I needed to be there in the morning to take care of them. I got my car from the garage and let him lead the way. I parked on the street about a block and a half from his apartment.

When we got to his place he invited me to sit on his couch while he flicked on the television.  He made his way into the tiny kitchen attached to the living area and opened the fridge, he grabbed two beers and walked back to the couch offering me one.  I politely accepted and he sat down next to me, with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other.  

I was feeling nervous, unsure of what I was doing there.  I knew I enjoyed his company and I felt safe with him as I had known him for a while and we had several mutual friends, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be fraternizing with a regular at the bar.  I wasn’t truly sure what his intentions were.  Did he actually like me or was he trying to find an easy hook up? I was not easy.  In fact I was quite prideful of not being a person who slept around. I believed in monogamy and relationships. I took sex seriously.

He scrolled through the menu guide on his television to see what movie offerings he had.  We decided upon a movie and he put the control down.  I had a couple of sips of my beer and he edged closer to me.  He took my beer and placed it on the coffee table in front of his.  He had already placed his down and dropped the remote.  He leaned into me and kissed me.  I kissed him back.  

He leaned in more as we gently explored each others mouths with our tongues.  He pressed in harder.  He was a little more forward than I had expected.  It did not feel like it was coming from a place of actual interest, and rather a place of hooking up.  His kisses became more intense and his hands began to wander up my body.  I pulled back a bit and he read my hesitation.  I was not interested in a hook up and I think he sensed this and backed off.  It felt a bit awkward, but I could tell he was trying to keep it as casual as possible and not make it so.  He grabbed his beer and kept his arm around me in a, no worries kind of way.  He made me feel that it was okay that I didn’t want to take it any further and we watched the movie.  I sighed a deep breath of relief and we continued to watch the movie side by side for a bit while we finished our beers. Crisis avoided.  He was respecting my choice and trying to keep the awkwardness at bay.

By this point I was feeling pretty drowsy and starting to nod off.  He offered to let me sleep over. I was apprehensive, but he soothed my worries by saying that he would sleep on top of the sheets. I decided it was safer to sleep over than to drive home drowsy.  I also felt that we had comfortably glided back into the friend zone and so I agreed. He grabbed me a pair of boxers and t-shirt from his draw and showed me where the bathroom was.  I was thankful to get out of my work clothes as I smelled of the bar.

I changed in privacy and when I came out of his bathroom, he was already in bed.  He had stayed true to his word and was lying on top of the sheets with a blanket on top and had the sheets pulled down on the other side of the bed so that I could get into a space of my own.  

“Well”, I thought, “at least he is a nice guy.”  My worries diminished and I felt less nervous about how it would be the next time he came into the bar.  He really was a good guy.  Perhaps he was interested in something more than hooking up.

I walked over to the bed and climbed in.  I was so tired.  My eyelids felt like cement.

I laid my head on the pillow and he leaned over and kissed me on the forehead.  He then turned out the lights and I fell into a deep slumber.

I woke up startled.  There was a heaviness on my body and a pressure in my groin.  I felt confused and disoriented.  I realized quickly that he was on top of me.  In me.  Thrusting himself back and forth into my sleeping body.

My body jolted and he sensed that I was awake, quickly rolling off of me and pretending to be asleep.  He said in a groggy voice “what’s a matter?  are you okay?”.  I felt like I was in shock.  I was stunned and confused.  I began to weep and slowly crawled out of bed.  I had taken my glasses off and could not see very well.   The boxers were no longer on my body.  I crawled on the ground as he continued to ask, as if he was asleep, if I was okay.

My mind was spinning.  Did this really just happen.  Had he just raped me?  Had he really just raped me and is now pretending that it never happened, that he wasn’t just inside me moments before without my consent?  Without my awareness.  I searched with my hands in the darkness for the pile of clothes that I had laid by the end of the bed last night.  I found my skirt and I shimmied it on.  I had no underwear on and did not know where to start looking.  I took his shirt off and quickly put my work shirt back on.  

I crawled out of his bedroom and carefully lifted myself up onto my feet using the wall to brace myself.  I was dizzy.  So dizzy.  I felt like I was going to throw up.  My mind was going a million miles per hour and the world was seeming to slip from my feet. I felt uneasy but I walked forward making my way to the front door.  It was nearly pitch black.  The clock on the microwave and the slight glow of the street lamp outside provided the only light in the apartment.  I fumbled with the front door.

I heard him yell for me – asking yet again if I was okay and what I was doing.  

I said “I am going”.  My voice was shaky and uneasy.  I fumbled with the lock.  Why could I not get the door open.  I wanted to cry.  I heard him get out of bed and his footsteps approached.  I fumbled some more, but could not get my hands to work properly.  I could not get the door unlocked.

He was right behind me now and raised his arm over me placing his hand on mine.  He asked where I was going.

I felt scared.   I was unsure of what was happening.  Was he going to hurt me?  Was he going to let me go?

He asked me why I was leaving.  He was still holding onto the ruse that he was simply sleeping next to me as he promised.  

I said I just had to go.  

He removed his hand from mine and gently guided my hand away from the lock.

I felt weak and powerless.

He unlocked the bolt and opened the door.

He smiled his normal, charming smile and said ”Okay, if you really need to go.  I hope everything is okay though.”  He then followed up by saying to get home safe and that he would call me the next day.

I walked out the door, not looking behind and started walking forward.  It was pitch black except for the glow of the street lights which illuminated the walk way.  The world was a blur as I had quickly realized that I had left my glasses on his bedside table.  I was numb.  I walked.

I was not familiar with his neighborhood and could not find my car at first. I walked aimlessly around until I finally found it. Walking downtown alone in the early morning was not safe – nor was driving home without glasses – but safe was a word I couldn’t relate to at the moment.  Nothing was safe. I remember not feeling anything at all.  Completely numb. Black. It was as if my mind had shut down and I went into autopilot.  The next thing I knew, I was pulling into my driveway.  I parked and got out of my car.  My legs felt like they were 100 pounds each.  I walked zombie-like into the house, turning off the alarm and then punching the numbers back in to reactivate it.  Numbers that gave a false sense of safety.  Nothing felt safe anymore.

I walked through my house and into my bedroom. I passed by my bed dropping my keys on my night stand.  I continued walking past my bed towards the connected bathroom.  I opened the glass door to the shower and I walked in.  I turned the water on as hot as I could and sat on the shower floor as the scalding water rushed over my body.  My clothes became soaked and clung to my body as I sat there on the floor of my shower, arms wrapped around my legs hugging myself close.  My brow bone resting atop of my knees and the wet hot tears streaming down my face mixing in with the warm water.  All I kept thinking was that this was a nightmare and could not have just happened.  That I knew better than to have this happen to me. I trusted this person. I made conscious choices not to engage. How did this happen? Time felt frozen and I sat in the shower until the water went cold. I was in shock. I began to shiver and slowly got up and turned off the water.  I peeled my wet, cold clothing off of my body and wrapped myself in a towel.  I curled up in my bed, wet with the towel draped around me and fell asleep – as hot tears silently streamed down my numb existence.

My life was forever changed.

The days and weeks to follow were excruciating both emotionally and physically.  I told no one.  I was ashamed and depressed. To make matters worse, the stress of the assault caused a dormant virus in my body to come alive which caused lesions on my cornea and inflammation of my eye. The pain was beyond words. I couldn’t open my eyes and my sister had to drive me halfway to my parents in order for them to pick me up and care for me.  Luckily my dad is an ophthalmologist and was able to tend to my eye. The infection was the most pressing issue at hand and I let the rape slip to the background as best I could. I did not want to tell my family. My parents had been through so much in the recent years that I did not want to burden them. There was nothing they could do about the situation anyways and I swore to myself that I would never tell a soul and just move on with my life. I went back to school and work as if nothing ever happened. My assaulter even had the audacity to continue coming into the bar. I could barely stand to look at him and let others take over serving him, claiming I was too busy. I died a little bit inside each time he showed his face where I worked.

In the weeks following I used alcohol to numb my pain.

One evening I drank too much and lost control of my emotions. I broke down and shared my story with a friend.  She was the only one I had told and I swore her to privacy. Talking to her helped relieve some of the built up pressure and pain, but I was not ready to do anymore.

I continued to drink.  I even drank before going to some of my graduate classes (in mental health counseling) – where we were exploring counseling trauma victims.  I would often excuse myself from class and break down in the bathroom.  At one point one of my professors noticed the change in my behavior and called me to her office after class.  I broke down and shared everything with her. It is certainly helpful to have a professor who is also a clinical counselor be the one you finally break down to.  She helped me work through surface fears and that night I reached out to my mother. She helped me get connected to a therapist and slowly I started working through my pain. I shared my story with a few others and began the healing process. I still had not shared with my entire family – especially my father, who may be learning about this for the first time through this post.

The subsequent months were hard. I lost someone from my life who I thought would be there for me through everything which only added to my pain. I also tried feeble attempts to make myself feel whole or to regain control of my life, but the reality is that the healing takes time and work. The months passed and I continued to share my story with others, in my journal, and in therapy.  It was not long after that I met my now husband. I remember the first time we fooled around breaking down completely – shaking in complete fear. He stood by my side and heard my story. We spent the rest of the night on the couch cuddling and this time when I fell asleep next to a man I trusted in bed, he stayed true to his word and I slept peacefully through the night, untouched.  Safe.

My faith in men slowly regrew and I learned to forgive myself for things I held myself accountable for. I began to understand emotionally that it truly was not my fault and that I did not deserve to be raped. As I said earlier, there are still seeds of shame I can’t seem to get rid of and I do believe this is caused by societal influence.  I pray that the #metoo movement does create conversation and lead to change in how we view seuxal assault and harassment.  It is time to stand up for ourselves and to hold people accountable for their actions.  

I hope this gives others the confidence to share their story – the confidence I did not have for so long. Perhaps not on a public platform, but at least to trusted friends, family, and counselors.  

I respectfully remind you that this story is written from a place of love and healing. No negative, blaming, or shaming comments will be tolerated. Happy healing.  

 

 

GRATITUDE, HEALTH, NUTRITION, SAFER PRODUCTS

Shingles // An Unexpected Diagnosis

10/16/2017

It is so easy to take your health for granted until the moment you lose it. I have felt so lucky the past six months as my health has steadily increased. I’ve felt normal again. Tackling everyday activities without fatigue and adding on more physical challenges day by day.

I try not to take my health for granted. In fact I work really hard on it. Focusing on a good night sleep, eating well, watching what I put in and on my body, and working out regularly.  After struggling with the negative effects of breast implant illness for so long, I am so grateful to be back to a hundred percent.  My husband and I  comment all the time on how lucky I am to be back to full health.

So it took me by complete surprise when I got diagnosed with shingles.  It started with a pain in my lower back, close to the area where my kidneys are.  At first I thought it was a pulled muscle. It was tender but not terrible. The following day it continued to get worse – the pain hurt even to the touch. I thought maybe I had a kidney infection but I wasn’t showing any other symptoms. No fever, no cloudy urine, no pain during urination, or any other indication that it was an infection. My next thought was perhaps I had a kidney stone. I had a busy day and I was going to see the CEO of Beautycounter speak that evening so I did not get myself to the doctor. I drank lots of fluids and tried little tips and tricks to flush out a kidney infection and agreed that I would go to the doctor first thing in the morning if the pain persisted.

I woke up in the morning and the pain was worse. The pain was traveling down the left side of my leg and a little bit through my arm. All the pain was localized to my left side. I kept checking my back to see if I had a bruise or any indications that it might have been due to impact. I didn’t remember hurting myself, but thought maybe I had done something that I couldn’t remember. Nothing.

I made an appointment with the doctor and was seen late that morning. I told the doctor my symptoms.  When he lifted up my shirt to check the area that was in pain, he said he believed I had shingles. I was absolutely taken aback.  Shingles!?!?! How could I have shingles? I’m in my thirties. Shingles is what happens to elderly people, right?  I was still convinced that something was going on with my kidneys. He pointed out a tiny rash. Although to me it looked like a small bug bite and it had not been there earlier that morning when I had left for the doctor. I was pretty certain that it was unrelated.  The doctor left to verify the results of my urinalysis and while he was gone I grabbed my phone and looked up shingles. I had every symptom. Every. Single. One. Chills without fever, soreness in the Lombard area that travels up on one side of the body, sensitivity to the touch, shooting pain, headache, fatigue, and of course my body had started producing a rash.


The doctor prescribed me a course of antivirals and I went home to rest. I texted my father (an MD) on my way home who said of course it was shingles and that it made complete sense.  The doctor also encouraged me to get my blood work done with the GP to make sure that my immune system was working normally since I was on the younger side for shingles. This made me a bit nervous, but my mother had shared with me that my brother-in-law had shingles years ago which would have made him younger than I am today and he has no health issues.


I posted on Facebook a quick update of my condition and several people reached out to me letting me know that they had gone through shingles as well some as young as in high school. This completely shocked me but it also made me feel so much better about my condition. I felt kind of funny putting my status on Facebook, but at the same time the little bits of encouragement and love shared by friends and family was so helpful during this time where I am stuck in my bed due to complete fatigue and pain.


Laying in bed for hours on end reminds me so much of the bouts of fatigue I had during BII and also during my recovery phase post surgery. It is my numbing to be in bed for so long and not be able to get anything done other than healing. It just makes me that much more thankful for the health I have on a day-to-day basis. So I’m writing this as a reminder for all of us not to take our abilities and our health for granted.  We are so lucky because there are so many people that struggle day today just to get out of bed.

Right now I’m on day 5 with shingles. I have a little more energy today and a little less pain. I feel like I’ve hit a tipping point. The itching is worse than I expected, but I’ll take it over the pain. I’m trying some natural remedies to try to calm the sensation. The hardest thing for me is going to be to continue to take it slow as my body heals. I have a bad habit of jumping back into things sooner than my body is ready. I know that I’m still sick and I need to focus on letting myself heal completely before I jump into my routine full force.

In the meantime though, I wanted to write and encourage you to take care of yourself. Nourish yourself inside and out. Watch what you put into your bodies and onto your bodies. Rest. Take time out to reflect. It’s important to have fun and to indulge, but make sure that this is not an everyday occurrence.  There are so many terrible tragedies that we can’t prevent in life, but taking care of our health and well being is in our control. I don’t want to look back 10 years from now and say if only I had done things differently.
If you need any tips or tricks on getting your health back in line don’t hesitate to reach out or comment! I’m not an expert, but I try to make this a priority in my life and I feel like it’s important to help spread knowledge, resources, and support to others wanting to make changes in their lives!
ACTIVE LIVING, BEST SELF, INSPIRATION, MY TRUTH

Self Sabotage

08/30/2017

I find it so interesting how easy it is to sabotage our own wellness plans. I don’t know how many times I’ve drawn a line in the sand and said I was going to make some changes only to fall short of these goals within days. Sometimes it’s because my goals are way too lofty and I expect too much from myself, but other times even bitesize changes are thrown in the trash due to my own self sabotaging ways.

I’ve been able to make a lot of personal changes in my life over the last couple of years that I’m really proud of. I try to focus on wellness and these include areas such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise – BUT I feel like I have hit a plateau in my life and can’t overcome that. I really want to get to the next level.

I have recently put plans into place in regards to moving in the direction of my goals, by joining Barre and deferring my marathon entry to 2018 and opting for a 10k instead, rather than risk injury trying to hustle to be ready for this year.  

I started off very strong in my behaviors, going to Barre on average 5-6 times per week. eating clean, and getting a full night’s sleep, but I feel like things are starting to slowly unravel.  This past Friday my knee felt a bit sensitive, but I powered through the 2 mile run to and from Barre, plus the hour class.  Rather than taking a break on Saturday, I decided to go and just try to modify the workout to put less pressure on my knee.  By Sunday I knew I had to take time off.  Something felt off.  I told myself taking a day or two off was good and yesterday I even went down to the gym and did upper body weight training and abs to try and stay on track.

The problem though, was I started to see negative, self sabotaging behaviors creep in the second my plan went a bit off track.  Over the last four days my bedtimes have been pushed back later and later (staying up til 12 am last night doing NOTHING) and the amount of food I was consuming got larger and larger.

So, I’ve spent some time today reflecting on my behavior.  There seems to be so many times in my life where I tell myself “I deserve” something whether it be a piece of chocolate, a glass of wine, or a late-night television show, but the reality is that instead of rewarding myself I’m actually sabotaging all my hard work. So my self talk in actuality is saying that I deserve a punishment rather than a privilege. Right?

You see – if I was really rewarding myself, I would allow myself a great night’s sleep, because at the end of the day a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate and a TV show later I feel like garbage, but if I have a good night’s sleep and an awesome workout I feel like a million bucks.

Why is it that we find ourselves in these harmful patterns rather than the healthy ones? It’s definitely the easier road to go down. At the end of the day I know that a quick workout and an early night’s rest is so much better for my stress level, but a glass of wine is a quick fix. So what do I choose? Well when I’m tired and stressed, likely a glass of wine. This ultimately also leads to chocolate and a TV show. Then I wake in the morning groggy with a slight headache and a little less enthusiasm for my day. So I try to break that habit and I’m good for a few days or weeks or even once a whole year. It is so easy to fall back into those behaviors. I find myself even making jokes about the glass of wine at the end of the day with others as there is such a social pull for this. Almost as if I am asking society for permission to have this glass.

Recently, I gave myself a 30 day challenge of no alcohol or coffee – as well as unrefined sugars – to get myself back on track and jump start my progress. I’ve been good on the coffee and sugars, but I did have wine on one evening this past week – I made a conscious choice to drink wine with friends on the day my friend passed away.  I wouldn’t have gone out to get a bottle myself and haven’t had any since, so I’m allowing myself the grace of this decision.

That said, despite holding true (with this exception) to my challenge, I am letting other things slide. There has been no good reason for me to stay up late this week.  In fact, I am tired and without coffee in my life there is more reason to get to bed on time than ever, but this has not been the chosen path over the past few days.

Additionally, my food consumption levels are way too high! The food I am putting into my mouth is good food, but I am eating too much and too often.  And no – do not worry that I have a misconstrued idea of what a portion size is – I do not restrict my calories! Trust me when I say – I’ve been eating too much!  Staying up late also causes trouble in regards to eating because I have found myself snacking into the evening.  No good.  

The first day I said to myself:  “We are out with friends. It’s okay to eat a little more or have more comfort style foods that they have offered.  Life in moderation.”  And I was okay with that.

The second day, my self talk was more like:  “Wow, my muscles really must need a lot of extra calories to repair and build. Good thing I eat healthy food.”

Day three seemed a bit more like: “Okay, I think I may just making poor choices now.”

And by day four I was very self aware that I was sabotaging myself.

I am aware of my behaviors, but I am not 100% sure why I have fallen into them.  It’s almost like I have a fear of reaching my goals. What would it mean if I was actually in the peak physical condition? It can’t be a fear of failure can it?  Because this behavior sets me up to fail, so really it seems like a fear of success.  

It’s like my mind is telling me “You’ll never be able to do this. See? You aren’t worth it. You’ll always be the same old person.”  And then memories from my past of not feeling good enough sweep over me and I want to eat more and drown myself in a Netflix binge.   

Why am I talking about this?

Because I don’t think I am alone.  I think there are a LOT of us that have similar experiences and so I think it is healthy to talk about, discuss, and support each other about.

This is not about having unrealistic body image ideas, or needing to diet, or wanting to be thin.  It’s truly about wanting to make healthier lifestyle choices to live my best self.  And above that it is about being good to myself through positive self talk and breaking the stream of negative thoughts or criticism that creep into my brain.  Being proud of the work I am doing because I know it makes me a better person inside and out.  It is important to be aware of our sabotaging behavior because it is often linked to negative and harmful thoughts about the self.  Recognizing these signs and adjusting our behaviors is imperative for a healthy life.  

So, I am putting it out there that this is what I am currently struggling with. I am challenging these beliefs about myself and rewriting my self talk.  Today is a new day and I am not going to let old behaviors get in the way of creating my best life now.  

ACTIVE LIVING, BEAUTYCOUNTER, BEST SELF, LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH, SAFER PRODUCTS

Finding B // An Investment in Me

08/21/2017

The other day while getting dressed a caught glimpse of myself in the mirror and had to take a second glance.  Things are changing.

Despite the huge push for self care with my counseling background, I – as many moms are guilty of – do not spend much time focusing on my personal needs.  I almost always put the needs of others before mine. Sure, I take some time for me, but I constantly sabotage my efforts as I do not make my well being a priority making consistency nearly impossible. Over the past month though, that has changed – I have started to invest in me.

Right now might seem like an odd time to invest in myself. If you’ve read my previous posts you may already know that my husband left his job at the beginning of summer and has been  searching for his next career opportunity. It’s not in my nature to spend money on myself, so doing so at a time where our money belt is cinched a bit tighter than normal seems a little unnatural, but it is a choice we have consciously made and I could not be happier with our decision.

A little less than a month ago a friend of mine encouraged me to go to a Barre3 class with her.  She is an instructor, but is currently not teaching as she just had a baby. I was hesitant for many reasons, but she talked me into taking a class with her.  She had amazing things to say about how it has changed her body as well as her mind.  After attending my first class I was not fully convinced.  I did not love the class.  I like high energy classes that keep you moving and Barre has a lot of slow movement and controlled holds, pulses, and an inconceivable amount of squats – probably my least favorite exercise out there.  I told her at the end of class that if she didn’t want to be friends she could have just told me rather than torturing me.  Lol.  I only kid.  I was so sore the next few days.  It was a good sore though, and I noticed that the areas I was the most sore were the exact same areas that I complain the most about wanting to tighten up.  That said though, the price tag was hefty.  I was worried about spending any money right now, so other than the free class she brought me to, I doubted I’d continue.  I kind of wrote it off, but she kept talking up the benefits of Barre not only to me, but my husband as well.  He encouraged me to take the time to focus on myself and try it out for a bit.

We agreed on a price point for a specific package which would allow me to get a good feel of the class.  The company encourages you to take at least 3 lessons to try it out so that your body has a chance to get used to the new movements.  I went to a second class a week later with my friend and although the class felt a bit better, I still wasn’t convinced.  BUT, with the encouragement of my husband, I decided to go ahead and invest at least this one time.  When I went to purchase my package I realized that they were running a promotion for new members offering a significant discount for the unlimited monthly classes.  So, for the first month it was half the cost of what my husband and I agreed that we’d invest – AWESOME!

Well, they are right – 3 is the magic number because by my third class I was hooked! During the first two weeks of my membership I went everyday! Unfortunately, this streak had to end when we left for our camping trip, but I have been back steadily since our return home.  It has been a little more than 3 weeks since I’ve been going and I’m already seeing changes to my body.  My bum is lifting, my arms are more defined, and everything looks a bit tighter than last month.  But more importantly, I feel great.

In addition to the Barre classes, I’ve also invested in better skincare products and focused on a regular skincare regiment. I mentioned in a previous post that I had recently become a consultant for Beautycounter.  When I was first approached about the opportunity, I had only briefly sampled the products, but signed on because I believed in the mission. Now that I’ve used the products regularly, I am so thrilled that I took the leap.  Not only are the products safer, investing into them has completely changed my regular beauty routine.  I won’t lie – I have never been one to put too much attention into my skincare and often would go to bed with a face of makeup, but now that has changed completely. I am honoring the Beautycounter routine and I am so happy with the changes I am seeing. It’s not just about the changes I’m seeing in my face, but the changes I am seeing within myself. I am taking time to care about me!

I am trying to be patient with the transformations that I am currently making to my body, as I know big changes take time, but I feel good about the results that I’m getting so far.  I’ve also had people make comments about my appearance asking me if I’ve lost weight or saying how fresh my face looks.  It’s kind of caught me off guard – but man does that feel good! My husband is certainly noticing these changes too.  Although a little firming up is always nice, I think he is proud of the shift he is seeing within me – rather than the simply the external changes.  I feel better about myself overall and that’s important for the vitality of our relationship.

This month I’m continuing to challenge myself.  I have decided to take on the Barre3 Challenge which includes eliminating gluten (DONE!), refined sugar (no prob!), dairy (easy enough), alcohol (getting harder), and COFFEE  (aghhh!!!).  I’m starting today and I’m super pumped. I think giving up both coffee and alcohol as a way to help focus on authentic body regulation.  No more coffee to perk me up or wine to wind me down.  Rather I am going to put my focus on healthy bedtimes and stress reduction that don’t require a nightcap.  Right now I am challenging myself for 30 days, but perhaps it will end up longer.  I gave up alcohol for 1 year a couple of years ago and it may have been my most productive year yet.  Lol. If anyone is interested in joining me for this challenge – comment below and we can encourage each other along the way!

Overall, I am really glad that we didn’t let the recent employment changes dissuade us from making these investments.  I am proud to say that my husband has started his first day with his new employer today and seems genuinely happy with the opportunity before him.  We took a lot of risks this summer, but they seem to be paying off.  I joke with my husband that the Bs are taking over my life – Beautycounter and Barre3, but he – without question – is my biggest supporter.

ACTIVE LIVING, BEST SELF, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, THE SIMPLE THINGS

Gone Camping // Disconnecting to Reconnect

08/14/2017

Summer has completely flown by. It has been an adventure of sorts in regards to our current state of unemployment and our busy travel schedule, but it has been one of growth and strength. We have been focusing on family and making the most of what we have.  With only one week left before school starts again we had our final summer adventure to embark upon.

Earlier this year at our school auction we bid on a Family Camp weekend and won.  At the end of spring I scheduled our camp session for this August. This past weekend we got to venture out to West Virginia and enjoy a four-day camp experience at Camp Alleghany for Girls. The weekend was just what we needed.

For the past few weeks we’ve had my mother-in-law staying with us for a summer visit. The company is lovely, but in full authenticity, having my husband and kids home for the summer plus the two dogs scuttling around, it’s already a bit crowded – adding a 5th person into the mix at our 850 square foot apartment can get a little tight. Finding ourselves with four days away – out in nature – was a breath of fresh air. And as a bonus, my mother-in-law was able to get her own quiet time at our place, while also watching the pups for us. So hopefully it turned out to be a win-win.

We arrived at camp midday Thursday and took a rowboat across the river to the campsite. The camp was divided into two sections – Senior Camp and Junior Camp. They had the families with younger kids in Junior Camp. Our home for the next few days was an elevated canvas tent with wood floor boards. They had raised beds with mattresses for each of us and a small shelf to put our things. It was perfect. We rolled the canvas flaps up during the day to let in the fresh air and rolled them down during the evening to offer some privacy.

The gaggle of tents created a square and in the middle there were swings, a slide, and tetherball.  Almost immediately upon arrival the kids began to run around with the other children as we unpacked and set up our tent.  We didn’t bring much – just the essentials. It was quaint and perfect.

The family weekend offered a variety of activities we could sign up for. There was archery, arts and crafts, canoeing, swimming in the river, creaking, hiking, a rifle range, and a few other activities that the kids weren’t quite old enough to engage in. In the mornings we were woken up by the bugle playing Reveille, and in the evening at 10 pm they sounded them again to indicate lights out and quiet time. There was also a break after lunch  where the entire camp was resigned to their tents for rest hour. I was impressed with how seriously the attendees respected rest hour and bed time. I’d say that rest hour turned out to be one of our favorite times during camp. Everyone had to be silent, so we would all hang out on our beds reading books or the kids would quietly play a board game. There are very few times in our day-to-day lives that we are able to sit down and read uninterrupted for an hour. Being in our tent with the canvas rolled up, the breeze rolling in, a view of the mountains just to our left and quiet campsite to the right, I found myself in complete peace.

The food options were great as well. They had vegetarian options, gluten-free options, a constant salad bar and different meals each day. They did not disappoint. The kids also loved that they offered various desserts with every meal – and although it is not my normal behavior I certainly let the kids indulge during this vacation.

This weekend also provided us a great opportunity to disconnect from electronics and reconnect as a family. I feel like we are pretty well connected already, but I also admit that we are guilty of using electronics to keep us occupied or perhaps I should say – preoccupied. At the camp we barely touched our phones (the only electronics we brought) and only turned them on for the occasional picture or to check the time – but other than that we stayed totally disconnected. To entertain ourselves we talked to one another, enjoyed nature, worked on crafts, made friends, engaged in the camp activities and read. I almost finished the novel I brought which was such a nice treat. This uninterrupted time to breathe was so necessary.  I truly believe that our society underestimates the importance of unplugging.

It was the first time in awhile that I have felt I had the space to really just relax. Devoid of all the responsibilities I normally have, it allowed me to just be. It was such a gift. There were so many times during this trip that we simply laid on our beds reading books and I would turn to my husband and just smile, sometimes mentioning how lucky I felt we were in that moment that we happened upon this gift.

During this weekend with so little to get in our way, we gained so much. I hope to make this a yearly occurrence. I also look forward to going on more camping trips of our own in the future. Disconnecting to reconnect is what my soul needed. Now we are back at home and already back into the grind – cooking, cleaning, laundry, workouts, and preparing for the back to school rush next week. In so many ways, the trip already seems so far behind us, but the biggest takeaway for me is the reality of how little we truly need to make us happy. We’ve already minimized significantly in the past year-and-a-half, but I look forward to taking an even deeper look at what we do have and seeing how we can make even more breathing room.