Just Eat

It’s Eating disorder Awareness Week… I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. “Just eat”… “I wish I had THAT problem” … Two of the most frustrating, rude, cavalier and insensitive phrases I hear whenever ED’s come up. Eating disorders are serious. Serious like addiction. And it’s not because “we” are selfish, vain or conceited. It’s because we have no self love, self worth and no grace. It’s because we feel out of control in life and take it out on our bodies. Because we feel guilt when we take care of ourselves. Eating disorders are not a joke.

(I rewrote the paragraph above a few times changing the “we” to “they” and the “our” to “their” because I’m struggling with whether or not I want to own my own struggles right now. #VigorousHonesty)

Eating disorders come in many forms, restricting, binging, purging, over exercising… these are the symptoms, the whiskey to the alcoholic, the meth to the addict, the abuser to the abused. If you’ve ever known or loved someone who struggled with addiction, you’ve probably thought, “Why can’t they see what their doing to themselves?”

“Why don’t they just stop?”

“Why doesn’t she leave him?”

“She doesn’t love me enough to quit.”

That’s pretty much the same thoughts you might have when you are close to someone with an eating disorder. It’s frustrating. Maybe a little more frustrating because it’s harder to understand. Harder to relate to. I grew up in a home where addiction was talked about often. My dad is over 30 years sober and has worked in treatment for my entire life. My sister has been in rehab a few times, my mom, too. Addiction, recovery, 12 Steps, meetings, amends…. This is all the norm to me. Addiction, we can handle. We have the tools. But about 12 years ago when I was diagnosed as “Anorexic with purging”, none of us had any idea how to deal. My dad was very proactive, he got me help immediately. A therapist, treatment… What I didn’t have was anyone in my life who understood. In a world where everyone was on the Atkin’s Diet, I didn’t fit in. It was really lonely. For me, going to a 12-Step meeting was not useful. I didn’t use. Not like them. For me, not eating served the same purpose, however, I was not offered the same grace. People rolled their eyes, because their addiction was “worse”. Because “all” I had to do was “just eat”. (I am rolling my eyes as I type this!)

I have forgiven everyone who’s ever belittled my disease because I understand that you DON’T understand. I would like to give a little insight though. So maybe you can have more grace with someone who is walking a road you’ve never walked.

I have a friend, a good friend who also has an eating disorder, and she is the only person besides my therapist who “gets it”. The irony is that she over eats and I under eat. (I’m actually in recovery… see here is where it’s hard to compare addiction and ED’s because when an alcoholic drinks, they’re no longer sober. If I have a bad eating day, I’m not off the wagon necessarily. It’s not THAT simple. Hence ED awareness week.) However, if you sit us both down and talk with us, or, hear us talk with each other, it’s the same words, it’s the same feelings. We just have literally opposite reactions. When I am sad, I lose 15 pounds. When she is sad, she gains 15 pounds. I’m not saying like I feel sad today and magically 15 pounds evaporate. I mean like, when I am going through depression, stress, anxiety, etc. I can’t eat. Like physically, I cannot swallow food. I will chew for ages and just can’t swallow. And I and not necessarily even upset about my body during these times. In fact, if I’m in that place, I am not even thinking about my body. I am too absorbed in my misery. Yes throughout my life I have acted out my ED because I have had a “fat” day (a word I avoid). I have also noticed that my “fat days” directly correlate to my emotions. The scale has not changed, but for some reason today I fucking HATE my body. Nothing looks right, nothing feels right. I want to rip off my skin. I literally want to take scissors to my thighs. I want to vacuum the fat from my belly. These are the images I get when I look in the mirror on a “fat day.” Meanwhile my brain is saying, “You’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not lovable, nobody takes you seriously, you deserve to feel lonely, nobody needs you. You’re too outspoken, you’re too opinionated. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough. You’re just not enough. Oh- except your thighs, those are too much. Jeez, Justine, what’s wrong with you? You’re a shitty anorexic. You ate WAY too much yesterday and LOOK at your ass! You can’t even eat right. You’re so stupid. You need to control yourself. You are an embarrassment.” You see how it’s not actually about my body? My body is the scapegoat. Internally I feel like I can’t fix my uselessness, and all the things wrong with who I am, but, I CAN fix my thighs. So here I am desperately hating myself, and truly needing someone to love me, someone to affirm me. Not my body. ME. and I don’t know how to ask for that. And I sure as hell don’t believe I deserve it. So I am sad. So I can’t eat. And not eating serves a purpose. Not eating ,makes me feel successful subconsciously. Eating literally makes me nauseous, so NOT eating makes me feel better.

Meanwhile my friend who over eats has the SAME thoughts, only her coping skill is to make herself feel better by eating. Because when she is eating it FEELS GOOD. It smells good, and looks good and fills her. It literally fills the emptiness. So she will eat fast food, and thus PROVE to herself, all the things her brain has been chanting. That she isn’t strong enough to lose the weight, that she is worthless, that she’s fat. That she doesn’t “deserve” to be healthy, because if she did deserve it, she could eat like a “normal” person. She “proves” her worthlessness to herself every time she gets on a scale and hasn’t lost any weight. Every time her doctor is disappointed. Every time her nutritionist overwhelms her with lists of food she “can’t” have. It’s overwhelming. And what’s the point anyway, right? She feels like a failure. Maybe she is? Oh, is that a Mc Donald’s? French fries will help. And she’ll try again tomorrow.

I don’t know if my sharing this is helpful. I just thought, in the spirit of the week, maybe I can shine some light on a subject that you just can’t grasp at face value.

I want you all to know that I have been working my recovery, seeing my therapist, and learning to love myself. To change the way I talk to myself. To recognize the red flags and seek help when I start going down the rabbit hole. My recovery really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with food. Food is just the way I show the sickness. As a mom I have been good at maintaining a healthy weight… but masking the real issue. I am in a place where I want recovery, and I understand that just because I am not acting out my ED, does not mean I am cured. I understand that every single day I need to work to make the right choices. Because, magically, when I am doing what is right and healthy for me, I don’t hate myself so much. In fact, I start seeing the good. I have recognized that my decisions directly effect my self worth. And I am worth being happy. I am worth love. I am lovable. And so are you.

Mommy Issues

So this morning as I scrolled through my facebook newsfeed, sipping my coffee, I come across a new single written by Pink. You all know I am a Pink fan, so I was excited, I click the link and read the article, turns out, this song was written for Pink’s mom… My initial reaction to this news was conflicting. I have serious mommy issues (You’ve heard about my daddy issues already.) and I have hesitated to blog about them because… Well for one it fucking hurts. As I type tears burn my eyes and and my throat is tight, also, this stuff is personal. I know I have been open about a lot, but this is the most sensitive subject for me, I’ve told you about the time I was attacked, and I don’t even cry anymore when I talk about that. I have told you about my history with the cult, and I have even publicly apologized to a friend (<—- I even mentioned some mommy issues.) But this mom stuff is really hard to choke out.

My sisters and my mama at my wedding
My sisters and my mama at my wedding

“No one ever held you, no single moment of truth, but if you were mine I would have looked into those eyes and said, tell me the words you long to hear and I’ll sing them loud and clear, let me heal the wounds you’ve held onto for all these years. Break the cycle break the chain, cause love is louder than all your pain.”

It’s like she took the words from my heart, words I have never been able to even think. “But if you were mine….” right there, that’s when I broke, that’s when the tears came. When I was pregnant and didn’t want a baby, I promised this baby that I would be the mother that my mom couldn’t be. I was so afraid to continue the cycle. Every day since Jo was born has been therapy for me, I have spent the last 5 years cleaning up the mess my mom left, I have loved Jo, and hugged her, and connected with her in all the ways I SHOULD have been loved, all the ways I DESERVED to be loved. I don’t have memories of not being wanted, but it became clear while I was in CFD, you may remember the Justine Doll Incident:

“When I was in treatment for my eating disorder I was given an assignment, to make a doll that represented me, a baby Justine doll, and nurture her for a day. It was supposed to be me when I was 2, around the time my mom left us. After making the doll, I promptly threw it over my shoulder, and did not touch it for a week. The next time we had group with all of our therapists, mine asked me if I had completed the task. I said I made the doll, and no I did not nurture it, it’s not even real, after all. I should have known better because my next assignment was to nurture that damn thing for the next WEEK! My therapist asked me to go get the doll. I got it and put her down in front of me.

She asked me to hold her…
I picked it up by it’s hair.
She asked me to hold her like a baby.
I did.
She asked me to look at her.
I couldn’t.
“Why won’t you look at her?”
Me: “I can’t.”
“Why not?”
Me: “I don’t know, I hate it.”
“Why?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
“Look at her.”
Me: (I looked at her, and started to cry) “She is ugly, and fat, and I hate her.”
“She is only a baby, how can you hate a baby?”
Me: “I don’t know… I hate her.”
“Hug her, tell her you love her.”
Me: (Hugging her) I can’t, I don’t love her.

At this point I broke down. It was crazy to me that I could HATE a doll so much. I had never realized how worthless I felt, how ugly, and disgusting I thought I was. Those are the voices in my head when I look in the mirror sometimes. When I got out of treatment I threw that doll away.

I can’t imagine my beautiful, perfect, smart baby girl feeling the way I felt towards that doll… I mean myself.”

I’m not saying it’s ALL my mom’s fault that I literally hated myself and did not think I deserved to be nurtured or loved, there were a lot of factors, but I’m pretty sure being essentially abandoned is a huge contributing factor. Thinking back on that doll I have such a sick feeling, who can leave their little girl? I look at my daughter and I have a hard time imagining a day without her, I cry every time she goes to her dad’s house. Jo changed me, she changed my perspective on life. I could’t help but wonder… why didn’t I do that for my mom? Why didn’t I change her? Why didn’t she look at me, and fall in love? It’s not very fair is it? I can’t imagine walking away from my baby girl, but my mom felt that I would be better off without her. She may have been right, but that’s not really the point is it?

Break the cycle break the chain, cause love is louder than all your pain.”

I have spent the last 5 years breaking the chain. I could have been my mom, I could have left when it was hard, I could have given up at any point, but I promised Joliene while she was in my belly that even if I didn’t love her, I would ALWAYS do everything in my power to make her feel loved, and I would never EVER leave her. I promised to show that her she is perfect and beautiful, that she is essential and loved. I vowed to be better and to give her everything I should have had. I broke the cycle.

Me and my Jojo <3
Me and my Jojo <3

“If you were mine…”

I have spent the last 5 years wishing I had been my own mom. Wondering what it would have been like if my mom had been like me, would I have been more confident? Would I have still starved myself? More importantly, would I be the mother I am today? What I never thought until hearing those words was, what if she was mine? What if I could go back and nurture my mother? What if I was HER mother? Would she have stayed?

Disclaimer: “Too many missing pieces, that’s always been your reason to justify how you feel inside” To be honest, I know my mom can’t help who she was. She has more than enough reasons. She was dealt a pretty shitty hand in life. It just sucks that I had to suffer because of HER past. But I love her, and have come a really long way. I think this song really reminded me to be compassionate.

 

 

No One’s The Bitch

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My daughter was playing with a friend a few weeks ago in our garage/converted play room and she says, “My other mom’s favorite color is green.” I almost dropped the broom that was in my hand. I heard that wrong… I had to have heard that wrong!

“Baby? Why did you call her your other mom? She is your step-mom.” (By the way, she has only carried this title for a few days at this point.)

Jo answered, “Because I have two moms now.”

My heart raced, inside I screamed “NO!!! You do not have two moms! I am your mama, you grew inside MY belly, I felt your first kicks, I kissed you first! I am your mama, I got up every night with you and sacrificed my body for 9 months to bring you to this world, and for another almost two years breast feeding. I am your mama, I slept on the floor next to your bed every night, every shower I took for 3 years was a shower slash bath so you could play and stay close to me because all you ever wanted was your mama. I am your mama, I fell in love with you, you were my first love, and I was yours.”

I didn’t say that. I walked away and cried. This new woman has been in my daughters life for about 5 months, and as far as I am concerned the title, “Mom” is earned. Not to say you have to birth children to become a mother, I have a step mom and she is one of my closest friends. I also had a somewhat absent mother. While I saw my mom on occasional weekends, she never really exhibited the “mom” role in my life. Nevertheless, she is still my mama. I refer to my step mom by her name, although I do consider her a parent. And coincidentally I am even closer to her than either of my biological mother.

I myself am a step mother, as well. My step children call me “Mom”… So you might think that I have a double standard? It took my stepchildren (my kids) about a year to start referring to me as their mom. It wasn’t something I asked or told them to do, it was organic. My husband and I are their primary care givers. Their biological mom passed away a few years before I came into the picture. For all intents and purposes, I am mom. I stay home, I help with homework, I clean, prepare dinner, read books, wipe away tears, ice boo-boos, bandage scrapes… you name it. they asked me if it was OK for them to call me mom. My biological daughter, Jo was excited to share her mama. Granted it took her about the same amount of time to become comfortable with me performing all of the maternal duties for children other than her. I know it was a hard thing for the grandparents to hear, and to get used to, but we all decided that we wanted the kids to know that we are a family, and and even though their biological mother can’t be here, I will be here. (We also do not refer to my husband as Jo’s dad, he is her step dad and she has nicknames for him.)

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Sometimes you have to do very uncomfortable things for the greater good. Hearing my daughter call her step mom her “other mom” put a few things into perspective for me. I had a lot of bitterness, and a part of me didn’t want to let go of it. Because if I let go of my bitterness, I couldn’t be angry anymore. Sometimes we hold onto our bitterness because it justifies the real feelings, the ones we don’t want to talk about. It took a long time for me to get to a healing place within myself in regards to my ex. (For an example check out my truce with daddies http://healthymama.net/?p=22) And most dads for that matter. Granted my ex and I are not BFFs, but at least I have worked through and owned MY shit. I honestly didn’t realize how threatened I would be by “The Other Woman”. My insecurities came flooding out, and I knew I had a BIG problem. My husband said, “It’s OK if you’re jealous…” Aaaannnddd I verbally ripped his head off. “Me? Jealous? I don’t get jealous! I’m not one of THOSE girls. I don’t want HER life, in fact she’s living my old life, the life I fled, wrote off, the life that scarred me.” (OK maybe it wasn’t THAT bad… in reality it just wasn’t right for me. And let’s face it… I have been through MUCH worse than an unhappy relationship. (See  http://healthymama.net/?p=38 for my cult back round and http://healthymama.net/?p=306 for physical and emotional physical trauma) I can think of a million reasons I am pissed not “jealous”.

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Luckily for me, a friend offered me a book called “No One’s The Bitch” (http://www.noonesthebitch.com/) and at this point I am desperate. I couldn’t live with these insecurities any more. I had to find some peace. It was really hard for me because I didn’t dislike Jo’s step mom… I honestly didn’t know her, I was just… Ok I’ll say it: I was jealous. Jealous that my daughter referred to her as a mom, and she seemed comfortable with it, jealous that she is living my old life, has my old friends, and probably has heard about all of my dirty laundry (and then some, knowing the vicious rumors I have heard about myself). Jealous that my baby is spending so much time with a stranger, and that my ex still wouldn’t communicate with me the way I needed. My insecurities were festering. Everyone told me not to bother with the book, that I should just “hate” the step mom because she will inevitably hate me. That she shouldn’t step on MY toes, and I have every right to be angry. I am the mom.

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But I was looking at this from a different point of view. I went to a place where I was happy and relieved that my ex found someone, that he seemed happy. My daughter obviously liked her, too. Jo has been through enough, and the last thing we need is for me to make everyone’s life miserable because I can’t handle my insecurities. I have always been very… judgmental of parents who do not put their kids first. Not to be mean, and I know judging is not OK, but I cannot respect a parent who puts their children in a dangerous situation out of selfishness or convenience. So how can I put my daughter in the middle of a territorial fight? How is that fair? It’s not like we can cut her in half! (Yes, that was a biblical reference) I had to find a way to share, a way that wasn’t going to break my heart.

So over the last few weeks I have been working through my shit, and it’s not an easy thing to admit where I need to change. I feel vulnerable. But I also feel lucky. Lucky that I found help so quickly, that the other woman is very respectful towards me, and we have found we have more in common than either of us expected. That we both have Joliene’s best interest at heart. We found that we communicate better with each other than I do with my ex!

I still don’t want to hear her referred to as Jo’s “other mom”, I am still protective of my title, and my relationship with my daughter. I am, however, working through these feelings, and learning to deal with them in a healthy way. No one has to be the villain. No One’s The Bitch. Except me, I was kind of being a bitch.