The belt 

For years, I wore the same belt; almost every day. I’d blame it on my job at the time, working at a library. I wore jeans, thus: a belt. Even “skinny” jeans needed this monstrous strip of leather and metal to hold my pants up. 

I kept this belt for a long time after I no longer needed it. I think it was sometime in March this year that I realized my jeans stayed up without help. Was it ed that whispered in my ear to keep it? I think so, as I remember telling myself just in case, I can always go back…

So I stashed the belt on a shelf and forgot about it. I admit, as a woman, to wear a belt all the time is a little odd, and mostly uncomfortable. It was almost like a punishment, albeit a subconscious one. I wore my belt to bed. I got used to it.

It became something of a comfort to tighten it, and make sure I didn’t go down a notch. So I guess you could say I missed it when I no longer needed to wear it.

A few weeks ago, I was sorting through a bunch of clothes and other things, and naturally, ran across the belt. I picked it up, and tried it on. Maybe not the smartest decision, but I can say now that it did no harm. I saw how much of a difference there was between the worn notch and my waist now. I marveled at all of the work those inches took, how much pain they caused. I took a few pictures, posting one to Instagram stating that I wasn’t sure what to do with this relic.

I ended up throwing it out with the rest of my trash. I wanted something a little dramatic, but I got busy and lazy, and tossed it into the bag with all of the other trash items going to the landfill that week. I think that’s where it belongs. I know it’s far fetched, and would likely never happen, but what if someone picked the belt up and used it? Would they be plagued by my previous actions? 

That belt saw me through a lot. I wore it through gains and losses, I wore it on the day my grandma passed, and the day before I got married. I wore it the day I was fired, and drove home in a flood of shocked tears. It was with me on my first appointment to my dietitian, doctor, and therapist. Under my shirt, hugging my waist, it was there. 

The day I threw my belt out, I freed myself from its restraint. It sounds silly, but since that day I feel more peaceful and relaxed. Sometimes letting go is the only way to receive more.

Peace

A year ago today, I was feeling the farthest thing from peace possible. My life has never been like what you see in the movies, more of like what you would see in the tabloids. The headline of my life so far would be something like “Meiner, no longer a minor, starves herself to look like one” or “Young woman refuses treatment that could save her life“. I didn’t seek out the drama, it showed up one day and stayed with me for years.

When anorexia started to steal my marriage, I often had the thought that I should just get over it, just eat and maybe everything would fall into place. I see now that while eating does help a lot, I wasn’t capable of getting to a place where I could eat without cursing myself for every bite. Not alone, at least. It took me years to open up to treatment again. Anorexia is a hateful, secretive disease, and I just wanted to avoid it and hope it would either go away eventually, or I’d somehow live with it forever. I am not saying that I don’t avoid disordered eating completely now, and I am also not saying that I don’t hide. I do. But I’m learning ways to cope, and not let things build up as much.

I just got back from (what I hope) is the final pass of cleaning at the cottage I rented for a year, and am now moving out of. I thought I might have really mixed feelings, or horrible withdrawals from the little island of solitude I had created. So far though, I feel super confident in my decision to let that part of my life go, and move on. I never really got to live with Dan, it was more like I haunted him or something. I really only remember feeling this dark shroud surrounding me on those days and months after our wedding. I know there were happy times, and the memories of them surface now as well, but I always felt very removed from our relationship. Now I am trying to be more present and mindful.

So much has changed in a year! I am so much happier with my life in general, Which I attribute to soooo many things. To name a few: moving from a full-time job to a part-time position as a barista, blogging and not living with my problems in silence, eating more meals with my husband (especially pizza), eating ice cream every night for dessert,  being on medication that works for me, and knowing I am being proactive in my recovery. There have been so many things along that way that have gone right, and so many that went wrong, but turned out to be right in the end.

Right now, I feel peace. I have moments of anxiety, but it’s about small things that can be resolved easily. This past week was a little hectic, with me moving out (I did it a little early because…anxiety), and I think I am still getting adjusted to living full-time at home. I realized the other day that I haven’t felt this way in a long time though. Kind of like I’m ready for anything. This peace I feel isn’t absolute, and I bet you it will pass, but for the moment, I am living in it and loving it!


 

 

A long way to go

I’ve been mulling over the idea of writing this post for a while now, and how to put into words what has happened over the last eleven months. I want everyone who has been in my life through this time to know that I appreciate them, especially my husband and mom and dad, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, sisters…the list goes on. I have gone through a lot in the past weeks and months, and I couldn’t have done it without family, friends, a wonderful dietitian and therapist, and a dedicated doctor. Teamwork has been a major part of my healing, and though I still have a long way to go, I am facing my fears and struggles every day. Even when I feel hopeless, there are always reasons to keep going.

One of those reasons is my family. My husband in particular. I don’t write about him enough, mostly because I don’t want to embarrass him, and now is his moment to be recognized fully. This is a long story, so settle in and expect rambling and mushy stuff. Okay, here goes…

I met my husband in a way that is becoming more and more popular of late. Online. Technically. I met him online, but I knew his family long before that. I hung out with his sisters, and helped his youngest sister with math and reading. Mostly we just chatted casually on Facebook, or commented on each others weird photos. Eventually we also sent each other letters (of which I have a while box full). I was hesitant to talk more than we did, because at the time I wasn’t yet 20, and he was a little bit older than me. I was concerned with what people would think of me. This concern about how people view me and my life has come into play so many times in my life, a topic I will hit on again in a bit, but thankfully I got over my doubt, and we started actually dating.

We were only together for a short time before he proposed, but at that point we knew so much about each other, and we were (still are, by the way) in love. I was convinced I would never find a better soul mate, and I still am. He felt the same way. We have similar senses of humor, and we each have weird health problems that plague us. I think what really solidified our relationship was when I was a stones throw away from being admitted to inpatient at a hospital with an antiquated eating disorder program, a program I did not want to attend, and had no intention of ever attending, and I texted Dan to say I was in trouble. He immediately asked what was wrong, and when I told him how I felt, despite the fact that I was underweight and probably not thinking clearly, he stepped up and too matters into his own hands. He saved me. When no one else was wiling to, he spoke up. Between my husband and my mother-in-law, I was able to fight off the doctor who gave me these orders (and was going to have me escorted by the Sheriff if I did not comply) and find a new doctor. This happened years ago, and I have a new team of a dietitian, therapist, and doctor now, thank god.

Every now and then I remember this time in my life and I’m amazed at how incompetent professionals can be, and how amazing my husband is. But back to my story…after that he was a hero. I’d like to say I trust him innately, but there are some things I just don’t trust anyone on, so I’m still working on that (an example would be that calories are good. I still have that hurdle to jump over). We dated , got engaged, and got married. Just like that I was a married woman, an “adult” in the eyes of the law (I was over 18) and in the eyes of society. I thought marriage would save me. That all of my crap around food might go away. But it didn’t, of course. For a time I felt like I had a handle on it, but over weeks and month, I slowly began to take steps backwards. At this point I hadn’t seen a doctor or dietitian in quite a few years, and I wanted to believe I could heal myself. That someone loving me unconditionally would also heal me. Well, depression had a lot to say about that, and one of the main things that started playing on repeat in the soundtrack of my mind was that I was alone, unsafe, and unworthy. I told my husband that I didn’t feel “safe” meaning I wasn’t being taken care of, I guess. I could feel his hurt and confusion rolling off of him in waves. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the worst things a wife can say to her husband in the first months of marriage, that she doesn’t feel as if she’s being provided for. It wasn’t that exactly, I was simply used to living at home with my parents, with most all of my needs met without me even having to say a word. I wanted something from the grocery store? put it on the list. I needed laundry done, and was out of detergent? Mom would surely get some more soon.

I think it came down to money and responsibilities. I was obsessed with money, and saving it. I know now, and knew then, that money often makes or breaks marriages. I didn’t do anything with that knowledge though. I guess I can blame it on mental illness, this obsession with saving every penny and not spending it even on items we needed. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of getting over that, it was something that came with the initial healing process, it almost feels good to spend money now, because I know that we’re doing OK, and money just isn’t an issue at the moment. The point is, is, it was, and I am ashamed of that. Dan probably thought I was a nutcase! (I am, but you know what I mean).

I curled into my own little shell, and began to fade away. If you were wondering, being underweight makes everything a little fuzzy. I don’t always remember everything during certain times, but I do know that intimacy was something I couldn’t fathom. I couldn’t accept love of any kind. I still struggle with this, but I’m trying to work on it. I even “let” Dan buy me a birthday card this year! Anyway, the love and passion that should flourish within a new marriage wasn’t there. So, we’ve got love, money…I wasn’t eating with Dan after the first few meals, or if I was, I ate my own concoction of low calorie food. Dan felt like I was shutting him out, and I was, though unintentionally. I didn’t have the capacity to see beyond food, and my own jumbled brain. Our marriage began to fall apart before we even started laying a foundation.

It got to the point where communication didn’t exist anymore, I shut down and turned away. We both knew what needed to happen, we needed to talk and find compassion and hopefully, a way to cope. I don’t think that was possible at the time, mostly on my end. I can see now how unfocused and removed I was from life. How horrible it must have been for Dan to see his wife becoming a zombie. I wrote notes and letters to him, but when I tried to talk, my vocal cords refused to work correctly, my brain wouldn’t send signals to my mouth to open.

About a year after we exchanged vows, I found myself lugging cardboard boxes to the trunk of my car, clearing out the room I had come to call my own, and spend the majority of my time at home in. After a few discussions and misunderstandings, I was moving out. I was hurt, confused, and unsure. I cried as I moved some of the same items I had carried through these doors, just months before. I had no idea if I was making the right decision, or if this would result in Dan and I moving closer together, or further apart. In some ways I blamed him for pushing me away, only because he had spoken the words that had resulted in this move. That wasn’t the case at all though, and Dan is wiser than his years, guys. He probably didn’t know exactly what his words would make me do, but looking back, I think we both made the right decisions last August.

And now, close to a year later, I am packing up more boxes and totes, and going through my closet; in preparation to move back in with my husband. Plans changed over and over, we started fixing up our house to sell, and thought perhaps both Dan and I would live in the rental, but that never happened. Then when the time came closer and closer for the lease to be up on the house I am staying in, we decided it would be best for me to move back into the house we own, and go from there. I’m nervous. My anxiety flares up now and then. But I think that once again, we are making the right decision.

Healing takes on many forms, and it’s often unpredictable. For me, it took a year of being in my own place, thinking lots of thoughts and doing lots of hard work. Through it all, Dan was there though. He has never left my side, no matter how hard I pushed him away. I had many weeks of eating meals with my family, and then eating meals with my husband. I was worried when I moved out that people would judge me, and think of me as a failure. I had to stand taller than my fears, and do something I was unsure of, and now I can see that all of the moves we made and the roles we played, as husband and wife, caretaker, chef, administrator of medication (oh, how I kicked and screamed at this one)…those were all things that had to happen for me, and us, to get here.

Only on some days

I would be lying if I told you I don’t miss me

The only me I knew for years and  years

This feeling comes and goes and I might have told you I felt differently a month ago

But today and yesterday I lay here feeling for bones

I have grief for my body before and though I don’t weep tears sometimes I long to feel that way again

Not sick or frail or suicidal, but light and weightless and floating above the world

Better than and less than and not caring if I survive another day

It wasn’t fun, no but in a way it was all I knew

Don’t you think a picked flower longs for the field it once swayed in?

Doesn’t the rescued puppy whine for the companion it once had in the pound?

Only on some days 

I say I wouldn’t trade how I feel now for anything but I turn around and struggle to put on that old pair of jeans

And I think maybe it wasn’t so bad

Maybe I liked it better than this

Lies

I know they’re lies

But when I sit on the couch and say I feel fat it’s the truth

“Fat is not a feeling” they say

But it can be, it is

I can feel fat

But I have to learn to fight, to be stronger than that voice

I know this

My memory lapses and I forget to talk back

So I have a bad moment, not a bad day

Progress, not perfection

I pinch my belly but I eat the ice cream

Because if I didn’t what would be my excuse?

I don’t have one so I move on

And tomorrow morning I will have a clean slate

No more I was good yesterday so it’s ok, or I was bad yesterday so no breakfast for me

Fresh beginnings 

Some days I need them more than others 

Escape to the lake

When you feel lost, the best place to go is home.

Evanston Illinois holds a multitude of bittersweet memories for me. Some very recent, and some in the distant past.

The last time I was here, my sister and I had to walk miles in the dark to retrieve her car that had been towed.

The time before that, my husband and I spent days exploring the city and walking until our legs felt like they were rubber.

And before those memorable, lovely trips, it was all of my sisters, me, my mother, and my grandma. Piling into the car with grocery sacks full of snacks and Caprisun. Grandma always supplied the toll money, and I always dug into the snacks as soon as possible. 

Childhood trips to Chicago stole my heart. Cramming into my aunts apartment. Visiting the lake, and bringing back loads of sand in our suits and towels. Visiting the American Girl store and Water Tower Place. Eating new foods, trying deep dish for the first time. Crying when we got in the car to go home.

I’m not crying today, as we pull away from the curb and make our way back home. It makes my heart hurt, thinking of the memories of trips with grandma. Of a time before I was sick. I was always on the lookout for my grandpa, hoping chance or fate would bring our paths together.

I looked for my grandpa and then I remembered. I saw a man that looked like him, and wondered what grandpa filled his days with. 

Thanks to my aunt and my mom, I became the recipient of a two night stay at a gorgeous bed and breakfast. I took a day off from work and my husband and I planned a two day trip to Evanston. 

At the time when I booked the stay, I was excited for time away, and then a week before the trip, I went a little psycho. I’ve been so-so on my eating. My self care has kinda gone down the drain. My motivation? Nowhere to be found. 

I hit on this a little bit in my previous post, but whatever depression has been hounding me, tried to follow me to Illinois. I went from being OK, to being suicidal in under 24 hours. Most days last week I woke up happy, and by the late afternoon I was down.

Sunday night I stuffed quarters into my wallet and gathered my bags. Just half an hour ago I was sitting quietly in a chair, ripping at the skin on my hand with my fingernails. I was avoiding eye contact with my husband, the one who has been with me throughout these past few years of highs and lows. He wouldn’t let me leave the room, because I was acting crazy. I still found a way to hurt myself.

Less than 24 hours and we were to be in a fancy B&B. I don’t think either of us wanted to spend a few days alone with me. 

We cut it close, but we made it. And I am so glad we did. It turns out I needed a change of scenery to get me out of that rut (for now). A beautiful soaking tub and heated floors didn’t hurt me either.

Now I am on a quest. I want to find a way to feel like I did for the past two days with food. I am so exhausted of the repetition day after day. Saying no when I really want to say yes. I want to enjoy food and feel OK about it while I’m eating, and after the meal as well. It’s so easy to eat a granola bar and say it’s breakfast. I know it’s not enough, and my stomach tells me as much, but it’s beyond my ability to choose a meal.

I want to eat for me, and not for someone else. I want to be all the approval I need. I have a few big changes coming up, so I’m prepared for the worst (or as prepared as I can be). For now, I plan to try to keep depression and anxiety at bay, and repair the damage I have caused. Permission doesn’t have to come from anyone other than me.

A plate of spaghetti 

Oh how I wished my car would spontaneously combust 

Or that somehow I would lose control of the wheel

Because I definitely had lost control

I was manic

The anger and hatred bubbled up inside

And how I wanted to cry. Sob until there was nothing left

I can’t cry for myself anymore

I am a lost cause

Anxiety builds in me

For this month that is already going so fast

My birthday month

I always have trouble on my birthday

And I wake up feeling so content

Knowing these happy moments won’t last

I’m a ticking time bomb

I am dangerous 

I should start wearing “caution ” signs

I long to love myself in some way 

If not for me, for him

Somehow I always fuck things up

It must be in my DNA

I can’t love myself, so I hate

Oh, you didn’t know this about me?

Well I’ve worked hard to hide it

Maybe hoping somehow these false feelings will take

I can’t bear to see the sorrow and pity I conjure 

So I run away

I dream of not being able to find you

Of fights that will never happen, because we speak in whispers and sobs

What if I were to disappear 

Leaving dusty roads and storms in my wake

Would I be free?

Would you?

I cringe at the pain I have brought upon this union 

For better or for worse has never been either or

It’s been worse and I know it

I’m selfish 

Believing this cloud only covers me

Apologies are not enough

I wish they were

But wishes are things for dandelions and eyelashes 

Dreams fading on the horizon before they ever fully appear 

I wish to be a woman who loves fiercely and gives freely 

A woman who treats others as she treats herself (because finally these two things are aligned)

A woman who sips coffee and ruminates over times past

Instead I smile falsely 

Walking like a zombie silently pleading that familiar face not to notice me

It started with a plate of spaghetti 

Slipping sliding noodles 

All over the floor

It ruined my day

But then I moved on

Two days later, here I am again

My heart feels shriveled

“Like a cocklebur” I voice to my husband 

How to move on?

I sit in my chair, listless and weightless 

I imagine tomorrow and can’t see anything but sadness 

I can’t speak, this cloud is covering me completely 

This piece was written earlier this week when I had a severe depressive episode. I’m still trying to bounce back, but hey, I’m here. If anyone reading this has had sudden highs and lows (after a trigger or otherwise) I’d love to hear your story. I have a suspicion my mood swings could be related to medication, but I haven’t received a professional opinion as of yet.

Relief

A year ago, I never would have believed I would be sharing this with you. I was in a very bad place, and I was very closed off from the world. I like to think I’ve come a long way and I want other girls and women to know that they are not alone. Even if you can’t relate, maybe you’ll get something out of this.

Now this post is mostly for the ladies. I’m going to share a breakthrough I had with my personal health that won’t really pertain to guys. I’m nervous to be writing this post, with the intention of publishing it here, but I feel strongly that someone has to. Why? Because years ago I hated how my body was changing. Because I still struggle with this. Because I never spoke up.

This is me speaking up.

Let me begin by going back a few years…ten to be exact.

Ten years ago I was 13. It was a new and exciting time in my life, and at first 13 treated me well. Then I got my first period. And felt scared, confused, and alone.

I was homeschooled, so my mom was right there. It’s only in looking back that it seems so easy. It should have been so easy to open my mouth and speak. I felt paralyzed though. And in some ways I felt like this was my burden to carry alone. There was never a lot of talk about these things in our house, especially since I’m the oldest girl. In some ways I felt I was forging the path for my sisters to follow. (Thank god that’s not true.)

The bleeding would go on and on. Ibuprofen (when I took it) didn’t do much to quell the pains of severe cramping. I felt like I was imprisoned most of the time. I was sad and scared. I remember the excitement I felt at first, and then the dread set in. I found myself preparing for days of being laid up inside.

Over time I became depressed, and along the way I also discovered tips and tricks to help cut down on the pain. They never really worked though…until one did. 

I tried exercising, first to help relieve cramping, and then I became obsessed and everything started to count.

Thirteen, and counting calories burned.  Counting calories consumed. Then it became a game. See how few calories I can eat, compare them to what the treadmill says I am burning, hope I come up negative.

All of the days of running and counting paid off. It felt like a good thing at the time, my dirty little secret. I was no longer becoming a woman, I was a child. Preserved at thirteen forever. But it wasn’t that simple. I couldn’t literally reverse what was happening to my body, but I could press pause. So I did.

For years and years. How silly, right? However, it’s bigger than that for me. Those months of almost incessant bleeding and pain made a huge impact on my whole being. So much so that once I realized I was controlling my body, I didn’t want to give that power up.

Of course, over time I went on autopilot. My brain knew what I wanted from it, and did what had become habitual: starvation. Starvation, deprivation, shame. I developed anorexia and a phobia of menstruating (it’s real, look it up).

For ten years my body was stuck in this sort of limbo. In some ways, my brain was too. I was consumed. 

I remember running in the rain. The LED display on the treadmill. Crying because my mom was so worried about me that she wouldn’t allow me to deliver newspapers in the winter. (Thank you, mom!) So much misery.

When I began gaining weight, I knew my body was likely to pick up where I forced it to stop. And eventually, it did. This was a very rough time for me, in several ways. Coming to terms with this natural thing my body was made to do, it was hard. I panicked. 

This time I reached out. I talked about this “taboo” thing, and I got help. I went on birth control to see if that would help me deal, and in some ways it has. My period still brings a sense of dread with it every time though. I have a feeling that is about to change though.

I’d heard some good things about menstrual cups, but never had cause to try one out. I was getting very frustrated with conventional hygiene methods though. So, I decided to give one a try. I chose one called “Athena cup” because the price was right, and the reviews were positive.

At first, I hated it. It ended up sitting in my bathroom, untouched. I tried using it again and got even more frustrated, so I packed it away again.

I used it a few times with good results, but I still wasn’t convinced it was for me. Then this last monthly I began using it right away.

I have never had a better period. I’m hooked. No matter what size, tampons always leak. Maxi pads too. I’ve had horrible experiences with both, and I hate them. This cup doesn’t leak, and I swear it helps with lessening cramps. I barely even knew I was on my period.

This is a huge deal for me. That’s kind of why I’m writing this blog post. I’m also writing it to help end my own personal shame. My body is not shameful. Your body is not shameful. It’s hard to put this out there, but most females are going to menstruate, and this invention is genius in my opinion.

I encourage all the women who read this to check out this profuct, or products like the Athena cup. I love it and it’s literally changed my life!

Want to read more about my menstrual cycle? I’m sure you do! Click here.