5 Years of Fighting

It’s been more than 10 years since I first began struggling with poor self-worth as a young girl. Things only got worse as I got older. Low self-esteem developed into self-hatred, anxiety, depression, self-harm and an eating disorder; all of which progressed until I lost the girl I once was. My mom finally saw through the fake smile and was determined to not lose her daughter entirely. 5 years ago today my mom, quite literally, dragged me kicking & screaming to Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, AZ (now Remuda Ranch at the Meadows) – a residential treatment facility specializing in eating & related disorders. Little did I know at the time that my life would never be the same. I met some amazing people who changed my life for the better; people I will never forget. After I was discharged 60 days later, I had it in my head that I was going to be okay from there on out; that I was recovered, and I wasn’t going to let my illness control my life anymore. A few months, a relapse and a hospitalization later – I realized I still had a long way to go. I could go on about how I wish I was farther along in my recovery than I am, and how I think 17 year old me might be disappointed to see where I’m at today – BUT, I’m not going to. I have spent 5 years fighting for my life. I could have been in and out of treatment centers and hospitals. I could have dropped out of college and given up on myself entirely – but I didn’t. 5 years later and I’ve graduated college, landed a good full-time job, returned to my love of horses & barrel racing, and been able to be okay living on my own and supporting myself; none of which would have been possible without my desire for recovery.

5 years later and I do still struggle. Some days depression, anxiety & panic still take hold of my life. I’m still in therapy, I still have a fragile relationship with food, and I still don’t love myself like I should. But I am also alive, and that is something I am proud of. 5 years ago I was forced to look at myself and realize that the life I was living wasn’t truly living, and that I needed to make a change. Although these past 5 years have been some of the hardest of my life, I have learned so much about myself.

5 years later I’m still learning that I am worthy of love. 5 years later I am still learning that there doesn’t have to be an explanation behind “no.” 5 years later I’m finally working hard to take back my life from the men that took it from me years ago. 5 years later and I’m still struggling, but I am fighting. I am a survivor, and I always will be. No one can take that away from me. Recovery is a process, and maybe my process is longer than others. Maybe I’ve taken more steps backward than others. But my recovery is my own, and theirs is their own. I can sit here today and be proud of the woman I am. I am learning to set boundaries that were torn down long ago. I am learning to accept and love myself as I am. I can finally begin to see my worth through the eyes of my Heavenly Father, not through the mistakes of my earthly father.

If I had it my way, I wouldn’t be here today. But I thank God everyday for saving me, and for this wonderful life that He has blessed me with. I am so thankful for my family, my friends, and the countless professionals who have gone above and beyond to show me that my life truly is worth living, and that I really am loved.

My faith is what has gotten me through my lowest lows, and sometimes the only peace I am able to find from my anxiety is through Jesus. I’m here to tell you today that there is always hope even when all you can see is darkness. There is always someone who loves you and who would give their life for you. Never give up – there’s a reason you are here. While at Remuda I found a verse that has meant more to me than any other words I’ve read in the bible, take it to heart:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.                       -John 14:27

5 years later and I am still fighting, and I will continue to fight. My scars, both inside & out, will always be there to remind me how far I truly have come. This war may never be over, but I’ll count each day I wake up as a battle won.

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✌N.O.

Invincible

Kelly Clarkson released a single entitled “Invincible,” it is fairly new, and I just recently heard it for the first time last week. It was an immediate favorite of mine, the more I listened to it the more powerful it became to me – the more it encouraged me.

THEN I watched the music video. Even more incredible. Kelly Clarkson is a great role model in general, recently standing up to body shamers – proclaiming her acceptance and love for her body just as it is. This video features several women – of all different shapes, sizes, colors, ages handicaps, etc – first trapped inside these cubes, then fighting their way out. Showing first their pain, then their happiness. It is pretty awesome; watch it here: https://youtu.be/xQNqaERUYy4.

Here are the lyrics to the song:

You know I was broke down, I had hit the ground
I was crying out, I couldn’t make no sound
No one hears the silent tears collecting
You know I had lost hope, I was all alone
Never been so long till you came along
Teacher, I feel the dots connecting

Beat down on me, beat down like a waterfall
Cause I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed
So beat down on me, beat down like a waterfall
Cause baby, I am ready to be free

Now I am invincible
No, I ain’t a scared little girl no more
Yeah, I am invincible
What was I running for
I was hiding from the world
I was so afraid, I felt so unsure
Now I am invincible
Another perfect storm

Now I am a warrior, a shooting star
Know I got this far, had a broken heart
No one hears the silent tears collecting
Cause it’s being weak, but strong in the truth I found
I have courage now, gonna shout it out
Teacher, I feel the dots connecting

Beat down on me, beat down like a waterfall
Cause I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed
So beat down on me, beat down like a waterfall
Cause baby, I am ready to be free

Now I am invincible
No, I ain’t a scared little girl no more
Yeah, I am invincible
What was I running for
I was hiding from the world
I was so afraid, I felt so unsure
Now I am invincible
Another perfect storm

I was running from an empty threat
Of emptiness
I was running from an empty threat
That didn’t exist
I was running from an empty threat
Of abandonment
I was running from an empty threat
That didn’t exist

Now I am invincible
No, I ain’t a scared little girl no more
Yeah, I am invincible
What was I running for
I was hiding from the world
I was so afraid, I felt so unsure
Now I am invincible
Another perfect storm

At-any-give-moment-you-have-the-power-to-say-this-is-not-how-the-story-is-going-to-end.power-inspirational-quotesSia helped write the song, and she is someone who has overcome a lot in her life – including depression and anxiety. I can relate to so much of her music, and I can totally get her part in writing this song. The part that gets me most is the line that says “No, I ain’t a scared little girl anymore.” So much of my adult life has been affected by and is shaped by my childhood – including some particular events and people in my life at that time. So many people subconsciously allow the despicable people who hurt them when they were young to continue to hurt them later in life. I began to recognize this in my own life years ago, but haven’t quite had the courage to really do the work to take my life back. This song is so motivating to me. I can be invincible, I don’t have to be that scared little girl anymore, I don’t have to run – and neither do you. Take your life back! You have the power, no matter what your past looks like, you control your life today. You are invincible.

-N.O.

“It’s a Long Story…”

People generally respond to a question using “It’s a long story” when either there truly is not enough time to tell a story, or (more likely) it’s not something that they want to discuss right now. I use this response often, probably more than most. After years of struggling with self-harm, it isn’t much of a secret that I have a few scars – some more obvious than others. It’s been long enough that they’re all faded, but obviously still visible, they are never going to go away. My scars are a part of my story, and I accepted that long ago. I can look at my scars and be proud of everything that I’ve overcome and how far I’ve made it. But what do I say to a stranger when they point to one and ask, “What happened?” It’s generally not a big deal to tell a story about a scar – but it’s a little different when they are self-inflicted. So, my go-to response is just to reply that it’s a long story, and that’s usually the end of that; no one has the time to listen.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking –  what would really happen if I was honest? tumblr_m3011oculI1r3dwhko1_500First, I want you to realize just how much stigma and judgment our society holds against people who have self-harmed, attempted suicide, or even just struggle with depression… it’s a lot. People who haven’t struggled with these things don’t understand them, we tend to be wary of things we don’t understand. Keeping that in mind – my responses would look something like these: “Oh those, a few years back I sliced them into my arm with a razor blade.” Or, “Oh, that one – I carved it into my shoulder with a rock.” Can you picture this person’s face? They were probably expecting to hear about some horse-back riding accident or car crash. At this point they’re probably thinking that I’m a total freak, and that they need to get out of there ASAP. If curious they might ask, “Why?” Why would I injure myself on purpose… what would I say? Would I be honest and say that it was the only way I could bring myself down from a panic attack, or that I was experiencing a PTSD flashback and I didn’t know how else to cope. Or would I try to blow it off and just say that I was going through a hard time?

I can think about this kind of scenario as long as I want, but it really doesn’t matter because I will never be able to share myself like that. We as human beings are judgmental, whether we mean to be or not. Depression, self-harm, bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorders… all mental illness are looked down upon. Those who struggle with them are judged without reason. 10843740_1520381504899163_1986471774_nIt’s very unlikely that someone would want to hear more after learning right away that I am in recovery from self-injury, bulimia, and have a past of suicide attempts…  instead they would run the other way! But oh how interesting it would be if someone actually did listen to the whole, long story. Could they get past their instinctive judgement? Would they listen when I explain how Jesus saved my life? How after years of abuse & self-abuse I am finally learning to love myself again. How, after trying to end my life, I now cherish it and am grateful for another chance. I am a survivor. While my past has shaped me into the woman I am today, it does not define me.

End the stigma. End the bad jokes about self harm, suicide, and mental illness in general. You do not know her story, you don’t know his reasons – you have no right to judge them.

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In the mean time… my scars, and those of others like me, will just be a lot of stories too long for anyone to hear.

-N.O.

Beauty & Acceptance

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In adolesence and teenage years we are constantly faced with the challenges of acceptance; whether it’s trying to change who you are in order to be accepted or being yourself and consequently not being accepted. We see this as early as elementary school, and it is truly traumatic for some kids.

Our culture’s beauty standards certainly don’t help. Boys and girls alike grow up seeing these images that aren’t real – and they think that is what they need to look like to be handsome or beautiful. It’s simply not true, that’s why I love this quote, “To be beautiful means to be yourself…”

Unfortunately it really doesn’t change as we grow into adults. We still strive to be accepted; whether it’s by friends, co-workers, that cute guy or girl across the street… How we are accepted and what we are accepted for changes, but the principle doesn’t.

Obviously some people truly seem to have this all figured out. They know their place in the world, they are confident in who they are and are content being around the people that simply genuinely care about them. I envy those people. I have no idea where my place in this world is. Part of me just wants to be accepted and loved by everyone, but that’s just not possible. I will continue to work towards simply loving myself, only then will people who respect me and care about me be drawn to me. Because its not rocket science that people with poor self esteem and/or bad body image are attracted to people who either share their struggle or take advantage of it.

So, cheers my friends. Here is to loving ourselves as we are. True beauty is amplified when we are happy and confident in our skin – just as we are.

💙 N.O.