Here’s to Strong Women

 

…may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them. 💙

 

I am still processing this experience, now almost a month later. Never in my life have I felt so beautiful, confident, loved or free. The most important women in my life came to love me and support me while looking for the dress that I’ll marry my husband in. From Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado & Kansas to Arizona – they all made a point to be here, and it’s still hard to wrap my head around.

I was so nervous about that weekend, my anxiety the week before was painful. Are they going to think I’m fat? Will I look fat? I’m disgusting. Will any of the dresses fit? Will they laugh? I’m ugly. Will I ever find a dress? Will he even actually want to marry me? Etc, etc… But then something amazing happened, I was free. Those self-hating negative thoughts did not make it to the fore-front of my mind all weekend; exactly the opposite of what I had anticipated. Usually, trying on clothes is nothing short of a nightmare for me, but this shopping weekend was so amazing it felt surreal.

I was not worried about my weight or size, and it’s so ironic because by no stretch am I near any of my low or goal weights. These women showed me something profound – they will love me no matter what. My husband will love me no matter what. I AM LOVED. It’s something I’ve been told my whole life, it’s something I’ve known my whole life, but only recently have I been able to actually  feel loved. A lot of it has to do with being in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, a relationship where my partner encourages me to love myself, and to NOT be dependent on him to find my self-worth and value. 

This all took on a whole new life this weekend. The entire two days was magical. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to honestly say that I love myself, but I’m truly learning how to. I never thought I would live to see a day when my eating  disorder is losing it’s grip on me, or when I can’t remember the last time I harmed myself. I have a LONG way to go. But now when I look at the tattoos on my arms, reminding me of hope and to love myself… maybe I actually can. 

Two days of laughing, a little bit of crying, celebrating and just enjoying life together. Thank you to these amazing women. My family, my best friend who has become family, and the family I’m lucky enough to be marrying into. 


&& Thank you Jesus for your mercy and grace. I am undeserving but eternally grateful for the life you’ve given me.

N.T. 👰

Be Gentle…

Recovery is hard, it’s a simple fact. It can be so easy to allow little mistakes or slips ups to lead to a relapse, but instead we need to accept them, learn from them, and move forward.

A common trait in folks recovering from eating disorders is perfectionism. Speaking for myself, perfectionism reveals itself in my recovery specifically when I take a step backwards and practice a behavior. Perfectionism says that if my recovery isn’t perfect then there’s no point, but grace says that every set back is a set up for a come back

The perfectionist voice in my head prevails like this after any kind of mistake: 

NOW you’ve done it. There’s no reason to try anymore. You just ruined (insert the number of days / months clean) of successful recovery and hard work. Might as well keep (insert addiction / ineffective behavior). You’re a worthless failure. 

Etc, etc, etc.

The bottom line here is that no one’s recovery is perfect. For me, instead of listening  to the voices from my eating disorder & addictions, I need to focus on positive affirmations and the whisper of my savior in my  heart. All we can ultimately do is continue to push forward, love ourselves, and trust that the sun will continue to rise each morning – no matter how dark the night is.

N.T. 💛

Grace, Beauty, Spirit & Freedom

Tinker Quote

Words cannot even begin to describe how important my horse is in my life, and how much she helps me every day. She always waits for me with her head over her gate. She neighs when she sees me… she loves me.

She truly is graceful; she is beautiful. She has so much spirit, she helps me find mine.

Freedom – such a powerful word. It’s been a key word in my recovery too, it is what I strive for. Freedom from my eating disorder, freedom from depression, freedom from self-hatred; freedom found only in Christ. I feel this freedom every time I’m on the back of my gentle little mare. It’s a feeling like no other; like the world is ours to conquer.

Whatever makes you feel free, cherish it. Whether it is on the back of a horse, behind the wheel, running or writing… never give it up.

Be free. ✌

💙 N.O.

 

 

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.

“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.

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light

Hello again! It’s been a couple of months since I posted anything, and it’s been for good reason. A lot has happened this year; changes that have had me doubting God, myself, recovery and life in general. Be forewarned, this will be a long post, but it’s been a long time coming. Before I begin, I just want to thank everyone who has reached out to me (emails, phone calls, letters, cards, texts) and prayed for me during this time in my life. Your words and prayers are more appreciated than you may ever know.

So I’m just going to throw it out there – my relapse began months ago. Some people knew, others were oblivious. Although sometimes I doubt if my recovery was ever truly real, I question if my disorder has simply evolved throughout the years. Either way, it’s here – but I’m not denying it anymore. Addiction is a funny thing, especially when you’ve been through treatment and have pretty sound insight into why it takes hold of you the way it does. Earlier this year is when Bulimia shoved itself back into my life. In my journal the night after I threw up for the first time in nearly a year, I wrote that it “felt like coming home after being away for too long.” Self-harm made its appearance shortly after my eating disorder. While I can’t pinpoint an exact event that triggered my relapse, I know that it is mainly due to a buildup of shame I’ve held for a very long time that I’ve chosen not to deal with. As I’ve heard recently – traumatized children who don’t thoroughly and honestly deal with their pasts will grow into dysfunctional adults. Here I am, at 22, experiencing dysfunction in all of my relationships – especially with myself.

I can’t tell you exactly why I hit rock bottom, all I can tell you is that I did – and it happened on June 14, 2015. As I was sitting in the ER waiting room, completely alone after driving myself there – this is what I typed on my phone:

Sitting here in the ER, I can honestly say that I am at my lowest low I’ve been in a really long time. Rock bottom? Possibly. Panic attack. Cut wrist. How did I get here? At least I didn’t take the pills. But really, wouldn’t that have been better? Ugh.

That day, that weekend – I was ready to die. I didn’t attempt to kill myself, probably because I’ve been on the other end of the repercussions and heartbreak of someone leaving this world before they’re meant to, but I was ready. I don’t remember driving to the hospital, it’s all kind of a blur. But I know someone was looking out for me; despite my running away from Jesus, he has never left me.

I spent a week in a Behavioral Health Center after the ER staff deemed that I was a danger to myself – I couldn’t argue with that. That week was very eye-opening for me. My actions put my job, relationships, and overall livelihood at risk. I couldn’t be there again, I wouldn’t let myself get that low again. Although not yet fully committed to recovery, I knew that something had to change. I also finally understood that I really can’t do this alone, because doing recovery by myself for 8+ years obviously hasn’t gotten me anywhere. I gave my heart to Jesus that week in the hospital. Although it wasn’t the first time I’d prayed those words, it was the first time my heart was truly crying out to Him. I’m not perfect, and I certainly haven’t been 100% successful since I’ve been home – but more than ever before, I’m really trying.

Only a few people know of my experience, and honestly not many people noticed my absence that week – but those that did are the ones that matter. I keep trying to come up with some kind of way to answer people when they ask, “why?” It’s so difficult to explain because there is so much stigma around mental health, particularly when it comes to the point that people are suicidal or self-destructive. So in an attempt to help, I’m going to share something I wrote while in the hospital. It’s titled The Darkness, and it is far from my best work, and may not make a whole lot of sense, but I hope it will help others try to understand what people with any type of mental illness face everyday of their lives, particularly those who struggle with self-harm and/or an eating disorder. While this is particularly about cutting and bulimia, the idea of a complete lack of control is not unique. [Please note – I do not hear voices, but others do – I can’t speak for what they hear and what their experiences are.]

**Trigger Warning**

THE DARKNESS

He is sneaky, powerful, overwhelming

He tells me I am worthless

He creeps over me like a shadow

Until I am suffocated

He is Darkness

He puts the razor blade in my hand

He whispers in my ear…

                “It’s the only way”

He draws the blade across my skin

                “Deeper, deeper!” he yells

He says that the blood is all I need;

                Relief, sweet relief

The blood stops

He says that it’s not enough

                “You are never good enough”

He draws the blade across again

The scar will be beautiful

He tells me I will never be beautiful

But I will always have my scars

He is Darkness

He drags me to the bathroom

He throws me on the ground

He shoves his fingers down my throat

Until there’s no more food left inside of me

                “You’re too fat for food!” He screams

He tosses me on the scale

                  No matter the number, “You overweight pig”

Standing in front of the mirror

He points out every imperfection

He assures me that no one will ever love me

He is The Darkness that blinds me every single day…

But there is also light

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ –

He is the light.

He is wonderful, loving, and merciful

He tells me I am worthy of his grace

He comes over me like a sweet song

Until I am at peace

He gently takes the razor blade out of my hand

He sweetly tells me that I am loved

               “There is hope”

He stands me in front of the mirror

And says that He doesn’t make mistakes

He reminds me that I am saved

Nothing can separate me from him

He claims that he isn’t done with me yet

Tomorrow is a new day

He calls me his daughter

                Beautiful, rescued, redeemed

He sees my scars, both inside and out

And still calls me beautiful

My scars will remind me where I’ve been

And that He is not done with me yet

He is Light

He defeats The Darkness

working-on-myselfI owe Jesus Chris my life – many times over. I’m forever grateful to my family and friends who have continued to pray for me over the years. It’s going to take a long time to get my life wholly back on track, but I’m ready to fight for my life.

Humans are fallible, they will fail at some point in their lives. They will hurt others even if they have the best intentions. It’s become more clear to me that for most of my adult life I’ve tried to base my worth off of other’s opinions of me – particularly men. This is not uncommon, I see it play out everyday in the lives of my friends and so many others. Jesus is the only one who I can always rely on, He will never fail me. I need to find my God-given purpose in this life, I don’t need to find a person to fill that hole. One day I will meet a man who was placed on this Earth just for me, and when that happens I will be the kind of woman that a man after God’s own heart is searching for.

If you’ve made it this far – thanks for allowing me to share a little bit of my life with you. I will leave you with this verse, Ephesians 2: 8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” None of us deserve to be saved, that is what is so incredibly amazing about God’s grace. I certainly don’t deserve his grace anymore today than I did yesterday. But everyday I fall more in love with my Savior, and everyday I will strive to be the best I can be by living for Him, and expecting nothing else in return.

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-N.O.

Accepting Our Stories

I’m just going to say it – recovery is messy. There are parts that are simply really difficult. Tonight instead of doing something self – destructive, I sit and grudgingly listen to what my heart is telling me, and it’s telling me I need to work through some things in my past and get to a point where I can accept my story for what it is. In my years trying to do this whole recovery thing, if I’ve learned anything, its that everything happens for a reason. Horrible things happen to beautiful people every day, and life has an amazing way of using our nasty pasts to put us in the best place we could ever be. This is where faith comes in. Some days we just have to believe that God has a plan that is wonderfully unfathomable to us mere humans.

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