Marriage & Recovery

There was a time in my life when I wholeheartedly believed that finding “the one” would fix everything. That my prince charming would sweep me off my feet and make every insecurity and addiction disappear. Over the years I realized the naivety of this belief, yet there was still a part of me that believed, or maybe hoped, that having a ring on my finger would make every other struggle in my life vanish.

I’m here to say that this is 100% not the case.

I’d learned well before meeting Ryan that being in a relationship would never fix my problems. No man would ever come along and miraculously make my trauma disappear. However, there were, and always will be, men who try to convince women that they are indeed the answer to all of their issues. It’s these men who reinforce codependency and lead their partners even deeper into the pits.

One of the reasons I fell in love with Ryan to begin with was because he never tried to be my cure-all. He’s supported and encouraged me from the beginning, but has never pretended to be able to “fix” me. Instead, he has loved me through relapses, grief, insecurities, depression, anxiety & nightmares. To explain a bit more, this is part of the little speech that I gave at our reception:

“I’d never ever been the one to make the first move, or say those three little words first, but I did. He was different, he is different. He is my knight in shining armor, but not because he saved me. But because for the last three years he has challenged me to save myself and continues to be my support and my best friend… The point is, he is not like anyone I’ve ever known, and I cannot believe that I’m lucky enough to call him my husband.”

It’s been difficult for me figuring out this whole “wife” thing. I have the same, if not more, unconditional love and support from my husband, but I’ve been struggling. I think I’m trying too hard to identify who I am as a “wife.” I’m still me. I’m still the same woman who is learning to love herself, despite not necessarily liking what she sees in the mirror. I’m still the same woman who has claimed victory over some of her most aggressive demons. I’m still the same woman who is madly in love with Ryan Norton, and who is working so freaking hard, every day, to be a better human.

So here’s to marriage not fixing all of our problems, but to being able to celebrate the victories, big and little, with your permanent roommate. 👫

NN


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. 👰

“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.

The Dangerous Part of Living Safely

While reading Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) this morning, I read a sentence that made me stop for a moment; “If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me (Jesus) work through you.” I think that this can mean something to everyone, even if you don’t believe in Jesus. If we live our lives just going through the motions from one day to the other, do you think we will actually make a difference? Ever since I was little I have dreamed of changing the world, doesn’t everyone? We want to be a big deal. We want to be recognized, we want to end world hunger, we want to be the inventor that changes life as we know it, we want to do something unforgettable. We all long to leave a legacy behind that will last forever.

Well, newsflash, Eating Disorders, Addiction, Self-Harm… it’s all SAFE. We retreat to what we know in order to escape what we don’t know; such as emotions, lack of control, stress, etc. Life cannot be lived when you’re trapped in an all-consuming self-destructive cycle. However, recovery can begin your journey to a life-long adventure that will result in changed lives and a surplus of peace, joy, and love.

For me personally, I know that letting go of the safety of the familiar – and allowing Jesus to lead me, is the only way that my desire to change lives for the better will become a reality. I know this because not only have I seen it happen, I also believe that this desire was put in my heart by Jesus himself. Without His strength I wouldn’t be where I am in my recovery, and I know for a fact I wouldn’t have the confidence to share my story with others in hopes of giving them courage in their own journey.

Believe in yourself, leave the familiar behind, have a little faith, and enjoy the adventure.

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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