dear father ryan

“Ask her how she’s doing sexually.”

A strange question for a priest to pass along to a friend to pass along to me (follow that?). She told me about it months ago, and we laughed. Strange, though, that the question still echoes in the back of my mind. How am I doing sexually? As a woman previously active, now alone? As a woman redefining womanhood? As a person redefining my relationship with my body? My heart? My mind?

I thought I was fine. I missed sex, sure, who doesn’t? But as my youthful I-better-not-die-while-I’m-a-virgin phase was over, I didn’t feel it’s absence quite as keenly as I thought I would.

Something changed last week. 

As usual, I was working on my annulment paperwork, the familiar cluster of moths waking up in my chest, fluttering away in a panic. I’m annoyed; I appreciate that anxiety shows up to send it’s own weird little message- Something is amiss! Protect yourself! This time, though, I can’t figure out what the heck today’s offending object might be. The writing was emotional, but not impossible. Maybe it’s not psychological this time, maybe just a hormone imbalance? Nutritional deficit? Too much coffee? Not enough sleep? Nothing stood out, so the herd of flapping wings took up happy residence in my throat and I carried on.

Enter Scene: Therapy

We circle through the chit-chat and Thanksgiving plans until we come around to the strange, unname-able, unblame-able anxiety. We work through EMDR and, voilà, like magic, the knots unravel. It seems my poor little mind was more upset than I realized by the disturbing process of filing through my poor little marriage. The offense this time? Sex.

In general, I thought we had been having fine sex. Good, even. We had chemistry, I thought he was hot, it usually worked out fine. I was, in general, satisfied, and felt pretty smug about being the sexually-enlightened and active wife he so longed for while we were dating. 

It only took a month or two before things started taking a weird turn. Irregularly, unpredictably, he’d be completely uninterested. I’d try to make the moves until it felt like begging, until it was too embarrassing and I walked away. Some nights I’d be wrapped up in hardly anything but a Christmas bow, and he would look at me and groan, with a smirk and a half-laugh, he was too tired, did he have to? Of course, on other days, he’d be in the mood, but my body would not (recall, he adamantly did not want children, and I adamantly did not want birth control). Those days, he would either get a fix his way or leave me feeling deservedly alone (Useless wife! -Another joke that stopped feeling like a joke). Occasionally, on stranger nights still, I’d wake up the next day with bruises or sore throats or other evidence of a night too-rough. 

We unravel the stories again, me ever-baffled at the inconsistency of it all. He wanted me so badly when we were dating! Could hardly be moved when we were married! Had such lazy, inattentive sex he couldn’t even tell when I orgasmed. Refused to talk about it at all. Wouldn’t when I wanted, wanted when I couldn’t, left me feeling used, at worst, unseen, at best, and all more often than I preferred. 

But there were nights that seemed good, we felt close, it felt real! Until he would hold me after, joking that I was gross.

How dare I feel wanted or seen for more than the moment required for him to get off.

I needed love. He needed control.

Hearing that for the first time – He Needed Control – hits in the sore spot that makes the most sense, and now I find myself grieving for the sex life I thought I had. I thought I knew what good sex was, but now I’m coming to terms with the reality that just because it felt good doesn’t mean it was good. 

Where I thought it was safe to be vulnerable, I was disposable. Where I thought I was seen, I was hardly noticed. Where I thought I was loved, intimately, completely, passionately – I was nothing but an urge met. I was competing in a battle I’d never win- to fantasy, perfection, endless flexibility and excitement. 

I grieve the small pockets of our relationship that I mistook for love. Those smallest of moments, when not riddled with dysfunction, were something I thought, occasionally, we got right. We’d had fun, it’d felt good, I felt noticed, enjoyed noticing in return. Now even those moments are gone. They never were.

So, Father, I am not doing well sexually. I am realizing that I was living in my own fantasy of sorts, and now I’m facing the possibility that I’ve never really known great sex, and maybe I never will. It’s a bit of a let-down.

Mostly, Father, I’m worried I’ll never actually be seen. That’s all I want, really, in the end.

Sometimes I’d like to run to the next man – that’ll be the time it comes together just right.

A faulty urge, on my part.

I’ll only ever be seen by One, I know that theoretically, but I can’t help but want it ever so badly from a man. It annoys me, how much it distracts me.

Maybe you can pray me through that bit, if you’re up to it.

Thanks,

Me

trauma drama

 I weighed myself again last week and the numbers whispered back

You’re out of control. 

You’re unrecognizable. 

This is why he didn’t want you. 

Anxiety settles in like a cat on my chest. A little tail curls around the back of my neck, little claws pad into the fabric of my shirt. It circles round, its weight heavy, heavier, heaviest; I awake with a startled gasp for air.

It comes in waves for moments, minutes, hours. Out of no where, for no reason, or reasons I can’t understand.

There’s a fog, a hazy blurriness around the edges, the feeling that at any moment your throat might finally close in, the unstoppability of the tail curling tighter and tighter and tight—-

I blink a bit and try to watch from the outside. I squint into the fog as an observer, no longer the active participant.

From this vantage, I separate myself to watch the mental tantrum that trauma is throwing and feel the angry-toddler energy from afar. 

I recall that today’s mental clutter might be inspired by years-past conditioning. I recall that last week may have been especially challenging, considering I’ve had to narrate my dysfunctional story at two separate meetings, with two groups of people, for two separate reasons.

The first, an initial appointment for the annulment process. The next, an interview for my ex’s work.

Thinking about, preparing for, and participating in these story-telling pow-wows has taken me over. 

Do they think I’m crazy? Do they believe me? Will they be kind?

The breath comes shorter. 

It’s no longer a cat. It’s the slightest threat of his hand on my neck, he’s above me, the sex, the choking the gagging the hands on the back of my head, forcing it down my throat til it hurts I’m at the mercy of his larger-than-mine hands his hands over my face til my vision blurs its all just a joke. 

It’s drowning.

I show up at church, trying to explain what went wrong, very practically explaining dates and engagements and STDs and the reasons I shouldn’t have married this man in the first place.

I show up at coffee shops, trying to somehow explain that, sure, he might be good at his job, but no, I found him to be deceitful and manipulative and unreliable and rageful and really, no, no one else saw much of that behavior, it was reserved mostly for me, so maybe its unverifiable and it didn’t really happen.

Of course, everyone’s been kind, everyone has listened, no one has told me I was wrong. I still can’t turn off the nervous energy or the dreams or the circuit in my head running in loops warning me that everything is out of control.

I try to chase it away with sweat and yoga and reading and walking and writing and breathing and medicating.

It’s a little bit tiring.

I’m looking forward to the days these things don’t sneak up on me in such a visceral, physical way. 


In the meantime, I continue to observe.  

To be honest, it looks like quite the mess. There’s a party of diagnoses carrying on in my head and, I’m sure, a handful of fancy labels we could hand out like favors.

All I know for sure is that today I’m choking on anxiety and popping Reeses by the handful, trying to smother everything else.

Thankfully, the internet is a wide, wide world, and with gratitude towards to some handy YouTube videos and qualified mental health professionals I’m starting to hone in on why the heck I feel like I’m losing my shit.

There is a particular fancy label, C-PTSD, or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, that has felt particularly helpful as of late. This particular cluster of ‘stress responses’ has not yet been verified by the DSM (diagnosis bible for psychology), but nevertheless has provided me a framework with which to format my experience a bit more clearly.

There’s a version of PTSD we recognize nowadays thanks in part to education and in part to war-themed movies/Grey’s Anatomy. Collectively we’re able to recognize flashbacks and violent outbursts and are happy to non-judgmentally support those who are struggling.

We also recognize that PTSD develops in times of threatened safety, where the brain sees danger and reacts chemically to prepare the body for defense. Vigilant ‘fight or flight’ mode activated.

After time, with repeated exposure, this vigilance has the capacity to convert to hyper-vigilance. The mind hears the same warning bells day in and out until it loses the ability to distinguish between real or perceived threat. Every bell is an alert to action, and certain bells engrain deeply enough to become triggering alerts to action out of proper context.

Cue Marine triggered to flash-back by ceiling fans posing as helicopters.

Worth noting- this ‘fight or flight’ response can be triggered by any threat to safety, and the same chemical reaction takes place in the face of war, car accidents, house fires, etc., etc.

Incidents are different, body responds the same.

Makes sense, right?

What was news to me was that the ‘fight or flight’ response can happen in cases of psychological danger (aka abuse) too.

It’s a little harder to pin down, as it’s a little harder to recognize psychological or emotional abuse. The process wears down the mind differently- there isn’t always one particular moment of danger. More typically, there are many, many moments over an extended period of time.

Also interesting- while the brain does not distinguish between different flavors of physical danger, it also does not differentiate between physical or psychological danger, especially when the situation is perceived to be inescapable. The body remains vigilant until the brain learns new modes of operating in a dangerous world.

With all that said, apparently there is also such a thing as an emotional flashback.

This is where the mind provides inappropriate responses to situations that have triggered the need for self-protection in the past.

Cue panic attack when your Bumble match doesn’t text you back. Sounds stupid, feels like real abandonment when you used to have a husband who didn’t text you back for hours, sometimes days.

Then after the anxiety-soaked meetings I had this week, I’m starting to identify more of those triggers in my own life. I’ve come to this conclusion: I don’t like submitting my story for critique in ways outside of my control. Writing here? Under my control. Feedback at a minimum, at least to my face. At church? In public? At work? No thank you. 

I don’t like opening myself up to a place where someone can tell me I’m crazy. Yes, I certainly am attempting to move beyond requiring validation, but, yes, I lived in a world for many years where my experience was not considered to be truth. It takes a long time to move past that.

A sprinkling of other strange triggers I’ve been not-so-pleasantly discovering on this journey with anxiety:

My weight. I see the scale and my brain recites a mantra. I’m unlovable. I’m undesirable. I’m too much, too big. Worth cheating on. Worth leaving, ignoring, treating unkindly. I earned it, it’s my fault. I’m not worth looking at, I’ll stay away.

Online Dating. LOL all you want, but many ignored messages later my fixated brain and speeding heart tell me I’m alone. I’m abandoned, uninterested, unwanted. Intimacy is the ultimate danger and people, especially men, are not trustworthy. 

Gym Paraphernalia. This feels silly, but I swear every time I hear a shaker bottle I’m back at home with him. I’m sure I’ll be alone for hours, isolated, starving for attention, neglected emotionally, not worth investing time in, not as worthy of care as a set of abs.

Vague Criticism. Unhealthy, yes, to respond to normal snippy family dynamics with shame. I made the coffee wrong? Panic. They’ll be leaving soon. They’ll be emotionally distant. They’ll be cold. Hide.

Other reliably anxiety-inducing triggers: Lying. Misogyny. Unreliability. Jeans that don’t fit. Movies where couples are fighting. Blah, blah, blah. An interesting rainbow of bizarre crap my brain has done.

I’m looking forward to untangling the rest of this mess, because this is freakin exhausting. 

In the meantime, I whisper to my anxious cat, pet it and hold it and tell it it’s safe, again and again, over and over; he pads away to rest.

not cool things to say to your buddies

In the spirit of ‘open and honest’ communication, a la The Bachelor, I’d like to get into a couple things I struggle with when talking about The Situation (Divorce, Trauma, Abuse, Etc.).

Some of these things genuinely annoy the hell out of me, and some of these things I realize are well-intentioned and possibly just poorly timed.

Let’s start with the Genuinely Annoying:

That’s not abuse that’s abandonment. Do I really need to spell this one out? Abandonment is abuse. Moving on.

I hope you and your husband work things out. I just spent an hour explaining that my relationship was emotionally abusive and that’s what you came up with? Obviously that’s not an option, so thanks but no thanks for your well wishes. It’s creepy and weird and you obviously A) don’t believe me or B) weren’t listening.

Did you pray about it? I know I’ve covered this before. Yes, I prayed. Yes, it’s confusing. Trust me, it confuses my understanding of God just as much as it confuses yours. However, the timing of this question can be completely inappropriate. I’d love to get into the faith-based philosophy of it all, but can we bring it up in such a way that doesn’t makes it seem like I could have prayed my way out of abuse?

Everyone makes mistakes. Thanks, cool. Next time I get manipulated into staying in a shitty relationship I’ll thank you for the wisdom.

As least XYZ didn’t happen to you that happened to me. Seriously? This is Communication and Validation 101. If you’ve invited me to talk to you, please just listen without comparing my experience to yours. We don’t need to be sitting around competing for Who’s Trauma Sucked Most awards, we need to be listening to each other. I’d love to hear to your story, if you can try to respect mine.


Those are the biggies. Moving on to the more well-intentioned comments that have the potential to land wrong.

I’ll preface this discussion by saying I understand that divorce is uncomfortable and sometimes there’s no right response, and I absolutely appreciate each person who’s offered support in the way they know how. However, I would like to clear a few things up, so maybe we can grow a little in future.

Phrases to Avoid for Healthy Communication with Your Friend Who Is Struggling:

What happened? Okay. This is an interesting one, because it’s kind and a good conversation skill to be able to ask open-ended questions. I do appreciate it. However, I don’t necessarily appreciate the timing when I say things like, “He just wasn’t good to me” or “He was abusive” or “It just wasn’t healthy” and I get “What happened?” in return. I just told you. Here are some additional bullet points, because inherently I’m a nerdy note-taker that prefers structure:

  • Asking this question at the wrong time puts me in a place where I feel like I need to provide proof that yes, in fact, my understanding of abuse lives up to your expectation, and, yes, my pain is valid.
  • I do not appreciate the skepticism or how small it makes me feel to simplify my experience into some version of, “He hurt my feelings.” If we were to talk about physical or sexual abuse I wouldn’t have to provide a laundry list of facts. It’s just in this vague, mysterious world of emotion that I have to somehow paint a picture to strangers that no, I’m not crazy, and no, I did not make this up.
  • I also do not appreciate the sigh of relief when I mention cheating or STDs. The tangible presence of medical fact gives people something logical to latch on to, something clearly clearly clearly WRONG so, sure, that makes my story easier to process for everyone else. Sometimes I feel like I have to bring it up just for that reason. However, I promise, without a doubt, this is no where near what cut the deepest. The emotional and psychological games were a thousand times worse, and I wish that was enough to swallow on its own.

At least you’re young. Again, yes, true. What am I supposed to say to this, though? Cool, my ovaries haven’t shriveled into hopeless little raisins. And there’s a potential I’ll be able to date someone someday without needing Botox. Awesome, right? Also awesome, I get to jump headlong into the miserable world of dating that I THOUGHT I GOT TO AVOID. Shit, I see enough people in my life struggling to meet decent guys as it is and, on top of that, I thought I already had it figured out! I certainly am not enjoying having my life un-figured out, even though, yes, I am only a baby bird at the age of 27. For the record, this whole shit-show has been infinitely more painful than I thought it would be, and I don’t think age makes that more or less legitimate.


Yes, I’m feeling a little sassy, so I’m sorry. To be fair, I will present some helpful alternatives to having a healthy conversation with your next heartbroken friend.

Do you want to talk about it? This gives me the freedom to say, politely, no thank you, or yes, please. It doesn’t leave me needing to present facts to prove a point, I’m not immediately positioned on the defensive, and I get the sense that you are kindly ready to listen. I am grateful for that and, truly, genuine conversation is healing.

Yes, you were abused. Validation is always appreciated, and the first time someone did this it meant the world to me. She looked me in the eyes, put her hand on my knee, and said the words out loud that I’d been playing with and hiding away. She allowed me to begin processing what had actually happened, in real life, and acknowledged that no, it was not just in my head.

What did that experience look like for you? An appropriate follow up question to the previous comment. This lets me know you appreciate that there are many faces and dimensions of abuse, you believe me, and you are a safe place for me to expand. 

How are you doing? Even if it’s been a long time, this one is always awesome. It’s been 14 months since I left my marriage, and I’m still sad sometimes. It’s normal to still be sad. It’s also normal to be happy, or excited, or nothing at all. Whatever it is, consistent follow-up is always cool.

Be there. In general, (not always! Writer, here) actions are able to convey more than words. Baked goods and wine go far. Sitting together with coffee, watching Bachelor in Paradise, going for hikes, whatever- its all therapeutic in its own way. And the presence of a good friend gives people space to breathe and talk organically, without diving into all too much all too quickly. Even better, things like that help life move on, new routines take hold, and fosters a sense of grounding normalcy. All super healthy and refreshing.

Avoid fishing. If you want to reach out, genuinely offer concern, or have words of wisdom, it’s all well-received. If you’re just fishing for the drama, that’s kind of a bummer, and I can usually tell the difference. Stay genuine, stay authentic. It’s more healing, especially  to someone coming out of a relationship plagued by disingenuous behavior.

Some other easy comments generally always welcomed:

You’re not crazy.

You didn’t make this up.

I see you.

You are enough.

I’m sorry that happened.

Thank you for sharing your story. 

And from me, to the rest of you, thank you for listening. 

there’s no catchy title for this (abuse)

I still haven’t found an easy way to explain why I left my marriage.

Especially in casual conversation, especially when I’m meeting new people. I still haven’t found my neat one-liner, my simple solution to drop into chit chat. The classic ‘we grew apart,’ ‘we just weren’t happy’ or ‘we wanted different things’ doesn’t quite rub me the right way. 

Of course, I imagine those are some of the lines he’s fed to old friends or family…Probably something along the lines of him pursuing a military career and me nagging him to stay home and start a family. I guess that falls under the ‘we wanted different things’ category. 

Which, in a way, I suppose is a little bit true. We did want different things. And yes, him telling me he didn’t want kids was my last straw. It gave me pause and the permission I needed to step back and analyze our relationship more objectively. I realized I did want different things.

Was the problem his job? Our lack of a family? My job?

Absolutely not.

This decision I made cannot be reduced to me acting as some neglected housewife begging for children and harping after a man chasing promotions. 

No.

I left because I wanted something new. 

I left because I was abused. 

I wanted that to end.


I’d like to say it again, just for clarity’s sake.

I. Was. Abused.

I’ve tried to avoid those words. I didn’t want to risk sounding melodramatic or like a complainer. I wanted to avoid criticism, and I believed that if I didn’t say it out loud no one could tell me it didn’t happen. No one could say “it wasn’t that bad,” or “it could’ve been worse.” 

This is something we all need to work on- validating someone’s experience without criticism, comparison or judgment. 

I need to show the same grace to myself.

So yes, I am aware it could have been worse. Yes, I’m aware someone else has been through something more painful. Been abused more overtly. More openly. More obviously.

No, that does not take away from the significance of my experience. It does not lessen the impact it’s had on my life, my health, my view of the world, my view of myself and my view of relationships.

I’d even go so far as to say that psychological and emotional abuse was more challenging to notice, escape from, and heal from than I ever would have imagined. 

I always grew up believing that if a man ever hit me I’d be gutsy enough to immediately walk away. I’d know that wasn’t how a woman was to be treated, and I’d move the heck on.

What I didn’t grow up knowing? 

That withdrawing affection is abusive. Neglect is abusive. Manipulation by providing and removing that affection again: abusive.

Creating an environment of fear is abusive. Fearing consequences, reactions, loss of love: abusive. Fearing violence- abusive. Fearing rage- abusive. 

Fearing pregnancy. Abusive. 

Refusing to use condoms but making me feel guilty for choosing fertility awareness? What I wanted to do for the health of my body and the health of my faith? Abusive. 

Using coercion and guilt to gain sexual favors is abusive. Stepping over boundaries is abusive. This should have been obvious -no means no!- but, to me, it didn’t seem like much. Until it got worse, and more frequent, and blatantly, unavoidably, obviously, abusive. 

Making me the gatekeeper of that behavior, like it was my responsibility to make sure my spouse respected me, is freaking abusive. Real respect, real love, does not look like that.

Furthermore, sex that hurts- due to carelessness and drunkenness or uninvited aggression- is abusive. 

Lying is abusive.

Cheating is abusive.

Calling someone names, making fun of their size, comparing them to other women- joke, after joke, after joke- abusive.

Also, there is such a thing as spiritual abuse. I didn’t know that! What I’ve since learned is that it is wrong to shame or manipulate your partner into feeling guilty for their faith. I shouldn’t need to hide my journal or close Scripture or put away my rosaries because I’m afraid of being seen praying. More than anything, I should not be made to feel as if I deserve bad treatment because “I love God too much.” 

What made this all the more confusing? Harder to pick up on? More challenging to recognize?

When he told me I was crazy. 

This is gaslighting: when you present reality to your abuser but they tell you you’re wrong, insane, or imagining things. Your experience becomes twisted and fuzzy and damn-near impossible to sort through. You can’t tell who’s right, who’s wrong, who deserves excusing and who just had a bad day. You start to believe the lies until they become part of a new twisted version of truth.

I’m done with that now.

I didn’t make this up. I didn’t imagine this. I am not crazy. 

I never was.

How’s that for a one-liner?

a year of celibacy

Not exactly the most exciting anniversary in the world, but interesting, yes? In the absence of being naked with anyone but my GYN, I’ve been on a very educational journey.

For starters, I’ve learned some lessons in self-worth. The binge-eating misery of divorce (college/grad school/night shift) has re-shaped my body. While I am on my way towards healing my relationship with food, I am also finding that the size of my jeans should not correlate with how confident I allow myself to feel. I don’t need to lose weight to be happy, and whatever that number says, or doesn’t say, I deserve to take care of myself. If that means I don’t even know what I weigh, then that’s great too. 

Either way, I deserve to feel beautiful. And I deserve to buy some damn bras that actually fit.

Speaking of undergarments, the next time I let anyone else take off this fancy-ass bra things are going to go a little differently.

Next time, I will not allow myself to feel manipulated into doing anything I’m not comfortable doing. This is good bedroom behavior, but, not surprising, also applicable to daily life. I am not to be taken advantage of.

Some other tidbits I’m going to keep in the back pocket of my high-rise jeans:

Crying after sex means that things are no bueno. RED FLAG.

Sex should not be selfish. At my most open, most vulnerable, and most intimate, I should not be left feeling used.

I am worth the work. I am worth the time. I am worth the effort. Sex is good and it should feel like it!

Also good: being a woman. Women are homes. Soft places to land and safe places to hide, built on strong, durable, brave, unbreakable bones.

We don’t just exist to be attractive, and our femininity is not defined by our desirability. I am still a woman if no one sees me, wants me, or validates me. 

Of course, on the other hand, women are inherently beautiful. Beauty is good and our bodies are good. We are worth celebrating and uplifting and appreciating. This does not allow for casual use and degradation. Also to be avoided: gossip and comparison. Two very reliable thieves of joy.

Anyway, here I am, a year untouched, living in a body I’m finally growing to love. I’m grateful for this year of alone-ness in my skin, and I’m grateful for this Creator of mine Who was kind enough to take as much time on me as He did sunsets and oceans and wine. Maybe more.

How magnificent. 

what i weigh

When I was born I was just over seven pounds. 

Today I weighed 207.6 pounds. 

When I was ten I was 105. When I was 15: 155. 145 after a breakup. 

Senior prom was 148. I cried, thought I was fat.

Freshman year of college I was 151. Junior year 175. 167 after a diet. Senior year 190. 185 after another diet.

The day I got married: 170. 

The day I ran my first half marathon: 165. 

When I got into grad school: 186.

Seems like I gained a lot of weight. 

Really, seems like it was my fault when he didn’t want to have sex anymore. Like I deserved it when it just stopped happening. Or when it started, but couldn’t finish. Maybe I should have stayed what I weighed when he met me.

On the other hand, maybe he shouldn’t have been calling me a manatee.Yes, they’re cute, I get it. And yes, I’m cute too, fine. But geez! The slowest, laziest, floatiest animal in the ocean? And when I turned around and asked for a new pet name, it switched to hippo? We saw them at the zoo once and they LITERALLY CANNOT GET BY without being supported by water. Because they are SO LARGE. And he thought that was just HILARIOUS. 

All teased, buried, smothered under a laugh and a hug. While the girl on TV/at the park/at the bar/in the movie was a dime/hottie/smokeshow/bangable, etc., etc., etc.

For some reason, before we were married, I was bangable too. I was hot. I was sexy and desirable. Fun. Dark-haired. Tall. Curvy.

And then we were married, I could be naked. I could be decorated like a damn lace Victoria Secret CAKE. I could have MY ACTUAL HAND DOWN HIS ACTUAL PANTS and STILL get turned down. WHY DID I HAVE TO TRY SO HARD TO HOLD HIS ATTENTION?

Maybe it was because I was 170. 175. 186.

All the while, I tried. Maybe this work out will make him want me more. Maybe he’ll think its hot that I can plank like a champ. Run long distance. Cook with quinoa. Or maybe I’m sexy now that I lost three pounds? That I cut my hair and got new jeans and I can rock some freakin’ heels? That my ass still looks great in yoga pants?

The thing about moving cross country, working night shift, and being a grad student is you get stressed. And tired. And heavy. 188. 190. 193. 204. The scale crept up, and our marriage started falling apart. Probably not cause-and-effect, but still a heart-breaking correlation.

Honestly, from the beginning, it’s all been heart-breaking. 

I learned how to stare at my body and pick the parts I hated when I was 10. I learned all boys cared about were butts and boobs, and I realized I was taller and littler softer than the rest of them. 

I learned in middle school I wasn’t worth looking at, with curly hair and glasses, while the other girls wore thongs above their pants. 

When I had to start buying size 12 jeans I learned how to call myself a “fat whore.” I learned not to shop at Hollister because I didn’t want to ask the sales rep for a ladder to the top shelf. I learned there was always bikini-season around the corner, and year after year that dressing room lighting didn’t get more forgiving.

I learned the boys liked you better when you were smaller. They liked volleyball uniforms and low rise jeans. I learned that when other people noticed you, that meant you were good. 

And then I got married. I learned how to hide when I was naked. I learned about how to be rejected at my most vulnerable. I learned that even husbands, who had once been ravenous, could simply turn away, pat you on the head, affectionately name you after fat zoo animals. I learned I wasn’t worth loving, I wasn’t good, I was disgusting.

Now I’m alone. Divorce, turns out, is more stressful than grad school, and leads to much more crying over bowls of pasta, bottles of wine, bags of chips. And now I tell myself I’m not worth looking at until I lose 50 more pounds. Who could ever be interested in me, ever again? 

I’m tired.

I’m tired and I’ve tried it all. Gluten-free. Paleo. Keto. Carb-conscious. Calorie-counts. Weight-Watchers. Nutrisystem. Optavia.

I’m ready to try something new. 

I’m ready to stop weighing myself every morning, letting the numbers set the tone for my day. I’m ready to stop punishing myself for my food, and stop measuring my day based on the success of my diet. All these days are worth more than calories consumed, and I’m wasting my life obsessing over it. I wish I didn’t know what I weighed on the day of my prom or my graduation. I wish I had just enjoyed myself regardless. I want that to end, and I want to enjoy my life for the rest of my life. Mostly, I want to stop letting the scale decide whether or not I think I am worth loving. Whether or not I am good.

So, inspired by various body-positive Instagram pages, I’m going to tell you, one last time, what I weigh. Because the space I take up in this world is more than what I can measure.

Today I weigh:

My heart. I am kind and caring. Sometimes I suck, but mostly I’m trying. Firm believer in growth and faithful prayer.

My mind. I am smart. I work hard. I’d like to think I’m a good nurse, too. 

My love. For humanity, for life, for color. For beauty. For swimming, dancing, laughing, drinking, eating, breathing.

I’m a little (lot) introverted, but I’m also fun. Even cool enough to go to the movies alone.

And I think it’s time I starting working out because it makes me feel good. Because I am strong, I’m mentally tough, and I have endurance. Because I am a damn boss. Because I am a woman, and I deserve to take care of myself. Because I am worth treating kindly, and I am not bad because I love pizza. 

Also, damnit, my ass still looks good in yoga pants. And I don’t need anyone to notice me for that to be true. 

regrets and apologies

I still think about it.

I don’t even know if it was real, but somehow I think it was. Somehow, somewhere in the universe, I think you still exist, and I’d like to say I’m sorry. 

That summer I thought you might have started to settle in I was scared. It sounds small, I know, and now I find myself amazed I could have ever been so feeble. I should have been stronger than that. I’m sorry.

He and I had been arguing for months. Over a lot of things, but mostly the turmoil and misery was all because of birth control. I didn’t want to be on it. I wanted to learn about my body and let sex be raw, stripped down and respectful of the way it all worked. He didn’t care much about that, but also didn’t want to take it upon himself to invest in his own version of “protection.” That was for high schoolers, and he wasn’t a high schooler. So it was on me to get it right, or else. 

Unfortunately, arguing long-distance allowed for an awful lot of terrible texts and calls and made the silent treatment all that more easily executed. The isolation was the worst part, when I was desperate for the yelling because at least he was engaged.

Then we were together again, the week before our wedding, and the arguments dissolved into nothing. He never acknowledged the fierceness, the screaming, the silence, the coldness. Even that conversation, just weeks before, where I told him I didn’t feel respected and didn’t think we should get married went ignored.

Did it even happen? Did I make it up? That night he held me and laughed and bought me a beer while we watched the Stanley Cup with his friends. It all got tucked into a closet, and every effort I made to find some kind of resolution got shut down.

Maybe it wasn’t real to him. Maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe it was just stress. Whatever it was, it followed me. It lurked over my shoulder, waiting to rear its head again when I deserved it. Probably when my plans failed and cycle tracking didn’t work or was too hard or required too much effort. 

We got married and I was extra careful. Better be, or else the closet would creep open and the clouds would sweep into our sunny North Carolina home.

One July afternoon he came back early from a work trip. Inconvenient for me- it was one day too soon for any care-free sex days, but we wanted each other. How nice it was to be loved and wanted by the sweet man I knew was there all along. Do I tell him it’ll probably be fine, and risk a pregnancy I could be punished for, or do I say no, not today, and risk adding another no to the pile of no’s I could be punished for?

We went with probably fine.

Science can be rather predictable, especially when it comes to sex. Turns out one day early bought me a period that was a few days late. 

Not super late, not enough that most women would even notice, but it was enough that I did.

My sister was in town that week. We went to the beach a lot, and I went back home to pee a lot, hoping and praying that this time would be the time my period would come.

I stopped taking my meds, the supplements I took to keep my mood stable and my cycle regular. Those ones I knew I’d need to keep taking if I wanted to keep a pregnancy stuck.

I should have been braver. And I know my doctor said that it shouldn’t have mattered, that the medication wouldn’t have made a difference that early anyway, but I still have the guilt. I’m sorry.

I should have stood up for you, and for myself. I should have been able to tell him that my boobs were killing me, and I thought I was a little late, and maybe I needed a pregnancy test. But then he noticed the way my bikini top fit and the off-handed jokes- you better not be pregnant – started making me nervous. It didn’t feel that funny. And I didn’t want to be alone again. I didn’t want to be blamed, I didn’t want to be wrong, I didn’t want to be resented, I didn’t want to be hated every day of the rest of our lives for the bills, and the sleep deprivation, for the mess, for the responsibility. 

Even still, I shouldn’t have chosen fear. I should have chosen you. 

There was an afternoon when I started to. We all went swimming on a friend’s boat, him and me and my sister. I dangled over the edge and somehow the way the saltwater held me up made me feel like grace could hold me up a little, too. I felt like I could really be okay. I would go to the store and just pick up the damn test and face the future like a damn adult. Face my husband.

But then we went tubing, and I think that might have been the problem. I’m sorry for that too. I wasn’t thinking. 

The next morning I had the most painful and terrible period of my life. Probably not a period, really. Probably you leaving, but I’ll never know for sure. Instead I mostly just hold onto the guilt. I should’ve been more responsible. Braver. Smarter. 

And I know I was in a manipulative, abusive mess of a marriage, but I still think I should have known better. I don’t think that should be an excuse. Or maybe it should be. I don’t know.

I don’t even know if you’re really real. If you are, a small product of the blip of time when he and I were in some kind of love, can you pray for us? I’m a little tired of always thinking of him, and maybe you’re there in heaven with endless light and grace and all the energy for that. And I guess he’d be your dad, after all. I’m sorry I never did anything good for you, but I still hope you’d be kind enough to help me here.

In a way I’m glad you aren’t around for this. This heartbreak would have been infinitely harder to have you suffer too. But then sometimes I think about whether or not you’d have curly hair or hazel eyes or dimples. I wonder what your name would be. I wonder if you’d have liked dogs and cozy jammies and bedtime books. If you’d have liked my sisters and Easter eggs and Jesus. And then I’m sorry. I’m just sorry.