Going Back To Church (Or Trying To)

 

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I go to church, but I have not gone regularly since I was seventeen years old.

Around the 2008 election, I began to hear the hissing whispers of what now seems to define the Evangelical Christian movement on the cultural landscape: You have to be a Conservative Republican. Pro-life and Anti-Abortion. Do not support marriage that does not involve a man and a woman. And having sex before that means you will not have anything to give to your future spouse (especially if you are a woman). The Bible is clear on X, Y, and Z. If you don’t fully believe in any of these things, you must not truly love Jesus.

Uh, what?

That led to an even bigger question: should I believe these things because I feel that they truly right? Or have I just been spoon-fed every Sunday to do/say what a pastor tells me to?

I froze, spiritually, as if merely speaking that out loud turned me into an outsider. I was terrified to bring it up with anyone, given the friendships I’d cultivated since that first summer at a youth group camp were beginning to fade and I feared being brushed off and simply told to “check the Bible.” It seemed much easier to just sleep in, rather than try to sing words that sounded hallow or nod along to a message aimed at the absolutes rather than those who dare question and investigate.

God and church. Church and God. Such an intertwine was all I had known back then, and needed to take time to untangle.

College made me both curious and apprehensive to see what faith looked on campus, attending various groups and giving each one a genuine try. There was an emphasis on being different, and I already was fighting a separate battle with unintentionally standing out in the face of ignorance. There was always something off about the atmosphere, a superior us versus them mentality. I was only a freshman, and didn’t want to get pitted against a place I was just beginning to love and would be at for the next four years. I would attend Sunday services every so often, but continued to keep lingering doubts to myself. I wanted belonging, but not enough to risk rejection.

I was far from the pews, but not from the foundation; I still prayed regularly, kept a journal, and read the Bible. I knew that I needed God, but I also needed to see what that looked like between Sundays. I had lived a shelter life as a young girl, and didn’t want to be confined by four walls while on my own. I still had many a spiritual conversation in bars, coffee shops, and even after a weekly summertime tradition of The Bachelorette.  I’m grateful for the friends that reassured me this season was normal and human and nothing to be ashamed of.

A transitional nudging led me to one of the most popular megachurches in my local area, yet real connections were sparse, and I kept wondering if I would ever find a gathering place to call home, especially as I was evolving into adulthood.

Writing this, home seems to look like a hodgepodge of different cultures and ethnicities, neighborhoods that have their own distinct vibe and flavor. Whenever the fundamentalist/progressive divide becomes apparent, I remember how important it is to be aware, but not afraid (at least to the point of running away from real community). I don’t see the point in debating, because ultimately we can have the same beliefs but different convictions on how to live out those beliefs. I’ve learned that it’s okay to disagree with those you admire, and still gain knowledge and wisdom from them. But yet I cannot deny what has been tugging at the core of my soul for a long time:

There are some things that are just between a person and God, whether it has to do with their body or their sexuality. Sometimes, “speaking the truth in love” means simply listening, and remembering that we humans have a limited perspective in comparison to the One who created us.

Leaving church (for however long) does not equate to abandoning God. Yes, we are called to gather together, but that is no reason to invalidate wounds, pain, and abuse caused by it. There will be seasons where Jesus Calling and online podcasts feel safer than walking through sanctuary doors.

Anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health struggles have absolutely NOTHING to do with a lack of faith. Pastors are not the same as doctors or psychiatrists, and be wary of those who act like they are. It is wise to seek counseling, and it is just as wise to take medication if you feel moved to do so.

If you don’t want to be lumped in with those that feel they need to hate certain groups of people in order to be “good Christians”, then stand up and live out who you say you are.

I am still wrestling with a lot, especially when it comes to gray, or even flat out bad theology. I don’t like the term “broken” because of how it was used against me as a young girl by those that bullied and ultimately misunderstood me. Phrases like “hungry” or “thirsty” often make me want to draw closer to God than the former; reminding me that I still desperately need Him without feeling less than human.

I could never be an atheist; I have been through too much and experienced enough miracles to know that we didn’t just get here by simply appearing out of nowhere. There is something much bigger than you and I, although I cannot pretend to understand or comprehend all of it. That is why faith is often referred to as a mystery.

Funny how when I first started attending church, I sought out a safe place from what I had no control over. Nearly ten years later, I find myself in similar circumstances, though my brain is still a sponge.

I still have questions and am skeptical at times, but the beauty of faith is being able to discuss it all on a deeper level and be able to grow from it. Wherever my journey takes me, I trust that what is hurt will lead to healing, and what needs transforming will lead to grace.

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When Recovery Is Unconventional

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Trigger warning: Discusses specific eating disorders; please read with care.

May 17th was the day I graduated college, and three years later would also become the day I would admit to struggling with multiple eating disorders.

I’ve lived an unconventional life, realizing over the last year that recovery is no exception. It is not by choice, but rather trying to make the best of my financial situation and the resources that I could afford. There’s a common misconception that everyone who suffers at the hands of this monster automatically goes to treatment, does what they need to do, and then comes out one hundred percent behavior free. That kind of work and healing is nothing close to linear, and to expect that (if not demand it) is completely off-the-wall.

I had no idea how to process it at first; this was another layer of stigma on top of recently prescribed medication for depression and anxiety, along with already dealing with a physical handicap. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I allowed myself to believe that I wasn’t ‘sick’ enough, and that I didn’t need professional guidance when it came to proper nutrition and health. The battle between the ED-oriented part of my brain and the rational part raged on, with no accountability or speaking truth on a regular basis. Anorexia continued to scream that finding a job was more important than making time for a proper breakfast and lunch, sometimes even dinner. When trying to eat, I kept avoiding certain foods because of their texture or packaging. Scales and weight brought on a weird mix of feelings; automatic happiness when the number down, and a mild freak out if it went up. It told me that all I had to offer was my body, whether that related to men or general attractiveness. For most of my life, that’s all I’ve ever known.

I began attending a series of twelve step meetings at a local health center, and initially connected with a sponsor. However, there were few boundaries in place and eventually I had to put distance between us due to her projecting aggression over how I should navigate the complexities of mental illness. My experience with her left a bad mark on group meetings and mentorship, and it was difficult to be vulnerable without the fear of being judged or criticized for not getting help ‘the right way.’ For a while, I stopped going all together.

Life ebbed and flowed, and the disorders seemed to be buried under work and weekend activities. Until mid-March, when I came home from a lackluster date and began using behaviors. I’d had the occasional slip up, but I knew it was bad this time around because I didn’t care what happened, or where it would lead to after.

It was a full-blown relapse.

It felt like a setback at first, but in hindsight it was more of a come-through. I was tired of caving into the pressure of putting up and shutting up, of putting off doing what was necessary because not everyone around me understood it. Church is great, and therapy is wonderful, but oversimplifying and relying on sheer willpower will only carry me so far. In other words, I can’t do this all by myself, and I need help from a specialist who’s trained to go up against this toxic disease.

But that’s just the physical aspect of it, and the psychological is just as important: practicing self-compassion is a lot more feasible than trying to fully love what you’ve been told to hate or change. Letting go of perfectionism and no longer taking responsibility for the actions or behaviors of others.

Recovery at its core is really the practice of imperfection in the journey of getting it right. And the more anyone tries to fit into the ideals of recovery, the less like they’ll fully recover.

There’s no timeline, and getting better is more of a lifestyle then a destination. I don’t get triggered easily, but the major ones can be relentless; that means I engage differently with alcohol, busyness, relationships, and even sex. If I sense that any part of me has to be compromised or that my body becomes the central focus, I’m not going to go there. There is such a thing as too much compassion (or trying to make something work) and not enough boundaries. If it means I’m ‘boring’ or ‘selfish,’ so be it.  Trying not to be either was how I got sick in the first place.

It’s literally all one day at a time. And if anyone asks me how long or when, I’m perfectly fine with saying I don’t know

ldn’t be here without my support system, those that walk alongside me and sit with me in the uncertainty, rather than try to fix me or sweep the issue under the rug. I can only imagine how hard it is to be a parent, friend, spouse, or partner in this kind of situation, and feel helpless along with it. But there’s always something you can do, whether it’s affirmation of who they are (and whose they are), educating yourself about eating disorders, attending meetings or appointments, or doing something with them that makes them happy. It feels good when a loved one tells me that they’re proud of me, or is willing to literally hold me through the physical discomfort of trying to eat a full meal. It’s better to ask question than make assumptions, and please don’t ever assume what they need or don’t need.

Recently, I went to Florida for the first time in over a decade, and wanted to celebrate the one year mark at Disney World. I was a bit of a pain in the ass about it for most of the week, but I didn’t want to come right out and say why it was so important to me. Eventually we made it to the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and I quietly cried tears of joy and gratitude. I’m still working on doing things for myself, even at the risk of being told no or looked down on for it.

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When I’m ready and strong enough, I’d like to use my writing to advocate for those in unique situations, as I’ve been. We talk about overcoming stigma, how to go about getting the necessary help, and how to keep pursuing it even if you don’t have the best insurance coverage or have to travel a good distance. It’s daunting and overwhelming, and part of me still digs my heels in when I think about the steps I’ll have to take, and what I have yet to go through.

A friend once told me that fire softens steel, but then it comes back stronger. He said that was me as a whole, and I choose to hold onto that. Recovery is flexible, and that’s what ultimately makes it possible.

Beauty in Affirmation

 

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Bombarded my myths

And society tricks

Drenched in perfume

Permed and wearing glasses

Sponging whatever they said

About what it meant to be a lady and a girl

 

Glitter and tears stung my eyes

Stand up straight and walk right

You want help?

They’ll fix you

Go fix your legs

Lose yourself

Until awakened by faith

 

You’ve got a figure

Cover up

Slinky dresses and corsages are the exception

Thick eyeliner and a faux glow perpetuate confidence

The edge of childhood and woman

Longing to be someone else

 

Leaving home, a teen no more

Tops get lower

Lips get drunker

Wandering eyes

Compliments like butter

But skin keeps getting thinner

And the mind sinks deeper

 

Taking a warrior pose

Seeing the outline of my bones

Side pinches, measurements, and anxiety

Are what I’ve come to know

A shell of sorts, I search my soul

Sick

Tired

Hell

 

What is beauty?

Only seems to be reflected by those looking back at me

Mirrors can lie

Scales can cheat

But the heart still beats

To the beat of my own personality

Kindness, courage, and confidence

The best accessories

 

Blessed by perspective

Not all can comprehend

Where I’ve been and how I got here

Testaments to how I’ve loved and lived

Fiercely, deeply, evolving

 

Created to create art

For a purpose

Speaking words of truth

A light and hopeful breath of fresh air

 

Beautiful, Blessed, Beloved

Remember it always

Wear it well

Live it out loud

Beautiful, Blessed, Beloved

By God

By truth

From above

Until Kingdom come

What We Deserve, and What Actually We Need

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From brooding social media posts to well meaning-confidantes, it’s everywhere: Know your worth. Never Settle. You deserve the best (or better). For most of my life, particularly in my twenties, none of those things have ever sat well with me. Entitlement affects all generations for a number reasons, but our current era is awash with turned up noses and eyes avoiding the mirror, especially when it comes to both personal and professional relationships.

‘Deserving’ anything perpetuates this idea that we should only give in order to get something back.

That the only reason to be good to people or do good things for them is for recognition, validation, and affection.

That it’s everyone else’s job/responsibility to show up and be able to provide everything, and to do so perfectly.

It might keep the bad stuff out for a while, and it might keep the pain of loss and letting go temporarily at bay. But in the end, a deserving attitude will eventually lead to bitterness, cynicism, and resentment. I completely understand how difficult it is to move forward after a broken heart, but there’s nothing more frustrating (and exhausting) than bearing the blame for something that someone else did.

You can do all the right things, work hard, and practice kindness and compassion, and still the world does not owe you anything. The only thing you’re guaranteed is knowing that you paid it forward, and/or left something better than you found it

While it’s true that what you put out in the world does come back to you, it doesn’t always look like what you think it should.

But humility, and the practice of being humble, don’t necessarily have to equal putting up with disrespectful behavior or mistreatment. It’s a softer, more-grace filled approach to pursuing what’s meaningful and what’s healthy. For instance, my eating disorder recovery journey has taught me a lot about what I can handle, and where I need to draw the line. I’ve gotten a lot better at understanding that no relationship or career opportunity is worth risking my physical and mental health for, and that those things need to come first.

It’s not just solely about what I want anymore, because what I want isn’t always what I need. And it’s less about knowing what I need, and more about having the courage to speak up and tell the truth, even at the risk of rejection.

I need to take my time; it’s one thing to be spontaneous and go with the flow when you’ve established a sense of trust and safety with another person, but to expect and even demand that from a complete stranger is ridiculous.

I need open communication and support, even if it’s just merely letting me know that I’m not going through something alone.

I need affirmation and acceptance, but I also need to be called out on every once in a while. If you’re not willing to grow and evolve, especially with a partner, you will run yourself into the ground.

I need a willingness to take responsibility; don’t promise not to hurt me (or anyone, for that matter), but own it when you do.

If someone can’t do that, I don’t need to make them a villain or become a victim in order to let go.

It’s challenging to be realistic and get real at the same time. My life has been colorful and unconventional, but I wasn’t forcing a lot of it either. It’s a balance of what recognizing what I’m in control of, and surrendering what I cannot. I don’t want to spend too much time defining success, because then I ended up taking what’s important for granted.

I still have a lot to learn in this season, so there’s no perfect ending. But here’s what know for sure:

You can value yourself and be soft at the same time.

You can be strong and still need validation and support.

You can keep your heart open while trusting your instincts.

What other choice is there?

Light From Glass

 

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Unexpected words

A sharp sense of disbelief

Letting Go

Termination

Fast and Unforgiving

No Time

But I was just getting started!

Crack

 

I’ll never touch you like that

You can trust me

He said to keep me from flinching and cringing

You’re so beautiful

They’re crazy not to want you

I was suspicious and skeptical

And rightly so

As the first goodbye was the last

Crack

 

Grief and reflection followed

But so did instinctively grabbing a shield

 “I feel a little bit guarded” permeated every-day language

Unusual for a believer in vulnerability and connection

But it’s natural for a bruise to want to heal

And to seek shelter when the bruising becomes too much

Too many bruises leads to too many cracks

 

Fear is not the central concern, or even avoiding pain

For heartbreak is proof that you’re living life

But you can’t live if your health is in a detrimental state

As I became aware of once before

 

Discouraged and unmotivated

I allowed the familiar urges to rise and regurgitate

Until I felt empty and nothing else could come out

Fuck it, my tired self said

Who cares what happens?

I cried tears of confession

Praying for mercy and compassion

In those moments I felt unlovable

Slip up and backtrack

Crack

Relapse?

 

Brokeness is not a sight to see at first

And a caution to touch

It’s not a burden to bear alone

But not everyone can walk that road

Yet when the light gets in

When connection happens

When truth is spoken over lies

There is an unmistakable beauty

In realizing that humanity still exists

 

It’s like a prism of color

A story

Not a cautionary tale

But one of Grace and redemption

So let the black cloud come

Yet it will not overcome me

Let the voices speak

May that be tender and gentle

Let love be known

The kind of love we all need

And I will stand unashamed

Knowing that I will grow, evolve, and become

Go where the light is

Even if it’s just a little bit

Twenty-Six

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I recently had another birthday, a rather low-key affair filled with wine and cupcakes and weighted blankets. For a long time, February 1 was a day of anxiety and trying desperately to keep my expectations low. It was hard to not keep track of who remembered to call/text, or worry about a possible blizzard putting a damper on dinner or weekend party plans. Getting worked up over either of those things would ultimately suck the joy out of the real, most meaningful part of celebrating.

I’m here and I’m alive.

A few people have asked me if I feel old(er), and I can’t say that’s the case. I feel lighter, less focused on my age and more on my personal well-being. At twenty-five, I was in the grips of an eating disorder that I had yet to come to terms with, along with constant anxiety regarding my professional and personal life. I’ve gotten a lot better at putting my mental and physical health first, focusing less on perfection and more on presence.

Whenever I’ve picked a word for the year, I went with something flashy and appealing. It would motivate me at first, but then the expectations would become heavy, which resulted in a lot of discouragement. As 2018 began, I knew I needed to go back to the not-so-fluffy, the not-quite feel-good, and perhaps a little cliched basics.

I needed to learn how to trust. Genuinely and whole-heartedly.

Trust God.

Trust myself.

Trust the process.

In some respects I’ve appeared too trusting, depending on the situation. But it was less about trust and more about ignorance. There have been numerous times where I’ve made a choice and my entire being is practically screaming at me that it’s not a good idea. I would lose sleep and then wake up feeling sick to my stomach.

The quest for perfectionsim and reassurance makes trusting anyone or anything an uphill battle. ‘Hold on loosely’ would render a sense of passivity and helplessness. I could either be in control or be a doormat, and as the years went by I grew tired of being the latter.

But you can only cling to certain things for so long before your hands start to blister and bleed. Infections set in. Eventually, you have to choose between either living or dying.

Trust. Vulnerability. Resilience. Those are all muscles, and the only way you make them stronger is to exercise.

As much as I’ve questioned Evangelical Christianity over the years, my faith in God alone is truly the only consistent thing I have. Relationships will take different shapes. Careers take different directions. And physical beauty changes.

I’ve taken a lot of time to get to know myself, to acknowledge and not sugar coat what’s healthy and what isn’t. Intuition is a powerful voice, and I will not allow anyone to silence it.

And some answers are not meant to be found right away, if at all. Sometimes “I don’t know” is the only thing that makes sense. You have to let the map unfold before you can fully trace the path.

This is still fairly new to me, and I’m not sure how to end this post. I pray that those closest to me will keep me accountable, reminding me that what is already here is what is meant to be experienced.

Here’s to twenty-six.

Amen.

Photo on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/752e46″>Visualhunt</a&gt;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Say

 

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It started with him and I

Once

A seemingly typical experience for strangers

Beginning in hope and ending in silence

 

With a superficial sense of comfort

I confided in him what haunted me

Explaining that I’d preferred to go in small steps

Relieved when met with a response of compassion and understanding

The same wavelength

Which we seemed to be on through the following night (and into morning)

Not one of regret, but not one without lessons

Deep enough to soul search

 

In living in the tension

No verbal response of what was next

With the news of the days, weeks, and months swirling around

I began to ponder

Whose responsibility is it,

To ensure not just an avoidance of attack

But a positive coming together

 

And upon reflection came the realization

Such responsibilities are for both partners

A responsibility to communicate needs, wants, and boundaries

And to respect said boundaries without guilt, shame, or coercion

A perhaps awkward but necessary conversation

That happens before doors close

And clothing removed

 

Language. Words.

They matter

Even in a culture of anything goes

Which lately, is seeming to be anything but fun or empowering

Especially for those who are deep and emotional

With desire to know their partner, and be known

 

But we cannot blame cultural norms entirely

Or fault expectations or standards in leu of personal choices

Yes, it’s challenging

And one might not be sure

Until they’ve walked that path or mile

Yet society is fleeting

Always changing

One cannot let it blow like the wind

Letting these broken norms do anymore damage

To those who navigate the taboo and silence

 

Let’s not simplify by idolizing marriage or previous ideals as the answer

Relationships and interactions as a whole

Only successful with conversation

Humility

Listening

And a willingness to grow and evolve

 

Maybe I can’t change the world

But I can be better than I’ve been

I can honor my body

I can honor my heart

That which I truly want

By acknowledging it

Out loud in prayer, and to others

 

What you say

(or don’t say)

May not hold you responsible for what happens

But by staying true to that which you hold dear

May it set you free

After Midnight

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It’s easy to hope before midnight then it is to have faith afterward.

Ringing in 2018 was calm and low-key, the majority of the celebration spent with family or family friends. We sipped drinks, played games, and I discovered the deliciousness of assorted macaroons on one of the dessert tables. I was in no rush for the current year to be over, savoring time with my loved ones and trying not to fall asleep before the clock struck midnight.

When the years-end rolls around, there’s a massive fixation on goal-setting and trying to do things differently. There’s nothing wrong with that as a whole, but too often they come attached with life-size expectations and are rooted in people-pleasing. I’m a huge advocate for growth and self-improvement, but not to the extreme where I believe that I missed the mark (in most areas) every single year.

2017, despite its hurdles and unexpected challenges, was one of the most transforming years that I’ve experienced since my teens. I got out of head and faced some uncomfortable truths, and once the initial sting wore off, I realized that I’ve become more like myself than ever. I won’t deny that mistakes were made and resulted in taking responsibility for my own crap, yet I’m not going to cower in shame either. I became a better writer, owning my words and beliefs and perspective. I slowly learned about self-compassion, and that being your own best friend doesn’t mean being alone.

It’s why I chose to set intentions, which focuses on one’s mindset as opposed to being dependent on what one can or cannot accomplish. Not a formula for solving problems or a quick fix for happiness, but something I strive to take with me each day; it’s not about where you start, but how you walk through what you go through.

I know I won’t always stick to it, but I intend to:

-Hold myself to a standard of grace instead of perfection.

-Live in the tension and confusion of the unknown instead of seeking immediate answers or a fix.

-Be fully present when in the presence of people I care for (i.e. take a breather from social media, which I need for the sake of my emotional health).

-Choose love, compassion, tenderness, and trust.

Let it be so.

One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Taking My Body Back

 

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Dear Al,

2017 has been a long year for you, hasn’t it? It’s been a lot at once, which is what you normally tell people in order to keep yourself out of the pity pit. It’s not hard necessarily, but it has been a lot.

First came the tidal wave of depression; you were let go from a job unexpectedly, after only working there for a month, and in the same week were emotionally blindsided by a personal decision that hurt more than you thought it would. You didn’t want to get out of bed, your mind either in the twilight zone or going completely blank. You knew it was bad when you didn’t even want to write, but forced yourself to in order to keep track of what was or wasn’t going on inside your head so that you’d be taken seriously.

Then came the diagnosis: a combination of clinical depression and anxiety, which you were given medication for by a caring and helpful psychiatrist. Simultaneously, you got real with your counselor and admitted that you’ve been battling an eating disorder since college (or perhaps even longer than that). Definitely bulimia, and you’re not sure if it’s anorexia or something called Restrictive Avoidant Food Intake Disorder.  Labels aside, you haven’t been healthy for a long time, although I know you’re hesitant about calling yourself “sick” or saying that you have a disease. You’re afraid to refer to it as “my eating disorder” because you don’t want it to become your identity, even though you might struggle with this for the rest of your life.

Saying it out loud was more than a relief. It was comforting to finally know the exact nature of the battle you’ve been fighting, though admitting that you wanted and needed help was only half of it. A lot of people don’t realize that properly addressing mental health struggles isn’t just about overcoming stigma. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking medicine, getting counseling, or going into a treatment program, because it’s no one else’s business how you choose to take care of yourself. But what happens if you get evaluated, only to be told that no hospital or recovery center in the state will take your insurance? How should you respond when the initial hospital tells you “oh, we don’t do charity” when inquiring about scholarships? What if heaven forbid, you just can’t afford certain things financially, but aren’t sure how to make the most of the resources that you do have?

It takes one hell of a person to keep fighting when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and you did just that. You went to, and continue going to meetings despite being terrified of the judgement you might face because of the unconventional way you go about the recovery journey. You asked for guidance, but trusted your intuition enough to set boundaries when you sensed that people were either trying to oversimplify what you’re going through (“just eat more and you’ll be fine!”) or trying to fix you to the extreme (unprofessionally diagnosing, imparting shame instead of grace, and insinuating that their way of recovery is the only way). You’ve grown in your relationship with God because of how you’ve had to lean on Him in the tough moments: crying out during a coughing/gagging fit, learning how to breathe and meditate after a large meal when your stomach feels weird, and allowing yourself to rest when your body is tired, rather than force it to work out.

Asking for support is challenging because you’re not entirely sure what that looks like. Six months ago you asked friends and family to be patient with you, allowing you to be human and imperfect as you navigate this path. Sometimes you need to vent and get your feelings off your chest so you’re not isolating yourself emotionally. Sometimes you just want a hug or a hand on your shoulder while your grit your teeth through the urge to engage in behaviors. But it’s also nice when people take the initiative and offer to attend a meeting with you or ask questions in order to learn more about eating disorders, anxiety, and so on. Education over ignorance always, even if it starts with, “I have no idea what this is and I want to learn more.”

Honey, I am so unbelievably proud of you, both for who you’ve become and who you’re growing into. You might have been through hell (and sometimes it still feels that way), but at the same time you’ve embraced who you are and feel more like yourself than ever before. You’ve learned that it’s not just about loving your body and the amazing things it can do, but recognizing you’re more than that. You have a big heart, filled with compassion and love and kindness. You have a curious mind and a sense of adventure, always wanting to explore new places and create new memories. You’re deep, genuine, and real, willing to talk about life in a way that is actually a gift. And you have so much to give beyond what you’ve been told or taught.

It’s hard for me not to get emotional as a write this; you’ve spent most of your life not wanting to believe these things for the sake of being humble, but there’s a big difference between humility and not giving yourself enough credit. Doing the best you can doesn’t mean that you’ll always do the right thing, but give yourself permission to make mistakes, and then you do the next right thing. One at a time, one foot in front of the other.

You might think you’re not justified in sharing your story because it’s not typical, but that’s actually the opposite. Not only do you have every right to talk about it so that you don’t go it alone, but the world needs to know that eating disorders can and do tend to have many layers. They can develop regardless of gender, ethnicity, or size. They can stem from trauma and anxiety, where everything builds up and nearly consumes you.  And the root is often perfectionism, or the fear of not being enough. For you it was never about gaining or losing weight, but feeling like your body (and mind) had to be perfect because it was the sole focus of your life. And that’s why recovery is just as much about the emotional and psychological as it is about the physical.

But know that you can talk about it as little as much as you want, and you don’t have to do it until you’re ready.

Alyxandra Rose, know that you are LOVED. So loved more than you can even comprehend. You’ve got this, darling. Even on the days when you think you don’t, you’re strong and tough and capable. We’re in this together, you and me and everybody who has stepped up to root for you and support you.

With all that I am,

Alyx (the you on a good day)

Are You Tired? Me too.

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I first saw it circulating on Facebook as a copy and paste message, figuring that it was related to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I hadn’t been following the news that closely because it seemed overwhelming, but I knew enough to understand what was going on. I typed it out and shared it within my newsfeed, but something in me was screaming that generics weren’t enough. So I went a little bit deeper on Instagram, detailing certain nights that I had experienced in college, and that I’m still dealing with repercussions to this day. Soon after I was asked about why I had posted something so personal, and that I needed to focus on letting it go. Trying to keep my emotions in check, I explained that it was about more than the things that were said to me, detailing how I had been groped and followed on a number of occasions. This was not our first conversation on the subject, but I was still vulnerable to intimidation, rejection, and inadequacy

All of the reading and processing left me emotionally drained. My head was in a fog, and there were times where I had to close my computer and walk away, the details of another horrifying yet courageous story too much to bear. I could feel the anger rising: anger that my mind feels at peace with what I went through, but my body apparently is not.  Anger that we have a president in the White House that perpetuates such disgusting behavior. Anger for having received multiple of versions of sex education growing up that ultimately left me confused and frustrated.

Recalling the first incident nearly five years ago, I blamed myself until I broke down and told my closest guy friends what had happened. They were compassionate and protective, assuring me that it was not my fault and that they didn’t look down on me or think less of me. It was almost as if I needed permission to stop beating myself up, which I do when I sense that I’m about to be judged or abandoned. I didn’t know what do think or how to feel back then, and that same kind of wrestling continues now.

I’m tired of bearing all of the responsibility.

“Cover up” so men don’t lust after me and want to touch me.

Don’t go out or walk back alone. Watch the alcohol.

Be careful not to send mixed signals (i.e. dancing, kissing, or even just showing interest).

Make sure keys and pepper spray are visible.

And so on.

To live in such a way where you’re constantly watching and disciplining yourself for the sake of others is to barely live at all. It’s perfectionism, which I’ve taken on in other ways already. Perfectionism is a disease in itself, which lead to other illnesses in both mind, body, and soul. But there’s a difference between doing these things to honor someone’s humanity, and doing such because you have or fear having yours taken.

I can’t do it anymore, yet I’m not sure where we go from here.

However, I do know this:

It is NEVER the victim’s fault, and they’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions. Alcohol, sex drive, location, and clothing are no excuse for taking what is not yours to take. Being powerful does not make you a man. It does not make you a woman. It’s not about gender, but about being a decent human being and treating others the same.

Whether or not one chooses to share their story doesn’t make them any less brave or honorable. Trauma is complicated, and so is sharing it with others. Whenever you’re ready, whether it’s telling one person or telling the world, know that you’re loved and supported.

“If it’s not actually rape, then it doesn’t matter.” That’s a load of crap and we must do better than that. Surviving harassment and assault are not olympic sports, competing to see who’s experience is more painful and more deserving of validation. If anyone disrespects your boundaries, it’s wrong. If it leaves you feeling violated, it’s wrong. Full stop. 

Instead of saying “Not all [insert gender, religion, ethnicity, etc] are like that,” sit with the one baring their soul to you and actually listen. Sit with them and share their pain, the multitude of feelings and emotions. Then stand with them. Instead of being angry at others for being “lumped in” as a response to trauma, cast your anger toward sexism, racism, misogyny, and overall dehumanization by calling it out when you see it. “Not all,” is a cop out and a refusal to take responsibility for what we might contribute without knowing it. “No more” is acknowledging that it’s not about you, but it’s about doing whatever you can to help redefine the toxic cultural standards that are killing us as a whole.

Let’s talk about sex. Without shame, judgement, or disgust. Let’s talk about consent, getting to know our bodies, and having difficult but necessary conversations. Instead of preaching and teaching, let’s discuss and be willing to admit that we don’t know everything. Forget the sermons and Cosmo articles. Put away the porn. From extreme scare tactics to extreme silence, none of its working. Sex is real, beautiful, and deserves to be truthful.

Healing is necessary. Healing is agonizing. And it takes as long as it takes.

We can’t go back. But if the decades of walls, empires, and old ways of doing things are going to come tumbling down, we have to be willing to do the work and rebuild.