Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Asking For Help is the Hardest Part

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 01:  A woman sits...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
A few weeks ago I went to see my doctor. I've been so frustrated over my inability to stick to any sort of healthy eating/weight loss, I wanted to see if there as anything she could suggest or recommend to me. I don't really know why I went to see her about it, but I've tried so many different things that I thought I may as well add one more to the list, and as my doctor is a bigger lady herself, I felt a small amount of trust for her in this regard.

In tears I made my case to her - it's so embarrassing and upsetting for me to actually talk about it with anyone in person. She looked at me helplessly, halfheartedly suggesting weight watchers and 'getting involved with a group'. I explained to her that I've tried all of this and more, but she didn't really have anything else to contribute.

I needed her to understand how seriously I wanted help. I decided to take the plunge, and I mentioned the D word.

For over 15 years I've contemplated talking to a professional about my depression - something I've never had officially diagnosed, but boy do I know it's there. I have never felt able to ask for help in this. I don't know if it's shame or a feeling that it's 'not that bad' or the belief that nothing I've tried has conquered it so it's unconquerable or just plain discomfort in talking about myself in such a way or something else altogether, but something has always stopped me.

I don't know what changed that day either, but I decided to do what all the ads and recommendations tell you to do - talk to your doctor, right?

I stammered it out, "I think I have depression."

Her expression immediately became skeptical. She asked me a few questions - was I sleeping badly? Yes. Had I experienced any major recent changes? Yes. I don't remember what else but all were answered in the affirmative.

I shamefully added, "I don't even feel as attached to my daughter anymore."

This was gut-wrenching for me to admit.

She sighed. "Would you like me to prescribe you something?"

I almost laughed. "Is that the only solution?"

She went on to again recommend finding myself some sort of support, and suggested I call her in a few weeks to let her know my progress.

My husband had been with me during the visit, and in the car on the way home I cried my frustration. "I just did exactly what I was supposed to do and it was no help at all! Do you have any idea how hard that was?"

He didn't know how to handle it, and he turned on me, suggesting that maybe I just needed more 'willpower' and 'tough love'. It turned into a huge argument for which he later apologized...I think the face of my hopelessness and the response of the doctor was just too hard for him to deal with.

And so it ends. I took the step I'd been contemplating for years, and got absolutely no help at all.

I have no desire to just start taking anti-depressants without even talking to a therapist, and I don't know that I can afford an actual therapist. And while I don't doubt that group counseling is effective, it's not something that's going to happen for me - certainly not in the beginning. I've communicated to all of 2 people in my life that I feel I suffer from depression - there is no way I'm walking into a group of strangers and confessing that.

There is one possible step I see now: a friend gave me the number of a place that provides individual therapy and charges on a sliding scale. It's been on my mind for weeks now to call, but as difficult as it was asking for help the first time, it feels even harder now. I reached my hand out and got burned - badly - and my instinct now is to keep it more to myself than ever before.

At this point in time, I'm not sure. Part of writing this post is a rejection of that instinct to pull it all back. I've never written candidly of this and the anonymity of this blog is the only thing that gives me the freedom to do so - along with the high trust I have in the love and support of the readers here.

I want to call the therapy place, but I know it may not happen.

I mostly just wish it could all be fixed - or over - without me having to ask. Why does it have to be so hard?

Monday, 5 December 2011

When I Look in the Mirror Now

Photo Credit: on Flickr.
Being thin wasn't always something I consciously cared about. But I do remember my struggle with weight began very young. My mother was an alcoholic (that's another story) and because of this, my sister and I were raised by our grandparents and our father. My grandmother was always critical of my mother, and the fact that my mom was over weight was something she mentioned a lot. I was always reminded not to eat too much. "You don't want to end up like your mother," my grandmother would say. And so I learned that my physical appearance had a lot to do with my self worth.

As a young girl I knew I wanted to be a model. I was constantly being told by family friends how beautiful I was and these comments became addictive. I was always so eager to please. I took modeling lessons and entered pageants. Both of which I did well. And being a model was all I ever talked about. During this time my father had remarried and moved out of my grandparents house. His new wife was nice, but just like my grandmother, she was constantly reminding me about my weight.

I loved barbies and playing dress up. My best friend and I would often dress in my stepmothers heels and makeup and play runway down the hall. Then at the age of twelve my father divorced  again and moved away. He became depressed and started using drugs and was never home. And my sister went to live with my mom. One day I decided to go on a hunger strike just to see if he would notice.

This is how my eating disorder started. I went almost a month without eating any real food. Crackers if the hunger became too much, and only drank water. My father never noticed, but others did. Other girls would tell me how jealous they were because I was so skinny. And so I kept on not eating. I liked the attention, but I soon realized how hard it is to not eat. Sometimes I would clean or even cut my self, anything to take my mind off of food. After a couple years my dad ended up moving back in with his parents. It was a lot harder to hide around them.

I would wake up early and pretend to have already eaten. Take my food into my room and pretend to eat it there. And sometimes I would just have to eat to not raise suspicion. That's when I discovered throwing up. This was like a god send to me. I could eat whatever I wanted and just throw it up! As I got older and started dating it was always a struggle. I found myself having to throw up a lot more because of dinner dates. I would take dangerous amounts of diet pills, laxatives, and even these pills I ordered that claimed to prevent your body from absorbing fat. I felt sick all the time. I wasn't happy. Food became this sick drug to me. I remember driving to a fast food place and ordering tons of their most fattening foods. Then sitting all alone in an empty parking lot, eating it as fast as I could. Of course not long after I would have to throw it up. I hated myself. My obsession caused me to lose sight of my dreams, and I never became a professional model. I never went to rehab or therapy. I never even told anyone. To this day nobody knows just how bad life was for me.

I got pregnant at 20 and everything changed. Suddenly my body wasn't just mine anymore. I had a life inside me that needed me to take care of myself. Needed me to eat and be healthy. I decided to do the very best for my baby. Be the parent mine never were. I started to appreciate my body. It created life, it was beautiful. And now, two kids later I still love my body. I exercise when I can and try to eat healthy, but I don't care about the extra weight anymore. I am accepting of myself. My body might be soft and not nearly perfect. But when I look in the mirror now, I like what I see.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

An Open Letter, and The Honesty Conspiracy's Response

Photo Credit: Joel Evelyn and Francois on Flickr
 An Open Letter to the Honesty Conspiracy,

I honor the space you hold here for those of us who need to write and connect about the things that have to get out, but can’t be attached to us. The fear of repercussions is real. The repercussions can be real, as evidenced by many of the anonymous posts here. It is important that this space be available both to free the writer from issues that would fester without being voiced and for the readers to feel less alone when they read something they can’t speak about or when they encounter a new idea that they have yet to wrestle with.

I have contributed here. But, I was careful what it was I shared. There are things I will never post here because I don’t know who is actually reading my words with my identity attached.

Since I don’t know who you are, I am wary of sharing everything. It puts me in a strange space if you know something about me and you read something I wrote or hear something I say that doesn’t talk about the piece I shared here. It can color how I am seen and I won’t even be aware of it. The wondering takes away a piece of safety.

While I honor that you also wish to remain anonymous, it can potentially hold back those who might need to speak, but hesitate because of the unknown people behind the blog.

Thank you for listening.
Always a reader, sometimes a contributor


Photo Credit: The Advocacy Project on Flickr

The above letter was lovingly shared with us by Zoie of the blog TouchstoneZ. The three of us who started this site read, considered, and discussed it as we worked out how best to respond.

When we opened this space, we were not ready to reveal our identities because we knew that with such little material, it may be easy for people who know us well to determine what we had written. We were concerned that our own anonymity would be compromised, and we wanted a safe place to share openly ourselves.

We also thought, perhaps mistakenly, that contributors may feel safer sending things into the mysterious unknown, as opposed to wondering what the specific recipients of their post might think, knowing they had written it.

Zoie's letter provided interesting perspective, and we ultimately decided that we were ready to share our identities, if only to help those of you who choose to share with us to feel safer. The original three of us are: Kelly, Lucy, and Melissa.

As we disuccsed Zoie's letter, the three of us decided to invite her to join us, and were thrilled when she agreed. So now we are four.

As for you, dear reader, if you have feedback, questions, or concerns regarding the running of this space, you can feel free to contact us through our shared email: honestyconspiracy{at}gmail{dot}com. We have also added a contact form so that you can contact us completely anonymously if you would like.

The main goal is for us to have a space where all can share their truth openly and confidently. We hope that you feel safe here.

Kelly, Lucy, Melissa, and Zoie.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Gambling it all for love

I married my husband nearly 10 years ago.  It was total love at first sight.  I thought he was way out of my league and then he started to notice me.  The first night I met him all cards were laid on the table and by 2am the following morning there were no skeletons lurking in any closets.  Among the things we discussed was his heroine addiction.   He had been clean for a number of years and I truly marvelled this amazing person for being so in touch with himself and was sure it was thanks to the intensive counselling from the drug treatment programme.  Before too long we were inseparable.  We married a year and a half after we met.

Two months later I discovered, totally accidentally, that he was using cocaine.  And quite a lot of it.  I will not go into it too much as this is all in the past but after trying to come to arrangements with banks and creditors to cover his debts, we moved counties.  It was a fresh, wonderful start.  Two years later our first child was born.  My husband was such a proud daddy and really supportive of my home birth and breastfeeding.  I think it was about 5 months later that he told me he had gambled a whole week's wages in the bookies.  Needless to say, I was devastated.  BUT it would be OK.  It was a one-off.  We were OK.

Over the next 3 years 3 more children came along, the recession hit and he lost his job.  During this time there had been 'issues' with his gambling and I had always tried to approach it in a supportive - lets work together on this, sort of a way.  Occasionally I got very angry but neither approach seemed to have any long term effect.  Then 15 months ago, again, purely by accident, I discovered he had gambled 7 months of our mortgage money.  I discovered this the day before we were due to go on holiday with my parents and the children were so so excited and were constantly talking about what they were going to do with daddy at the sea side.  I decided we would all still go and I would make a decision about our marriage when we got home.

I should have left him but I find that time heals (or maybe pastes over the cracks a little) and it was easier to just keep going.  He promised me he would go to gamblers anonymous, which he did a couple of times (well often enough to get the book and the DVD) and then, accidentally (again) I found he had lied and was just driving around the town.  I used to sit in my car feeding the kids sweets to keep them quiet whilst I watched the door of the betting shop as I just knew, I always knew, but for some reason needed the evidence.

Then we made a dramatic decision to move countries.  We packed up, shipped out and posted the house keys back to bank with no forwarding address.  At the time I felt we were drowning in so much debt that we could never swim out of it.  I was also drowning in fear, stress, depression and weakness.  I have always been the one that has jumped in and tried to fix things, made money available, compromised on emotions, budgets, the welfare of the children, just to try and bail us out.

So ten months ago we got the amazing opportunity to move.  We invested in ourselves, our children and planned a future in our new country.  My husband got a job with good prospects and one he loves and is extremely good at.  I have been so proud of him.  I have been so caught up in helping the children settle and admiring their resilience, in being so grateful for the chance to have a marriage at last, a nice house in a wonderful location and making new friends, that I took my eye off the ball.

I knew something was up in September and my instincts were right, as they always have been, that he had been gambling again.  I knew he had hidden some money from his salary and I knew he had spent the remaining money after paying the rent etc, way too quickly.  His mood was very volatile and most of his anxiety came out in aggression towards the children.  He didn't hit them or anything like that but he shouted and swore at them nearly all day, everyday.  He spent most of his time on the sofa watching TV and didn't get involved in family life like he normally does when not a work.  He didn't touch me once in the three weeks he was home before going away again for work.

I sent him an email to discuss finances.  He received the email well, didn't get cross and didn't deny or admit that he had been gambling again.  I knew he had, he knew he had and now he knew I knew he had...

It seemed everything was going to be OK AGAIN.  We can get through this AGAIN.  It was just a slip up AGAIN.  And really, all was going to be just fine.

Today I discovered, totally accidentally (well OK, not totally accidentally, I was snooping), the extent of the financial situation he has created over the last 4 months whilst I have been basking in the glory of our new lives together.

I am tired, I have no more resources or cards up my sleeve to fix things, he is threatening our security again, and all of a sudden I am drowning.

Tonight I shouted at the children whilst they were brushing their teeth.  They all went to bed in tears.  I tried to hug them and tell them that mummy had just had a tough day but they are too young to understand.  He doesn't see how his 'illness' (and I hate it when people call addiction an illness) effects me and then how that effects the children.  He doesn't see the damage being done to their self esteem when he is home and shouting all of the time.  He doesn't see how I can not sleep, relax, laugh, breath.  He doesn't see that I am ready to wrap my 4 babies in a blanket and run and hide. 

As I write this, he doesn't know that I know the extent of his gambling.
My close friend has told me in the past that I am so strong to stay and try and work it out over all these years.  But the truth is you have to be stronger to leave than to stay.  I don't know where to get that strength from.  I don't know how to start the ball rolling.  He has no idea this is on the cards.  By the time he gets home next week, will time have pasted over the cracks again and will I be feeling this way in years to come?  I am so fearful that it will not be amicable.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and be two years down the line, on my own with my children safely nestled under my wings.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Story of Force, Forgiveness, and Healing: Part II

This is the second part of Monday's post, which you can read here. Part three is hosted on the author's blog, Peace 4 Parents. Many thanks to Amy for sharing such a difficult story with this community so that all can learn from it. If you have a story of your own to share, either anonymously or openly, feel free to email it to


Photo Credit: Stephen Vance on Flickr.
Fast forward about five years and guess who was convicted of criminal sexual conduct? Good old doctor. The one my mother trusted in part because he had always been good to her and because her own father was actually an honorable doctor. Evidently, he had been massaging the clitorises of some women when he was giving gynecological exams - without their permission. This left them feeling very confused and violated.

From the moment I looked at the doctor while alone in the room with him and myself half naked, I knew that there was something other than medical expertise behind his suggestions to catheterize. I was a child so I didn't know exactly what that motivation was, but I could feel it. I didn't know how or even have the opportunity to communicate that to my mother and she was pretty steeped in her medical experience so I am not sure I could have convinced her even if I could articulate what I was feeling. I now realize that feeling came from his desire to dominate and humiliate through sexual inappropriateness (otherwise known as abuse or assault).

For many years this experience plagued my relationship with my mother. Initially, I wanted to cooperate more so that would not happen again. I actually wanted to please the doctor. As I grew into a teen and started feeling powerful sensations in my own genitalia relating to maturity and attraction, I hated my mom and the doctor for that experience. It colored me - and the colors felt anything but that of a rainbow.

Mostly, I wanted her to admit that she was wrong and that the doctor was wrong. That what was done to me was harmful, unnecessary, and ill advised. The way I often experienced her response was "I'm sorry, but..." I'm sorry, but in nursing school we held kids down for shots; I thought it would be the same and no big deal. I'm sorry, but I trusted him; he never did anything to me. I'm sorry, but you really need to deal with your anger so you don't seriously hurt someone or yourself. All of this from a woman who believed very strongly in a woman's right to say "no" and have it be respected. I felt like the experience I had was a farce - a figment of my imagination, a bad dream that I was making up in my head.

Except that it wasn't. It haunted me into my college years where I sought counseling from a women's shelter. Although I felt really ready to get through the anger I still held, and had tried to resolve through counseling as a teen, it seemed like nothing would work. I tried Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), but would get to a certain point in the memory, break down, and not be able to go any further. I see now that I did not feel safe enough to revisit the experience fully and the "breaking down" was in part an unconscious protective mechanism.

In search of the truth, I attempted to locate the medical records from that day. In all of the hundreds of pages from my childhood medical notes there was no mention of a forced catheterization. I did read one remark the doctor made about my mom feeling frustrated that I was always sick. Other than that, he interestingly opted not to record the experience that was permanently etched in my soul. This was both disturbing and affirming.

My mom and I spoke words of apology and forgiveness many times through out the years, but it did not hold for long. Fierce anger would rear its ugly head and I would hate her all over again. This woman who I loved, I hated. That was such a confusing experience to have over and over again. It would take many years and the journey of motherhood for me to begin true healing.

As I labored with my first child through several hours of pushing I was the one to bring up catheterization. I had read it could help if a woman's bladder was distended and impeding the delivery process. A nurse prepared me and I felt like I must have come very far to be able to allow such a thing to take place. That was just the beginning.

The adjustment to parenting was not exactly easy for me. I completely loved my daughter and felt extremely protective of her. Around the time she was three months old my former husband started talking to me about having a second child to go along with her; a playmate. I remember screaming at him that I didn't even know how I was going to protect her, much less another child. The world felt eerily unreliable and unsafe.

Although I took good care of her, I was afraid to really touch her in many ways. I was so sensitive to what I had experienced as a child that I didn't want to hurt or violate her. Diaper changes were this interesting mixture of wanting to get her very clean as to respect her body and not wanting to touch her genitalia at all for fear she would internalize abuse just by being touched to get clean. I held a lot of emotional shame about the genital area of the body and every time I would see it on myself or another person, those feelings would come up and throw me off balance.

The first time I ever forced my oldest to do anything was related to the body and medical advice. It was a really simple situation, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the turning point at which my relationship with my daughter changed - she became afraid of me. She was a toddler and had a stuffy nose. I thought it needed to be suctioned so she could breathe and nurse better. She didn't agree. I held her down and did it. She fought me. It got done in a matter of seconds, but I felt dirty inside after it was complete. I apologized and vowed not to force her again. The only problem was I didn't know how to facilitate true, respectful cooperation or to let go of potentially harmful recommendations about how to care for the body - and how to parent children.

My second child was born when my daughter was just over two and a half. The adjustment from one to two was only a tad bit easier than becoming a parent the first time. I had no idea how to meet the needs of two kids, but as a La Leche League Leader I had the support of many like-minded mothers. I was still learning the art of loving guidance, though, and had a long way to go.

Potty training was something I thought we would just kind of flow into. I was watching her for signals so when she started having control issues, I freaked out. I was very concerned that she could have lasting health issues. The doctor recommended reward stickers or charts, my mom told me only bits and pieces of my own experience with control and toileting, and I felt saddened by the disconnect between what I wanted for my daughter and what we were facing.

I was advised by my in-laws that it was my lack of authority which caused all of her issues. They recommended a switch to the leg if she wouldn't use the toilet and my former husband agreed. It is sickening to admit that I actually tried spanking. I had turned into the exact controlling monster I hated from my childhood. I wasn't sexually abusing her, but I was punishing her to get control. To me, the two were inextricably linked.

The anger and unease led me to flying off the handle too many times - yelling, spanking, grabbing my daughter angrily. Finally, I hit a low point and realized I couldn't stay that angry forever. I had to look at what was causing the anger and deal with it - effectively.

Around this time I was going through a divorce and facing many other life changes. I began exploring spirituality, meditation, conscious breathing, and facing my own demons. I committed to a path of truth. During a time of intense introspection I was finally able to revisit the experience of my childhood without breaking down.

The first time I visited the memory in full I saw clearly that the doctor had an agenda of seeking power through abusing others; that he knew what he was doing from the moment he recommended the catheterization and I was aware of his intent through the unsure feeling I felt in my body. It was like he was wearing a dark cloak and I was a little child full of light. He was going to suck all that he could from me because he had forgotten where his own light was.

In the next visit I recalled the doctor having his thumb on my clitoris during the attempt to catheterize, which gives credence to the mix of pleasure and pain I often experienced in relation to sexuality for most of my life. That finally began to heal and allowed me to experience the truth of my body without the energetic attachment of pain.

The third time I realized that the doctor, nurse, and my mom no longer had any power over me - it was as if I was in the midst of the experience, they all released their hands from me, smiled at me, and I was free to get up. The sense of peace that flooded me in that recall was immense. I felt a sense of true forgiveness - true release of negative emotion towards others - that I had not felt before.

Still, the arguments between my mother and I finally got to a point where my dad asked us to reconsider counseling. He felt it all stemmed from the experience with the doctor. I really wanted to get through our issues. I also wanted to be respected for the way I choose to parent now; which includes no spanking or force. I found it difficult to try and parent in a manner that truly treats children as equals without her full support. I wanted a new relationship with my mom. She did also.

During our first counseling session the woman facilitated an open discussion of how I experienced the catheterization. My mom was able to listen, reflect back what she heard, and realize how that must have been for me. In that moment, she touched my hand and felt a little of what I did that fateful day. She cried some. We connected. Our relationship began to heal.

As I write this account now, the emotions are present - although no longer consuming. I have cried a few tears and felt anger rise as I breathe to acknowledge the signal. Now as a mother of four dedicated to experiencing power with children instead of over them, I gratefully share this story with others to provide information and support in relating to children in ways that respect them - mind, body, and spirit.

I have had many realizations during the continual healing process, some of which I share in A Story of Force, Forgiveness, and Healing Part 3 - Realizations to Take Forward. May they help you to be more sensitive to yourself, your body, and the children in your life. As always, the choice is up to us - moment by moment.