I find myself wondering how honest I should be while writing how and why I’m working on discovering myself. I question just how detailed to be, and how to be authentically me as I am learning myself to be without losing the followers who have been with me for years.
As I embark on a new journey of practicing mindfulness I am aware of how sharing negativity can adversely impact others, however I am also aware of how others may benefit from the journey of my past five+ years. The journey of discovering myself, my desires, my dreams and my values isn’t the result of reading another book or attending a personal growth seminar. It is the result of a major, devastating life transition which turned me upside down and inside out.
I commit always to doing my best to walk my talk, practicing honesty while also sharing my story in a constructive manner. Please know, however, that I am far less reserved than I have ever been, and you will read language which I have previously reserved for off-line communication.
Discovering myself, as painful as I thought it would be, has been incredibly liberating as I have spent years trying to fill shoes which weren’t mine. I spent far too long feeling like one of Cinderella’s hideous step-sisters, an embarrassing example of a woman trying to fit in at a party she wasn’t invited to – on purpose. What I’m learning, however, is that I wasn’t supposed to attend the parties of others…. I was supposed to have my own.
But let me get back to how I got here…
My divorce from my husband was final almost nine months ago, a year and a half after I first considered filing, but four and a half years after abuse began. I continue to receive emails and text messages telling me how horrible I am, how abusive I was, and how little I did to contribute to the raising of our children, all of which are lies. Our three children have been in my custody full-time for nearly four months as my ex’s… unaddressed issues have resulted in unemployment and homelessness, and my priority is creating a stable home for our kids, one where I am no longer a wreck due to the verbal and mental abuse their father seeks to inflict.
The journey of discovering myself stems from the abuse as well as the fact that I have not been single since I was 17. I have never known what it’s like to focus solely on me, as even in college I was more concerned with keeping everybody else happy than I was in taking care of myself.
Looking back at photos over the years, it’s horrifying to see how the stress of keeping others happy was plainly visible in the circles under my eyes and the weight I put on. If I could go back and give my younger self a hug and then kick her in the ass to wake up, I would. I should never have waited until my 40s to work on discovering myself. This is a process which should have been embraced and lived into decades ago.
FEBRUARY 2019: Stressed and exhausted, self-medicating with alcohol
JUNE 2023: Exhausted, but finding peace on my discovery journey
My path to discovering myself is a bit… convoluted.
I enrolled in a Master’s program in the Spring of 2022, thinking I was going to pursue my Master’s in Biblical Leadership. While I believe there is one, Triune God and I accept Jesus as my Savior, my education has shown me I have challenges with Scripture which need to be addressed before I will consider pursuing the degree further. Namely, it pisses me off that adultery is the only acceptable reason for divorce (Matthew 5:31-32). Nobody, not even my worst enemy, should be subject to abuse, whether physical or emotional.
The abuse I endured was completely unacceptable and led me to considering myself so worthless that I attempted to kill myself on December 4, 2021. Worse, my ex continued to abuse me while I was in the hospital and after I got out, casting all types of ludicrous accusations against me. Discussing what I was experiencing, the hospital staff helped me develop coping mechanisms to deal with ongoing abuse, anxiety and depression. They were also among the first to teach me that I, and I alone, own my feelings. Nobody can make me feel a certain way without my permission. I now give myself permission to walk away from anybody who does not treat me with respect. Discovering myself means defining what I will and will not allow in my life, and I will no longer allow myself to invest more in others than they invest in me. This includes time, attention, affection, support and/or respect.
Unfortunately, as a Christian, I was unwilling to file for divorce when I left the hospital. I believed that because I was to follow the Word, every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:18), I needed to persevere. So I tried. Again and again I pleaded for us to attend therapy sessions and look for healing with God. But, again and again, I was denied and/or abused.
February 1, 2022 I gave up alcohol for 30 days after drinking a half-bottle of tequila to numb my pain. 30 days has turned into 515, and I may or may not ever drink again. Waking up covered in puke and pee will definitely earn a spot on my reel of life’s all-time lows, and I don’t care to ever feel like I “need” a drink again. Being sober has not always been easy, but has taught me to process my feelings rather than medicate them. Discovering myself means I must acknowledge my feelings and properly deal with them. At times this can turn my stomach far worse than the worst hangover ever could. But hangovers have no upside, and properly handling feelings does.
On February 21, 2022, the marriage officially imploded. As I sat in bed knitting and praying about how to handle a situation, my ex looked at me and told me he couldn’t stand how my face looked when I was knitting. He told me he had stopped loving me years before and threw his wedding band into the trash. The man who promised to love me forever and never hurt me unofficially ended our marriage with the words, “You’re dead to me.”
While I was initially tempted to move my pillow and personal belongings to the basement, I realized I didn’t deserve to be without sunlight. I didn’t deserve to live in a dark cave. I told him that I didn’t care if he stayed in the bedroom, but I wasn’t leaving. For the first time in our marriage, I wasn’t sacrificing my mental health for his comfort. If he didn’t want to work on our marriage, he could move to the basement. And he did.
A month later, on our ten year wedding anniversary, I filed for divorce. He was, surprisingly, shocked.
Despite filing the papers, I continued to try to bring healing to our marriage for the next nine months. Our divorce was final in mid-October, but even approaching Christmas I plead with him. But on Christmas Day 2022, I received the greatest gift. I finally received the knowing that I had done everything I could have done, from supporting him physically and mentally to supporting our financially, I hadn’t left a single stone unturned. Discovering myself required me to acknowledge it was time to let go and move on.
For the first time in years, my kids and I took Christmas photos where the smiles on our faces were real rather than forced. This is a tradition we will continue.
CHRISTMAS 2022: Me with ALL my kids. From left to right, ages 17, 7, 7, 20 and 9.
CHRISTMAS 2022: Me and my littles. From left to right, ages 7, 9 and 7.
Let me back up a few months, though…
In September 2022 I joined a local gym. A few months ago I realized I initially joined the gym in a last-ditch effort to try to save my marriage. How pitiful is that? I tried to save my marriage to an asshole by losing weight. Ugh.
An amazing thing happened at the gym, however…
I met a coach who helped me realize my biggest challenge is the voice in my head.
One day on the leg-curl machine (don’t ask me what it’s actually called because I don’t honestly care), I broke down in tears. I could hear my ex telling me, “I like you fat. That way you can’t run away from me.” Yes, he told me that. More than once.
But, seeing me cry and about to give up, my coach told me to keep going. He told me to push past the voice in my head and prove it wrong. He gave me a rough-as-shit paper towel to blow my nose into and told me to keep going. For weeks after that session, the weight balls, dumbbells and weight machines became a release for my frustration and hurt. Unfortunately, however, in November 2022, I got hit with another whammy… I lost the client responsible for 99% of my income. I had to quit my personal training to feed my kids, and for nearly two months I abandoned the gym altogether.
On Christmas I realized it was ridiculous to mourn the loss a husband who abused me and a client I had no passion for. In the elementary stages of discovering myself, I began to see I didn’t have to settle or accept status quo. When New Years hit, I got my butt back to the gym. While I haven’t been every day, I have been more in the past 6 months than I have in the past 10 years. Today, July 2, 2023, I’m down 50 pounds and have never, physically, felt better.
BEFORE AND IN PROGRESS: Then, January 2, after already losing 11 pounds from my start weight of 218.
JUNE 2023: Just days away from hitting the 50 pound mark.
My fitness and nutrition journey has become one about me and only me. Yes, I have an accountability partner, but I need to do the work. If I screw up it’s my fault. For the first time in my life, I’ve been showing myself what consistency and belief in myself can accomplish.
Note: Before embarking on this health and nutrition journey I tried Keto multiple times. While it may work for some people, Keto didn’t work for me as depriving myself of carbs made me CRAVE them. I prefer not to live my days as a complete, irritable bitch because I want a piece of bread, thank you very much. Today I follow macros which leave me feeling full (blech). I can’t stand force-feeding, but eating properly is what has gotten me results, Starving myself, on the other hand, slowed my metabolism and produced the opposite results. If you would like help with your macros, contact me and I will introduce you to my coach. Please know that I will not give you my macros, however, as they are personalized for me. You owe it to yourself to find out what works for you.
Allowing myself to believe in myself in the gym is visible on my face and body, and now I’m working to transform what goes on in my head as well. I have come to see how decades of trauma have impacted how I view present day situations regardless of whether or not they deserve it, and I have been practicing mindfulness as a way to find peace. Truly discovering myself and who I am will require my thinking to be clear and uncluttered. I can’t live into my dreams and desires when projected expectations, overthinking and rumination are deafening. So, I’m shifting my thinking. I’m learning to let go of thoughts rather than dwell on them. And while overthinking and rumination has resulted in unnecessary stress and drama over the past six months, I have managed to get through… three weeks (dear Lord, has it only been three weeks?) in relative silence.
Note: I still have plenty to say as evidenced by what I’ve written here. But whereas a month, two or three ago I would have been allowing my past to dictate my communication and actions, I have been telling it to shut up and let me be. Aided by Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Silence, I have learned to breathe in when anxiety, panic or toxic thoughts show up, and breathe out, releasing them. I have learned to breathe in when doubts about my enoughness or worthiness attack, and breathe out, reciting my new motto…
“Here. Now. Enough. Worthy. Loved.”
My journey to discovering myself is ongoing and one which is often difficult, but through it I have discovered I am a high value woman and deserve to be treated as such, by myself AND others. I deserve to focus on what makes me happy rather than accept every opportunity and invitation which comes my way due to fear of nothing bigger and/or better coming along.
I deserve to express myself AS myself, not censoring myself if I feel like swearing – which I do A LOT – or sharing my truth.
Discovering myself doesn’t mean I expect perfection. I know I will have hard days and plenty of them. I know I will experience heartbreak and physical pain, stress and anxiety. But I finally recognize my value and the validity of my big dreams.
And… Rather than looking to find happiness in a significant other, I have realized that my happiness needs to be found within. I need to learn how to live, for me and with me, engaging in activities I love regardless of whether or not anybody is with me.
Despite having brain farts which make me appear naive, I am exceptionally smart and creative. I am a giver and a nurturer. I care deeply for people and will not hesitate to sacrifice my own comfort to make sure others have what they need. And I am capable of achieving whatever I set my heart to. But I’m no longer settling or tolerating bullshittery or disrespect.
I have HUGE goals for the next 2.5 years, including finally finishing my book, paying off all my debt including my house, AND building my dream house. I know I can achieve all these things. But to honor the work I’m doing in healing and discovering myself, my biggest goal MUST be to be true to me and who I am. I am committed to honoring my desires and fantasies, finally acknowledging what I want rather than being concerned with what others will think. In my heart I know who I am, and as long as I maintain my spirit of love and giving while prioritizing the physical and mental health of my kids and I, I don’t know why it’s anybody’s business what I do. I won’t do anything illegal, but give no guarantees that I won’t do things others may find questionable.
For the first time in my 44 years, I am going to LIVE.
As a child my parents joked that I was the black sheep. Today I proudly profess that I am a turquoise sheep with purple polka dots. I’m snarkastic and make inappropriate jokes. I swear around my kids and can’t keep my house clean. I botch my macros multiple times a week and buy more books then I’ll ever be able to read. I have five kids, four dogs, three cats, two ex-husbands and one God. I love to eat red meat and I miss sex. I’m perfectly imperfect and honest to a fault. I’ve watched the 50 Shades of Grey movies more times than I can count and plan on getting more tattoos to represent who I am as this journey continues. And this is only the beginning of me.
Be prepared for brutal honesty as I continue this journey of discovering myself. You’ve been warned.
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