The Ups and Downs of Losing 90 Pounds

You guys, I have lost 90 pounds, and that is pretty amazing. I am really proud of myself most of the time, but here’s a story of something that happened the other day:

“Something’s wrong with the mirror,” I said.

“Nope,” Drew replied. “That’s really what you look like now.” I remained skeptical. I thought I couldn’t possibly look like this…like someone who is not a fat person.

End of Story.

So I shouldn’t be having thoughts like these in my little story, right? They defy logic. I have objectively lost 90 pounds, and I recognize this, rationally.

The scale tells me so.

The fact that I am going through pants sizes faster than Trump offends people on Twitter tells me so.

The compliments I get all the time tell me so, and much of the time, I believe it.

But sometimes, on occasion, I don’t quite believe it. Even when I look in the mirror and see the progress, I think it’s lying.

You guys, losing weight is hard for me. I mean, you know it’s hard; everyone knows that. It’s easy to gain and hard to lose, especially the older you get. Sticking to a healthy eating and exercise routine is hard.

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But losing weight isn’t just hard for those reasons. I mean losing weight is hard for my brain to accept. Sometimes my brain just can’t seem to catch up with my body and be excited about it all the time.

Here’s the thing…for nearly 15 years I have considered myself a fat person. At my heaviest (last December), I’m pretty sure anyone would have considered me a fat person. I believe the medical term is “morbidly obese.”

Like, you’re going to die of a fat-related disease if you don’t get your act together, Nash.

Today when I step on the scale, I see a number I haven’t seen in a very long time. I am wearing a pants size I haven’t worn in a very long time (and they still keep falling down, dammit!)

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Many days, I look in the mirror and feel really good about what I see.

I can see my feet when I look down and a year ago, I couldn’t.

I don’t worry if the seat belt is going to fit me on an airplane anymore. Once, it didn’t, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

 

So, anyway, it’s not like I look in the mirror and still see myself the way I looked last year. I don’t have a warped image of what I look like.

It’s just that when I look in the mirror, sometimes I really can’t believe it’s me. It’s so hard to rectify my perception of myself as a fat person with the person I see in the mirror now.

I wore my fat like armor, and now that most of it has been stripped away, I am out there in the open. It’s a little disconcerting.

When I was bigger, I felt so small. Invisible sometimes, and that was what I wanted at the time.

Now that I’m smaller, I’ve decided not to play small anymore. My personality is starting to shine again and I’m me, REALLY me. Not someone hiding behind a wall of extra weight. My armor is gone and, while sometimes that is confusing to my brain, I know deep down I’m doing it. I’m coming out of that comfort zone and letting myself be awesome again.

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Coming out of that comfort zone is a challenge…but there’s so much to be gained from it (even as I continue to lose). Because I am awesome, and I am accomplishing amazing things and I intend to continue.

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Oh, and one last thing. You guys, even my bras are too big.

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#thestruggleisreal

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Time to Rise.

A year ago today I wrote this.

What a difference a year makes.

Since early on in my healing process, I created a mantra: “First the letting go, then the rising up.”

I knew I would have to let go of anger and sadness and hurt and self-pity before I could become the person I was truly meant to be.

At the time I had no idea how long this would take.

Last fall, I felt like I had let go of so much, and it was time to rise. To give myself a daily reminder of this, I decided to get some ink:

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The juxtaposition of these two tattoos is what I love most.

The let go tattoo is softer and more soothing to me. Sometimes, when I feel like I am holding on to something I shouldn’t, I actually blow on my arm, picturing dandelion fluff dancing in the breeze, reminding myself to let it go, just let it float away.

In contrast, the phoenix is bold and fiery, reminding me to bring the badass and become all I was meant to be. Every time I look at it I feel a surge of strength and power.

When I got these tattoos, I felt like I was ready to rise. But that process turned out to be almost as slow as the letting go. I’ve found that I’m often going back and forth between the two. Sometimes I have felt like I am not strong enough to rise, and I have wondered if I ever would be.

But lately…lately I know that I am strong enough. I am on fire and rising from the ashes, my friends.

I have lost 80lbs since January and I feel fantastic.

I went back to the gym in early 2017, and at first I knew that just showing up was enough. I didn’t work as hard as I could; I needed to be easier on myself and take one thing at a time, one workout at a time.

These last few weeks, though, I felt a difference deep down in my gut–the old fire in the belly–and I knew that it was time to get my ass moving and stop jerking around.

I talked to my coach and friend and asked her not to go easy on me, to call me out if I was dogging it. I wanted to start pushing myself again.

It was time to rise.

Today, I’m not as physically strong as I used to be, but I will be soon. I’ve started working so hard again and I know I’ll get there. I’m already increasing my pushups, lifting heavier, moving faster, and generally feeling awesome.

I’ve been more present for my family and friends, even if I’m feeling down in the dumps.

I’m killing it at work in a new role that I love.

I’m funny again (sometimes).

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments. We all do. But I have finally gotten to that point where I know I am strong and I know what I’ve overcome, and the daily challenges I might face now are nothing compared to that.

Someday, I may have to face even bigger challenges. That is just how life goes. If and when that day comes, I will get through it as I’ve gotten through this.

But for now, on this day, at this moment, I feel myself rising up. Rising far beyond the past that I’ve let go of. The past that will no longer drag me down.

I’m excited about what’s next, and excited to maybe soon write about something besides what I’ve gone through. Because I’ve gone THROUGH it and I’m on the other side.

Maybe I’ll write again tomorrow or maybe it will be another few months. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll write about how big my kids are and how I feel like the time is slipping away from me so quickly (my son is a sophomore in high school…how the hell did that happen?!?).

Maybe I’ll write about some crazy embarrassing thing that I did (again).

Maybe I’ll write about love or joy or kindness. Or all of these things.

So many possibilities now that I’ve let go.

First the letting go, then the rising up.

Time to rise.

 

 

May 11, 2017

Well, it’s May 11. The second year anniversary since The Day.

And I have to say, I feel pretty great.

I have done it, friends. I have scratched and crawled and screamed and cried myself to the other side and it took me two years, but I did it.

That’s not to say that there won’t be moments of sadness. Sometimes, I miss the people I’ve had to excise from my life, but I know that my life is better without them in it. It’s a paradox, to be sure, but I know my decisions are the right ones.

There are moments when I still panic a little, like when I come home and the house is silent and I worry that something terrible has happened to the kids. (The reality is that Cooper is playing video games and Emma is watching TV on the iPad, just FYI.) But I still have those moments–echoes of my own childhood laced with fear of something terrible happening to me. Now I have moments where I fear it for my own children, but those moments are fleeting.

And the anxiety is different than it was before, because now I can own it. I can name it when it happens, briefly feel the feeling, acknowledge it, and then let it go. It is so freeing.

You guys, I FEEL JOY. I never thought it would be so exciting to be able to say that. I laugh for real. I recognize how good life is and how lucky I am to be living this life.

I am happy.

I am okay. I am fantastic, even.

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I have to compare what has happened to me over the last year as the feeling you get when you’ve been in extreme physical pain and then suddenly it is gone. Like the moment the epidural takes effect during labor.

Or, when you are having a gall bladder attack and it’s so bad you have to go to the emergency room and when they finally, finally push the morphine and your whole body relaxes and you can’t stop thanking the nurse for making your life so much better. (Why yes, that is a true story and I am thankful to say that the offending gall bladder with its godforsaken gallstones is getting removed next week.)

If you’ve had an experience like this, you know the sheer exhilaration that comes with NOT being in pain anymore. The joy that comes with just feeling normal again. That is how I’ve been feeling. Normal, like a real person living her life, not a sad zombie stumbling through her days listlessly. And it is amazing.

I am so very grateful to be back on the shore with the people I love instead of drowning in the murky depths, or trying to swim in against the current.

I am so very grateful to no longer be thinking about my past every waking moment. To have it haunting and torturing me. To feel like it was the only thing I could talk or write about. I have made peace with it, and it is no longer my present…it is only the past.

A year ago, I couldn’t wait to go into therapy and verbally vomit all the bitterness inside of me. I had so much to say and get out of my soul that I thought I would never be able to stop talking about it.

These days, I may spend a half hour trying to figure out what I am going to talk to my therapist about in my next appointment. My gall bladder? My annoyance that my son plays too many video games? My daughter’s seeming inability to clean up after herself? These things are so trivial, so I mostly talk about the kids and my husband and how proud I am that they are my family, my rocks, the loves of my life.

And I’m proud of what I’ve overcome. Dealing with these kinds of issues is not for the faint of heart, and it would have been so much easier for me to drown it all in alcohol, drugs, or whatever other unhealthy coping mechanism I could find. I could have kept using food as my comfort source, as I have done for most of my life.

But I just had a gut feeling that there was something better on the other side that would be worth the pain and the grueling work.

AND THERE IS.

There is love and happiness and laughter and joy and friendship, and I am so very grateful for all of it.

I am grateful for the people who have stood by me through this, who have helped pull me out, and who have loved me through it.

Life is good.

Chug, chug, chug.

You guys, I’m good. Not great, not fantastic, not awesome…yet. But I’m working.

I can see that people have been peeking at my Facebook page–I can only guess they are looking for a new post and I have wanted to write so many times but haven’t been sure if I have much to say besides telling you that I’m chugging along. I feel better every day.

Well, maybe not every day but most days.

I’m working out again with all my friends over at Tuff Girl, and I love it. I mean, I hate it while I’m doing it because who really LIKES grueling workouts while they’re panting and sweating but afterwards I feel great. I always have a better day on the days I work out.

Showing up at the gym was a real hurdle for me. I’ve predictably gained a ton of weight (as if I needed to gain even more) and that makes everything harder in my workouts. I was scared to go back, afraid people would judge me and wonder how I could have let myself go so badly.

Instead I found love, acceptance and encouragement from friends and people who care about me. For this, I am incredibly grateful.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will likely have to be medicated for awhile, and this is not a failure. It is simply me being smart and using all the tools available to me to feel better and be the best version of myself I can be right now. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to recognize that this is part of the help I need to keep feeling better every day.

And I need a lot of help, guys. I mean, don’t we all? Why is there such a stigma about saying, “I can’t do this alone. I need help.”?

There shouldn’t be. We should all be able to be the perfectly imperfect humans we are, recognizing our strengths and weaknesses and being able to freely ask for help when we are weak, and freely give our help when others need it.

This took me a long time to learn. I am finally reaching a point where I can start to give something back to the people that have propped me up during my dark times. A point where I could maybe do the propping for them if they need it.

I’ve also poignantly felt the passing of time, and I am trying not to feel as though I am losing this time, trying not to regret the dark months when I felt like I was missing out on my life.

Instead, I am realizing that these dark months were an important part of my life, like a painfully tight chrysalis that I had to break out of to bring me to the next phase. I am not sure I’m ready to fly yet, though. I’m just now pushing my way out and feeling the sun on my face.

And where will I fly to once I’m ready? I’m not sure yet, but I am thinking hard about it.

You see, I lost a dear friend recently to breast cancer. She lived with stage four breast cancer for three and a half years before it claimed her life, and she lived more in those three and a half years than I have in my whole 42 (okay, nearly 43) years of life. (If you want to read about her amazing adventures, you can read some of her blog.)

We had some intense conversations about life and depression and dark thoughts that sometimes came into our heads. She battled the dark thoughts so hard and lived the hell out of the time she had. She was a huge inspiration to me and I think of her often when I imagine what kind of living I want to do next. What kind of adventures I would like to have with the time I have on this earth.

She had a favorite quote:

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This is my one precious life. What I have gone through has been difficult, but my life goes on, and it IS a beautiful and precious life. How can I live it well? What do I want to do with it next?

For now, I want to love hard, most especially love the people who have stood next to me through these hard times, the people who have helped me keep going, the people who have held me up and sometimes dragged me to places I didn’t want to go to keep me moving forward, up and out.

For now, I want to feel happiness, and though it may sound funny, this is something I have to work at. It’s hard work, but I am determined to recognize and be present in the moments that are joyful and not let them pass me by. I appreciate them so much more now.

For now, I will keep chugging along and deciding what my next adventure will be. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

(P.S. If you are one of the people peeking at my FB page for a new post, did you know you can sign up to get new blog posts right into your email inbox? Look for the email signup on the upper right hand side of the blog page, sign up, and then you’ll know as soon as a new post comes out.)

 

Dubious return…but showing up.

So about three months ago I took a Facebook hiatus. I mean, the hiatus was from a lot more than Facebook, but FB became sort of representative of me stepping away from life because I was so NOT FINE. (The post I just linked to was written on June 7 and up for a short time before I unpublished it. Being “out there” with my not fine-ness was just not something I was capable of at the time.)

Three days after that, June 10, I went out of work on medical leave.

I was in bad shape, guys. But more on that later.

Yesterday I decided to return to Facebook and just see. I’m feeling so much better and so I thought I could be virtually social as I start to be social IRL again.

As I scrolled through my feed I saw a post that hit me so hard I questioned my return and almost immediately deactivated my account. Again.

The post was a gut-wrenching one from an amazing friend who lost her brother to suicide years ago, and she was telling her story about losing him in honor of Suicide Prevention Week (happening this week, of which I was not aware).

Friends, I don’t know how to tell you this in the right way, but I was there. I was in that place of “suicidal ideation,” as they call it, and I teetered on the brink of executing a plan. I have been medicated since mid-July and the full bottle of Clonazepam above my kitchen sink beckoned to me, bidding me come, take me all in and just fall into the abyss.

You see, despair is a liar. It tells you things that are not true or even logical, but in the throes of severe depression, you believe them. You believe you are worth more to your family dead than alive. You believe that in your current state, you are not fit to be called “Mom” by anyone and should end yourself to save the kids. You believe that yes, they would be sad for awhile, but eventually  your husband would find love again and your children would heal because they are better off without such a broken excuse for a parent in the first place.

I believed all of these things. I believed them as I fantasized about swallowing the entire bottle’s worth and just drifting off…as Hamlet said, to sleep, perchance to dream, and this time without the nightmares that plagued me nightly so that not even sleep was a respite from my pain.

Part of this downward spiral had to do with a medication, and I somehow managed to convey to my husband how serious my condition was. The thoughts I was having. What I was contemplating. I saw his terror and then saw him bravely battle through it as he got me in to see my doctor the same day and say to her WE NEED HELP.

We talked about hospitalization but I knew that would make me worse. The presence of people I loved was what was keeping me alive, by a hair. The doctor’s first order was a medication change (from Zoloft to Abilify, for those to whom it is of interest) and the second and third orders were to hide all medications and never leave me alone until we saw how the new meds might help. My doctor looked me right in the eye and wouldn’t let me look away when she said, “Suicide ALWAYS ruins the lives of the loved ones. It never fixes anything.” I flinched.

Drew took a day off work, showing me so much radical acceptance and love that I wished so fervently I could feel in my heart. But even though I was too dead inside to feel anything at all, he stayed by my side.

A dear friend came and “babysat” me for a day with no judgments or expectations. Just love and good company on my couch with the TV on all day. I was too far gone to even be embarrassed that she had to be there to make sure I didn’t hurt myself, even though I can now say I know that with this friend, there was no need for embarrassment at all.

I felt somewhat better in a matter of days so we came off high alert. I didn’t fantasize about swallowing the pills anymore but I did have moments of such deep despair that my only release was forcibly purging anything I’d eaten. One day, that wasn’t enough and I desperately raked at my forearms and hands with my fingernails.

The scratches have finally healed.

Through all this, I was 100% honest with my husband and it is what has saved me. Honesty. The ability to step forward and say, even though the medication change has made a huge difference, I need help. I need MORE help. I need so much more help or I am literally going to die. I made a promise to tell him on days when I purged, to have him sit with me while I cried and he held an ice pack on the scratches on my arms to keep them from raising up into welts.

Three months ago when I left work, I simply could not function anymore. I had played my role for over a year–hey everyone! Look at me, healing from my trauma and working my little fanny off!

What I was really doing was drowning myself in work as a numbing practice and ignoring sign after sign from my body that I was NOT OKAY. Insomnia. Panic attacks. Chronic diarrhea. Horrible headaches. Permanent dark circles under my eyes. Strange aches and pains that had me believing I was dying…but that I still tried to ignore.

On June 9, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t focus on work calls. I could hear people’s voices but couldn’t tell you what they were talking about. I would stare at my computer for hours, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be working on. And for those of you that know me well, you know this is so completely out of character.

In late July, once my doctors stabilized me after the medication issues that caused my suicidal downward spiral, I had the courage to say, I still need more help.

I entered an intensive outpatient program through Yale and am entering my fourth and final week in this program where I have learned so much, first and foremost that I am not alone. I have learned about mindfulness and self-validation, and I have learned how to use real coping skills that work for me as an adult…because the ones I developed as a kid, when I just had to survive, were so unhealthy and obviously don’t work for me anymore. I did what I had to do then, and I am doing what I have to do to be healthy for me and for my family now.

After all this, I have not and will not deactivate my FB account again. At least, not because of my friend’s post and the emotions it stirred up in me.

I’ll stay on FB because I have decided to return to my life and be present. I may not be awesome, hell I may not even be functional all the time, but I am going to start showing up…for friends, for family, for this blog, and, soon enough, for work.

Right now, that’s the best I can do is show up and be 100% honest. And since it is Suicide Prevention Week, I ask you to think about me in whatever context you’ve known me before and ask yourself if you ever would have considered me a person who would be suicidal. I’m guessing most answers would be “nope, never.”

I do love my life, but guys, this shit is real.

It is like a monster tearing at your heart and whispering evil things in your ear to make you believe you don’t belong in the world. And in those moments, I believed.

Today, I know I belong in the world. What the future holds for me, I can’t be sure but for today, I want to be a voice for those without one to say, suicide is real, even for people you think are fine. Even for people you think are doing great, sometimes especially those people.

Awareness is so important, and the sister of the friend I mentioned earlier is fundraising on behalf of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you are so inclined to donate to this worthy cause, you can find her page here.

As for me, I’m here. Present. Not perfect, not healed, still medicated, still struggling, but here–willing to share my not-fine-ness, and so very grateful to be able to show up for my life.

 

 

 

 

On Telling True Stories

This week, I made a commitment to write every day, and I did. Some of what I’m writing goes into my personal journal and some is for sharing on the blog.

I spent hours and hours working on a post this week. I couldn’t get it right. I worked it, I revised it, I edited it…I revised it some more and realized that I hated the post. HATED it.

I gave it some space and waited a day then came back to it.

I hated it even more.

As anyone who writes knows, this happens at times. Sometimes writing is just work; it doesn’t always flow out like a waterfall of magical pearls of beautiful and meaningful language. Some days, it’s an ugly brick of concrete that you slap onto the ground, accidentally (or purposely?) let dry, and then earnestly work to chip and sculpt into something more pleasing from its hardened and unattractive form.

I did the work on that post, but it didn’t help this time. I had a paragraph that was a gem, but everything else was so bad that it made me question all my life choices. I was bored re-reading it myself.

Here’s the problem with this post: I had decided that I (and probably you, reader) needed a break from writing about IT.

And by IT I mean, me, my survivor-ism, my healing process, my sad/happy/angry/miserable by turns day-to-day existence as I figure out how to make peace with the past, be present in the now, and move forward into a future I claim as my own.

(First the letting go, then the rising up.)

I wanted to write about something else. Scratch that–I felt like I should write about something else.

And that, my friends, is why the post I worked so hard on just flat out sucked.

It wasn’t true. It wasn’t real. So I finally said, enough.

I’ll keep that one shining nugget of a paragraph and try to find a place for it at some point. But I have to focus on what is most real. I have to keep telling this story. My story.

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I loved reading this quote–and ordered Brene Brown’s book–because it hit such a note with what I’ve been grappling with lately, and it helped me realize that what I’ve been grappling with is the truth.

What is true? Are truth and perspective different? These are the questions that haunt me.

One of the things I have been working on in therapy is letting go of my over-compensation for those who have hurt me. Not just the abusers, but more importantly those who should have taken care of me, made me safe, and didn’t.

I tend to take more than my share of responsibility for things. I tend to give these people a pass, or at the least wonder what I might have done differently to lessen the impact of the harm others inflicted on me, either by their direct actions or their abandonment of me in my time of need.

I tend, too often, to try and see the perspective of these people to understand how I could have behaved in another way to make them behave better…or at the very least to make them feel ok about how badly they were treating me.

I tend to paint my own experience as “my perspective” instead of “the truth,” and do you see what that does? It makes it subjective and therefore open to interpretation and criticism. “My perspective” is vulnerable to being revised by those who are uncomfortable with what happened, with what they did or what they failed to do.

Even as I type these words I see the dysfunctional thinking that informs these beliefs, but they are hardwired and so incredibly hard to overcome.

These beliefs keep me thinking that I am somehow responsible not only for their behavior, but for fixing it for them so I won’t be hurt by their continued harm, leaving them free to go on hurting me.

Really it’s the result of years of manipulation as a child that created these pathways in my brain that their hurtful actions (or non-actions, as the case may be) were not the cause of my pain. That instead, I was the cause of my own pain for allowing myself to be hurt by them. I was too weak. I felt too much. My feelings were my own fault, my own weakness.

Because that’s a totally reasonable way to deal with a child, right? Well no, no it’s not. It’s sick and it’s twisted.

This is what happens when you grow up in the midst of people who manipulate reality–who manipulate the story–to meet their own needs and then call it truth and share it with others as such.

The hardwiring is so embedded that even at 42, and after all I’ve learned in the past year, I still wonder if I have done enough for these harmful, toxic people that I have since removed from my life.

No wonder my therapist yelled at me when one day I said, “Should I be trying harder to maintain a relationship with these people?”

She yelled emphatically and quite unexpectedly, “NO YOU SHOULD NOT!!!”

And then we laughed, because she had never done that before…even though we had been having the same version of this conversation for months, with my obsessing over whether severing these toxic connections was the right thing to do.

She had never answered this question so directly before, but I was so grateful that she did. It gave me the permission I needed–the permission she knew I couldn’t grant myself–to believe the truth of what was done to me not only by those who abused me directly, but by those who left me to suffer the abuse when they should have been the ones keeping me safe.

It’s not my “perspective;” it is the truth. It is what happened–or, better stated, it’s what was done to me. It didn’t “happen,” it was done. Perpetrated. Both the abuse and the abandonment. They are equally as bad. (Actually, the abandonment is probably worse but that’s a story for another day.)

But even as I acknowledge this truth, I still worry, have fear and anxiety about the story I know these people to be telling.

I know they are not telling the same story as me, even though I know the truth. They are telling a false truth to others who I imagine now have a negative opinion of me.

They are painting themselves as the victim of my “drama,” blaming others and/or blaming me, and I know that some people are accepting their stories as the truth.

This is so, so very hard on me. Even though none of these people has contacted or confronted me directly, there have been some subtle things that have happened to indicate their disapproval of my story and their acceptance of the other stories.

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Knowing these false stories are being told and believed impacts me more than I want it to. I have to acknowledge that. Anger and indignation can’t mask that there is a deep hurt that these people, who should love me and accept me and be walking in this painful journey with me, have not only turned away but have thrown lighter fluid on the fire by spreading a false story.

I have been abandoned again when I needed help the most. Again and again and again and again because they can’t face their own culpability. They have to tell themselves and others a different story to preserve themselves, while I stand alone and abandoned once more.

I want to let go of how much I care about what people think of my story–of whether they believe me or not. But I know that getting to a place where I can walk confidently with my story, with the truth, is part of the process. I am not there yet. I will be someday.

(First the letting go, then the rising up.)

In my finer moments I know that this thing, the truth, is a hard thing. It has sharp cutting edges sometimes. It is uncomfortable. It is not for the faint of heart.

Not everyone can walk in the truth, even when they haven’t been told a false story. There are definitely people who have walked away from me–or at least looked away–because this truth is too much for them to see and acknowledge.

I get it. I understand how difficult a hard truth is to swallow. It has literally taken me decades to acknowledge my own truth!

But it still hurts when I see people walk away because of my story and my choice to tell it. It still makes me wonder if, because my story is too much, am I too much? Which in turn pushes me to try to play smaller and write a shitty, lame post that I hate.

Making that connection this week has been a huge win for me. I can’t back away from my story. I won’t.

My story is the truth. I am learning to walk in it without shame or hesitation or fear of how it will be received. And once I do that, I kinda feel like I’m going to be unstoppable.

 

 

 

On Bathrooms: Yes, it is personal.

Hey there, person who is boycotting Target or posting angry rants on Facebook about bathroom laws.

You say it has nothing to do with people who are transgender for you. You say you are worried about children and maybe women who could be assaulted by a man posing as a woman under the new laws. You say it is about safety, not bias and unease related to people who are transgender. You may even be outraged! Angry that our nation is one that will pass such laws putting children in danger of sexual abuse in such an open manner.

I am calling bullshit on you.

There, I said it.

Here’s my question to you, oh champion of children: why is your open disgust and protective instinct just rearing its ugly head now? Children have been suffering sexual assault for a long, long time in horrible circumstances and with lifelong consequences. Many turn to drug or alcohol abuse and far too many attempt or succeed at suicide.

And, by and large, they are victims to this sexual assault in a residence and by someone they know.

And yet you scream and cry about public bathrooms and hypothetical strangers dressed as women.

Bullshit.

These facts are not new. Where was your outrage before this bathroom controversy? Because the threat of childhood sexual assault is real, and it has so very little–really, nothing–to do with public bathrooms.

I am going to summon my better nature and assume you do not know the facts. Let me share some with you:

According to studies by the Center for Violence and Injury Prevention and the National Center for Juvenile Justice (US Department of Justice), 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker: 34.2% of attackers were family members, and 58.7% were acquaintances.

Only 7% of perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Based on these facts, your child is far, far, FAR more likely to be sexually assaulted at your family picnic than in a bathroom at Target.

Let me drill down even deeper. It’s hard to get a good grasp on the numbers, because of course so much of child sexual abuse goes unreported (like mine). But I tried to do a little research and get some numbers.

Most sources say either 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 girls are victims of sexual abuse as children. Since the numbers varied, let’s split the difference and say 1 in 4.5 of these girls will be (or sadly already are) victims of sexual assault.

For boys its more like 1 in 20. Sexual assault perpetrated against boys is a horrible thing, and should not be ignored. But for the purposes of this exercise and the bulk of the controversy over bathrooms (and to make me do less weird math) I am going to stick with girls for now.

Now let’s pause and acknowledge that 1 in 4.5 is a horribly, terribly, shockingly large number. THIS. MANY. GIRLS. Your fear about the threat of sexual assault is not unfounded.

But where is this threat originating from? Is it really about bathrooms? Let me dig deeper.

According to the US Census data (census.gov/popclock), as of the time I write this, the US population is about 323,547,400.

Girls between ages 7-13 have the highest incidence of sexual abuse, and they comprise 4.43% of the population (same source).

That means the number of girls ages 7-13 in the US right now is about 14,333,150.

If 1 in every 4.5 of these girls already are or will become victims, we have roughly 3,185,144 girls. Just take a moment to let that staggering number sink in: over three million girls between the ages of 7-13 have been or will be sexually assaulted.

We can apply our earlier statistic that 93% of juvenile assault victims know their attacker. That means we can isolate the 7% who will be or already have been assaulted by complete strangers (this is the group to whom the bathroom situation everyone is in such a tizzy over would apply).

Let me just repeat this: 93% are assaulted by someone they know, yet people are screaming about the hypothetical situation that COULD POSSIBLY HYPOTHETICALLY happen to just 7%. (Bullshit.)

Continuing on with the facts:

This leaves us with 222,960 girls between the ages of 7 and 13 in the US who are or will become victims of sexual assault by strangers.

This is the pool of young girls who could potentially be assaulted by a stranger–such as a predator posing as a woman in a public restroom, which is the supposed source of the fear I’m reading and hearing about.

But guess what? We can narrow that pool even further by cross-referencing data on the location at which an assault is most likely to take place.

According to a US DOJ report on sexual abuse built from reports to law enforcement, 84% of child sexual assaults in a similar age range take place in a residence.

If we apply that figure to the pool of girls we have narrowed down, we have 16% out of our 222,960…leaving us with 35,674 girls who are or will be sexually assaulted by a person they do not know in a place other than a residence.

So that’s .25% of the entire population of girls in this age group in the US who will be or already have been assaulted by a stranger somewhere outside of a home.

That’s 1 in (roughly) 402 girls.

But this number isn’t even narrow enough, because we’re just saying the place of the assault is “not a residence.” This number would include places like parks and playgrounds and cars and is not just limited to public restrooms, so our .25% figure is not even accurate to describe the supposed threat of a stranger in a bathroom. Maybe it’s half of this figure? I am not sure. I could not find any data on this.

But the fact remains that essentially, you are speaking out in anger at something that has less than a quarter of a percent chance of happening to your daughter…and still remains largely a hypothetical.

No, we should not ignore the plight of these girls who are assaulted by strangers in places other than a residence. I am not in any way suggesting this. These girls need protection and safety.

What I am calling bullshit on is the extrapolation of a hypothetical threat from a small subsection of a shockingly large group of girls who are victims, because that is IGNORING COMPLETELY the largest, most looming, ugliest and most stomach-churning reality:

  • the biggest threat is in your own home, in the homes of your families and friends, in the places your daughter already feels safe and with the people your daughter already trusts.

Fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, family friends–they are the overwhelming perpetrators of these crimes, not faceless cross-dressing pedophiles.

This is the reality you are ignoring and I am just…stunned.

I am stunned and shocked and personally hurt by your blindness. YES I SAID IT. You are turning a blind eye to largest and most looming threat to your daughter.

You are turning away from the real threat because it is ugly and very, VERY uncomfortable and instead you are marginalizing even further a group of people who has already been marginalized, a group of people who are just looking for a place to pee in peace.

You are extremely uncomfortable with the fact that your daughter is statistically safer in a public bathroom than she is in the home of someone she knows, so you are transferring your fear to an easy target: people who are transgender.

BULLSHIT.

“But your facts will change, Stephanie!” You say. “Because PREDATORS! They will take advantage of these laws and dress like women and get my kids! The law is enabling them and they will use any opening they can to get my child. This law will change your data and the number of bathroom assaults by strangers will go up and up and up!”

Guess what? States that have had these laws in place for up to 15 years report seeing no incidence of increased sexual assaults due to the passage of these laws. Here you go:

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I hope by now you are calling bullshit on yourself, because you should be.

Listen, I have a daughter. And obviously I have a strong need to protect her from her being victimized in any way given what I went through.

And this bathroom thing is a non-issue to me. Because the threat related to these laws is non-existent.

Predators exist, folks, bathroom laws or no. They’re out there, but, far more frequently, they are right here in our homes and around our children on a regular basis.

Why are you not more outraged about these basic facts? Why is it only when the issue is around people who are transgender that you yell and scream and make a fuss and say our children are in danger?

The threat of childhood sexual assault is real, and you are right to want to protect your daughters.

But it has nothing to do with bathrooms.

If you believe it has to do with bathrooms, you are sadly mistaken and yes, you have hit a very personal nerve for me.

I was abused in my own bed. By two different people that I loved.

Statistically speaking, I would have been safer in a Target bathroom with a woman who is transgender, and you insisting otherwise makes my blood boil.

Because where was your outrage for me? Where is your anger and sadness and ALL CAPS PSAs for the millions of other children who are assaulted and abused and hurt and victimized in millions of other locations besides a public bathroom? Why is THIS issue around bathrooms the wagon to which you are hitching your angry star?

These are serious questions. I hope you’ll really think about them. I probably can’t change anyone’s mind, but maybe I can make someone think.

But I think my most important question to you is: Is this really about sexual assault at all? Or is it more about your discomfort with people who are transgender?

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I think for some people who are angry about the bathroom laws and boycotting Target, it is about protecting your children and now that you know the facts, you may see that the threat is not real. Hopefully you can see that your anger and fear is unfounded.

But that’s only some.

The rest are using this sexual assault nonsense as a camouflage because you are uncomfortable with the idea of a person who is transgender. And this is a convenient way to continue to marginalize this population in a way that makes it okay for you to do so because it’s about protecting children instead of your own biases.

You are the people that infuriate me the most.

How dare you co-opt the fear and shame and anger and grief borne by sexual assault victims to further your intolerant and hateful cause? How dare you insinuate that the threat is “other” when the biggest, most nefarious threat is right at home?

Your stance only serves to re-victimize girls–like me–who were abused by people we know in places we know. Girls who are left with a quiet sense of shame, who remain silent because people like you don’t want to face the hard realities of childhood sexual abuse and how close it is to home.

Because people like you continue to shake hands with our abusers and call them “good, family men” while vilifying marginalized populations. You bet your ass it’s personal.

You pervert our suffering to your own causes and make it that much harder for us to be safe.

Our children, our girls, ARE in grave danger and you are deflecting the real danger, and that disgusts me.

BULL. SHIT.