Browsing Tag

healing

Binders, Guest Posts, healing

What I Salvaged From The Fire

May 26, 2015
diaries

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Hollye Dexter

 

When our house burned down in 1994, all three levels burned to the ground. There was not a trace left of the sofa, the dining table, the piano. And yet, my husband, wearing thigh-high fishing boots, dug through piles of rubble four-feet deep and pulled out small blackened squares. They looked like charcoal briquets, but they turned out to be my childhood diaries. One of them used to have a Holly Hobbie cover and a little gold key attached.

I’ve kept a diary since I was in the second grade. This might have tipped me off that I was bound to become a writer. It was important to me then to document my comings and goings, important to me that someone knew I had woven straw placemats at my Campfire Girls meeting, or been chosen third for the kickball team at recess. Someone beside me had to know, and so it was my diary that became the witness to my life.

In addition to my diary, I’d taken to walking around town with a mini Hello Kitty notebook in the pocket of my plaid Dittos hip-huggers, in case I felt a sudden urge to write something down.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Yoga

On Being Fat, Yoga Teacher Training, and the Right To Be Happy

May 22, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anna Falkowski

In the back of Yoga Journal, lodged between ads for Himalayan salts and yoga retreats, was a photo of Ana Forrest, a yoga teacher famous in the yoga community. She was in handstand, naked from the waist up. The photo was a back view. Her muscled arms and opened hands pressed into rock ledge. Her bare legs stretched wide in a straddle and spread toes reached to an endless sky. A single black braid fell forward and touched the ground.

When I saw the photo, I felt a pang of longing. I too wanted a body that could do this. A body strong with each muscle defined. Even more, I wanted to be fearless and trusting.

In my head, I say, I have the right to be fat. I have the right to be fat.

I am a full-bodied yoga teacher. I take comfort in the fact there are others out there, luscious like me. In the yoga world, the majority of teachers are lean. On bad days, I look out at the students in the yoga class I am about to teach, and ask myself, Dont they see how fat I am? Why are they taking yoga from me?

Yoga is practiced primarily by women, yet it has strong patriarchal roots and leanings, which means holding up thinness as a measurement of yogic aptitude and success. It’s the order of things.
Sometimes I wonder if being a fat yoga teacher is silently scoffed at. A suspicion that he or she is not doing the work. We must be lazy or sneaking processed foods. Most likely both. Yoga tops can not contain us. We fill out our lycra pants with hips and asses, yet we teach respectable and popular classes despite the fact we’re not skinny.
There are days I love my curves. Each one a chunk of wondrous love and an expression of my sexiness, aliveness and my ability to get down and dirty with a cheeseburger and glass of wine.
As far as skinny goes, I have been down there, in the palace, once or twice in my life, but only because of diet pills, smoking, over-exercising or sticking my finger down my throat. I cut out my risky behavior once I became a mom. But my thin moments are full- color photographs in my memory catalogued between power and acceptance. The truth is I was only ever skinny for a few hours at a time, and then my weight would creep back up again.

Catching a glimpse of Ana Forrest in the back of the glossy trade magazine sent sparks through my nervous system, so I signed up to take her thirty day course, even though I already held advanced yoga teaching certifications. I craved change.

I sat with my therapist a few weeks before the training was to begin and told her I hoped to let go of my body image problems once and for all. Maybe this training would do it. And then I regressed. “If I just didn’t have this belly, I could be happy.” My mid-section had become a bundle of permanent stretch marks, scar tissue and loose skin due to all the times I gained and lost large amounts of fat.

“It’s so unfair.” I hated the way I sounded. Whiny and superficial. Even to me. Especially to me.
I would have preferred to be swallowed by the therapist’s soft couch. Instead I clutched a trendy printed pillow on my lap.

My therapist, a PhD, who never wore the same outfit twice, nodded her head in agreement. “Maybe this would be a good time to get the tummy tuck you keep mentioning. Just get it done and over with. Right after the training. Then you can move on.”

That’s how I ended up in the upscale office of a plastic surgeon, with a brand new visa card with a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit hidden in my wallet. My insides were whirling. The wall-to-ceiling mirrors reflected back a woman with a rounded belly in jeans and a red flowered top. My flip-flops were noisy as I made my way across the marble floor.

In my head, I say, I have the right to be skinny. I have the right to be skinny.

The plastic surgeon was a tall man with big teeth and a spring-time tan. He held a red permanent magic marker in his strong yet manicured hands and waved the marker around as he spoke. As he drew a dotted line along my belly, hips, and even across the top of my ass, to show me where he would remove the fat from, he told me the incision would be tiny.

“In a couple of months, once you heal, you will be able to wear a bikini. Of course how good you will look depends on whether you are a cadillac or a chevy. It all depends on what model you are underneath. I can only do so much.”

I looked down at my recently painted and pedicured toes the color of cruises and cotton candy. When I had gotten them done the day before, I hoped he would notice I appreciated details and pretty things. Now I felt my own foolishness slap my face.
“You are going to love the results,” he said as he put the cap back on the marker. He was giddy with himself. “All my clients do.”

Later that evening, sitting with my husband, I told him I thought the plastic surgeon was an ass. “But he does really good work, so I think I’m gonna go for it. After the training.” I looked at Matt for approval.

Then he said the thing my husband always says. “If you need to do this, I support you all the way. But Annie, I could care less what your belly looks like. Just make sure that whatever you do, you continue to have sex with me.”
He leaned over and kissed me while his hands groped under my shirt for my belly. “God, you’re hot.” he said.

Acutely aware of the red lines that would not wash off and delineated my muffin top, it took everything not to pull away from the man who loved me.

In my head, I say, Stay. Stay.

The first day of Ana Forrest’s yoga teacher training was as I suspected. I was the largest women in the room. It’s not that I’m obese, but I carry rolls and padding in a crowd that had nothing extra to spare. It was a significant difference. This did not stop me from walking past every single size-two yogi and plunking my yoga mat down right in front of the teacher. Ana Forrest looked directly at me. I made eye contact back. For the next 30 days I would put my mat down in the same exact spot and every day we would greet each other with our eyes. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

The Hardest Word To Say To Myself

May 20, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Saldez
This morning I woke up, a few times (as been the situation for a while now) until I finally pulled myself out of bed at 7am. This is the latest I can leave my bed if I want to shower, and attempt to look decent for a day of work AND get to work on time.

I have been struggling with sleep for the last few weeks. Nightmares, dreams in constant fast forward motion, and actual panic/anxiety attacks in my sleep. Today it took its toll on me at work. I was attempting to engage in my daily duties during my down time, when I felt ill. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling, but I know it was a combination of feeling light-headed, queasy and not all, together.

On the drive to work, I was having a mental battle with myself over accepting that I have depression in its real form (and not just in feeling low and mis-diagnosed), and between wanting to feel a sense of “normal”, whatever form that may be this week.

I have always known things were harder for me. Situations that I saw other people getting themselves into and out of with relative ease, put me in a horribly crippling position. I couldn’t understand why things to seemed to be easier for some people and not for me. But life and things got in the way of me getting a real diagnosis and some real help, until May 20th last year.

For those who know me, they know the significance of this date, and for those of you who don’t, my mother passed away on May 20th, back in 2004. And last year when I was house-sitting in Sydney and experiencing major panic attacks and anxiety attacks, my gorgeous supportive friend decided it was time to see someone for real about what was happening.

So that date I received my diagnosis, and I accepted it. I also graciously accepted the help that followed. Fast forward to almost ten months later, and I am still receiving the help I need, but am again at war with my mind. You see, I am struggling with forgiveness. That seems to be the hardest word for me in this present time of my life.

I just secured a full time teaching job, after over 15 months of no secure lengthy contracts (read; unemployment), I just joined the gym again (after more than two years away from any gym, although I had yet to go to a class/workout), and things were finally falling into place and looking on the rise. So why the battle with forgiveness? I am not sure. But that battle continued tonight, on the mat.

I have been feeling the pull to yoga for a long time now, and I have purchased books, attempted my own flows both on land and in the pool, but I had yet to go to a class, to experience yoga in a place, that in my mind, filled me with dread.

I know I look nothing like the others in the class, but I went anyway. I never used to wear singlets to the gym, and therefore endured more heat and restriction than I should have, and tonight I came out of the dressing room in a bright pink singlet. NO SLEEVES. And I took myself to the mat, and attempted my first class. As we were lying there, coming into our breath, the instructor asked us to set our intention for the class. She mentioned words like love, happiness, abundance etc, but it was the word forgiveness that hit me like a bullet to my head and heart simultaneously.

I started to tear up. I knew this lesson/session was going to be about forgiveness. And boy, I wasn’t wrong. As I fumbled and attempted my way through the next 60 minutes of poses and stretches and breathing, tears streamed from my face not once but over four times. Each time I tried to do a pose that I struggled in – I heard forgiveness, and cried. For previously, I have never been kind to myself. I am the first to be super harsh and tear myself down. To others, I have pearls of wisdom and compassion and kindness in spades, to myself, hatred, fear, rejection and lack of compassion and forgiveness. I would be the first to pick apart all the parts of myself that weren’t so easy to like. I had been working on loving the parts of me that were easy to like. But somehow, the other stuff was just too hard. Being heavy is hard. Being unkind to myself is hard. I was tearing myself down. This wasn’t anyway to treat myself. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

The Body Remembers. (Vulnerability Alert.)

April 27, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff

Today, on what would be my dad’s 70th birthday. I’m wearing my LOVE sign for him. I wept watching Parenthood last night in bed here in Seattle. (I’m almost finished with the show so please, no spoilers.) I miss my dad every day. I feel cheated every day. I will never “get over it” but yet, I am here. I am not dead. I get out of bed. (Most days.) I lost my license in security and felt frustrated and upset even though I was wearing my LOVE sign. And then I realized that it was his birthday and how the body remembers. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Self Love

When You Stop Loving Yourself.

April 21, 2015
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Trigger warning: Mention of rape, sexual assault.

By Sarah Noelle

Over the last year, something very strange has started to happen to me. Something that’s been missing from my life for a very long time has begun to rear its beautiful head:

I’ve started to re-love myself.

Now, I know this may sound strange to some. Um, you stopped loving yourself? Why the h-e-double hockey sticks would you go & do something like that? Did something happen to cause it? What changed it back? TELL US!! Trust, I have asked myself all of these questions & many more over the last 17 years.

When I was 17, I had a very serious boyfriend. I was head over heels for this boyfriend. I gave myself fully to this boyfriend, knowing full well of the promise I’d made to my future husband to wait for whoever he was. And when, through some life circumstances, said boyfriend & I ended up having to part ways in August of that year, I was wrecked. But, I slowly picked up the pieces of my heart, went to summer camp for a month, sought God, began to heal my broken heart, & prepared for my senior year of high school. I decided that I was going to save myself for the man I was meant to be with from then on out. I had lost my first real love & wanted to now focus on me, & eventually finding my Unicorn one day that I was waiting for again. By October, everything changed.

You see, I was raped by a close friend that I had known for a few years. Someone I trusted. Someone I thought would never hurt me. And in that one brief encounter, in a matter of moments, my whole view of myself, & the world around me, shattered, altered, & shifted. I told myself it was my fault. I had brought this on myself. I had somehow put out there that I was free for the taking. Given some sort of vibe that this was okay. That if someone I trusted, someone I cared for, someone I thought respected me could do that to me, maybe I really wasn’t worth any more than that. That maybe that is how men were meant to see me, how I was supposed to be viewed. An object. A means to an end. An empty vessel to be used. If one of my best friends couldn’t honor my body, why should I bother honoring it myself anymore. And this uncontrollable beast who craved control was unleashed. I didn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t. I thought I had caused it. So, instead of reaching out, getting help, or not believing the lies running rampant through my head & heart, I just stopped loving myself.

I stopped caring what happened to me. I started acting like I was invincible & that nothing could hurt me, damage me, or break me, all the while I was hurt, I was damaged, & I was broken…but wearing a masked smile so no one was the wiser.— Sarah Noelle

 

I stopped loving myself at just under a month shy of 18 years old. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Words Lost and Found

April 9, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Margaret Finnegan

She was in the tub singing Christmas carols. Mid-verse, she stopped. I said, “Are you okay?” She didn’t answer, and I knew then that everything had fallen apart. That after seven years seizure-free, my twelve-year-old daughter, Sia, was having a seizure. But what I didn’t know was that at that moment we were losing her, or, rather, we were losing the essence of her. And it wasn’t to the epilepsy. No. It was to the drug that was supposed to help her.

I should make it clear that I am a big believer in western medicine. I believe in vaccinations and mammograms and pills of all sizes and shapes. But this I know, when it comes to controlling seizures, everything is guesswork: Here, take this yellow pill. No luck? Add the blue pill. Still no luck? How about the white pill? Which leads me to Topamax, a little white pill about the size of one of your smaller baby teeth.

Topamax is an anti-convulsant, and it’s sometimes called dopamax because it makes you stupid, which is why no one starts your kid on Topamax right away. They wait until a bunch of other medications prove ineffective and then they prescribe Topamax. By the time Sia was prescribed Topamax two years after that day I found her in the tub, she had gone from being a spunky if quirky girl to a monster of fear. She was afraid to bathe because of the tub incident. She would say she had showered when she had only gotten her hair wet, and when she got to school her hair would dry into oily ribbons, and on her face she would wear a look of abject terror, and if anyone would talk to her she would tell them how scared she was that she might have a seizure. Of course, those are all excellent ways to drive away friends and to mark yourself as the sick, weak wildebeest of the middle school savanna. Kids she didn’t even know would follow her in the halls and yell, “seizure, seizure, seizure.” Whenever a teacher left the room, boys would turn the classroom lights on and off, knowing full well–because she told them–that flashing lights could actually cause her to have a seizure.

When you are watching your child fall deep into the rabbit hole of victimization and anxiety and depression and friendlessness and hopelessness and seizures, you eventually reach a place where you start to say, “You know what we should do? We should totally remove half her brain,” because that is a treatment for epilepsy. Neurosurgeons remove the part of the brain where the seizures originate and oftentimes that will stop the seizures. But Sia was not a good candidate for brain surgery so instead we continued her on a horrible cocktail of drugs that included the stupid pill, Topamax. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

The Letter No One Wrote My Mother

April 8, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Shawna Ayoub Ainslie.

Dear Mother,

There is so much I need to say to you, because you are a sister to me. In a new way, now. We share a fear of seeing anger in a man’s eyes. We share a fear of those we love being hurt, and hurting those we love. We share a fear of hurting. This love is beyond friendship. We are betrayed. I want to hold you. I want to make myself safe for you. Always, you can cling to me.

For hours, I have walked my floors and washed my hands with tears. You are precious to me. I have known you since your daughter was a baby. With you, I have loved her and watched her grow. Both of you are family to me. I know I said it all wrong yesterday. You left and I thought and thought about how I should have said what I owe it to you and your beautiful daughter to say. Yesterday, I was surprised by what you told me. I was reminded of my history, and I tangled the two. I spoke in sticky webs. Today, I have paced, cried, and vowed to untangle my story from yours. I am putting it to paper.

Here it is.

Fact One: Your husband is hurting your child. He is hitting her. He is kicking her. He is shouting at her, belittling her, destroying her every day.

You believe you are on top of it, though. At the end of each day, you try to reverse any damage. You tell her how wonderful she is. How beautiful. How smart. You say words at her that are the glorious truth of her existence. You tell her he doesn’t mean it when he hurts her. That’s just how he is. He can’t help it. Look at how he was raised.

Fact Two: You are hurting her, too. Every time you try to reverse the damage with words, you reinforce it. Why? Because you let the damage happen in the first place. You choose not to stop it. Every time you tell her that he doesn’t mean it, or that he can’t help hurting her, you are hurting her just as much as your husband is. Maybe worse.

Why? Because someone has to be to blame. If you say it is not him, that means it is either you or her. Since she is the one he is hurting, she will believe it is her. Until she grows up. Then, one horrible day, she will realize it is you. You should have stopped it. Because, when you say that he can’t help himself, you are saying you believe he will never stop hurting her. That he can’t stop hurting her. And you keep him around and let him hurt her. That makes it your fault.

Fact Three: You never knew that you would abuse your child.

You don’t accept what I’m saying.

You do accept what I’m saying.

You hate yourself.

You hate me.

You feel betrayed.

Why am I saying this? This is not your fault.

How could this be happening?

I can tell you. It is real. It is absolutely real. You are hurting your child. You never meant to do it. But you are doing it. And it is happening because, like your daughter, you are also a victim. You know it is true. She is not the only one he tears down. She is not the only one he holds hostage with the fear of that anger in his eyes.

I am so, so sorry.

You feel confused. You don’t know what to do. You packed his bags and met him at the door one night. Told him you wanted him to leave. Things had to change. Somehow, he stayed. Somehow, you let him stay.

You feel angry. Why is he still there? You want him to leave. You want him to make this easy. He could just get out. Why doesn’t he?

You feel guilty. If you turn him out, you’re giving up. And hasn’t he had a hard enough time of life already? You are his partner. You made a commitment. You need to keep your family together.

You feel sad. Continue Reading…

eating disorder, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

Losing My Soul Sister To An Eating Disorder

April 6, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jessica Lucas.

Some of this content may be triggering to anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder.

It was the day of the Leeza talk show taping. The topic: eating disorders. I walked into the Hollywood studio prepared to talk about the one thing that tormented and tortured me every day, anorexia, and I had never felt so overwhelmed, frightened, and ALONE – even as I was surrounded by hundreds of studio audience members.

“No one understands. No one gets it. No one can relate. No one will care. I’ll sound crazy. I’m not sick enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not articulate enough. I’m not thin enough. I won’t make any sense. I am all alone.” The all too familiar harsh criticisms and relentless fears ran through my mind more quickly than I could slow them down or resist them.

As I began to feel like a deer in the spotlights – visibly shaking, paralyzed with fear, drained of all color, wondering what I’d gotten myself into and ready to turn and run away – the studio wrangler led me to my seat near the stage.

Immediately, I was drawn to the woman with the comforting smile, Bo Derek-like braids in her blonde hair, and big blue eyes sitting in front of me. I knew her, but I didn’t know her. I loved her, but I’d never met her. I related to her, but we’d never spoken. We were best friends, but I’d never seen her before. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

The Proposal

March 28, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Andrea Jarrell

Brad and I met making get-out-the-vote calls for an aspiring California State Assemblyman. In the beginning, our love for each other and for the city of angels was entwined. I’d moved back to L.A. after my breakup and was happy to be home again claiming my city. Brad lived in a neighborhood I’d never known existed – a barrio recently discovered by a few hipsters from nearby Hollywood. Rival gangs tagged the apartments along his street. There was a guy we thought might be homeless who sat on a nearby wall drinking tallboys, his belly hanging over his pants. We good-morninged him and the rest of the neighbors in the determined but naïve belief that being neighborly was all it would take to get past the recent Rodney King riots.

The first time we went out was a Friday night dinner, which turned into breakfast the next morning. Saturday biking in the Santa Monica mountains turned into slow dancing in his living room that led to Sunday brunch that led to the late show of Blade Runner at the Rialto – on a school night, no less. Sunday night led us to Monday morning carpooling to work. We moved in shortly thereafter. From the start everything was easy with Brad. Even that first weekend when I’d waited for an inevitable awkwardness – when surely we would realize we needed our own space – but that moment never came.

The night he proposed, we were having dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, a kitschy Italian place on Vermont where the waiters served thin-crust pizza on tall table stands and sang opera. We were sitting in a red leather booth when he turned to me and said the very words: “Will you marry me?”

It’s all happening, I thought. Those words I’d anticipated all my life. “Yes, yes,” I said. “Of course. I love you. Yes.” Afterward, we went to the Dresden Room – a lounge next door – to toast our future over Manhattans.

But five months later, while talking with friends about our impending nuptials, he denied he’d been the one to say the words. I tried not to cry when he said it was I who’d asked him. Our friends tried to change the subject. Like a needle scratching across a record, the evening came to an abrupt halt.

Perhaps because we were so in sync about everything else, it didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme. The proposal became like a spill of red wine on new carpet, gasp-worthy in the moment, then a fading stain you winced at only when you made yourself notice.

We planned to go to Paris for our honeymoon. We chose rings, a cake, and a wedding meal to serve to family and friends. Along with nine other couples, we went to a Making Marriage Work class that was like a version of The Newlywed Game. At one point, we were asked to switch partners and converse with the opposite-sex member of another couple. “Notice your increased heart rate with a stranger,” our teacher instructed us. “Your quickening pulse, the flirtation, the intrigue, the pressure to seduce. That’s how it was when you first met your partner, right? Remember that. Keep it alive.”

Listening to the other couples in class, we counted ourselves lucky that we didn’t have the kind of meddling parents they described. Our parents, divorced and married more than once, cast a sober eye on the whole endeavor and gave us money – an equal share from each – to do with what we wanted. By then, my mother had married and left my father for the second time. I wasn’t even telling my father about the wedding for fear he’d show up drunk.

Our class teacher, who was a marriage therapist, told us that sex, money, and not agreeing on big issues (such as having children) before the wedding were always the underlying causes of broken marriages. We wondered who would be dumb enough not to agree about the kid question before getting married? Wanting kids was something we’d talked about early. As for money, we’d already opened a joint bank account and pooled our resources. And when the teacher read (anonymously) everyone’s answers to the question of how many times we wanted sex each week, I just knew that we were the two who’d given the highest numbers. We took satisfaction in the fact that, if we’d been playing The Newlywed Game for real, we’d be winning.

On a sunny September morning, we married. Making our entrance at the same time, we descended opposite marble staircases in an historic building in the heart of downtown. I wore a dress made of vintage French lace. The candidate we’d volunteered for when we met officiated at the ceremony. We had a wedding lunch on the deck of a low-key, but trendy restaurant off Vine Street in Hollywood. Instead of rice, our friends tossed environmentally-friendly birdseed. They gave us a pair of new mountain bikes festooned with bows. And when the Chateau Marmont where we’d planned to stay for our first night of marriage – another L.A. icon – felt more like a grandmother’s dowdy guest room than the elegant suite we’d envisioned, we made our first important decision as a married couple.

The bellhop had just left. Champagne was on its way. We turned to each other and said, “Let’s leave,” in unison. We practically skipped out of the lobby, checking into the Bel Age on Sunset instead. In plushy bathrobes the next morning, enjoying breakfast on the balcony overlooking the city, we congratulated ourselves for not settling. We were elated that we each knew the other’s heart and mind so well.

* * *

Five days short of our first wedding anniversary, I’d gone to bed early. I had a big day at work the next morning – alarm clock set, my suit, shoes, and jewelry laid out. I’d left my husband in the living room watching television after bending down to kiss him goodnight.

Hours later, I remember waking with the moon shining gray-blue through the curtains. He was beside me, then over me, his randy mood obvious. He didn’t know that, in that moment, he’d reminded me of my ex—and the salty guilt I’d sometimes felt in my previous relationship when I would wake to find that other man taking off my clothes and I would go along with him just to keep the peace. Sometimes submitting timidly, victimized. Sometimes responding fiercely as if I could get back at him through sex. My husband also didn’t know how relieved I was that, in the dark of our room, I didn’t feel fear as I had with my ex. That I knew I could tell him I needed to sleep, and he would still love me.

The next morning, we were standing in the kitchen dressed and ready to go our separate ways, when I said, “I didn’t know who you were last night.”

In his starched white shirt and navy tie with the little green squares that I liked, he looked at me, startled. He’d been about to take a sip of coffee but stopped. “Why, what do you mean?”

“You know,” I said. “It was just kind of weird. You knew I had to get up early to get ready for my meeting.”

Through gold-rimmed glasses that always struck me as a Clark Kent disguise, his blue eyes searched me. He didn’t tell me then – coffee cup in hand, me on my way out the door – but he had no idea what I was talking about.

* * *

It wasn’t until after work that evening, sitting in our living room, that he told me his version of what had happened the night before. He had no recollection of coming to our room. He didn’t remember waking me. He didn’t remember me pushing him away or telling him no. I learned that morning had been like many other mornings we’d shared: him asking me questions, gathering intel, trying to piece together the previous night’s blackout. Only this time, I’d said something that scared him: I didn’t know who you were.

Then he confessed that he’d thought it would be different with me. That from that first weekend we’d stayed together, I’d become the talisman he held up to an addiction he’d been hiding since he was fifteen. He told me that after I’d gone to bed, he’d finished the wine we’d opened at dinner and then he’d finished another bottle. And then he wasn’t himself. And for the first time, I’d seen him that way.

As we sat on our Sven couch from Ikea, I looked at our wedding picture on a nearby shelf. I stared at my stupid smiling face and bouquet of gardenias. I’d been duped. I didn’t really know my husband at all. How had the child of an alcoholic, gambling, pill-popping family ignored the clues? Why hadn’t I noticed these morning interrogations as he tried to reconstruct our activities together?

Or had I? Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, healing

Greg, Me, Pain and The Long, Soft, Green Grass

March 27, 2015
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TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or rape which may be triggering to survivors.

By Audrey Freudberg.

Greg.

I met him at the outpatient psychiatric program at UCLA.

May, 1996.

He held my hand when I was afraid.

And I was afraid there all the time.

Afraid of the men, especially, because

of the rape.

The rape.

The rape.

The rape.

 

October 1990.

This Minister I was seeing for counseling,

he came to my apartment so I could talk, be comforted, be guided.

Only that afternoon, October 7th, he didn’t let me talk.

He didn’t comfort me and he sure didn’t guide me.

That afternoon he came to my apartment on the pretext of helping me.

He didn’t help me at all.

He helped himself to me, laughing at me the whole time I said No, I don’t want this.

He said, “You want this.  All real women want this.” and ejaculated his slime into my mouth and laughed again because he came in my mouth when I’d told him not to.

He spread himself all over and in my body and broke me into a million pieces of despair and hopelessness.

Hours later he glanced at his watch and said, “Oh shit, I have to go.”  He laughed at me, as he pulled on and zipped up his pants.

I stumbled off the couch and stood, bewildered, lost and no longer me.

He was me and I was gone, sucked up and into his drab olive body.

He laughed again and as he walked out the door he said, “You’re not a nun anymore.”

The screen door slammed behind him and I heard the stomping of his footsteps as he went down the stairs outside my apartment.

I stood, half naked, a few feet from the door, wide open, looking at the screen door.  staring at the screen door.  Soul rotted and stinking of him.

Where was I?

Looking down from the ceiling to where I’d escaped as he violated me in every way on that couch.

Dissociation.

It’s the only thing that kept me from going into the kitchen, getting knife and stabbing it into my chest.

The pain was

unbearable

The shame

was unbearable

The terror

filled my body

as it stood there

and I watched me

walk into the kitchen

to get the Carob Chip cookie I had bought at The Good Earth restaurant earlier that day.

Day?

Night?

It was dark.

The light was on but

it was dark in the kitchen

dark in my heart

dark in my soul.

I ate the cookie

every last little chip and crumb

but still

the pain was

unbearable

the shame was

unbearable

I felt disgusting.

 

Greg held my hand when I had to walk into the group room where the other patients stood chatting and talking or sat quiety on the couches waiting for process group.

 

I wasn’t afraid of Greg.  His soul wasn’t drab and murky olive.  It was shiny, glowing green.  Green like the leaves of the trees in the springtime.

He took my hand in his and as we walked into the room, the shattered pieces of my heart began piecing together, bit by bit.

 

One day we took a picnic lunch to the Botanical Gardens.  I was wearing a mustard yellow shirt with a red, mustard yellow, black and white jumper over it.

A dress.  I was wearing a dress for the first time since

the rape.

The first time because after

the rape

it hadn’t felt safe to

wear dresses.

Greg and I walked hand in hand into the gardens and found a spot on the hill on the west side with long, soft, green grass, green like the leaves in the springtime, green like the kindness of Greg’s soul.

 

We ate our lunch and then

Greg took me onto his lap and wrapped his arms around me.

Safe.

I felt safe with Greg.

Safe for the first time, since

the rape,

since maybe ever.

All I knew was my breath slowed to an easy rhythm, the palpitations in my heart disappeared, the cold in my fingers and toes warmed and I

snuggled in against his beating heart and warm body.

I turned and then we faced each other

and he kissed me

and I kissed him back

for the first time since

the rape

since the Minister bit my lips til they bled.

Greg was gentle, his lips moving softly

against mine.

My heart filled with love

For the first time since before

the rape.

The armor around it melted as I melted

into Greg’s embrace.

My heart opened and filled with love

and I

fell.

I fell in love with Greg

that warm afternoon

in the Botanical Gardens at UCLA.

 

We kissed a long while

and there was excitement

in my belly

for the first time since before

the rape.

Excitement and hope and longing

Greg fed my longings with loving kisses

and I fell

I fell in love again that afternoon

More in love with each moment.

My heart was full and

I didn’t remember the coldness that set in

after

the rape.

The warmth in Greg

warmed me up

and I felt

warm and loved and alive

for the first time since

long before the rape.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Self Image, Self Love, Yoga

Teaching Yoga To Teen Girls With Sexual Trauma and The Connection To Us All

March 26, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anne Falkowski.

 

I had my own sexual trauma at thirteen. It took only a few minutes. I can’t remember it all, but can still feel the pebbles and grit embedded in my opened-up palms, see my ripped jeans, and taste the blood inside my mouth from where my face was shoved into the ground. I can still smell their boozed-up breath on my neck and feel their thick hands and fingers. It was a one time event, but my perpetrators went to school with me. I had to face all three of them for the next five years in classrooms and even at parties. I had no one to talk to, no therapy, no coping strategy.

I begged my parents and the male police officer, who spoke with me about it immediately afterwards, to drop it. I gave no details. Details would have made me cry.

I’ll be fine.” I said.

What I wanted to say was, “Shut up. Shut up.

And like a miracle, they did. My parents and the cop, they shut up. In a span of less than fifteen minutes, they were gone.

I was left alone with the sound of my body hitting the pavement hard and the boys laughing and squealing in my head. It was like taking a deep inhale, closing off your ears, eyes, nose and mouth, and never exhaling again. I failed to mention “the event” again until I was 30 and in therapy for self-hatred so thick, I could stir it. Thanks God for the panic attacks that led me to the office of a persistent and wise therapist. I had no idea my low self-esteem and carefully hidden self-destructive behaviors were linked to what happened at thirteen.  All I knew was I had spiraled to a black bottom and couldn’t find my way back up. Continue Reading…

Binders, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

The Ghost of You

March 24, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Piper Selden

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”  ― Salman Rushdie

Serenity House, Room 114. Hidden on a hillside among Santa Barbara’s majestic coastal oaks. The slick ad reads like a vacation destination. It is not. Serenity House is a hospice facility, a place people go when they can no longer live at home. It’s a place people go to die.

 

In my mind’s eye, the door to Room 114 is closed because I wasn’t there when you died, when they blessed your body and anointed it with oils. When the ghost of you didn’t haunt me.

In my deepest dream-space, you are still alive in that room. Heart pounding, I know my biggest fear is beyond the heavy oak door, and I must enter alone. I press the cold metal handle and walk inside.

You are there, propped in bed and shirtless, not dressed in a jewel-toned silk shirt, like the ones you used to wear. I place blessed salt on your chest. You, for purifying, salt of the earth, my father. And me, for salting the dark field of my childhood. I don’t want to go back. I can’t.

Enough salt, enough tears. We’re free to love and forgive now in new spirit bodies. Continue Reading…

death, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Steele Grey, Part II

March 21, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Julia Cassels.

Read Part I here.

My brother and I retreat through the vestibule of the funeral home. I pick my way through four inches of uncleared snow in the parking lot, navigating in my oh-so-appropriate black stiletto knee-high boots, and climb back into the cab of his pick-up.  I slam the door as he starts the engine, and reach for the pack of cigarettes we had bought for the occasion on the dash. “Where’s the fucking lighter?” Jeff fishes through his coat pocket, pulls out an AC/DC lighter, and passes it over as the heater in the truck comes to life.

“Where to?”

“Lager’s.  Now.” A divey bar with peanut shells on the floor, orange vinyl booths, and wagon-wheel light fixtures. A decor mode not uncommon in that part of the world. Perfectly appropriate to a day such as this.

Rap, rap, rap.

There is a man at the window of the pick up. He is wedged between the window and the side mirrors which extend far out in this monster of a truck.

I look to Jeff. “Oh shit. Are you kidding me?” I hit the automatic button to roll down the window, against my better judgment, although ignoring him and leaving the parking lot would have resulted in taking this poor guy out with the side mirrors.

“You must be Julie. We didn’t get a chance to speak. I’m Pastor Dave.” He is breathless, partially from the four degree weather and his lack of a coat, and partially from the chase he just gave us out of my father’s viewing.

“Yes?”

“Are you coming to the memorial service?”

“Um. I don’t think so, no.”

“Can we talk for a moment?”

“I don’t believe there is anything to talk about.”

“And you are?” He leans further into my window. I move the cigarette to my left hand, trying to keep the smoke out of his face, and let it burn.

“I’m Jeff. That asshole in there was my step-father.” Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Do you want to be well? Lessons from Grief.

March 17, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Vanessa Mártir.

When my brother Carlos died in June of 2013, I did two things: I threw myself into my writing and I started devouring stories and essays, anecdotes, blog postings, anything and everything related to grief. I was looking to make sense of this senseless loss; how my querido hermano finally succumbed to his fifteen year heroin addiction at the far too young age of 41.

(Cheryl Strayed’s “Heroin/e” quickly became a favorite I revisited many times. Then there was her essay “The Love of my Life” and David Sedaris’s “Now We Are Five” and so many more that I can’t even begin to list.)

I wanted proof that I wasn’t going crazy. Something to explain the knot in my throat that I couldn’t seem to swallow or cry out or scream through.

I needed someone to tell me that this grief would pass because it seemed impossible that it could. That the vise grip it had on my throat would loosen.

I needed to know that I would survive this feeling of dying. The tiny little deaths I endured daily when people who did not know how to handle my grief said things that felt more like knives than comfort (“you’re strong, you’ll be okay” “he’s in a better place now” “everything happens for a reason”); when I heard Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car or smelled his cologne on a passing stranger; or that time I swore I saw him in a crowd and I freaked, ran toward him, only to have this stranger look at me like I was a lunatic. The thing is, in that moment I was. I was losing my shit.

I was terrified that I would forget him, his voice, that mischievous twinkle in his eye when he came up with a scheme that would make mom scream and chase us.

I was desperate for people to know who he was. Not just the heroin and how he lost himself in it and stole and manipulated. I wanted them to know him when he was my Superman, how he loved and believed in me, what he taught me about love and life and survival, and how so much of who I am, my fierce, my “fuck that, I got this,” I owe to him.

During the holidays of that year, I went into a really dark place. If I had to pick a day when it started, I’d say it was Thanksgiving. I shot out of bed, completely unable to breathe. It was like my breath was caught in my trachea. I was choking on my grief. All I kept thinking was: He should be here. He should be here. Carajo, he should be here. I called my aunt who is very much a surrogate mother to me. I couldn’t even talk. All I could do was sob into the phone. “Come over,” she said. “Come over right now.” I woke up my daughter who stared at me with those huge, expressive eyes of hers that tell you exactly how she’s feeling—she was scared for her mama. We ran the three blocks to aunt’s house in our pajamas. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth. Later that day, one of her boys (I don’t remember which one) came with me to pick up clothes. My aunt made sure we weren’t alone. I didn’t get home until late into the night.

It was after that that I picked up a chair and sat in my grief. I went willingly into an abyss I was scared I would stay in or wouldn’t know how to claw out of. (I’m picturing that scene from Silence of the Lambs when Buffalo Bill lowers a bucket into that torture pit chamber of his and you get a glimpse of the blood and fingernails and scratch marks on the wall.) That’s when I started reading everything I could get my hands on about depression, how grief can trigger it, the dangers, the menace.

Despite this, I didn’t acknowledge my depression until sometime in February, when the blackness started to ebb and I could see light on the edges. It was blue and shadowy, almost grey, like powder. What mattered most was that it wasn’t all black. It symbolized hope.

Continue Reading…