Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wife

The question I'm asked most often now, other than, "When are you having a baby?" (answer: NEVER NOT NOW), is "How do you like being married?"

I love it. I love it more than I thought I would. I fell in love with it the night of our wedding, when we got back to our hotel room and just hung out in bed together (after I took a long shower to wash all the crap out of my hair and the make-up off of my face), reading our cards and talking about the day. I was exhausted but didn't want to go to sleep. When I woke up the next morning and thought about it, tears came to my eyes. We were married. It really happened. Sometimes, even a month later, it's still hard for me to believe that it really did take place. I've watched our wedding highlight video six times (Rob: "Really?"), and I still can't believe it.

Rob and I had the privilege and the experience of being together for over eight years prior to our wedding day, and living together for more than six. Needless to say, he did not expect marriage to be any different. I had a feeling it might be, but I wasn't sure how. The day to day is the same. We go to work, we come home, we do chores, we watch tv, and occasionally I nag him about something (#wifeperks). It's the emotional part of being married that is this huge and yet subtle change in our relationship. In some ways, I feel like I have fallen in love with Rob all over again as my husband. At first, I thought this was because we were in Hawaii on our honeymoon. Let's face it, if you can't feel the love on a beautiful beach with a cocktail in your hand, you've got problems.

On Maui on the last day of our honeymoon trip
What surprised me is that the feeling followed us home on that exhausting plane ride back to Orlando. I think part of that is a discussion we had, which is for another blog post, about taking our honeymoon home with us. Part of it is just being married.

I find myself thinking a lot about our vows to each other. We actually talk about them quite a bit, and I hope that is something that will still remain with us throughout the years. We wrote our own vows, which meant a lot to me. I love to write (hi, you're reading my blog), and Rob is the kind of person who is very sweet to me and tells me how he feels to my face, but if you look at any of the greeting cards I've saved from over the years, they normally have "Love, Rob" written on the bottom. No additional sentiment needed. He usually allows Hallmark to do the job of expressing his feelings for him (well done, greeting card companies of America). Meanwhile, I always write a novel on his cards and pour my heart out. I wanted Rob to write his own vows to me because I wanted to hear in his own words how he felt and what this marriage meant to him. As nervous as he was about writing them, he did an awesome job. After the ceremony, people talked about his vows to the point where I actually felt a little miffed. You can see/hear us recite our vows to each other in this highlight video: 




I say all of that to say that those words became very important to both of us very quickly. We quote lines to each other (sometimes in jest, sometimes not) often. More importantly, I find myself reflecting upon my words to him. I want so much to live up to what I said I would do, and I find myself trying every day to do just that. I've always known that the two of us have a very healthy relationship, but I have not always handled conflict to the best of my ability. Part of that was my choices, and part of that was what I was struggling with in terms of depression and other mental health issues I was experiencing. When I started dealing with both of those issues, I noticed that the way I handled conflict improved exponentially. I don't flip out over small things. I handle them calmly and most of the time they don't escalate. Of course, I'm pretty self-congratulatory about this and I'll say to Rob, "DID YOU SEE THAT??? Did you see how well I handled that?" 

I try to be more patient and more understanding. Rob wasn't feeling well a few weeks ago and I REALLY had to live up to what I said about taking care of him when he is sick. I usually get annoyed with him for whining, but I really made the effort this time. That's what I find myself doing, now that I'm a wife. I thought I was putting in enough effort before we were married, but now I realize that I can do so much more to be a better partner. I think every married woman has a different idea of what a wife's role is, and I knew I would be setting the bar high for myself. To me, being married is about "we" and not "me". Again, something I always thought I was doing before, but it's different to me now. I wanted to be more selfless, more supportive, and more patient. To pitch in more, even when I felt like I was doing my share. It's true what they say: relationships are not 50/50 most of the time. Sometimes it's 60/40, 70/30. Instead of keeping score, I try to have the mindset that this is all for our family. So it's really 100/100 all the time.

I did not expect the happiness, the sheer joy of being married to the person I love the most. I did not know this happiness existed. The feeling, the concept of happiness, has been an elusive thing for me for a long time. As I've shared before, I have struggled with depression since I was young. Happiness has always felt fleeting to me, and I don't know if I would ever describe myself as being a happy person. But what I feel now, and where I am now in my life and in my relationship lights me from within. It's pure joy. I worry sometimes that perhaps this is only temporary, and maybe it will go away and we will become some jaded married couple. I think a lot of that has to do with choice, though, and right now I am choosing to keep that feeling and that appreciation for my husband and our marriage alive.

For now, I'm still asking Rob, "Did that really happen? Can you believe we are really married?"


Sometimes I just have to look at the evidence to make sure I didn't imagine it. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Over A Cliff

Today marks one month since we've been married. What a month it's been so far! After we got married on the 8th, we took off to Hawaii for eight days in Oahu and Maui. We had such a blast relaxing together...and trying not to die on the hikes Rob took us on. For those who do not know my husband, let me say that the word "adventurous" is not one anyone would use to describe his personality. Yet, on our honeymoon, he decided to take us on hikes in places with warning signs like this:


I don't know what got into "Island Rob", but this is not my idea of a good time. I much prefer someone serving me drinks and appetizers by the pool. Or a spa treatment. Or a walk on the beach. But I did it anyway, because my husband wanted to see the red sand beaches. The guidebook (which became his best pal on this trip) said they were rare and spectacular. Had I not been so terrified and trying to focus on not falling off of a cliff (yes, an actual cliff), I would have taken photos of the two-foot narrow spaces we walked on, or the tree roots I had to hang onto to climb down. Perhaps there would be video of me crying with snot running out of my nose on my way down to said beach. 


What was I talking about? Oh, yes, my marriage. That particular hike taught me a lot about being married. By the time we got down to the actual beach, I was in tears, spitting mad, with my nose running. 

"I don't know WHO you think I am," I said, "but I am not the athletic type who can do this kind of crap. I was terrified up there!" That's the edited version of what I said. Rob apologized profusely and tried to comfort me. 

"But you did it!" he said. I looked back up at the cliff. I had done it. I have this habit of thinking that because of my weight, I am limited in what I can do, which is complete and utter bullshit. I may not be able to run a five minute mile, but I am a healthy person and I can exercise without dying. There's just this voice in my head that tells me I can't. Going down and up the cliff was actually not that physically strenuous for me (although climbing back up while hanging on to barbed wire and tall weeds for support - no, I am not lying - was not easy). It was my fear that was the most difficult part. My husband doesn't see me as this limited, incapable person. My body size is inconsequential to him. He knows I can do whatever I set my mind to. I may not always be the fastest, but he believes I can do it. 

"Thank you for believing in me more than I believe in myself," I said. I hugged him. And then we had to go back up the cliff, which was a hell of a lot easier. I realized on our way back up that these were some important early marriage lessons. Sometimes we won't know the way. Sometimes the path we walk together will be dangerous. Sometimes we will have to go over rough terrain. One or both of us may slip and fall. One of us may have to lead the other through it. We will have to trust one another. We can't just quit halfway through (although, dammit, in this case, I really did try). Sometimes we will be afraid and we will have to comfort each other. We will have to hold hands and offer encouragement, even when one (or both) of us is frustrated. But as long as we have each other, we can make it through anything. And sometimes, it just may lead to somewhere beautiful. 




Sunday, December 7, 2014

Married

If you've read our love story, you know that getting married is something Rob and I have been looking forward to for many years. Up until last year, it was never the right time for us to get engaged. We were in graduate school, starting our careers, and really, starting our adult lives. When we got engaged, for a while it felt like, "FINALLY!" But I also knew that the wait had been the right decision, and that it was worth it.

We planned our wedding for about fifteen months, and on November 8th, the day finally came. It was, in a word, incredible. Our venue was gorgeous. Just about everyone we loved came from near and far to celebrate with us. The DJ played all the songs we loved and had everyone dancing for hours. The photographer and videographer were simply incredible. Just the sample photos I have seen so far are amazing. The food was killer: steak, lobster, salad, cake, coffee, you name it! No one went hungry, that is for sure. The flowers were UNREAL. The cake was delicious. The Photo Booth was so much fun. Everyone had a great time, especially us. I had prepared myself to feel rushed, crazed, and not be able to really enjoy it due to the frenzy of the whole event. I've heard so many brides tell me that it is a blur and goes by so quickly. It was nothing like that for me, and I think that was because the two of us discussed it beforehand and decided we would NOT do that. I told Rob I wanted to spend the day with him, and that's exactly what we did. Other than separating to get ready and a few times during the reception, we were together all day and all night.

I cried when we did our "first look" and saw each other for the first time all dressed up. All he had to do was turn around and say, "You're beautiful!" and I was done. Rob remembers this as me crying just a little. I remember this as me dissolving into a puddle of tears. I suppose we will see who is right on the video. For once, I hope I am wrong. ;) It was so overwhelming to see Rob in his tux, knowing that in just a few hours we would be married. It hit me all at once that the day we had waited for was finally here. I know the "first look" concept is fairly new, and goes a little against tradition, but I loved it. I loved that we had a moment all our own to see each other on that day before the ceremony. The ceremony was still just as emotional as it could be, but I had much less anxiety having seen Rob beforehand.

We laughed and cried when we read our vows to each other. We wrote our own, and we had seen each other's vows beforehand, but there was something about saying them in front of everyone we loved, to each other, that was so special to us both.

I loved our first dance. We chose "I'll Follow You" by Shinedown as our wedding song. This was a huge debate for many months, because Rob's main priority was who sings the song, while my main priority was the lyrics and what it meant. I think Rob would have chosen "Back That Thing Up", had the Red Hot Chili Peppers deigned to do a cover. Shinedown is a band we both like, whom we saw in concert when we were in college and the band was not nearly as famous as it is now. I have really sweet memories of that concert, so when I googled "Shinedown  wedding song" and found this, I knew it was the one.




I loved dancing with him to it, and when the drums kick in, I heard one of our guests cry out, "Woooo!" Like they were at a concert. It cracked me up. I think about that every time I listen to it and smile.


I loved dancing with my family and my friends. I loved the speeches our friends and my brother-in-law gave. I loved the music and the food. I especially loved the very end of the night, when we had all of our guests and vendors leave so that we could dance one last time to a favorite song. I was exhausted but exhilarated at that point, and I loved just closing my eyes, laying my head on my husband's chest, and dancing with him in an empty room as we talked about the day and processed what had just taken place. 

It was, without a doubt, the most perfect day of my life, and definitely one of the best overall. But even better than that is being married. There will definitely be more posts to come on my life as a newlywed. Tomorrow, it will be one month since our special day. I have been blown away by the amount of sheer joy and happiness being married to my best friend has brought into my life. I absolutely love what this new chapter in our lives has been like thus far, and can't wait to spend many more happy years together as a married couple. 




Saturday, December 6, 2014

If you're still listening, I'm still talking

It's been so long that I almost forgot how I actually log on in the first place. First, let me say that I've missed this, and I hope some people are still out there to read it. I've missed blogging and writing in general so much. I stopped for quite some time for many reasons, but the main one was that I was feeling truly miserable because I was in a bad situation, and I didn't know how to write in a blog without talking about what was happening to me. So instead, I stopped talking.

In September, I went to Atlanta with my mom to attend Oprah's "The Life You Want" tour.
That time I was five feet from Oprah. No biggie.



My mom had purchased tickets months before. She had the idea that we needed to do a girls' trip together before I got married in November. Right before this trip, however, my grandmother passed away. It was devastating for both of us. My grandmother showed me a kind of love that just does not exist for me from anyone else (except my grandpa...it's a grandparent thing), and she was such a huge influence on my life. One of the most important people in my world. So I wondered if we should even go to this tour. My mom insisted we would, and I am so, so grateful we did. It truly changed my life. 
Oprah was amazing (I mean, she's OPRAH), but the person who impacted me most was Elizabeth Gilbert. Have you read Eat Pray Love? That's her. Within the first five minutes of her speaking, I was in tears. Let me stop for a moment and say that I am not normally the type of person who cries at things like the Oprah tour. I joke that I am kind of heartless at times. I didn't cry watching Titanic, for goodness sake ("Just LET GO, Jack!"). However, when I can truly relate to something someone else is saying, it hits me hard. This was one of those times. 

 Elizabeth was talking about coming to a place in your life when you are absolutely miserable. Crying on the bathroom floor, miserable. And at the time, I was there. I had spent over a year in misery, and it was affecting everything and everyone in my life. I didn't know how to go on, and at times I wasn't sure I wanted to. It was supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life, because I was planning a fairy tale wedding to the most amazing man...but it wasn't. So when Elizabeth started speaking, I just sat there and cried silently as I listened. Then she said something that literally, profoundly changed my existence as I knew it: 

"You can stay on this path, or you can completely change your life."

She went on to explain that changing your life completely is rough, and that you have to go into it with the understanding that none of this will be easy. She said you have to regard it as the most important mission of your life. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the moment I needed to hear it. My mom told me later that she had been trying to avoid looking at me, nudging me, etc. during this talk because she knew how much I needed it. 

After that weekend, I decided to make some significant changes. I had a mantra in my head about what I wanted to accomplish, and I kept repeating it. I started working in a new way to change the situation I was in. Just short of a month after hearing that speech, I resigned from my job. I decided to do something in the counseling field but very different from what I was doing before. I accepted a position with a different agency in a different part of town with more responsibility and a huge learning curve. I struggled in the beginning, as I always do with change, and wondered if I had really made the right decision. It's been a month now, and I realized that not only did I make the right decision, I made a potentially huge career move. A great one. 

Yesterday, I came to the realization that had I not been so incredibly, my-soul-is-dying miserable, I never would have made such a move. I truly do not enjoy change. I would have continued to do what I was doing because it felt comfortable. Being miserable, however, changes things a great deal. When I reflected on this, I came to a place where I actually felt some gratitude towards the person who caused a lot of havoc and misery in my life. It doesn't change the fact that what happened and what I had to deal with was wrong, not at all. It doesn't mean I like it. I know, though, that I never would have made this type of move without that experience. It pushed me to change my life and do something I never would have considered. Knowing that, I believe I can move on and heal from it. 

Which is good timing, because...


Did I mention I got married? :)

To be continued...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Moving Forward

I often make the mistake of expecting my recovery process to be perfect. So much of having an eating disorder is about perfectionism. A lot of us in recovery struggle with this desire to do everything exactly right...and nothing is ever good enough. It may be our grades. It may be our careers. It may be our appearance. I think one of the hardest parts about recovery is realizing that because I am not perfect, neither is my recovery. I will make mistakes. I will slip up. I will give Edie the reins every now and again.


One of those times happened recently. Or, rather, it's been happening. What made me realize it was a visit to my doctor for something totally unrelated to my eating disorder. I realized when I got on the scale that my weight, which has remained the same for over a year now, had gone up a bit. Not an enormous amount (which is what I was accustomed to pre-recovery), but enough to make me notice. My first reaction was to beat the crap out of myself mentally. And as I am sure some of you know, at times, we can hurt ourselves worse than anyone can ever hurt us.

I felt awful about it. I felt like a huge failure. We were a few days away from this year's NEDA Walk, where I was supposed to get up on stage and share a little piece of my story with people. I immediately thought, "What the hell am I doing, getting up there? I don't deserve to be up there." I had been so excited (and nervous) for the walk, to celebrate my recovery in this way. And here I was, realizing that I had slipped up. Then, in the examining room, a small miracle took place. Something that never would have happened without three years of recovery under my belt. I allowed myself to stop the mental abuse and reflect. Why had this happened? What was really going on?

I was immediately aware of the fact that I had stopped taking the time to make myself a decent breakfast in the morning. The days of cutting up fresh fruit and veggies and making smoothies were gone and had been replaced by grabbing something out of the kitchen and running out the door. There were days of eating next to nothing for breakfast and making less than desirable choices at lunch out of hunger and lack of forethought. But more than that was the stress and anxiety I had been going through. Actually, those same feelings are why I stopped writing in this blog for so long. I've been going through some things for a while, and I allowed what I was going through to take over my life. When I did that, I let go of the reins a little bit in my recovery.

Even though I still felt guilty and angry at myself, I was able to give myself enough space to remember that it is never too late to make better choices. I could start right at that moment. I gave myself the gift of forgiveness. I let my fiance and my treatment team know what I was going through. I decided that my recovery was more important than anything or anyone that was stressing me out. I'm moving forward. Every day is a chance to start again and make positive decisions. One step at a time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brave

In my last post, I talked about my decision to be a part of the cardboard testimony ceremony at this year's NEDA Walk. Yesterday was the walk, and I had an amazing time. It started out as a cold and drizzly day, which made me wonder if anyone would show up for the walk at all. But to my surprise, there were lines of people waiting to register for the walk and give their donations to a worthy cause. It was so nice to see people come out despite the weather and support such a great cause. I loved seeing how much people care. I don't often feel like I'm around like-minded people when it comes to my recovery, so attending the NEDA Walk each year is especially powerful for me. It's one of the few times a year when I can be surrounded by people who support recovery, healthy living, and positive body image.

I spent a lot of time hanging out with the other people who were participating in the cardboard testimony ceremony. Like I said in the last post, most of them are quite a bit younger than me (which feels weird to say) and are in high school. I wasn't sure they would even want to talk to anyone outside of their own group, but they were sweet and they did. We talked about being nervous. We wondered aloud if we would cry when we got up on stage. When they kicked off the walk on stage, we all went together to watch on the side of the stage and cheer on a woman named Lori, who shared her experience with eating disorder recovery. Lori talked about life with Binge Eating Disorder. It was only about the second time I have ever heard someone discuss their personal experience with BED publicly. I can't tell you how affirming it is for me to hear someone else tell a story like mine. What it means for someone to stand up in public and confirm that, yes, this is real. She did an incredible job and was a braver woman than me. I applaud her for her amazing testimony.

Then, it was our turn. The music started, and we started walking out. I watched other people go before me. Heard the cheering and applause from the audience. And then, it was my turn. I was nervous, but not as nervous as I imagined I would be. Instead, I felt energized and a little shaky from the adrenaline. When I flipped my sign to the positive side, it filled me with joy to hear people applauding. For me. For my recovery. But also because they knew the power of what I had said. What all of us had said. I cried a little. I had no regrets about that moment, and was so grateful for it. I'm also grateful that it's on video and that I can share it with you.

P.S. Don't judge me for my crazy hair. It was really windy. Thank you. Also, if you're wondering which one I am...it's the same one as the thumbnail image. Of course. :p






Monday, February 10, 2014

One small step for me...

This month marks three years in recovery for me. I usually think back to the beginning this time of year, but I've been thinking much more about it recently. Our annual NEDA Walk in Orlando is coming up, and my therapist asked me if I would participate in a special project they are doing this year. Until she mentioned it, I had never heard of a cardboard testimony ceremony. In case you haven't heard of it either, it's when people (in this case, people in recovery and their families) take a cardboard sign and on one side write how they felt when they were in the midst of their eating disorder (the negative stuff). On the other side, they write something positive about their recovery and how it has changed them. I immediately said I would do it, and then spent weeks thinking, "Are you INSANE?" and thinking of potential ways to get out of it. As I do with pretty much anything that scares me but is actually worth doing (please talk to my future husband about how I tried to get out of our first date - prime example).

Like any good therapist who has spent a looonnnggg time in therapy herself, I had to reflect on what was freaking me out about the whole thing. The conclusion I came to is that this is the first time that I am saying publicly, in front of a couple hundred people, that I am in recovery. Instead of sitting behind a computer screen, I am standing up on a stage in an amphitheater in downtown Orlando, holding up a sign that says how my eating disorder kept me prisoner...but also says how amazing my recovery is. Kind of a big deal for me. Even up to the time of the rehearsal on Saturday, I debated whether or not to go. Then my therapist called me from her cell phone to cheerfully ask if I was coming, and of course I said yes. I think she probably knew more than I did how much I needed to be there.

Walking into the rehearsal room at a local high school, I noticed that I was one of the oldest people there with a few exceptions...and most of those exceptions were parents of kids in the cardboard testimony ceremony. Some of them are also going to participate and share their own experiences, too, which is awesome. Seeing how young these people were was what really let me know I'd done the right thing. I keep saying how we need to raise awareness for Binge Eating Disorder. I'd been asking questions about eating disorders from the time I was ten, because I knew in my heart of hearts that I probably had one. Binge Eating Disorder wasn't even a DSM diagnosis until last year. When I got diagnosed three years ago, it was lumped in with "Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified". Or as I like to say, "You have an eating disorder, but we can't really put you in a category".


 I spent fourteen years thinking I was a huge failure. I've said so many times that I wish someone had known to tell me what was wrong a lot sooner. I wish someone had asked the right questions. I wish I had been as young as some of the people in that room when I found out. I've said so many times that I want us (the collective us, as a society) to get to a point that when another ten year old is curious about what is going on with her mind and her body and her relationship with food, she doesn't have to look as hard as I did. I don't want her to wait fourteen years to get help like I did.

All of this thinking made me ask myself, "Who are you waiting for, Ashley?" I don't even know the answer to that, really. I keep thinking someone else will get up and tell my story. That I'll be sitting in the audience saying, "Yes! Yes! Finally someone says it. Finally someone is talking about this." But at the same time, I've been thinking for a while that ultimately, I have a lot of things I would like to say about this and a lot I would like to do. I want to present at eating disorder conferences. I want to be the main speaker at a NEDA Walk someday. I want to share my story because I want people to know that this disorder exists. I want doctors to ask the right questions. I want people to understand that this is a legitimate eating disorder that needs to be taken seriously. That people like me are in as much need of help as the person with Anorexia or Bulimia. And if I want that to happen, I need to be part of it.

My part in this upcoming NEDA Walk is small, but in my heart, it is huge. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the past three years of hard, difficult (but rewarding!) work. I know it's only the beginning of what I hope to do.












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