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Consequences, Secrets, and Being Ceaseless

There are times in life when you have no choice but to own up to the mistakes you’ve made and deal with the repercussions. I say this as I am going through that exact scenario as we speak. What I’m about to share is something that few outside my immediate family know about. It’s not something I’m proud of and I’m not particularly chewing at the bit to tell the world, but I think it’s important to share, nonetheless.

At the age of eleven, a kid in my class called me “Thunder Thighs”. I was in the early days of puberty and quickly surpassed the other girls in my class in the development stage. My hips grew as did my boobs…and boy, did they grow, making me an easy target for every kid in my class. Being the first girl to have them in my grade made me extremely self-conscious and self-aware, and as the months passed the name-calling grew increasingly more common. “Hippo Hips” and “Barbie Cow” appeared to be the favorites among the eleven to twelve-year-old-male pre-pubescent crowd, none of which did anything for my self-esteem.

As time passed, I began to obsess over my weight, worried that the names were accurate and not necessarily meant as a way to get a laugh from those around me. The more I obsessed, the more weight I gained…almost as if my own body was plotting against me. Looking back, I was in no way overly overweight but instead merely curvy for my age. But I couldn’t see the forest through the trees back then. In my own eyes, I was fat.

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So, at the age of twelve, I began to exercise excessively. I spent most nights in our empty living room listening to the Pointer Sisters, dancing and doing Jazzercise, in an on-going effort to get down to a smaller size like the popular girls in my class. In my mind, I thought, if I could just lose the weight, I would be accepted and no longer teased for the few extra pounds I was carrying.

But the weight didn’t come off.

Why? Because I enjoyed food far too much, and not to mention I grew up in a household where you were expected to finish all the food on your plate whether you were full or not. And I’d like to say I had the support of friends and family, telling me I wasn’t fat and that a few extra pounds wasn’t something to obsess about…but I’d be lying.

My minor excess weight appeared to be of great concern to some which only led to me feeling badly about myself. Depression came next, making me feel as though I would never be good enough or accepted by those around me.

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The cycle was maddening, and to a pre-teen if felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t control my eating, I couldn’t control my weight, and I couldn’t control the teasing and weight-shaming that was aimed at me. The more I worried about gaining weight, the more weight I gained. The more weight I gained, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I became, the more weight I gained.

So, I finally took control.

And that is where this particular story truly begins.

For thirty years, I secretly struggled with bulimia. It isn’t something I’m proud of. In fact, it’s a part of my history that I wish I could forget. Over the years, I lived in constant fear of people discovering my secret. I was afraid of how people would look at me or react if they found out. But over the past decade, I’ve had to come to terms with the consequences of that condition…both mentally and physically.

Mentally, I still struggle with it all…almost daily. I liken it to being an alcoholic. Even if you manage to quit drinking and go into recovery, you are always an alcoholic…you fight it for the rest of your life. It’s the same with eating disorders. It isn’t something you just get over and move on from. For me, it is something I will have to fight until the day I die. And physically, I’ve found myself dealing with terrible acid reflux, stomach pains, and other issues related to the binging that occurred off and on over the years.

So, you may be wondering why I’ve decided to come clean after all these years. Why tell one of my deepest, darkest secrets to you now?

There are people out there who fight this same battle every day. They feel as though they’re alone and that no one could possibly understand their struggle. If you’re one of those people, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. There are people who have overcome this disorder with the help of family, friends, professionals, and even prayer…including myself.

I know for a fact that the fear of being found out…even by total strangers in the medical field…can make someone even more secretive. It’s a cycle of fear that never stops. I myself lived in complete denial: lying to friends, family, dentists, doctors, and psychologists. I felt it was no one’s business, and I certainly didn’t need anyone telling me what I already knew.

That I was slowly killing myself.

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Without treatment, mirasol.net says that up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders will die. For people with bulimia, it’s said that 3.9% will die. But these statistics can’t measure the impact these disorders can have on a person’s mental well-being.

Many believe that people with an eating disorder are strictly obsessed with being thin. That is partly true. Some have an ideal image in their mind of how they should look or how they believe society wants them to look. As for me, it took many years of soul-searching and coming to terms with the real reason behind my own battle. I knew part of it certainly had to do with body image and my lack of self-esteem; however, with the help of a therapist, years of reflection, and my husband’s love and understanding, I discovered that the root of my disorder had to do with something else altogether.

During my pre-teen and teen years, I felt helpless to control the world around me, which wasn’t unusual for kids that age. But unlike my friends, I couldn’t seem to handle that reality. Most of the time, it felt as though my life was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t control the rocky relationship I had with my parents. I didn’t feel I had control of my emotions or my actions. I was unable to control the way my teachers viewed me…as a nuisance and obnoxious. And I certainly didn’t have any control over the bullies who spent the greater part of my youth teasing me about anything and everything.

At least that’s what I believed.

And as I got older, it only seemed to get worse. I couldn’t control the downward spiral of my first marriage. I was unable to control my debt, my career choices, my friendships, and because of my lack of a college degree I couldn’t control what job opportunities were available to me.

At least that’s what I believed.

But there was one thing I could control.

My bulimia.

I know what you’re probably thinking, and I agree. Now that I’ve said it, it sounds incredibly ridiculous and makes zero sense. But at the time…for a span of thirty years…it made perfect sense.

Thirty years I will never get back.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog post. I am now dealing with the consequences of my bulimia. Back in 2011, I underwent oral surgery and lost 2 permanent teeth. Thankfully (if there’s any bright side to this particular story), they were in the back of my mouth and not as noticeable as they could have been; however, six years later I’m going through it again. I am about to lose 2 more permanent back teeth, and it’s all because of the stomach acids that gradually destroyed my mouth. So, now I’m dealing with the fact that I did this all to myself. I have no one to blame but me, myself, and I.

untitledBut, there is a moral to this story and quite possibly a lesson to be learned…and a reason behind why I’m sharing this all with you.

I eventually decided to take control of my life. I discovered my inner strength and my ceaseless spirit. It took thirty years, but in the end I learned a valuable lesson. There were a lot more things I could control than I thought. And while I can’t control everything in my life, what I can control is how I react to things and situations. I no longer need to feel sorry for myself for every misstep or awful thing that happens to me. The desire to roll over and throw a pity party is now gone. Instead, I can look at my life differently and realize that every situation is a potential lesson learned and gets me one step closer to where I want to be in life.

A few years ago, I began a health journey that started with removing soda from my diet. Then I started to do light cardio. I watched my food intake, and as the weeks passed, the weight came off. The more that came off, the harder I worked. The harder I worked, the better I felt. I grew stronger, both physically and mentally. And as the weeks turned to months, I found myself more confident.

Now before someone jumps all over me for saying you must be thin to be confident, that’s not at all what I’m saying. My confidence didn’t come from a smaller pant size…it came from my ability to believe in myself. And not just in believing I could lose the weight. I started to believe I could do anything…ANYTHING…that I put my mind to. Losing weight was just the first step.

I gradually made different choices in life. I stopped being a doormat for people who had always put me down or walked all over me. I believed in a future that was filled with writing my books full time and becoming a public speaker. I believed in my ability to make a difference in the lives of those around me. And I believed in working hard to be the role model my children needed me to be.

Eventually, I came to the realization that I was worthy of any good things that the universe or God wanted to send my way. Because while I always believed good things could happen to me, I didn’t always think I was worthy of them.

And in the end, I think that’s what holds many of us back in life. We are taught to believe we should show humility and be humble in everything we do…that we shouldn’t want for things and instead be happy with what we have. But in doing so, many people hold themselves back and never find their true potential or that one thing that makes them shine. How many artists, musicians, or writers aren’t living the life they were destined because they weren’t taught to believe in themselves? Growing up, I was led to believe that it is arrogant to want greatness or praise and that being practical is sensible and Godly.

But that isn’t the case. At all. Whatsoever. Seriously. Not even kidding.

Being open to the possibility of positive things happening in your life isn’t an arrogant act. It’s merely a different way to view your relationship with the world around you. If you go through life thinking you don’t deserve happiness, you will find yourself living an unhappy life. But if you go through life believing good things can and will happen to you, then they will.

Sound a little too new-agey to you?

So what if it does? But perhaps you’d feel better knowing it actually has a basis in science…far more than any new age movement. Quantum physics’ law of attraction states, in short, that your thoughts can alter the universe on a particle-by-particle basis to fashion your own personal life. The universe is fluid and is continuously in flux through the use of our individual and collective thoughts.

Don’t believe me? Google it.

Look. What it comes down to is this…you must own the decisions you’ve made in life. Good or bad, those decisions are a part of who you are and made you the person you are today. A lot of them weren’t great decisions and resulted in consequences that you still have to deal with now. For me, it’s about learning from those consequences, taking responsibility, and using my experiences to help others who may not be ready to help themselves. But once you’ve owned your mistakes, you must make peace with it all and move on. Otherwise, the past will hold you back.

Bulimia no longer owns me, and I no longer allow bulimia to control my life. And while I am still a control freak, I handle things much differently these days. For years, I saw myself as a loser and was my own worst enemy. But the moment I began to see myself as a winner and someone who was capable of being anyone or anything, the control I thought had eluded me for years was there for the taking.

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Being Ceaseless in the Face of Fear

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One marvelous thing about being a child is their general lack of fear. When we were kids, some of us found ourselves at the top of a hayloft, leaping from the edge thinking we could fly. Others jumped into the deep end of the pool with the belief they could swim without any lessons. And there were even a few that thought every single person they passed on the street was a potential friend who wanted to talk to me…er, them. We didn’t realize stepping into that pen with the bull was a bad idea, nor did we know that climbing a tree could result in either getting stuck in said tree or falling to the ground from the highest branch. We weren’t scared of anything, and the world was ours to conquer.

Fear isn’t something we’re born with – it’s something we learn as we get older.

Oftentimes, as children, we’re told we can be anything we want and do anything we set our minds to, so we start making plans for our lives. Big plans. We want to become cowboys, firefighters, policemen, princesses, and singers. This builds our sense of optimism for the future, allowing us to live a carefree life, full of confidence and hope. But, at some point, someone we look up to – whether it be a parent, uncle, or the crazy neighbor next door – tells us the awful truth that life doesn’t work that way…that life isn’t fair and we don’t always get what we want. So, all our hopes and dreams of becoming a professional bull rider, a stunt man, or best-selling novelist go out the window and we instead opt for the boring life of being an accountant, a phone representative, a cashier, or a desk jockey.

But here’s the thing. That awful truth…the one that most adults seem to adhere to, isn’t necessarily true. It’s fear that causes people to stop dreaming and instead aim for extreme average-ness. Being practical is safer than being an idealist, but it’s also far more boring, right? And let’s face it…no one ever got exactly what they wanted out of life by playing it safe. But if what you want is that cubicle job typing numbers into a computer for a living, I’m not going to judge you. It takes all kinds in this world, and if that’s what drives you to get up each morning, then I’m honestly happy for you.

As for me, I’m not the cubicle type. Never have been. I’m far more at home either as a public speaker or sitting in my writing cave. Those are the things that energize me and makes me feel as though I am doing what I was meant to do in life. Anything less than that drains me, and I begin to fear I will never fully meet my potential. I have absolutely zero desire to be average – physically, mentally, or professionally. And because of that desire and drive to be better than average, I am constantly pushing my fears to their limits.

Now, by no means have I accomplished everything I want out of life, yet. I have dreams…giant water tower-sized dreams. And those dreams won’t be realized until I face my fears: my fear of failure, my fear of never accomplishing my goals, my fear of not making enough money, my fear of looking stupid, my fear of working hard and having nothing to show for it. But I’ve learned there’s a trick to it all. When fear rears its ugly head, I remind myself just how far I’ve already come. I remind myself that my 5th book is being published this summer, that I’m further along in my writing career than I was 6 years ago, and that I have a literary agent who is amaze-balls at her job. But mostly, I’ve learned to accept that the universe does its thing in its own time. While I would love to have everything I want out of life right this minute, I know it’s a process and will shake itself out when the time is right.

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There are still things I’m afraid of. Heights, frogs, snakes, tiny holes packed together, being eaten by sharks (even though I live nowhere near an ocean), wiener dogs, spiders, death, and people running toward me with ski masks and a machete. Some of those fears are rational…some are not. The fact is, we have complete control over what we know we should fear and what our minds have made us believe we should fear. In fact, fear is nature’s way of letting us know that danger is close. But many times, the danger isn’t as bad as what our mind has made it out to be. Instead, it’s merely the fear of the unknown that we’re staring down, and that can be the most frightening of all.

I had a friend who recently found herself back in the dating scene after her divorce. She was afraid to get back out there, fearing that no one would find her attractive, it would be too stressful, that she was too old to start over, that there weren’t any good guys left, or that she’d end up with a serial killer. That fear of the unknown…not knowing how the dating scene would work out for her…is what she was ultimately scared of, but she eventually put those fears aside and took the plunge. She’s now in a serious relationship with a great guy who treats her the way she always wanted to be treated. The danger of finding a serial killer was there, and she even dated a few douche canoes in the process. But in the end, she overcame her fear and found the man of her dreams.

Everything we want is on the other side of fear.

It’s a quote I use often, and not just on myself. Whenever someone comes to me and says there’s something they really want to do, I pull out this quote and clobber them over the head with it. And yet it seems that as many times I manage to convince someone else to follow their dreams and leap over that giant crap-heap of fear, I can’t seem to do the same thing for myself most of the time. There are still a lot of things I want to do – specific things I want to be. I want to be a full-time writer, no longer having to rely on a day job to pay the bills. I want to be a public speaker. I want to be a New York Times Best Selling author. And I want to take my family on their very first family vacation ever. But to achieve these specific goals, there are certain fears I need to face. The big one is this: stop being afraid of failure. At some point, I will need to just burn the boat and swim and see where the current takes me. That’s the epitome of fear…not knowing where the current (or life) is headed.

People are so busy living their fears that they don’t have the capacity to live their dreams.

I know better than anyone that it’s all easier said than done. Leaping over one’s fear takes more than just courage. It takes an incredible amount of faith. Faith that it will all work out the way you want. Faith that you are making the right decision. And faith that the universe will push you as you climb. Fear also has the ability to sabotage any success you may achieve. How many times have you nearly been successful at something only to say or do the wrong thing and fail because of it? I’m certain if you sit down and think about it, long and hard, and were completely honest with yourself, you’d be able to come up with numerous examples. I, myself, don’t have enough fingers and toes to count on regarding my own experiences. I am my own worst enemy. But knowing this and finally having that epiphany has allowed me to see my world in a different way.

If I’m being honest, one of my biggest fears at times has been my age. I’m not that young anymore, and I oftentimes wonder if time has killed any chance I have at success. Am I too old to achieve my goals? Has too much time passed for me to continually develop the skills and abilities required to be successful? And am I just too far along in years to learn something new and embrace a different way to become who I know I am inside?

But I meditate and ponder my existence, and I remind myself that age is only a number. Time isn’t my enemy…my fear of time is. I have unlimited time – however long I allow myself –  to achieve the things I want to achieve as long as fear isn’t an obstacle. And once I give myself permission to succeed, the world will know about it.