I like helping people. I like volunteering for stuff. Particularly when it comes to feeding people. Whenever sign-up sheets went around in church for a pitch-in, potluck, taking a meal to a family, or hosting the missionaries for dinner I always signed up. For me, feeding people is the easiest and best way to show someone you care about them.

sandwiches.

If someone needs something, and I have a something that I don’t particularly need or use? I’m happy to hand over that something. It’s easy for me. I like doing it. It’s just a thing I do. It’s not a big deal. (It’s kind of how society should work, isn’t it?)

At my peak of helping others was also the peak of my mental health. I WAS SOOOO GOOD! Just sailing along with little trips here and there.

Well, surprise! After last year helping people became hard. I still tried to do it, but I never bothered to take care of myself first so helping others simply exhausted me. What’s worse is it took away from what I was able to give my family as well. You’ve probably heard the announcement on airplanes “Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others?” Same applies to life in general. It’s not selfish, it’s common sense.

I also began to pull away from emotionally difficult relationships. I certainly didn’t need anyone else making me feel worse, I’m perfectly capable of making myself feel like garbage, thanks! Slowly things started to improve and with therapy I can actually feel the old me begin to bubble up. Several people have already mentioned how much happier I seem, and that means an awful lot to me.

This is where things get tricky. Pieces of the old me are starting to show up. I am happier. But I am still not strong enough to wade in the emotional struggles of others.  I am an empath. Always have been. Addie is one as well. For the last year I have actually hated being an empath because it has made me such a delicious target to awful people throughout my life. Being an empath isn’t a bad thing, but right now I really need to take care of myself so I’ve learned if I can’t improve a situation with a sandwich? Sorry, I’m out.

Our first trip to Cleveland won't be our last. We may even wait over an hour for fried grilled cheese sandwiches again. Special thanks to @mryjhnsn and her family for showing us around and making sure we left in love with her city. Thanks to all of you wh

The good news is I can fix a lot of things for a lot of different people with a sandwich.  So can you. There’s thousands of different sandwiches for thousands of different situations, and I’m happy to provide whatever sandwich is needed when I’m available.

Pastrami sandwich from Shapiro's deli in Indianapolis. Even better than it looks. Promise.

So if you’re an empath, or a giver, or a helper, or a doer, but it is really in your best interest to take care of yourself right now? Ask yourself if a situation can be improved with a sandwich. Sandwiches mean a lot to people. (So do cheeseburgers, burritos, gyros, and falafel.) If it’s not a situation that can be improved in any way with any form of sandwich? Maybe step away.

what I had for lunch.

Maybe have a sandwich yourself.

I’ve been processing what happened for over a year and half, I maybe haven’t been processing it in the most healthy and helpful way given I was doing it all by myself for the first year — but the fact is when I tell someone “I was sexually assaulted” the sting of those words has been numbed by time for me. I’ve come a long way in overcoming “the act” (referring to the actual physical assault) because it was physical, it was a thing that happened and it was a thing that ended. Much like a car accident, there’s the actual crash and in a matter of seconds the crash itself is over but in those few seconds your life can be changed forever.

You can even walk away from a car crash physically fine and those who love you will breathe a sigh of relief that you’re okay, but what isn’t taken into account (and sometimes not even realized by you until much later) is that you’re now scared to drive, you avoid certain scenarios, the sound of an accident can set off a whole set of anxious feelings and upset. They’re all triggers, and they all deserved to be recognized — the problem is unless someone else has also been in an accident most people won’t understand what you’re going through. “You’re fine! You lived! What do  you mean you don’t want to drive on snowy roads at night?” Obviously you can’t avoid snowy roads at night forever, but there will be a time when winter driving will be harder on you.

It’s all the emotional stuff that surrounds the act that is hard.

The shame, the embarrassment, the guilt. It’s gross and I hate it.

It’s why I didn’t tell Cody for over a year. I didn’t want him to think of me differently, or worse find out that he thought it was my fault and blame me for what happened.

Was it the right thing to do? Probably not, but you go ahead and watch any Shonda Rhimes show and point out a single time when her characters act in a completely logical way after something goes wrong. (I realize my life is not How To Get Away With Murder or Scandal, but it’s real easy to sit on a couch and holler “WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST ACT NORMAL?” when it’s not your life.)

The specifics of what happened to me have their own category on hardcore or “dark” porn sites. The thing that broke me is titillating to many. What has been my nightmare for a long time is a fantasy of others. That’s a very strange dichotomy to work through in the sexually saturated world we currently live in.

I’ve learned over the last year that there are two ways people generally deal with traumatic events similar to what happened to me.

The first is managing to make yourself so busy with so many other things, people, activities, and distractions that you simply don’t have time to think about anything else but running away from what happened. Hoping the pain will just fade or go away the busier you stay. I’ve seen a lot of people go on to do great and creative things while running away from terrible pasts, the problem is when they are alone or still for too long everything comes crashing down a hundred times worse.

The second is quite the opposite, and it is the one I have been stuck in for over a year.

I went into hiding.

If I didn’t leave the house or interact with anyone I couldn’t get hurt again. No one would be able to get close to me. I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable or feel scared or ever wonder if it will happen again. I once trusted people, a lot. I was kind and outgoing and was always the one championing the benefit of the doubt.

I used to go out in bright colors with my face towards the sun.

Now I go out fully covered with my eyes down so I don’t have triggers, flashbacks or worse — see him. Or someone that looks like him. Or someone who knows him. Or something that reminds me of him.

I stay quiet so I don’t draw attention to myself.

People have told me that by staying quiet and locked away I’m letting him win. That the best thing I could possibly do is pick myself up and become even stronger than before as a proverbial middle finger to him and what he did to me.

You will either understand this or you won’t — the idea of building myself back up gives me the same sense of dread as threatening to drop me in the middle of the ocean without so much as a life preserver.

My insides have been nothing but a knot of anxiety, fear, and sadness for over a year. I don’t remember the last time I was truly happy for any extended period of time.

I don’t say this because I want sympathy, and the truth is I am trying to get better.

In fact, I am fighting like hell and I’m fucking exhausted.

I say this because I never thought I would be here. That I would be so damaged from the actions of another that I would consider myself completely broken. A pile of pieces slugging through a life I once knew and only participate in out of habit.

It’s hard to go forward without really knowing what happened.

Last year I was sexually assaulted.

What has been worse for me than the physical trauma of the act has been the deep psychological damage. The best way I have been able to describe it to anyone is that an electric mixer was put to my brain and instead of a smooth, solid brain with wiggles and curves I have what resembles a pile of burnt scrambled eggs.

I didn’t tell Cody  about what happened until a few months ago. Together we began telling those closest to us and responses ranged from “You need to go back to church and pray harder” to complete apathy, like I should be over it already. For anyone who has ever been through rape or sexual assault, you’ll know victim shaming and blaming is a very real thing and the reason so many people stay quiet.

So now those of you who have been around for awhile know why I broke, and why I didn’t talk about it.

I don’t want to be an uplifting voice for violence against women. I don’t want to be some hero survivor inspiration story.

I just want my fucking life back.

 

 

It has been exactly two years since everyone in my life lost the version of me I had worked so hard to bring to life.

Many good people have stuck by me. New friends claim I’m perfect the way I am and that they are honored to know me now, as someone who has gone through shit and still standing.

The issue is while I am standing I have done nothing more than merely exist for a very long time.

It’s hard to explain what happened, as so many little things hurt me and imperceptibly molded me into a version of myself I don’t recognize — or have at least caused me to forget what I used to be like.

It’s as though I’ve collapsed around my heart, fiercely protecting it from everyone and everything because I simply do not trust anyone else with it.

If you’re here looking for the old me, know that I’m looking for her too. In the process I hope to take better care of who I am now, so I can nurture her back to being the optimistic, witty, laugh-hard, love-harder version of myself Cody fell in love with years ago.  And maybe I can learn to let people in again. And maybe help someone who has lost themselves as well.

It’s a terrible feeling, losing oneself and trying to start over before all the rubble has been cleared.

I know writing has always been a part of me, and hopefully by bringing it back it will serve as breadcrumbs for the rest of me to follow.

 

*clears cobwebs*

COUGH COUGH

Oh, hello. You’re still here? Bless you.

The past few months have been tricky. Not particularly hard but very hard to put into words.

Vivi will most likely grow up to become either a serial killer or the next Ke$sha, regardless, there is a freezer full of glittery dead hobos in her future.

Addie? Well. Addie had a really rough August. She has started to show signs of chemical depression and anxiety and it hurts me more than I can even comprehend to know this may be a struggle she faces for the rest of her life.

Cody is hunky as ever with his big strong man hands and fear of bugs.

Me? I’m okay. I really am.

I’d like to be back here. I want to be back here.

This is the first step to doing just that.

Racing stuffs.

A special thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring this post.

I’m pretty relaxed about the gross things kids do. Sure! Eat that tomato that fell on the floor! Five second rule! Playing at the playground and you just licked the monkey bars? Gross, but you’ll live. Hey! LEAVE THE POTTY STOOL IN THE BATHROOM (WHY is this one so hard for toddlers?)

It’s not until I’m sick that I realize every living breathing human around me is leaving behind DNA, mucous, air, and germs everywhere they go. I begin to wonder “How did I get sick? Was it that dollar bill I found on the ground? Was it from hugging my friend that had ‘allergies’? HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE PEOPLE IN MY HOUSE FROM GETTING SICK TOO?” It’s terrible. I go from not caring to OCD-hand-washing-ninja in under a minute.

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This post is sponsored by Similac.  I was compensated for this post but all opinions are my own.

moosh and mozzi.

In the early haze of new motherhood I was overwhelmed with guilt over not being able to breastfeed. While the two mammary glands attached to my chest look promising, the truth is they are milk duds. For whatever reason mine simply don’t work despite every reasonable effort I made to become the sole food provider for both of my babies. I would plan feedings so I wouldn’t have to pull a bottle out in public. The shame I felt whenever I mixed formula in front of a breastfeeding mom was overwhelming. I always felt like I had to justify myself, tell everyone how hard I tried because I was absolutely sure everyone was judging me.

Turns out I’m the only one who really cared.

You want to know how often I worry about breastfeeding now?

Exactly never.

You want to know how much guilt I’ve felt over the last ten years for not being able to breastfeed?

Exactly none.

my baby and me.

The only time I even think about breastfeeding anymore is when Addie brings home a 100% on some test she didn’t even study for. Back in 2004 a few hard core lactivists made me believe that if I didn’t exclusively breastfeed Addie, her health and intelligence would be forever compromised. Yet every time Addie dazzles me yet again with her smarts and kindness I want to hold her up like Simba on Pride Rock and yell “LOOK! IT DIDN’T MATTER HOW I FED HER! SHE’S WONDERFUL!” to all the mothers struggling with their own decisions on how to best feed their babies.

Two weeks ago Vivi told me she hated me. Last week she found a tube of lipstick and finger-painted an entire wall bright pink. The last two mornings she has located a permanent marker and colored her entire body blue, as well as written her name on several walls. Someone needs to tell her if she’s going to commit such heinous acts she shouldn’t sign her name or leave evidence all over her own body. I have a hard time believing she’d be any less of a toad had her milk come from my body and not a can.

November 2014

Here’s what I’ve learned about kids — some days they will eat Brussels sprouts, quinoa, and kale without complaint. Other days the only nourishment you will be able to coerce into their little bodies consists of grape skins and a handful of marshmallows. Some days they will be obedient little angels and other days it’s as though hellfire is pouring forth from every pore of their being. Some days they will get along with their siblings from sunup to sundown while other days you will feel like a referee at a bare knuckled boxing match.

It’s not like you didn’t try.

You’re just working with what you’ve been given. We all are. As long as we’re all doing the best we can each day (and some days are better than others), nothing we deal with is a direct result of what we fed our babies on the day they were born or how we have loved them every day up until now.

Addie puts up with so much from this goon.

I accept you. Hopefully you can accept me and my wildly inappropriate toddler.

(P.S. Does anyone know how to get petroleum jelly out of a stuffed bunny?)