Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Green Chair

I went to counseling on Monday. When I went in and he asked me what is new or what do we need to talk about, I said, "I honestly don't know. I think I've been feeling pretty good lately. So I just don't know."

But of course, there was stuff under the surface that he helped me find.

We are organizing our apartment and getting rid of things to make room for the baby. Last weekend, we got rid of a chair. It's just a chair, so every time I cried at the thought of getting rid of it, I shamed myself. It's just a chair. Ben didn't verbally shame me for being so upset, but I felt that he thought I was being ridiculous as well (maybe it was in my head, or maybe he let off little cues. I don't even know).

We kind of got in a fight last Friday night. I don't remember how it started (apparently I've blocked it out) other than just an emotional topic I brought up after dinner, which turned into me not being able to talk because I couldn't figure out what I was even trying to say. He fell asleep while I was not talking. I told him I wanted him to stay awake, to which his response was, "Well if you're not talking, then I'm going to fall asleep." That turned into overwhelming feelings of abandonment and after a huge escalation of things and him going into a selfish addict-mode (yes, he will own that), I ended up sobbing in the living room--hurt, upset, and shaming myself for having feelings--on our chair that was to be given away the following day.

As I laid on the chair and thought about giving it up, I cried even harder.

So, rather than focusing on all the crazy I felt I was experiencing with the escalation of my emotions and our fight, I asked myself Why are you so upset about getting rid of this chair? We have only had it for a year. We got it for free. Why are you so upset?

I realized I was struggling with getting rid of it because this chair was my safe space

For the past year, things have been really hard. When we moved into the house where we received this chair, I experienced a lot of depressing emotions (that was Oct. 2013) for various reasons. Then, just after Christmas last year, I decided I was done with our marriage as it was and that things needed to change. Talk of separation happened. Then Ben got his new job in Texas, and we ended up being forced to separate because of that. Eventually, I moved to Texas, and things have been up and down here too.

There has been lots of emotion and pain involved in the last year (and of course beauty, but that's not the point of this post).

Through everything, the chair has been my safe space. I've cried countless times in this chair. I've curled up in blankets (a comfort object) and tuned out the world. I've had many self-examinations in this chair. It's also been a good cuddle chair and has symbolism for the good things that have happened in the past year as well.

It's not just a chair. 

As I talked about this with my counselor (we actually started with the fight and then he zeroed in on the chair issue), he asked me what getting rid of my safe place means to me.

I thought for a while and responded with, "Maybe I'm afraid I don't have a safe space anymore."

Well, that turned into my issues with feeling safe. It's true, I'm still having safety issues. I'm still dealing with a lot of icky trauma. I try to pretend I'm not, or maybe I am just trying too hard to rush the healing process because I so desperately want to be okay. I want to feel okay. I want the addiction gone. I want the things I've been dreaming of since I married him.

But through our discussion, I realized I'm doing a lot to contribute to my home not being safe.

Why, you ask?

Because lately I've been trying to control the addiction.

It's so subtle, that I convince myself I'm not controlling the addiction. But I am. It's through things like pressuring myself to have the house clean, dinner made, dishes done, laundry done, etc. by the time Ben gets home from work. I convince myself that it's because that's just how we have divided the labor right now. He works a lot between his writing jobs and his full-time job. He doesn't have time for that kind of stuff. He is so stressed out. He has no time for himself. Whereas there is me who is expecting a baby and has way more time to do the house stuff because I'm not working outside the home. So I get the house stuff as my job, while he gets the bringing in the money as his job.

But secretly, I pressure myself to get all those things done because I'm afraid of what might happen if I don't. Ben will help me. It will stress him out. He will feel overwhelmed and will turn to the things that release his tension. He won't have time to use the good coping skills he is trying to develop because he will be using his time and energy to do his own jobs and then help me do the stuff around the house, which I should be perfectly capable of doing myself, right? Even though I do plenty of other things during the day that take time away from the household chores.

So I pressure myself into doing it all. I try to control what is going on with him by taking on x amount of responsibility myself.

I feel like I'm capable of forgiving Ben for everything that has happened. Often, I think I've already forgiven him. But one thing I absolutely cannot forget is the pain of something he has told me. There have been times when he has been so deep in his addiction that he has thought about taking his life. He has also thought about leaving me.

I don't know if I'll ever forget that, and it haunts me. I get afraid that if I don't live up to certain expectations, he will decide he is done. If he is too stressed with the fact that I can't physically do all the house stuff on my own, or the stress that will come with the baby, or the stress of his job, or the stress of me and dealing with my emotions, maybe he will just leave. Maybe I'm crazy and will push him away.

Preventing that from happening is another aspect of why I have been taking so much on myself.

Now the trick is finding balance. I can identify ways I have been controlling the addiction. I have to let go of that control. Much of it is based on fear. I have to let go of those fears and turn my life over to God. I have to trust in Him with whatever happens.

Obviously, I can't just drop the house stuff to prove I'm not trying to control the addiction. We are a team, and I want to keep doing my share in our relationship. What I need to stop doing is stressing about letting him help me. Some days I can totally get things done. Other days I can't. Some days I need help. And I deserve a husband who is capable of helping me. I can let him help.

As I talked with my counselor, we identified some core beliefs I have. Then we countered them with the truth, things I deserve.

Finding myself is crucial to my healing. I can't let the "things I need to do" around the house take that away from me. I need to spend time on me. I need to spend time doing things I enjoy, or re-discovering things I enjoy (because lately I've been realizing it's hard for me to enjoy anything). I need to spend time reaching out in service to others. I need to spend time developing relationships with people in my life. I need to spend time developing love and other Christlike attributes. I need to discover who I am and what I am capable of as a daughter of God. I need to develop my talents. And pretty soon, I will have a baby in my home. I want to be the best mother I can be.

Those things are important to me.

I will find the balance. I will be more self-aware. I will recognize when I am doing things because I'm trying to control the addiction or prevent certain outcomes.

I will not pressure myself into healing.

I will accept who I am.

I will seek peace through Christ every day.

I cannot control the addiction. I did not cause it. I cannot cure it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

One Contraction at a Time

Somewhere down the line, I started believing I couldn't do hard things. I can't pinpoint at what point I came to believe that way of thinking, but I have a few ideas of how it got there. It's most likely because I'm tired. I'm just tired and overrun by fears. I'm learning how to acknowledge the fears in my heart and then release them rather than allow them to build up and cause tension and pain.

At my birth class this week, the instructor noticed Ben and me giggling a lot during the part about medical interventions. We weren't meaning to be disrespectful; we were just giggling because of all the fears I have about my body's potential response to certain medical interventions during birth (along with my fears of pain).

During a break, she came to talk to us about our thoughts on the medical interventions and if I knew what I wanted to do regarding birth (at our first class, we had to state our goals for the class. My main goal was to determine whether or not I wanted to go natural or receive medication). During the conversation that followed, I confided in her that I really want to go natural but am simply afraid of the pain.

Some people tell me I have a high pain tolerance. That may be true, or it may have been true at one point, but I'm just really not sure. All I know is the pain is exhausting. I've dealt with so much pain, both physically and emotionally, and I'm just not sure how much more I can handle.

When I told the instructor I'm afraid of the pain, she turned to Ben and said, "Do you know what to say to that? You tell her she can do it. And you practice the techniques we have been and will be learning about coping with labor." She reminded me I have to take it one contraction at a time, I have to remember to breathe, and I have to think I can do this.

Note to self: remember the pain cycle.

This week, I've been practicing telling myself I can do hard things. I'm trying to really internalize and believe it.

I've had quite a few triggers regarding the addiction this week. Those triggers have brought me pain because I've allowed myself to dwell on fears and think what if I can't do this for very much longer? I've had thoughts and fears running so deep that I'm entirely unsure of myself and my state of mind. Then this morning, I started working step 4 in Healing Through Christ, and I became a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of the inventory [again.].

Over the past year, I've had tremendous stretching opportunities. That's probably why I'm so tired. Just in the past couple of months, I've had multiple opportunities to look outside myself and my personal bubble and serve others. That is also exhausting (or at least it seems to be for me). Some days, I just question everything and wonder what exactly I am doing. And then when there are super triggery weeks like this one, I wonder if I have the strength to keep going. I wonder if I should just start shutting the world out again and focus on me.

But no, I can't just focus on me. I love the joy that has come from the stretching and service-giving of this year. And I also know deep down that I can do anything if I lean on the Savior for support.

When I fear the pain, I have to remember to take life one, I mean one day or one a time. I have to remember to breathe. And I have to remind myself that I can do hard things. Because I can. I've made it through every hard thing that has come my way. It's all about perspective.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Trauma Days

Sometimes I have days where I'm doing so well. I live for those days/moments.

Other times, trauma can come out of nowhere. Or, not necessarily out of nowhere, but I minimize the thing that happened and think, "Why am I reacting this way? I am being crazy and overreacting."

Note to self: Sometimes trauma hits harder than other times. There are days when you may feel crazy, and that's okay. Because you have gone through hell, and you are trying to find your way back up. Some days will be better than others.

Right now I feel like I am in trauma, but if I look at the reasons or events that have happened lately, I just yell at myself and tell myself I should be stronger. Because strong people don't lose it like this. Especially because right now things aren't really that bad. They could be worse.

I don't really know what is truth right now. I'm just trying to follow my instincts and trust them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Fear/Tension/Pain Cycle

Last night we went to our first child birth class.

At one point, we were talking about the pain of labor, and a lot of people expressed their fears of labor. So the instructor showed us this cool little diagram:

As she explained how fear of something increases body tension, which in turn increases pain, I was like WHOA. Obviously this pertains to labor, but holy cow does this apply to other fears and pains in my life.

I have a lot of fears. I discussed this with my counselor yesterday, and while he agreed that I have a lot of fears, he helped me realize that most of my fears are not irrational. They are based on previous experience. That's not really the point. The point is that I do let my fears rule me from time to time. And most of my fears are actually of my perception of future pain.

Apparently by allowing myself to fret in fear, I allow the pain to be worse than it might actually be.

I wrote a post about some of my fears back in September. In fact, I've written a few posts about fears, and you can read them here (at least the ones I tagged with fear).

As I read back over my posts about certain fears and reflect back on those situations, I can see how allowing my fears to take over has caused deeper pain in the end. And it truly is because the psychological fears have a physical effect on me that causes both deeper physical and emotional pain.

As I talked to my counselor yesterday and realized I don't actually let myself be ruled by fears, I discovered the progress I'm making. I am halted by fears, certainly, but I don't remember the last time I was actually dictated by my fears. I'm learning how to cope with the fears better, which has allowed me to have much better resiliency and less pain as a result of certain challenges I'm facing. It's amazing.

I thought this diagram was a perfectly simple explanation of this process I've been discovering about fear. It really helped me to see it spelled out like this, and I hope it can help someone else as well.

My birth instructor last night said, "Remember, fear increases pain. Knowledge decreases pain."

May we all gain the knowledge we need to make it through these battles we are fighting:

Knowledge of our Savior.
Knowledge of the addiction.
Knowledge of our divinity.
Knowledge of our worth.
Knowledge of our beauty.
Knowledge of what it means to love.
Knowledge of true friendship.
Knowledge of the truth.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I am more than my body

This post feels really vulnerable. 

Because of my pregnancy and the uncomfortable changes that happen to a woman's body during this time (uncomfortable because I'm not used to my body feeling this way and being this large in certain areas), I've been experiencing a lot more body image issues than normal. 

Don't get me wrong. I think my body is a beautiful thing, and it's amazing that my body is creating a human right now. It's amazing how capable my body is of doing what it is doing and how every change that is happening is necessary for the growth of my baby. But it's still hard, at least with what I've been fed through media, to accept some of the changes happening. Plus, I'm just a person that has a hard time dealing with change sometimes. My body has been a certain way for so long, and now that it's changing constantly, it's a little hard to get used to.

Anyway, back to the point. Body-image issues. We all have them. They didn't just start for me because of my pregnancy. I've had body image issues since I was maybe 10-12. These issues have caused me to stress-diet and develop disordered eating habits at times. I have been very unhealthy because of my desire to look a certain way.

Discovering this addiction fed many of my issues, at least until I was able to work through many of the emotional consequences of the addiction. I know I'm not alone in that, and I also know that many women who are dear to me have a harder time battling their body-image demons than I do.

So, I want to share something I discovered today while studying my scriptures.

In Ether chapter 3, the brother of Jared is preparing his "vessels" for the trip across the sea. He is worried about there being no light on their travels and asks God what they should do for light. Simply put, God asks him what he thinks he should do, so the brother of Jared moltens some stones and asks God to touch them so they will shine in the darkness and provide light.

The Lord put forth His hand to touch the stones with his finger, and the brother of Jared SAW HIS FINGER. It scared him because he had never known that God has a body of flesh and blood as we do. So then they had this conversation about God's body, and God revealed His full self to this man.

These verses really hit me (14-16, emphasis added):

"Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
"And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou has. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
"Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh."

This got me thinking. We are so much more than just our bodies. Our body houses our spirit, and I personally think the spirit is more important to focus on. However, our bodies are very important because they house what is most precious: our spirits. [So maybe that makes the body and spirit equally important.] Our bodies need to be taken care of and cherished, not beaten down and sworn at because they don't look the way we wish they did or because they don't function in ways we think they should.

Our bodies have been created to be like God's body. We don't know what God looks like, but what if He looked a little bit "less than"? What if His body doesn't look like we imagine is the "perfect body"? The body of His spirit is perfect. And so are ours.

When we focus on our physical flaws (or things we perceive to be flaws), it brings us down. It takes away focus from our hearts and spirits and even causes damage to our spirits. That's what Satan wants. Satan wants us to be distracted from the most important things. He wants us to focus on destroying ourselves because HE CAN'T HAVE A BODY. So, he doesn't want us to be happy in ours.

We need to take care of our bodies, both physically and emotionally, so our spirits can be more receptive to the beauty and joy this life has to offer. We have been created after God's image, and we have divine responsibilities to perform in this life. Those responsibilities can best be fulfilled when we take care of our bodies and our spirits.

That means we need to treat ourselves with respect. Just like our spirits are individual and unique, so are our bodies. It pains me to see my friends tearing themselves down because of their perceptions of their bodies. I think every body is beautiful. I really do. I find that focusing on people's spirits is more important than focusing on their bodies because their spirit is who they really are. I know God feels the same way. He sees us as we really are, and what we have going on inside our bodies is the most important.

Our bodies are a gift to house our spirits, and I'm sure it pains Him to see me beating myself up because of my stretch marks or extra fluff and sagginess. I'm sure it pains Him to see me beating myself up for not maintaining a specific weight or level of skinniness for society's approval. He knows who I am inside, and He knows my potential. When I beat myself up for the perceived flaws of my body, it causes emotional damage. That emotional damage makes me halt a bit in life, thus slowing me down on the path to my potential.

Recognizing that my body is a house of my spirit helps me feel more at peace. I need to keep myself healthy and strong so my spirit can perform necessary works in this life. My body is beautiful because I am beautiful. I am a daughter of God, and I know when I can shine the light in the darkness, I feel beautiful. But I can't shine that light when I am constantly beating myself up.

This doesn't mean I will be able to just stop fretting about the changes in my body. But I will certainly try harder. I know after this baby comes, my body will not be the same as it has been in the past. But it will be even more beautiful because I have done another divine work with my body, and that makes it special. We all do divine works with our bodies. Our bodies give us so much potential. So, as I approach the future, I will try to find ways my body is divine rather than not meeting the social standards.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dear 21 year-old Kilee

If you could write a letter to yourself back when you first learned of the addiction, what would you say?

I'd encourage everyone reading this to write their own letter. It's a very healing experience. Mine could have been longer, but I submitted it to something and it had to be less than 500 words. This isn't the first time I've written a letter to myself, though, and I know it won't be the last. Every time provides a little bit more healing.

Here's my letter:

Dear Kilee,

When you were married, you could never have imagined the betrayal and hurt Ben could cause you. You thought you were both on the same page and on the path to the celestial kingdom together. Now, in just a few seconds, your world has come crashing down.

You are so young, and you are embarking on the journey of a lifetime. Right now, you can't imagine it getting worse. It can. But it will also get better.

More will come: pain, darkness, heartache. At times, hope will seem completely lost. You will ponder the idea of divorce and even the possibility of taking your own life to escape the hell of the addiction.

There is more than darkness in your future. There is bounteous light and hope, and you will make it through the dark periods every single time. As you and Ben embrace recovery together, you will learn to love each other in ways you never thought possible. You will discover your greatest strengths and weaknesses. You will see the compassion and love you are both capable of. And you will start the rest of your family.

Through recovery, you will make friends you would have never known otherwise. You will learn lessons about friendship, vulnerability, and service. You will learn to love others and see them as Christ does.

You will learn about the Atonement, and you will be cradled in the arms of your Savior. You will learn how to follow promptings of the Holy Ghost. And you will be able to share a message of hope with others you come in contact with.

Ben will get into recovery. Eventually, he will acknowledge this is an addiction and he can't do it on his own. You will seek help together and become one in the fight against Satan and his efforts to destroy your family. You will be given knowledge and resources to help you understand the addiction. You will learn it's not your fault. You will learn you can't control the addiction. And eventually, you will turn it all over to God and trust in His plan.

You will go through hell on earth. But you will come out stronger and more beautiful. Four years from now, you will be welcoming a baby boy into your home, and you will be so grateful for the efforts you have put into your marriage and recovery. Things won't be perfect, but you will have hope and be grateful for the recovery path you are on together.

This addiction won't exempt you from other trials. So many hard things will come your way, but your experience with the Atonement will teach you that you are never alone. You will become a strength to your family and friends, and you will have a sense of gratitude for all the blessings God has given you.

Don't give up. You can do all through the power of God.

You are beautiful and strong. You can do hard things.



When I wrote this, along with a little bio for my submission, something hit me. Hard. I mentioned in the letter that we will be welcoming in a baby boy four years from the time I first found out about the addiction. Well, that's awesome. But what's even more awesome is that we will be welcoming him into our family exactly one year (to the month) after things hit rock bottom in our marriage. Our son will come a year after we could have given up on our marriage but chose not to. So much healing has taken place this year, and I am so grateful we get to celebrate that with the entrance of our son into this family.

Three months to go!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Refiner's Fire

Watch this great video.

I have so many thoughts, but I'll spare you [most of] mine and let you ponder the meaning of this message for yourself. The only thing I really feel the need to say is that it reminded me of something someone said at group on Sunday:

During the sharing portion of the meeting, a woman sitting by me said she is realizing that one of the ways our trials brings us closer to Christ is because our trials allow us to succor others. Alma 7:12 states that Christ took upon Himself all of our infirmities so He would know how to succor us in our trials. What better way to come unto Christ than to feel the pain of our sufferings and to be able to use that pain to lift others up just as Christ does? 

Trials are hard, but they are necessary for the refining that can shape us into people of Christ. With every trial, we have a choice. We can choose to draw away from or closer to Christ. Sometimes, out of bitterness and anger, I choose to step away. But I almost always turn that around and move towards Christ. I know He is my salvation, and I know that only through Him will I find peace in this life. 

Trials are necessary to helping us discover the best traits within ourselves. All the good in my life has come from all the hard I've faced in my trials. As much as I sometimes wish my trials away, I don't ever truly with them away because I know with every trial I face I am being shaped into someone better.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Addiction, Forgiveness, and the Atonement--Another Woman's Story

A friend posted a link with the following story onto my timeline on Facebook. It is so powerful, and I feel like I have to share it.

I hope you get as much hope and peace from this story as I did.

Story came from here.

Name Withheld
When my husband and I were dating, he decided he had to tell me about his addiction to pornography. He was clearly embarrassed and repentant, and had been "sober" for some time. I was surprised but felt honored that he trusted me with this secret. If anything, I loved him more after that. This was a battle we were going to fight together. It was his past and we'd have to fight it, but we'd be fine. I wasn't so naive to think that it wouldn't cause strain in our relationship, but I didn't anticipate the heartache, anger, self doubt, and betrayal.

His sobriety lasted through our dating, engagement, and first three months or so of marriage. When he then admitted he had viewed pornography, I was felt so stupid. How did I not know what was happening in my own home? Was I not enough? I plunged into feelings of worthlessness.

I remember thinking, "He's such a good man. How can he do such a disgusting thing? He loves me. How can he do something so hurtful? Does he really love me?" I felt very alone. I respected the fact this was his secret to keep or share, but that left me with nobody to talk to. I was so hurt that I used anger to cope with the sorrow.

All of those feelings were mixed up with gratitude that he came to me with the truth and that he knew he was wrong. I was heartbroken that right when I needed comfort the most, I couldn't ask the man who stood at my side for a blessing of comfort. He was not worthy to use the Lord's priesthood. He knew it, and I could see how ashamed and sorrowful he was.

He couldn't give me a blessing, and because of the personal nature of the situation, I couldn't go to another priesthood holder. So I went before the Lord on my own. I read a book about Christ and the atonement called The Peacegiver. I spent time in prayer and meditation. Relief didn't come all at once, but I was given little assurances that we'd be able to overcome.

Things got better, and things got worse. We'd have months of sobriety between views. Each time he fell, I had to work through the same emotions and thoughts. Every time was a little different, but every time I needed my Savior to heal my broken heart.

We learned that high-stress situations sometimes triggered the temptation. We also learned that sometimes the temptation would come without a discernible trigger. I found the sooner he admitted to a fall, the easier it was to recover for both of us. If I asked him to report in every so often, it gave him the chance to feel safe to be open.

I made a few mistakes that I learned from. I learned that faking trust or forgiveness prolongs the process. Pretending everything was okay, telling my husband I forgave him when I hadn't yet, just made the pain fester and anger grow.

I had to be careful to focus on what I could control. I couldn't make him go to the bishop, make him attend a support group, or put enough protection on our technology to keep pornography unavailable. I could control if I was honest with myself and my husband about my feelings.

I could control my focus. I could focus on my husband's honesty and other good qualities. I could focus on the Savior and Heavenly Father. I could control my self talk. I didn't need to take blame, but could instead acknowledge that my husband has his agency and made the choice to sin on his own.

I also chose to study about the effects of pornography. I learned how the brain is rewired through the viewing of pornography. I learned how it really had little to do with physical needs, and more to do with a chemical in the brain, much like a drug addiction. No matter what I did, that rewiring could not be fixed.

I learned that the average Utah child sees pornography by age eight, according to one statistic. I came to appreciate what my husband was up against. Don't misunderstand: he still had his agency, he still had to take the blame for his actions. However, I came to realize he was fighting a battle that had nothing to do with my ability to be a good wife, friend, and support.

A huge low in our marriage was shortly after our first son was born. My husband had graduated and couldn't find work. I was working full time, and he was home with our baby. We were living in a rather dark basement with flooring that was in such disrepair that we laid blankets on the floors so we could set our infant down.

I loved my job, but it was stressful by nature, and the stress was compounded by leaving my baby. My husband felt useless, being unable to provide for us, and he fell into despair. That's when he hit a rut where he was giving into temptation regularly. I had to rely on the Lord more than ever.

One evening, after a particularly rough confession, I wanted space, but with such a little apartment there were not many options. I stood in the little hallway and tried to come up with a way to get that needed space.

I could control my focus. I could focus on the Savior and Heavenly Father.

I thought about asking him to go to his parents for a couple days, but who would watch my son while I worked? I thought about sending my son up with him to be watched by my mother-in-law, but the baby was still nursing and I didn't want space from him. I was at a loss, so I went to the bedroom and kneeled on the mat on the floor that served as our bed.

I opened my heart to the Lord like I had never done before. I prayed out loud, knowing I needed to get through. I needed my Heavenly Father to hear me. I sobbed and begged for His help. What surprised me, however, were the words coming from my mouth. I was not praying for me, but for my husband.

"Forgive him, Father. Please forgive him," I pleaded. I prayed for our home, for our son and for our marriage. I was overcome with the knowledge that God loves my husband. After that heartfelt prayer, I no longer wanted to send my husband away.

Things didn't change quickly. That rut lasted for a while longer. When our living situation changed (he got a job, I quit mine, and we moved into a much better apartment) my husband was able to avoid temptation for some time. When he did fall again, he was scared. Without a trigger to blame his fall on, he knew that he was never going to overcome on his own.

He made a plan and woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me he was making changes. After three years of marriage and ups and downs, I knew this day was a crucial one. He went to our new bishop and met with him regularly. He started attending the support group offered by the Church and even got the information for a support group for me.

That group was my haven. The lessons I learned from studying the manual were inspiring. I was filled with hope and joy. I saw that I wasn't alone. Other women were using the atonement to become whole. I saw my husband grow from attending his group too.

Through the whole experience I have learned about the atonement. I testify that Jesus Christ felt the pain that I go through. He understands the betrayal and he paid the price for the sins. He already paid the price, so I can accept his healing. He can bind up my broken heart.

I'm blessed to have a repentant husband, but I now know that Christ's healing of my heart is completely independent of my husband's actions. The atonement is for the sinner, but it is also for the sinned against.

Forgiving my husband is my way of telling the Lord that his sacrifice was sufficient. It's my way to say, I trust that Christ can heal the aching holes and conquer the gnawing anger inside me. It takes me time to forgive my husband each time he hurts me, but I know I can because of the atonement of Christ.

There were moments where I was in a despair that I believed I would never be happy again. Through the atonement's healing power, my happiness was restored.

I testify that I am a daughter of Heavenly Father. I am beautiful and of worth. I love my husband. I am grateful for his honesty five years ago. I'm grateful for our four years of marriage, and I will continue to do my part to make it a celestial eternal marriage.

I testify of Christ. He gives me hope. He lives and loves my children, my husband, and me. Because of Him, we have joy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Do all things really work together for my good?

Over the past couple of months, I've been really working on exercising my faith in God's plan and trusting that He has control. It takes a lot of faith in God and patience with myself--because my faith isn't perfect. I have moments of really giving up my control, but then I have moments where I get so scared and freaked out that I start trying to reign in control (and of course, that doesn't work and causes me to make choices and act based on fear).

As I've been working Healing Through Christ, step 3, I've had to really focus on what I'm doing to turn my will and life over to God. It's hard. Like, really hard.

Today, I was faced with the question: How can I come to believe that Heavenly Father is working all things together for my good--even when they aren't happening as I'd hoped?

The question seems simple, but it's actually very tricky. Because part of me wants to believe that all things are working together for my good--that God is in control. But then part of me has a hard time believing it because life is just so damn hard sometimes.

As I focus on exercising my faith in His plan, the two things that have really helped me see that He is in control are 1) expressing gratitude and looking for the good in my life, despite the hard, and 2) looking for opportunities to learn from my trials.

Sometimes in the recovery world, we get so caught up in expressing our emotions and being validated and heard, that it can be hard to snap out of the negative. Sometimes we feel there is literally nothing to be grateful for. I'm saying we, but I really mean me (I just assume I'm not alone in these feelings...). There is a time and a place for those feelings. There really is. But I've found that it's important to feel my pain and validate it, but then to see the beauty that is coming from the pain and trials I am facing. Or to see the beauty in my life despite the trials I am facing.

When I see beautiful things in my life, I give a quick thanks for it. I'm not very good at writing in my gratitude journal every day, but I am getting much better at really digging inside myself and expressing gratitude for what I have in my prayers. I am getting much better at expressing gratitude from my heart and looking for opportunities to learn from my trials and see the beauty unfolding even when it's really hard.

Gratitude and learning are key elements, at least for me, to see that Heavenly Father truly is working all things together for my good. He may not like the things happening in my life, especially trials that come as a result of my or another person's agency. But He will help me make each experience something that works for my good.

We hear "all things happen for a reason." That may be true. But it also might not be. This might not have been part of God's plan for me. Women who have suffered serious abuse and trauma might not have been necessarily given that by God. It may have just happened at the hands of the abuser because of that person's choices. But God is always there and He will provide us with the means to endure. And THAT is what will make all things work together for our good.

I'm trying to keep focus on what I'm grateful for and the beauty in my life so the hard doesn't drown me.

How do you come to believe that Heavenly Father is working all things together for your good--even when things are hard as hell?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reflections on a Mother-in-law Moment

I just got back from a Disneyland trip with Ben's family [so fun!]. While waiting with my mother-in-law during one of the rides, we had a tender conversation about trials in marriage.

Something she said to me really stood out, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. She talked about how Ben always had a strong testimony and carried the Spirit with him. She expressed her love for him and me, and she said very firmly that she knows he has been ensnared by Satan, but she also knows he can be healed as long as he does everything in his power to stay close to the Spirit of God. She said we are both strong, and that she knows we can get through this if we are dedicated to each other and to Christ, no matter how long and hard this healing and recovery process may be.

As I am pregnant with a son, I could feel deep empathy for her pain in seeing her son going through this trial with his wife. For a moment, I could see Ben through her eyes and feel her pain and heartache.

I also know we can get through this, but that much of that depends on Ben's personal dedication to God and his recovery. I sometimes wonder, as many of us do, at what point can I call it quits? At what point is enough enough and God is ready for me to move on? Those thoughts take my mind spiraling out of control, and I have many questions and opinions that I usually keep to myself because it is a very delicate matter and a personal decision for every individual situation.

I know I haven't reached the point where I should call it quits, and I pray I never do. Times get really hard as I face this in my marriage. There are black holes in the four years we have been married that I try to push out of my memory because they are so incredibly painful to deal with. But there are also so many incredibly beautiful moments in our marriage and life together that I wouldn't trade for anything, and many of those beautiful moments have come after the darkest darks.

Ben's mom can see his potential. I can also see his potential. Looking through both my and her perspectives has given me a greater strength and understanding to see what the future has in store for us if we can keep getting through this. I know it won't be easy. It's never easy. But I do know it will be worth it.

Addiction is a sickness. I know there are choices he makes that are not great choices and lead him into the addiction. But I also know (because I feel like I really do know Ben) that he has been ensnared by Satan, and he is going through something that won't just go away. It has to be healed and will be a long process. It will require effort on both our parts (his healing requires effort on his part, obviously, but the process will also require patience and Christlike love on my part).

But no matter what, we are in a marriage. He is in recovery, and as long as he is in recovery, I feel safe enough to work on cleaving unto him. When he acts out, it does cause setbacks and there are issues that arise and need to be worked through. But overall, we are making so much progress, and I am so grateful and happy with where we are right now.

Sometimes I get impatient. But I try to remind myself that life is a journey, and all I can do is make the best of each moment I am given.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What does it mean to be healed?

I didn't realize I was super struggling today until I started writing in my journal. Then, all the thoughts and pains slipped out in the form of tears.

I had no motivation to do anything this morning, but then this little feeling kicked me out of bed and led me to grab my Healing Through Christ journal and read through everything I've written for step 2.

Step 2 is "Come to believe that the power of God can restore us to spiritual and emotional health."

At first, that was really comforting. But then, I was like, WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

What does it mean that I can be restored completely, to be healed?

I'll tell you what it doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean I will be never feel this pain.

It doesn't mean I will forget what I have gone through.

And it certainly doesn't mean I will not feel pain every time Ben acts out in his addiction. It doesn't mean that.

I think it means that God will strengthen me and give me resiliency so this doesn't keep me down. When I am healed, I will have a firm faith in Him. I will be able to use this pain for good. I will be stronger. I will have scars, but that's all they will be: scars. They won't keep me down. When I am healed, I will be at my fullest potential, and I will be able to do anything because of Him.

Healing takes time. It's a process, a journey. There will be stumbles on the way, so I have to be patient on the journey.

I have to believe that eventually, I will be restored to spiritual and emotional health. I will be healthy. I will be resilient and beautiful, and I won't live in a state of depression and fear. I'm on my way there, I know it. I don't know when I'll get there, but I will. I can be healed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Someone has already paid."

Sometimes I'm doing just fine. Other times, not so much.

Yesterday morning, I felt anger. So many things ran through my head, and I was just SO ANGRY. I hurt for lost innocence in my marriage and everything I have suffered because of the addiction. When that happens, my thoughts sometimes wander to, "I want him to pay. He needs to really understand what he has put me through. It's not fair that I am feeling this pain." It's not a very Christlike attitude...But it's reality. I think when we get hurt or offended, we all go there sometimes.

In the most recent General Conference, President Packer gave a talk on the Atonement. I'm reading it today, and this paragraph stood out:

I recently received a letter from a woman who reported having endured great suffering in her life. A terrible wrong, which she did not identify but alluded to, had been committed against her. She admitted that she struggled with feelings of great bitterness. In her anger, she mentally cried out, “Someone must pay for this terrible wrong.” In this extreme moment of sorrow and questioning, she wrote that there came into her heart an immediate reply: “Someone already has paid.”

I reflected on the moment I had yesterday, along with many other moments of anger and justice-seeking. I don't need to seek justice because justice has already been met. And just like I can't carry the burden of my pain alone, Ben wouldn't be able to carry the burden of what he has done alone. Christ has paid for what Ben has done. Because He has met the demands of justice, Ben and I have both been extended the mercy that allows us to be able to heal. The Atonement covers all pain--the pain of the sinner, and the pain of the hurt.

This doesn't mean I have to heal quickly, but it means I can heal. Healing takes time and that is okay. I'll just try to be patient and remember that I CAN be healed. (And so can Ben.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sometimes I get lonely

It's true.

I don't know if that's hard for people to imagine because I am a fairly bubbly person. I like being around people (though I'd say I'm more on the introverted side than extroverted). I like making friends and spending time with friends. And heck, I'm open about the hard things going on my life. Or at least I am on this blog. But talking about it on the blog is much different than talking about it in person.

This year has been really hard for me. It's also been a huge blessing in a lot of ways, but right now I'm dealing with the hard.

It's been hard because of the hell in February.
It's been hard because I was severely depressed when I moved. And I wasn't able to have a counselor to help me through that.
It's been hard for me to make friends because it's hard for me to really open up in person. I feel like I don't know how to relate to the "real world." I feel safest in my recovery bubble, and I'm kind of afraid of people who are not in that recovery bubble.
I am pregnant, which has definitely been the highlight of my year. But my pregnancy has been really hard, physically. I was really sick the first 18ish weeks. And now I'm on bed rest (temporarily).
I'm still dealing with porn in my life. That's hard.
I'm even more afraid to open up to people in "real life" because of an event that happened with a friend who I was open with.
Ben works a lot to support us. Because I can't work right now. I feel lonely all day, and even sometimes at night when he is home because his mind is elsewhere.

So that's part of it.

Sometimes I get lonely.

As I studied my scriptures and wrote in my journal today, I wrote about figuring out how to use the Atonement right now. I know I'm supposed to be constantly learning more about the Atonement and learning how it applies to me. I want to draw closer to Christ because I know that it is only through Him that I will be healed.

For today, this is what I came up with as I was writing in my journal about the hard and the lonely.

Christ felt lonely too. He led a perfect life and then suffered in the Garden and on the cross. While in the Garden, He asked His disciples to stay awake. When He came out and they were asleep, I imagine He felt lonely. All He asked is that they would be awake with Him while He took on all the pains and sins of the world. And they fell asleep.

But at that time, He had angels strengthening Him. However, on the cross is where He felt the loneliest. We see that when He cries, "My God, why has thou forsaken me?" Through His entire journey, He felt the presence of God except at that time. At that time, He had to do it alone.

So He knows how I feel. And because He has felt loneliness in a way I will never feel, He knows exactly what I need to help me through mine. And He really has been giving me little things to help me through. So I guess I'm not as lonely as I sometimes feel.

I have felt angels lifting me up. I know I'm never truly alone.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Loosening Boundaries?

Boundaries are tricky for me.

I think it's hard to enforce them because there is always this part of me that is in denial that this is my life. I don't want to have to enforce them because I don't want this to be happening. There is a place in my heart where I hope I'll wake up and realize this has all been a dream. I'll wake up and get married, having had this dream that will totally prepare me for my future. And my life will ROCK.

My life does rock though. And even though some days really suck, I feel really good about my life overall. Don't ask me about that on a bad day, though.

Back to boundaries.

Boundaries are specific to everyone and every circumstance. After last week's relapse, I had to really dig to figure out exactly what my needs were to help me feel safe. Part of me wanted to have him sleep on the couch indefinitely, but that was more out of punishment than my own safety. I wanted to punish him (and our couch is unbelievably uncomfortable to sleep on) and really make him feel sorry for what he has done.

That line of thinking just made me sad. I don't want to be an angry, vindictive person. But I have felt unsafe and insecure, so I knew I needed something. That something ended up being physical space in the time of trauma (asking him to leave the room while I thought and processed and had me-time) and emotional space in the form of reduced physical intimacy. I knew I still needed his physical presence in general, so asking him to sleep on the couch indefinitely would really just be an unnecessary punishment for us both.

Part of my boundaries also include safe, emotional communication. I need him to be a safe space for me. Thus, we had a long conversation (and multiple conversations) about how I was feeling and how everything was affecting me. Over the years of this stuff, he has learned how to be a safe emotional space for me, and I am grateful he listens and absorbs what I am trying to say. He also gets a chance to talk and I try to listen and absorb what he has to say. This practice helps me feel like he really is in recovery and is remorseful, rather than just going through the motions so I don't leave. And when we are able to be a safe space for each other, I feel like we are making true progress, even though there are bumps in the road.

Right now I'm getting to the point where I'm trying to figure out how and when to lessen these boundaries. Things are going well enough that I may not need this huge wall up. Sometimes I want to kiss him, really kiss him. Because of all the things that make me love him. But then the fears roll in, and I don't want to go through the emotional battlefield I faced last week again. It's happened too many times, and it's always painful and hard.

I'm not really concerned about figuring out this boundary thing. I'll do what I always do, which is to take it one day, one moment at a time. Our relationship will progress and things will fall into place as they should.

I guess the tricky thing is am I ready to put my heart fully on the line again? Because when I take that jump, I'm putting myself in a position to fall again.

I'm a believer in being vulnerable and taking risks. If I don't fully live, I won't fully love. And with every painful experience, I see how deep that love can be. I don't want to lessen my ability to love because of my fear of the pain. Unfortunately, pain and love go hand in hand.

But I'm also a believer in being smart and safe. I won't take unnecessary risks. I'll take the risk when I feel like it will produce something of great value.

So at this point, it's all about timing, safety, and security. Eventually I'll get back to where I want us to be. Maybe it will even be later today. Maybe it will be next month or next week. I'll throw some caution to the wind as I start making my way up to the place to jump.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Power of Choice

I have a document where I post my favorite recovery quotes and scriptures as I come across ones that hit me on a particular day. Today, I started reading through it and was struck by one word in a particular scripture:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)

Let implies that I have some kind of power--that I have the power to let my heart be troubled or to let my heart be afraid. On the other side of that, I have the power to let my heart be filled with the peace that Christ offers, which would replace the troubles and fears.

Let is a powerful word.

As I pondered this idea, I thought of a lot of things. So many times, I've let negative emotions hang with me. I've gotten to the point in my recovery where I do recognize my own conscious choices to stay angry or negative because of certain things. Granted, there was a time when I felt controlled by my emotions. And sometimes I still feel controlled by my emotions. But there is a huge power in my relationship with Christ and my recovery. Because of my journey to healing, I really can identify my emotions and choose how to deal with them. That's something I've learned how to do.

Sometimes I choose to be angry and bitter. And I will admit sometimes that choice is to make Ben suffer because of how I have suffered. But sometimes that choice is simply because I can't find the light at that time (or possibly refuse to see the light?).

Sometimes I choose to process my emotions in healthy ways rather than letting myself be bitter and angry. When I process and take the time for self-care, I am much happier. And I'm finally getting to the point where I would like to choose to be happy rather than wallow in self-pity and anger (that place is wobbly for me--it comes and goes).

This week I've been swallowed in many fears. I know deep down, however, that no matter what, Christ has my back and I will not be miserable for eternity. I also know I will be happy no matter what--no matter the outcome of this addiction in my marriage.

Christ has given me peace and light so many times. Sometimes I choose to ignore that (and like I said, sometimes I do just feel controlled by emotion because of the situation), but I also know I can choose to  "let not [my] heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Bullets Won't Stop!

I've thought of writing this post all day. And every time, I just can't click the button to write a new post. Part of me is avoiding feeling what I'm about to feel as I write about this. But I'll feel it whether I write it or not, so here goes. It's also just really vulnerable and raw. So I hope for validation and love.

Yesterday was horrible. I survived, though, so I felt like a rock-star. Minus the crying. Crying always makes me feel a little less than rock-star status, hence the reminder that crying doesn't make me weak. 

Because we moved and I'm pregnant, I decided to substitute teach this year rather than get a full-time teaching job. Subbing yesterday proved to be very challenging and was the base of my horribly hard day. After I finished the school day, I was grateful to go home, and I looked forward to the evening with Ben. I was counting on him to be a strength and comfort to me as I unleashed some of the trauma I experienced yesterday at school. And he was. Until he confessed some things.

Fast forward through the hours of tears shed last night to the point where I was actually able to process my feelings and get to the root of why this relapse impacted me so much worse than any have since April. 

I'm raw from telling my story at Camp Scabs. I've recently revisited all the pain I have suffered our entire marriage. That pain has come from acts of infidelity, countless lies, and a breakdown of trust and love. And now I'm feeling all that pain again. I'm sitting in it. Because I've been let down in a major way that has let the trauma rush back in. Everything has come cycling back, and I can't get it to leave.

I've been feeling so much joy from the past six months. I've felt hope. I've seen his potential as a husband and father. I've seen our potential as a family. 

We "started over" back in April. I allowed the past to be put behind us. I chose to let our relationship continue to develop rather than shutting it down. I chose to open my heart back up to trust and love. I gave him everything and am now carrying a baby with Ben's blood running through him. 

I trusted Ben to work as hard as he could to find recovery. I trusted him with my heart and my child. I took a huge leap of faith, and I feel like I have been shot in the heart again. And again and again and AGAIN. The bullets won't stop coming. And they are getting closer and closer together. I'm afraid I might actually die. [Okay, not literally. But I'm certainly breaking.]

For a while, the relapses were growing farther apart. It's not ideal, but it gave me hope that real changes were happening. But the relapses are now growing closer together, and I can see that real changes are not happening. Or at least, they aren't happening as fast and as well as I thought they were.

Sometimes I can handle this well because I remind myself that it's an addiction and he needs help. And that the addiction won't just go away overnight. And that it's not about me, and it's not about infidelity. It's about addiction.

But when it comes to sex-addiction, you can't leave the infidelity out of it. It's an integral part of this addiction, and addiction plus infidelity SUCK SO BAD.

Porn doesn't just happen. And masturbation doesn't just happen. Little things trickle in and build up. Lust happens. I know it's not really about me, and I don't ever doubt Ben's love for me. But all the fantasies and lusting while watching porn is certainly infidelity

And even if you're not sold on the idea that porn is infidelity, porn certainly leads there. With addiction, one level is never enough. It will grow worse and worse until there are physical acts of infidelity. [also, I'm really bad about minimizing because so many people in "the world" think porn is not a big deal. the struggle to validate myself is real. that is why this paragraph even exists. shut up, stupid brain.]

Most of my current trauma level stems from fear. He has said things to me in the past that make me afraid for our future. The fact that porn is creeping in more and more with less time in between each viewing worries me. I'm afraid he will give up and leave. I'm afraid he will become so hopeless that he is suicidal. I'm afraid it will grow from fantasy and brain work to physical affairs. 

I'm afraid for our future family. I've seen families ripped apart by the effects of porn. THAT'S NOT IN MY PLAN! But I'm afraid it could arrive there by his choices. 

I honestly feel a little ridiculous because I'm sitting here thinking of all the worst-case scenarios when the fact is, I still see hope. But I've had hope for so long... And fear feels natural. 

The thing is, I still have hope. I still love him. I still see his potential as the father and husband he should be. And I am truly, deeply grateful for the healing that has taken place this summer because earlier this year I was almost ready to give up. Had we not experienced what we have, I would be ready to give up again. But I'm not. Because I love him, DANGIT! And I still have hope. And lots of swear words are running through my head right now. 

It's not fair. It's just not fair. I can do everything "right" and still end up in a crap-hole because of someone else's agency. 

But I do know this: I am not alone. I've been in so much pain the past 24 hours, but I've never felt alone. I've felt God circling me with His love, and He keeps showing me hope. So I guess I'm grateful for that. 

Monday, October 6, 2014


Sometimes I have to remind myself that crying doesn't make me any less.

Crying doesn't mean I have "lost."

Crying doesn't mean I am weak.

If I cry after doing something hard, that doesn't mean it was any less of an accomplishment. I can do hard things, and the hard thing was still done even if it made me cry.

I may have cried today. But that's because today was one hell of a day. And I am one amazing person who can do hard things.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Living While Broken

Since Camp Scabs (well, even before, but I've just been avoiding this), I've been thinking a lot. Mainly, I've been thinking about Ben's addiction, our lives now, and the baby coming.

Hearing everyone's stories was both beautiful and triggering. Rehashing my own story was also both beautiful and triggering. I am not fully recovered, nor do I know if I ever will be. The pain I have felt will always be a part of me. Thus, feeling pain through empathy with others' stories along with my own is, well, painful. It serves as a reminder of what we've gone through--the lies and betrayal that have made up our marriage--and it causes me to question things right now. I have so many fears about the present and the future. And if I think too hard, those things totally bring me down.

When Camp Scabs ended, I was terrified to come home. Ben hadn't confessed anything, but I had this paralyzing fear he was omitting details. When I finally straight-up asked him if he acted out while I was gone, he said no. That means this was the first time in a long time, possibly ever, that we had been apart and he hadn't acted out. Another proof of the progress being made (or the lies being told, but really, I believe in his progress. My doubts, however, are a sign of the trauma and pain I have suffered).

I'm trying to think/process/deal with the emotions and fears that I'm experiencing. Things are not perfect. We are broken, but that is a consequence of living this life. We are all a little broken. Learning to live while broken, along with learning how to mend the pieces, are blessings I am discovering. I know pushing away the hard emotions only causes them to build up and explode. I'm coming out of a darkness and numbing period and finally learning how to live again. I occasionally numb again. But overall, I'm dealing and living, which is huge progress on my part.

I want to take a moment to say overall, things are really great. Because of the past, we still have struggles. I think that is an obvious consequence of the actions that have taken place in our relationship. We are both working through things and striving to make ourselves and our relationship better.

It's kind of amazing to think about where we are now versus six months ago, nine months ago, a year ago, two years ago, or three years ago. I have grown up a lot since we were married four years ago and since learning of the addiction three and a half years ago. So has Ben.

Because of the changes I have seen, I have true hope for our futures. I also love him in a way I never have before. We have laid everything on the line in our relationship. We know pretty much everything there is to know about one another (of course, we are still learning and discovering things, as one does in marriage). I know there are still trials ahead, although I secretly believe God could maybe take into consideration that we have possibly met our trial quota for life. Okay, just kidding. But seriously.

We are both a little broken. We both experience negative emotions and triggers. But we talk about those things. We are learning to be transparent with each other. We are learning how to support each other and be on the same team--a marriage--rather than fighting addict vs. non-addict.

I see the fears I experience and try to remember they are not of God. The hope and light I feel--those are from God. Of course, the fears and insecurities I feel are natural results of choices made by my husband in our marriage. However, he is currently making big changes, and I can't ignore those in the name of fear. The primary thing I see in our marriage right now is hope and light. THAT is from God. Balancing the fears and hope is tricky. But I'm trying to do it. I have some better days than other, but holy cow, we are making progress. I am so grateful for that.

I was given the book Carry On, Warrior for my birthday. I'm only 38 pages in, but I'm in love. Glennon's story validates me. The things she writes validate me. Starting it this week, after the vulnerability of last weekend and the pain of Ben's most recent relapse, has helped me see a little more clearly. While we are both broken, together, and with God, we can make this work. It's hard work, but doable. And isn't that what life is about? It wasn't meant to be easy. If it were easy, it wouldn't be worth it. We wouldn't grow. We wouldn't feel. We wouldn't learn. We would just be, with none of the greatness of being.

Life is an adventure. With God, there is more peace to be found and guidance along the way, but life is still hard. We can do hard things. We are warriors. And now we have each other. Working together is beautiful. Seriously. I'm grateful Ben and I are now working together rather than against each other as we have in the past. That's one thing I am not taking for granted and feel incredibly blessed to have.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Camp Scabs: The Warriors

I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend Camp Scabs last week. When Scabs told me I was the recipient of a scholarship, I cried. At the time, I didn't even know how much I would need this. I was also planning on attending Togetherness Project, but I have since decided not to due to the state of our finances (*tear*). Thus, Camp Scabs became my only source of real connection with women in my same situation, and right now my healing is in a very fragile place. I know many women applied for a scholarship, and I am so, so grateful I was one of the few recipients for this round.

Every women who has suffered betrayal trauma needs a safe place to go. We need connection, and that connection is so healing. Even though many people know my story and know I am dealing with this, I still can't openly talk about it like I can with my warrior sisters. Unless you've gone through it, chances are you don't know how to empathize with me. Because of the way our society is built, there is so much I have to keep inside.

With my warrior, there are no boundaries. We can develop friendships much faster, we develop trust more deep, and we develop a love so strong because of what has brought us together. We can openly joke and talk about sex and porn. We cry. We laugh. We "burn shit" and cry and laugh while doing it. My most vulnerable and safest friendships have formed because of the hell Ben's addiction has put me through.

Camp Scabs was simply beautiful. Each woman in attendance is full of grace, beauty, and strength. Each woman is a warrior. We have all been through so much pain, and sharing that pain with one another brought our group strength to carry on together.

It's hard for me to write about the specifics of Camp Scabs right now. I have so much on my mind, and the experiences I had over the weekend are so near and dear to my heart, that I just can't share it in detail with the world (although I'm positive that with time, little pieces of my thoughts and pain will come out as I process my walk through this mess).

I hope and pray that every woman suffering in the way we have suffered can find the support, love, and laughter she needs.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Relapses, Processing, and Recovery Music

Sometimes the sucky things happen first thing in the morning. Sometimes you just can't deal and other times, you can see clearly and choose to take the necessary steps to help the day move along a little happier. I'm grateful I am currently in a place that is relatively in between. I know the moments I just can't deal, and in those moments, I take a little break from life to either numb (not the best option, but it happens), or process.

This morning I processed.

That processing happened as I reached out to friends who helped me see clearly. I wrote my thoughts and feelings. And I prepared things to burn at Camp Scabs this coming weekend.

As I got ready for church, I listened to my favorite recovery songs. Music is my soul food. My recovery music ALWAYS helps.

And I think until I leave for Camp Scabs, I am going to post recovery music that lifts me. Hopefully it will lift you too.

First, watch this video by Katherine Nelson. Her album "Born Brave" is one of my favorite albums ever. This album is dedicated to women and the hard things we face. In this video, she talks about the album, why it was created, and reads her statement that goes with the album.

The whole album is great, but my favorite songs are: Born, We Are, Soldier Girls, Good for Me, What's Mine Is Yours, and Brave [the bolded ones are my double favorites!].

If you click here, you can read a back story behind each song, listen to a clip, and read the lyrics. If you're in the mood for some good stories and pick-me-up music, I would encourage you to do this :) I would share some of my favorite lines from the songs, but I think that would make this post really long. And besides, everyone has different parts of songs that stick out and are meaningful to them. You can find your own parts in her songs.

Seriously. DO IT!

Most of them are not on YouTube, but these two are. So, enjoy these full songs!

Soldier Girls

What's Mine Is Yours

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shouldering pain

Something weird happened.

Last week was overall pretty amazing. I was happy, and my pregnancy sickness almost completely disappeared. It was like I was living a completely different life. Almost.

I talked to Ben about it on Saturday night. I expressed how happy I had been and my fears that it wouldn't last. I'm really trying. I'm really trying to live to my fullest potential. I'm really trying to turn my hurts over to the Savior and not let the pains I experience bring me to a complete downward spiral. I've been a lot closer to the Savior, and I have felt strength and progress in the way I handled an extremely hurtful situation that happened last Wednesday and how that strength carried me through every day as I battled my depression.

Last week was like a dream. I felt depression coming back on Saturday night. As I talked to Ben, I said, "I think I remember it always being like this. I think I remember being a generally happy, loving, and forgiving person. But I don't really remember. My memory is foggy. It's like, I know I can live like this because it was that way once. If that was reality and not just a dream." He kindly reminded me that I did live a joyful, loving life once upon a time and that I could have that again. The Savior was showing me the light in the darkness. It's joyful weeks like last week that keep me going.

I reached a really high point.

But then, on Monday, the weird thing happened. I woke up and threw up almost all day (among other pregnancy awfuls). It was one of the worst pregnancy sickness days I have experienced. In the morning, I was doing pretty good. I had a positive attitude and every motivation to make it through the day with joy even though my body was trying to tell me it was experiencing anything but joy. However, by mid-afternoon and especially early evening, I was a complete mess. My sickness got worse throughout the day, and in what seemed like the flip of a switch, I was bitter and angry.

I begged God to have mercy on me. I expressed how much I was hurting (my body was hurting everywhere) and how hard it was to go on. I cried and pleaded, and nothing. No pain was taken away. I tried for so long to have a positive attitude, and when my body went to complete crap, I gave up and allowed myself to be bitter and angry at God for throwing that hell day at me when I had been working so hard to make big changes in my life.

After I explored the bitterness for a while, I finally humbled myself enough to pray and dig deep within myself to ask for help through the Atonement. I had voiced to Ben, "I know the Atonement will help me feel less alone and that God hasn't abandoned me. But I'll still be in pain. I don't care if I'm alone. I just want to have less pain. He may give me strength to bear the pain, but I don't want that. I want less pain." [There was probably some swearing in my head].

I honestly didn't know how the Atonement would help me in that moment. I almost didn't believe that I would feel any different. However, I changed my prayers from the begging for mercy and asking for help to asking for help understanding how the Atonement could change me through this or how the power of having the Savior by my side could really help me bear the pain.

Relying on the Atonement to bear the pain, rather than begging for the pain to be taken away, changed the whole situation. It's hard to explain, but I really felt some kind of physical lift of my pain. The pain was lifted just enough that I could think a little more clearly and know I wasn't going to die because of the pain. Ben stayed by my side, holding me and offering comfort, but I felt the presence of angels around me and lifting me up as well. And whenever I took my heart away from the Savior and focused too much on the pain, I lost focus on the Atonement. Thankfully, we have a picture of Christ on our wall, which happened to be in my direct line of sight while I was bedridden. Looking at Him and searching for understanding of the Atonement helped me feel lighter when I felt too weighed down.

It's amazing how light and happy I felt last week to the huge switch in my physical health that caused me to fall into bitterness. But it's also amazing how I can learn time and again lessons about the Atonement. I don't want to ever forget that experience because it really showed me how Christ can help shoulder my burden in a way I haven't experienced before. It's something I can carry with me in all my pains.

I really hate physical pain. I've experienced so much physical pain in my life that it's starting to take a huge emotional toll on me. And physical pain combined with emotional pain seems to hurt exponentially more. But I know that no matter what, I can bear any pain with Christ by my side.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It's amazing how the trauma resulting from situations in my life can continue to have an impact on my life. No matter how hard I try to deal with my life appropriately.

I've lost a friend because of my depression. Score 1 for Satan and trauma. *sigh*

However, I've been working really hard on my recovery this week. On Sunday, when I had that realization that I don't know how to live a "normal" life, and I don't know how to be happy, I told myself that I will learn. I will find happiness and joy again. I've been taking baby steps this week to regain what has been lost.

I've given myself tasks every day. Things that need to get done. I even write them down so I don't forget (pregnancy brain/foggy depression brain have kicked in a cause me to forget in an instant what I should be working on). I spent time with some friends on Tuesday. I've been working on keeping the apartment clean and in order, something that Ben has put in more than his fair share of doing while I've been in a depressive slump. Heck, I've even cooked dinner EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK. That is huge for me :)

I have permission from my bishop to find a counselor. The ward will help me pay for it.

Today, I'm going to work on my to-do list. And I'm also going to read a book. Or two.

I've turned to God every day.

And when I was really lost in trauma because of a situation that happened yesterday, I stood back from the moment and looked at the options, "I can lose myself in the depression of this situation. I can be angry and choose to be prideful. Or I can ask God for His help. I can ask for His hand to hold mine as I mourn this situation, and I can ask for Him to speak to my heart and guide me in handling this situation appropriately."

I chose the latter.

It's amazing what reaching out to God first can do. I reached out to Him before anyone else. And I've felt His presence lifting me up when I feel like I'm falling down.

So even though this trauma has had far-reaching effects and have caused a friendship to almost vanish before my eyes, this trauma has also taught me. I've learned how to search my soul. I've learned how to turn to God. I've learned what of the power of gratitude. I've seen beauty in so many ways.

Satan got one point this week. But God is on my team, and with Him, my team has so many more points. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is this God's will?

During my Sunday support group, a woman shared something that really hit me.

She said something along the lines of, "I don't think our lives (being married to a sex-addict) are God's will. I think our husbands, through their own agency, have messed up God's plan for us and now we are in a position where we have to trust that God will heal us and help us through."

Can anyone else say WOW with me?

I've spent my fair share of time being bitter and angry with God for saying yes in answer to my heartfelt prayer asking if Ben is the right person to marry. I know I'm not alone in that. Ben was active in his addiction in some ways when we were dating/engaged. He lied to me when I asked about pornography (he may not have felt he was lying at the time, because of the twisted addict brain). God knew what was going on and knew what could happen if I married Him. I felt that I was supposed to marry Ben. So, yes, I've been angry with God for guiding me into this marriage.

However, I hadn't considered the possibility that maybe this isn't God's will. Maybe God saw Ben's potential as a human being, as His son, when He said yes in answer to my prayer. Maybe God chose to let Ben use his agency and prove himself. Ben could have chosen differently many times. And maybe the situation I have been in is actually NOT God's will.

I know I have grown through this trial. I have grown as a person, as a wife, and as a daughter of God.

I have gained strength. I have learned what true beauty is and been able to see that beauty in myself.

I don't know if this is God's will. Sometimes I have come to terms with it because of the growth I have experienced, the strength I've gained, and also the idea that maybe Ben needed me in his life and God knew that. And I know I accepted my trials before I came to earth. So maybe what I'm facing IS God's will for me.

But maybe there is some odd combination between this being God's will and it not being His will. I don't know.

But what I do know is I can't change the past. I can only accept what has happened, where I am now, and God's guiding hand. I can accept that He will be there for me and help guide me through this life and this mess I'm living. He won't let me down. He loves me.

So I'll try to take his hand and keep pressing forward.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fear? FEAR.

Lately, I've been paralyzed by fear. I've been living in this dark place, allowing the darkness and fears to rule me because I don't know how else to live.

Yesterday, I had this brief moment of true happiness. It was during sacrament meeting. People were bearing their testimonies, and I had this powerful moment of bearing my testimony to myself, in my heart. I felt true joy. I felt God's presence, and I was reminded that I am not alone. I am never alone. He sees me and knows my pain, and I can get through the hard things because of Him. In that moment, I also noticed that I was completely free of my pregnancy nausea, and I had this thought: I don't know how to live anymore.

Not that I don't want to live or am feeling suicidal. That's not what I mean. I mean, I really, truly don't know how to live. I don't know what to do with these moments of joy and peace I feel. I don't know what to do with the moments free of pregnancy nausea. If these moments became my daily reality, I don't know what I would do. Right now, I know depression. I know exhaustion. I know the feeling of giving up and feeling defeated. I don't know how to feel joy and make it last through the day. I don't know how to do the things I once used to love when my physical and emotional pains are lessened. I don't know how to live life without fear or pain.

It's sad.

I have so many fears:

  • I'm afraid of future relapses. 
  • I'm afraid Ben will give up and leave me.
  • I'm afraid I will be a terrible mom.
  • I'm afraid I will always be depressed, and that will have a negative impact on my mothering ability.
  • I'm afraid I will always feel alone.
  • I've decided not to go to Togetherness next month. I'm afraid I will lose all my Togetherness friends because I'm not present and making connections with everyone who is there. 
  • I'm afraid of working as a substitute teacher. I'm afraid I will be a terrible sub, and I'm afraid I will never make enough money to help us out of the financial hole we are currently experiencing. (And since I'm pregnant, I'm afraid I will have to go to the bathroom all the time and not be able to...)
  • I'm afraid to busy myself with things I used to love (painting, reading, exercising) because I'm afraid they will take up too much time and I won't make friends where I currently live.
  • But I'm afraid to try to make friends because I'm afraid I don't know how to be a real person anymore and I'm afraid people won't like me. Or I'm afraid I will share too much about my life, thus scaring any potential friends away from me.
  • I'm afraid I am or will be too needy with my friends and become a burden on them.
  • I'm afraid to exercise because I might throw up.
  • I'm afraid Ben resents me because I've been so depressed and putting a lot on his plate because of my inability to cope with life.
  • I'm afraid I will never feel whole again.
Whew. The list could go on, but I'm afraid if I keep addressing my fears, I will never recover. Writing those out was emotionally draining. And I'm afraid to finish this post and let people see the (possibly irrational) inner fears I am experiencing and attempting to work through.

There was a time when I chose not to let fear rule me. If I had a fear, I challenged and faced it. I owned my fear and showed it who was boss. That's not me anymore. I've become so paralyzed by my fears and depressions that I just don't know how to live without them anymore. And I'm afraid to make changes because change is uncomfortable.

I'm studying step 2 in Healing Through Christ. This is a powerful step where you come to believe the power of God can restore you to spiritual and emotional health. Today, as I looked over the questions I'm supposed to answer, I scrolled back up to the reading the questions cover. In that reading, it has "Steps we take to surrender fearful emotions."
  1. Identify our fears. Done.
  2. Face and own our fears. "...fear literally robs us of our faith and hope in Christ. We understand that 'God can heal a broken heart, but [we] have to give Him all the pieces.'"
  3. Prayerfully surrender our fears to our Savior. "Rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into painful emotions, we continue to choose to fall to our knees and surrender all of our emotional struggles to our Savior, allowing our tender mercies and grace to bless our lives."
Even though my trust is fragile, and I give pieces to my Savior and take pieces back, I have developed enough trust in Him to know that He really is trustworthy. I know He can heal me. I know He can save me from these fears, pains, and depression that is taking over my life. I have to give it to Him, though. And because I'm stubborn, it's really hard to give these pieces to Him constantly. 

Life is a constant struggle. Some days are easier than others. Some days the hard hits like a ton of bricks and I don't know how to move. But I can move because Christ is by my side lifting me up and carrying me. I am trying to remember that. 

I am trying to work through these fears. I am trying to face and own them. I am trying to surrender them to my Savior. But it's a hard, emotional process.

I know I'm not alone in living with silent struggles (I once became fairly vocal, but I've become more silent lately). We all have silent struggles. I hope and pray that everyone is gentle with one another as we fight the things we are fighting.