Wednesday, June 25, 2014

God knows our potential

When you are deeply engulfed in pain, no matter what the pain, it can be easy to blame God. It is only too easy to question His plan for you, His love for you, when the pain you are suffering is seemingly placed there by Him. On purpose.

How dare He? (angry face)

I've had so many moments of hatred at God. I usually make up with Him pretty quickly because I realize that life without Him by my side is dark and terrible. Because of these moments of anger and hatred at God, along with the moments where I have abandoned Him and realized I'm much worse off without Him, I've had a lot to think about.

God guided me to Ben. I found Ben because of promptings.

God prompted both of us in ways that led to our dating relationship.

When I took the terrifying idea of marriage to God, I felt like it was right. God wanted me to marry Ben.

Okay, so when I went through HELL with Ben, I had a lot of questions for God. They usually started with "Why?" And they usually ended with tears.

I've been thinking about this concept a lot because while I am doing well right now, I have many close friends who are suffering a faith crisis. And, of course, every once in a while I still question because things are certainly not going according to my plan.

Today as I worked on my 12-Steps, I came across these two quotes:
Elder Richard G. Scott explained: “Now may I share some suggestions with you who face the second source of adversity, the testing that a wise Heavenly Father determines is needed even when you are living a worthy, righteous life and are obedient to His commandments. Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.”
Elder Orson F. Whitney shared: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, build[s] up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we came here to acquire.” 

I've often gotten wrapped up in the idea that sometimes our trials are a result of someone else's agency. That is definitely this trial. But, then, that still leads me to question God. God knew this would happen, so why not help me out? I mean, seriously. I have a lot of theories about that regarding agency. Simply put, if God warned me out of this, that would have taken away Ben's agency along with my own agency for things... Yada yada that is not what I'm talking about, but there you go--simple version. I needed to marry Ben. He had the choice to do what he has done, and I've learned a ton from this trial. I honestly wouldn't trade it (as scary as it is to say that).

Today, what hit me from those quotes was this trial is a challenge that God wants me to face. He knows I can do this. He has given me the tools to survive. He has given me so many blessings to help me through. He is with me always. God has given me this experience to stimulate my growth, to help me become better because He knows my potential. He sees what I can't, and He is allowing me to be stretched.

It sucks. Oh my gosh, this trial sucks. But I feel strength and peace in knowing and understanding that this IS part of the plan. In so many ways.

And I am SO GRATEFUL for that knowledge. Even though it sucks.

(Interesting fact: I was told in a blessing earlier this year that I saw my trials before I came to this earth. I knew what I was up against, and I rejoiced because I knew these trials would bring me closer to God. This little "revelation" I had today reminded me of that blessing along with all the peace I have experienced as I have studied trials, the Plan of Salvation, and the Atonement. Let me say once again how grateful I am for my relationship with God and the knowledge and strength I have because of Him.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

I am beautiful. YOU are beautiful.

I remember the first time Ben and I ever hung out, just the two of us. We watched Dan in Real Life. We sat on opposite ends of the couch. I thought he was cute and funny, but he was short.

I remember when we were in an "off" period (broken up or something), I went running with Ben's roommate. We talked about my potential future. I told him Ben was perfect except that he was short, and I didn't know if I could handle that.

"I know you won't base eternity off of something as shallow as that." That was his response.

He was right. I couldn't base the idea of a future with Ben off his height. He was everything I dreamed in a future husband. He treated me with respect, adoration, and love. He had a strong testimony. He was goofy. He wasn't afraid of watching chick flicks. He thought I was funny. He liked keeping his body healthy and strong. And then some. I felt safe and secure with him for the most part.

After the addiction came out, I really struggled with body image. I know I'm not alone in that. Many of us do. But because I felt like my spiritual warrior had broken down, I didn't even has his physical stature as a symbol of protection and safety. It may sound silly, but I always felt like if he were at least taller than me, I would feel better around him. I could still feel like he was my protector and warrior in some way IF HE WERE JUST TALLER THAN ME!

I lost a lot of weight very quickly. I counted calories like nobody's business. If I didn't get to exercise during the day, my caloric intake was dramatically decreased. I was not about to get fat. In my efforts to not get fat, I was very weak and irritable. My body changed for the worse. My emotions were out of control, my bones felt weak and brittle, and it was all I could to do stand some days.

But I had this complex about gaining weight. If I gained weight, I wouldn't be pretty enough for him. I couldn't compete at all with the porn or his fantasies. If I gained weight, I would be this big blob next to him.

I felt like I was the spiritual warrior. I couldn't beat him in physical stature too. I had to stay smaller than him. Way smaller.

If someone had said, "Kilee, I think you look unhealthily skinny. Are you doing okay?" I probably would have gotten mad. Ben's brain wasn't the only one that was broken. Mine was breaking too.

Looking back, however, I think I longed for someone to notice the physical effect the pain was having on me. If someone had noticed my weight loss and asked me about it--and told me they didn't buy my story that I was fine--I might have opened up to them. I might have called for help. Or at least, I might have taken care of myself better.

People told me how great I looked. "Kilee you're so skinny! Oh my gosh, you look fantastic!" That only secured even more in my head the fact that my worth was based on how I looked. People seemed to like me more because I was skinny and pretty (or at least that is how it seemed in my head).

I just moved back to the area where I grew up. I currently weigh about 18 pounds less than I did in high school. When I run into people I knew in that life, one of the first things out of their mouth is "You look so good." Of course, they then clear up the confusion that they might be implying that I didn't always look good with the cover, "I mean, not that you don't always look good. But wow! You look so good."

I can't even count the number of people who have commented on my body in the past week.

I don't want to sound like a scrooge and say I hate it. But, okay, I hate it. I don't want people to comment on my body. If people like something about me, I want it to be because I have a rockin personality (though, I do appreciate comments about my hair. Because my hair is pretty awesome ;)).

Really, I just wish our society didn't objectify our bodies so much. I feel like I'm constantly surrounded by people who are self-conscious about their bodies. Because of my experience, I'm learning to love myself as I am. I wish everyone could do that! I have beautiful friends, and I see beautiful people every day who are so self conscious about their bodies.

It shouldn't matter. It really shouldn't . And I know I need to take my own advice.

It shouldn't matter how thick or thin you are. It shouldn't matter how big your stomach is or if you have stretch marks from a pregnancy. It shouldn't matter if your hair looks "gross" or if you are wearing makeup or not.

What should matter is how healthy you feel. And whether or not you are being true to yourself.

Are you taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually?

That is what matters.

Sometimes I still struggle with the fact that I'm taller than Ben. Sometimes I struggle with how I look. But I know those don't define my worth, and I'm working on accepting and loving myself as I am. I am imperfect, and I am beautiful.

My worth is defined by God.

I am beautiful because I am His daughter.

I am beautiful because I carry His spirit.

I am beautiful because I am able to love.

I don't have to be skinny to be beautiful. I don't have to be shorter to fit in. I don't have to be anything except who I am and the person I am trying to be.

I hope you can see that for yourself. You are beautiful. You are.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Which Wolf are You Feeding?

This morning in my 12-step work (Healing Through Christ), I read this parable:

“An elder Apache was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, ‘A fight is going on inside me; it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, and pride. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too.’ The grandchildren thought about the story for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old Grandfather simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’"

The follow-up question was, "Which wolf do you feed most often?"

It got me thinking (which was the point, yes I know). I've really been doing a lot of self-evaluation lately. In my efforts to allow myself to feel, rather than push away my pain, I think I allowed myself to feed the first wolf. I got to the point where fear, anger, self-pity, and resentment ruled me. I wasn't just feeding them--I felt like I was them. (So maybe I was feeding ME to the wolf?)

It's important to feel the emotions that come with this situation. When you push them away, they build up pressure and explode. And it's not pretty--not pretty at all. It's a most painful explosion, and any hope remaining could quickly diminish with the aftermath of that kind of explosion. Pushing away emotions is rarely the best response.

There lies a fine line between feeling the emotions but not letting them rule you. I don't know, maybe letting them rule you is just part of the process, but I'd like to think that you could appropriately deal with the emotions without becoming a casualty and being ruled by them. That's what I'm trying to figure out right now. I don't know where the line is between feeling the emotions and not letting them rule you, but I am certainly trying to discover it.

I want to feed the second wolf, the good wolf. I have been working on feeding that wolf more often. It comes through self-care. The more I care about myself and meet my needs (physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual), the easier it is to feel joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, etc.--even if it's in tiny doses at a time.

I have felt the good wolf pulling out of the muck lately. I have felt a great increase in those positive emotions. It's not been an easy process, and I'm still hard at work. Sometimes I need to allow myself time to sit in the negative emotions, but I also need to pull myself back up and lean on Christ to feel the positive ones.

I had a moment on Friday where I felt truly, deeply happy. A feeling I haven't felt in a LONG time. Over the last little while, I've felt the tides turning, and I feel more hope than despair. That is a good thing. For the past however long, I've felt more despair than hope. I am excited for the changes coming my way, and I hope and pray that I can continue to turn my life over to God. I do know that it is through Him that I have gained the strength, hope, and peace I am currently feeling in my life. 

Which wolf are you feeding?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Starting the 12 Steps Again

I decided it's time to start the 12 Steps over (we're on round 3!). This time, I'm sticking to the Healing Through Christ manual rather than the LDS manual.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I believe in using the 12 Steps to help with healing. In my experience, I have been able to draw closer to the Savior through the 12 Steps. They teach basic principles about turning your will over to God and living as a disciple of Christ.

I've been suffering with anger and depression a lot lately. I don't like that. I've also been wrapped up in hurt and blaming Ben for things. I don't like that either.

There was a time when I felt really grounded as I dealt with the addiction. Granted, I didn't understand or know nearly as much as I do now, and maybe I was dealing with denial. But I felt good. I felt like I had faith in God and the Atonement. I was understanding the addiction and it's relationship to me. And then things spiraled over the past year. There are many reasons for that, which I don't really feel like getting into right now.

But my point is that I'm starting over with the 12 Steps. And it's been an amazing experience so far. I'm working on Step 1, and I am realizing a lot of things:

I am still holding on to the desire to control the addiction and to control our marriage.

I have been forgetting about my understanding of the addiction. But I also can't let the "addiction" be an excuse for him to act out. I am still trying to find that line between agency and the power of the addiction.

I haven't been praying or turning things over to God as much as I should be.

I might be taking the addiction a little too personally. I am trying to let go of that.

I need to take care of myself: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I've been practicing identifying my needs and taking care of them.

I am realizing that I haven't been dealing with my negative emotions properly. I am trying to identify their roots and remember that it's part of the process and nothing to feel guilt or shame about.

I am realizing that I have not been giving myself what I need to heal. Sometimes, that means time. I need to put less focus on healing within a time frame. I need to stop "should"ing myself.

I am recognizing some unhealthy behaviors I am using to deal with the addiction and attempting to lessen those behaviors.

I haven't finished my Step 1 study and processing yet, but I am excited for the revelations and peace it has brought me.

I'm getting a stress headache right now. So, I will end.

Onward and upward to healing!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Save the Date--Togetherness Project

The Togetherness Project has announced the date and location of their next event! 
Mark your calendars because 
it's going to be fantastic!

October 11, 2014

Will you be there?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Empathy Fuels Connection

Even though we are in recovery and overall, things are going well, sometimes I feel super disconnected with Ben. It's hard to communicate, and I honestly feel selfish most of the time. I have felt these feelings of selfishness quite frequently lately, and I know some have some real grounds while others don't (because I'm depressed and think not-so-nice things about myself).

But Sunday night, I realized where some of my selfishness comes from: Empathy. Rather, lack of empathy.

I practice empathy with my friends. I try to practice empathy on myself (because sometimes if I don't empathize from an outside perspective, I will be really mean to myself). And I prefer people to show me empathy too. So, why why why do I rarely show Ben empathy?

Quite often, when he comes to me with something big--like struggles he is having with his job, our finances, our infertility, or the addiction--I tune out. I blame him. I "at least" him to death. I respond, rather than connect. Many of my responses drive a further wedge between us, and then I blame him for the disconnection we experience. Why? Because he is the addict, and I'm depressed, and everything is his fault! Duh.

Except it's not. Not everything is his fault. And sometimes I am selfish.

Watch this video:

Empathy fuels connection! It's feeling with people and sharing their sacred space that feels like a deep, dark hole.

Sometimes when Ben comes to me in his deep, dark hole, I respond kind of like, "Well, that sucks. Now listen to how depressed I am." "At least I don't look at porn too." "At least you're not going to be a mother. You have no idea the pain I feel with infertility." "Infertility would feel much harder if you were in my shoes. Because a lot of this is your fault anyway." "At least you have a job." The list could go on. And that list is selfish.

When I'm in a dark hole, Ben generally comes down to me and sits with me. But when Ben is in a dark hole, I tend to remind him who's fault it is that he is down there (not always, but way too often).

And I wonder why we feel disconnected.

In reality, it doesn't matter what kind of pain he feels. It doesn't matter what kind of pain anyone feels because PAIN IS PAIN. That person's pain is their reality. We have to understand that. Even if their pain looks small on the outside, to them, it's big. I'm positive we have all felt pain before. And we can use our reality of pain to connect. Connecting with your reality and understanding of the pain and darkness you have felt can be scary because it's vulnerable. And it can feel uncomfortable. But once we connect with our experiences, we can connect with the person in the dark hole and build connections and show empathy, which will help lessen the burden.

"I know what it's like down here, and you're not alone." That should be my response. That should be all of our responses to anyone's pain.

If I can't imagine the pain my husband feels when he is aching for owning his own business and the stress of providing for our family, that's okay. Because if he is in a dark place, and he is inviting me in to that sacred space, that space can be used to fuel our connection. I can connect with his pain because I have experienced pain of my own. I know that sacred place. (And if I don't know how to connect, I can say, "I don't know what to say. But thank you for trusting me with this." And then I can sit with him as long as he needs me to.)

And if, for some reason, I truly can't connect because of my own trauma and depression that is related to him, I can let him know in the most empathetic way that I can't be his support at that time. Because I do need to keep myself safe and hold on to my boundaries.

Empathy is what has been missing in my relationship with Ben. I don't connect to that piece of me that does understand his pain. Sometimes it's because I really and truly can't be vulnerable in that way because of what is happening in our marriage. But, especially lately, quite often, I can connect and choose not to.

I realized on Sunday, if I want our relationship to work (and obviously I do), I have to choose empathy. I have to start choosing to really connect with him on both of our terms, not just mine. There was a time when I really needed distance and space, and we couldn't be vulnerable. Now is the time to start being vulnerable in ways we haven't in a long time. I need to choose empathy. I need to choose vulnerability because that is what drives connection.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My husband is an addict. Who can I talk to?

"This is your husband's thing. You telling anyone else is betrayal to him." 

I've heard that too many times to count. It's stuck in my head and caused me much grief over the years.

We know betrayal, right? And we certainly don't want to become the betrayer. Maybe that's why this "myth" is so hard to deal with. We don't want to feel like we have betrayed our spouse. Plus, we are women. We are good at sucking it up and suffering silently (or at least I am) to not "put out" the other person.

But here's the deal. Ready?

This isn't just about your husband. This is about you now too. Not in the sense that this is your fault, but that it's happening to you. By marrying (or dating) you, the addict has chosen to give up some of his rights of ownership to this story. You now own this story in the way that it is happening to you. Because it is happening to you. You have been betrayed on a deep, intimate level. The feelings and trauma you are experiencing/have experienced as a result of his actions are normal and need to be addressed and properly dealt with.

Some people will say the only people that need to know about this are your bishop, therapist (if you choose to have a therapist or counselor), and God. While that may work for some people, limiting yourself to ONLY THOSE PEOPLE could have negative consequences for you.

We need people. Sometimes the bishop, therapist, and God is enough people. If it is, awesome. If it's not, there is no need for guilt or shame in confiding elsewhere. That's not to say you need to tell everyone, but you can prayerfully find safe people to confide in. Regardless, you need to do what you feel is best for YOU.

When I realized that, the whole game changed for me. Having people--friends--to talk to was life-changing. It started out with friends I made in my support groups and slowly extended to a few close friends, my Relief Society president, my family, his family, my visiting teachers, and then whoever I felt inspired to confide in. And then all of "the world" (with him, as you know).

My way isn't the way. It was the way for me. Everyone's way is different. Do what you feel is best for you. If that means confiding in no one outside of your bishop, therapist, and God, sweet deal (although, in my honest, biased opinion, I think everyone could use a close friend knowing--even if it's someone who becomes a close friend through blogs you read or support groups you attend). If it means confiding in a few people, do that. If you feel like you have to tell everyone (I do know a few people who told EVERYONE as soon as they found out, which had some negative repercussions for them, but also many positive things to have it all out in the open) do that! It's up to you. This is now your story. It's a different perspective from the addict's, but it's happening to you, and you have a right to your healing how you see fit.

The addict might think you are being mean or insensitive to tell people. That's because the addict is experiencing major shame, and it's hard and scary to have this out in the open. It is probably good to have his input and know where he stands on you talking to people about it. But if he is completely against it, that doesn't mean listen to him and suffer silently. His brain is broken; therefore, in my honest and biased opinion, he really doesn't have the capacity to make those kinds of decisions for you. If you can reach some kind of compromise or get on the same page as each other, it will ease some tension. But if not, prayerfully decide what needs to be done for your healing and press forward with that.

This isn't being un-Christlike. In fact, you can address this part of your healing in a very Christlike manner. Christ threw out the money-changers in the temple. You can throw out the money-changers in your marriage. The bottom line is you need to do what is best for your healing. If you don't, you may grow to harbor even more resentment than already exists as a natural result of his addiction.

Maybe he will harbor resentment against you for talking to people. If he does, that is not your problem. His actions are completely out of your control. Always. If he can't support your recovery and healing in this way, then he is probably still needing more recovery himself. That is okay. Take steps forward for your healing and recovery, set boundaries, and follow through with the boundaries. He will either get into recovery or not, but you waiting around, hoping for him to enter recovery (and who knows when that will happen?) might end up causing you more emotional harm than good.

If you feel you need to talk to people, talk to people. Do it. For you.