life

Abuse: Deeper than Bruises

Hello, My name is Sarah and I have been a victim of an abusive relationship.

This is my story.

Before I share my story, I want to get us all on the same level.

Abuse is defined as the “cruel or violent treatment of a person (or animal) especially regularly/repeatedly.”

Abuse encompasses more than just physical violence, in fact there are 6 main forms of abuse that occur within violent relationships:

Physical 

Standing over you, getting “in your face,” blocking a doorway, grabbing you if you try to leave, kicking, punching, biting, slapping, choking, threatening to harm you, using weapons, throwing things, breaking things, punching walls or doors, driving recklessly, burning, cutting, pulling hair, stabbing, strangling, tying or confining you, preventing you from seeking medical care, murder.

Emotional

Insults, put downs, intimidating you, embarrassing you in public, talking down to you, not listening to or respecting your feelings, making threats, telling you you’re not “GLBTQ,” “man,” or “strong” enough, being jealous, possessive, controlling; excessive or threatening texts, wanting access to your messages, email, FaceBook/MySpace, spying, checking up on you, accusations of cheating, making you feel like you need to justify yourself, giving you no privacy, shaming you for your sexual orientation.

Verbal

Yelling, shouting, swearing, continuously arguing, interrupting, talking over you, put downs, using loud and threatening language and tone to cause fear, name calling, intimidating you, mocking you, abusive language.

Economic

Withholding money, opening up a joint account but you don’t have access, forcing you to leave your job, forcing you to get fired, shaming you for how you spend your money, not allowing you to work or get an education, putting all the bills/credit cards in your name, preventing you from using a car.

Mental

Playing mind games with you, twisting everything around so nothing is their fault and all of their behavior was caused by something you did or didn’t do, accusing you of doing things that they are doing, lying, manipulating you for control or sex, threatening to “out” you to parents, friends, classmates, distorting reality so you think you are losing your mind.

Sexual

Rape, unwanted sexual touching, vulgar comments, pressure for sex, forcing you to have unprotected sex, forcing you to get pregnant or to have an abortion, sexting, forcing you to have sex with other people or to watch your partner have sex with someone else, forcing you to use or participate in pornography.

ImageMy Story

In the summer of 2010, I met a guy at the summer camp where we worked. We hit it off and soon enough he asked me to be his girlfriend. He seemed like a great guy: funny, personable, charming. So of course I agreed.

That’s when it all started to go downhill.

It wasn’t too long before he started putting me down verbally. He would make comments about how I wasn’t “smart enough” to understand whatever it was he was talking about at the time. He would tell me to just “stop talking.” I didn’t really think anything of it…he was just being a guy right? Wrong.

From there he moved to my emotions, he would continue to make off handed comments about how my body wasn’t “hot”, “fit”, “attractive” and how he wished I looked more like celebrities like Megan Fox. So I started dieting. I lost about 20 pounds in 2 months. But even that wasn’t enough to make him happy.

The previous two behaviors continued for weeks…it became my new normal. I didn’t even realize that anything was amiss. Then things got worse that winter. He followed me upstairs at his parent’s house one day when they were out.  He proceeded to makeout with me. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but then he started making moves that I was not at all comfortable with. I kept saying “No. I don’t want to. Get off me. Stop.” Over and over and over again. That day he stopped.

Sometimes he would stop if I said “No.” enough times. Other times he wouldn’t.

Over time…there were times when I wouldn’t even protest. I felt like I was just an object. It didn’t matter what I did or said, I could just be used. He manipulated me into thinking that if I didn’t go along with it that I was a bad person. In my clouded head, I didn’t even realize that what was happening wasn’t normal and that it was incredibly unhealthy.

As a devout Christian, I also felt shamed, soiled, used, disgusting, violated and I felt like it was my fault for letting it happen over and over again. So I didn’t say anything to anyone. I pretended like everything was wonderful between us.

It wasn’t, but I was afraid of what he would do if I broke up with him. He was prone to violent outbursts when he was angry and I was legitimately scared that he would do something to me if I did.

So 2 years later with continued manipulation and abuse, I even agreed to marry him when he proposed.

About 3 months later though, he cheated on me. And in that hurt, I finally found the confidence to walk away. And even at that moment, I never even realized that our relationship had been abusive.

It took me a long time after we broke up to realize just how toxic our relationship was.

I knew that it was bad, sure, but I would never have said that he had abused me. It wasn’t until a psychologist explained to me the different kinds of abuse and that my situation fell within those bounds that I came to terms with it all.

Once I said the words: “I was in an abusive relationship.” I was able to start healing.

Healing took time. It took tears. But it happened.

I always have been a strong willed, independent woman and it scared me that even I could have so blindly been in an abusive situation. And the fact that I did, doesn’t make me any less of a person. It doesn’t make me weak or unworthy. It is an experience that I would never wish on anyone, but I am stronger for it.

Conclusion

I am now happily married to a wonderful man who is incredible and who loves me for me. I know this week’s post is a bit different than what I normally discuss, but my low self confidence in my own beauty was a huge factor in my situation, and I want to make sure that other women know the different forms abuse can take. Abuse doesn’t have a standard form that it takes, it’s unique to every relationship. However, there are common threads that I believe everyone should be aware of.

Thank you for reading my story.

You are a beautiful, strong, human being.

So stay smiling, beautiful! Happy looks great on you! (:

 

I Had No Idea… | The Power of Words

This past week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

I know what you’re thinking…

There’s a week for everything these days….Zzzz….Zzzzzz…

And you’re absolutely correct…there is a month/day/week for just about everything. March alone is home to National Puppy Week, Pi Day, Skipping Day, and British Pie Day just to name a few.

But, this really is a cause that deserves its own week. Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S according to ANAD.

This is nothing to scoff at.

In the last 6 weeks, this blog has posted on topics ranging from eating disorders to body image to photo manipulation ethics, but this week I want to discuss something different.

I want to talk about you.

What is your struggle?

Do you look in the mirror and poke, push, and grab every part of your body that you don’t like?

Do you get anxious about leaving the house without makeup on?

Do you use filters on your pictures in order to give yourself a “better” appearance?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions: you probably struggle with some form body image issues.

You’re not alone…I’ve been there too, and so have a lot of other women.

There is no easy answer to this epidemic. If there were, we would have figured it out by now. But as it stands, three quarters of US women are unsatisfied with what they see in the mirror.

NEDA’s campaign revolved around the phrase: I had no idea…

I had no idea that so many women and men are affected by poor body image.

I had no idea that I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

I had no idea that those who meant well in my life, lied to me when I was young.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. 

Bullshit. A more honest phrase would have been:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will crush my heart, soul, and self esteem.

I had no idea how powerful words could really be.

I had no idea how devastating words could be to my psyche.

I had no idea how uplifting words could build me up but also cause me to doubt.

I had no idea how complicated life can be.

I had no idea about you.

In life there are always insiders and outsiders. In groups and out groups as the sociologists would say.  And it seems to me, and most likely to you as well, that no matter what you and were always in the outgroup. So what happens when a bunch of so-called outsiders band together?

We become an IN group.

According to Erin Morgenstern “there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead.”

Even in our darkest days, our ugliest days, our days when the darkness of our beds are the only comfort, “things keep going on,” your story is wrapped up in my story and “there is no telling where any of them my lead.”

You and I are in charge of our own stories, yet they are both intertwined. We do not exist in isolation. We were created for community. You keep me accountable for the words I say and think about my body, and I will do the same for you.

Because we are beautiful.

And no one should tell us otherwise.

Stay Smiling Beautiful! Happy, looks great on you.

You’re Worth More Than That | Disordered Eating

I was a chronic dieter. I honestly do not remember a time from 6th grade through sophomore year of college that I wasn’t dieting in some way shape or form. I would skip meals, restrict calories, exercise obsessively, and overall be dissatisfied with my body. It wasn’t until last year that I realized what I was doing to myself had a name, and that it wasn’t normal or healthy behavior.Image

I was a disordered eater.

The National Eating Disorder Collaboration (NEDC) defines disordered eating as “when a person regularly engages in destructive eating behaviours such as restrictive dieting, compulsive eating or skipping meals.” Examples of disordered eating behaviors include “fasting or chronic restrained eating” also known as chronic dieting, skipping meals, binge eating, self induced vomiting, unbalanced eating (restricting just one food group perceived to be ‘bad,’ and using diet pills/laxatives. 

According to a study by McCargar and McBurney published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, almost half of Americans suffer from Chronic Dieting Syndrome. Most of those who suffer from it started dieting at an early age (typically teenage years). A staggering 78% of participants reported extreme dissatisfaction with body size and shape. The kicker of this study is its age. It was published in 1999. And disordered eating habits have only gotten worse. 

In a US News Report in 2011, “nearly half of boys and girls in grades three to six want to be thinner, research suggests, and about 37 percent have already dieted.” And when students were surveyed again 5 years later after reporting they would continuing dieting, most weighed more than non-dieters. 

These habits are simply not healthy. They lead to psychological problems and complete body dissatisfaction. 

This article hurts my heart to write. It hits too close to home. Almost every woman I know has struggled with disordered eating. Including myself. And even though I’ve conquered my own self-loathing, it is not something I want my children to struggle with. 

I want my kids to know that they are beautiful and that they are loved. 

And I’m sure that what all of you want for your kids too…

So why don’t you want it for yourself? 

Why not tell yourself you’re beautiful? 

What kind of role model can you be for the kids in your life if you don’t believe what you’re telling them? 

This week, I want you to take 5 days off from counting, obsessing, exercising, all of it. Eat when your hungry. Eat what tastes good and what makes your body feel good. Take a walk. Rock climb. Play with your dog. Breathe in. Breathe out. Be free. 

You are more than the sum of the calories you take in; and you are more than the ones you burn off during your workout. 

You are a beautiful human being. You are the product of all your experiences and the ones of your ancestors. You are the culmination in a unique pattern of genes that combined in your mother’s womb to make you. No one else has your fingerprints. No one else has your exact eyes. No one else has the mole on the inside of your left pinky finger. You are the only you there is in the whole world. To quote Whitman: “O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

What will your verse be? 

Stay Smiling, Beautiful (:

Happy looks great on you!