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Bethany G. Paget

Midwife of words

Month

January 2014

We got There

My girl came and got in bed with me at 230 this morning to snuggle.  I was in the bathroom and she came looking for me.  We grasped hands and got in bed.  She wiggled her little 7 ½ year body to mine and I wrapped my arms around her and all was well. 

Abigail and I are connected in a way that is hard to explain in words.  She is 100% my mini me, so on one hand that is fun, beautiful and hilarious to watch as she grows up.  On the opposite side of the spectrum that makes our relationship hard because she knows when I am off kilter even before I do.

Our spirits are so connected, so intertwined with one another that we are connected with invisible, stretchy cords of true love.

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(Abigail’s 6th birthday party.  I cannot help but love this picture)

Life as a mom and daughter has not been like this; I always knew that the deep feelings were there.  She’s my daughter.  She was/is the catalyst for my life moving forward and its abrupt redirection.

Yet I did not become a mother the day she was born.

It took 6 years for me to really feel like I am a mother; that we are a complete, whole family.

My life is a series of anniversaries and February is another one of those months.  I left her “donor” (I don’t call him her dad or her father because he does not deserve nor has he earned to be called either of those titles.) on February 2, 2006.  I was four months pregnant, had zero money, nowhere to go and zero support.

I left with my phone and my purse and the thought that I’d be sleeping in my van that night.

I left anyways.  The time had come and I was done with his abuse.  He did not want to be a dad and his choices let me know that it was time for me to fly.

God in His irony and His sheer ability to mark line and courses still astounds me.   I was taken care of, WE were taken care of.   I moved into a house for girls in crisis pregnancy’s that was run by a mega church in south Florida and am grateful for the willingness they took in extending their rules for me.

However it was a bubble, there was zero parenting; I mean actual parenting skills taught.  It was all “fit this mold or your children will go to hell” teaching.

My idea’s and reflections of parenting were terrible.  I grew up in an extremely abusive and neglectful environment so I had no idea what being a mom meant.  I just did not know this at the time.

I knew that having Abigail was going to change my life.  I was certain her inevitable arrival was going to be a life altering experience.  It was the shock my life needed to stop doing drugs, to walk in a different direction, and to start a movement of change within my heart.

Giving birth was tough.  I was induced and that alone took 36 hours before I even went into labor.  I labored for five hours.  A FAST and furious five hours; I was so exhausted that I was falling asleep in between contractions.

When my bebe entered this world she was things were not how I had planned.  I did not get to hold her right away.  Because of the extended induction she had meconium and had most likely swallowed it.  I only remember looking over and watching the NICU team poking and prodding this miracle I had just delivered.

I wasn’t the first one to hold her.

The first words I remember hearing were from my mom.

“Damn she looks just like Jeffrey.”

NOT what I wanted to hear after almost two full days of trying to get this new life out into the world.

When they finally placed her in my arms I kept waiting for that rush of joy, that overwhelming “look at my baby” then the rush of tears.  Honestly I was so tired I kept wishing that one of the nurses would take her so I could sleep.

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(This says July 26th but the date was off.  Baby Abigail born July 27th 2006 at 710am weighing 7 lbs 10 oz)

They did.

And I did.

There were moments when we were alone in the hospital that I would just be so overwhelmed with emotion that it was hard to process.  I kept her with me, and in the bed with me most of the time because I just wanted to hold her.  I didn’t want to let her go.  I needed her with me, to feel her baby body on mine, to smell her head; breathe her in and see that I had in fact done it.

But that was just the beginning.

That sense of “I wish they would take her, I’m so tired” carried over into my parenting.  I was tired.  I did not know what I was doing, I would reach out for help and no one would respond.  I am 100% positive that I had PPD that went undiagnosed.  I had weaned off of my medications so that I could breastfeed because I was highly uninformed and truthfully bullied by several different people about meds and breastfeeding.

When that bubble I spoke about above popped that’s when the 900 pound monster attempted to rear its ugly head.  We moved back to Colorado when Abigail was three months old and were living with my parents, I had no car and was scrutinized for every.single.choice I made.

Again I would reach out for help and be told I was fine, or it was sin and I needed to confess and repent.  I tried bible studies, conferences and retreats so that I could change my heart and my behavior from within because that’s obviously what God wanted me to do.

Or so I was told.

I was angry and irritable all the time.

As Abigail got older and I couldn’t control what she did all the time it just became a mess.  I was someone I was always afraid of being.

My mom.

I was making choices that were devastating our relationship and when I would always get the same, repetitive answers;  repent, its sin, you’re obviously NOT giving this to God so try harder.  I would go forward at church and be prayed over and anointed.  I was told that I obviously needed parenting classes or that Abigail just needed a good spanking because she is a strong willed child.

I would go to therapy and be told I had ADHD and that’s why I was so reactive.

In 2011 I had finally had enough of the way I was feeling.  I had a terrible experience with a therapist and decided it was time to find a new one.  Abigail was already in therapy for something that had occurred with her and we were doing therapy together as well.

Making that choice was the best thing I could have done.

I have spoken about this in many blog posts and the reason why it is so important is because it links to so many different changes in my life.  Beginning the hard work with the therapist I have been seeing for the last 2 ½ years has shown me SO many different things that I never would have seen.  Changed my perspective on sin, faith, and parenting and radically altered my ability to accept my trauma and its effects on every area of my life.

Including my parenting.

It’s brutal to write here that I was an abusive parent because I always swore I would not be anything like my parents.  It’s tough to say that today I go to court for a choice I made in a triggered moment between Abigail and I and some bad shit went down and I was charged with child abuse because I reported myself on the advice of my therapist.  I was cleared on abuse charges by the Department of Human Services and the District Attorney has been amazing.

It was a poor choice.  I am not going to explain or defend myself here.  I don’t have too.  I know who I am before Christ and that I am in fact a GOOD mom.  Abigail tells me all the time “you’re the best mom ever”

The snuggling this morning shows me that she feels safe with me.  The things that she is able to talk to me about show me she feels safe with me and the way she plays in therapy (she actually sees my therapist now and we do family therapy) shows that she is making incredible progress.  Her transformation, our transformation and redemption as a family has been beautiful.

That’s part of the reason why I say that I didn’t feel like I mother until the last year, why I didn’t feel like we were a family until things started to change.  The last year and a half was really hard for both of us and there were so many changes and my being sick was really difficult for her.

We are a family.

I am a mother.

I am her mother.  I was chosen by God, at a time in my life when everything was headed towards me dying and He gave me life.  I don’t depend on Abigail to save me, she can’t.  She’s my friend second and I am her mother first.

There are days I shake my fist at the sky and say “Dammit God why did you give me, of ALL freakin people a child?”

Then there are days when I watch her sleep, even curl up next to her because I am so in awe that He DID think that Abigail and I would work in tandem with one another.  I am in still in awe that He CHOSE me to be this wild, spirited, creative, passionate little fire balls mama.

Oh God.

As Always,

Bethany

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(Just because GOSH the cuteness.  I think she was three.  I love this picture)

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My Name is Bethany, and I am an Addict

*Trigger Warning.  Mentions of Abuse, Suicide, Drug Use*

I am an addict.

I will always be an addict.

Though I will be clean for 8 years on 2/11/14 I will always struggle with addiction.

There are debates within church circles as to whether once one becomes a follow of Christ they should continue to call themselves an addict because “They are made new”

That’s up to each person.  I know that for me I have to call myself an addict because I am; not just to drugs.  I can make anything an addiction.  When I walked away from drugs at four months pregnant it seemed as though God had “removed my addiction” and my story was praised as a miracle.  Later, when the protective bubble of the church I was living in would pop my addiction would manifest itself in different ways.

I took my first sip of alcohol at 9 years old.  It was an accident.  I was having a sleepover and I was thirsty so I went to grab a water bottle from our basement fridge.  I gagged when I tasted what was in it.  My parents used to fill plastic Evian bottles with vodka so that when we went to the water park they could sneak their alcohol in.

Most of my years from 8-13 were spent at parties.  Whether they were at our house or one of my mom’s many new “friends” from nursing school.  There was alcohol and the kids were left on our own.  I cannot even recall the number of times that we just spent the night or random people spent the night at our house because people were too drunk to drive home.

I got purposely drunk for the first time at 11.  On a cruise ship at my uncles wedding; my grandma said my cousin (who was NINE) could have one glass of champagne each.  It’s not my fault that every time I turned around the waiters kept filling up my glass, now is it 😉

I swore off drugs and alcohol at 12 after my friend committed suicide after a long battle with drugs.  Here’s the thing I look back and struggle with.  We were BABIES.  We were 12 and 13 and struggling with hard drugs.  Heroin, cocaine and speed are the three that come to mind.  In 8th grade I gave up and said “fuck it”

I believe that’s when I said fuck it about a lot of things.  It became easier to just be; I don’t mean being in the way I know now.    I mean shutting down.  That was what I wanted all along.

To be numb.  Even though at that point, at 13 I had no idea of the trauma buried subconsciously; consciously I knew that to protect myself.

It became getting drunk and high before, during and after school.  I was still on my own all the time.  My younger brother and sister were in daycare and I came home alone every single day so no one noticed that I was wasted.

We as kids found a way to get wasted on anything.  We even went through a period where it was caffeine pills.  Take enough and you get a pretty good buzz.  Taking them at a youth group retreat…… Not a wise choice.

My parents had stopped the crazy weekend partying by the time I was in high school but still were not good role models about drinking.  Their sage wisdom was “If you’re at a party and drunk or your ride is drunk we’ll come get you.  No questions asked”

Which ok, I get to a degree.  Yet there was no education behind it.  No let’s talk about choices or the consequences of drinking, drinking too much or drinking at random parties.

I also was allowed to drink at home, with my parents and my family.  They also, and my friends parents allowed my friends to drink at home with my parents.  I never got in trouble for drinking.

I made several poor choices throughout high school in regards to my drinking and did a lot of stupid shit.  College was not any better.  In fact college was a nightmare.

I left school, rather was kindly asked to vacate the school because I had tried to commit suicide twice in the dorms.  No doubt my drinking being a large factor.

I went to rehab that April; it was 2000 and I was 18.

I initially went for mental health purposes but when they did the drug and alcohol assessment they moved me to the addictions track and my parents FLIPPED.  Undoubtedly it caused them to look at their own choices; yet this was MY problem.  I was the alcoholic.  I was the one who was wasted all the time and got kicked out of college.

I was 18, on my own and newly sober.  I wasn’t allowed to go back home so I moved to Costa Mesa, California to start over.  I did start over.  I was independent.  I was clean, I had a job, I went to AA meetings.

Then life happened.

From the age of 18-24 I would bounce in and out of rehab 20 times; not able to stay clean longer than 90 days.  I picked up my 90 day chip once high on heroin.

I had no idea what was going on inside, in my head, in my heart and honestly even though suicide was a frequent thought and I would go on to attempt suicide several more times I liked being an addict.

I think because I never had to feel anything.  I was high, drunk, in rehab or so damn medicated that there were zero REAL feelings.

Any time I went to treatment or therapy the only thing that was ever discussed was my “symptoms” or my mental health diagnoses or going over and over “my story.”  It was a face value treatment based system.

Granted they could only know what I told them, and I only knew what I knew consciously.

I did not know anything.

And then I got pregnant; at 24, as an active addict.

I knew I was pregnant, I knew this was the change I needed and I knew that my life was about to change, I just did not know exactly how.

I did not stop using until February 11, 2006.  I was four months pregnant.  I did use after I knew I was pregnant.  It is not anything that I am proud of and I could sit here and list the reasons why but they aren’t important to anyone but God and I.

February 11, 2006 is also the day I decided to give my life to God. Like I said in the beginning it was considered this miracle that God removed my addiction and just BAM overnight I was a different woman.

But I wasn’t.

Everything, like this 900 pound thirsty, long toothed monster just pushed down deep into the recesses of my heart.

What I struggled with after that was called sin, lack of faith and just not handing it over to God.

Until I started in therapy two and half years ago and realized why I used, why I drank and why even when clean I still exhibited addictive behaviors with other things.

Sex

Money

Anger

Cleaning

Food

TRAUMA

After a year I was able to call my therapist on the phone on a Friday night and say “I am ready to accept that I had abusive childhood, that I was molested by my father and that I am survivor of rape”

Those things devastated me to say yet they made so much sense.

Using drugs, drinking, the eating disorder, the men and the spending it was all a defense; a protector inside guarding the wounded child who experienced the abuse, the trauma.

Learning to let go of those defenses is hard and I will be candid and say that I have gone back on a few.

The last year and a half has been the toughest because as I was diagnosed with Chiari I was put on all sorts of pain medications.  I think in some way I knew I was going to come to a place where there were going to be some addiction issues whether they were just physical, psychological or I outright would become addicted.

I’ll admit that I had a tough time.  I liked being numb again.  I liked spacing out and not having to deal with my life falling apart around me and having a LEGITIMATE reason to be taking the medications.

When it came time this past December to withdrawal I was angry.  Angry because I wasn’t ready to start feeling again and angry because I knew I was going to have to go through withdrawal.

HARD withdrawal.

But I did it and I am moving forward; with a lot of those areas that I struggle with as choices I make when I am lonely, weary, bone tired from circumstances and wanting to give in.

That’s why I say;

My Name is Bethany and I am an Addict.

I will always be an addict.  The propensity for me to fall back is there.  Far, FAR in the back; I have come too far to throw it all away and would never put my baby girl through that.

However that doesn’t mean that those other things don’t mean I am not an addict.

Addiction comes out in so many ways.

So, so many ways.

Just because I stopped using 8 years ago does not mean that I was miraculously healed.

Because I wasn’t.

As Always,

Bethany

It is Written – Part 10, Nicole’s Story

This is the next to last post in this series I have been running since December.  I have to say this one broke me wide open.  I can say candidly that as women we struggle with our bodies, some to different degrees than others.  I relate to Nicole in feeling deformed about my body, it was born with something wrong.  I had brain surgery to “fix it” but it still feels broken.

Reading her words of beauty that came from The Most High.  The words of love that speak to true beauty.

To Breaking Beauty.

Nicole…..

Beautiful.

I fought that word. Beautiful. We wrestled and she broke open. Her guts spilling everywhere. I never meant to break her, I just wanted to own her.

Breaking Beautiful turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. God is like that. He takes the broken things and says, “Now that’s better.” At the age of 30, I finally broke open my idea of how Beautiful was allowed to look and be.  And now Beautiful is everywhere, spilling all over, even in me.  When I stopped trying to own her, Beautiful was mine.

*****

But it wasn’t always this way.

I was born deformed.

de·formed (adjective):


1. (of a person or part of the body) not having the normal or natural shape or form; misshapen.


 

My spine is misshapen, with severe scoliosis.  You wouldn’t know it, necessarily. I am a very good hider. I’ve always been small in every way. I’m the kid that climbs out of her hiding place long after the game of Hide ‘n’ Seek is over, only to find everyone eating lunch.  So, I hid my deformity, but sometimes it peaked out in the way I stood or held my head.  I had to remember to stand taller and tilt my head back up to hide the problems inside of my body.

I thought God made my birthday suit wrong.  Imperfect.  Deformed.  The curve of a spine moving slowly but surely in the wrong direction since before I was born. The center of my being pulling to the side. While others grew strong and straight, I grew slanting and sliding.  Now, there are artificial rods freezing my spine in place, fused in an epic surgery just before puberty.  Metal and plastic serving as scaffolding for this building that will never be renovated – at least not in this life.   My body was made stable, but never how I’d hoped.  And so I grieved my reality.  I didn’t understand why an all-powerful God would mess up on making me.

Grief and mourning are the exhale of a healthy life, I know now. Love and gratitude are the inhale. With each breath, now I see it. My grief was never weakness. It was and is the natural exhale of my living, breathing soul, and there always comes a time to breathe IN.

“All beautiful you are my darling,
there is no flaw in you.”

This surprising little verse … in a little book in the Bible all about sex and glorious bodies… is my life’s verse.  It came to me when I thought this body was done for after another major injury from childbirth.  I questioned how I would ever find pleasure from my body that just kept getting further and further from perfect.

All Beautiful. There is no flaw.  My Darling.

Sometimes the one who struggles with doubt is the one most touched when God shows His hand.

Over and over, after that verse snuck into my heart, I asked God “How? Why?” It made no sense. Obviously, I am deformed. Obviously. Every doctor and chiropractor and observant 4th grade boy could tell you that. By definition there is a FLAW in me. So we wrestled, me and this verse. “All Beautiful.” My definition of beautiful didn’t include all of me, and yet here were words stating the opposite. They felt true – too good to be true and yet still true.

The whisper in my gut said that these words were meant for me. Not just me, but … all PEOPLE.

All People, the Darlings of God. All Beautiful.

No mistakes. If I don’t find something in my body beautiful, then my definition of “beautiful” is wrong, not my body.

Psalm 139, The one that used to taunt me because I could not thank God for my body… now I am starting to stand curved and beautiful under it. To know I was formed on purpose just the way that I am, and that YOU were too:

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

    you formed me in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!

    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

    I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out,

    you know every bone in my body;

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared

    before I’d even lived one day.”

This is the amazing thing. He knows my every bone. What was called “deformed” by the world is purposefully, beautifully formed by God.  Not deformed. Just formed. The rods fused to my spine are a part of me now, a reminder that I am cared for in surprising ways and a reminder that beauty is not perfect. It is Good.

When God made us, he said “Now that’s good.”

The Hebrew word for GOOD, “TOWB”, also means BEAUTIFUL.

For instance, in Genesis, as the stars and the ocean are made, as the trees and the sun are formed, God says they are “good.” When we were formed, He said we were “very, very Good.”  Very, Very Towb. Beautiful like the stars are beautiful. Beautiful like a tree. Even MORE beautiful than those.

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This body is not perfect, but it is good.

Towb.

It is beautiful.

*****

Beautiful.

I still wake up wanting to fight that word, but then I remember the truth.  When God created my birthday suit, he said it was very, very good. And I am starting to believe Him.

“All beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you.”

-Song of Songs 4:7

Nicole is a helluva of a writer, and awesome friend who loves with all her heart and funny as shit.

Columbine Friend of Mine

I have shared this story many times.  With friends, in therapy, like I have shared it over and over; it feels like. Yet I have never shared it publically because part of me feels like it isn’t my story to share. It is though.

I experienced it to a depth that many can never say they have experienced something like this.  I have listened, wept with, prayed with victims.

I have yelled at God in pure, doubtful anger over the tragedy that was and will always be Columbine. This is the depth of my heart. As we go deeper into school shootings, as they seem to get worse.

When the news of Sandy Hook came across the wires and I heard of kindergartners gunned down two weeks before Christmas.  When 26 college students are murdered on a college campus;  when a high school boy goes into a high school five miles from my home and shoots a student because he was angry with his debate coach; and she dies before Christmas.  My heart wretched, it vomited internally at the memories of that day; the fear, the aftermath.

April 20, 1999; that day is etched into my memory forever.  I remember every.single.detail.  It was the weekend after prom, so the details were being around the hall.  You know “the details”  I even remember what I was wearing.  It actually came to me this morning as I was processing in my journal the anxiety I am having about writing this post.

It was my senior year.  We were countdown of days left of school.  30 and we were done.  It was 420 (puff puff pass) so kids were skipping school like woah.

My best friend Sara and I ditched English, went to her house for lunch and as we were leaving cop cars, ambulances and fire trucks were flying down the main road through Littleton.  We thought nothing of it.  Littleton was a safe town.  The biggest thing we were known for was our mega crazy car chases.

Heading back to school around 1230 there were more, and more and more.  Cops.  Fire trucks.  Ambulances.  Something wasn’t right.  We knew.  It wasn’t normal.

Back at school the rumors already were flying.  Drive by shooting.  Gang shooting (in Littleton? No.)

Then it was principal teacher and security officer overload in the main hallway. “Go to your classrooms NOW.  Do not stop.  Go and do not LEAVE” No explanation, just GO.

They obviously knew what was going on and there had been a threat at our school as well (Dakota Ridge, where I went is five minutes from Columbine) also received bomb threats as did most schools in the surrounding area. This was the first school shooting; they didn’t know how to handle it.

Panic mode set it and they shooed us to our classrooms right away.  There was no protocol for this.

Lockdown.  I

Immediate lockdown.

As I was rushed to my temporary building outside of the school I remember thinking oh this cannot be a big deal.  Because big deals don’t happen here, we live in a safe community.

The last time something big happened was when an angry ex husband went to a local grocery store and opened fire.  The sheriff’s officer he shot was the father of a friend of mine. But we still felt safe.  That was a domestic incident.

Once in our classrooms we were given more info; school shooting, bombs, bomb threats at our school; you cannot leave unless a parent comes to get you and signs you out.

I was in philosophy class and my teacher was a grade A douchcanoe.  He had unhooked his intercom.  When my mom had come to pick me up, after she had picked up my brother and sister I could not hear my name being announced over the loud speaker, although I could see her car in the roundabout.

I was trapped.

We had the TV on, watching the ugly, tragic scene unfold before our eyes.  We watched scared as students ran out of a school we play against in sports with their hands above their heads, SWAT and FBI storming the school.  The news ticker at the bottom of the screen at that point was estimating 25 dead.

Phone calls were impossible to make because every parent, student, teacher and person was trying to get through to someone.  I kept calling my mom to have her come back and get me.  I wanted out.  I felt trapped.

I can still, vividly see the image of the students running out of the building with their hands over their hands.  I can only imagine how tragic that was for them.

When we had to go to the bathroom, they called a security officer, took us to the boy’s locker room, but went in first and searched for bombs or any type of threat; came out and said “be quick”

Fear is an inadequate emotion to describe what was running through my body.  It was surreal.  All I could see were those kids running out of the school with their hands up because they did not know who the shooters were.

When the SWAT officer infamously pulled Patrick Ireland out of the window, our hearts pounded with relief.  I know the officer who pulled him out and after Columbine he retired.  The gravity was something unexplainable.

Our whole community was struck in places that we never expected; the next days’ were like an aggressive nightmare that you never wake up from. I finally left school around 5pm, got home to the sound of the phone ringing.  Ringing.  Ringing.

That damn phone would not stop ringing for days.   It just wouldn’t stop.

Out of the woodwork came people who hadn’t spoken to us in years wanted to know if it was my school and if I was ok.

NO, I was not ok. There had been a vicious attack, five minutes away from my school, I was trapped in a building for five hours watching news coverage.

NO I most certainly not okay.

The next days and weeks were like a being high but not high.  There was a memorial made at the park by the school where the nasty, vicious reporters set up camp.  I say vicious because they were.  They wanted a story.

I don’t believe for one second that they cared about what actually happened.  Maybe they did, maybe their hearts broke.  In reality they wanted the story.

We hung out at the memorial.  Leaving flowers and posters, gathering together and holding each other; even holding those we did not know because we needed the closeness. Two guys in the community wrote this beautiful song, which is where the title of this post comes from.  It held us together.  At the public memorials. At the Walk for Columbine.

Everyone seemed to flee to churches, because for some reason God felt safe yet later that would be my biggest questions as to how a loving God could let something like Columbine happen (please leave your answers out of this)

We went back to school after they had all been searched for bombs, weapons and any sort of threat.

I had a month left and then I was done.  If we got school work done we were lucky.  Some teachers were better than others about us letting us process.  Some had a boot strap mentality.

I still hurt, I still grieve.  I don’t understand.

I know that Rachel Scotts (the first victim shot) family set up Rachel’s Challenge afterwards and now they go to various schools and youth groups sharing her message of hope in Christ.  They actually came to the youth group I went to when I was pregnant with Abigail and they showed the video of the kids running out of the school and it sent a trigger through my spine so bad that I had to leave.

The ache it still causes me is a big part of my past.  I carry it.  Every time there is a school shooting I lose it.  I want to grab my baby and hold her tight and scream “NO NO NO, you should not live in this world”

When this last shooting in Colorado happened  I got the email that her school was on lockdown and I couldn’t get her.  I was at Target and I fell down in the baby bottle aisle and sobbed.

Sobbed for Sandy Hook.  Sobbed for Virginia Tech.  Sobbed for the Amish School House. Sobbed for Platte Canyon High school (up in the mountains) I sobbed and panicked that my baby girl was stuck in school and not five miles away (again) there was another shooting.  A boy with such hurts that he felt like his only option was to take a gun to school and shoot.

After the shooting ended at Columbine there were 15 dead, including the shooters.  I include the shooters in the death count because there is a deep reason why they felt that they had to plot a massacre like that.  Deep seeded wounds.

They built a beautiful memorial with the names of all the victims (leaving out the shooters) with quotes, some bible verses and memories.  I like to go there and sit, leave flowers and remember.

There are bricks with words and quotes from students, Bill Clinton, and various others from the community surrounding the memorial.  It’s an almost Holy memorial.  There almost always seems to be a breeze. I shiver and remember and grieve.

I’ll always grieve.

There are some things you never stop grieving.

As Always,

Bethany

It is Written – Part 9, Kate’s Story

Kate is another one of my story sisters. I would call her a kindred spirit, a soul sister.  She spurned in me the #fuckchiari hashtag, keeps trying to convince me to move to Oregon and moves me with her words and pushes me to write mine.

I love her dearly and here is her story.

Kate

In mid-January when I was thirteen, I filled a shirt box with trinkets and keepsakes, ticket stubs and notes from friends, and a letter written to myself. “Do Not Open Until January 23, 2012!!” I wrote on the box in sparkly purple gel pen, and I hid it at the bottom of a drawer.

At 23, I pull the now-dented box out of my closet, ten years and 600 miles from where I started it. The letter is in turns flighty and sullen, as you might expect from a teenager stuck in puberty and depression. I walk into my then-roommates’ bedroom. “Listen to this letter,” I say, “it’s hilarious.” We laugh about how I planned to get a horse and name her Arwen. I read on. “I’m fat and mostly ugly, and my clothes are bad but I am trying to dress better. What stores do you like? Did you grow up to be beautiful?” My roommates don’t laugh.

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“That’s really sad,” M says.

“Did you really feel that way?” E asks. “I thought I was so pretty when I was younger!”

Somehow, until this moment, I didn’t know. I didn’t know most kids don’t try to be invisible because they don’t feel worthy of being seen. I didn’t know not everyone spends their adolescence feeling like an ugly duckling with little hope of ever being swanlike. I didn’t know it is unusual to hate yourself, to feel a stranger in your own body, to look in the mirror and read “not enough” in each growth spurt stretchmark and every inch of your waist.

“I was probably exaggerating,” I say to my roommates. “And I don’t feel that way now!”

*

 That wasn’t fully true. No, I don’t hate myself like I did at 13, and 15, even 19. I don’t loathe my body. I still mistreat it in ways, but the reel of inner criticism doesn’t play nearly so often or as loud as it did then. I don’t write mean words against myself in my journals, in my letters, in my heart.

There’s this little nagging belief, though, still, that this is just pre-me, that this body will grow up to be more. I keep thinking one day I’ll wake up beautiful. What kind of beautiful, you ask? Skinny beautiful. Model beautiful. Princess. Swan. Unblemished feathers, elegant wingspan, a goddess of lakeshore sands and morning sun.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

I gained twenty pounds last year — from ice cream and Netflix, from I’ll-go-to-the-gym-tomorrow, from weird schedule and late night meals — and those wrong words slip back so easy. Fat and ugly. Unworthy. Disappear.

*

I try to trace back to some root, some beginning. What broke my sight? Was it trauma? Just growing older? What caused my eyes to notice the flaws that were and invent more that weren’t?

If it had a beginning, an end must follow.

So I keep thinking one day I’ll wake up enlightened. What kind of enlightened, you ask? The confessional blog post enlightened. The letter-to-my-body enlightened. The self-love manifesto. The feminist empowerment. The mirror shunning, mirror reclaiming.

It hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve read all these writers saying, “I’m enough.” They decry the standards, the expectations, the thinner-photoshopped-madeup-spanxed. They declare themselves beautiful. They allegedly have these moments, you know; these moments where the self-hate ends and they say, swan or not, they’re okay.

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I am still waiting for my moment, for January 23, 2012, as I hoped it would be, opening a letter from some former version of myself and finding the words wholly unfamiliar. “I was ugly once? Ha! I was unconfident? Absurd!” I am still waiting for the moment I look at myself and accept whole and enough and beautiful and deeper-than-skin but while we’re at it the-skin-ain’t-so-bad.

It just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe by 2022?

*

It’s silly, isn’t it, how we want instant betterment, miracle transformation, overnight makeover? To fall asleep ugly and rise a swan. To step outside to greener grass.

These things take time, don’t they? In ten years, from thirteen to 23, it did get better, but slowly, as I chose different words to call myself. There was no moment, but there were steadier breaths, happier reflections.

Sometimes, the declaration precedes belief. The words create truth. The writing, the saying renews how you see, remakes how it will be.

This skin is all I have, with its marks and flab and scars. And maybe it is okay. Maybe beautiful, twenty pounds ago and now. Maybe enough, ten years ago and now. Maybe better every day.

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Kate Schell is an Oregon journalist and a lover of all things cat and most things sci-fi. She blogs about faith and other stuff atkateschell.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kate_schell.

It is Written – Part 8, Abby’s Story

I met Abby through Story Sessions not only do she and my daughter share a semi-name, we also share a love of Wonder Woman (wink wink) and black nail polish.

Abby is a kick ass teacher, writer and poetry coach.

And I love her dearly.  Also because she loves scarves.

Abby……

Enough

It is never my one-word. Because it is my always word. It is always about abundance with me. Do I believe it? Do I really believe that there is enough? If I did, if I did really believe those words, how would my life change?

I wonder about the generosity I am capable of, if only I believed there was enough to go around.  If I believed my portion was secure, if I believed that there would be enough for tomorrow, enough for my loved ones, enough left for me.

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I am a working mom, a high school teacher with two little ones at home. I have people needing me all day long. I sometimes feel like my two constant mantras are I’m sorry and Just a minute, it is coming. There is always more to accomplish, always something I didn’t get to, always one more thing that has to wait. It is hard to remember that I am enough. Just as I am. Because I was made that way.

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It is good for me to remember that there is only so much these hands can accomplish in a day, and rest is, in and of itself an accomplishment. It is good to remember that my offerings are enough, and when they are not the grace is enough. That amidst the deadlines, the bustling, the feeding, the grading, that these hands are enough for the work of today. The work of today is enough to sustain until tomorrow.

The lessons of enough, may they bleed into my skin, etch permanently in my hands, sink into my heart until it learns to beat.

2014-01-13 20_13_48

Enough

En-ough

En-ough

En-ough

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Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words.She believes in champagne for celebrating every day life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. You can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional and tweeting at @accidentaldevo.

Follow her guys, she’s funny as shit.

Accepting a Reality That Breaks You

***Trigger Warning Strong Mentions of Abuse of All Forms**

But it’s worth it to read.

I was 22, and I have shared this before that I met him in the Kansas state hospital.  There is so much about my adolescence and early 20’s that is messed up and scary and me landing there is no surprise.  Neither is moving in with a man I met there, 8 ½ years older than me.

I talk about Abigail’s “dad” in regards to him not being here for her and his absence in her life.  However I have never spoken about him in regards to the pain he caused me.  Not just in his leaving and making the choice to walk away from us both but the pain and abuse he inflicted in our relationship.

In breaking reality is terrifying, heart pounding and unbearable at times.  It involves acceptance of what is true versus what was perceived by victims of trauma because mostly we thought what we were experiencing was normal.

There is likely a good majority of trauma victims/survivors who never had their experiences, traumas and abuses acknowledged or validated, when it finally happens it can be a huge struggle to finally say or accept that what happened is TRUE.

This is a place I have started to come to about certain events in my life.  It has been so painful and reality shaking that I struggle to grip and grasp onto saying yes this happened and yes it was bad.

The reason why? I didn’t know our relationship was abusive until I had been out of it for six years and had been in therapy for almost one.  Once I started to see what boundaries and consent are, what abuse actually means and consists of and my brain began to clear up and show me the reality of our relationship—I was able to see the truth.

It’s a painful reality to accept that someone you loved, that you truly thought loved you and was looking out for and taking care of you was actually abusing and controlling you.  He would do things like demand all the change back and the receipt from when I went grocery shopping because he would accuse me of keeping money to go shopping for myself.  His constant insistence that I was his property and that he claimed me was the one thing I tried to fight back on because it made me angry.  I am able now to look back and see that it was triggering a deeper emotion and trauma reaction from my abusive childhood.

Including the trauma of being considering (and told that I was) “the property” of the people who abused me.

I was never wanted, nurtured or loved the way a child should be, deserves to be.  A baby comes into this world, typically to parents who have planned or at least become ready to love the baby coming.  Mine did not do that.  I was a pawn to them. A nuisance who just got in the way or was along for the ride in whatever they needed or wanted to do.

Weekend drunken parties; sure.

Being told that it was my responsibility as a 10 year old to take care of my younger brother and sister; meet their needs.  Even when it meant that my basic needs where not being met; and I was parenting myself.

Being accused of doing things I did not do and being punished for them.  Yelled at and violently screamed at and called names.  Pinned down and having hands around my throat because I refused to continue to be screamed at by the man who was supposed to be “my step dad.”

I tried to leave that night—to go stay at a friend’s, to be safe.  I was scared and he threatened me with calling social services and having me taken away for being a “bad child” or me never seeing my mom, brother or sister again.  When my mom came home that night she took his side.

I never thought that what I was experiencing was abuse because it started so young that I thought it was normal.  Moving in with Abigail’s dad and starting a “life” with him seemed like the next right step.

I shared at the beginning about meeting Abigail’s dad and in my mind it seemed like the best way to “start over”  Here was this man who promised to love me, cherish me and take care of me.

His words were “Nothing is EVER going to tear us apart.”

We started using drugs immediately and it just seemed normal.  I started using drugs at 12.  With the childhood I had it was a safety mechanism.  I coping skill.

The drugs were the only thing that kept our relationship together.  When we were smoking crack, pot, meth or doing cocaine we were “perfect together.”   But when you are high everything seems perfect – ish.  We were relatable and the things we did bonded us.  I am not proud of what I did but I am no longer ashamed because I realize now that it’s all I knew how to do.

This is why I didn’t’t realize that what he was doing was abusive.  His behavior was all I knew.  His sexually abusive ways were so linked to my father and to the other men in my life that weren’t outright abusive; but passive aggressive about it.  His forcing me to do what we did didn’t seem unacceptable or my saying no did not seem strange to me because consent was a foreign word.

His controlling behavior with money, calling me property, showing a complete lack of interest in my declining mental health, not calling me or visiting when I was in the hospital was all normal because that was exactly what my parents did.  The abandonment was made out to be my fault because I was “the crazy girlfriend who needed to know where he was all the time”

Yet when I really needed him he was out the door.  He made the rules, laid down the limits, thought they were unspoken but very well understood.

That form of passive aggressiveness is sometimes almost worse than being hit, or raped or pushed up against a wall with hands around your neck.  You always have to be on guard because you never know when the next strike is coming.

To say that Jeffrey used my abuse history against me and to his own advantage is an understatement.  Jeffrey knew what to say and do to get under my skin.  He knew what he could do to make me complacent and do what he wanted and make it seem like it was what I wanted.

Leaving him was one of the best choices I have ever made.  I walked away and gave Abigail a better life, a life with a mom who loves her and gives her wholeness even though in some circles “we are missing an element”

This clear ability to break through the perceptions of who I thought he was ( a deadbeat biological specimen provider) did not break through until I had already had intense therapy and a broken hearted truth experience within myself of who all three of my parental figures were.

Or were supposed to be.

And it all ties into one you see.  Each layer of abuse I experienced from each person just added another layer to what I had already been though.  Every experience is somehow intertwined with one another and that’s what makes it even harder to break through and accept that reality.

Because I never really knew what abuse was.

It was all normal.

But it’s NOT anymore.

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As Always,

Bethany.

It is Written – Part 7, Jamie’s Story

If I were to start writing all the writing all the ways that I love Jamie Bagley I would burst into tears and would not be able to finish posting her beautiful words.

I met Jamie when were both in the summer semester of Story Sessions.  It was a beautiful yet trying time as a learned how to let my voice escape from a trapped cage.

Jamie was always the one who encouraged me.  Her comments on my posts, her kind words and now her beautiful letters that come in the mail that I pin right next to mirror; so that I can read them every day.  Mostly it’s her believing for me that I am something worthy of greatness….. When I cannot for myself.

I am above honored that she agreed to be a part of this series.  We had many hilarious conversations about the pictures, what to write, what to use to write and if to possibly be, dare I say it……

Scandalous (collective GASP)

Enter Jamie and her beautiful words

Body of Messages

Sometimes I want to break the mirror

Before it breaks me

With the insults,

The lies,

The disdain

That says I am both

Not enough and too much.

I pursue what it means

To be “just right”

And it doesn’t look like masks

Or tucks

Or running in place for 10000 steps

In hopes the weight will

Melt

Tighten

Cinch

Vanish!

I need to write words to myself- on myself

To let the truth sink in deep,

Embracing it

With my senses.

Perhaps I just need new eyes

To see the beauty

Already there.

To write is enabling me

To erase the conditions I put

On loving the form

That was gifted to me.

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——————————————————————————————-

These are the words my soul needs to hear;

The ones that will inform my vision:

“Oh belly, those stretching scars you’ve had

Since you became a mother

Are not at all a shame or waste.

You don’t have to be flat to be a wonder;

Round is the shape of beauty, too.

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It gives you a sense

Of the depth of Creator love

To bear a wounded globe

Beneath your heart;

One whose heaviness

Can make you short of breath.

A Mother’s Love is willing to carry that burden.”

———————————————————————————————–

It is glorious

And empowering

To love the parts of myself

I struggle to accept.

(Even the red-dotted upper arms.)

It is good

And it is holy.

In the eyes of my Father,

I am sacred.

So are you, my friend. So are you.

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Jamie Wright Bagley lives in Willowbrook, IL with her husband and 3 children. She spends her days homeschooling and caring for her free-spirited offspring. She prioritizes family and simple living. She will never ever turn down a good cuppa tea. In stolen time she writes poetry and music, blogs athttp://avanomaly.blogspot.com/ and occasionally hangs out on Twitter @BagsEnd04.

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