Let’s talk about Sexual Harassment

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women experience sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime.  I think that this statistic is wrong.  I think it is MUCH higher.  I think that many women are too afraid to speak up or admit that it is happening.  In the United States, we are seeing a wave of powerful men being outed for their reprehensible behavior, with two very different outcomes.  It seems like about every ten years, sexual harassment comes back into the forefront of our conversations, and then slowly falls back into the shadows.  I would like to share some experiences of mine with you today.  Though I do not like to talk about it, I know that it is of monumental importance to call the monsters out and not take responsibility for their choices.

Towards the end of the election season in 2016, Donald Trump was accused of harassment by multiple women, and was caught on video talking about how it is ok that he sexually assault women because he is famous. Courageous women came forward and shared their stories, which basically showed a pattern of predatory behavior.  The response?  He threatened to sue them, they were all liars, and it was a conspiracy against him to harm his chances in the general election.  The fact that he was elected demonstrates how people tend to not believe victims, or even blame victims for the predator’s actions.  “But look at how slutty she dresses, though.”  “She’s asking for it with that red lipstick.”  “Well, she should be flattered that he likes her!”  “Boys will be boys, you know…”.   Somehow, even after all of it, this monster was elected as our president.  Some may say, “…but…Bill Clinton!”  And to that, I am not disagreeing.  SAME!  He doesn’t get a pass from me.  I don’t care what your political leanings are.  If you are a predator, you are trash, and you may want to take a look at yourself and make some major life changes.


Flash forward to Fall 2017.  A powerful Hollywood producer is accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  The reaction somehow was different this time.    He was fired, and he was ousted from the industry.  His wife has announced that she is leaving.  Men in the industry have denounced the behavior.  Perhaps the tides are turning.  Perhaps we are starting to not accept that boys will be boys.  Perhaps men in power are starting to understand that this behavior is unacceptable.  I would love to believe that this is true.  However, the ‘casting couch’ has been part of Hollywood lore as long as I can remember.  These men have been at this for YEARS.  The behavior is well known by the people in their employ, and the circles that they are part of.  So why are we so outraged only when women come forward with their stories, detailing the assault?  Though I find the support of others to the actresses (and some actors (I see your Terry Crews and James VanDerBeek)) who came out against Weinstein to be applauded, why were you silent for so long?


I am just a regular woman.  I am average height, average build, average hair color.  There is nothing aesthetically overwhelming about me.  For much of my life, and at different employers, I have been sexually harassed.  The harassment comes in the form of lewd comments, ogling me, staring at various body parts, unwarranted offers of sex, and inappropriate touching.  I want to remind my readers that I have never stated my places of employment, nor will I comment on my employer’s handling of the situations, other than relaying factual pieces of conversation.  Each story I share with you is my story.  I do not know, nor do I wish to know the intent of the other parties.  I will not name names, not in order to protect these people, but rather, my current employer has a clause in the handbook that ill words may not be shared on social media about the company.  If you violate the policy, expect to be fired.  I want to be clear, I am not posting judgment, nor do I blame my employer for any of these situations.  I do blame the predators, and our culture of acceptance at large.

I have a high pressure job, and there are times that I like to take a break, go outside, get some fresh air and perspective, and unwind.  I used to walk through the employee parking lot, up one row, then down the next, listening to music and blowing off some steam.  As I was walking, a familiar car pulled up next to me, and rolled down the passenger window.  It was a man that I have worked with in another department that I generally say hello to and smile when we pass in the halls.  I took out my ear bud, and said hello.  He leaned over, looked me in the eye, and said, “Hey, I have $20…”, role playing as if I was a hooker and he was a John.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Whenever it happens, I feel like I am knocked back on my heels and in a daze.  Since this incident happened fairly recently, I had at least enough wits to tell him to “F*@k off”. And kept walking.  I took myself straight back into he building, held back my tears, sat at my desk, and went back to work.  I thought about my outfit, and all of the other exchanges I had with him in the past that might have led him to believe that this would be a good idea, or I would think it was funny.  You know, it seems like more often than not, they say, “It was just a joke.  Where is your sense of humor?”

A few weeks after that, a different person from the same department, was out walking at the same time I was.  He stopped me to talk about a shared project and check in on my progress.  I folded my arms across my chest, as I often do, and spoke of the project.  Out of nowhere, he reached up and grabbed my watch.  The watch on my wrist.  On the arm that was folded across my chest.  Directly next to my breast.  “What’s this?”  He asked.   I yanked my hand back, and replied, “It’s a watch.”  “Oh”, he said.  “My wife has one just like this.”  One of this man’s subordinates was also present for this, and said nothing.  NOTHING.  I again, walked back to my desk, reviewed my interactions with this man, and blamed myself.  This time, I decided that I’ve had enough.  From the years of, “You are so hot”, and “If you ever want to cheat on your husband, give me a call!”, and “I will take you out in the parking lot right now and f*@k your brains out!”  I was done laughing it off.  I was done accepting this.  


I had mentioned a few of my experiences to someone I thought I could trust, and unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Though I was resigned to head that way anyway, I was summoned to Human Resources, where the interrogation began.  I don’t mean for that to sound like a prison camp.  It wasn’t. It was humiliating.  It was raw.  It was awful for me to crawl back through every experience I could remember and lay it all out, bare on the desk, asking for help.  I was asked what I would like for the outcome to be of the investigation.  I remember saying, “All I really want is to do my job, and not be afraid to go to my car, or have to deal with this anymore.  I think it is fair to ask for an environment free from intimidation.”  The investigation proceeded.  I knew that executives that I have to work with directly had been briefed (and knew my identity), and I know that women from all over the company were being called to HR to discuss possible harassment.  Women who were not aware that it was me who caused the investigation would come to my desk and talk about the investigation with nothing but disdain for the woman who reported this.  “What an attention seeker!”  “I’m sure it’s one of these ugly fat chicks who no one would even look at in the first place!”  “Ugh!  This is just where we work!  Why can’t women just accept that and stop being such prudes!”  “Whoever this is, I bet she’s a real bitch!”  Most of the time, I just smiled and said, “I don’t know, maybe we should be honest about what our experiences are and not judge someone we don’t know.  It must have been pretty bad if they were brave enough to go to HR about it.”  My heart was broken.  The women I saw as allies and friends were turning their backs on me without even knowing.  

You often hear of people reporting acts of sexual crimes years after the occurance and many people start to question why.  Is this valid?  Is there an axe to grind?  Why did they wait so long.  I can tell you why.  I had everything to lose, and nothing to gain.   The sexual predators are still employed.  Every one of them.  In fact, the fellow in the watch grabbing incident came to my desk a few months later, and was looking down my pants as I sat.  I saw him with my own eyes.  I reported it to HR.  I was asked how I was dressed, if that was a possible provocation for his actions.  When he was confronted, he reported that he did not do that, and he thought I was a ‘genuinely nice person’, and was shocked that I was offended by his actions in any way.  The fellow who offered me $20 in the parking lot?  I was asked if I thought he meant it as a joke, and maybe because I was friendly with him, I should just address it with him directly.  Women do not report predatory behaviors because they are often either not believed, or told that the men were probably just joking.  Experiencing this clear violation of human dignity once is awful.  To recount it again, and be faced with the possibility of having to hash things out with the predator, when often no real actions or consequences are taken seems, at large, not to be worth it.  Every time one of these stories comes on the news, it is like PTSD.  You are put right back into that place of fear and shame.  A fleeting moment of power for the predator results in a lifetime of consequence for the victim.  Even after all of these years and all of these experiences, I still cry, I still try to alienate myself from others, and I still attempt to protect myself from every man I come in contact with, even if I know and trust him.

These are the stories of just one of my employers, and they are by far not representative of all of the incidents I’ve experienced.  It is also not to say that EVERY WOMAN will experience anything like this, or EVERY MAN is a predator.  That is just simply not true.  Predators are highly skilled at choosing victims.  They choose women who are more likely to blame themselves than to report them.  They will choose women who they think a have lower self esteem.  They will choose women who they see as weak. Interestingly enough, women don’t always stand by other women in these incidents, as I found out first hand.  It was the women who were more accusatory towards me than the men that found out about the investigation.  Another piece that I found intriguing in my experiences is that men KNOW other men are being predatory.  Men HEAR other men talking about the women they work with in a crude and inappropriate fashion, but are afraid to stand up and tell them to stop.  They are afraid of being called a p*ssy, or made fun of, or being emasculated by the same predators.  Somehow, these people just keep getting away with it.  They keep bullying those who would stand up, and when called out, deny and act contrite, or profess that it was just a joke.


For myself, as hard as it is to keep reporting it, and as difficult as it is to find the courage to stand up to these predators, I have chosen to keep going.  I will darken the doorways of HR until they are sick of seeing me.  I will continue to tell men that it is not appropriate to call me ‘sweetie’, or ‘honey’, or ‘dear’.  I will call their supervisors and inform them of the behavior and tell them I expect that it cease immediately.  I am not employed to star in their sexual fantasies.  I am not there for entertainment.  I am a human being, and as such, I have a right to dignity.  If I stay silent, they will continue to find those voiceless others who are afraid and internalize and fear them.  My courage will spread to others.  My encouragement can change the perspective.  My voice, though it is alone, will be joined by another.  And then another.  And then another.   Until our voices are too loud to ignore.  

If you are experiencing harassment, please, be brave, share your story, stand up and say no.  It is not your fault.  You did nothing to provoke or ask for this.  I would also like to point out that it doesn’t matter what you wore that day.  Men who are trash will act like trash if you are wearing burlap sack.  Do not let ANYONE victim shame you.  Do not worry about protecting the predators.  Even if you just want to share with a spouse, or a close friend, or a sister, do it.  Cleanse yourself of their bad behavior.  Don’t sit silent as their eyes wander all over your body.  Even if you don’t believe me, I believe you.  I believe your story.  I believe that you have a right to have your dignity restored.  Come, join my single voice when you are ready.  Let us be a force for change.  

“Back down the bully to the back of the bus, ‘cause it’s time for them to be scared of us!” – Third Eye Blind, Wounded

Oh yeah, of course, you are probably NOT crazy!

Finding the Courage to Ask For What You Need

I often find myself feeling overwhelmed.  Almost always, after a quick examination, it is because I have over committed to others, with things that I don’t want to do.  I understand that normal, healthy adults are able to say ‘No’ to invitations, favors, events, and commitments. It seems that I did not pay extra for that upgrade.  I am always agreeing to things, and finding myself regretful and resentful as those calendar items approach.  Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin?  Let me share a few examples with you, then I will discuss my new found favorite response…”NO”.

I am not a very social person.  Even lunch with my sisters sends me into a panic.  “Who will be there?”  “Will I end up having to pay for everyone?”  “What if there is nothing that I can eat?”  “What if she brings up that topic that makes me uncomfortable like she always does?”  My sisters are the opposite of me.  Very easy conversationalists, no worry at all.  Lunch is a wonderful way to chat and spend time together to reconnect.  I, on the other hand, am full of anxiety the entire time.  We have been meeting for lunches on each other’s birthday’s for about 4 years now.  Every time my birthday rolls around, I make an excuse that I am busy, and its fine with me if we skip.  I’ve never wanted to admit to them that it’s really uncomfortable for me, so an excuse was just easier.  This year, however, it was suggested that maybe we should just start planning family get togethers on all of the holidays and rotate houses and hostesses.  So, my excuse plan backfired in a huge way.  Not only did one sister tell me that I should reconsider because I am missed, and whatever other guilt trip was available at the time, the other sister recommended MORE anxiety filled get togethers!

FULL DISCLOSURE: That’s not really me.  But I can totally relate to this young lady.  Still.  As an adult.
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is my family, and I should feel comfortable, right?  Well, not all families are like the ones in the movies.  I’m not interested in airing out the dirty laundry.  Regardless, each family member’s memories and experiences are all different, so there’s no point in even trying.  I do my best to get along and be a peace maker, but at my age, I’m a bit tired of that.  In fact, as they say, you can’t choose your family.  I disagree.  I am choosing my family, and I am choosing it carefully.  I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself for the whims of others anymore, just because we are related.  I’m over it.

This whole situation with the get togethers and the lunches could have been averted, had I just been honest from the beginning.  “Thank you for thinking of me.  Social situations like lunches cause me anxiety, so I would like for this to not be a tradition on my birthday any longer.”  I eventually got there.  In the mean time, panic ensued.

I was also in a situation recently where we agreed to help a long lost relative out as a favor who wanted to relocate to Arizona.  We offered a place to stay until she was able to get on her feet at no charge.  We also asked a few people we know to consider her for a job.  Once she arrived, she did nothing but disrespect our wishes and acted completely unacceptable.  When the jobs didn’t come through for her, she blamed us, and said it was the only reason that she relocated to Arizona.  Things got to a point where we asked her to please find somewhere else to stay within 30 days.  She did..and stole about $200  worth of things from us.  So how could we have avoided this situation?  Simply by saying “No” in the first place.  As much as we all want to be helpful to others, we truly had no business opening up our home to someone we didn’t even know.


I think that many of us are conditioned to turn the other cheek, or to act in a way that you would like for people to act with you.  When we do that, we often find ourselves being taken advantage of by others who’s own moral code likely doesn’t line up with ours.  I have come to the conclusion recently that people who are out to take advantage of me, or guilt me into doing things for them are not worried about my feelings, or what is good for me.  So, in turn, I will no longer be afraid to say no, or at least ask for my needs to be met in these exchanges.  


I know that we are not easy hosts at our house.  We are very particular.  Dishes should be cleaned immediately.  You don’t need to use multiple cups in one day.  If you use the dryer, empty the lint trap.  Be kind, and at least ACT like you enjoy spending time with us.  For us, these situations have forced us into deciding what we are and are not ok with.  We are ok with two day max house guests.  We are not ok with anything beyond that.  We need to be kind to our guests and let them know that staying beyond that will cause resentment and anxiety, so two days is all that we are able to accommodate.

It is up to you to decide what your boundaries are, and then find the kindness to enforce those boundaries.  There is almost nothing worse than feeling like you are being held hostage in a situation.  It is just better to be open and honest upfront.  Doing so will undoubtedly save hard feelings and relationships.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.  In most cases, people will respect your honesty and appreciate it.  It happens to the best of us.  Don’t worry…

You’re probably not crazy!!!

Get off my nerves!!  Strategies to deal with people who know how to push your buttons.

Hello, my friends!  First, allow me to apologize for my fickle posting schedule.  I’ve had some challenges that are not insurmountable, but I’ve needed to take some time to myself to reflect on who I am, and come up with some strategies to deal with them.  For today, I am choosing this topic because this is exactly what I am dealing with on every side of my life. So, maybe in writing this, it will help me to find the courage to draw specific boundaries and retain my own sanity.  See what I did there?  

Throughout my life, I’ve been faced with people who I just do not understand.  I often joke that I was raised like a feral dog, so my sense of social mores and politeness are often baffling, even to me.  I was the youngest of 4 children, then later 6 when my dad remarried.  All of my parents did the best they knew how to do.  We were never homeless.  We always went to school.  But I never really learned manners, or how to show gratitude until I was an adult, on my own, observing others.  I am now highly irritated at the lack of courtesy and manners around me.  I guess I figure that if I was able to learn that mailing a thank you card for a gift was polite, then why should others, who were not raised like I was, be excused from this?  If someone took their preciouos resources (time and money) to give me a gift, the least I can do I’d take my resources (time and a postage stamp) to express gratitude.

I have also found out that the world consists of givers and takers.  Both are very good at what they do.  However, givers are often manipulated by takers.  They play on their good nature and sympathy to get exactly what they want, then rarely show gratitude in their actions.  A text message of ‘Thank you!!’ Just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Lately, I am finding that takers are coming out of the wood work to prey on me.  Not only to take advantage of my empathy and good nature, but to follow up with a guilt trip if I don’t follow their code of conduct and do exactly what they expect of me.


Let me get a few things off my chest, then I will move on to strategies for givers in dealing with this.  First of all, if you are staying with someone in their home, it is not your right to drain their resources.  Offer to make meals, bring groceries, help clean up the house, and don’t leave cups and dishes scattered in your wake.  Clean up your messes.  Observe how your host lives, and follow their lead.  Maybe even offer to treat your host to dinner.  Secondly, if someone goes out of their way to help you, or do you a favor, maybe consider doing something special for them.  You don’t have to spend money.  Write a nice thank you card.  Offer to mow their lawn.  Maybe even house sit.  Let your actions show that you are thankful that they sacrificed to help you and you appreciate it.  


My personality is such that my initial reaction to anything I don’t like is to avoid it.  If I feel like someone is trying to manipulate me, I just ignore them.  I don’t answer the phone.  I don’t return calls.  I am short on responses to emails.  I know that is not the correct way to deal with things, and I wouldn’t encourage it, because all it is going to do is encourage the taker to just keep calling, texting, and emailing.  Rarely is the outcome what I want, which is for them to just go away.  What I should be doing is setting my boundaries.  I should be answering the phone calls, and when the person asks me for what I am anticipating, I should say, I’m not able to help you with that.  When they ask why, I don’t owe them an explanation.  We are allowed to say no.  We have every right to put our own interests in front of others.  That doesn’t make you selfish.  It makes you not co-dependent.  It is not your job to take care of other people or their problems.  If you choose to do it, great.  But you are not obligated to do so.  The fact of the matter is, you can ALWAYS say no.  

I have learned to ask myself, “Am I willing to follow through on this?”  If I am not willing to follow through, then I must say no.  I shouldn’t be offering to help anyone move if I know that at the last minute, I am going to bail out.  I don’t know  about you, but I have a lot of ‘hinters’ in my life.  These are people who don’t come out and directly ask me for anything, but they hint at what they want.  For instance, “I really want to relocate to your area, but I don’t know where to apply for a job or where I should live.  Oh, but my current employer is abusing me and I don’t know what to do.  What should I do?  You’re so smart, what would you do?”  This person hasn’t asked me for a place to stay or for me to put in a good word at my own employer, but they are certainly using techniques to play on my emotions.  What is their end game?  What is it they want from you?   The best thing in this situation is to stay out of it.  When I was in grade school, my parents fell for this one with a step cousin.  He lived with us, for longer than he said he would, wore out his welcome, became the master of the television, and was all around annoying.  In fact, who among us hasn’t fallen in this trap?  What is unfortunate is that I believe that we all just want to be helpful.  More often than not, we just end up used, abused, resentful, and unwilling to do it again.  Side note, if you have been the person who stays with someone and wore out your welcome, I hope that you can find it in you or conscience to make things right.  


My advice is to set your boundaries.  If behavior isn’t acceptable to you, don’t accept it.  Don’t surround yourself with people who are just taking advantage of you.  Ask yourself if they would be there if you didn’t have something to give them.  Relationships should be two way streets.  There is no law on the books that prohibit you from letting people go.  If the relationship is leacherous, let it go.  Back away.  If they question what is going on, tell them that this is just not working out for you.  We don’t need to fear hurting other people’s feelings.  I mean, I’m not advocating being a jerk here.  I am saying that people who take advantage of others aren’t really concerned about the damage that they are doing.  So why are you concerned with saving their feelings?  

Now you may say, “But I can’t just let go of my boss or coworker!  What do I do?”  Well, this is the toughest situation because you are kind of stuck.  In this situation, I usually try to be pleasant and still ask myself, “am I willing to follow through on this?”  If your coworker annoys you, don’t engage them on personal topics.  Keep it to business, and be as pleasant as you can.  If they are not doing their job, and it’s not affecting my job, I ignore it and let them deal with their consequences.  If it does affect my job, I have a discussion with them, and keep all emotions out of it.  If things don’t change, I leave it with my boss. If the boss does nothing, I document.  If things fall apart, you now have a record of attempting to correct the situation.  You may consider getting HR involved at that point.  DON’T sabotage anyone else.  Keep the emotions out of it.  Follow your company’s guidelines in dealing with conflict.  And document EVERYTHING!

I do understand that this may be contrary to your religious tastes.  I get that.  You have to do what is right for you.  If you want to continue to turn the other cheek, more power to you.  I, however, will no longer choose this.  We are not on this earth to be used by others.  It is my right to say what I am and am not willing to do.  I am not bound to do everything that suits my parents because they are my parents.  If they are taking advantage of me, I have a right to say no.  I hope that you are able to courageously take a look at the toxic relationships in your own sphere and bravely stand up to those more interested in what you can do for them rather than what they can do to contribute to a healthy relationship.  Do not let the deceptions ever make you question your own sanity, as I am currently questioning mine.  I’m going to listen to my own advice here for sure…
I’m (You’re) probably not crazy!

Why not choose kindness?

My dear readers, I hope that you are feeling the same way that I do.  Do you remember when you were a kid how all the neighbors in the hood would talk to each other?  Remember when you would know everyone’s name?  My mom used to send me over to the neighbor to borrow an egg, or a cup of sugar when she was short.  What happened?  I remember being 8 years old when something seemed different.  We heard some rustling out in our garage, and went to go check it out.  A neighbor had just decided to help himself to tools without asking first.  This was more than 30 years ago, but still comes up in conversation sometimes.  Should this have been such a betrayal?  Had he just knocked on the door and asked permission, this trespass would have never been remembered.  But he didn’t.

Is this why we, as a culture, have learned to isolate ourselves from our neighbors?  Was there a point in everyone’s life when a neighbor crossed the invisible line and caused us to assume the worst instead of giving the benefit of the doubt?  Or was it always this way, and as a child, I just failed to notice that it wasn’t one giant family?  Shortly after the neighbor in the garage incident, we moved to a new town.  I didn’t notice at the time, but my parents didn’t go out of their way to meet any neighbors, unless they belonged to their church.  I still went out and met them.  I babysat for a lot of them.  It wasn’t until I got older that I started to isolate myself from them.  The kids grew up, they didn’t need a sitter anymore, and I was old enough to get a real job.  Still, my parents didn’t talk to their neighbors.  I mean, they did occasionally, as we do, to avoid the awkward moment of being outside at the same time time.  It’s that fleeting moment when you have to decide, “Do I pretend I don’t see them?  Do I run inside?  Do I just say hello?  What If they want something?”


So, what has this isolationism brought us?  It’s very easy to see.  Just look at the world’s political climate.  This is not just strictly the United States either.  I’m looking at you, ‘Brexit’!  The phrase ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ is not strictly for good works.  When we act locally as isolationists, we translate that globally.  How else can we explain the idea that any person on this earth doesn’t belong in certain areas?  We are all on this planet together.  I didn’t choose to be here.  I was born here.  I didn’t have any say in it.  Just like people in Germany didn’t choose to be there, or Iran, or Namibia.  We all just got to where we are by chance.  I am not lobbying for breaking laws and disrespecting boundaries.  But what I am asking for is a little compassion.  Possibly, a little empathy.  


Maybe you are feeling helpless right now.  Maybe you are watching the news and you are outraged, but don’t know how you can do anything to stop what is happening.  I know for myself, I have a lot of fear.  I see shows like ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’, or ‘Diverent’, and I am terrified of what all of this could devolve into.  Maybe you think that honesty, integrity and inclusion are dead. My process in dealing with this new and illogical reality has been slow.  I go through rage, and then I struggle with defeat.  I have decided that real change can only come through kindness.  Yes, we have to fight. Yes, we have to march.  Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand up for others.  That we make our beliefs clear.  That we understand denying ANYONE basic liberties and freedom is NOT AN OPINION!  It is morally incorrect.  If we are ever going to get through this very troubling time, we are all going to have to learn to find a common ground with each other first.  Yelling, screaming, pointing fingers has never changed a single mind in history.  


What we can do is say hello to strangers.  Meet your neighbors.   Lend out eggs again.  Offer a smile once in a while.  Talk to your kids.  Ask their opinions.  Discuss current issues and understand their thoughts.  I still kindness in those around you.  I was walking to pick up my mail the other day, and two lady missionaries were riding by on bicycles.  One of them dropped her bag on the street.  I stopped and helped he to pick up her things.  She said to me, very gratefully, “You are a kind soul!”  All I could think to myself was, “Isn’t this tragic?”  The missionaries happened to be part of the church I was raised in, but am no longer a part of.  I didn’t leave on good terms.  Quite frankly, I’m not a fan of what I witnessed in my personal experience there.  I could have kept walking and ignored them, but if I did, how would that have changed the world? How have we become a society of people who do not help ladies who drop their bags?  Does it matter how we got here?  I think that what matters is that we have a clear population within our throes that live and breathe hate.  The moment we stop fighting is the moment we die culturally.  Why not try to assume the best instead of the worst?  What will it hurt to offer a helping hand to a stranger?  You might feel better if you did.  Not only that, but it may help you to finally accept that you’re probably NOT crazy!

Take care of each other.

When will the darkness leave?  My lifelong battle with depression

I was totally devastated this week.  Chester Bennington, singer for Linkin Park, ended his life.  He was my age.  His Arizona home is a few miles from mine.  His son attends my daughter’s high school.  In fact, our next concert was next month, Linkin Park.  Tickets purchased months ago.  Before the news broke, we were talking about how excited we were that the concert was just a mere month away.  He, like me, and so many other people, struggled with depression and addiction.  Before Chester, Chris Cornell.   Are their lives more valuable than any of ours? Of course not.  But the tragic loss of their lives brings back to the forefront the often silent and ignored battle many of us fight alone.  Chester’s lyrics always reflected what he was going through, which made him such a relatable figure.  I have read so many tributes.  “A part of me dies with him.”  “I feel like I just lost my childhood.”  “You always spoke to me.”  “Please come back.” And then, then inevitable, “Only a coward commits suicide”, which truly, maybe shut up if you are saying that.  Just don’t.  Same goes for the “Suicide is the most selfish thing you can do” people.  Stop talking. 

We don’t shame people for having cancer, or heart disease.  We do like to judge people who are in depression, or have a form of mental illness.  I distinctly remember being a young mother, sitting at a table at work, when a man who was in his forties came and sat at the table with me.  He started talking badly about a more difficult customer, calling them ‘bi-polar’ as an insult.  I pulled out my courage and  said to him, “I’m bi-poplar, but you are still talking to me, so he must not be that bad then I guess.”  The simple truth is this.  If you have not experienced the sucking black hole of depression, or a depressive disorder, perhaps you should sit down and stop talking.  I’m not meaning to come across as harsh here.  Or maybe I am.  


A few years back, I sat in a meeting with the owner of the company I work at.  It seemed obvious that something rather earth shattering had happened to either him, or someone close to him.  He started to talk to us about signs.  We all wear signs.  Most of our signs are invisible.  The person who smiles at you in the hall everyday may have a sign that says, “My son is being bullied and I don’t know how to make it stop.”  The person you work next to you may have a sign that says, “I don’t fit in here or anywhere.  Please help me.”  But because our signs are invisible, we can’t know what anyone else is feeling or going through unless they tell us.  He asked us to please remember that every one of us has something, and kindness is always warranted.  

I remember the first time I felt depressed.  I was 10 years old.  I went into my bedroom, shut the door, sat in the dark and cried.  My sister came into my room and asked why I was crying.  I told her I didn’t know.  I just can’t not cry.  She sat with me and hugged me, and then left.  As much as I wanted her embrace to make me feel better, it didn’t.  I just felt dark.  Like all of the light in the room and in my body was being sucked away from me, like a black hole swallows everything around it with no remorse.  It is not sadness.  It is empty.  It is feeling that no one cares, and you are a burden.  You want people to stay, but you want them to leave you alone.  It’s confusing.  You can’t articulate what you want or what you need.  Others may marginalized your feelings..  Everythign cuts.  Everything hurts.


In my early twenties, I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling manic depressive.  What the heck is that, right?  Basically, I can go from the depths of depression, to an all out mania, back down to depression several times a day.  For someone who craves stability, you can only imagine how frustrating and exhausting this can be.  The mania helped to get me into steep credit card debt, but also helped me to have a very clean house and organized files.  I remember being up at 2am on a week night feeling like I needed to reorganize and purge all of my files.  To the point where I felt jolted out of bed because the need was overwhelming.  I know now that my drinking was self-medicating to just make it stop.  If I got drunk enough, I wouldn’t wake up.  There were times that I hoped that I would just go to sleep and never wake up again.  Thankfully, that didn’t happen.


There was one point in my life that I was on 4 or 5 different medications, drinking heavily, and taking sleeping pills.  How did I live through this?  Friends, this is why I forever admire the resilience of the human body.  It seems impossible that I didn’t accidentally die from overdose.  To this day, I can’t bring myself to even take Advil unless there is just no other way.  I maybe take 10 a year, if that.  I don’t impose this strict regimen on anyone else.  I know, for me, I am lucky to be alive.  I need to respect my liver and kidneys and give them every opportunity to recover and heal from the years of abuse.  

There is help available.  It is hard as hell to ask for help.  And you need to use the help in a way that if helpful to you.  That sounds dumb, let me explain what I mean.  I took every pill the doctor gave me.  I told him that they don’t work, give me more and more and more.  I didn’t tell him I was drinking at a very dangerous level.  If my older self could kick my younger self’s ass, you bet I would!  Medications help to stop the cycle.  They can help you put on the brakes so you have an opportunity to work on yourself.  For me, I have found what helps is for me to have an honest dialogue constantly with myself.  I have to recognize negative self talk when it creeps in, and I have to vigilantly keep it from taking hold.  I have to deal with every painful thing that comes into my life immediately, and I have to let shit go.  What I did with medication was not what it was intended to be used for.  I used it as a crutch instead of a tool.  Talking helps.  I talked, but I was never honest.  To be able to keep my mental health in check, I have to be 100% honest with myself, and with everyone around me.  Now, there is a difference between honesty and over-sharing.  It’s important to be appropriate, and not over share with people who don’t need to know EVERYTHING about you.  Still…talk to people..  There are times that I feel depression creeping back.  I talk about it.  I call out the boogeyman.  I will not suffer silently anymore.  I will not let the emotional pain become so debilitating that I wish for the end.


As we have seen from these very high profile suicides lately, this disease doesn’t discriminate.  I encourage you to take courage.  Take people to task who believe that calling someone ‘mental’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘bipolar’ is acceptable. Let’s stand up and stop stigmatizing mental illness.  I am no longer hiding in the shadows.  I have problems.  People who know me now have no idea what I used to be.  “No way are you bipolar!  Impossible!  You’re such a positive person!”  I think that maybe we should recognize those invisible signs.  Maybe compassion, empathy, and understanding don’t have to be lost on us anymore.  Maybe just listening for once, instead of just making our own points, is more important.  Maybe that person next to you needs to hear that you are glad to see them today.  Maybe a passing smile and nod is all the person on the street needs today.  Today, I pledge to you that I will smile more, I will acknowledge strangers, I will speak up and say, “I hope you have a good day today.”  We can change the world.  Kindness is all it takes.  I challenge you to join me.  Let’s help carry the load of others.  

I am sitting and watching a July 2017 Linkin Park concert, and I am fighting back tears.  To be surrounded by thousands of people who love and admire you, and still feel empty.  Please, don’t choose a permanent solution to temporary problems.  The world can’t stand to lose any more of us to this affliction.  Keep fighting.  You are not alone.

…and you are probably not crazy either!

SURPRISE!  The unexpected consequences of losing weight and making positive changes in your life.

At the point that you commit to making healthy choices for yourself, and start losing weight, some interesting things start to happen.  I very clearly remember fantasizing about the 6 pack abs that would magically appear once I dropped the weight.  I envisioned that I would have the self confidence of a super model.  I would wear bikinis with reckless abandon.  People would cheer me on as I walked the halls, much like the slow clap that turns into a roaring applause featured in all teen movies from the ’80’s on.  Much to my chagrin, none of these things materialized.  In fact, the things that did happen were quite the opposite.  

I have a pretty healthy case of self diagnosed body dysmorphia.  I don’t talk about it, which I really feel is a mistake.  The embarrassment has always outweighed the good that can come from talking openly about it.  Until now.  The very interesting thing about body dysmorphia is that it isn’t a new thing for me.  When I started to gain weight rapidly, I didn’t see the change in the mirror.  At my heaviest of 265 pounds, size 24W+, when I looked in the mirror, I believed I looked more like a size 8.  However, now that I am down to a healthier size and average weight, I see in the mirror the 24W person that I never saw before.       I have tried to talk about it with close confidants, but it is often met with “Oh, but that is silly!  People would kill for your body!”  Ok, maybe not THAT extreme, but it is just not something that is taken seriously.  I don’t know for sure that it happens in every case, but I do know it happened to me.  I don’t know how it happens or why it happens, but it’s pretty tough to deal with.  I have found that it is important for me to acknowledge that it is there, and speak out loud about the ridiculousness of it.  In the times I spent trying to keep it secret, it led to what I now know is an eating disorder.

I had a lot of great success with losing weight once I committed and accepted that this is now how I live.  There was no Plan B.  There was no option to fail.  However, when I hit my goal weight, I wasn’t able to stop.  I weighed myself multiple times per day, I obsessed about every food and beverage I put into my mouth, and I started to use exercise to justify having a small cup of frozen yogurt.  I beat myself up over any failure.  I demonized certain foods.  I would make myself sick if I strayed from my food plan for the day.  In essence, I went from total indulgence to total restrictions.  When I got to size 4, I needed to get to size 2.  When I got to size 2, I obsessed over eating to size 0, which I never was able to do.  I recognized that this was not normal behavior.  I backed off weighing myself before and after going to the bathroom, before and after work, when I got up and when I went to bed, to just one time a day.  Although this was definitely a step in the right direction, it was still driving my restrictive behavior.  I have recently been able to weight myself just one time a week, which I never thought possible.  I have also accepted that the scale is just one small piece of the picture.

The obsession with the scale was a bit of a surprise.  For those of you who may not be at your ideal weight, maybe you relate to total scale avoidance.  I don’t really know that 265 was my highest weight.  I refused to get on the scale for years because I just didn’t want to know.  When I would go to the doctor, I would just ask them to not tell me what the scale said.  I would joke about it.  “I bet your scale doesn’t go that high!”  I believe that the obsession started as soon as I lost my first 10 pounds.  Seeing the scale drop, even just a little, was success.  Finally…I was winning!  And I had control!  Every day, I had one opportunity to be a success, so I became addicted to it.  Seeing that scale drop then began to control the food choices, which initiated the eating disorder.  When we think of eating disorders, we think of Anorexia or Bulimia.  When you become scale obsessed and extremely restrictive on food choices to control, you may have an issue.  Committing to lifestyle changes can really force you to walk a fine line between healthy and disordered eating.  Be mindful.  If you think you have a problem, talk about it, and seek professional help.

Losing a lot of weight takes a toll on your body.  It really doesn’t matter how slow or how fast you lose the weight.  If you lose mass amounts of weight, you will likely have loose skin.  THANK GOD FOR SOCIAL MEDIA!  Losing weight today has a much different level of reaity than it did even 10 years ago.  People now have the courage to post honest images of their ravaged bodies after weight loss to show you what to expect.  As I mentioned, I was ready for my honorary washboard stomach to be awarded to me when I hit my goal weight.  What I did get was a saggy sack of skin at my stomach, a completely deflated chest, saggy underarms, and loose inner thighs.  I look at photos like this and laugh:

Nope, doesn’t happen.  This helps to perpetuate the myth that your body is just going to magically deal with the fallout of your bad choices and somehow get rid of all that extra skin it needed to grow to compensate for those choices.  It can’t just un-grow it.  You should expect this instead: 

A million crunches aren’t going to get rid of it either.  I wore my saggy stomach as a badge of honor and a reminder to myself for about 5 years.  I asked doctor upon doctor what I could do to make it go away.  Unfortunately, the only option they could give me was surgery, which was the option that I ultimately chose.  Also, it’s not just a matter of loose skin in many cases.  You may have torn your abdominal muscles to the point where they also need to be surgically repaired.  It’s not cheap, and it’s not covered by insurance.  I do not regret the decision I made to have the skin removed.  I was using it as way to punish myself for the bad choices I had made.  When I decided to get rid of it, I finally accepted that I had made mistakes, and I was convinced that I was not going to go backwards.  The financial commitment helped me to stay motivated to continue on my path to recovery.  There are some people who jump the gun a bit and get the surgery after losing just a fraction of the weight they need to, and end up doing it again.  Make no mistake, this is a major surgery, and costs between $10,000 – $12,000.    Please understand that this will not magically award you the abs you are dreaming of.  You do actually have to work for those.

Speaking of those abs, did you know that every magazine, movie, and publication uses make up and photoshop to give you the most perfect image possible?  I am sure that you do know that, but I didn’t.  So, the scale obsession and restricted eating, combined with the naivety of not knowing about photoshop really sent me into a deep depression.  Why, even after losing weight, eating a perfect diet, and working out for hours a day, most days a week, is my body not looking like what I see?  

The best thing that you can do for yourself is accept that your body is unique.  You may NEVER see visible abs, and that has to be ok.  You may always have a flat bottom, and that has to be ok.  I have previously discussed accepting yourself for who you are and what you look like but always striving to be the best you that you can be.  I had to eventually understand that it was necessary to shift my goals from a number on the scale to accomplishment.  For instance, I wanted to see 135 on the scale.  When I couldn’t break 137, I started to punish myself and give up.  Negative self talk took over.  This was not a healthy mindset to be in.  However, when I decided that if I eat more good than bad, and I exercise more days than I don’t, I started to think about things I could never imagine that I could do. Run Pat’s Run.  Complete a half marathon.  Be in Oxygen Magazine.  Become a Certified Personal Trainer and help others.  When my focus shifted to achievements from scale numbers, things started to be easy and enjoyable.

Finally, the absolute hardest thing to deal with was other people.  When I had lost about 80 pounds, it started.  “Don’t you think you are losing weight too fast?”  At 100 lbs, “Wow, how much more do you plan on losing?” At 110 Lbs, “Do you really think you can keep the weight off?”  At 120 lbs, “You are really getting too skinny.  Are you anorexic?”  At 125 pounds, “I am so glad you’re done.  I am so worried about you, I think you need help.”  Funny thing is, it was similar to quitting drinking (“You don’t really think you have a problem, do you?  You’re FINE!”) and quitting smoking (“You’ve quit for two weeks, you’ve proved you can do it, why not just have one with us?  You’re FINE!”)  I tried to remind myself that people were just trying to show concern.  I found that people who I thought were friends became very jealous and couldn’t be friends with me anymore.  It became a competition to them.  If we were together, and people said hello to me first, it would be an issue.  To them, I suppose I was just the fat friend, not an actual human being.  I was there to make them feel better about themselves, not for an actual friendship.  People started talking about me behind my back under the guise of concern.  They started to watch everything that I ate and chime in if they thought it was too healthy or a bad choice.  (This actually happened this week, 9 years after I lost all of my weight.)  I also noticed that people who would never even look me in the eye before were now talking to me and seeing me as a human being.  You can’t imagine the rage that I felt.  I vowed to NEVER treat people differently based on their looks.  I know that we all tend to see ourselves as benevolent acceptors of others, but are we really?  Do we see someone and immediately judge before we even speak to the person?  It’s definitely something we can all examine and improved in ourselves.


I know  I have given you a lot to consider, and I do NOT want to discourage you from losing weight or making changes in your life.  When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of things, you can learn and grow from ALL of these things.  I can’t tell you how invaluable my experiences have been for me.  I am able to help people around me.  I thirst for knowledge on nutrition and health, and just basically making good and healthy choices.  I was recently asked, “If you had two years to live, what would you do?”  I would travel the world, meet as many people as possible, and do all of the things that I was always too afraid to try.  I would not go back to drinking, smoking, or eating myself to death.  In answering that question, I am reaffirmed in my commitment to my way of life.  All of it is worth it.  You will succeed if you stay committed to yourself.  Through all of this, you may not believe me, but I know it’s true…

You’re probably NOT crazy!!

Finding Motivation:  How to light your fire and keep it burning, even when it gets tough

Close your eyes.   Wait, don’t. How can you read this if your eyes are closed?  Instead, imagine with me Friday afternoon.  It’s probably been a really long week at work.  That guy you work with has been dancing on your last nerve.  Your neighbor has been working on keeping you up all night with left over Fourth of July fire crackers.  The kids are crabby.  Your spouse is feeling run down.  You?  You feel totally overwhelmed.   All you can think about is crashing and binge watching Netflix until it’s time to get up Monday morning, and start all over again.  This, my friends, is the rat race.  Is this the life you really want?  You see Facebook posts from perfect moms who go on perfect runs every perfect day and have perfect kids, and wonder, “How in the world is that possible, when I am struggling to just make it every day??”

If I said I didn’t have days like this, you would know I am lying.  Or maybe you wouldn’t.  The social media perfection machine makes me feel like such a failure some days.  Don’t get me wrong, I use social media.  It has one of two effects on me.  I either feel like such a complete loser by comparing myself to posts that may or may not be embellished, or I feel totally inspired to get off my tired bum and make myself better.  For me, Facebook is a total lost cause.  I gave up around the time that everyone I knew was farming fake crops and wanting me to contribute to their imaginary farms.  In my opinion, it was too much a time wasting, passive-aggressive bragging fest for my tastes.  Thankfully, I simply deleted my account and moved on with life.  Today, I use Instagram to look at positive and uplifting accounts to keep me moving towards my goals and grant me a bit of motivation.


 On many occasions, we go into changes and view them as a temporary existence.  Think: Diet.  We commit to ourselves that we will stick with the change until we reach a specific goal or number, then every thing can go back to the way it was, and we can ride our unicorn to the end of the rainbow where we will be granted the perfect body and everyone will love and accept us.  In the beginning of my journey, I thought that is what would happen for me.  In fact, I went cold turkey Vegan one time, and expected pounds to just fall off of me.  They didn’t, and I quit.  What was my motivation?  I wanted all of the glory with none of the work.  I thought that if I just give up meat, I would have a model’s body.  When that didn’t happen in two weeks, I quit.  Does this sound familiar?

At some point, we need to examine our motivations.  Not just what’s on the surface, but the deeper motivations for choices.  I used to be very afraid to know what my true motivations were.  Now, I jump at the chance to look deeper.  The more I know about myself, the better I am about making good choices for myself.  Case in point:  I have a sensitivity to yeasts and casein.  This means that breads and cheeses are really bad for me.  However, sometimes, the idea of pizza gets in my head, and I let go of all logic and do everything I can to convince my family that pizza is a good idea.  Every time I start to get under the spell of a piping hot pie, I need to think about my motivation.  I know it’s not good for me.  I know I am going to have stomach aches for 2 weeeks.  I know it’s going to make me irritable.  I know that once I have it, I will crave it more.  So what is my motivation?  Well, much like everyone else, I can fall prey to eating my feelings.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, sometimes I feel like work is overwhelming, sometimes I just don’t feel good about myself, and sometimes, I just feel like I deserve a treat.  You know, like a cheat day!  But my cheat days end in weeks of pain and discomfort.  Just like everyone else, I also at times just feel entitled.  I eat well, I work out…I deserve it!


So, how can we find positive motivation, and keep it long enough to accomplish anything?  I feel like I’ve painted a grim picture for you.  My intention is to show you that you are totally capable of doing the impossible.  You can use motivation for good or for bad, just like social media!  Many moons ago, I was challenged to do Pat’s Run.  I had never really run anything but my mouth before, but something in my head just changed.  I wanted to run this.  I wanted to run the entire 4.2 miles.  So I started to train.  And I kept going.  I had a week long vacation scheduled to Washington DC.  I walked for miles all day long, and then would go to my hotel and run on a treadmill.  What was my motivation?  I wanted to prove to myself that I was not ‘that girl’.  In high school, I would wear my resistance to running as a badge of honor, when truthfully, I was totally embarrassed.  I didn’t want to try because I didn’t want people to know that, though I was a really good sprinter, I had no endurance.  This was a chance to prove to myself that I could do it.  That I could gain endurance.  That I was capable of change.

Possibly the best way to change your mindset is to start with a small goal.  What is it that you want?  What is on your mind?  Do you want to prove something to yourself, like I did?  Do you just want to know if you have what it takes to just see something through?  I was once told, “People who can start things are great.  People who can finish things are great.  The person who is able to both start and finish is exceptional.”  Doesn’t that seem strange?  I always felt like everyone around me had their act together.  That everything came easy to them, and everything was a struggle for me.  When I hear and understand that people who are able to both start and finish are exceptional, I begin to understand that everyone puts up a facade, just like I do.  If I know that, it’s easier for me to believe that I can do anything that I want to.  


Since I don’t know what you want to do as a challenge, let’s talk about a recent goal that I took on.  Oxygen Magazine hosts a challenge annually, which is a 3 month body and diet boot camp of sorts.  At the sign up, you can choose one of two coaches (some people choose both), and you start your 90 days of eating and working out according to your fitness pro coach’s plan.  I have been telling myself every year that I could never do that.  90 days is a long time.  That’s a big commitment.  This year was different.  Last year, I had a bone tumor on my tibia removed in August, and ran a half marathon in November.  That experience alone was enough to tell me that I can commit to 90 days, and I have no excuses.  Through training for the half, I learned how to not be so rigid in my schedule, and to start to look at time before and after work as opportunities, and not just tv time.  In fact, when I started to utilize those hours, I became less run-down at the end of the week.  I stopped telling myself that I don’t have time to run during the week, and started getting up earlier.  After work, I started cross training for 30-45 minutes.  I wasn’t missing out on anything.  I was cutting out dead time that I was spending on the couch.  Sometimes, you just need a goal that is so exciting to you that you area willing to look at possibilities instead of probably nots.

So, I signed up!  I am on #Team Jamie, under coach Jamie Eason Middleton.  I just finished week one.  Some days were pretty easy.  Some have been pretty tough.  But every day has been an inspiration.  Every day is a choice.  Am I going to stick it out and complete the goal, or am I giving up?  So far, I choose success.  That choice has inspired my husband to do it with me.  I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold. I am sure that there will be days when I am tired, or discouraged.  On those days, I need to examine my motivation.  If I am not motivated to be my best and have the healthiest body possible, then I need to change things.

Ok, I outed myself.  Now it’s your turn!  What are your goals?  What do you want to achieve?  Maybe it’s a one mile walk.  Maybe it is a marathon.  Maybe you just want to run around the block.  What ever it is, what is stopping you?  What are your motivations?  What are you fears?  The more you know your self, the more you understand your own patterns and cycles, the more you can harness your energies and become the best you possible.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  You CAN be exceptional.  You CAN be a starter AND a finisher.  Take it from a former great finisher, who is currently exceptional.  Don’t give yourself options.  Don’t give yourself a way out.  I believe in you.  Set those goals.  Take steps to achieve them.  I’m always here for you.  You can reach me in the ‘contact’ form, or through Instagram @healthierversionofchris. No matter what happened in your past, you don’t have to let it determine your future.  No matter what, I only know this….

You’re probably not crazy!!!