Small Breasts and Crooked Teeth

We all have something that we feel vehemently about or, if you’re anything like me, a multitude of things. But, there is one thing that I have felt the same way about for as long as I can remember:

Love and accept the body you were given - unconditionally. 

Kids don't usually know that there is something "wrong" about their body until someone points it out to them. They happily go about their day not worried about the shape of their body, the contours of their face, or the size of their appendages. 

The real shitty thing is that there is nothing wrong with their body (or their face), it's completely perfect just the way that it is. You know the saying, "humans are perfectly imperfect." It isn't until some arbitrary fucked up societal and cultural standards are called out to them do they then start to feel like something is wrong with them... something different... something inadequate. And if they feel that way, then they better make their counterparts feel just as shitty. And so, the cycle begins. At a very, very young age. 

Biased comparison isn't innate. Babies and toddlers simply take note of differences and process them as neutral differences. "I'm this color, they are that color;" "my nose is shaped this way, their's is shaped that way;" "my hair is this color, their's is that color." They have a genuine curiosity but typically don't associate their observation with something negative until someone else like a parent, sibling, or playmate teaches it to them. They make simple and objective observations without viewing one as desirable and one as less desirable or undesirable. 

When I was about 12-years-old I was at a routine dentist appointment. The dentist started talking to me and my late step-mom about orthodontics and straightening my teeth. We were both a little confused as to why this was brought up and asked why he was giving us information on "fixing my teeth." His answer beat around the bush a bit. I was taken back. And, well, offended. We asked if this was medically necessary or if this was strictly cosmetic. He confirmed it would simply be to straighten my teeth for aesthetics. 

F-that. I was a tough little horse-riding BB Gun shooting cookie infused with The Doors, Metallica, and Alice N' Chains.

I laughed and told him I didn't need or want to have my teeth straight. My step-mom laughed with me and reflecting back, I think she was pretty damn proud. 

Before that visit to the dentist office, I didn't think much of my teeth. I smiled in pictures and laughed without concern of someone looking at my crooked teeth. But after that visit, there was little voice inside me that whispered..."Your teeth don't look like they should. You don't have a pretty smile." I increasingly become self-conscious of my teeth and smile. I compared my teeth to my peers, my siblings, and girls in magazines and on TV. In family photos, you can see me going from a teeth-showing smile to a subtle smirk, or pursed lips (before it was a raving trend), or even no smile at all. Thank God this was before the likes of Facebook and Instagram or even wide-spread internet adoption.

I even rocked my unibrow

I even rocked my unibrow

My siblings and I, me, far right

My siblings and I, me, far right

Of course, I negatively compared myself to others before then (like when I hit puberty and broke out with acne before other kids my age in elementary school resulting in relentless teasing by older boys), but this was certainly a time in my life when I became even more concerned with my looks. And, started to consider whether or not I was pretty enough just the way that I was. 

Thankfully during this time of my life, I didn't only listen to classic rock and metal. While I was questioning my beauty and uniqueness, Jewel was breaking records with her album, Pieces of You and my sister and I had her hits on repeat. 

Jewel's face was all over magazines and VH1, and although most images and clips of her were with her lips closed or slightly parted, there was the rare few that showed her now famed crooked teeth. 

I was affirmed. I wasn't alone in letting my teeth be au naturel. 

Jewel's teeth have been the topic of conversation on more than one occasion in the entertainment industry. In writing this post, I came across this interview were she intimately discusses her stance on her teeth. 

When I first got signed to a recording contract, I saw other girls in my industry getting nose jobs and boob jobs and chin jobs, because they wanted to gain an acceptance they were unwilling to give themselves. Of course I considered having my teeth fixed. But I knew that if I started down that path, it would be a slippery slope—having come from a broken and dysfunctional home life, I was not the picture of high self-esteem. I was, however, the daughter of pioneers. In Alaska, I was raised on a homestead. We lived off the land, which taught me that hard work pays off. It also taught me one of the most important things I have ever learned, something I still try to live by to this day: Hard wood grows slowly. I know, that isn’t a very flashy life motto, but make no mistake, it is profound. If you want something to last, it has to develop over time. An oak may take a long time to grow, but it lives for hundreds of years. Country living taught me that there are no shortcuts or quick fixes for a meaningful life. I had to figure out real solutions to my problems if I wanted them to be permanent. If I wanted to build a healthy new life, it meant learning to love and accept myself, and to be a friend to myself. It meant forgiving my short comings, accepting my flaws, and finding the courage to not make decisions out of insecurity. It meant letting people call me “snaggle tooth” or anything else they wanted, without losing my pride. Happiness and self- acceptance wouldn’t come overnight. They were a process, and if I wanted lasting results, I had to commit to that process—even if it was a public one. I had to define beauty for myself.
— Jewel

Jewel beautifully and profoundly states what I have come to fervently believe for myself.

You cannot fix the way you feel on the inside by changing something on the outside. Learning to love and accept yourself unconditionally is a feat most people will never conquer. 

Looking in the mirror and saying "I am beautiful," is fucking hard. Looking in the mirror and saying, "I am beautiful, I love and accept myself," is really fucking hard. Embracing it is really, really fucking hard and takes massive work. Work that is internal and that no one else can do for you or validate. This isn't to say that you are alone in the process, I've received massive support and guidance. I've asked for help in my times of darkness and visceral feelings that I was the ugliest human being on the planet and I was met with empathy; though I was alone the work to pull myself out of despair.

It's hard work that needs to be done over and over throughout our entire life. Through aging, illness, weight changes, injuries, depression, stress, and heartache. It's a practice that takes humility and it's work that I don't believe is ever finished or fixed. Certainly not through cosmetic surgeries, anti-aging bullshit, airbrushing, or “beauty” products. Time and time again, I've thought I fully accepted my body and then wham-bam I have some jiggly skin out of nowhere and my thighs have a couple more spots with cellulite that can be seen from my neighbors house. Some days, I am more accepting and graceful of myself than others.

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The next big kick to my self-esteem was when I was 19. My college boyfriend and I were laying in his bed one morning and I asked him (oooooh the naivety!), "what would you change about me if you could change something?" Fully expecting him to say "absolutely nothing baby," or something sweet and ironically complimentary like "the way you're so hard on yourself." Yeah, there is no Relationships 101 in college. 

No, what he said ( I still remember nearly 15 years later) was, "I'd have your teeth fixed and get you some bigger boobs." 

My dropped-jaw and complete silence must have signaled to him to backtrack. He then said "you know... if you want to keep modeling." At the time I was doing some modeling but little did he comprehend that the type of fashion modeling that I was doing gave a shit about my small breasts and actually preferred them small and rarely wanted a smile. Thin? Yes (which is one of the reasons I did not pursue a career), but big boobs and tattoos? No. Smile? Not really. Stone cold or seductive smirk, please.

I quickly left his bed and called my sister balling while I drove to go ride my horse to blow off steam and center myself. Riding always reminded me of who I was and what truly mattered in life - similar to how yoga does for me now. 

The paradox was that before that moment, I hadn't really ever thought about my breasts in a negative light before. I have small frame and for the most part, have always been slender. Having small breasts just kind of made sense. In fact, I found them to be sexy. I could go braless and wear plunging neckline shirts and chic dresses that some of my friends couldn't "pull off" without being judged for looking slutty (you can't win). Up until that moment, I felt quite confident with my breasts. They were perky and just... fit. I was never teased for being "flat" so maybe they are a cup bigger than the "pancake"? So, this was a big WTF moment for me. 

You can imagine what that did to my confidence. Despite how much I wanted to not care what other people thought about me, I did. Especially, my then boyfriend. And, despite his comment and pornography addiction, I stayed with him for four more years. 

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Along with my horse and sister, music came to the rescue once again and this time it was India Arie. Her Grammy winning songs helped to lift me higher and continuously  gave me the message that I needed to accept myself, even if others didn't. 

Her lyrics from  'Video' ran through my head day-in and day-out.

Don't need your silicone I prefer my own
What God gave me is just fine

Yet, I still had that tiny voice inside my head. This time it said, "no one will ever love and accept your body just the way that it is." The abstruse thing being that I really did prefer my own. Not once did I look in the mirror and long for bigger breasts - or straight teeth for that matter. 

Each time after that when a man told me, "I love your body," the thought inside my head was "yeah sure, you love parts of it, but what would you change to make me perfect?" And each time he said "I will love you forever," I told myself "yeah, he'll love me while I still have the elasticity in my skin or until he finds someone 'like me' with bigger boobs...or straighter teeth... or straight hair... or who is taller... or skinnier...or younger." I never believed that anyone could love and embrace all of me and continue to through the changes of time be it aging, illness, injury, pregnancy, and all of the other things that life may throw my way.

I have experienced the heaviness of infidelity, verbal abuse, manipulation, anger, rape, and yet something came up recently that caused me to discover that I had never forgiven that young man all those years ago. An incident that is seemingly very insignificant in comparison and nevertheless, has impacted my life, self-esteem, and relationships for years. Since that discovery, I have forgiven him and feel completely unattached to that moment and his immature sentiments. I had no idea I had been tied to that moment for so long. It has me pondering the notion of forgiveness and do we sometimes tell ourselves that we have forgiven when in actuality, we have only attempted to forget?

It took me many years of internal work to get to a place where I could welcome love into my heart and it's an endless practice of opening. Years of self-help practices, energy work, yoga, solo travel, mediation, living alone, and mindfulness (I'm starting to not like that trendy word but it is valid).

I’ve learned walls are actually the least protective. When you let your walls fall down and stand naked and vulnerable, raw intimacy blankets you. 

BIG crooked smile with the man that loves it

BIG crooked smile with the man that loves it

Now in my thirties, I have a loving and gracious man in my life who embraces me fully and it's still difficult for me to be vulnerable and trust that he will continue to love me unconditionally as the years pass. Trusting your partner is a recipe I'm still learning but what I've found is that it's a concoction of a leap of faith, benefit of the doubt, conscious forgiveness, respect, reminding myself of who he is (rather than grouping him in with men from my past), reminding myself of who we are together, communicating my concerns and insecurities, and giving him the trust that I wish to receive. 

While that's a nice ingredient list, it's the relationship with myself that allows me to open myself up to my partner, to love him unconditionally, and welcome imperfections with myself, him, and us. I thank my 12 and 19-year-old self for staying true to myself and not giving into cultural and societal ideals and pressures. 

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I do not believe myself to be better than those who have made permanent changes to their bodies, I too have made changes to my body albeit temporary, such as dying my hair and wearing hot pink lipstick. There is a fine line and I try to understand my motives of any change I make to my body. Who is it for? Why will this make me happier? Is there something going on inside that I am trying to fix on the outside? What example will this set to those who look up to me? And, I do not think less of anyone who chooses to permanently change their body - men or women (because poor body-image does not just effect women), that's their prerogative. Though, I do wish for them the same thing that I wish for myself and that is the ability and willingness to love and accept their body unconditionally and the strength to do the ever-lasting internal work that makes that more attainable. 

With love, 

-AEB

Coming Forward: 15 Reasons Why It's So Fucking Hard and Never Before Told Chapters

If you are reading this post strictly to gain an understanding about some of the reasons why it's difficult for people to come forward after sexual abuse, assault, trauma, and/or violence, please skip down to the very bottom where I've listed them out. If you came here for additional insights and thought processes, grab a pot of coffee and take a seat. 

Warning: this post contains explicit adult language and graphic sexually violent descriptions. 

If you or someone you know is being or have ben sexually abused, assaulted, and/or raped, please seek help and call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area or visit https://hotline.rainn.org/online/. 

Chapter One: 15, Dazed and Confused 

The first time I was raped was when I was 15. 

Some of you may be thinking... first time? Why did you put yourself in the situation to be raped in the first place and then again? What did you do to cause those circumstances? 

You are one of the top reasons why it's so fucking difficult for someone who has been sexually abused, attacked, or otherwise traumatized, to come forward. 

But despite your judgements and naivety, I'm going to continue my story. 

I stayed the night at girls house that I didn't know too well but we had recently bonded. I can't really recall how the sleepover came about but my parents agreed and my Dad drove me to her house. Except, we didn't spend the night in her house. We immediately went into a small garage type room right next to her house that her older brother occupied. Which, at the time, felt like his "place." He had several friends in the room with him. We were the only girls. I felt unsure, but followed her in anyway. This was next to her parents house, after-all. Her brother was older, I'm guessing around 17-years-old.

I remember thinking that he was cute. Tall and strong with chiseled cheek bones and well-groomed black slicked back hair.

I remember what I was wearing. Relaxed fitting blue pants - you know the baggy lightweight material kind - like you'd wear to the beach. And, I had on a cut off "wife-beater." This was the early 2000s when grunge met hip-hop. And, knowing me back then, I probably had some type of 70s-type hippie jewelry on. 

There was alcohol and pot. Being nearly 20 years ago now, I really couldn't tell you how much I consumed. 

I remember I was sitting next to her brother on a couch. My memory has faded on all of the peripheral details. Partly because of the years that have passed, partly because of the substances consumed at the time, and partly because of what came next. 

That part, I do remember.

The mood in the room shifted and I felt uneasy. My friend exited and I was left with her brother and some of his friends at which point he gave everyone a distinct "nod" and they all proceeded to leave. It was just us two left in the room. This was before cell-phones and long before texting. There was no one I could alert.

I felt confused. 

And scared.

He brought me over to a different couch that was bigger and longer. He said "just don't say or do anything, I'm going to rock your world." 

I am 5'4" and at that time, probably about 100 lbs. Heck I may not have even been 5'4"yet. A little girl. He was 3 times my size. More man than boy in terms of stature.

He covered my mouth with his hand and forcefully penetrated my vagina with his penis. I realized what was happening and tried to yell no. He held me down more aggressively. I attempted to move... he was so heavy. I was completely trapped. I said no several more times and attempted pushing him off me. His shoulders were so big. I remember I wanted to be careful, because I didn't want to piss him off. Who knew what would happen if I made him angry? There was a time when he let go of my mouth with his hand and buried my face in his shoulder.

I have no recollection of what happened after that. Now, in my 30s, I know that clinically, this is referred to as fragmented memory due to trauma - more commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  When your in a high-stress state of being, your brain’s fear circuitry kicks in and your brain actually focuses in on certain things (like my face in his shoulder and suppresses other things). This is an extremely complex topic in which I wont get into at this time. 

The next thing I vaguely remember is calling my Dad from her parents house phone the next morning to come pick me up. I don't remember the car ride. I imagine he asked me if  I had a good time and I am sure that I lied and told him I did. I know telling him about the rape wouldn't have crossed my mind, but even more than that, in my 15-year-old brain, telling him would have meant that I would have to tell him that we weren't in her parents house and that I had drank alcohol and smoked pot. No way. I would be grounded for sure. And, in my young and confused brain, it would have meant that I was "sexually active." At that point, I hadn't yet fully accepted or processed that a rape actually occurred - not consensual sex. 

You'll know by now that I wasn't the model adolescent. I tried my first hit of pot at the very young age of about 13. A child and yet I yearned to be a free-spirit in my 20s with long hippie hair, slender physique, bell-bottoms, cigarette from my lips, and singing Joan Baez with a flower in my hair on Height Ashbury. Of course, with no care in the world or regard for how I would support my livelihood. I masked my delves in drugs and alcohol with a deep admiration of the 60s and 70s and most adults simply just called me a little flower child. Endearing... until it wasn't. 

After the rape occurred, I went to school as if nothing ever happened. Except, I could't stomach even looking at the girl whose brother attacked me. I saw her and saw a rapist. My poetry grew darker and darker, I withdrew more and more from my family and friends.

Months later I confided in my on again-off again boyfriend. He brought one of my best friends into the conversation and they convinced me that I had to tell my parents. 

Even to them. Both also involved in drugs and alcohol, I was spiraling out of control and needed help. 

Photo by  Henry Be  on  Unsplash

Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

It became harder and harder for me to mask my behavior with an innocent affection toward the hippie era with The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, and smell of incense oozing from my bedroom. Even more, I cared less and less about my own mortality. I hurt myself, parents, siblings, and friends repeatedly with my reckless behavior. 

I was getting so much heat, questions, frustration, and sadness from my parents that I decided I should indeed tell them..part of the story. Maybe then they would understand my confusing behavior. A child that once love to ride her horse everyday, go on hikes and walks with the family, and spend time with her siblings had increasingly become less interested in previous beloved activities - over the course of about two short years. 

I'll never forget the look on my Dad's face when I told him.. part of the story along with a lie. A half-truth. 

In a recent phone call to my sister, I learned that what I told my parents and apparently my sister was that he forced me to perform oral sex on him in a hot tub. I vaguely remember this lie. I'll never know why I thought this was a "better" story. Maybe I thought it was less serious. Maybe I thought that it wasn't exactly sex. Maybe I thought it was more believable. Maybe I thought my parents wouldn't be as upset or mad. Maybe I was too afraid to tell the whole truth. I'll never know why I thought this lie was "better" than the truth.

When I told my (inaccurate) variation of the story, it was sheer anger in my Dad's eyes. Not at me. It took everything my late step-mom had to calm him down enough and to think rationally enough to be the bigger person and law-abiding man that he is and bring it to the police department. I hated that they now had that knowledge about me. That my Dad had those images and descriptions in his head about me, his youngest daughter. The same daughter he told stories to on evening walks, taught how to fish, danced with at school dances, coached through the commitment of shaving her legs for the first time, brought to her horse shows, found at the neighbors house trick-or-treating when it wasn't Halloween, and brought to the movies three times to see Titantic. 

I was disgusted, ashamed, and embarrassed.

That night, we cried and embraced each other. Alas, my acting out did not stop. I remember seeing a therapist. I don't remember it helping. I don't remember feeling any sort of relief. Perhaps I would have if I had told the whole story. I don't know. 

I felt like I had quickly changed from my Dad's little girl to someone he was ashamed of, disappointed in, and who just grew into a teenager that he wasn't proud of calling his daughter.

Mind you, he did not say nor convey any of those sentiments. That was my 15-year-old scared and confused brain. 

My parents comforted me and assured me I was safe. I made them broken promises that I wouldn't be involved in any more bad crowds or make any more bad choices. 

A short-while after I came forward to me parents, I came home from school one day and my Dad told me that his lawyer said we didn't have a case. There was nothing we could do. Because I didn't come forward right away and there was no evidence. It would be my word against his and likely his friends' and sister. And, because I was dressed inappropriately (according the the lawyer, the fact that I had a tank top that revealed my belly, I was dressed inappropriate), then I would be "made to look like I was a slut." WOW! That hit my 15-year-old brain like a bullet to the heart. In addition, the fact that I partook in drugs (pot) and underage drinking, and flirted with the attacker earlier that night, made it so we had no case whatsoever.

I cannot remember anymore details of that conversation - I do remember it ended quickly. Knowing my Dad, I know it was unimaginably difficult for him to discuss and I likely said something closed, like "ok." 

It was at that point that I didn't feel that I could be accepted as part of the family - as who I was before all of that took place. I felt... like a disappointment. I felt... like my family (especially my Dad) viewed me differently. Like... a deviant. Like... a slut. 

Again, I never expressed these feelings to my Dad or anyone else. My walls built tall and thick, I kept them bottled up inside and sought the outside distraction of drugs, alcohol, and the attention of boys to fill the emptiness and cover my shame. Things I felt like would accept me. Or perhaps more accurately, things that affirmed my new identity. A deviant.

My Dad didn't love me any less. My family didn't treat me any different or shun me. In fact, they desperately wanted Ashley back and they grew increasingly concerned. 

Chapter Two: 17, Helplessly Hoping

Fast forward a couple of years. I had received help and guidance and was "on the straight and narrow." The good thing about getting into shit in your younger years, before just about everyone else, is that if you do have the grit and support to straighten up, you get out of it before everyone else too, learn massive lessons, and mature quickly in time for when real-life begins. If there is a silver lining, it's that. 

I was working as a receptionist at a hair salon and completing my high-school in a different district. Out of the blue, I received a call at the salon from a girl I use to go to school with, let's call her Nell. She sounded timid. I didn't know her all that well, an acquaintance. I took the call standing by the backdoor with the door open so I could hear and get some air. 

Nell said she had heard what happened to me. 

And then told me it happened to her to.

By the same person. 

I pleaded with her to go to the police. I assured her that I would stand by her and that I would testify and that maybe if she came forward, they would then believe my (full) story. I told her she wouldn't be alone. 

She said she couldn't. 

I pleaded more. 

She told me that they just wanted me to know that I wasn't the only one. That I wasn't alone.

I remember telling each other that we were so sorry that it happened to the other. I could feel her hug through the phone line.

I never heard from her again. 

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Chapter Three: 24, Newly Single and Independent 

I was raped for the second and third time when I was 24, by two men in the same incident. 

God willing, there will never be a fourth. 

At 24, I was early in my career and working at my first job out of college. A technology company in Boulder, Colorado. 

My boyfriend of 4.5 years and I had recently broken up and I was feeling the independence of being a newly single woman. I was living alone and felt... empowered. 

Meanwhile, a cousin, let's call her Adi, of mine and her soon to be husband, let's call him Josh, were having a house warming party one Friday night at their home in a small mountain town. Being attached the hip for just about our entire lives, even when we lived in different states, of course I was going to go to Adi's party. Even though I would be going to the party solo. 

After all, I was a strong, intelligent, and capable woman. 

Both my Mom and sister had trepidation about me going it alone. I assured them I would be fine especially because I would be with Adi. 

At this time in my life, cell phones were a thing as was texting. However, I didn't get cell reception at their house. 

It was Adi, Josh, two of his friends, and me. A very small gathering. I had known Josh from my previous life of drugs and bad choices - but I had been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt despite his continued use of drugs. I had changed, so maybe he did too (even though it appeared he had not). 

I recall that I had wine and Josh had some wine from Chile. We laughed, did some yoga poses, and listened to music. Loudly. The stereo was in Josh and Adi's bedroom but there were no doors, it opened up into the living area. The entire house was small, about 900 square feet. The wine kept pouring and  I remember feeling a little guilty for "partying" but quickly forgave myself. Ah hell, I'm amongst friends and even family! Enjoy yourself Ashley... you haven't in so long. You're safe.

Josh and Adi retreated to bed and it was myself and the two guys. I used to remember their names, now all I remember is that one was a yoga instructor and the other, if my memory serves me right, had the nickname, Bear. Let's just call one David and the other Bear.

We were standing in the kitchen when it happened. Josh had walked out. I really am not sure why. The four of us were chatting when they looked at Josh in what I have later put together as a look of approval. I can't confirm this. It's that gut feeling. 

The next thing I knew, I was being pushed into the hall bathroom by David and Bear. The music in the house was still on. Playing loudly. Bear starting crushing up some pills he said was ritalin. All three of us partook in a line. I can remember immediately regretting that decision. It brought back flashbacks of my old life and although I don't remember feeling anything in particular from it as I was already intoxicated - I was disappointed in myself for not turning it down. 

It was shortly thereafter that I realized they weren't letting me out of the bathroom. I banged on the door. Bear laughed. "We aren't done with you." 

I felt... paralyzed. 

Bear pulled my pants down while I was standing up and leaned me against David. David had an apologetic look on his face. I remember looking at him in fear and confusion as he held my upper body. Bear then penetrated my vagina with his fingers and his tongue. I began crying and begging David to "make him stop... please make him stop." And begging to Bear, "please don't do this. stop! stop! stop!" 

He didn't stop. And when he finally did, he had David take his turn in same manner except Bear wasn't in front of me like David was. The wall was in front of me and the two of them were behind me, positioning me folded over the toilet while I cried. They were each twice my size.

When they were done with me they passed out in the living room. By this time It was the wee hours of the morning. I was too intoxicated to drive back home. I waited on the couch for Adi to wake up, never closing my eyes to sleep. I still felt paralyzed. Is an assault like that rape if they didn't use their penis? I later learned that yes, it is.

"In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as 'penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.' The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim. More." 

Was it my fault because I had been flirting with them and chose to be under the influence of alcohol and even drugs? Did I allow this to happen because I didn't kick and scream or try to fight them off me? Was it my fault for going by myself in the first place? Should I have just laid on the couch and gone to bed with Adi went to bed? It's my body, I should be solely accountable for what happens to it... right? 

Adi woke up perky and her and Josh wanted to go to breakfast. I was still in shock and despite the pit in my stomach, went along with them. Bear joined. It was as if nothing happened. Having known me since we were in our Mom's wombs, Adi could tell something was up with me. When we returned I took Adi into the bathroom to confide in her as it was the only room in the house with a door that shut - but not before she said Bear wanted to see me before he left. Both Adi and I walked out to his truck and he said he "really liked me, and wanted to see me again." I just looked at him in confusion and Adi said something like "ummm, you are married..." 

We went into the bathroom and I told her everything that happened. I was sitting on the floor, crying, and she perched up on the counter. She was noticeably upset, crying, and telling me that everything was going to be OK and that I would never have to talk to or see them again. And, that she would tell Josh.

I left Adi and Josh's house and halfway through my drive home I broke down - emotionally. I called my sister and her husband and told them I had been sexually assaulted. My sister, always worried about me and trying to protect me my entire life, was devastated. Her husband was also devastated and I'll never forget him picking me up when I fell to the ground out of my Jeep Liberty. We went inside and I was extremely vague on the details and they didn't pry. I didn’t want them to have those horrifying images in their head. I didn’t want anyone else to have that knowledge. I recall telling them “it could have been worse. I am OK.” I cried with my head in my sister's lap and had her take me upstairs so I could shower. I just wanted to feel clean. 

They asked me to turn them in and go to the police. I just wanted it to be over with. And, I didn't want to give them any more power than they already had. By talking about it...by spending any time and energy on it... I felt I was giving them power. I felt... I would be letting them win. I wanted to move on, I wanted to get back to my "normal" life. And, what if I did turn them in? And they were questioned, and then released... what then? Would they come after me in retaliation? What if I told my story and I wasn't believed? What if I was told that I would be viewed as a slut, case closed, again? And, talking about somehow made it all more... real. When you talk about it, there is a feeling that you have to relive it. Even now, it's extraordinarily difficult to compartmentalize my emotions apart from simply sharing my story and stating facts.

I had a solo vacation to Los Angeles coming up the following week and I just wanted to hurry up and get out the state, go to the beach, see my friends, and forget it ever happened. 

Monday came and I was convinced I had a urinary tract infection (UTI). I called my gynecologist and made an urgent appointment. I withheld telling them what happened and just told them I was feeling off. They didn't see anything in my urine to indicate an infection under the microscope and they also tested for any vaginal infections. They sent the specimens to the lab for further testing. Since I was leaving on vacation and was clearly worried and didn't feel right, my doctor prescribed me an antibiotic, Macrobid for a UTI, just in case while we waited for the test results. I felt comforted knowing I could take an antibiotic, somehow this made me feel like I was cleaning my system... getting the bad out of me. It took me years to recognize why I did that.  

That same day, I was sitting at work eager to get to L.A. and my hotel in Westwood, when my phone began blowing up with text messages and phone calls from Adi and Josh calling me a liar, a whore, a slut, and cunt. I briefly spoke to Adi and she told me that she "talked to Josh and he said his friends wouldn't have done that." My closest cousin of 24 years had sided with a person I couldn’t even call a man. 

I soon realized that there was no changing either of their minds. I recall sending Adi a message shortly after that I didn't feel safe around her or her fiancé and had to end our friendship - which also meant ending our relationship as cousins as we knew it. The only thing that remains of our relationship is sharing some of the same genetics. Years went by before I spoke to her again and quickly learned that nothing had changed. We still do not speak. 

I ended up going to L.A. and taking the full course of Macrobid - which later gave me an allergic reaction with a full gambit of side effects including hives over my entire body and joint swelling. As it turned out, all of my test results came back negative for any sort of infection. This was long before I knew the risks of taking antibiotics - especially when they are not necessary. 

What transpired after was years of battling eating disorders, digestive distress, fear in unfamiliar situations, and social isolation. Yes, there were numerous other factors that contributed to my struggles - most notably deeply rooted esteem challenges and dysfunctional romantic relationships. But, I will no longer pretend that these events had no impact on my life or influence on my behaviors. I refuse to tuck them under a rug as if they never happened because what happened to me happens to others (male and female) everyday in various ways and it's still being buried. What happened to me does not rule my life, it has passionately influenced it. It has not hardened me, it has made me even more soft. After years of trying to deny my sensitive, vulnerable, and nurturing nature - I've come to embrace these qualities and allow my rugs to hang out in the open. Someone may need one.

Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Chapter 4: 32, Hello Darkness My Old Friend and The Era of Coming Forward

Comedian Louis C.K., Pixar and Disney is Animation chief John Lasseter, Actor Kevin Spacey, Producer Harvey Weinstein, PBS and CBS host Charlie Rose, NBC News booker Matt Zimmerman, NBC "Today" show anchor Matt Lauer, and one I heard about most recently Indian Yoga Teacher and founder of Bikram Yoga, Bikram Choudury. Though like all of the others, the corruption and sexual violence had been going on for years before the spotlight was on them. There are of course, countless other prominent figures and thousands of "everyday" people. I've pointed out the recent ones and ones who come from all walks of life from comedy to yoga. 

Bikram yoga entered my life about a decade ago and quickly became a crutch. A lifeline. A saving grace. It helped me heal from unhealthy relationships, sexual violence, and eating disorders. It helped me to feel more empowered. And more... me. I would sweat, tune out, and even enter to what I could only explain as an altered state. I could think more clearly after class and felt.. alive.

Eventually, I found other yoga practices and have come to love Vinyasa and Yin. I let go of the extreme and rigid nature of Bikram and the 105º F heat that Came with it. Though, I continued to respect the practice - never knowing the history. I went years without ever hearing about Bikram Choudury or taking it upon myself to learn the story of how Bikram yoga came to be. I was so immersed in learning the poses and spiritual elements brought by my (wonderful) teachers. It wasn't until the recent podcast by ESPN's 30 For 30 on Bikram that I became aware of the real Bikram story. Only then to discover that Bikram Choudury is one of many fraudulent "gurus" in the yoga world. It's taken a minute for me to still honor my roots in yoga, and my experience with yoga while knowing the horrific corruptness and sexual harassment and violence that has and still takes place. I am extremely blessed that my yoga journey has been untainted by the pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth of Bikram Choudury and others in the community. And, very grateful for the teachers and guides I have had in my yoga world. 

Photo by  Chris Ensey  on  Unsplash

Photo by Chris Ensey on Unsplash

Learning about Bikram Choudury and his sexual power trips hit me a little more than the others. It felt, a little more personal. What has been plaguing me when I hear these stories in the media and my own experiences both what has happened to me as well as close friends,  is the all-too-often-heard blame-shifting question to the victim(s). 

"Why didn't you come forward sooner?" In The Era of Coming Forward, that's the first thing we hear after someone (or several people) come forward. 

There is some validity to that question. One would think that the sooner someone comes forward, the better the chances are that any evidence to prove their case will be discovered. They are also far more likely to remember critical details. Though, keep in mind that fragmented memory and PTSD can cause memory blocks. Just because it happened last night, doesn't mean that the person with PTSD will recall things fully or accurately this morning. More importantly however, the sooner someone comes forward, the sooner they will be able to heal. And the white elephant, the sooner the person comes forward, the sooner the perpetrator can be prosecuted and punished (the perfect scenario in an imperfect situation). 

So, without further ado, I'll attempt to answer that question based on my experience, what I've observed in the media, and experiences of dear friends (men and women) who have confided in me about their trauma.

15 Reasons Why It's So Fucking Hard to Come Forward

  1. You have to admit to yourself and others that it happened
  2. You fear that if you talk/write about it, you'll have to relive it, you just want it to be over
  3. You fear that they will come after you once they've discovered you've told someone
  4. You have to share explicit details that include your reproductive organs; which brings an extraordinary amount of embarrassment and shame, YOU are suppose to be able to protect yourself and your body and decide who gets to touch you, where, and how
  5. You have to state anything you may have done or said prior to the event(s), making you feel like it was/is your fault 
  6. You don't want anyone to have those types of images of you in their head, it's bad enough that you have to live with the knowledge 
  7. You don't want anyone's perception of you to change, i.e. will people think you're weak? How could you let that happen? Why couldn't you fight them off? Will people think you've lost your innocence? Will people think you're a whore? A slut? That you wanted it? That you're homosexual/straight (for those who have been attacked by someone of the opposite gender they are sexually attracted to)? 
  8. You don't want to ruin someone else's idolized image, this is especially true in families such as a a parent, sibling, or other relative as well as famed and prominent figures who are often well-liked
  9. You fear you will not be believed, after all, what happened is that horrible
  10. You fear people will think your accusations are a cry for attention, "they're just doing it for attention," we've heard this time and time again in schools, workplaces, and in the media
  11. You fear the facts will be twisted and it will be made to look like your fault, why were you at the party? How much did you drink? Why were you at the gym so late at night? Why were you wearing a short dress? Why were you there, at that time?
  12. You fear you will lose something important to you such as family members, friends, your position at work, scholarship, reputation, certification etc. 
  13. You second guess yourself, have I blown it out of proportion? Did I give the wrong signals? Is this my fault? It's it as big of a deal as I'm making it out to be in my mind? It could have been worse... 
  14. When people do come forward, the the focus is on irrelevant details such as what the victim was wearing suggesting or outright saying that "they got what was coming to them" or that you "wanted it" and the perpetrator is ultimately excused 
  15. When people do come forward, the focus is on if the victim behaved in any sort way such as flirting implying or outright saying that it was "their fault for luring them" or "asking for it" and the perpetrator is ultimately excused 
The Vast Majority of Perpatrators will Not Go To Jail or Prison

The Vast Majority of Perpatrators will Not Go To Jail or Prison

We (as in society, encompassing: law-enforcement, teachers, family, friends, media, and other trusted figures) are taking a heinous offense and instead of highlighting what the attacker did, we are highlighting what the victim did or didn't do. 

In other words, victims are asked "what did you do to cause this?" 

If we as society want people (men and women, including children) to come forward sooner, then we need to step it up and make it a safe space for them to do so. The perp may be innocent until proven guilty, but that goes both ways. The accuser is also innocent until proven otherwise and that means supporting them, listening to them, putting yourself in their shoes, respecting them, showing compassion, and giving them as much privacy as possible. 

Coming forward sooner means a culture shift, and you can't change culture with the same behaviors and beliefs. 

This starts with me and you. The friend, the family member, the law enforcement officer, the teacher, the boss, the significant other, the neighbor, the trusted confidant. 

With love, 

-AEB

Face Value is Destroying Us

Social media has become our society's arch nemesis. It's the thing most of us love to hate but also refuse to live without. 

We see white picket fences, the kiss after the argument, the corner of the house that's not messy, the angle of the face that meets society's standards of beauty, the filter that smooths out wrinkles and wipes away blemishes, the sucked in bellies, the flexed muscles, and the splurge masking the debt. 

We see the filtered and intellectually (most of us) know that it's there, yet turn a blind eye and are adamant and convinced that what we see is reality. We laugh and joke over the superficial and then turn around judge others or ourselves based on the face value we perceive. The result is spectrum with rage and disdain on one end, and envy and lust on the other. 

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We're conditioned to view flawless as desirable and beautiful yet we, as humans, are inherently flawed.

Even more ironic, is that perfection, flawless, and sameness is often considered boring, stodgy, uptight, and uninteresting. A double-edged sword. 

We choose the media we want to see and get a curated selection within that choice, and as a result, glean a skewed outlook of reality. 

perception_quote.jpg

We see memes, images, videos, and stories conjured up portraying someone or a group of people as someone they may not be based on one characteristic. 

We see slivers of people's lives and personalities and assume we know what their all about. 

Don't assume that I'm anti-hunting because I drive a Subaru. 
Don't assume that I haven't shot a gun because I do yoga.
Don't assume that I don't support our president  because I drink green juice.
Don't assume that I'm Godless because I believe in the healing powers of crystals. 
Don't assume that I'm uneducated because I love country music. 
Don't assume that I had everything handed to me on silver platter because I'm well-traveled.
Don't assume I haven't experienced hardships because I am a white female with blue eyes, and (dyed) blonde hair. 
Don't assume I am against homosexuality because I believe in the right to bear arms.
Don't assume that my boyfriend and I never disagree because I post happy pictures of us. 
Don't assume I'm positive and calm all of the time because I meditate.

These face value assumptions don't just happen in media. They happen walking down the street, driving down the highway, passing through the neighborhood, attending a gathering, shopping at the grocery store, they happen anywhere, and everywhere. They happen in our everyday lives, in and outside of our online lives, and they are destroying our relationships with one another and with ourselves. 

With love, 

-AEB

Maine Life & More Epiphanies

You know when you hear a quote, phrase, saying or what-have-you, over and over and you nod, appreciate it and then go on your merry way? Or maybe you really ponder it and try to allow it to sink into your being. Or perhaps you even say it aloud to yourself or others. Yet it isn't until that moment, that opening in the air where it really and truly resonates. Where the air feels less heavy, appears less hazy and suddenly you have found yourself stopped in your tracks.

All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer, artist and politician

At least, that is how epiphanies usually feel for me. Especially these recent ones. And the timing of the following quote that my lovely brother-in-law sent couldn't have come to me at a more perfect time because it is exactly how I felt.

That quote gives my goosebumps, even now. We can hear something for years and think that we understand the meaning, and perhaps we do understand yet the words are not truly integrated in the way in which we lead our lives.

While hiking up to Cadillac Mountain and back last week, I had a few of these moments.

Epiphany #1

If you truly focus your energy  into something, you can and will achieve it.

Epiphany #2

You are the only person that owns you and the life you lead.

Epiphany #3

Your thoughts will dictate your life path.
Top of Cadillac

Top of Cadillac

When these 'epiphanies' came to me, it was as if I had never heard anything like it before in my life. I literally stopped mid-carriage road, looked out over the serene landscape around me, furrowed my brow and thought, "Wow..."If you (I) truly focus your energy into something, you can and will achieve it....huh.... so that 'saying' IS true."

I continued to repeat the words over and over as I ascended up to the top of Cadillac. And it made me smile.

Mid-Trek

Mid-Trek

It's like someone telling you your entire life that blueberries are a very tasty fruit. You understand what they are telling you, you may believe their words and you may even smell some blueberry jam and think "sure, yes, blueberries I think would be a tasty fruit," yet you never try them. And then one day, you taste them. You taste their subtle sweetness on your palate and feel a certain sense of refreshment that you hadn't felt with other fruits. Suddenly, you get it. You understand fully the essence of the blueberry.

The other two epiphanies came to me in a similar fashion, and all in that one day (oh yes, I'll be hiking as much as I can on the island this summer ;))

As part of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's quote entails: 

"...but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience."

"Till they take root in our personal experience."

That my  friends, is the key. And perhaps the only way to have that happen is to act upon them - either consciously or unconsciously.

Carrying them out in our lives Living them. Integrating them into our life. Rooting them.

Now that I have written a novel on my experience on epiphanies, I'll give you all a little update on how life in Maine is going thus far.

First of all, "the people" are genuinely nice. Everyone that I have come into contact with has been not only nice, but completely selfless. Not that "hey let me know if you need anything," but the "You be sure to let me know if you need anything at all whether you have questions about the Island, the town, a personal problem, you call me..." And this hasn't been from one person. This has been from just about every single personal that I have met here.

Many have that 'Mainer' accent that some perceive as cold or harsh. On the contrary, they are gentle and sincere people. How very comforting it is to be immersed in a community that cares so deeply for others and for their island.

I continue to be amazed by the expanse of scenery that can be seen on the island. Roads that I drive on almost daily, will still have me pulling over on the side of the road to run out and snap photos. 

Hadley Point

Hadley Point

The Inn that I am working with for the season officially opens tomorrow (May 17th). I've been in training the past few weeks, learning the 'ins-and-outs' of how they operate; which has been both humbling and fascinating. When I attempt to explain what I did as a 'Product Marketing Analyst' at my previous work, I have to laugh at the sheer vast difference in the work that I will be doing over the next several months compared to my previous work. There is no good or bad in that statement- it is simply wildly different. And it has been inspiring to learn and experience the change in my environment.

View on my jog

View on my jog

Oh how I love my morning jogs with views of the sunrise shining upon the ocean, afternoon strolls and the space and time to focus on ME

With Love,

-AEB

The Question & My Move to Maine

The question is always the same:

"Why Maine?" And specifically, "why Bar Harbor?"

Frenchman's Bay, Downtown Bar Harbo r

Frenchman's Bay, Downtown Bar Harbor

Why after 15 years living along the Front Range of sunny Colorado did I decide to go to a small town on and island off the coast of Maine over 2000 miles away?

In summer of 2011, I wanted to take a trip by myself. Somewhere that I could "reset" in the midst of my chaotic and confusing life. During this time I was writing a novel (one in which I may or may not still be writing...). In the novel, I have a couple of the characters from Maine. I decided then, that I would go there for my vacation. Not to research, no, it more or less just helped me decide where I would vacation.

So, I pulled up google maps and with the index finger of my right hand, I circled around the state of Maine, zoomed in and then stopped and said "There, that's it. Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. That is where they (the characters in my novel) will be from and that is where I shall go."

The Shore Path

The Shore Path

I didn't research the island before I went though I knew that I wanted to stay at a Bed & Breakfast on the ocean. I chose the Shore Path Cottage. I booked my stay and then booked my flight (yes, in that order). And off I went for 7 days that July. Epiphanies came, clarity sparkled and I felt at peace. Perhaps those were the aspects that I couldn't shake.

When I left, there were no thoughts that I would ever move to Bar Harbor, but I knew one thing: I would be back.

February of this year, I found myself in a crossroads I had never experienced before. I knew that I needed a shift. A major, life altering, mind bending shift. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am generally a very happy, optimistic, lovin' life person. But, I was exhausted. Exhausted from pretending that I loved my life when I was struggling emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. Every aspect of my 'healthy' was...Broken. And, I wasn't asking for help.

I had to not only admit this, but allow myself to feel it. And accept it. I then had to also acknowledge that happiness is a choice. Just as our thoughts are a choice.

Working at a software company in Boulder, Colorado is dream to many. And it in many aspects, it was for me too. My time there was well spent. I learned, I grew and I met some amazing people that I still hold very dear to me. But after three years, my soul was telling me that there was something I needed to feed. Something I needed to explore. Or as I like to say, "feed the rat," an expression I picked up in Australia years ago.

There were thoughts of going back to Los Angeles, exploring San Francisco, New York City, or Washington D.C. And even some job applications that went out. But nothing resonated with me and the thought of actually moving seemed so HARD. Daunting. It came to me one day that what I truly wanted, was to just be. I can't explain that element so I will leave it up to your interpretation. Once I let go of the fear of not having money and the pressure of making other people proud and doing what I thought I should be doing, the decision was simple. I needed a place where I could just be and I needed to stop searching.

So I did. I stopped searching, stopped stressing about where I was working, what I was doing, my résumé, jobs, and what the next year of my life would hold. Soon thereafter, in my yoga session, it came to me. In hot yoga (triangle pose), "Bar Harbor. That is where I need to go. That's it." It was more clear than anything that had ever come to me before. In fact I saw a golden yellow aura around myself. That may be to out there for some of you. Anyway, that night, I began to put things in motion. That was in February. I made my way here the end of April. It took me 4 days and a total of 38 hours of driving to get here.

Below you will find 12 YouTube links to video clips that I posted along the way.

Part 1(Intro)
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12 (Finale)

In the three months prior to my move, I found movers, secured a temporary place to live, secured a job, and the various other odds and ends that moving entails. And although the time of my life was stressful and painful due to other circumstances, the move itself came quite easily. About a week after my move-in, the movers arrived with the rest of my belongings. My oh my, how I adore my own bed.

The view just down the hill from where I'm staying

The view just down the hill from where I'm staying

So, here I am in Bar Harbor. From an apartment (living solo, sans pets), in South Boulder, to a house in the woods on the ocean with three other people, a dog, two goats, and chickens. Three weeks ago, I was sipping my coffee-house Americano whilst checking my countless emails at the office, surrounded by technology. And this morning I was sipping my homemade coffee, outside in the sun whilst a goat attempted to eat my hair and then proceeded to climb into my lap, and spill my coffee.

A typical morning

A typical morning

My how the times have changed. As they always will. But I am me. And in ME, I will be. 

Just me, blowin' in the wind...

Just me, blowin' in the wind...

My gratitude goes out to many for helping me along in this journey. They know who they are.

I have no idea what the next chapter will be.

I'll let you know.

With love,

-AEB

My Battle With Orthorexia: Epiphanies and Recovery

Since my initial post on My Battle With Orthorexia last month,  I've had quite a few epiphanies and breakthroughs that I would like to share with you. I will warn you now that this post will be a bit stream of conscious as I attempt to explain things. 
 

Thank you sweet sister of mine for sharing this one with me

Thank you sweet sister of mine for sharing this one with me

Allow me to first start off by saying, that this is not an easy battle. I've had highs, lows and everything in-between with a few 'relapses' in thoughts and behaviors along the way. What one must recognize about an eating disorder, whether they are personally struggling with one or know someone that is, is that it is NOT about food. 

I know, right?

Just as an alcoholic uses and abuses alcohol as a coping mechanism, a person with an eating disorder uses food whether it be overeating, under-eating/restricting, and/or obsessing as a coping mechanism for circumstances and emotions things that are occurring or have occurred in their lives. The actual reasons behind the need for a coping mechanism will naturally vary from person-to-person. 

This disorder is powerful and strong. And it can indeed, kill you. Recovery from an eating disorder has one of the highest chances for relapse (or lowest recovery rate depending on how you look it) out of many other disorders/diseases and the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Why is this so?

I have a theory on one of the reasons why this may be true... 

We cannot live without food. We all know this. An eating disorder is a type of an addiction. And when you are in the thick of any addiction whether it be mental (obsessive/compulsive) or physical (substance abuse etc.), you are in fact, under the influence.  

Imagine if you will, that for an alcoholic to 'recover' they had to learn how to drink 'normally.' Not quit drinking entirelyThey had to stop their drinking in excess yet still frequent bars and only have a drink or two. And go to liquor stores on a regular basis but get a couple of beers instead of a bottle of whiskey and a case of beer. 

Now, I am NOT saying that recovering from alcoholism is not a feat. Wow, it is an enormous life-altering feat! Though it may explain why recovery rates for those with eating disorders are not as promising. Those of us that have found ourselves battling an eating disorder, are surrounded by food all of the time, from culture-to-culture, day-in-day-out, and we must learn how to eat 'normally' again. 

My Demon, my Friend

My Demon, my Friend

I've named my eating disorder, 'my eating disorder Demon.' But don't get me wrong. This Demon has actually protected me in many ways, has been there for me and provided me comfort throughout a very difficult time. So while I am actively battling this Demon, I am honoring it at the same time. And understand that it served a purpose.

I lovingly release and honor the past and joyously welcome the new.

The past is our past but that's just it, it's OUR past. We lived it. We made it through. We learned from it. And we should love it. Honor it. And be at peace with it. Whatever 'it' may be.

I spent a lot of time and energy pushing my past away. The "I've got this," "I'm fine," "Don't worry about me," "I'm tough," "I'm past that," "It could have been worse," "I don't need help, I don't need you, I don't need anyone..."

miracle.jpeg

The reality, is that with a BMI of about 16.5, I was not only classified as underweight, but severely underweight. Now, I am grateful that this had not gone on for years, but it did go on long enough to where the consequences of being at such a low BMI effected me. And the consequences are not only physical but mental as well. I won't delve deep into that topic but the mental implications can also be vast; such as the inability to focus and extreme obsessive compulsive behaviors. You are indeed, under the influence

So, I came upon some epiphanies over the past week.

Epiphany #1: Control

Life.

Life happens. And for the most part, the majority of things in our lives, are out of our control. And generally, that is OK. Expected. And accepted. But, there are those times that things go completely awry. And then there or those times when go not only awry, but devastated by trauma. 

When an event takes place that derails you life to the point where you feel out of control, you latch on to things that make you feel in control.

I am writing this using 'you,' but I am in fact, talking about myself.

Back in fall of 2010, I had series of life events that left me feeling dis-empowered, helpless and completely out of control. I latched onto three main things that enabled me to feel in control. Hence the word feel, in the end, these things controlled me. I didn't actually have control. 

Sources of 'False Control'

    1) Exercise

    For all of my adult life, I've found great joy in exercise. Whether it be walking, hiking, jogging, lifting, yoga etc., it is, and will remain to be one my favorite things in life.

    Though, I started to use exercise in such a way that it actually stressed my body in times where I truly needed emotional support and rest. I exercised/worked-out twice a day 6-7 days a week for over two years. Even when I was sick. When I was tired. Exhausted. Stressed. In pain. And even shortly after my surgeries. It wasn't a release anymore - it was an addiction. An obsession. But it made me feel in control. Little did I know, it was in fact, controlling me.

    This mind you, happened gradually over a long period of time. And I have since then, toned the exercising down to allow my body to heal during this process. Which in-and-of-itself, has been difficult to let go and give myself and my body permission to rest. 
      
    2) Food/restriction/elimination diets

    I latched onto the idea that there was a 'perfect' diet out there for me in order to feel my best. I've been writing several posts on this so I won't go into great detail but in essence, I used restriction around ingredients and specific food groups as a way to feel more in control over my life. It was something that I could research, tweak, see, and feel results.

    Over the past month, I have slowly introduced specific foods that I had eliminated back into my diet. Some worked (grains such as white rice and corn, added sugar, added starches). Some did not. Gluten, did not. For the same reasons that I initially stopped eating gluten (vertigo, exhaustion, stomach rashes etc). Dairy, did not. And for the same reasons that I had initially stopped eating dairy over four years ago now (heartburn/indigestion, diarrhea).

    wellshit.jpeg

    This is how I feel about the gluten and dairy. 

    Most importantly, I branched out. I gave myself permission to eat things that I had not eaten in a long time, even years. And it was scary, but I am also very proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and I will continue to do so. It's a process. 

    3) Medicine/Doctors

      Similar to my diet, I felt that there was something in my body that needed 'fixed.' Something was wrong. What I failed to recognize, was that the something that was wrong was actually an internal cry for emotional help and support. The something that needed fixed, was on an emotional and spiritual level yet I stayed with the mindset for years that it was on a physical level. Yes, I did in fact have hernias. And I did in fact, have Endometriosis but those were not the sole source of my physical pain and symptoms. Not by a long shot.

      Countless visits to doctors, tests, procedures, herbs, medicines, supplements, and thousands of dollars. It's no wonder that my body was unable to recover and reset back to a state of 'normalcy' as it was constantly bombarded by things that it didn't need or couldn't absorb/breakdown as I was becoming malnourished due to lack of nourishment on both a diet and emotional level. As my nutritionist explains nourishment, there are two types: Nourishment with a capital (N) for food nourishment and nourishment with a lower case (n) for emotional/loving nourishment. 

      This fixation on 'fixing' something on a physical level also brought to me a false sense of control. 

      Epiphany #2: Fight or Flight

      Do you know what physically happens to animal (including humans) when they are in 'fight or flight' mode?

      Well, let me tell you, it's quite fascinating. Here is a website that explains the fight or flight response in more detail. Below are some highlights:

      • heart rate and blood pressure increase
      • pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
      • veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (responsible for the "chill" sometimes associated with fear -- less blood in the skin to keep it warm)
      • blood-glucose level increases
      • muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goose bumps -- when tiny muscles attached to each hair on surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling skin with them)
      • smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs
      • nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
      • trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from)

      I can't even begin to tell you how much this resonates with with me. Bullet-by-bullet I nod my head. Yep, experienced that. Yep, experienced that. Dilated pupils, veins in the skin constricted, increased heart rate, low body temperature, trouble focusing... Though, I'd like to especially point the one on digestion and immune system shutting down to allow more energy for emergency functions. Wow, did it ever. Chronic diarrhea and various other immune related symptoms is the main thing that plagued me during this time.

      Bottom line, my body quit functioning properly. 

      To an outsider looking in, I had it pretty together. Living alone, working a full-time job, eating 'healthy' foods, exercising, and generally walking around with a smile on my face. But on the inside, I was full of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the relationships that I was in and those that I had left. Fear of what could happen. And most of all, fear of what had already happened that I continuously ran from facing. 

      You see, for years, I was in a chronic state of 'fight or flight.' Why?' you may ask. I didn't feel safe. Simple as that. My sense of safety and security had completely deteriorated. I began to think about this 'fight or flight' situation combined with my lack of feeling safe and secure and as it really soaked in, I reflected back on the times over the past few years that I did feel safe. 

      I can count them on one hand. And all but one of those times were when I was with my Dad. It didn't matter where I was with him. But when I was with him whether it be on vacation or one of his homes, I was generally symptom free irregardless of what I was eating or drinking. I felt safe. My systems relaxed. There was one other time that I can recall and this was when I went on vacation by myself to Bar Harbor, ME (where I am now moving BTW, post to follow). I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast for seven days, right on the ocean, took myself out for meals, ate things I normally wouldn't have and indulged in more wine than I normally would have and I felt great. And was again, generally symptom free. There it is again. My flight or fight response subsided and I felt safe. I allowed myself to relax. To be

      Now, this doesn't mean that I need my dad wherever I go (although that would be kind of cool because he's pretty amazing), but what it does mean, is that I need a balanced life on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level in order to establish a sense of safety, security and peace. 

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      I don't have a step-by-step guide on how I will do this, but I am getting there. By loving myself, by trusting myself, listening to my body, forgiving myself and forgiving others. I could go on and on, but those are some of the things that I am currently focusing on to help me in breaking free from 'fight or flight.' Here is another great site on fight or flight. 

      Epiphany #3: Deprivation

      Someone asked me not too long ago, not "What do you do for fun?" but rather, "When do you have fun?"

      I just looked at him blankly. There was really no answer that I had for him. I pondered this for a bit and came to the conclusion that the only time I really did have 'fun' was on the rare occasion that I was around my family or when I was alone hiking, writing or traveling. Alone. Mind you, I do rather enjoy being alone, but it had gotten to the point of isolation. Depriving myself.

      In learning more and more about restrictive eating disorders such as orthorexia, it's very common and almost always the case that the person also restricts (deprives) their lives in other ways.

      Why? To feel in control. Safe. Secure. 

      Like waves crashing in, there was a steady flow of realizations that hit me of other ways in my life that I deprived myself. Laughter, fun, socializing, love, indulgences such as alcohol, rest/relaxation, sleep... I started to write them all down and suddenly my life started to make a little more sense to me. Things became a bit more clear.

      Allowing myself to let go and release has been an invigorating experience. There has been fear, no doubt, but it's getting easier. And it makes me smile.

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      As I am writing this, Sting's 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot,' just came on. How very fitting. I think I'll be listening to this song often ;)

      Aids in my Recovery Process

      Professional Guidance

      I've been seeing both a nutritionist and therapist that work solely with those recovering from eating disorders. They have both helped me immensely in getting to the why behind my eating disorder,  learning how to be gentle with myself, forgive myself, putting things into perspective, understanding what it takes to truly fuel and nourish the human body and much, much more. 


      Recovery Stories

      I am especially fond of this one

      Affirmations

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      Books

      Eating In the Light of the Moon has been my favorite thus far. I recommend every female read this book whether they are struggling with an eating disorder or not. I also recommend that those supporting someone with an eating disorder read it to better understand their condition.

      Louise Hay and Crystal Alandrus' inspirational books (and audio recordings) have been a huge part of my recovery and although I have not met them in person- I feel like they are part of my life. You Can Heal Your Life, is another one of my favorites. 

      Others I am reading: The Passion TestThe Power of Myth and Healing From Trauma

      I adore books ;)

      Meditation, Yoga & Metaphysical Work

      Meditation, yoga and metaphysical work really could be an entire new post (as all of these could be). So rather than going in deep on this topic, I will simply let you know that all of these combined have not only helped me in my life path and recovery but have been part of a life transformation on a body, mind and spiritual level. 

      'Lifelines'
       

      When I am struggling with a relapse in behavior or struggling with my Demon in thoughts, I text, email or call one of my friends, my mom or my sister (if I am not actually with them). In other words, I TALK about it. I voice it. The support system that I have is truly a gift.

      shelter.png

      And with that, I will end this post and say thank you again to those that have helped me along the way and continue to support me. How very blessed I am to have you in my life.

      With Love, 

      -AEB

      My Battle with Orthorexia

      This is the most difficult post that I have written. In fact, it is one of the most difficult things that have ever written, period. 

      Has anyone ever told you that you are 'too close to the situation'? I had quite a few people in my life tell me this throughout the past couple of years. I thought: "Nah... look at all of this research I do. Look at all of this information I have found. Look at all the progress I have made. Look at all of these people that have healed themselves this way. Look at all of this groundbreaking literature to back it up. Look at all of this HEALTHY stuff I buy!"  

      Since 2010 I have been on an endless search to heal various physical ailments through food elimination and diets. In doing so, I became acutely aware of all the nasty things that get put into packaged and processed foods, the dangers of this food and that food and benefits of this food and that food. And countless diets. Paleo, Primal, Raw, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Anti-inflammatory, Macrobiotic... seeking that perfect combination that would allow me to feel my best. Be the healthiest. The cleanest. The Purest.

      During this same time, I continued to suffer from gastrointestinal issues (chronic diarrhea and bloating). So, in my mind, there was still something wrong. There was still something to fix.

      The search consumed me.

      The search consumed me.

      What I have is called, Orthorexia. It is much different than Anorexia though it can have similar side effects. While anorexia typically has a fixation of weight, orthorexia is a fixation on eating healthy. They do overlap. And I believe my struggle with orthorexia, obsession with healthy eating and having a clean body also morphed into anorexia. 

      "Orthorexia' is defined as an obsession with 'healthy or righteous eating'. The phrase was first created in 1997 by California doctor Steven Bratman, and refers to people who create severely limited diets in the name of healthy eating. It often begins with someone's simple and genuine desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The person may choose to stop eating red meat, but eventually cuts out all meat; then all processed foods, and will eventually eat only specific foods that are prepared in very specific ways.

      As with all eating disorders, the core issue is not about food. My struggle began at a time in my life when I was dealing with massive emotional stress.  In the fall of 2010 I was sexually assaulted and during that same time, had recently left a relationship and entered into another unhealthy relationship (both unrelated to the assault) quickly after. With my life in disarray, and my emotions crying for help, food was something that I could control. 

      Or so I thought.

      Note: This post is on MY battle. I do not believe that everyone on a restrictive diet has orthorexia.  Though, this post may raise awareness that 'diets' can become an obsession. And can be a 'gateway.' Most of all... listen to your BODY. Always.

      It was a slow progression. For much of 2011 I was 'tweaking' if you will, still maintaining a pretty 'healthy' diet and body weight but experimenting with elimination diets. And in 2012, I tweaked a bit more and become increasingly strict with what I allowed into my body. Following my hernia surgery in December of 2012, I became even more fixated on eating healthy, weighing in at 94 pounds at my doctor's appointment just a few weeks ago. 

      And then I got sick. Twice. And weighed 'who-knows-what' and then I landed myself in the ER with severe abdominal pain. This pain that I was feeling was on the surface, not dangerous. But the underlying cause - in sum, was that my body just did not have the reserves to sustain me while being sick nor did it have the strength to recover 'like a normal person.' 

      A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.
      — Francis Bacon – an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist and author
       

      No doctor has ever told me that I should not eat the foods that I have eliminated from my diet. I truly believed that I was doing the best and healthiest thing for my body. I eliminated entire food groups. No processed foods, no packaged foods aside from bars and sweet potato chips, no refined sugar, no corn, no beans, no grains at all except for oats and brown rice (so no gluten, millet, spelt etc), no yeast, no soy, no dairy, and very limited other starches.

      The consequences to this type of restrictive eating are massive.

      The side-effects listed below are side-effects that I experienced. These are not researched and therefore I do not know if they apply to others with orthorexia/restrictive dieting. 

      Physical Side-Effects:

      • Insufficient nutrients/ malnourished
      • Insufficient calories
      • Dangerous weight-loss / unhealthy BMI
      • Decrease in energy 
      • Dangerously low blood pressure
      • Insomnia
      • Hormone inbalance
      • Loss of appetite

      Emotional Side-Effects:

      • Anxiety 
      • Obsessive-Compulsive behavior (measuring food, listing out meals, only eating at certain times)
      • Fear (of food/ingredients)
      • Depression
      The spirit cannot endure the body when overfed, but, if underfed, the body cannot endure the spirit.
      — St Frances de Sales

      There were many signs along the way that I chose to not recognize. For every sign, I had an answer. A rather good one, at that. 

      I had one woman I didn't even know straight up ask me: 'Do you eat?' I thought it was the rudest thing I had ever heard. And perhaps it was rude. But maybe it needed to be said.

      During this time, I was cooking, baking, blogging about food and my love of food, helping to guide others in their path to a healthy lifestyle and so the thought that I could have a problem was downright absurd to me. Ha! 

      I would NEVER EVER advise someone else to do the things that I was doing. I re-read what is on my website after acknowledging that I have a problem and thought "Wow, I'm pretty dang intelligent. Why didn't I just listen to myself?" 

      Simply put, I got caught up in my passion. As a friend stated to me: "You know, people take great pride getting taken by their passion. You simply did that."

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      I was being dishonest with myself. But most of all, I was not loving myself. I was not nurturing myself and I was not accepting myself. I was loving and accepting myself in ONE condition. I was not loving and accepting myself through thick and thin (pun intended). 

      Although, I was doing all of these wonderful things like reading several different self-help books, doing affirmations, connecting with my spirituality and becoming very aware of myself and my surroundings, I was not recognizing the thing that I needed to face the most.

      I hit bottom.

      Hard.  

      Through all of the deaths, break-ups, moves, sicknesses, and surgeries, this struggle, right here, right now, is by the far the hardest that I have fought. And I am honored and humbled to be able to share my experience.

      And the work begins...

      Some books that I purchased to help me in this journey.

      Some books that I purchased to help me in this journey.

      An eating disorder can be a dead end or a door opening to a life better than you can imagine.
      — Carolyn Jennings

      This Wednesday, I start an outpatient program and will be seeing both a nutritionist and psychologist. I am excited for this journey to begin!

      Rest assured, I am still very much in love with food, cooking, baking and all that it has to offer. I cannot predict how this will unfold, but I can tell you this: 

      My posts will change slightly and my recipes will evolve but I will be here. Learning, pushing forward and sharing my experiences.

      And I have an incredible support system. My family and friends have embraced me with loving arms and for that I am immensely grateful. Thank you.

      With love,

      -AEB 

      Listening to your Gut, Mind & Soul

      Allow me to tell you a little story.

      Over the past two years I have had an intimate relationship with food and yes, at times, a love-hate-relationship with food. Why you ask? In fall of 2010, in the midst of a significantly trying time in my life, I began to experience sudden and intense pain. This initially started as pelvic pain and continued to progress into something that I have now only come to describe as a true conundrum. From pelvic pain, abdominal pain and chronic gastrointestinal issues to joint pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of sleep, weight-loss and nerve pain. That type of pain, combined with emotional distress is downright taxing.

      Let me step back for a moment to address a question that may be lurking in the back of your mind. Prior to this, I was easy breezy when it came to health. I rarely got sick, had a pretty rock solid stomach aside from occasional heartburn when I had too much dairy and I maintained a consistent healthy weight and body-mass-index (BMI) for much of my late teens and early 20s. I ate what I considered a well-balanced diet (which did include gluten, some dairy, yeast, soy), indulged in pastries and candy every now-and-then and exercised regularly.

      So now I'll jump to fall of 2010, when the flow of my atypical symptoms began.

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      Ashley, meet Google.

      I had diagnosed myself with numerous conditions including Leukemia, HIV, Ovarian Cancer and Lupus to name a few. 

      Mind you, those are all seriously tough diagnosis and while I should have been jumping for joy when I was relieved of those concerns, I slumped into a deeper state of chronic worry. As you could imagine,  emotional distress is the arch nemesis to physical pain and vise-versa.

      I was loosely diagnosed with various conditions including Endometriosis, Interstitial cystitis and of course... neurophysological. Neurophysological came with a complex explanation that in summary, the theory was that my nerves were not firing properly and causing both direct and indirect pain. Hm. OK, I could accept that to a certain point. But I couldn't accept that explanation was the end-all-be-all.  

      So I dug. I dug and researched. And searched. Most importantly, I searched within myself. I knew that there was something more. So much more. When I laid my head down on my pillow at night and felt my body lie there, I felt what I describe as a heaviness. A pulling. I knew that sensation shouldn't be ignored.

      I had this 'gnawing' feeling that what was causing my physical pain was a hernia. I can't quite explain this definitive knowing. All I can say, is that I just new. The thought that it could be a hernia never escaped me and over the years a found several compelling articles that resonated with me.

      Hernias in women  often go undiagnosed because they are not only seen as a 'man' issue but they also tend to present themselves differently.  

      When a woman lies flat on the examining table, the signs and symptoms of a hernia disappear. And the usual exam, an ultrasound, rarely reveals the real problem. Lacking an accurate diagnosis, doctors often send patients to be drugged up by pain specialists and psychiatrists. 

      For many women with these occult, or hidden, hernias, it can take years, if ever, to get the right diagnosis and correct the problem. Women account for only 8 percent of the hernias diagnosed, and doctors simply ‘don’t think hernia’ when women complain of pelvic pain.
      — Dr. Metzger

      A New York Times article, In Women, Hernias May be a Hidden Source of Agony, was the first one that I came upon. I read it and I grew even more certain that this was what was causing the majority of my pain.

      Below are some other articles that I kept with me though the years and showed to various doctors:

      As the cliche goes, 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' I had tried every elimination diet that I had researched. Various herbs, medications, supplements, meditation and other self-help techniques. Not to mention thousands of dollars in medical bills and countless tests, procedures, doctor visits, time off of work and I was still symptomatic.

      While it's nice to have tests that come back 'normal,' there comes a point where you just want to hear someone say "Aha! We found it! You actually have ____ and that is what is causing your symptoms!" When that time doesn't come, you will do virtually anything to figure it out on your own.

      At least, I did.

      To me, the only route I saw in relieving symptoms was through food. Based on the triggers that I did find, my diet was already largely paleo/primal (no grains, no legumes, no unnatural sugar, limited carbohydrates), so the next step in my mind was to be even more strict with my sugar intake. I had a couple theories around this, one being that I may have an excess of fructose in the gut. It was just one more thing to rule out (in my mind).

      Words of caution: Playing doctor on yourself is risky business.

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      So, two years after the onset of my symptoms, in September (2012), I decided to take up the challenge of the 21-Day Sugar Detox. I had high hopes that this would provide some answers. When people hear 'sugar detox,' they tend to think refined sugars, candy, soda etc. Well, I had already cut all of that out long ago. Since I had also already removed grains, legumes, dairy, and unnatural sugars from my diet, the next step and guidelines for the 21-Day Sugar Detox was to remove other sources of carbohydrates (all carbohydrates break down to sugar) so this meant all fruit (fresh, dried or juices) with the exception of one green-tipped banana a day or one green apple. In addition, starchy vegetables were to be removed (so winter squash, sweet potatoes, white potatoes) and alcohol. That my friends, is low-carb.

      How low-carb is too low-carb?

      Do some people need more carbs than others? Is it safe to take up a low-carb diet? And what can going low-carb do to your body?

      Fist and foremost, each meal, snack and trip to the grocery store took that much more planning, that much more research and that much more thought. I recall going out to eat one night while doing the detox. I felt so incredibly hungry before-hand that I ordered a huge burger (sans bun) some mushrooms and vegetables on the side - mind you it originally came with much more including a bun, fries and a chutney. In communicating with my server, I said something along the lines of "Ok, so as long as there are no grains (so, no gluten), dairy, soy, yeast or any sugar then that will be good..."

      What?!? Not only did saying that cause me feel like I belonged in the looney bin, I didn't feel like I was being true to myself. We need to eat what makes our bodies feel good (I'll reiterate here, our bodies, not necessarily what our brain or taste buds are telling us makes us feel good ;)), not what a template, website, book or guide says will make us feel good. I was shocked by the words that were coming out of my mouth. And I had gone completely against my own advice that I would coach others.

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      At day 13 of the 21-Day Sugar Detox, I made a critical decision to stop. In short, I simply couldn't function. My bouts of hypoglyecemia became extreme despite the amount of food that I was eating to compensate for what wasn't (mainly protein and vegetables), my energy level was non-existent, my weight was dropping too an unhealthy low and I ultimately decided that to continue the duration of the detox could be very dangerous.

      So what was next? I was concerned about eating too much sugar too soon so I started rather slowly, adding in fruit little by little. Then starchy vegetables/squashes, then I added in oats and brown rice in very small amounts (this was the first time I had any grains for about 6 months) and then finally limited amounts alcohol (wine or Ciroc vodka) here and there.

      I continued to add everything back into my daily diet, with the main reason for the starchy vegetables, oats and brown rice, aside from energy was so that I would stop losing weight and in addition, try to gain some. I had hit the lowest weight in my adult life and not only did I feel uncomfortably thin, friends, co-workers and family expressed concern. Note, I am writing that in past tense though I am still very much in the middle of this path in which you will learn more about shortly.

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      And then... things got weird...The 'brain-fog' that I once experienced when I ate gluten, came back with vengeance though I was not consuming any gluten. I became dizzy at unexplainable times and would 'get the shakes,' similar to when I'm hungry except it would occur shortly after eating or when I was not hungry. And my body seemed unable to process alcohol.

      I nearly passed out at my sisters after dinner and two glasses of wine (in the span of about 2 hours). I wasn't hungry at all but I was shaking, hot, dizzy etc. and had to eat a bowl of sweet potatoes to recover. That convinced me my body was just not processing alcohol (i.e. sugar) or carbohydrates (also broken down as sugar) properly.

      After banning myself from the infamous search engine, I was yet again sucked into the Google. Because what makes any all symptoms worse? Stress. Worry. Anxiety. And with that carries a heavy weight of desperation.

      My Keto theory...

      My theory is that I unintentionally put myself in a ketosis state. Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when your body is not getting enough carbohydrates and sugar and thus your body instead of burning carbohydrates for fuel starts to burn fat and produces a large amount of ketones. Ketones are present in the blood and in the urine. When there are a large amount or too many ketones for your body, a slew of unpleasant and troubling symptoms can occur.

      When the ketones are elevated or you are in a ketosis state (a.k.a non-diabetic ketoacidosis), your body can experience (list not exhaustive): 

      • Excessive thirst (check)
      • Increased urination (check)
      • Fruity or metallic taste in mouth (check)
      • General weakness (check)
      • Loss of appetite (check)
      • Abdominal pain (check)
      • Confusion/brain fog (check)
      • Low blood pressure (check)

      Because I was exhibiting many of the those symptoms, they tested me for diabetes which was negative.

      So, am I 100% certain that this is what happened? No. Am I by definition, a hypochondriac? Perhaps. Though, I'm of the opinion that when someone is in chronic pain without answers, they will go to dire means to seek answers. Is my theory on ketosis just a 'hypochondriatic' conjecture? I don't think so ;) 

      But I do know, that while some people can safely go 'low-carb,' for a time most people cannot or should not for a long period of time. 

      One thing I know for certain, always consult with a physician before making any significant dietary changes. 

      Meanwhile, I had gone back to a trusted doctor, and opted to have an exploratory laparoscopic surgery. He had actually been one of the doctors that was open to the thought that a hernia may be a viable explanation. I knew in my gut, pun intended, that a hernia had been causing my agony for the past two years.

      This surgery was performed last month (November 2012). Some endometriosis adhesions were removed, so that theory wasn't invalidated but it wasn't the cause of my pain. During the surgery, two inguinal hernias were discovered. One on the left and one on the right. The one on the left was quite large and likely what has been causing the majority of my pain.

      Small inguinal hernia on right side of abdomen

      Small inguinal hernia on right side of abdomen

      Large inguinal hernia on left pelvis (AKA, The Big Bastard)

      Large inguinal hernia on left pelvis (AKA, The Big Bastard)

      (Sorry, hope you weren't eating ;)) 

      One month later, yesterday (yes, yesterday December 11, 2012),  I had the hernias repaired. They repair the hernias by using what is called mesh and are also performed via a laparoscopic surgery; which is the least invasive option.

      Was repairing these hernias the answer I have been searching for? There is no way of knowing that just yet but I will say, that although I am in a significant amount of pain from the surgery itself, I feel I have crossed a momentous chasm. And I am on the road to a beautiful recovery.

      I am so very grateful for the unwavering support that I have received from my family and close friends. Truly amazing people in my life. Love to you all.  

      My point? ALWAYS listen to your gut, your  mind and your soul. NEVER give up. NEVER accept what you know to be untrue. Trust yourself...

      Stay tuned dear friends ;) xo

      -AEB