Browsing Tag

self loathing

Guest Posts, healing, self-loathing

My Monster

April 10, 2022

I wasn’t always a monster, of course. I like to believe no one ever really sets out to become a monster, and I think most monsters are created by forces bigger than themselves, often in the murky darkness of childhood.

My sister Michele and I spent a lot of time on my family’s dairy farm as children. Our mother was the oldest of nine siblings, so my sister and I were delightful little playthings to the many aunts and uncles who still lived on the farm. We basked in their attention as they showered us with sleepovers and wagon rides and trips to the nearby lake.

There was a dangerous freedom to the barn, with the powerful hind legs of the massive cows that towered over our small selves as we ran down the center aisle, squealing to avoid a sudden discharge of liquid shit. Michele, the cherished first-born, was a tomboy who loved running around chasing cats by their tails and dodging in and out of the barn as our uncles and grandfather worked the cows on their rigorous milking schedule. My sister languished in the smells of summer hay being put up and danced in the swirls of dusty dry sunshine that accompanied all those animals.

But it was soon discovered that what seemed like wild, sweet freedom to one granddaughter was the very thing that threatened another. My grandmother never quite seemed to accept that I wasn’t just being stubborn or lazy when I stopped wanting to go to the barn. That, in fact, I had asthma. And all that dander from the cows whose milk was the sole source of the family’s income was cutting off my airways and strangling me.

But in the mid 1970’s, things like asthma and allergies weren’t well understood – at least, not in our neck of the woods in Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland, where my people lived and worked. Generations of my family were raised on milk: not just to nourish bodies, but to pay the bills. Going against the family farm in any way was akin to treason. My grandmother, in particular, had little tolerance for time-consuming things like asthma attacks. Sniffles? Quit all that snorting, Krissy. There’s work to be done. Stop bothering me.

So, every summer I tried in vain not to be a nuisance, to get out in the barn and help with chores like my good, big sister. And each time, I’d end up coughing and wheezing and back at the house, crying as I knew how much I’d disappointed my grandmother by being weak.

Crying only worsened my asthma attacks. I fled to the bathroom, closed the door, and ran a washcloth under cold water to wipe my face. I stood at the sink trying to calm down as aunts and uncles would bang on the door, saying they had to pee. Looking in the mirror, I watched my itchy and enflamed eyes as the whites turned an angry red and swelled over the green circles of my iris. For a few hours, my eyes took on the appearance of some swollen, sickly Christmas decorations in the middle of July.

My grandmother was a woman of efficiency whose nerves were worn thin by too many people needing too many things. What love she had in her heart was painfully and privately shrouded in vigil for her own long-dead mother who was cruelly taken from her by cancer when she was only sixteen. Unprocessed heartbreak with no place to go can get lodged on repeat in a cruel sort of rhythm that no amount of barking at sick children will unstick. Such is life for a generation with nowhere to place such cavernous grief.

But I didn’t know this as a child. Instead, I learned from a young age that there was something wrong with me. Something inside my body that was bad. Something shameful that didn’t allow me to participate in the regular work and play of the family like everyone else.

By the time I was five, I learned that my wheezing and gasping for air were something akin to a moral weakness – that if I would just toughen up a bit, I could get over it. Thus, I didn’t deserve to breathe like other people. I was five years old, and I didn’t deserve to breathe.

***

Sheila, my uncle Mitch’s wife, was a teacher who worked with special needs kids and took an interest in me. She loved my drawings and encouraged the stories I wrote. I relished the whirling worlds in the books we shared, one adventure weaving into another. We stayed inside her yellow brick house across the road from my grandmother’s, with air conditioning that insulated our activities from the farm’s threatening allergens.

Sleepovers at her house were a special treat for me and my sister with ice cream sundaes and buttered popcorn so rich it gave me a tummy ache. As the sun set through the white eyelet curtains of the yellow room with the shag carpeting, cool darkness fell over the house. We would lay our heads on embroidered pillows, knowing that she was safely nearby in the room she shared with Mitch, just on the other side of the closet door that secretly adjoined our room.

***

Years passed. I turned twelve before my mother finally took me to an allergist to treat my asthma. Several rounds of steroids to clear my lungs resulted in rapid weight gain and crushing depression, which perfectly coincided with the onset of puberty. It didn’t take long for my inner monster to latch on to my self-loathing. An eating disorder quickly took root, enabling me to lose fifty pounds in three months, and by the time I was seventeen, I had downed a bottle of pills in a botched suicide attempt and earned a month long stay in a mental hospital.

My psychiatrist found me to be a curious case. I’d landed a coveted spot on the high school pom-pon squad, and we had a somewhat stable, loving, upper middle class family. I had excellent grades, an artistic gift, and a boyfriend who was the running back on our school’s state-winning football team. Yet, my symptoms didn’t seem to add up. Debilitating depression. Self-loathing. Cutting. Looking at my chart, the doctor asked my mother: had I ever been sexually abused?

Goodness no, she said. Of course not.

***

It wouldn’t be long before I discovered the joys of alcohol. My Irish Catholic family was practically raised on beer, bourbon, and brats. When we weren’t floating in a lake drinking under the warm sun, we were at college football games, Summerfest, and family weddings. Life was one big celebration, and my monster loved to party.

It was at one such wedding where I met my future husband, a longtime friend of the groom. A few years older than me, he was a good Catholic farm boy from Iowa whose steadiness was the perfect counter to my volatile self. We married when I was just twenty-two, but it would be many years before I’d fully appreciate just what a fantastic sense of foresight God had in bringing us together.

We went on to have three children and life appeared to be good, but the darkness was always lurking just under the surface. My monster was often hiding in the corner, whispering that I wasn’t quite good enough. That I didn’t deserve to be happy. That there was no point in trying – I was just a sham. There were so many days when I didn’t know what would happen because I could never trust when my monster would demand to be fed next. Living with depression was like dragging myself through the day with a big boulder strapped on my back. Most days loomed dark, heavy, foreboding, as the weight threatened to crush me.

Alcohol has a cunning way of latching on to mental illness to create the perfect storm. I found that if I drank just enough, I could keep my darkness at bay. Wine had a way of blurring the edges of my anxiety, while vodka would obliterate them completely. To me, this was just the solution I needed.

Soon, I was waking up every day sick, parched, disgusted. I repeatedly told myself today would be the day I’d stop doing this. Today would be different. Knowing, even as I said it, that I was lying to myself. Just willing change into existence doesn’t make a damn difference if you don’t do anything to change. If your next move is to open up a bottle, you’ve already lost at your own game – and your only opponent is yourself.

My boogeyman never lurked around some dark corner. That bitch lived inside me. I opened the door and welcomed her to come right in and take a seat every time I bought a bottle. I thought I drank to quiet her down, hoping that the more I drank, the more likely I was to flood her out of her cave. What I didn’t know was that I had it all wrong. Alcohol didn’t put out my monster’s anger. Pouring alcohol on my monster only fed the flames, like gasoline on fire. My monster loved alcohol – thrived on it. More! More! She cried as she laughed, threw up all over the floor, then went on drinking.

With alcohol mixed into the equation, I had no chance against my monster. I hated myself when I drank. Everyone around me hated me when I drank. And even though I knew better and had everything going for me, I wasn’t smarter than alcohol; it had locked me in a vice grip that I couldn’t break. I no longer wanted to drink, but I could barely function without it.

I was circling the drain but instead of putting the cap back in the bottle, I was pouring my life away with every glass I emptied. That’s the way addiction works. Nobody wakes up one day and says they want to become an addict. It’s a slippery slope that seems to work just fine for a long time as it does what it promises to do: it takes the edge off. But after a while, it stops working. And you need more and more to get the same effect.

Twenty-five years after my first suicide attempt, I found myself with an Exacto knife in my hand, pulling it across my wrist and drawing blood. Another time, I stumbled into the middle of a country road and stared down a Mack truck that was barreling towards me. And it became commonplace for me to stand on the Metra platform in Chicago, willing my body to throw itself in front of the train. I told my doctor at the time that this was normal for me. Nothing to worry about here, folks.

But this time was different. I wasn’t just some dumb seventeen-year-old kid. I was married with three children. I owned a business with employees and was doing work I loved. I had everything. But I couldn’t see any of that when the monster came out of her cave. She was now a fire-breathing dragon, and she was going to burn down every last fucking thing that stood in her path.

The thing that wasn’t different this time was how I felt. The way I felt at seventeen was still the same way I felt again at forty-two. Twenty-five years later, and the pain inside me was exactly the same. No number of years or ounces of alcohol could drown the darkness that a lifetime of trauma had built. That powerful pull to finally give in and end it all – it was too big to resist, and I just wasn’t strong enough. And once I finally decided to kill myself, the decision was complete. Then, just like when I was seventeen, it came as a relief.

If I thought of my children at all in that moment, my only thought was: the kids are better off without me. They had my husband to take care of them. I was useless. Better off dead. And that logic made perfect sense to me. Perfect sense.

That’s what depression does. It’s a darkness that works on you from the inside out. It wears you down and pulls you in and wraps its tentacles around you and doesn’t let go until it sucks all the light from your soul. It squeezes the air out of your lungs until you’re gasping for breath. Until you can no longer breathe.

Because you don’t deserve to breathe.

***

I was surprised to find that my mental hospital had been locked in its own stagnant time capsule: faded floral artwork trapped behind plexiglass screwed to cinder block walls. A single caged lightbulb dimly casting shadow over moldy shower stalls. A wall-mounted telephone with a frayed eight-inch cord flanked by nefarious steel-barred windows. I snagged my color-coded socks on cracked and peeling linoleum as I learned that pink signified fall risk, blue for suicide watch. Mine were blue. I could have gone a lifetime without knowing any of this.

For five days, I walked up and down the stale hallway thinking of the many ways I’d changed in twenty-five years, and the many more parts of me, like this place, that were still the same. Those early days of padded, shaky steps in my fuzzy blue socks were the first of many in the tentative direction of eventual healing. It took a long time to realize that alcohol was a former friend that had turned on me a long time ago; I was just too sick to see it. Once I was able to get some clarity and distance from my old pal, I finally had a fighting chance.

I learned there were many root causes to my monster’s growth. Genetics played a part, such as living in a family with layers of madness and addiction. Ultimately, it didn’t matter why a monster had grown inside me like a cancerous tumor. The damage was done. But understanding where it came from was a way to help me untangle its interwoven grip on my life. And in order to extricate myself and live freely, I had to do the work.

I learned to separate the monster from myself. The monster lived inside me, but she was not me. In time, I could learn to tame her and live with her.

I learned that when I stopped drinking, I stopped being so afraid. And I was finally able to ask myself: what was I so afraid of? What was I trying to drink away?

My fears ran from broad and expansive to precisely imagined scenarios. Drinking had been a way to run from the fear of living in a violent and unpredictable society full of senseless acts and random school shootings. I found that I could alleviate the anxiety of not knowing if each morning’s goodbye kisses would be our last by turning to the bottle. But eventually, no amount of alcohol could keep the terror at bay; in spite of our country’s lavish thoughts and prayers, the shootings kept coming.

I was afraid of what would happen if my kids found out I was an alcoholic. But judging by the way they dumped out my wine, it was pretty clear they already knew.

I was terrified that my children were destined to live with the same madness that had hijacked my own brain from such a young age. That my daughters would develop eating disorders that would ravage them for decades. That my son would develop an addiction and attempt suicide. In sum, I was afraid of everything. Most of all: myself.

I finally had to admit to myself that I was afraid of saying I was an alcoholic, because I just didn’t want it to be true. I was afraid to stop drinking because I didn’t know how to live without it. And if I was really trying to be honest with myself, I just had to edit that last sentence a bit:

I was afraid to stop drinking because I was afraid to live.

I believed that addiction and mental illness and abuse and suicide attempts were all just a matter of time for my children, because that’s simply how it was. Because that’s what was passed down through generations of trauma in my family. Because it was destiny, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I kept continuing the cycle with every bottle I drained because I didn’t believe I had any power to stop it.

Until: I stopped.

When I learned to stop fearing my monster, I found that I was growing stronger and could finally start to face my fears. And I realized that my monster was really just a coward that hid in the darkness of her cave and thrived on alcohol, and bred depression and shame.

I learned that love is stronger than fear. Love is what breaks the cycle. Love is what cracks open the darkness and allows the light back in. And by coming back to love, one day at a time, I learned to start trusting myself again.

I remembered the ferocious love I felt for each of my children from the moment I was aware of their tiny sparks growing inside me. And I remembered the biggest love of all: God’s love. In beginning my recovery, I learned that though I never believed I was worthy of God’s love, that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. It was there all along, from the moment I was just a spark in my own mother’s womb. I just couldn’t see it through the darkness.

I finally learned to love myself.

And twenty-five years later, I would recall my psychiatrist’s question to my mother about whether I’d been sexually abused as a child. Memories would float back to me at random, like fireflies flickering in the night. The yellow room with the shag carpeting. The white eyelet curtain. The sleepovers that endured long after I wanted them to. I would remember my uncle, insistent that we keep up those overnight visits far after we felt comfortable. And when given the choice of any of the other rooms in the farmhouse, he would emphatically press on that my sister and I should stay in that room, the yellow room with the shag carpeting, the one that connected to theirs via secret passageway.

***

My monster’s fire-breathing roar has been replaced by the sounds of laughter that now fill our house. Our comings-together at the end of the day are reminders that we’ve survived something together. My children may carry the strains of mental illness; time will tell. But if that happens, we now have the tools to manage it. I’ve finally learned that dealing with mental illness and addiction is something I can control. At least now, we have a fighting chance.

My monster is still there. I see her sometimes, sleeping in the back of her cave. I like to think of her in a sort of permanent hibernation. To keep her there, I’ve learned to put a blanket over her when she’s cold. I’ve taken away her alcohol and replaced it with nutritious food that I put at the mouth of her cave, offering it to her if she ever gets hungry, too. I sometimes wave to her as I pass by on my daily walk, or during yoga. I see her sleeping and I think – oh yes, there she is. I remember her. I nod and respect her space. I let her sleep if she’s tired. And I pass by, thankful that she no longer has any power over me. I let her keep sleeping.

And then, I walk out into the light.

Kris Martinez been in marketing for over 25 years and has owned an award-winning digital creative agency near Chicago since 2004. Her work has been published in Entropy, The Manifest-Station, Literary Mama, Iris Literary Journal, and Enterprising Women Magazine where she was honored in 2018 as an Enterprising Woman of the Year. In 2020, Kris completed her MFA in Creative Nonfiction and Screenwriting from Antioch University Los Angeles. The essay “My Monster” is an excerpt from her memoir and first book, for which she is seeking representation. Kris lives near Chicago with her husband and their three teenage children.

***

Writing Cohort Opportunity

Circe is offering: Crucible – A Year-Long Writing Cohort 

Let by Gina Frangello and Emily Black, this cohort is designed for writers seeking to spend a year deeply immersed in writing or revising a book length work.

Cohort Includes:

  • Once monthly class meeting over Zoom
    • 2-3 members will have their pages workshopped per meeting (each participant will be workshopped twice)
  • Every other month individual/private meeting with Emily or Gina over Zoom (participants will have a chance to work with both)
  • Ongoing online communication between members of the cohort to share resources and ask questions in between sessions
  • Writing prompts
  •  100 manuscript pages read and reviewed by Emily and Gina

Email info@circeconsulting.net for more information

***

Statement on Black Lives Matter and support for social change

Guest Posts, self-loathing

The Opposite of Mean is Human

May 13, 2016

By Meredith Broome

I am sitting at the dinner table at my best friend, Annemarie’s, house. Annemarie and I are in the third grade and have been best friends since kindergarten. Tonight we are eating spaghetti and meatballs with her mom, dad and two little sisters, and I remember a joke my father told me about balls, which seems relevant to the meatballs we’re eating. I stab a meatball onto my fork and hold it up in the air in front of me as a prop, not understanding that the ‘balls’ in the joke refer to testicles. I clear my throat and shout over the conversation.

“Speaking of balls…” I tell the joke, hit the punch line and look around, expecting a big laugh. Instead, Annemarie’s mother and father are frozen in what looks to me like fear. Then Annemarie’s mother’s face reshapes itself into steeled hatred, and she points it at me like a sword.

“Get up from the table,” she hisses. “You are excused.”

Nobody else moves. Annemarie’s ears turn red. She doesn’t look up from her plate. Shame weighs me down like a hot blanket as I walk heavily into the living room and sit down on the couch. I wait for what seems like hours listening to Annemarie’s family finish their dinner in silence. I can hear forks scraping plates. I try to listen even harder, until I think I can hear the sound of a cloth napkin being placed on the table, or the sound of Annemarie’s father, finally blinking his eyes. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Anonymous, Fear, Guest Posts, Self Image

Working On It

September 28, 2015

By Anonymous

He took me to sushi on our second date and I told him how it’s neutral Zen glamour reminded me of the Japanese restaurant I’d waitressed at in New York in my twenties. The uniform so by far the nicest thing in my closet, I wore it to a wedding. A dress with stains like salt flats in the armpits,  that forced me to hover around the reception, arms clamped by my sides.

“The big broad comedy version of that,” he started, “is she gets to the wedding and has forgotten to take her name tag off.”  He was a half hour writer, I was one hour. He smiled at his own pitch, and I felt like he got it. That he got me.

I was attracted to him and never fake laughed once, until the end of the night, when he said, “People working on themselves, if I hear anymore about people ‘working on themselves…’” and I giggled praying no self-help mantras scribbled on post its fell out of my purse.

We started dating. He said I was confusing — a mix of a 50’s housewife and Gloria Steinem. I fell in love because every time he spoke I was surprised by how emotionally intuitive and funny he was.  Like when one of my job interviews got cancelled and I rolled out the slogan “Rejection is God’s protection.”

“Well,” he said, one eyebrow raised, “if it rhymes, it’s definitely true.”

At which point we laughed until we were pink.

The night I really fell for him, though, was the night we had plans and he texted that he couldn’t make it. He’d had a meeting at a poncy members only club  earlier about a feature. Disappointed, I asked him to call me. Hours later he came over, explained he wanted to be the best version of himself around me.  After the meeting, (which didn’t go well) he went to the horrible valet which is like a Tesla/RangeRover/SmartCar parade. His old truck wouldn’t start, and the valets explained that his car wouldn’t “go.” He had to call a tow truck and the whole debacle crushed my heart. Because every time I walk into the stuffy place, I feel like I am at a wedding in a waitress uniform again. I fell for him that night.  For his vulnerability and his reticence.  For the guy part that didn’t want to be a mess and the sensitive part that knew that standing me up was hurtful. I thought we could work. I thought it was my kind of guy who could hold both.

A few weeks later, on my couch, he noticed a book, the Dalai Lama’s “The Opening of The Wisdom Eye.” He picked it up, thumbed through it, settled on a page and read aloud. I listened, sort of soothed. Most of the quotes were about grappling with death. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Young Voices

Bathing Suit Season

July 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Addie Newcombe

Here’s my hunch, most women don’t feel truly comfortable in a bathing suit—not even the 5’11, 130 pound woman with blond hair and legs that go on for miles. I believe it’s because we are constantly comparing ourselves to other women. It is an involuntary action that starts at a young age and just becomes normal, as we get older. I’m 5’5 and 145 pounds and I wear one-piece bathing suits that are a size ten, sometimes twelve depending on the make.

I wear this style because society has told women of my size that two-pieces are not an option. Is that because others will see the imperfections that come with being human? And what is my imperfection? My legs jiggle when I walk. A little side to side motion. But what bothers me the most is when the bottom of my bathing suit in the front is too tight creating a bubble of fat near the top of my legs. Because of my imperfections, I put on a one-piece and tell myself, “This is what my size is supposed to wear.” And what the hell does this mean anyhow? Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

Hello, Dessert

June 29, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anonymous

Meeting my friend at a coffee shop I’ve never been to, I do a double take on the pastry case. Oh my god. It’s them. I’ve seen them a few times recently at middling mom and pop places in LA and it sends a shiver up my spine. I see the bars, lemon, pecan, brownie, all uniform, the size of a deck of cards and I taste ipecac in my mouth. It was twenty years ago but I can still remember timing it so that I would take the medicine right after closing so that I could throw up in the store’s sink when I locked the door. Then I could go home. I didn’t like working with other people because then I’d have to suffer through sharing a cookie with them (normal people liked to share cookies) and having to properly digest it, with only a six mile run the next day to combat the half an oatmeal. The normal girls I worked with shrugging as they chewed. My anxiety ratching up to an eleven.  Trying to figure out how to undo the crime while still committing it. I didn’t like working with other people, but I faked it.

I remember how it was my job to sign for the deliveries, the big chilled boxes from the corporate dessert provider, aptly named, La Dessert. Each box, like a cold record player in my arms, as I lined them up in the back refrigerator, writing the date with my sharpie the day they arrived so we could keep them ‘fresh’ (read a month). I was in an in between time. I had returned to my parents home in La Jolla from Colorado where I was a sophomore in college and the school shrink had coolly one interview with me and  said, you need to leave school, you have a severe eating disorder. My mother was not happy about it. The only eating disorder she understood was a fear of running out of things to eat. (Same coin. Different side. You learn stuff. You transmute it.)

I had dropped out of college because despite trying to stay and ‘fix myself’, as my mother had suggested (good plan- always have a nineteen year in crisis ‘fix themselves’) things had gotten worse.  I tried to explain that I had lost my ability to do the normal things to be a normal person she told me I needed to stay and finish the quarter because leaving would be too costly. I am not sure if I used words to explain that I couldn’t stop exercising every time I ate half a cup of broccoli, that my period had stopped and I no longer talked to actual people because I was sure they were thinking how fat and disgusting all ninety pounds of me was, but I do know that I asked for help. I was too ashamed to say the other things plus, now I only wanted to be ninety pounds forever but it was untenable to just sweat, eat, and record, so it was confusing.  But I did ask for help. Continue Reading…

Don't Be An Asshole Series, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

I Can Grab My Belly Fat & Make It Talk. I Am Enough. PS- This Shit Is Hard.

June 25, 2015

By Jen Pastiloff

Hi! Gotta make this quick because I am packing to leave for Italy. I am leading a retreat there starting Saturday. I am not packed and I leave in two hours. I rule.

So, the demons have been back lately. I have been struggling. Who knows why? Free floating anxiety, not-so free floating, the kind that latches on and pulls me down real low to the earth, the kind that sits on my chest and won’t get off like a little bitch. Even when I call it a little bitch, it won’t get off. I have been watching Orange is The New Black and I’m all prisony. And yea, I too have a crush on the new girl on it. Ruby Rose. But I also have a crush on Pennsatucky and Black Cindy and Poussey and Taystee. And the whole show. I want to marry it! I am five years old. I love it so much that I want to marry it.

Anyway, the little bitch that is anxiety won’t get off my chest so my breathing is shallow and  I feel ungrounded, like I am floating, except that sounds kind of nice, and anxiety is not nice, so less like floating and more like a walking dead person. A walking panicky dead person. I hide it well. Probably not, actually. Ask any of my friends who get crazy texts from me.

In case you are new to my blog or my work, I had a severe eating disorder. It still haunts me at times. Anorexia and over-exercising. Like 5 hours a day exercising. Meh. (I probably could do that again if I could watch Orange is The New Black the whole time but nah. Gross.)

I posted this video on my instagram and challenged women (and men if they want to play too) to post a picture or video of their body using the hashtag #iLovemybody and #girlpoweryouareenough. My friend Maggie tweeted me this:
@JenPastiloff I think she’s just saying that you are awesome to accept yourself exactly as you are, when she can’t do the same.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

I Am Trapped Inside My Body.

June 17, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Amanda Redhead

I am trapped inside a body that I loathe. Drowning in the doughy, white excess of flesh.

I have always struggled with my appearance, riding the roller-coaster of weight before my age was even double digits. I look back at the pictures of myself as a teenager- thin, lithe, strong- and wish I could have that body back. I cannot imagine how I thought that body was overweight, unattractive. However, I am secure in the knowledge that I will never look back upon my body as it is today and want to live inside it again. I am housed inside the body that I have always feared I would I have.

When I was seventeen I was in a group therapy program for fellow teenagers. I was deep in the bowels of a great depression and sat daily in a circle with bored, slack-jawed teenagers whose parents decided, as mine had, that this group therapy would be the answers to all of our ills. We sat in silence while the therapist moderating the group chirped cheerfully at us and nearly begged us to share. There was little sharing, but there was much staring and gawking at the doorway in the corner of the room where a similar group of teenagers met. That group was for fellow teenagers struggling with anorexia. They also sat in stony silence, one by one being led over to be weighed in the corner. Every time a weight was announced outloud, everyone in both groups could hear it.  I would surreptitiously place my hand underneath the back of my shirt and pinch myself painfully at the sound of each number, pinching the fat on my hips until it sometime bled.

The staggeringly low numbers should have saddened me, as should have the appearance of many of the girls- bearing their clavicles proudly to the world, all hard edges of bone and sharp angles. Most of the weights called out were well under one hundred pounds. Some of the girls looked directly from a movie about the concentration camps during the Holocaust- devoid of every bit of fat.  They draped themselves in clothing and blankets, perpetually cold.  I admired the persistence of these girls. I felt shame at my own thick skin. I sickeningly wished that my depression had manifested itself as anorexia instead of the slow-moving, perpetually tired melancholy sickness that had taken over my world.  This thick, molasses slowness felt even more of a failure than it had before in comparison to the persistent, dedicated illness that I saw in those girls. Every pound of flesh on my body felt heavier upon leaving. I wondered if those girls thought of me when purging their food after the therapy sessions. I imagined their disgust. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Binders, Guest Posts, healing

Palms Up

June 16, 2015
Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

By Telaina Eriksen

“I’ve noticed you’ve gained weight. I mean, I haven’t been staring at your body…”

“A lot of weight,” I say.

“I just mean to say… I just want to encourage you… I’m not saying it right, but you deserve to be thinner and healthier.”

I feel the tears spill out of my eyes. So much shame. Ancient shame that I have carried with me ever since my mother slapped my arm repeatedly for salting a saltine when I was four or five years old. Good people aren’t fat. Fat people are ugly and bad and lack control and self-discipline. Men do not like fat girls and if men don’t like you, they won’t marry you, and if you aren’t married, if you don’t have a man, what good are you? The Gospel According to My Mother.

“It’s how I deal with things,” I tell my friend, oversimplifying.

“This fall, I think I know how you felt. I gained a lot of weight, was very heavy for me. I remember thinking, ‘why not? I’m happy with myself’… I’m not saying it right… but I love you. I want you to be happy.”

I am so huge, I require an intervention. I love my friend but I feel like sobbing. Doesn’t she think I know? Doesn’t she know that I always know? Maybe I am naïve enough to believe that some people just accept how I look and aren’t secretly judging me.

I get into my minivan after our conversation. I reach down to feel my stomach, feel the exact proportions of my shame and worthlessness. The exact dimensions of my failure as a woman.

***

As near as I can figure out and remember, I was sexually molested off and on from the time that I was about four to when I was about nine. When I was nine years old, I had my tonsils out and due to complications, almost died. I was without oxygen to my brain for not merely seconds, but minutes. It felt easy to blame my fragmented childhood memories on that illness.

The feelings I remember most from my childhood are terror and anxiety.  Nightmares plagued me. During the daylight hours I constantly sought attention, distraction, love. At night I sucked my thumb and tried not to wet the bed.

***

Here is a list of the things I need to be doing at this exact moment:

cleaning the house

baking my son’s vegan birthday cupcakes

walking the dog

placing the new boxes of tissue around the house (it is cold and flu season after all)

turning in my grades for the semester

mailing the Christmas box to my siblings in another state

scooping the cat’s litter box

cleaning off the top of my desk

loading the dishwasher

wrapping my son’s birthday presents

doing laundry

losing weight

being a good friend, wife, mother and daughter

being Zen (while also being understanding, charming, evolved and happy)

making time for the important things

reducing my social media time

reading more

gossiping less

achieving perfection. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Sabotage!!

May 22, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

I warned you that I was going to start blogging again so here I am. Friday night. Feeling kind of disgusted with myself over how disorganized I am, how bad at time management, how messy. If you knew you wouldn’t be my friend anymore. Wait: Are you my friend? Will you be? Gah, I am so needy.

Sometimes I worry that the really earnest people who read me, that they won’t get my sense of humor. But I can’t worry about that, right? < Needy. needy. Right, right? It’s weird because I have this big following (again, barf at the term following) of love and light and namaste people who, when I post the “Don’t be an asshole” videos will say things like: You are not an asshole, Jen. You are human.

Totes. I know this. I know I am not an asshole but I kinda am. We all are kinda assholes, at least sometimes and if you aren’t in on that joke, you are missing the big joke of life. The big joke of life is that we absolutely cannot take ourselves so seriously because we are just not that important. (Cue: Jen, we are so important. We matter.)

We do matter. We are enough. But you know why I tell my yoga peeps not to take themselves seriously, especially at 7 a.m.? Because it is so fucking boring,

It is really boring. Ever hang out with someone who takes themselves really really seriously?

Excuse me while I pour myself a stiff drink because even the thought of that is just. too. much. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Self Love

When You Stop Loving Yourself.

April 21, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Trigger warning: Mention of rape, sexual assault.

By Sarah Noelle

Over the last year, something very strange has started to happen to me. Something that’s been missing from my life for a very long time has begun to rear its beautiful head:

I’ve started to re-love myself.

Now, I know this may sound strange to some. Um, you stopped loving yourself? Why the h-e-double hockey sticks would you go & do something like that? Did something happen to cause it? What changed it back? TELL US!! Trust, I have asked myself all of these questions & many more over the last 17 years.

When I was 17, I had a very serious boyfriend. I was head over heels for this boyfriend. I gave myself fully to this boyfriend, knowing full well of the promise I’d made to my future husband to wait for whoever he was. And when, through some life circumstances, said boyfriend & I ended up having to part ways in August of that year, I was wrecked. But, I slowly picked up the pieces of my heart, went to summer camp for a month, sought God, began to heal my broken heart, & prepared for my senior year of high school. I decided that I was going to save myself for the man I was meant to be with from then on out. I had lost my first real love & wanted to now focus on me, & eventually finding my Unicorn one day that I was waiting for again. By October, everything changed.

You see, I was raped by a close friend that I had known for a few years. Someone I trusted. Someone I thought would never hurt me. And in that one brief encounter, in a matter of moments, my whole view of myself, & the world around me, shattered, altered, & shifted. I told myself it was my fault. I had brought this on myself. I had somehow put out there that I was free for the taking. Given some sort of vibe that this was okay. That if someone I trusted, someone I cared for, someone I thought respected me could do that to me, maybe I really wasn’t worth any more than that. That maybe that is how men were meant to see me, how I was supposed to be viewed. An object. A means to an end. An empty vessel to be used. If one of my best friends couldn’t honor my body, why should I bother honoring it myself anymore. And this uncontrollable beast who craved control was unleashed. I didn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t. I thought I had caused it. So, instead of reaching out, getting help, or not believing the lies running rampant through my head & heart, I just stopped loving myself.

I stopped caring what happened to me. I started acting like I was invincible & that nothing could hurt me, damage me, or break me, all the while I was hurt, I was damaged, & I was broken…but wearing a masked smile so no one was the wiser.— Sarah Noelle

 

I stopped loving myself at just under a month shy of 18 years old. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Young Voices

A 19 Year Old Girl Talks About “Being Enough.”

April 20, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Sarah B Levine

Note from Jen Pastiloff: I am currently writing a book for young girls based on the workshop that Lara Heimann and I have co-created: Girl Power: You Are Enough. Last week I was in my hometown of Philadelphia leading one of my workshops and right before it started I bumped into a beautiful young girl. I asked her if I could interview her. She said yes, having no idea what I would ask her. (My kind of human!!) The video is at the bottom so you can watch after you read her stunning post. I put a call out to young girls to write about when they feel the best about themselves, if they feel like they are enough, and a letter to their younger or future selves. I intend to include some in the book. (The book will also feature letters from various women to their younger selves, such as Christy Turlington, Cheryl Strayed, Ashley Ford Megan Stielstra, Emily Rapp, Angela G. Patel, Rachel Pastiloff, Lara Heimann, Rene Denfeld, Lidia Yuknavitch, Suleika Jaouad and more. I am so excited by this project that I haven’t been able to sleep. That and I have been binge watching Parenthood on Netflix but that’s a whole other story. It’s been a dream of mine to work with young women yet I had no idea how to start making it happen. Then, it just happened organically. They started coming to my workshop, in droves. So Lara and I gave birth to this baby. Girl Power: You Are Enough.

The time is now for this. So the beautiful girl I bumped into at the studio saw my call on Facebook and submitted her post. I wanted to share it here because, well. You’ll see. May we all remember that we are enough.

May we have people that remind us.

ps- I am reminding you. YOU are enough.

*  *  *  *

Dear Jen,

As per requested on your Facebook, I decided to answer what it means to be enough. And after a couple of hours at my computer going through tears, smiles, snorts of laughter and everything in between I feel I have captured a part of me I had been unable to acknowledge for a long time. A part of me that has been quiet and dormant as a voice in the back of my head for a long time. A part of me, I feel is also a part of many other girls, boys, young and old all over.

Thank you for already making a change in my life this past week. Everything happens for a reason.

Sarah B Levine (The girl you met at  your Dhyana yoga studio in Philadelphia impromptu interview)

 

****************************************************************************

All of this happened in the comfort of my own home and mind. I crossed path with a number of people in my life that all encouraged me loved me and supported me and saw I was an old soul. Rarely what I am writing is what majority of those people got to see. This is what I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Why am I enough?

Why should I be enough? Who am I enough for? Who would ever love me? Why can’t I be looked at like that, with admiration? Why do my legs touch? Why is my nose so big, my belly not as toned or my butt droopy? Don’t take my picture it might point out a new flaw. My teeth aren’t as white or straight as hers. My hair isn’t as curly; I wish it were naturally more beautiful than I wouldn’t have to try so hard. These are the things that would go through my mind- sometimes more often than not. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing, The Body

Dancing With The Darkness.

February 25, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Sian Ewers.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung

And everything hurts.

It aches. All of it.

Every cell, fiber and atom that makes up my being.

Mind, body and soul thrown into a bowl, mixed, stirred, and formed with hands and words.

I want it all.

I want the bones, the protruding sharp edges, want to feel them beneath my skin, no meat or flesh to cover.

I want the blur, the navy blur of a fuzzy mind that is starving, buzzing with success.

I want the sunken cheekbones; the ones that make my lips look bigger. The ones that make people tell me my eyes look googly.

I want googly eyes.

I want the falling of hair, the outcome, the prize – the proof that I’m winning.

I want my calves to shrink, the muscle to melt and my thighs to never for any reason touch.

I want the pride. The knowing. The pit of my stomach tightness from no food and triumph.

But everything hurts and the control, the power, is the only thing melting now.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Continue Reading…

Abuse, Dear Life., Guest Posts, healing

Dear Life: Why Can’t I Let Myself Be Happy?

January 28, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by author Lisa Kaplin.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter.

ps, I will see you in London in a couple weeks! My Feb 14th workshop there is sold out but there is room in Atlanta, NYC, Philly, NJ, Chicago. All info on workshops here.

logo 

 

Dear Life,

So…. Wtf is going on in my life? That is my question. Let me break it down, pleasantly 🙂

1. I left my husband of a 13 year marriage, (new him since I was 11) 5 years ago because I fell in love

2. My husband was abusive and cheated and I knew I deserved more

3. The man I fell in love with- is amazing with faults

4. After finally getting divorced (because he fought it) I then couldn’t let go

5. I was not a good human. I was selfish and aborted twins because I was afraid I would hurt my ex husband and afraid I wasn’t strong enough to take care of them alone. I accepted in my fucked up brain that no one could truly love me for eternity and help me. How the hell was I going to raise the two I already had. But all bullshit aside I knew I wasn’t capable of doing it. But I still hate myself and wish I could take it back.

6. I have lived with the guilt for too long

7. I birthed an amazing crazy human boy two years later that changed my life for ever

8. I still do not forgive myself for my abortion of the twins

9. I have made so many life changes. I have begun to live my life the way I want. Healthier. More peace. More quiet. More everything

10. Why am I still searching? Why am I still afraid? Why can’t I let go of my past and love and live in this moment?!?!

Sooooo… Wtf Is wrong with me? Why can’t I let myself be happy??? Why am I always afraid of really living and enjoying and seriously just being?
Sincerely,

Searching

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, Self Image, Truth

The Skinny on Mary.

January 3, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Teri Carter.

Mary is skinny. Mary has a trick. Mary shows up late for lunch, which means she has no time to order or no time to eat. Both work. Mary’s just turned 50 and she is always talking food: You would not believe what I stuffed in my face at that barbecue! Your bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is in danger. I’m ordering a cheeseburger and fries! But Mary, who owns an investment firm, is an expert at moving her food around a round plate and she always gets a to-go box for her barely-touched burger and fries. Can’t wait to pound this down at midnight. She thinks we believe her, so we pretend we do. We all have our tricks.

In an August 2012 article for Forbes, Lisa Quast quotes a research study: 45 to 61 percent of top male CEOs are overweight, compared to only 5 to 22 percent of top female CEOs. Then, in her closing paragraph, Ms. Quast goes inexplicably blasé: “As for me, I’m off to the gym with my husband for weight training and a two mile run. Then I’ll probably have a veggie salad for dinner so I can keep my body mass index at the low end of the normal range. As these studies demonstrate, thin is in for executive women – although I’d prefer to think if it as ‘healthy’ being in.” Her ending leaves me cold. I go back to the beginning.

Continue Reading…