***Domestic Violence***

Have you ever made a decision in your life that was so large that it not only changed the direction of your life, but also the lives of those around you?

I have. Twice.

However, you wouldn’t know it by looking at me. I’m your average mom: I have three kids, a nice home, a sexy husband, two dogs, two cats, and a college degree.

I’m a pretty funny person to be around and most people know me for my dry wit and dripping sarcasm. What a lot of people don’t know about me is the deep, dark waters that I’m treading.

Humor is my life saver, my coping mechanism. People don’t understand, that behind those smiles and funny memes is a girl who struggles each day to be enough for everyone, including herself. She is haunted every day by ghosts of her past and prays to be set free… For she is a survivor of domestic violence.

There is nothing monumental in my childhood that led me into a relationship with a man who would fantasize about and act out rape and torture.

I was an average kid from a nuclear family in a small town in the Midwest. I know the stigma around DV survivors is that we are poor, uneducated and grow up in violent homes. That’s just not true. In fact, I would argue that what made me vulnerable to this predator was my ignorance about coercive and abusive relationships. I had no idea what to be aware of. It’s like going to the beach and not knowing what any of the flag warnings mean. You don’t know you’re in danger until it’s too late.

In the beginning everything was great. I was instantly drawn to him because he liked the same music and movies that I did. He was older than me and had dreams of becoming a doctor. He was funny, sweet and adventurous.

He lavished me with attention I so desperately craved. When he asked me to move in with him after a few months I thought it was normal. I thought this is what happens when you’re soulmates. Things just work.

We got married in a rushed ceremony in his parents’ home. His family was very supportive, so I didn’t think about it being too soon. People who are in love get married. People who are married have children. I wanted to do everything right and to be a good spouse.

It was only a matter of weeks before things went south.

I went from a comfortable, middle class life where my basic needs were always provided for, to begging family members for money so my utilities wouldn’t get turned off. I was the sole income. He had neglected to tell me that at the age of 27, he hadn’t held a job for more than a few months at a time and that his mother had paid his bills all his life.

I knew his mother was an attorney, but I didn’t know she had a reputation for being a manipulative, lying, unethical bully. No one wanted anything to do with him or her. That was bad news for me.

There was one stigma I found to be true: a man who abuses women has mother issues.

Man, that was so true. His relationship with his mother was codependent and toxic. He would crawl to her for money every month and she would berate him with accusations of neglect and worthlessness. He would then turn and spill that hatred on me, blaming me for him having to ask his mom for money, blaming me because I paid my credit card payment instead of letting him spend it.

Our fights quickly escalated into violence. There was head slamming, wall and door breaking, punching everywhere but the face and neck. He had hand guns and rifles and would point them at me, always loaded with the safety off. When he would fly into his rages his eyes would go black and he had no control over what he was doing. It was a miracle he didn’t kill me…even if by accident.

I left 18 months into the relationship. One day I went to work and didn’t come home. I was delirious with exhaustion, anxiety and depression. He assaulted me at least three times a week. He woke me up during the night to argue about a dream he had or something he found on my phone. He interfered with me going to work and making money, which made us more dependent on his mom. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to my mom’s house for the night.

At 10:00 AM the next morning I was served with divorce papers.

I was shocked. Normal people didn’t do that. Normal people didn’t file for divorce after one night apart from their spouse. My mom was thrilled he filed because I could finally be rid of him. She shelled out $5,000 for an attorney while his mother represented him for free.

The divorce proceedings moved forward but my head was still spinning. As quickly as my relationship started it was ending and what did that mean for me?

My daughter was home with him the night I left and that gave him complete control over me. He set up “terms and conditions” that I was to operate under when I had my daughter; including not allowing her to be around my family.

To me, I hadn’t been able to escape his control and abuse and now I was without my daughter and she had no one to protect her. So, when he promised that he would take medication for his anger and see a therapist for his issues, I was ready to believe him. All I wanted was to be with my daughter. I went back.

After I went back things got worse. I had proven that I would leave, and he was determined not to let that happen again. I had to cut ties with my family, so they weren’t allowed to rescue me.

I was not allowed to have friends. I did not have social media for many years. He was always listening to my phone calls and digging through our computer, so I gave him as little to work with as possible.

When my second daughter was born, and he was still without a job I knew I had to do something. I put myself through college online. He went to school to get his Doctorate in Psychology.

That old drive to become a powerful doctor kept him occupied while I worked on myself. The abuse never stopped. I just became laser focused on getting away. When I got my associate degree, I applied for a decent paying job in a town five hours away. There was a school he could attend so he went along with the plan. I knew in order to break free of him I needed to break free from his mother and her power first.

The job that I was able to get was the second major shift in my life. I excelled at this job and got promoted quickly. I was making great money and managing a team of awesome people at only 24 years old. For the first time in my life I felt like I could do anything. My team and my peers gave me the courage and the confidence to believe in myself. Things were going good for me. Until suddenly they weren’t.

Things escalated in 2012. He got kicked out of his school and had no hope of ever becoming employed in any doctoral field. Without the help from his student loans (because he still never held a job) we began falling behind on bills.

We were evicted from our home and sued. I moved my family into a tiny 2-bedroom apartment with nothing but two beds, a kitchen table and my kid’s toys. My daughter’s birthday and Christmas were the lowest days of my life. I couldn’t throw her a birthday party because she had left all her old friends behind.

She put on a brave face and said the trip to the local zoo was fine, but she would later tell my mom it was the worst birthday ever. A month later my girls woke up to three small presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

My ex had spent all our money on a motorcycle (in winter) and cigarettes. It hurt so much to look in the eyes of my seven-year-old as she fought back tears and said she “didn’t really want anything for Christmas anyway”. My children were old enough to understand what was going on.

They heard the fights. They saw the hitting. They cried at night in their beds. I could no longer buy them gifts and attempt to distract them from the truth. It was over.

A few days later he had me drive him to his friend’s house so that he could hang out. I offered to go through the drive through and get him some food. He agreed. I got in the car with my girls and I left. I drove 5 hours north to my mother’s apartment. I hadn’t spoken to her in 4 years but when I called her it was like I never left.

She let me in, and my healing journey began.

I wish I could tell you it was rainbows and sunshine after I left. To be honest 2013 was absolutely the hardest year of my life. Within days my ex took the children out of school and left town. Once again, his mother filed for divorce but in the wrong county. It took me four months, a lawyer and guardian ad litem just to get the case moved back to the correct county.

I then had to hire another lawyer and another guardian for the divorce proceeding. His mother exploited every legal loophole possible to delay my divorce hearing. Both he and she refused to set visitation with me, despite the court’s request on multiple occasions. The legal system was an absolute failure during this time. I did not see my girls from January 13 until October 31st and only had them two weekends a month until my judgement.

January of 2014 was my divorce hearing. The judge took five whole months to rule on my case and I didn’t officially get custody until May of 2014.

A lot of amazing things have happened to me since I left. I married a real man who is funny, smart, handsome, hard working and has a heart of gold. He has raised my girls like they were his own, despite their psychotic father still being in the picture every other weekend. We’ve traveled across the country while I pursue my master’s degree. In 2015 we had my son and I was finally able to stay home with one of my babies and enjoy them being little.

After I left my own abusive relationship, I have helped dozens of women navigate out of theirs. I have become a victim’s advocate and have attended rallies and volunteered my services to women and children in need. I am currently recording a podcast with the details of my story because it’s truly unlike anything I have encountered, and I’ve learned a lot about the legalities of domestic abuse and children.

I have always said if I can help one person it will all be worth it. Even though I still struggle with the trauma of my experience, I continue to move forward. Everything happens to us for a reason. I have a story and I will not stop sharing it. I encourage every woman out there to do the same. Your voice matters. You matter. Believe it.

Follow More of Megan’s journey on her podcast, HERE.

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

To read more stories like Megan’s, click HERE:

To submit your own story of overcoming adversity, see our guidelines HERE.

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*TW – Eating Disorder*

I’ve always been a little chubbier than the kids my age, but I was never very overweight.

I had a normal childhood and did lots of sports in my early years at school. When I approached high school, I stopped doing sports, because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to make any of the teams.

In eigth grade I tried a few diets, but they never lasted long, and I’d always end up putting the weight back on. In tenth grade, I decided to start jogging and eating healthier, just to lose a little bit of weight and very quickly, I noticed the weight began to drop off.

I continued this healthy lifestyle and loved having more energy and feeling healthier overall. I allowed myself occasional treats, so as to not deprive myself.

People soon began to compliment me on how good I was looking and the more compliments that I received, the more my mind told me to keep losing the weight. Though I had lost weight, I was still classified as having a healthy BMI. Very quickly, I began to have really negative thoughts about becoming even thinner and whether or not that meant losing weight in a healthy manner or not, I was determined to get there.

Like many people, I turned to Google on how to lose weight quickly. I stumbled upon websites that promoted anorexic behaviors and saw young girls sharing their diets and tricks that helped them to lose weight.

I began religiously following the ‘rules’ and ‘commandments’ that the websites advised. I then began to drop weight rapidly, and would weigh myself at least twice a day to make sure that I didn’t gain too much throughout the day.

I also began to restrict foods that I thought would make me fat like: bread, sugar, juices, any fats, starchy fruit and vegetables. I tracked every single thing I ate—even a single piece of chewing gum— to ensure that I stuck to my caloric limit for the day.

Each week, I would decrease my calorie intake by 100 calories until I was eating roughly 600 calories a day. I would do weird things like sleep on my left side and suck ice to ‘help speed up my metabolism’. I’d chew gum and drink loads of coffee to suppress my appetite.

I was constantly cold, weak and dizzy and I felt nauseous every morning after waking up. My hair began to fall out in chunks. I soon noticed that I became incredibly introverted and never wanted to leave the house.

I became depressed and didn’t want to get into any social situation that was centred around food.  I began feeling nervous about eating in front of people, as my parents and family would always comment on how little I ate. They would plea with me to eat more, but I’d always refuse and come up with an excuse to not eat.

I remember going out for lunch with friends and telling them that I had eaten before I left home, to avoid eating at restaurants. Then, when I came home and my parents would ask me what I ate, I would make something up just to avoid them from becoming concerned.

I eventually stopped menstruating for almost ten months and my heart began to have arrhythmias. I battled to breathe and my body was constantly in pain. I continually had unexplained bruises all over my body and felt too fatigued to do any physical activity. My lowest weight was 49kgs (108lbs) which is classified as underweight for my height.

One day I went on a school camp which included many physical activities. I was not in control over what I ate and because my body was so depleted of food, and I began to binging on sweets.. When I came home from the camp three days later, I was so famished that I began to eat everything in sight. I then began to feel guilty, and began restricting my calories again.

A turning point for me was when my mom cried over how sick I looked. She was at a loss and didn’t know how to get me to eat more. She feared for my life and my future. I realized that I was only 17 and that I had my entire life ahead of me.

I feared that if allowed this disease to control me, that I wouldn’t live for very long … and my parents would lose a daughter.

I was motivated to change my ways on my own through much research, dedication and family support. I stumbled across a television show that helped to treat people with anorexia. I was amazed that these individuals were able to take control of their disorder and change their lives for the better. I wanted so badly to be like them, so I began to work on my physical progress—but more importantly— I realized I needed to make a mental shift to ensure that I didn’t allow any negative thoughts that I had about myself or my body to rule over me.

I began to gain weight and get healthy, and after four years, I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions of my life.

I truly have been so blessed by the support of my family and friends who were with me every step of my journey.

Once you realize that everyone’s journey in life is different and that we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways, that’s when you truly know and learn to embrace the differences that we all have.

I have helped and spoken to many other young girls with eating disorders and counselled them since then. I am so passionate about helping people overcome any form of eating disorder, which is why I decided to study Dietetics.

I want people to be open about discussing eating disorders to ensure that those suffering get the help that they need to have a healthy mind and body.*

To read more stories like Jessica’s, click HERE

To Submit your story of overcoming adversity, see our guidelines HERE.

And HERE is an article about Eating Disorder Help, in case anyone is struggling. (I am not affiliated with the link, I just googled. )

**trigger warning, drugs and abuse**


Hi, my name is Dorothy and I am an addict. 

Many people in my life, know some of my story, however I have never felt strong enough or brave enough to share it all; until now, thanks to Tiffany and all of the other amazing people that have shared their truths and have inspired me to do the same.

There is a lot, so please bare with me. I will try to summarize it the best I can. 

From the moment that I was conceived and in the womb, I was an addict. My parents are both recovering addicts, and my mother continued to drink and do cocaine while I was growing inside her, and continued after I was born.

My father would drink himself into an Oblivion and beat the shit out of my mom. It wasn’t until he broke her nose over my crib, and threatened to kill her and I, that she had decided it was enough.

She left in the middle of the night and for some time, we stayed with my uncle. 
My mom, some of my family members and the company they kept, were all party animals and in bands. It was a constant party.
 

My mother is a talented singer and would have band practice wherever we lived, and everyone would be completely wasted and high on coke, and various other side substances, I’m sure.
 I always thought this was normal, until I was old enough to learn that not everyone’s life and family was like this.

As a child, I always felt I had to be the adult, the responsible one, without even knowing the full toll it would take on me later on. I remember at a very early age, I would worry when putting my mother to bed in her drunken stupors, making sure she wasn’t sleeping on her back. 

The very first time that I remember really feeling invisible and worthless, I was no older than three. I was bit on the chin by my uncle’s Bull Mastiff, about fifteen feet from my mom, and immediately I began sobbing as my face blood gushed from my face.

I was in pain and a mess and needed my mom to help make it better.

I ran over to her where she sat on the couch, drunkenly playing her guitar and singing loudly (one of her drunk phases was to sing and play records loudly). She looked at me as I stood inches from her face crying, covered in blood, and she didn’t say a word. She didn’t react, she just sang louder in my face, her face twisted up like it would whenever she was smashed.

 I had to climb onto the bathroom sink to see in the mirror and reach the sink to wash and wipe the blood away myself. I felt so alone and thought I was without love and that it must be my fault (children never blame their parents, but instead themselves as I have come to learn from therapy); a feeling that would be all too familiar to me as time went on. 

Anyways, this would be the theme to my childhood and growing up, being the most adult person in a room full of adults; watching fights in the trailer parks, always terrified of dying when my mom would insist on driving obliterated, ya know, the usual.
 

I would bond with my friends’ parents to try and feel some normalcy, but was always too afraid to stay the night, as I had a sense of belonging at home to care for my mother.

I was always embarrassed to have friends stay over my place, and usually when they did, it would make me a joke at school because of my out of control mother. If my friend’s didn’t talk about it to everyone, there would be those who came over just to laugh at the spectacle that was my life. 

As a child and up until I was 14, I was against drinking, drugs and cigarettes. I hated it and resented those around me that used.  

I was 14 when I first had a cigarette, marijuana, alcohol and actual sex of my own choice (I was sexually molested at age 4-6).

After dealing with the pressure of life and hating my existence, I decided screw it, I will try all of those things because I had intended to die soon anyhow. Might as well see what the fuss was about, right? 

I had been cutting and burning myself for a while to try to cope with my anger and sadness. Once that wasn’t enough, I decided after school I was going to kill myself. I took every pill that we had in the medicine cabinet, Tylenol, ibruprofen and NyQuil. I laid in my bed and thought about all of the mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse I had endured in my 14 years. I closed my eyes with a serene smile and felt content knowing it would all soon be over. 

I failed at ending my life. Just as I failed at everything else in my mind and as a result, I was in individual and group therapy. I hated it. I hated how I was spoken to and disregarded and how it didn’t matter what troubled me, what led me to trying to commit suicide or that I adorned scars up and down my arms and legs. Nothing changed. None of my problems went away. However, I would soon discover ways to numb it all. This was a game changer.

I would soon start doing just about any drug I could. My drugs of choice would become ecstasy, cocaine, shrooms, acid, and pills of all kinds (mostly Vicodin as it was easiest for me to get). All of my friends for the most part knew I partied and messed around, but none of them, even my closest friends knew the actual severity of it.

I fooled everyone into thinking it was all social and I had it all under control.

No one realised that I was doing whatever I had to in order to get money and that I had a real addiction. I would have small moments of sobriety here and there throughout, trying to get clean to make my papa (my grandpa) proud, as his opinion of me was the only one I cared about.


I manipulated, lied, and hurt people. I would date certain people based on their access to drugs or money. I put myself in some very precarious situations that I still try to wash myself clean of.

Being numb was better than having to feel anything, any emotion, even happiness. 

The tolerance I had built up to drugs was so high, that I was taking what is usually considered a lethal amount. From age 14 to age 21 I was on a mission to be numb or die. Every night was a blur and a party. 

Thinking back on it all, I don’t know how I survived the many dangerous scenarios I found myself in, and I don’t know how I managed to not be thrown in jail. I felt like the world’s greatest con artist. No one knew, and if they did, they never said a word. 


I used to think that I got away with it because I graduated at the top of my class, and got scholarships and worked and rented my own houses and on the outside, looked like I had it together. I honestly now, think it was just pure luck and if what was soon to happen, didn’t, I could almost guarantee that I wouldn’t still be here to write this. 

I was 21 when I finally stopped everything with the aid of Suboxone and some very horrendous withdrawals. I still have what I call “Swiss cheese” brain from the E, broken/awful teeth and gum damage from all of the grinding and chewing, and issues with my Seratonin levels. 

One day at work, during withdrawals I was so horribly sick and, convinced I was dying and sick with pneumonia. I went to the hospital so the Doctor could take an X-Ray of my lungs, but before we went back, he came in to tell me that he couldn’t do the X-Ray… as I was pregnant.

My jaw, my stomach and my heart sank. I couldn’t be a mom! I couldn’t possibly be in charge of a child when I’ve only just begun working on getting myself together. What if I failed the baby?! What if I ended up just like my mom?! I couldn’t bare the thought of doing that to another human.

 
A couple of months into the pregnancy, I was healthy, and still clean, and couldn’t stop the overwhelming love I had for this tiny human that I’d not yet met! What was this feeling I had?! I hadn’t felt this before, not on this level. I was overcome with emotions as I realized that for the first time in a long time, that there was nothing I wanted more than to stay clean so that I could be the most amazing mother I could be! 

On June 17, 2011 I welcomed the most beautiful, big alien-headed, healthy, little girl into the world and was born anew with her.

She has brought so much joy to my life. So much light in the darkness I had known for so long. Nothing mattered to me anymore in that moment other than her and my sobriety. For the first time in my life it seemed, I wanted to live and fully embrace my new chapter.


My mom, who I’d never seen sober my whole life, stopped the coke , cigarettes and the alcohol and is still clean to this day, nearly 8 years later, and I couldn’t be more proud.

We actually have a proper relationship now which we never had before. I had told her it was either she get clean or will never see or know her granddaughter and although I didn’t think she would since she never chose her own daughter, she chose my daughter and sobriety. 

Today, I am sober for over three years. I see a therapist and psychiatrist weekly that I actually like and feel confident in. I have been properly diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety, depression, bipolar, fibromyalgia, trichotillomania and life threatening OCD. I am getting the appropriate treatment that I have been needing all of this time, which makes a huge difference.

Having sources of those I can talk to, support systems, and of course Tiffany Jenkins and all that she’s made possible, has made a world of difference for me and I couldn’t be more thankful to have another day, another chance.

All we can do is keep breathing. 

Don’t ever give up. Only you know your truth. You are worthy and you’re so much more than you could ever realize. We are the authors of our own stories, our own life, and every one out there struggling, you need to know that you are strong and capable and that people do care. You’re not alone. 
Addiction doesn’t define us.  


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