YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART

Compiled & Live by Anne Clark, Revision 2014

If you think about it, the heart is the only organ that has a symbol so
recognizable even a two year old can identify it. It’s also the only organ that
carries strong emotional associations such as love, passion, admiration and
affection. The heart even has its own holiday, which we celebrate in February.

But the heart is much more – it is a symbol of life and good health. In 2003
I found I was a victim of women’s No. 1 killer, heart disease. From being a fairly
healthy woman I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, congestive heart
Failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the outcome was bleak –
Inoperable!! (I swear this happened within 2 weeks and came to a head on family
vacation in San Diego) (only 10% of my heart was working and 15% of the lungs
were working.) After going through cardiac rehab the improvement was such
that a year later high risk surgery was performed. In between, my husband had a
double bypass 3 months before my quadruple one. After surgery I was evidently
critical about a week in a coma, more time in intensive care, into a room, and
finally home after 21 days in the hospital. Now both of us going through rehab.

I’m not sure if I truly believed God was enough but I know I said, “if I have
Jesus and Morphine, I will be OK.”Plus no worry, but the family was doing enough
of that). Because of God’s grace and mercy I have a new lease on life and pray I
can use this extended time FOR HIS GLORY.

A mere three weeks after conception cells organize themselves into an
immature heart and begins beating. At fourteen weeks this heart is already
pumping seven gallons per day compared to two thousand gallons a day for an adult. Each blood cell goes around every minute, the red cell goes 200,000
times around only to be squished by the spleen. It doesn’t worry about it at all
because it has been discovered that worry is bad for the heart. It turns out when
God said, “ Do not fret,” “do not worry about tomorrow, and “ do not be
anxious,” He was acting as the world’s premier cardio-psychiatrist.

The medical literature is full of material that indicates the importance of
spiritual care for the heart. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote in “The Human
Mind,” Love is the basic need of human nature, for without it, life is disrupted
emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.” He once gave a lecture on
mental health and was answering questions from the audience. One of the
audience asked “What would you advise a person to do if that person felt a
nervous breakdown coming on? Consult a psychiatrist?” He replied, “Lock up
your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do
something to help that person.”

The word ‘Heart’ is used more than 1000 times in the Old and New
Testaments. In Proverbs 23:7 “ As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverb
4:23 “Keep and guard your heart with vigilance for all you do comes from it.”
Whatever is in your heart flows into our lives. If we are full of anger, bitterness,
and resentment, that’s what will flow into our lives. If we are full of love, peace
and joy, that will flow out of our lives. It goes without saying that what flows out
of our hearts, will naturally effect us and those around us. When we use our
talents and gifts that God has given us to serve others our health will be affected
in a positive way. So, if you want to be healthy, SERVE. Our salvation is
dependent on the right understanding of the heart. “If you confess with your
mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the
dead, you will be saved.” The mind and the heart are inseparable in this verse.
We have to make that trip of 18 inches from the head to the heart for your
salvation. God provides a lot of guidance on the various spiritual exercises that
affect the heart. Here’s one, “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for
spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much
more important for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. 1Timothy 4:7-8

More women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer. Did you know
420,000 women will die of heart disease this year? This disease is largely
preventable through healthy habits. 90% of women have at least one risk factor
for heart disease. So from this day forward, let every heart you see, on a card, to
that heart-shaped candy box – be a reminder to protect your heart.

Here’s the Heart Associations ‘Life’s Simple 7”: get active; eat better; lose weight; stop smoking; control cholesterol; manage blood pressure; and reduce blood sugar.

Consider making these four spiritual practices a regular part of your “exercise” routine: 1)Receive God’s love; 2)Love God; 3)Love and serve others; and 4)Forgive.

I can’t think of a better Valentine to give your love ones.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 from The Message (MSG)
9-10 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, GOD, search the heart
and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
not as they pretend to be.”

Compiled & Live by Anne Clark, Revision 2014

Bullying 2.0 – No More Getting Pushed Around

Written by Karen Clark, MAMFT
New Day Women’s Center

Sad childBullying is a form of aggression unfortunately practiced in many schools today.  One-third of public schools report a daily occurrence of students being bullied according to the National Center for Education Statistics–2002 (Hall, 2006).  The broad definition is “the actual or attempted infliction of injury or discomfort by one student on another student that is intentional, abusive, and based on an imbalance of power between bully and victim” (Olweus, 1994; Sullivan, Cleary, & Sullivan, 2004).  Bullying can range from aggressive behaviors that involve unwanted negative actions and usually involve a pattern of behavior over time.

There are three forms of bullying: physical, verbal, and psychological:

  1. Verbal Including derogatory comments and calling bad names; isolation from others
  2. Physical Hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, etc.; damaging personal things; any kind of threatening or intimidating behaviors;
  3. Psychological Spreading lies and false rumors; taking money or personal belongings; making fun of someones race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Includes:
    • Cyber bullying Via phone or internet via social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
    • Sexting Sending any type of sexual content or inappropriate pictures

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported that “1.7 million children (one in five) in grades 6 through 10 admitted bullying their classmates” (Cole, Cornell, & Sheras, 2006).  Nearly 50% of students report some form of bullying during their educational years.

Girls and boys experience bullying differently: 

  • Girls use emotional violence, make others feel alienated and alone, do prank phone calls that are mean, as well as jokes or tricks designed to embarrass and humiliate, name calling, spreading rumors, being malicious, making others feel left out through exclusion, as well as inciting others to act out violently or aggressively.  About 72% of girls have reported being bullied and 81% of boys.
  • Boys tend to be more physically aggressive and may punch, kick, push, or even tickle excessively.  They also tend to use verbal methods like name-calling, insults, teasing to target their victims.

The affects students experience by being bullied are academically, socially and  psychologically.  Victims have a very difficult time learning effectively in an ongoing climate of fear and anxiety with the threat of any possibility of physical injury, loneliness, and decreased self-esteem.

 The 4-1-1 steps for parents and teachers starts by raising awareness about bullying:

  • Improving the student-to-student relationships
  • Developing clear rules and boundaries against bullying
  • Putting a stop to intimidating behaviors,
  • Giving support and protection to victims of bullying.

Six steps for parents and teachers:

  • Symptoms to look for start with some sort of unexplained reluctance to go to school; fearful or unusual anxiety; disturbances in sleepers well as possible nightmares; vague physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches), often on school days; and belongings that are missing altogether or come home ripped.
  • The right questions to ask are how are  they spending lunch hour, what it’s like going to school either walking to and from school (walking or bus).  Ask if there are any children at school who are bullies, without asking whether your child is being bullied.
  • Teach your child how to avoid the situations that expose them any type of bullying by giving them a support system if necessary through older companions escorting them safely to or from school.
  • Encourage children to speak out to a parent, teacher or another trusted adult who they trust.  Kids need to know the difference between tattling and telling on someone.
  • Advocate for students by working with the authorities at school and parents.  Be aware of the problem and keep a written record of any and all incidents and listing those involved.
  • Safety at school by having supervision in hallways, lunchrooms, bathrooms, in the milieu, and on the playground. Children have the right to feel safe at school.

If you suspect your child is being bullied or is bullying others, please contact us at 619.713-1544 to schedule a time to meet with Karen to see how she can help your child. 

 

karenKaren Clark is a Marriage and Family Therapist intern at New Day Women’s Center.

Karen enjoys working with teens and teen issues and is also available to speak at your school or event on the topic of bullying.

 

 

Resources:

*A great reading resource for kids of all ages is Think Twice Play Nice found at http://www.teachervision.fen.com/tv/printables/penguin/anti-bullying-literature.pdf

The Secret to CALM on Mother’s Day and Every Day

Pam Farrel's Image for CALM articleArticle by Author, Pam Farrel

What Mom might need this Mother’s Day is a little bit of CALM. In my book, 10 Secrets to Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I give a few clues to bring some CALM to Mom’s world. To make it easy to remember, let’s link these skills to the word, C.A.L.M.

Calm means

Care enough to confront
Accept people grow and change
Learn to forgive, reconcile and release
Move yourself forward

If your life is feeling stressful, don’t start blaming your mate or your kids; look in the mirror. Perhaps the reason you have some negative feelings toward some of those you love is that you have allowed them to look at you as some sort of “Wonder Woman.” The first step in gaining CALM is to “Confront the issues,” beginning with yourself and your contribution to the situation. Next, “accept people grow and change” and that change might first be in you. Third, “Learn to forgive.” Before you talk to anyone, forgive them first. Conversations go better when you are not carrying extra emotional baggage. Finally, “Move yourself forward, Mom.” Make the decision to do things differently the next time.

Let’s take a simple example from a woman featured in 10 Secrets to Living Smart, Savvy and Strong. Think of a game of tennis as you read Candy’s story. Candy squeezed in her weekly tennis game forcing herself to slip away from her home based business office and enroute she prayed, Father, I just feel so “heavy.” 

An inaudible voice seemed to say, “Then roll the ball back.”

Roll the ball back? 

After tennis, Candy dashed from the club to the junior high to pick up Terri, her daughter. She wasn’t greeted with a “Hi ya mom!” but Terri barking commands of needed poster board, and other items for a project due the next morning. By the time they got home from errands, Cliff, her high school son drove up in the driveway. “Hey Mom, did you get my uniform washed?”

When she walked in, her arms laden with groceries, she noticed her college daughter Kelly was watching TV and the kitchen sink was full of dishes and there was no sign of any dinner being prepared.  Candy’s husband came home and kissed her a quick peck and asked, “Did you pick up my dry cleaning today?” Then Cliff carrying an armload of dirty sports gear came in and tossed the clothes right on to the kitchen counter and said with an attitude, “Mom—they aren’t washed! I need them in the morning.” Then Kelly walked in and said, “I’m hungry, what’s for dinner?”

Roll the ball back! the voice screamed inside her. Then she pictured herself out on the tennis court, and with a powerful forearm she whacked the ball back into her partner’s side of the court making her chase the ball. She got the picture. She realized she had been taking on everyone else’s responsibility, owning everyone else’s issues, covering for everyone’s mistakes. So in her mind she lobbed those responsibility balls right back over the net.

“Cliff, you know how to use the washer, I suggest you start the load. Kelly, you can finish dinner since you are so hungry. Terri, Dad would love to drive you to get the poster board; it’s right next to the cleaners. I’m going to take a long hot bubble bath. We can all meet up over dinner in an hour. I’ll make dessert.”

She gave her husband a kiss as she bounced up the stairs. It felt good to roll the ball back into the court it belonged in.

Mom, if you are looking for CALM, backhand those responsibility balls back over the net to the court they belong in and enjoy your day off.

Article written by Pam Farrel, author of over 35 books including 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make ( http://www.Love-Wise.com )

 

Caution! Holiday Madness Ahead!

CAUTION! Holiday Madness Ahead!
Take Back the Holidays with Intentional Planning
Written by Phyllis Vokey Long, MFT

We’ve barely carved our Jack-O-Lanterns and the stores are filled with evidence that the “Holidays” are ahead. I don’t know about you, but panic sets in as soon as I see the first display of fake Christmas trees on Aisle 28 (and 29 and 30 and…). There they are, in all their glory, covered with the latest and greatest ornaments, all carefully arranged with matching colors and themes. The traditional red and green of Christmas seems passé and a hodge-podge of traditional ornaments collected over the years definitely does not fit in with these displays. The tree lights are brightly twinkling and seem to be flashing “Caution! Holiday madness ahead!”  My heart beats faster, I break into a sweat and I flee to any other aisle to practice my deep breathing techniques while envisioning my “happy place” until I can get back to my shopping agenda of buying toilet paper. I stock up for 3 months to make sure that I don’t set foot in this store again until the January clearance sales!

Each year the “holiday season” seems to begin earlier. As early as October, magazines and the internet feature articles on what to make, bake or buy to make the season wonderful. I love to read these articles and often have great intentions of making those money-saving gifts, shopping that one-hour sale, or baking and decorating cookies for all of my friends and neighbors. The reality is that life gets busy, the budget gets tight, the bar gets set higher and I get overwhelmed!  I want to go back to bed and wake up when it’s over!

Let’s Stop the Madness!
Can you relate to my experience? Of course I am over-emphasizing to make a point (or am I?). I want to see the “Thanks” back in Thanksgiving and the “Christ” back in Christmas and the “New” back in New Year. So, how do we get that? I don’t have the power of the media, but I do have power. 1 Peter 3:11 tells us to “seek peace and pursue it.” With intentional planning you can pursue peace in any situation. Let’s look at some ideas to consider for intentionally pursuing a peaceful and joyful holiday season:

Take Back the Holidays with Intentional Planning:

1) Prioritize expectations. Write a purpose for your holidays. In one sentence, what is the most important thing that you want to get from the holidays? Is it fellowship with others? Is it giving? Is it reflecting more deeply on the meaning of the birth of Christ? Is it worshipping and thanking God? Is it hospitality or service? Is it connecting with your children? Really look at what you want the central theme of your holidays to be. In the busyness of the holiday season, this will help you to determine your priorities in choosing which activities and events to participate in and which to pass up.

2) Create new traditions. Holiday traditions often materialize out of the media or have been repeated throughout our family history without a thought as to how they began or whether we really desire to continue them. Figure out which traditions hold personal value to you and your family and decide how to maintain those. Then, brainstorm new traditions that will support your purpose for the holidays and will be most meaningful.

3) Prepare for challenges. Loneliness and or isolation are pitfalls during holidays. If you are away from family, being around families who are all together may even heighten pain and grief. The temptation is to avoid socialization but this is the time when we really need each other. Plan ahead to spend time with other adults doing something positive and fun. Be proactive in this. You can initiate a group to go to candlelight service together or to have a Christmas dinner at your house. You can volunteer to help serve meals at a shelter or wrap gifts for someone. Serving others is a great way to take your mind off of your own neediness. Bake cookies and take them as a thank you to those who have ministered to you. Rent silly Christmas movies and have a movie night/pajama party with friends.

4) Exchange ideas. Ask others for ideas on how they survive the holidays and share your ideas with them. Avoid getting into a negative cycle of complaining. Instead, stay on track by talking about what works.

5) Plan your schedule. This is key! You may have great priorities, traditions and ideas, but you must now protect them by putting them into your schedule to see the reality of what you’ve planned. When will you bake? When will you shop? In your schedule be sure to include “time out” to just rest and relax. Leave some open spaces for spontaneous activities. If the calendar appears overly busy, go back to your priority list and begin to eliminate activities that least fit your criteria. Remember, you have the power to do this!

6) Enjoy the benefits and remember gratitude! Read Psalm 100. Be sure to take time to reflect on the good times and successes. When we begin to acknowledge what we have and what we have enjoyed, our focus shifts and our mood improves. The holidays won’t be perfect, but, with prioritizing and planning you can find great moments of peace and joy!

Phyllis Vokey Long, MA ,is a Marriage and Family Therapist as well as Co-Founder and Co-Director of the New Day Women’s Center.

52 Ways to Show People You Care

  1. Notice them
  2. Smile at them
  3. Encourage them to think BIG
  4. Look them in the eye when you talk to them
  5. Ask them about themselves
  6. Let them tell you how they feel
  7. Listen to their stories
  8. Call them on the phone just to say hi
  9. Answer their questions
  10. Ask them their opinions
  11. Give them your undivided attention
  12. Believe what they say
  13. Tell them what you like about them
  14. Delight in their discoveries
  15. Listen to their favorite music with them
  16. Tolerate their interruptions
  17. Suggest better behaviors when they act up or act out
  18. Show up at their games, concerts and special events
  19. Tell them how much you like being with them
  20. Tell them about yourself
  21. Help them take a stand, then stand with them
  22. Ask them to help you with something
  23. Keep the promises you make to them
  24. Tell them how proud you are of them
  25. Send them a letter, postcard or an email
  26. Introduce them to your friends and family
  27. Make time to be with them
  28. Be excited when you see them
  29. Notice when they grow
  30. Remember their birthdays
  31. Believe in them
  32. Meet their friends and family
  33. Include them in conversations
  34. Laugh at their jokes
  35. Do things together
  36. Respect them
  37. Find a common interest
  38. Do what they like to do
  39. Applaud their success
  40. Contribute to their collections
  41. Read aloud together
  42. Accept them as they are
  43. Share a meal together
  44. Go places together
  45. Build something together
  46. Make decisions together
  47. Help them learn something new
  48. Be honest with them
  49. Encourage them to hlep others
  50. Let them make mistakes
  51. Admit when you make a mistake
  52. Be nice to them

Used with permission  © 2000 – 2011 John Mark Ministries. ABN: 89 767 009 464

Friendships Among Women Reduce Stress

UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women
by Gale Berkowitz

An alternative to fight or flight. A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It’s a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research—most of it on men—upside down.

Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors. It’s an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.

Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone—which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic “aha” moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded, says Dr. Klein. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the “tend and befriend” notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There’s no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.

In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

Friends are also helping us live better. The famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

And that’s not all. When the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate. Yet if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it so hard to find time to be with them? That’s a question that also troubles researcher Ruthellen Josselson, Ph.D., co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships (Three Rivers Press, 1998). The following paragraph is, in my opinion, very, very true and something all women should be aware of and NOT put our female friends on the back burners.

Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women, explains Dr. Josselson. We push the m right to the back burner. That’s really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. And we need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they’re with other women. It’s a very healing experience.

©2002 Gale Berkowitz

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. Behaviorial Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight” Psychol Rev, 107(3):41-429. (Full text of article in PDF format)

Geary DC, Flinn MV. Sex differences in behavioral and hormonal response to social threat: commentary on Taylor et al. Psychol Rev 2002 Oct;109(4):745-50; discussion 751-3

Cousino Klein L, Corwin EJ. Seeing the unexpected: how sex differences in stress responses may provide a new perspective on the manifestation of psychiatric disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2002 Dec;4(6):441-8.

Note:  This article appears in several places on the internet. We would like to credit the author more fully but have been unable to locate any recent biographical details or reference to the original article.  We welcome more information about the original source to give proper credit to the author, Gale Berkowitz.

12 Principles of Communication

  1. Be a quiet listener and don’t answer until the other has finished talking. If you would like an amusing exercise, sit quietly in a public restaurant and listen to the people communicate.  Often there are two people engaged in talking and nobody involved in listening. (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19)
  2. Be slow to speak. Think first.  don’t be hasty in your words.  It has been said, “Make sure the brain is actively in gear before the mouth is engaged.”  Speak in such a way that the other person can understand and accept what is being said.  (Proverbs 15:23, 21:23, 29:20)
  3. Don’t use silence to frustrate the other person. Explain the reasons for your non-response:  that you are considering, you need time to think about it, or you are having difficulty with your emotions and you don’t want to speak back in wrath. (Ecclesiastes 3:7; James 1:19)
  4. Let your speech be true but always in love. Don’t exaggerate to make a point, don’t withhold information to deceive. (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 3:9)
  5. Don’t get involved in destructive quarrels. It is possible to disagree without destroying your spouse.  There is a way that fighting and disagreement can build a relationship instead of destroying it.  (Proverbs 17:14; 20:3, Romans 13:13; Ephesians 4:31)
  6. Anger is a feeling and anger is an action. We cannot control the emotion of anger but we can control the action of anger.  (Proverbs 14:29, 15:1, 25:15, 29:11; Ephesians 4:26, 31)
  7. When you sense your error be a big enough person to admit it and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, “I’m sorry” when sincerely said will immediately resolve a crisis.  (James 5:16)
  8. When someone asks your forgiveness, tell them you forgive them and make sure it’s forgotten and never brought up again.  (proverbs 17:9; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 4:8)
  9. Don’t nag. After you have given your message, request feedback.  (Proverbs 10:19, 17:9)
  10. Don’t blame or criticize the other, rather encourage them and edify them.  (Romans 14:13; Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  11. If someone is angrily criticizing you or verbally attacking you, don’t rise to the defense in the same manner.  (Romans 12:17, 21; 1 Peter 2:23, 3:9)
  12. The goal of communication is understanding, not agreement.  Make allowances for unique differences.  Be concerned about their interests.  What are they saying?  Why are they saying it?  When you understand those things, then communication has taken place, not when you have total agreement of each others opinions. (Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:1-4)

Negative Body Image & Bulimia – A Story of Recovery and Healing

Brenda Piazza, Transitional Coach & Support Group Facilitator

Testimony by Brenda Piazza, Transitional Coach

The following is a testimony of Brenda’s battle with negative body image and bulimia and her inspirational story of healing and recovery.

I was born into a traditional family with a father, mother and 2 older sisters. The traditional family lasted for the first 3 years of my life only. In 1969, my middle sister was accidentally killed by an automobile when I was 3 and she was 4. She died instantly. We lived on a lane with 3 homes and both older sisters wanted to run alongside the car as we coasted back to the house after getting the mail. My middle sister’s shoe lace was untied and the spokes of the wheel pulled her under. It was a freak accident. My older sister blamed herself because she thought she pushed her and my father blamed my mother because she was driving the car. I did not blame anyone, but I just wanted my family back.

I remember right after the accident, I was sitting on my neighbor’s lap and I was asking for my parents. She was telling me, they would be back and not to worry about it. She also told me not to talk about, that it would all go away. At age 3, I learned how to bury feelings and not share them with anyone. To always put up a good front and everything would be fine. I also learned later in life that between the ages of 3-5, our boundaries of how we react to situations and handle situations are formed. Based on experience, this is so true for me.

My dad spent many nights over the next 9 years drinking, not coming home for days at a time, and sleeping with other women. He was afraid to lose more of his children and just didn’t want to get close to us. My parents eventually divorced when I was 12. I do not remember much from the age of 3 to 12. My mom said I spent a lot of time in my room reading and not having a lot of friends. I was extremely shy and withdrawn.

I craved love from both of my parents every day but didn’t know how to ask for it or get it. The wall created around my heart at age 3 was firmly in place. I thought something must be wrong with me because I didn’t feel loved and withdrew further into myself. Every time I did see my dad over the years, his first comment out of his mouth was always, “looks like you have gained weight.” He would say that to my sister and I both even though we didn’t gain weight. My reaction was always “well something must be wrong with me or he would love me. I will lose weight then he will tell me he loves me. “

After my parents divorced, the house was sold and my mom and older sister moved from a very influential neighborhood to a one bedroom apartment 30 minutes away. I had to attend a new high school at age 15 and was terrified. I was shy, a freshman, and had no friends. I started dieting in high school because I wanted my parents to love me and I wanted friends to like me. I felt that my problems would be gone if I lost the weight. My mom and I joined Weight Watchers. I bought the Richard Simmons workout tapes and worked out every evening. I actually lost too much weight and was anemic. After I graduated from high school, my mom remarried when I was 17 in Lake Tahoe and I remember that I could not get warm. I was freezing all the time because I was anemic. But that didn’t stop me from working out and eating less. I still did not have many friends and I still did not get the love I needed.

My mom’s new husband lived 5 hours away so my mom set me up with my own apartment at age 17. I was still very shy and insecure about who I was. I remember the one bedroom apartment was very dark because of all the trees around it and I felt very alone and abandoned. My sister had moved in with her boyfriend my then. I first learned about bulimia from my sister. Her best friend in high school was bulimic but appeared to be loved by her family and friends. So I went to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor one night, ate a large sundae and threw it up. I realized that I had a new way to lose weight yet could still eat whatever I wanted. I would get the love I craved now and fill the hole in my heart at the same time by being thin. Boy, was I wrong!

Since dieting did not seem to bring the love I needed from others, I then got into bodybuilding at the age of 18. If I won contests, then I know others would tell me they loved me and all would be great. I continued to be bulimic throughout the body building, dieting and contests for 6 more years. During this time, I met my future husband (ex-husband now). Throughout the time I was married, he did not know that I was bulimic. I continued the bulimia and over-exercising for 8 years. Even though I was married, I still craved love. We dated for 5 years then married to combine our incomes and buy a house together. I know he loved me deeply but I never allowed myself to give in to someone that much because I wanted to maintain control over my life (and my bulimia).

When I was 27 years old, I stopped the bulimia. I found another outlet that would assist in keeping my weight down and bring the love I craved if I was thin enough. I started using crystal meth. It took away the appetite for food. This continued for about one year. I remember the weekend I stopped using crystal meth was a fishing weekend that my husband had with his dad and brother. I was left alone at the house for 3 straight days and did nothing but meth throughout those 3 days. It numbed the void in my heart. But I grew very paranoid over the weekend, thought people were trying to break into the house, and I just broke down and wept. When my husband got home that evening, I confessed what I had done and vowed never to do it again. And I didn’t. Praise God!

Because of so much secrecy in my life, my husband looked for assurance and love from someone else outside the marriage. He met someone, fell in love, and asked me for a divorced when I was 32. I actually felt relieved because I got back complete control of my life back—not knowing at that time because I wasn’t a Christian yet that I was never in control – only God is in control.

Since I was with my ex-husband and married at an early age (from 19 to 32), I felt like I missed the partying life so after the divorce, I went out almost every night for 2 years drinking a lot. This also numbed the void in my heart. I started to think that if I found true love in a bar, ridiculous huh, then I would be happy. So I dated a lot of men I met in bars but I never let them know the real me. I always kept the wall up around my heart. No one would ever get into my heart deep enough to hurt me like my father did. Everyone at work, family, and friends thought things were going really well for me. But at night, I hid behind an alcohol cloud and I was hurting and felt unloved but didn’t know how to reach out to anyone. The wall remained around my heart and I never felt good enough.

Throughout my older years, I thought that if only I was smart enough, then others would love me. So I got the 4 year bachelors degree during my marriage and a master’s degree after I was married. After I hung the certificates on the wall, nothing changed. I still craved love from others and still felt like I was not enough.

I started a journey of introspection and self-reflection at the age of 35. I bought a lot of self-help books, life coaching, and a student edition bible and started reading everything I could get my hands on to figure out what was wrong with me. I accepted the Lord into my life at age 38 while attending Horizon for 4 weeks to see if I “liked it”. I was a “Christer” prior to that which means I attended services at Catholic mass for Christmas and Easter only. I came forward when Mike McIntosh said, “leave your cares at Jesus feet and come forward to accept His love as Your Father in Heaven. Man will always let you down but Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.” My Father showed His love for me. Praise God.

I was then able to let down my guard, then others into my heart and begin the complete recovery process of identifying triggers, and learned how to express emotion though the bible, therapy and pushing myself through those uncomfortable situations until they became comfortable. I know now that I am loved by family and friends. The void in my heart has been filled by Jesus and I am a complete and loved daughter of His.

I am reaching out to you now. I do not want you to take the long journey I took to heal from eating disorders and body image issues and feelings of being unlovable, not enough and hurt.

If you are interested in participating in a confidential support group that shares your issues and whose heart is to lift you up and encourage you to heal from the past, please contact us for more information.