How I got through (and over) my divorce

With millions of people getting divorced every year, I thought it would be appropriate to write about my own. I realized I mention it sometimes in my blog posts and upon noticing this it sort of bothered me, but when I think about it, it really has shaped me into the great person I am today. I've been really excited about my life lately and where it's going and the healthy, functional relationship I'm in now with my current husband couldn't be possible without having gone through the rough and heartbreaking time I had when I got divorced.

A brief background on what happened:

I was with my ex husband for 10 years before we got married, since I was 17 years old. I don't think he ever really wanted to marry me, but he didn't want to lose me either, so I think he chose the less painful path for him. Two years into the marriage as we began talking about having our first child, he began an extra marital affair. I had no idea until a few months later when I began to speculate, but several attempts to confront him turned up nothing. This went on for several months until I moved out and we separated. I hoped we could fix the marriage and he seemed willing as well. About a month after that the decision was made for me when I found out the truth, and a few weeks after that I learned that his girlfriend was pregnant with his child.

At that point I was 30 years old and we had been together for 13 years. I was really at my lowest of lows. I was convinced that there was no possible way I was going to heal from this and thought of myself as "damaged goods". My self esteem was in the toilet. I lost my faith in marriage and love itself. I thought over and over again, "Does ANYONE live happily ever after anymore?"

Before I could even think of living happily ever after with someone else, I had to live happily ever after with myself. After I picked myself up off the ground (actually, more like dug myself out of a deep hole full of crap) I started making plans about how I was going to heal. I'll be honest; part of it was needing to prove to my ex that I wasn't going to hold a candle for him and want him back (which I didn't anyway). I wouldn't let him or anyone else think I could let this take over me and cause permanent damage. I vowed I would become a kick-ass woman, better than ever! I never realized just how powerful that message to myself became.

I compiled a list of things I did to heal and get over him and the event (note: those are two totally separate things to get over. I found it MUCH easier to get over him rather than what happened). They are in no particular order:

1. Therapy
Luckily, I already had a great therapist who happened to be the same therapist I went to couples counseling with my ex. I saw her at least once a week or every other week. In her office I was allowed to be as vulnerable as I needed without judgement and say things I may be embarrassed to tell anyone else.

2. Telling my story
I can't count how many times I have told the story. The first few times it was like I was telling it about someone else because I was still in shock that I was in that situation. Very soon I learned that I was not alone, and that many women could relate. Quickly it became less about gossiping, and more about healing. I went to a workshop about 4 months after my ex and I had split and the woman running it confronted me and very firmly told me to stop telling my story, saying that I was giving my power up to him. At first I believed her, but soon after thought that was the worst advice I had ever heard. I was actually giving myself power by hearing the words come out of my mouth and slowly figuring out how and why it all fell apart. How was I supposed to learn anything by keeping my mouth shut? The more I shared my story, the more my growth and development flourished. 

3. Faith
A few weeks before I decided to move out and separate from my husband I was walking through the campus at CSUSM toward the parking lot. An old man stopped me and as he approached I thought he was going to ask me for directions. He said, "Who is Jesus Christ to you?" I replied with no hesitation, "He's my Lord and Savior". I almost had to turn around and look over my shoulder to see if that answer had come from someone else. I hadn't been to church since 8th grade and prayed maybe a dozen times since then. But the answer came out of my mouth like I was saying my own name. He smiled and gave me a flyer for his church and walked away. As I walked down to my car tears streamed down my face. I knew where I had to go. As I pulled into the parking lot of the church I grew up going to I didn't know exactly why I was there. I asked for Pastor Borgie and the church secretary showed me to his office. He said he remebered me and asked me why I was there. I broke down in uncontrollable sobs and told him. "Please don't think I'm crazy, I'm not on drugs, really!" That's all I could come up with. He handed me kleenex and said, "Andrea, everyone is born with a hole in their heart. All our lives we try to fill it up with things like money, food, sex, alcohol and whatever else. If you fill it with God, everything will work out."

4. Exercise 
Did I just hear a collective groan? Really, exercise helped me tremendously. My exercise of choice was running (still is) and I ran my heart out. I ran and imagined myself running away from my problems (which is obviously impossible, but it was great motivation), I ran to be somewhere else. I put my headphones on and listened to sometimes angry music (Alanis Morisette's "You Oughta Know" and Nine Inch Nails "Hand that Feeds You") or sometimes inspirational music (Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" or Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away") Sometimes I would run so fast and so hard I felt like my heart would explode out of my chest. But what exercise did for me was 1) Gave me something to do to fill time, 2) Gave me confidence mentally and physically and 3) Cleared my head and Lord knows I needed all the help I could get in that department. 

5. Family and Friends/Filled my calender 
Very soon after the big event I was sitting alone in my studio apartment with my cat and a bottle of wine. I realized If this continued I would end up crying every night and slowly turn into a Bridget Jones movie without the humor and British accent. So, I picked up the phone, grabbed my planner and called all of my friends. I made plans for as many nights as I could. Looking back, this was probably one of the most helpful things that I did. Everyone was more than willing to see me and spend time with me. It got me out of my apartment and took my mind off things. Time passed quicker. 

6. Journaling
I had started journaling when I suspected my husband was cheating, so I just continued. I got all of my crazy thoughts, typed in all caps, wrote him scathingly hateful letters (which never got sent), and basically poured my heart and soul out. When I couldn't call him to scream at him, I would take it out on my keyboard and start typing.  When I felt like I was falling apart, I would write. It was password protected because even in death I don't want anyone to see it. What was most helpful was looking back at what I was feeling and seeing my own healing progress. It gave me hope that things could get even better. 

7. Creating a Vision Board
This came later in my healing, after I realized I was worthy (and ready) for a better relationship. I developed "the attitude of gratitude" and wrote down 10 things I was grateful for. It was actually easier to come up with than I thought it would be.  I then drew a picture of what I wanted my life to look like. It was simple (I'm no artist, it was basically stick figures).  I had to come to terms with the fact that it may take a long time until I met someone great, but I knew exactly what I wanted him to be like. My vision board told his story; he had integrity. A month later, I met him. 

8. Reading self help books
My therapist recommended a couple, but one that I "accidentally" found at a book store helped me the most. Welcome to Your Crisis by Laura Day helped me realize my situation was an invitation for a new life. Private Lies by Frank Pittman talks about the reasons spouses cheat. I didn't focus too much on reading about infidelity and broken marriages because for me, I knew it was over. I read books that helped me become a better person. I also read two books on codependency and later found out I was what is know as a "love addict" and read Pia Mellody's Facing Love Addiction (which by the way, if you're codependent, there's a good chance you're a love addict). This particular book spoke volumes to me. It was one of those books where I thought she was writing a biography of my life. After every other page my jaw fell open and I furiously took notes and said out loud, "Oh my GOD!" It was shocking how much of a love addict I was in that relationship and I am forever grateful that I found out so I could fix it. 

9. Online support
I never thought this would help, but it did. I found a divorce support group on ivillage. On their discussion boards I found a group of women all going through their own divorce. Some were victims of infidelity, others had different stories. But it was a place where I could be anonymous and vent, complain, get advice and just have sincere support. I was amazed at the genuine encouragement and friendships that were developed there. Sometimes it was difficult because my friends, although loving, caring and supportive, couldn't relate because none of them had ever been in my situation. There on my online support group I had a sense of comradery that was greatly needed. 

10. Blogging
Honestly, writing this blog has helped a lot. It's helped me organize and put on paper what I've learned. I had to come to terms with the fact that that relationship is a big part of my past and a big part of who I am. Blogging has helped. It's allowed me to use it as an avenue not of complaint, but of gratitude for the learning. If you're thinking about doing it, but aren't sure if you want other people reading about it, remember you can always make your blog private, invite people to read it by email only or publish it later when you're ready. 

11. Screaming in my car
Okay, so I left the most lunatic sounding one for last. Yes, I screamed as loud as I could in my car. I felt it was the only place no one would hear me. I screamed so loud I would lose my voice. I would scream obscenities at my ex husband. If anyone did hear me I probably would have been committed, but I needed to do it, so I did. 

Those are the things that did help. I think it's important to point out something that didn't: dating too soon. I convinced myself (and the guys I dated) that enough time had passed (2 months!) and I was ready. Ummm, yeah, what was I thinking? This was way too soon after a 13 year relationship that ended traumatically for me to think I could give myself to someone else. I needed more time. Looking back, I really enjoyed the time I had my little studio apartment by the beach, just me and my cat. I was terrified, but so alive. By dating too soon I feel like I took the hard way to learn who I was and hurt some people along the way. 

It took me a long time to get where I am today. It wasn't easy. It was the hardest thing I've ever faced in my life. I never thought I would end up a statistic but I did. My heart goes out to anyone going through a divorce, weather you wanted it or not. There are so many different emotions involved. 

If you get nothing else from this post, please believe if you are going through this or have in the past, a divorce is an opportunity for growth and development. Once the fog clears, pick yourself up and make it your mission to have a kick ass life. It's your choice. 

Photo courtesy of Shane2D

Walking the Walk as you Talk the Talk

This week I have been vigorously trying to get self-esteem workshops put together and have been doing a lot of thinking about the message that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty encourages. I'm extreamly motivated and inspired to be an actionist for this campaign. Jessica Weiner defines an actionist as "Someone of any age, race, class, and gender who wants to walk their talk out in the world and lead by example."

I have taken this to heart and it’s forced me to take inventory of my own thoughts, beliefs and emotions about beauty and my own self-esteem.

Deep breath.

Recently I found the diary I had when I was in elementary school up until 8th grade. The pictures below are actual scans. This particular entry is from January, 1987, making me 11 years old at the time. I cut out some parts about a boy I liked because quite frankly, it was just embarrassing, but what I wanted to show you was the entry about thinking I was fat. I think this is right around the time I started puberty, and probably my hips started to stretch out. I can't remember how tall I was, but I was always average for my age. I weighed 82 pounds and I thought I was fat.

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Finding this diary and reading this made me want to go back in time, 22 years, and hug that little girl. I was eleven years old. I grew up hating my body and was never even overweight. Ever.

In my life coaching training we were taught exercises about looking to your "future self", 20 years into the future. We explore what our future self would say to us, encourage in us, etc. It dawned on me that right now, I am my 11 year olds future self. If I could talk to her, I would tell her she was beautiful, all 82 pounds of her. I would tell her she would grow up to be someone special and that lots of people love her just the way she is. And also warn her about how self-destructive these thoughts are.

I don't know where it came from. My mom was rarely critical of her own body, or at least I don't recall her being that way. It may have been friends, TV and movies and just things I inadvertently heard along the way. But I do remember thinking nothing was wrong with me because I had these thoughts. It was normal to hate your body and criticize yourself.

Fast forward to when I was 27. I was engaged to be married and was at the gym standing on the scale in the locker room. As I gently tapped the scale to the right watching the pointer reach higher and higher, waiting for the scale to level out so I could stop pushing it. stopped at 142. I weighed 142 pounds, the most I had ever weighed in my life. Watching it go past 140 was horrifying. A few weeks before a guy friend jokingly mentioned that my ass was getting big. Those two things combined flipped a switch in my head that I'm sure millions of girls and women have had happened to them: I was going to lose weight. And I did. At first I only wanted to get down to 130 (a healthy weight for my 5'4" body), but it seemed so easy I kept going all the way down to 117. The attention I got was confusing. Some women were so impressed, asking me how I did it, others seemed worried. My fiance said I seemed happier. I was miserable and starving.

I'm lucky I got out of that cycle when I did. I gained the weight back and have been able to stay at a healthy weight. But the thoughts aren't gone completely.

Thinking about hosting the workshops has brought all of this up for me and I'm glad it has. We need to talk about this. We need to acknowledge that it's painful and confusing. Talking about this is new for me and it's embarrassing and empowering at the same time. It's all around us....just take the time to listen to other women's conversations and you will hear a common theme: Commiserating together about how fat their thighs are, what diet they want to do or did you see how fat or skinny so-and-so is.

I encourage you to take inventory of your own feelings of body image. It's not easy, I know. But the more we think about it, the more we can talk about it and hopefully make a change. If not in yourself, maybe in some eleven year old girl who writes in her diary that she thinks she's fat. You CAN make a difference, even if it's just in yourself.

Why I left a promising corporate job

Eleven years ago I graduated with an Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising. I guess at that point I had been floundering around and didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up and I knew I liked fashion, so I assumed that was the answer. I beat out 4 other girls I was interning with for a position at the corporate office of a chain of 40+ surf shops. The position was a floater so I learned all aspects of the company and a few months later a position opened up as an Assistant Buyer for the Junior Division and it was mine! I had become friends with the girl that had left that position and heard her horror stories about it, but I thought she just couldn't cut it. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. If I could make it a year there, I could easily go to another company and in 5-8 years be a buyer myself. I envisioned myself like Rachel Green on Friends, working for Ralph Lauren in my big corner office.

Yeah right.

My boss, who was the buyer for Juniors, swimwear, accessories (which included shoes), little girls and the company's own private label which included designing and having the merchandise manufactured. So, needless to say, she was completely overworked. I was her only assistant, there was no data entry person and my responsibilities were endless. I won't go into all the gory details of the time I was there (I stuck it out for 10 months), but I'm sure you've heard the term "Shit rolls downhill"? And I was at the bottom of the hill.

It was stinky to say the least.

I struggled daily with not knowing if I just wasn't good enough or smart enough for the job. I was so stressed it was affecting me physically and it didn't help that morale there sucked. I took a good look at the people there that held the top positions and made the most money. I didn't like what I saw, they were slaves to the company and I knew I had better get out before I was one of them. I hated who I was there and more importantly: At that time I hated my place in the world. When I gave my notice, the vice president of the company, a person whom I equally admired and feared called me into her office and berated me until I broke down and sobbed right in front of her. She couldn't fathom why I would leave a job that a million girls would kill for. I didn't have the balls to tell her the truth: That everyone there was afraid of her, everyone was overworked and that she was, well, a bitch.

The day I left I wrote myself a letter entitled: "If I ever think about coming back, read this". I thought I might later regret my decision based on the potential to move up there and beg for my job back. The letter detailed how I felt, how miserable I was and how the job had effected not only me, but people I was close to. After I left the girl that replaced me only lasted 3 months, so they hired 2 people to fill that position and a clerical.

The experience I had was only with one company and sometimes I wonder if it would have been different had I just gone to another company and kept trying until I found a place that had the same values that I did. At that time I was young and just ran away as fast as I could without looking back. Eight years later I found myself in the corporate world again at the American Council on Exercise and was so happy to have found a company that fit me. On the other hand, there wasn't a whole lot of potential to move up there, so perhaps it's better that I'm not there anymore either.

It took me several more years to find where my place on this earth is and I'm still working out all the kinks. But leaving my first corporate job was the start to my journey; to find out what my mission was in this life. I'm not saying corporate life is terrible and no one can find their passion in it, but it just wasn't for me.

I would love to hear if anyone else had an experience where a job, or even a person that made them miserable made them realize they were not in the right place, but leaving made them a better person.

Photo courtesy of from trixiebedlam

Every party has a pooper, that's why we invited you

On many occasions I have been the guest of honor at my own pity party. Have you? Kids can be the best at this: the dramatic crossing of the arms and shouting, "It's just not fair!!!", stomping around and sulking. (Okay, I admit, I'm 33 years old and every once in a while I put on this show.) I remember my 5th grade teacher, Mr Millar, responding when one of us in his class said that. His response was, "Life isn't fair. Get used to it." I remember that statement so well, and being somewhat afraid. Up until then, at 9 years old life had been pretty great for me and to hear a grown up say that life wasn't fair? What in the heck was I in for?

But let's face it, sometimes life isn't fair. Curve balls come at us all the time. People right and left are losing their jobs and their homes, that's enough to throw yourself a pity party soiree. I think many times feeling sorry for ourselves is reasonable and necessary, but only temporarily. I have found that if I don't own the feelings and emotions of feeling sorry for myself when something really bad happens and just put on the "I'm fine" face, the feelings fester like last weeks garbage. And we all know how that smells. I advise taking some time to embrace and process it. Don't feel guilty or ashamed and by all means don't judge yourself. Feel bad and move on as best you can.

Sometimes it's much easier said than done. For me, when I realize I'm feeling sorry for myself and it's gone on long enough I tell myself to get an attitude adjustment. I think I am echoing my mother's words repeated to me when I was about 13 or so. But at any rate, it works for me. If it doesn't I have to stop and ask myself:

What is this serving me?
Is there someone I need to talk to about this (ie did someone hurt my feelings)?
How much longer do I need to dwell on this?
Is this really what I'm upset about, or is it something else?

The first question is for me the most powerful: What is this serving me? What good is this doing for me and possibly others? Almost every time the answer is nothing, so knowing that allows me to move on.

I'll give you an example of how feeling sorry for myself ended up affecting my whole life. In my previous marriage there were times (lengthy ones) where I was completely unhappy. I felt so sorry for myself and helpless that I ended up carrying around an attitude that others saw. My ex husband told me that certain people thought I didn't like them, which really wasn't the case. My attitude was so pitiful that my "poor me" feelings on the inside came out on the outside. I'm grateful for the learning experience.

Photo courtesy of from bankgrrl

FAT is the new "F word"

Today Jason and I were getting ready to go to Costco. I know, big plans for a Sunday, but that's my life and I love it. If you don't already know, were expecting a baby (YAY!!!) and I am almost 3 months pregnant. My belly is starting to poke out a little so I have started wearing maternity clothes. As I was getting dressed this morning, I changed outfits SIX TIMES. I don't think I've changed outfits that many times since I was going on a first date. And even then, it wasn't six times. Every outfit was "Ugh, I look gross". One t-shirt was too tight, one too thin, etc. They all had the same thing in common: They made me look fat. I imagined myself walking into Costco, showing my Costco card and the card-checker lady faints due to thinking how fat I am. And then everyone points and laughs and says, "Oh my Gosh! Look at the fat lady!" And then they make pig noises at me. Is this the craziest thing you have ever heard? Maybe...or maybe you have been there too. When the ridiculous thoughts cloud your brain and before you know it your day is ruined.

I went downstairs and confessed to my husband about my numerous costume changes. He said he was wondering what was taking me so long. In my best winey voice I told him, "Well, I'm in that in-between stage where it's not obvious I'm pregnant, so it just looks like I'm fat. I don't want people to think I'm fat"


Jason screws up his face and in his best guy reply says, "Who cares?"

During the car ride there I kept thinking about not only how ridiculous my thinking was, but how do I knock it off? Realistically, I'm not fat, I'm pregnant. But regardless of being pregnant, one of my biggest fears in life is being fat. Even during a time when I was at my skinniest (size 0) I still felt uncomfortable in my skin because of my body. I don't need to get into how it happens, that's a whole different animal (and blog post), but what's the solution? I'm currently reading Jessica Weiner's book, Life Doesn't Begin 5 Pounds From Now (I've met her, she ROCKS!), and in the first chapter she says, "I don't know one woman who has never had a thought about how much she weighs or whether she is, or isn't getting fat. Unless you grew up in a far away planet called Self-Love, you grew up in a world where women are still valued, honored, rewarded, validated, and appreciated based on the size and shape of their bodies".

I actually took my husband's "Who cares" advice and was able to forget about feeling fat and to be honest, the "new Andrea" does this much easier than the old me would have. But I have slip ups. A few months ago I was watching a guilty pleasure reality show I like, "The Girls Next Door". It's a show about Hugh Hefner's three girlfriends that live in his mansion....I know..anyway, the episode was about the next Playboy playmate and were showing the (edited, of course) photo shoot. As I sat on the couch watching the probably 19 year old girl get her picture taken under perfect lighting, body make-up, after 3 hours of hair and make-up, I will share with you the dialogue that took place in my mind: I need to lose weight, I wish I had a flat stomach, I wish I still had long hair, maybe I should get a boob job, I really need to lose weight, maybe I should start starving myself again, I should wear more make-up.


I am not exaggerating that those are the EXACT thoughts that went through my head that night. All within 30 seconds of each other. I decided I couldn't watch that show anymore, and I don't.

I have to remind myself often that my own self worth is not based on how much I weigh, the size of my jeans or if a little bit of chunk hangs over my waistline. I don't become a better person the thinner I am. My happiness is not based on mine or anyone else's perception of "fat". I have wasted way too much time worrying about non-important things like if I will ever fit into my skinny jeans again and do I look better or worse than so-and-so in a bikini. And for what? What value did I (and do I) get out of all these thoughts and feelings?

Not a damn thing.

So there it is. People may read this and think I'm nuts, or you may be able to relate. I would love to hear your comments on this. (If you are reading this via Facebook, please comment on my actual blog instead of on Facebook. Thanks!)

Photo courtesy of by juliagriggshavey

Contact Me!


Please feel free to contact me for a free, no obligation coaching session: andreafry75(at)hotmail(dot)com

Also, contact me if you are interested in having me host a Dove Self-Esteem Workshop for girls ages 8-13.