In early 1994 I sat in a therapists office for the first time. I don't remember how my parents talked me into going, but there I was, 18 years old, a couple of months after I found out my parents were officially getting divorced. I was stone faced, arms crossed over my chest. The therapist was very nice, drinking her tea and her first question was, "Do you know why you're here?" I can't remember how I responded exactly...but casually told her I came because my parents wanted me to and that they wanted to make sure I was "okay". I spent the rest of the hour telling her, "I'm fine", "It doesn't bother me", and "I'm totally okay with it". And I clearly remember never, ever shedding a single tear. I was tough. I was strong. And no one would think otherwise. I had a few more unproductive sessions with her and the only thing I remember (and was very proud of) was that I never cried once. 

The only person that saw any of my inner turmoil about it was my then-boyfriend who later became my husband (then became my ex-husband). He was 19 at the time and did not sign up to be the one to take all of my messiness on. I told no one but him. I guess at the time he was the only one I trusted to still love me even though I was such a mess. I expected so much from him and at 19 years old, he gave me as much as he could, which wasn't a whole lot. And when he didn't provide for me what I needed, I was wrecked. I had no coping skills. I would rather die than have the world see me fall apart, so I stuffed it all away and told everyone "I'm fine". 

Now I know why they call it "baggage". 

I carried that shit around for years. Taking it out on my boyfriend who encouraged me to talk to someone, anyone (besides him) about it all. But instead, I stuffed my bags as full as they would go and carried it around until I was too tired and too weak. Finally, one day I snapped and it all came crashing down in my doctors office in 2003. 

During those teenage years I had no idea what perfectionism was, that I struggled with it or that it was even a bad thing. In my mind I thought if it all looked great on the outside then it had to be okay on the inside, right? I mean, everyone else had it all together, so it was imperative that I did too, whatever the cost. I was disgusted at weak people and thought people that had hang-ups really needed to get over it, and themselves and simply move on. Seriously, I thought that. And now, today I see people that think that way and my heart goes out to them, only because I know they are struggling with their own baggage, their bags are spilling over and they are getting tired. I wonder how much more they can take. How many more times they can roll their eyes at people that have struggles and difficulties and that are simply just human. 

Through my own experiences I've learned that it's okay to ask for help. To say that you're overwhelmed, hurt, afraid or confused. Or tired and need a break. Or whatever. No one is perfect and feels nothing. Transparency is beautiful. It doesn't make you weak or a baby. I don't apologize anymore for it. And my baggage is unpacked. 

Photo courtesy of Noel Zia Lee

Redefining Beauty

I was a guest blogger for a friend of mine on his fantastic site, "It Starts With Us". Please check it out here. 

Feel free to comment on his blog and thanks for reading! 

What would you do?

Last week I received an email from a dear friend of mine, Heather. Heather is a laid back, fun, smart and active mom of two little boys. I was a little surprised by the franticness of her email. She gave me permission to share it with you: 

"Andrea: sign me up for volunteering for one of your workshops. Today at the mall (not my fave place) there was a 12-ish year old girl shopping w/ her mother for a swimsuit. She looked like she was in puberty where body was changing and she was a little overweight. However, she was adorable and beautiful. I could hear her mother pushing suits for her to try on. A bit later, I was in the dressing room and I heard someone crying quietly. Her dress was on the floor so I knew it was her. She was crying b/c she didn't like any suits and didn't want to try any one. Her mother asked "What are you going to wear to swim in tomorrow?" And through her tears she said, "I just won't go." I lost it. I was so sad for her...and I really wanted to say something but I didn't. And now I am bummed. I wanted to tell her how adorable she was or maybe let her mom know they could find cute boardshorts rather than a bikini...and I didn't! I wasn't sure if the mom would tell me to buzz off or if I would have made the girl feel worse. ARGGgghhh....I got in my car and called Dan crying and he thought I got jumped or something. But it was so sad and I appreciated your mission before but now that I saw it in action I think you are a super dooper rock star. Anyway, I had to tell you...what do you think I should have done? Does your training give advice on that type of situation????"

I'm posting this for 2 reasons: First, to share with you how common this is. To me, it is unacceptable that a little girl feels so uncomfortable with her body that she doesn't want to go swimming with her friends to what I am assuming is a pool party. And secondly, to ask you to comment with what you would have done in this situation. I told Heather I really didn't have an answer. I would have wanted to tell this little girl I thought she was adorable too. But it's such fine line when we tell strangers things of this nature. Can we possibly undo with one nice comment what year of teasing, media influences and whatever else this girl has seen has done to her self esteem? 

I would love to hear your comments! What do you think, and/or what would you do?  

3 Steps to a Healthy Relationship

I was a guest blogger again on the very cool website, Girl, Get Stong! You can read the article here.

Stop by and leave a comment!

Operation Beautiful

I'm dedicating this blog post to anther blog that I found, written by a 25 year old woman named Caitlin Boyle living in Orlando, Florida. She has two blogs, one where she chronicles her fitness and nutrition lifestyle and the other one which she calls, Operation Beautiful is what I'll be explaining. Caitlin's mission is the following:

One of my biggest personal crusades is ending Fat Talk. If my little blog only does one productive thing, I hope it helps readers realize how truly toxic fat talk is — it hurts you emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I want to reach as many people as possible with my End the Fat Talk message.

I encourage you to watch the video in the above link, or here: 

Caitlin's project is simple: spreading the word of making people feel good about themselves with just a pen and paper. She encourages others to write notes, usually on post-it notes, anywhere someone may see it. The most common places are bathroom mirrors, gym locker rooms and on the covers of women's magazines. Check out her blog to see some great examples of people in action. 

So this morning I had to go out to Walmart to get a gift for my friends twins for their birthday. I threw my post-its in my purse and made my way to the magazine aisle. It didn't take long for me to find a magazine that would make any average woman feel badly about herself. It was Abs Magazine (which by the way, there is really a magazine dedicated to abdominals? Having a fitness background myself, I know that abs are for holding yourself upright, supporting your back and they help in childbirth. That's it. Is it completely necessary for us to HAVE to have flat, six-pack abs just for that? Sorry, I digress...). Here is my post it: 


This magazine promised to give us flat, sexy abs in 6 minutes, shrink our bellies, and talks about liposuction. Oh, thank you, Abs Magazine! An answer to my prayers! So my note reads, "You're beautiful...just the way you are!" I hope someone reads it, smiles and feels good about herself instead of looking at the headlines and the photoshopped model on the cover and feels like crap. I intend to post many, many notes! 

I encourage you all to spread this simple, yet powerful task. You may be surprised how it ends up making you feel better about YOURself too. Make sure you have your camera ready and send the picture to Caitlin so she can post it on her blog! 

My relationship with a drug addict

In my post about how I got over my divorce I talked about how I began dating too soon. I think that bit of advice deserves it's own post because of the catastrophic mistakes I make at choosing my dates when I made the decision to date right after my ex of 13 years and I split. If you read the whole post, I'll share what I learned at the end. 

At first I dated guys that were nice and normal, but in my crazy mind, I wasn't ready to date anyone normal just yet. I wasn't recovered (or sane for that matter) from my break up with my ex, so a few months later I walked away from the nice and normal guys and met someone just as crazy and codependent as I was. I believe in the Universal Law of Attraction, that what you put out into the universe is what you get back. So, in the mindset I was in right after I split from my ex husband, I attracted exactly what I felt, but of course at that time I didn't know it. 

I met Jack* online. He emailed me and at first I wasn't all that interested in meeting him, but he was persistent and I guess I was a sucker for persistence. I actually cancelled our first date (maybe the universe was already trying to warn me), but we ended up going out the following week. I don't know if it was the wine, the expensive restaurant or the lines he was feeding me, but I chalked it up to the best first date I had ever had. Not that I had had that many up until then, but I was drawn into his intensity.  

He told me he loved me within 2 weeks of us dating, although I didn't say it back for a while. He wanted to spend every second with me and I ate it all up. I spent 13 years chasing love from one man, and here was a man giving me all the love I ever wanted. I was enamored. 

Then Jack told me he had cancer. I was devastated. I decided to stay in the relationship even though he may be terminal. The months past and Jack lost more and more weight, I spent many sleepless nights nursing him back to health through vomiting, night sweats and physical agony. 
He quit his job and lost his health insurance. He was at odds with his family so he couldn't ask them for help. What was strange was that he had no friends except for the new friends he had met in his building. He said he had lost touch with them because they turned their backs on him. I never questioned it. 

He began relying on me more and more financially. He found out he could get his cancer medication in Mexico and since we were so close, we went down there almost every weekend. We went to the same pharmacy every time and I would wait outside. On two occasions he was so sick he asked me to make the trip alone. I didn't even need to talk to the men working at the pharmacy, they recognized me and gave me the medication. One time it went fine, the second time not so well. Jack had told me to meet a man that we always said hi to that worked at a bar and he would have it. I couldn't find him and it was getting dark. I asked another man if he knew where he was and he began approaching me, speaking Spanish. Suddenly I was surrounded by 5 or 6 men and alarms are going off my head saying, "GET OUT NOW!" so I ran all the way back to the border crossing. I called Jack to tell him what happened and he told me to go back, that I had to get his medication. I told him I don't have to do anything, and that my life was in danger. That was probably clue number 26 that something wasn't right. I ignored that one too. 

I started to get more and more suspicious about Jack. I spent one night in the ER with him and a doctor pulled me aside. He asked me if my boyfriend had a history of drug abuse; more specifically prescription pills such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. I felt so stupid at that moment. I knew what was happening and hated the person I had become.  I had been in complete denial all along. 

About a week later I confronted Jack about his addiction. He admitted to it all, admitted that he was severely addicted to both Vicodin and Oxycontin and said he would seek treatment on his own. I knew I wanted to end the relationship but needed to hand him over to his family. I still cared about him and did want to see him get better. I called his aunt whom I had never met. I told her about his addiction and she said the family knew but thought he was better since he had been with me. I told her I thought it had really gotten bad when he was diagnosed with cancer. She said to me, "Oh honey....he doesn't have cancer. And you're not the first girl he's lied to about that." 

I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet. I had my suspicions about his cancer, but I never thought someone could be so cold as to lie about something like that. The weight loss- drug addiction. The vomiting, night sweats, muscle pain- withdrawals.  All the trips to Mexico- Vicodin or Oxy. I got him on a plane to see his family, they had an intervention (I was there) and he went away to rehab. I went to see him during family week where he manipulated me more. He met another woman in rehab, fell "in love" with her and moved to Florida. In the end he ended up conning me out of almost $8,000 (which thankfully his mother paid me back) in about 9 months. 

My purpose for this blog post is two-fold; first to share how easy it is to make bad decisions in relationships during times when we are vulnerable. I hadn't healed from the first relationship I was hurt in, I hadn't even picked myself up off the ground yet so it's no surprise that I got hurt again. I didn't know who I was, what I needed or what I wanted. I didn't love myself yet either. I also have really beaten myself up about this. I kept telling myself I should have been smarter, been more careful and was very embarrassed about the whole thing. But I have learned to give myself a break. I learned a huge lesson from this. And if this had never happened, I probably would have never met my current husband. 

Secondly, I wanted to share part of my journal that I just found which I thought was interesting, because it shows my progress in becoming me again. The fog was clearing and I was finally starting to "get it". When he went away to rehab I wrote,  "He does not dictate my self worth or anything that has to do with who I am as a person. He chooses his own reality and makes his own decisions, not me. It’s not my job; it’s his for the rest of his life. Only I can dictate my own happiness and positive self esteem and I am happy about that. In the past, relying on others for it was unrealistic, unhealthy and fake. I make my own reality."

I wish I could go back in time and high-five myself for writing this and believing it. I was finally starting to understand that I had relied on other people (mostly men) to make me happy. I could almost hear Dr. Phil asking, "And how's that working for you?" Ummm, not so well. But it took that for me to figure it all out. 

Photo courtesy of John and Keturah

Why I decided to not graduate with honors

Yes, you read the title right. I actually made the decision to not graduate with honors. And I'll tell you why. 

Upon returning to college in 2003, it was my goal to get kick-ass grades and graduate with honors. It would be one more reason for everyone to know just how perfect I was. I can honestly say that back then, my main motive was what other people thought and not my own. Life happened and during my journey I got a divorce, got pregnant and got remarried. Not only did my priorities shift, but so did my outlook on life. I understood what self-love was and intended to follow its path. It was still importnat to me to get good grades, but knocking myself out to be the best in my class just wasn't important anymore. 

In my second to last semester one of my classmates asked me, "Why aren't you at Honor Society meetings?" I told him I didn't want to be in the Honor Society, that I couldn't take on another responsibility. He replied, "Oh. I guess you just struck me as an over-acheiver." 

I have to admit I was completely flattered. It was like telling me I was fantastic! My old ghost appeared in my ear and whispered, "See? You're still 'that girl'. What's one more responshibilty? How could you say no to belonging to the Honor Society?" So I went to a meeting. 

I recognized other students there (because they all sat in the front rows of my classes with me) and they were all the other "smarty pants" people that I knew. They talked about all the events coming up and I was completely overwhelmed. I would have to have my son spend more time at his babysitters so I could go listen to speakers or help others present research. Ooooh, but for graduation you get to wear special gold tassels. Well, sign me up!!! 

I went home and thought about it, and decided not to join. I knew how hard I had worked to get there. My family knew too. And that was all that mattered. My legacy and achievements will not care that the "with honors" is on my resume. And that's okay. 

Photo courtesy of rachel_titiriga