Thursday, July 1, 2010

Woman in the Mirror

Born and raised as an Army Brat, I was used to picking up and moving every three or four years.  As a child, I felt like I was pretty well rounded. I always made friends easily.  The summer before 7seventh grade we moved from Germany back to Texas. It was a typical Army move and I was excited to get back to school to meet new friends.

My parents bought their first house when we returned from Germany, so we were not going to live in on base housing. That would be different. But, as I said, I made friends easily, so I had no worries.

No worries, until I started school. The kids at my new middle school were different. Of course, a lot of them were Army brats, but a lot of them were not. I actually felt like the new kid for the first time in my life. I felt like that because a lot of the kids had grown up together and were unwilling to let newcomers into their circles. Still, I made friends, and to this day, I still have several of those same friends.

Seventh grade is a time in my life that sticks out the most to me because that is the year that my self esteem issues began.  I had never thought that I was overweight before I started seventh grade.

I was always active. I was a cheerleader in Germany for four years. I had been in ballet for years, and had even been taught by a former Russian Ballet star when I lived in Germany. For the first time in my life I felt like people judged me because of the way I looked and not because of the person I was inside. In eighth grade I made the cheerleading squad. I never felt a part of that squad, I felt self-conscious. One night after a football game, a player pulled me aside and laughed at me and told me how ridiculous I looked in my uniform. I still remember how much that hurt.

I have some great memories from high school. I also have memories of feeling fat, ugly and never good enough. I look back now and realize that I wasn’t fat, and I was far from ugly. My insecurities made me feel bad about myself. The way I looked at others was warped. I look back now and realize that I wasn’t much heavier than most girls. I just saw myself differently.

My father got sent back to Germany when I was in the tenth grade. My mom, my sister, and I stayed in Texas because we were in school and my mom owned her own business.

It was about this time that I started smoking marijuana and drinking. I think that I thought it would help me to fit in. I was really good at hiding the effects of the drugs and alcohol. My mom had no clue. Maybe she did, but she never admitted it. The summer before my senior year I ended up losing a lot of weight. My mom used to say that I had finally blossomed.

The truth is that I had developed an eating disorder. I just didn’t eat. Or if I did, I threw it up as soon as I could find a safe place to do so. The fact that I lost some weight didn’t affect the way I felt about myself.

I never had a boyfriend in high school. I got asked to prom, then a week before the prom he canceled on me. My mom’s best friend had a son that was a year older than me, and he agreed to take me. How embarrassed I was that night. He tried to make it a great night for me, but I was mortified the entire night because I really didn’t even know him, and here I was at prom with him. I felt like a charity case. He didn’t make me feel like one, I made myself feel like one.

My parents divorced at the end of my senior year of high school. The two years that my dad was in Germany did nothing for my parents’ marriage.When he returned to Texas, he brought a girlfriend with him. This other
woman was a lot younger than my dad, by over twenty years. I learned later that this particular affair wasn’t my father’s first affair. My mother had always stood by him because he would always tell her that he’d never do it again. He lied and she believed him every time.

My world turned upside down. I had always been very close to my father. This other woman changed all of that because not only did he leave my mom, my sister, and me behind, but he rarely came around at all except to berate my mother.

I continued to be the same cheerful person that I needed to be at school and to my mom. I could fall apart in private, and on most days, I did. Even my closest friends didn’t know how I felt. I kept it all inside and got through it all with the help of drugs and alcohol.

Graduation came and went. It should have been a more joyful occasion, but it wasn’t. My father decided, to bring his new girlfriend to the ceremony. No amount of begging from my mom, or me would change his mind. He couldn’t even let me have a happy memory. Instead of sitting together, my father’s family sat with him and my mother’s family sat with her. My family didn’t meet me out on the football field after the ceremony; they watched from the stands and then left.

I decided to hold off on going away to school for a year so that I could be around if my mom needed me. While my best friend enrolled in the University of Texas, I enrolled at the local community college with plans to move to Austin the next year. I never even finished my second semester.  I dropped all of my classes because I liked partying and going to the clubs more than I liked getting up and going to class. I spent most nights partying and drinking. I continued to binge and purge. There were some mornings that I woke up and had no idea how I had even gotten home.

Throughout this time it is truly amazing that I never got pulled over for DWI, or worse, killed someone while driving drunk. My relationship with my father got worse. I didn’t want anything to do with the other woman, who by now had married my dad. He couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t accept her and welcome her into the family. I couldn’t believe he would choose her over his family. It disgusted me. It’s been many years and I’ve moved on, but it still disgusts me to this day. She knew he was married and had a family. He is definitely not blameless, but she should have walked away. The Army moved them away for several years and I rarely heard from my father, which suited me fine.  I stopped partying and drinking and got help with my eating disorder.

Eventually, I went back to college and graduated from the University of Texas. I met a man and we fell in love quickly. Our whirlwind relationship quickly went from dating to engaged to married. It was nearing our tenth anniversary when I discovered that my husband was having an affair. I thought we had the perfect marriage. I thought I was everything that he wanted and needed. We had two children and were living the American Dream, weren’t we?

I couldn’t believe that another “other woman” was about to destroy my family. I decided at that moment that I was not going to roll over and lose my marriage. I loved him. He had hurt me, he had devastated me, but I was going to fight for my family. I immediately set up marriage counseling for the two of us. The other woman isn’t totally to blame, I know that.

One night after therapy the counselor told me that I didn’t need to come back to see her. I was surprised and asked her why.  She told me that I was one of the strongest people she had ever encountered. She told me that she had no doubt that I would save my marriage and that after I saved my marriage I should write a book on how to do so. Really? I am thankful to her, because she not only helped me with my marriage issues, but she helped me work through a lot of issues with my father and my self-esteem.

The past six years since I discovered the affair have been long, but my husband and I are still together and our marriage is stronger than it has been in many years. 

My relationship with my father has improved, too. Eventually, as I matured, I realized that I needed my father in my life. Shortly before I got married, I thought about eventually having children, and the thought of my father not being in their lives didn’t seem right. I decided to put aside my anger and start building a relationship with him. I am thankful to have my dad in my life; he and his wife are a large part of our family.

Some days I look in the mirror and see that person who is still very unsure of herself. Fortunately, most days I look and see the strong woman that I’ve become. I strive to be that strong woman daily.

put aside anger


Jeanne said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for taking the time to reflect and pass it our way.