Oct 27, 2018

The Weight of Gaining Weight

First, let me apologize for not updating my blog for over a year! I'm such a slacker, and I'm truly sorry. I normally write when I feel compelled to share something, and I just haven't been that inspired as of late. This post though has been on my mind for quite some time. I hope it helps anyone that understands what I'm about to talk about.

After my surgery, things got so much better. I still have to go in for endoscopies to stretch my stomach so I can eat, but eating has been much better. For those of you that don't know, throwing up is a part of my daily routine (TMI right?! LOL). Over the last several months, it's gotten better. It's been amazing to see how my body is healing, and getting healthy, every single day.

Okay, let's dive in and talk about WEIGHT. Since 2005, I have NEVER gained weight. In fact the exact opposite. I have lost weight continually for years, and years. It led me to get down to 112lbs on the day of my surgery last year. Since then though, it's amazing how well my body is doing. I have been able to gain weight to the point where I'm back to where the doctors want me to be. I currently weigh 153lbs, which is absolutely incredible to me! That being said, it hasn't been easy. In fact, it's been downright HARD!

I know it probably sounds stupid considering I almost died from starvation, but gaining weight has kind of rocked my psyche a bit. Going to the doctor, and getting on the scale to see what I weigh, just freaks me out. When I see it, I always take a gulp. I mean could I really be 153lbs?! As insane as it may be, gaining this weight has been hard. I have this constant terror inside me, that I may possibly gain too much weight. I know that sounds crazy, but you have to realize that I literally haven't gained 1lb since 2005. Putting on weight now is just a little tough mentally.

It started this summer when I was in Sweden (which was AMAZING!). I noticed some of my clothes were fitting tighter than usual. I didn't think anything of it at the time because I was traveling and figured my body was swollen. That wasn't the case though. As the month there went on, I realized that I had put on my first weight since my surgery. It was a little hard to handle, but I dealt with it. 

When I returned home from Sweden, I continued to gain weight, to the point of where I am now. It was a shock to have the clothes that have fit me for 10 years, suddenly be too tight. I know it shouldn't bother me. I mean hell, I LITERALLY almost died from starving to death, and now I'm gaining weight, and I think that's a bad thing?! Am I insane?! The answer, yeah. I am a little insane.

You have to realize that my entire childhood, and into my early adult years, I was morbidly obese. The fear of seeing those numbers go up, and up, on that scale scared me to death! All I could think of is that it wasn't going to stop, and I was going to put back on all my weight. My crazy brain was wrong about that though.

When I hit the weight I am now and had to buy a bunch of new clothes, my weight leveled out. It blew my mind because I wasn't expecting that. My body got to where it's comfortable being, and it's stayed there. You would think that I would've been overjoyed that I put on weight and that I was back to the exact healthy weight that the doctors wanted. Wrapping my head around my new "fuller" figure was a little bit more difficult though.

I'm lucky to have the most amazing husband that has ever walked to earth. He married me when I was 180lbs. Since that day I was slowing dropping weight, day after day, from being sick. To Dave, my new weight is the greatest thing ever! I have more energy, I live a much healthier life, and my husband is so thankful that he has his wife back. He's constantly telling me how beautiful I am, and that he's so grateful that I've put on weight. He's truly my angel.

Let me see if I can help you understand why this has been hard for me. My greatest fear is losing control and becoming obese again. I don't really have many fears in life except spiders. I freaking hate spiders. Other than spiders though, my true, one and only fear, is that I'll become overweight, and no longer be healthy. Putting on the smallest amount of weight is something that kind of makes my stomach turn. I have to focus though and remind myself that it's an amazing gift from God that I'm actually able to eat and be healthy once more. It really is a gift, and I now have a third, no fourth, chance to truly live. I'm alive, and it's incredible!

I'm truly so grateful for this amazing body that just keeps going. I'm so thankful for the weight that I've put on, and for the energy, and true health it's given me. Even though it's hard, it's the greatest gift I've ever been given. I truly can't believe that I'm able to live a normal life once more. It really is amazing.

Yes, I'm still in constant pain from my stomach. Yes, I still throw up every single day. Yes, I still have to have my bra off to eat food, and so lunch dates aren't my favorite thing in the world, but more than anything, Yes, I've put on weight, and it's phenomenal!! I'm truly the most blessed, and luckiest, girl on the planet! I can't believe I'm even alive to write this post.

Thank you so much to each of you that helped me pay for my medical expenses. I'll never be able to repay your incredible kindness, and generosity. What you amazing humans did for me, touches my heart more than I can ever express. You truly saved my life and helped me live. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Because of each of you, I'm alive. It's more than that though. I'm living! I'm literally able to live each day and have the energy to go out and do things. It's amazing to me each and every day. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Dave and I both, are so incredibly grateful.

I hope this post doesn't come across as me complaining about my weight. That's not the purpose of it. I just wanted to share my feelings about my fears, and also let each of you know that I'm doing incredibly well because of YOU! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! I couldn't have done this without you!

Mar 27, 2017

Update on Jilly

It's amazing to me what a little food can do for you. This week they brought my TPN which is basically my food put through an IV. The Picc line goes in my upper arm and straight to my heart more or less. It pumps my food into my 24/7. I have a bad that carries my food and all my picc supplies. That bag goes with me everywhere, and if I'm being honest, I'm really sick of it. It's okay though because it's keeping me alive and that's all that matters right now.

Thank you to all of you for your help and support with my GoFundMe campaign. I have some awesome news to update you. We'll be changing the number to just cover the surgery right now. Up until today we were having to pay out of pocket for my TPN. The insurance contacted my doctor this week and said that they would now be covering my TPN. I can't tell how you HUGE that is! It was costing $3700 a day, and to have that weight lifted is amazing! Now, we'll just have to raise $25,000 for my surgery. It still feels like a HUGE number, but because of your generosity and support, I know we'll get there!

The surgery is scheduled for April 3rd. Until that time I'm not able to have anymore visitors because of my picc. They want it to stay as sanitary as possible inside our little home, so people aren't able to come over especially if they've been sick. My nurses and family are about all that are allowed at the moment. 

So many of you have sent gifts, texts, meals, phone calls, and so much more, and I can't thank you enough. I don't always respond to every text because life gets in the way, but please know how much they mean to me and how appreciative I am for all your love and support. I look forward to getting better so I can be with all of you again.

Dave and I just want to tell you all how touched and humbled we are by all your love. The first time we went through this, we often felt alone. This time it has been so different. We truly can't thank you enough, or tell you how humbling it is to feel of all your love. We're so very blessed to have each of you.

Thank you for all your prayers. I feel them. God sends me strength everyday and I can't express what that means to me. I know without you I wouldn't be able to keep going, so thank you for your prayers in my behalf. It's a truly touching experience.

I'll make sure to keep each of you updated on how things are going. Here's the link to my GoFundMe in case any of you missed it before: Help Jilly Strasburg Live
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

Mar 19, 2017

Help Jilly Strasburg Live

I never thought I'd be writing a post like this again. Some of you know a little bit about what I'm going to share today through my Facebook or Instagram posts, but now you'll know the full story. For those of you that haven't followed my insta or FB, I've been having some health issues. I've been having the same health struggles I had 8 years ago at this exact same time. I got married 8 years ago on March 14, 2009, and by the end of March I was in the hospital unable to eat or drink anything. Unfortunately I feel like I'm living in a deja vu world because it's all happening again. And again, they don't know why.

Most of you know that I had gastric bypass in 2005. I had amazing results and never had any complications until 2009. A month after I got married, I was rushed into the ER with a bowel obstruction. From there I went the next year being unable to eat anything. When I say anything, I literally mean anything. I started at 180lbs. and within 1 year I weighed 127lbs. I was being kept alive by an IV.

In April of 2010 a doctor did a surgery that had never been done before and gave me a 10% chance of living through it. Well, not only did I live through it, but I thrived. They found that 6 feet of my small bowel had twisted and died. Once they cut that out, I could finally eat. It was amazing to say the least. Ever since then though, I've had to go in for an endoscopy every 2 months to have the opening of my stomach that leads into my small bowel, stretched. It makes it stay open so I can eat. It's worked great for the last 8 years. It's worked great until about 3 months ago.

For the last 3 months I've been slowly unable to eat. It started with big things at first, and now I'm unable to keep any food down. I can still keep liquid at times, but mainly IV's are keeping me alive. I've dropped down to 114lbs. when I started at 155. They've done an endoscopy once a week for over 2 months now, but nothing has helped. My stomach just won't stay open, and food isn't moving through. The next step from here is surgery. 

I'm terrified of surgery for a lot of reasons. When they initially did a bowel resection in 2009, it made everything worse. It's when things started to get really bad. It's what lead to them doing 12 surgeries in 1 year. It was one of the hardest years of my life, but I had obviously forgotten how mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, it truly is. These past few months have been hell. I throw up between 20-30x a day. I keep losing weight no matter what I do. I'm more dehydrated than I thought anyone could be, and I'm more exhausted than I've felt in a long time. It's okay though, because I'm alive. As long as God will keep letting me open my eyes, I'll keep fighting. I can deal with my crap, it's just watching those around me suffer, that make this so hard.

I forgot how emotional people get when they see someone they love, dying. Some of my family members saw me for the 1st time since December yesterday, and they broke down into tears. Every time someone see's me that hasn't seen me in awhile gets this look that only shock brings on. I'm starting to get used to it, but it still scares the hell out of me every time I see it. I haven't gotten use to people hugging me, and breaking down into tears because they can feel my bones poking out. You see, when you're sick, you get used to the way you look. You get used to being skin and bones, and not noticing when you've lost another 5lbs. All you notice is that your size 0 clothes are no longer fitting, and there's not anything else you can do. More than anything though, I forgot how draining it is on my sweet husband. I tell him all the time that I wouldn't trade places with him. I mean it too. I don't think I could sit back and watch him die. He's the strongest person I know for this, and so many other reasons.

Last night I was running to the bathroom to throw up, when I couldn't hold it any longer. I threw up in the hallway. I collapsed to the ground, and cried. I was crying out of frustration, anger, and because I was so weak. Without me even hearing him, he scooped me right up into his arms. He cradled me, took me to the bathroom to clean me up, and then picked me back up and carried me to bed. He does this all the time. It's the norm for Dave now to hold my hair back while I vomit, hug me in a giant bear hug as I cry when I'm done, and he's constantly cleaning out my "throw up bowl." I don't know how I got so lucky to have him, but I'm so grateful he's mine. I couldn't fight this without him.

So what are we supposed to do is what I'm sure you're asking yourself. We're asking ourselves the same thing. The question of, "What do we do now?" is a constant theme in my home. It looks like our next step is surgery. We've tried everything else we can think of, but it looks like we have to start taking drastic measures because I keep getting thinner, and weaker, with each passing day. The dilemma is the same as last time. The doctor doesn't know what's going on because from what he can tell, everything should be working. That means it'll be another exploratory surgery. One where we hope we can find the problem, and figure all this out. Until I can pay for that surgery, I'll just keep living by the grace of the IV that gives me enough fluid to survive each day, but not much more.

I'm letting you all know this because I need to ask for your help. Surgery, my IV therapy, my endoscopies, and frequent hospital visits are costing more than my insurance will cover, and more than I have. We've done everything we can, and we're doing our best, but it seems like our best just isn't good enough. The hospitals want to be paid in advance before they work on me because of my situation and because of the bill I've already run up. 

This is something we never thought we'd have to do again, but we're once more asking for your compassion, and grace. Asking for help is something that doesn't come naturally to most people, and as badly as I wish I could afford all my medical treatment, there's just no way. Our family has helped so much, but they've done all they can. For me to get the help I need and to continue living, we have to ask for help from strangers. 

Dave and I have set up a "Go Fund Me" account to help cover the costs of my medical treatments and surgery (April 3rd) in the fight to help me live. Anything you can give is appreciated. If all you can give is prayers and good thoughts, then we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for that. We understand that money is tight for a lot of people, and that most of us just don't have any extra to give, but if you could help us cover the medical costs of my upcoming surgery(ies) we'd be so grateful.

The last time we went through this ordeal we asked for $25,000 which we were so lucky to raise. Your kindness meant more to us than you'll ever know. We learned from that experience that the surgery actually cost a little over $65,000. That wasn't including the hospital stays etc. which is why I make a monthly payment to the hospital, and probably will for the rest of my life. That's okay though, because I'm alive. As long as I keep getting to wake up each day, I'll try my hardest to not get frustrated by things that are out of my control. 

This time we are asking your help to raise $49,000 to cover all the costs that it will take to cover my journey back to health. However much you can give is so appreciated, and we can't thank you enough.

Dave and I know we'll get through this, just like last time, but in the meantime we'd be so grateful for your good thoughts, prayers, good energy, love and light, etc. We just can't do this alone, so all the help we can get is so appreciated. Here is the link to our Go Fund Me page:
Jilly's Go Fund Me 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below. Thank you again for all your love and support during this really hard time. 
All our love,
Jilly and Dave Strasburg

Nov 29, 2016

Win a Baby

(This is what our video looks like)

Hey everyone! As most of you know, Dave and I have been unable to make a baby in the past 8 years of our marriage. Infertility has been a constant struggle, and such an incredibly hard trial. About a month ago I heard about a contest on our local radio station 97.1 ZHT They are giving away a baby! Well, they're giving away IVF (in vitro fertilization). It's the process used to help couples with infertility issues, be able to get pregnant and have a child. The whole process is worth $25,000!!  You heard that right! They're giving 1 lucky couple the chance to be parents!

As I'm sure you've guessed, the reason for this post is to ask for your help. We had to make a 4 min. video asking for people to vote for us, so that we could win the opportunity to be parents. Dave and I both know that we're not anymore deserving of becoming parents, than any other couple in this contest. Every one of them deserve this gift. We're just hoping that after you watch our video, you'll find it in your hearts to vote for us.

To vote, you click on this link. Then, scroll through the videos (because I don't have a direct link) and look for the video that looks like the picture above. That's us!!
ONE THING though. You can only vote ONCE from ONE EMAIL, ONCE PER DAY. If you vote more than once a day, we will be disqualified. They have to keep this fair for everyone, so we ask that you only vote once from one email address. Other than that, you're good to go!

We can't tell you how much we'd appreciate your help, in helping us create our forever family. We have so much love to give, and want to share that love with a little baby. We'd be eternally grateful for your help in bringing baby Strasburg to us.

Thank you for all your love, and all your incredible support over the years. We're so lucky to have each of you in our lives. Thank you for taking the time to watch our video and vote for us. Have a wonderful Holiday Season from our family to yours!

Jilly and Dave 

Jul 23, 2016

Jilly's Bi-Polar Self

Yesterday was a fabulous day. I went out and about, saw friends, went out to eat, and ended the day by talking to one amazing lady. It's amazing to me that I can have a day like I did yesterday and wake up today, unable to get out of bed and tears streaming down my face. It's moments like this when I have to take a deep breath and remember that tomorrow will come, the sun will come up, and 95% of the time this darkness that is surrounding me today, will disappear, and I'll even out. Even knowing that though, there are still those days where sometimes I cry.

I know having a Bi-Polar 1 disorder is something that will never go away, and it will always determine a little bit of my life. That's not bad though because my Bi-Polar makes me who I am, and I'm very proud of that girl. I look back in life and realize all that I've overcome, all that I've learned about myself and my illness, and how I've taken back control of my life. It's an incredible feeling. It's the feeling that I try to hold onto when I'm surrounded by darkness. That's not always easy though.

I know that today is going to be a hard day. I'll cry uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Most things are going to make me sad. I'll turn off my phone, and shut out the world, and I'm okay with that. Days like this only come once a month, and I now know how to manage them. I know what dosage of what medications to take when it gets to be too much. I know how to refocus on the tears, and not let them overwhelm me, but accept that they're just going to come. I know what to do when the darkness becomes too much, and I have to reach for help from Dave. I know that if it goes into tomorrow, that that's too long, and so I take a pill that will make me crash for 24 hours, but it will restart my system. Most of the time though, I have learned to embrace the pain, and allow myself to hurt. I embrace the tears and know that they won't last forever, and this too shall pass. I have learned to accept this rapid cycling disease I live with, and know that tomorrow isn't too far away. I can make it. I'll get there.

We all have bad days. We all have moments that aren't our best. There's nothing wrong with that. It's okay to take a "me" day and do anything and everything you have to do to just make it through the day. Whether that's watching mind numbing TV all day, or listening to your Nirvana (my current choice) as you lay in bed and let the tears fall from your eyes, or if it's forcing yourself to take a walk out in the sunshine and feel the heat on your face to help remind you that you're alive, there's nothing wrong with any of this. We all need a day that's just for us regardless if we're happy or sad. The sooner we learn to accept that we need a day to become a better you, even a day to just survive, so that tomorrow you can try again, it's okay. Don't feel bad about it, regret it, or allow yourself to put yourself down because you need that. You're human. You have good days and bad, and the sooner you can embrace that fact, the better your life will be.

I used to try to fight the darkness. I still do when it gets too dark, but part of me has learned to embrace the dark. I have some of my most beautiful thoughts, talks with God, and journal entries, when I'm wrapped in darkness. What I've learned is that I just can't allow myself to stay in that darkness. I've had to learn how to escape it when it becomes too encompassing. When it becomes too overwhelming, I've learned how to ask for help. I've learned how to reach for the light, when that darkness is so strong I can't simply "pull myself out of it." It's been a learning process, but I'm there. I still have so much more to learn, but I feel so good about how far I've come.

Today is a "Jill" day. Today is all about me, and I'm going to choose to be selfish. I'm going to choose to stay in bed, and not step one foot outside my door today. I'm going to stay in my pajamas, have mascara stained cheeks because I'm not spending the energy to get up and wash my face, and I'm going to allow Dave to love me, cater to me, and make his day all about me, and it's all okay. 

I'll wake up tomorrow ready to try again. My rapid cycling will kick in and most likely by tonight this darkness will be gone, and I'll be back to being me, but for this moment in time, for this day and this day alone, it's all about me. I'm allowed to hurt. I'm allowed to cry. I'm allowed to be swallowed up in self pity, and pain. I'm allowed that because I know I won't allow it to last. For today though, it's going to be all about me, and that's okay.

The beauty about my Bi-Polar is that all of you can relate whether your emotions are dictated by an illness, or just life. All of you understand what it's like to have a bad day. Those bad days give us the capability of loving another when they are having a dark day. It makes us more empathetic, more loving, more kind, softer, more understanding, and more selfless. Embrace your bad days because you're allowing someone else to become a better person by loving you and helping you through it. We need each other. We need light and dark. We need strength and weakness. What would the world be like if we were all robots that just went through the motions? Life would be horrendous, dull, and awful. We need light and dark so we can be better human beings. It's what makes us different from every living creature in this world. It makes us human, and being human is a beautiful gift.

Today I'm sad. Today I'll cry. Today I'll leave the cell off, and lay in my bed (with the sun pouring in because I still need some light) and listen to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Pink Floyd (specifically "Shine on you Crazy Diamond"), and focus on my breath. I'll focus on the simple fact that I'm alive, and that's good enough for today. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be brighter. Tomorrow I'll be back, but today is a Jill day. Today is just about me. Today is a chance for me to become a better person, so that tomorrow I can love someone through their darkness. So, thank you for my dark days life. Thank you for pain. Thank you for allowing this day to hurt, so that I can become better. Thank you for my depression.

Jul 13, 2016

My Rock

 As many of you know after my last few posts, I was in an abusive relationship, and shortly after that ended, I was raped. During this time in my life, I felt like I was spinning out of control. I felt as though no matter what I did, I couldn't function normally. I was scared to do even the most basic of things, such as walking to the sidewalk to pick up my mail from my mailbox, or leaving my house at all. 

These events that had happened to me, were controlling my life, and therefore I was literally disabled from living. I could barely breathe, let alone confront the outside world. It was at this time that I started therapy. That decision to go every week for those 7 years, was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It gave me my life back. It made me be able to live without fear. It gave me a 2nd chance.

After I was raped, I had to take life 60 seconds at a time. What I mean by that is that I would have to tell myself, "Okay Jill, you made it through the last 60 seconds, so you can make it another 60 seconds." Anything more than those 60 seconds, was impossible to face. There were some days where it was every 30 seconds. During this time, when my PTSD was controlling my life, I had to find something that would bring me peace, something that would help get me through the day. That's when I found my rock.

When I started therapy I was a wreck mentally, and emotionally. I felt as though I was used, and would never be lovable again. I felt like I was a dysfunctional woman and I'd never again be a whole person. I was broken. After all, how could someone love me, want me, and accept me, after all I had been through? How could someone want to have someone in their life that's broken?

It was at this time that my therapist recommended having a physical item that could bring me peace. Something that I could focus all my energy on when my anxiety made it impossible to breathe. Something that made it okay for me to slowly start leaving my home. Something that gave me courage, strength, determination, and peace. That "something" was a perfectly oval, and pure white, river rock. Yes, a physical rock.

When I first started carrying my rock with me, it had little bumps, and crevices, all over it. Whenever my PTSD/Anxiety, would grip me, I'd hold that rock in my hand and rub my thumb back and forth, all over it. Over time I slowly smoothed out that surface. My once bumpy, and rough rock, started to become smooth, and even more beautiful. It also made me able to start to live again.

I carried this rock with me everywhere I went. I would have it in my pocket, and when I felt like I couldn't take another breath, I would start to rub my rock, and force myself breathe. I had made it 60 seconds. I could make it 60 more. 

At night when my thoughts overwhelmed me, and I couldn't sleep, I would hold my rock and rub it, forcing myself to take deep breaths. I don't know exactly what it was about this rock, but it was helping me cope. It was helping me focus. It was helping me live.

After about 4 years of having my rock, it started to wear down in the middle where my thumb would run over it. It almost looked as though I was starting to make a very small bowl. The bowl shaped rock, was proof that I was gaining control again. 

This rock showed me that I could do anything. I could have strength to overcome my obstacles. It symbolized that what I had gone through, was not going to control my life. I was going to take that power back. I was going to go from being rough, sharp, and bumpy, to something smooth, strong, and beautiful. Those were things that I never thought would be possible again.

As time went on, I no longer lived 60 seconds at a time. It progressed to 3 minutes, then 5, then 25, then an hour. Over the course of those 7 years, I was finally able to live without being overtaken by time. I was able to simply wake up and live. I was finally able to start seeing the good in life again. I was starting to become "Jilly" again.

After those 7 years in counseling, I had slowly started to not need to go as much. I was now having an appt every month instead of every week. I was able to go back to the park where I was raped. I was able to speak to women in abused women classes about what happened to me, and how I was overcoming it. I was able to take these horrible experiences, and shape them into something beautiful. I was healing, and it all started with that rock.

I'll never forget the day when I realized that I didn't need that rock anymore. I had gone from carrying it with me 24/7 to carrying it in my purse, to then leaving it in the car, up to the day when I put that rock on a shelf in my bedroom, and walked away. It was the most carefree that I had been in over 7 years. It was the most peace I'd felt in over 7 years. It was the most beautiful feeling I'd ever had. The only way I can describe it, is that I felt alive again. I had overcome the darkness that enveloped me, and started to exude light.

The other day, Dave and I were having our pictures taken by one of the most beautiful Humans on the planet. Keith Baskett has a gift that I've never seen in anyone I've ever met. He has the ability to see light in someone, and then capture it. He has the capacity to see you as the most incredible person on earth, and he makes it possible for you to see that as well. He's simply an incredibly gifted photographer.
While getting these pictures taken, I was telling Dave about my rock, and why it was so special to me. The story got brought up because we were on the bank of a creek, and looking at all these beautiful, and unique rocks. As I was telling Dave my rock story, tears filled my eyes. I hadn't really ever told anyone about that story. The reason I was crying was because I saw for the first time, how far I had actually come. How I had overcome those particular trials in my life. I realized that I was able to love again, but more importantly I KNEW that I was once again lovable. It was such an amazing moment for me.

This picture is the most beautiful picture I've ever had taken, because it captured that moment. It captured everything that I had feared would be lost forever. It showed that I could tell my story without pain. It showed that I was proud of the woman I've become. It showed that I was able to be loved completely, and unconditionally, by another person in this world. The most incredible moment that this picture captured though, is that I was finally able to love Jill again. I love the person I've become, and it all started with my rock.

If you are struggling, or experiencing any of the feelings that I've experienced over the last 10 years of my life, you're not alone. Those feelings of loss, self criticism, pain, worthlessness, sorrow, guilt, remorse, anxiety, and feeling like you're unlovable, are very real, but they're not true. 

You're worthy of being loved again. You're an incredible person, and you touch people's lives. You're important to many. You're important to me. You're enough just as you are. Most importantly though, is that you can do hard things, and come out on top. I know this because I've done it.

My hope to any of you reading this post, is that if you do feel some, or all, of these feelings, you'll know that you're not alone. You'll never be alone. I know that because you have me. You have someone that understands your pain, and heartache, and I still love you. You matter to me, and you're special to me. 

If you can find the smallest piece of faith, know that you can overcome your hard times too. If you're too weak right now to have faith in yourself, let me offer my faith to you. I know you can do this. I know that you can become all that you want to be. I know that because I've done it. It is possible. You can get your life back. I promise. You can learn to live again too.

Jun 5, 2016

18 and Worthless

I'll never forget that sunny morning a few days after my Birthday in 2002. It was 2 days after my 18th Birthday, and I was living in Sugarhouse (a suburb of Salt Lake City). I woke up that day and decided to go run around the lake at Sugarhouse park. I wasn't scared, or apprehensive in the least. It's an extremely safe park, the sun was coming up at 5:30am because it was summer, and I was all ready to listen to my new playlist I made specifically for working out.

As I made my way around the lake, I was completely unaware of my surroundings. I was rocking out to Britney Spears, and I was focused on my run. I didn't notice as this car had slowly inched up next to me. When it got super close to me, I'll never forget the feeling I had. All of my senses started firing, and I started to panic. I went to run as fast as I could, but it was too late. He had grabbed me and forced me into his car. I knew this was a horrible start to what would come to be one of the worst days of my life.

He was an African American man, at least 6'9", over 300 lbs of pure muscle. He was terrifying. When he grabbed me, he picked me up like I was a rag doll.  I knew I had to fight because if I got in that car, I knew what would happen. It was no use though. He had me, and I there was no chance for me to escape.

When I'm scared, my body freezes up. I can't move, I can't scream, I can't function. I start to shake uncontrollably, and I'm not even able to cry. If you've ever been this terrified, you know it's one of the worst feelings in the world. You're unable to defend yourself, let alone think to do anything that will help your situation.

He drove on the still empty streets of the park and found a secluded area. He then proceeded to rape me. I kicked, I clawed, I tried to bite, I did anything my brain could think of, yet nothing helped. He was too big, too strong, and too overpowering, for me to be able to defend myself whatsoever. It was one of the scariest and worst feelings of my life. The only thing I could think is, "Jill you have to survive. You MUST survive."

You have to realize that when something like this happening to you, you're terrified of what comes next. Basic human nature is to survive, and now knowing that I was defenseless against him; all I could focus on was letting him do whatever he was going to do to me, but I just make it out alive. It worked.

As he finished with me, he threw me out of his car with the pile of my ripped clothes. I was now standing in the park, half naked, terrified, and alone. I didn't have my cellphone, so all I could do was run back to my house. All I could focus on was the dirty, and disgusting feeling that surrounded me.  I somehow thought this was my fault. I didn't want anyone to know about it.

I got home, threw all my clothes in the garbage, went inside, and called my therapist.  She called me back instantly and had me come in. I knew that I wasn't supposed to shower after an attack, so I didn't. I went and spoke with my therapist and she recommended going to talk to the police. That's exactly what I did.

When I was sitting with an officer, I explained what happened. He had me do a rape kit, and then proceeded to tell me, that rape cases don't ever get solved. It's his word against mine. Especially since I didn't know who it was, it would be in my best interest to just let it go.  That's exactly what I did.

I can't describe how hard the next few years were after that.  I felt dirty, as though no one would ever want me. I felt used, and disgusting; like garbage. I felt like I was nothing. I didn't matter, my life wasn't important, and mostly, God didn't love me. He allowed me to get raped because he thinks I'm a bad person. I took all the blame from that day onto me.

After years of therapy, I'm finally able to speak about my rape with no bad feelings. I can tell other women about it, and let them know that they too can heal. Your life is yours, and no one can make you dirty and disgusting. A special gift was taken from you, but it doesn't need to define you. You're not bad, or evil, or unloved, because of a situation that was out of your control. Something bad simply happened to you, but you can heal, and let love in again. 

About 9 years after my rape, I finally got justice. Over 47 women had now come forward against the same man that raped me. They too had been violated. They were much stronger than I was. I'm so thankful for their strength. They are the women that put this animal behind bars for life. Thank you for your courage, and resilience. These women allowed me to feel safe again.

It's amazing what we can go through as human beings. It's amazing how something can damage us for life, or how we can use what happened to us, to help others. I had to figure out a way to recover from that horrible day, and then use that recovery to help other women going through the same thing. It's been an empowering tool for me to use to help other women not feel so alone.

There's a quote that I saw this morning that stuck out to me. It's by Brigitte Nicole. 
"One of the most courageous decisions you'll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul."

You can recover. You can move on. You're not worthless, or unworthy of love. You had something bad happen to you, but you are not bad. You are more important that you realize, and more powerful than you think. Be brave. Be strong. Be courageous. Be You. Most importantly though, know that you're never alone. Reach out. Someone will be there to catch you when you fall. You can do this. I know you can because I'm living proof.

Apr 7, 2016

Pearls Before Swine

I don't know how many of you know the scripture Matthew 7:6, but here it is, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." 
I'm starting my blog off with this because this is the basis of how my husband treats me. Let's start from the beginning.
When Dave and I first met, and even on our 1st couple dates; Dave looked at me as a girl he'd date a few times, make out with, get drunk with, and then, onto the next. If we're being honest, that's how we felt about each other. Neither of us were looking for a relationship. We thought the other person was hot, so let's kick it for a few days and move along. Isn't this the point of dating? Meet a ton of different people, learn what you like and don't, and have as much fun as possible?! At least, that was my point of dating experiences.
After hanging out with each other a few times though, things changed between Dave and me. We both felt it, we were aware that it was happening, and that meant that things were going to be different. Nothing scared me more in my life. It scared the hell out of Dave too. What scared him the most though, was realizing that I was the girl his Dad has raised him to love, and protect.
A little about my Father in Law. He and my mother in law have been married 40 years (I think. Don't quote me). Lou, (my father in law) treats Paula, (my mother in law) like she is the most precious thing on this earth. I've never met a more respectful, classy, protective, and non-controlling man, in all my life. He treats his wife the way that he taught his son to treat his future wife. He treats her as though she's the hope diamond. The most precious thing on this earth. He never degrades her, speaks poorly about her, and really just chooses to leave her out of conversations, unless it's speaking about her in the most high regard.
When my friends met Dave, they thought it was weird how he wouldn't talk about our intimate life. He would smile as his friends and mine, spoke about their relationships. He'd laugh at their stories, and have great conversations about them and their lives. He simply chose to never discuss ours. My friends thought that he was controlling, insecure, and didn't love me like I claimed. I would simply smile and tell them that I understood why they felt that way. The truth is though, is that he loves me perfectly.
To this day my Dad will make funny jokes, he's a pervert and is always making some funny comment about sex. Dave and I are constantly laughing at him. Dave's friends will text him about little funny quirks in their personal relationships, and he simply listens. Something Dave has never done though, is follow up about a story with me. He protects me. He keeps me safe. He keeps me separate from the world. Why does he do this? As Dave told me today in a text, "You're too good for this world."
I'm not telling you this to say how amazing I am, because that's simply not true. I'm telling you this because I never in a million years, imagined that I would be treasured in such a way. I never knew that THIS existed. I didn't know that there was a love and respect above anything that I had ever known in my life. I didn't know that there was a love where your entire purpose is to protect that person. Now I do.
You moms and dads understand this love. You protect your children. You shield them from the world. You make sure you don't say certain things to them. You don't allow them to hear certain stories, you don't like them to be cussed in front of, and you protect them from people that would otherwise hurt them. You protect them like they're special, because they are. Dave doesn't love me like you love your children, but he protects me in the same way.
Dave is part of a group of men online. They're all friends and they discuss everything. Just like I have my friends that come sit on my couch and talk about everything with me; he has them. We'll talk about stuff that they say, and it cracks me up. I asked him one time if they know about me. He said, "Of course not. They're not good enough to know you." It hit me then, stronger than it ever had before. For the 1st time since we got married 3 years before, it clicked why he would always say, "You're my Pearl." He loves me and protects me as though I'm the most special gem in the world. He doesn't talk about our life, share our intimate details with others, or let people know the truly unique parts of our life, because he chooses to not "cast his pearls before swine." It's a choice.
I'm not saying that people are bad, and that I'm amazing. If that's what this sounds like, forgive me. That's not my point. My point is to simply thank my husband for treating me like my Dad always taught me to strive for. The way that he loved and protected me when I was little. He treats me how I deserve to be treated, because I cherish him like he deserves. I love him the way he deserves. I respect, and honor him the way that I was taught by my mother. 
Dave loves me, and I love him. Because of that love, we protect ourselves from everything in this world that would look to hurt that bond that we have with one another. We've chosen to put our marriage first. We've chosen to love the other person, respect the other person, and protect the other person, the way that we want to be loved, respected, and protected. 
Marriage is a sacred experience. I'm talking about EVERY MARRIAGE ON EARTH. Marriage is sacred. It's special. It's something to be treasured and protected. You've made a commitment to one another that it's you against the world. You've chosen to walk with that person by your side, as your partner in crime. There's nothing more special, rare, or sacred, as a marriage between 2 committed human beings. It's sacred because it's a choice that you both make. You both sign on that dotted line. You both hold hands and jump in. You choose them, and they choose you. What's more special than that?
I'm honored to be Dave's chosen love. I'm blessed that he's allowed me to choose, and have him. I'm lucky to get to wake up every day to his beautiful face, and face everything this life throws at us, together. It's a gift. It's special. There's nothing I'd rather do more. It's hard, it takes work, and it takes commitment. It's the hardest thing that you'll ever experience, and the most beautiful choice you'll ever make. 
The honor I have of being Dave's "Pearl" is the greatest gift I've ever been given. My marriage is the most special thing to me on this earth, and being allowed to do it with the man that cherishes, and loves me, is something that no word could ever do justice. It's simply special. It's beautiful, and special. Nothing will ever compare, and I'm thankful that God loved me enough to send that boy into that gym that day. It'll go down as the greatest day in my life. The day my life changed forever. I wouldn't have it any other way.