I Need To Stop Looking At It

“Can we please just cancel?” I found myself asking him.

I just couldn’t go through with it.

I’ve been seeing this guy for a while now and there are still some family members of his that I haven’t met. The plan was for us to all go out to dinner on Saturday night, but as the day started to draw nearer, I found myself increasingly anxious about going at all.

Later that night as we chatted on the phone and he wondered aloud why I didn’t want to meet his family, I felt myself starting to emotionally shut down.

I didn’t want to tell him what I was thinking.

But when I could feel the conversation turning towards his own insecurities about why I was backing away from his family, I finally mustered up the courage to choke out what I was thinking.

“I’m not the kind of girl that families want to meet.”


He didn’t say anything for a minute, but even though we were talking over the phone, it was easy to sense his confusion and before I knew it my thoughts were falling out all over the place in a long winded ramble of emotions.

“I’m not who parents or siblings want their sons or brothers to date” I said. “I’m a single mom, I have two kids, my husband left me, I live under the poverty line, and I have no family of my own. On the surface, I am not who anyone would want their child or brother to be with, and that’s not what I want your family to learn about me first. If we go out to dinner, I’m trapped. There is nothing I can do but sit across the table from people who love you very much and want to protect you, and answer the questions that they ask me. I mean really, what else can we talk about except for all the typical get-to-know-you questions that people ask? And how am I supposed to answer them? If they ask me about my job, I can either tell them that I’m a writer (but not tell them what I write) or that I run a nonprofit for domestic violence victims (and hope they don’t ask me how I got into that line of work). Naturally they will want to know where my kids father went, and then how is it going to make me look when I tell them that he abandoned me? Was he crazy, or am I? Or should we talk about my family? Because I don’t have one. Or when I ask for a gluten free menu, maybe we can jump into my health history. I just don’t think I can go to this dinner, because I’m not sure what to say that is going to give them any perspective into who I am other than a big red flag.”

“Oh baby,” he sighed. “I didn’t know that you felt this way.”

But I do.

I feel like there are some things that define who I am, way more than I wish they did.

As much as we talk about my kid’s health on here, I tend to gloss over most of my own health issues because even though the genetic disorder we all share plays a huge role in my life, I refuse to let it become my life; I prefer not to be defined by it, so if I don’t want to be defined by it, then I can’t make it the focus of my life.

But that doesn’t mean that the disorder doesn’t exist, or that it doesn’t have some serious implications in the way that it makes me feel.

Being married, my life was infinitely harder because of who my husband was, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that some things about being married were easier, like the simple fact that because he went to work while I stayed home, even if I had the kids with me, I could rest.

But then he left and even though he took a lot of the pain, tragedy, and sorrow with him, he left me alone while I wasn’t in the best of health. Suddenly he was gone and not only was I a sick mother to two young kids, but now I also needed to be a working mother to two small kids.

My body was betraying me, but with kids who were relying on me, I had no choice but to work; no matter how much it hurt.

Today, thanks to a treatment plan that is working very well, many of the health problems that I used to have are memories of the past, but the one consistent issue that I deal with on a 24/7, every minute, of every hour in the day basis, is the chronic joint pain that I get from being so hypermobile (overly flexible). And I’m not just talking about “Oh, my back hurts, I need to take an Advil” pain. I’m talking about the “I need to split my grocery shopping into two consecutive trips, just because I can’t push the cart if it gets too heavy” kind of pain. I’m talking about the “I wake up at least 5 times a night when my hip starts to slide out of the socket, I’ve dislocated my shoulder twice this week, and my back hurts so bad that I’ve been silently screaming since noon” kind of pain. It’s the pain that has me showing up to the chiropractor three times a week and begging the doctor to put my spine back in place kind of pain, and it’s an excruciating kind of pain caused by costochondritis, which causes crushing chest pain that doctors say feels exactly like having a heart attack, that I get to experience at least 3 times a month from a rib that keeps dislocating.

It’s that kind of pain, and then some.

It’s the muscle spasms and thoracic subluxations that make my fingers go numb halfway through writing an article, and it’s the spinal instability that has me ringing my neighbor’s doorbell to see if they can help me get my groceries inside. It’s the little boy that I haven’t been able to consistently pick up since he was an infant, and it’s the handicap placard I have on my car for the days when the pain just gets to be too much. It’s the inconsistency in that some days I can run and dance, and some days it hurts to walk across my living room; it’s the chronic wondering of what the day will hold for me and how I will feel, in a disorder that not many people understand.

It’s that kind of pain; the pain that I try and hide on a daily basis because I do not want pain to become part of my identity.

I do not want this disorder to become more of me than it already is.

But I can’t ignore it, because it’s always there. It’s there when I take my kids to the zoo, and all I really want to do is stay home and snuggle with an ice pack. It’s there when I’m up all night writing, and I know that any other writer would have been able to work twice as fast if their neck had only been hurting half as much.

It’s the inescapable, every day feeling that something just isn’t quite right, and the constant yearning to just convince myself that it will all be OK.

Thankfully this disorder is not going to kill me and I will forever be grateful for that, but that doesn’t mean that it hurts any less today.

Today it hurts, and tomorrow it is still going to hurt.

But you know what?

Like I said, tomorrow it will still hurt.

Yep, it’s true. It really doesn’t matter how much I would like to wish away the pain, I can’t, it’s not possible. It is always going to be with me and I can either lay down and give up my life to it, or I can find ways to live a life amongst it.

And since at 32 years old I’m not willing to give up my entire life, I make the conscious choice on a daily basis to find the happiness in the hand that I was dealt. It’s what I do on those days that I set down the ice pack and take the kids to the zoo, because I’m choosing to thrive on the joy I see in my kids smiling faces. It’s the effort that I put in when I show up every day to the gym, knowing that I’ll never be as strong as the other people that are there much less than I am, but thankful that I am able to do anything at all. It’s the happiness I feel when I run races with my friends, and even though I have to sit out for half of the obstacles, I’m thrilled that I showed up at all. It’s the choice that I make when I stay up all night writing, knowing that it took everyone else half as much time to get their work done, but still wanting to take pride in the job that I am going to finish.

As I was telling the guy I’m seeing the other day, I really can’t think of a moment when something doesn’t hurt. My body, it always hurts, but it’s up to me to work around it and find my own happiness, because the only thing that I can change is what I choose to focus my attention on.

If I don’t want my life to revolve around pain, then I can’t let my life revolve around pain.

It’s very much like the emotional wounds that I have from my rocky past; they will always be there and they will probably always hurt, but unless I want to relinquish myself to a life of pain, I need to find other things to focus on.

But lately that has become a bit hard to do.

It’s really hard not to focus on my past, when I have made it my all consuming present.

I run support groups for women who have been beaten, raped, and often abandoned. I founded a nonprofit for women in the same situations. I am a public speaker on domestic violence. I write a blog on recovering from all of those things. I work as a writer for companies who hire me to write about domestic violence, sexual assault, parental abandonment, and living on welfare. And while I relish the opportunity to use my struggles to get people talking about things that we really need to be talking about, it’s really hard sometimes to move beyond my past when so much of my working life is intricately tied to it.

It is the reason that this blog has been a little bit quieter lately.

I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by trauma at the moment. Not because I’m sad or falling apart, but honestly because I’m trying so hard to focus on the positive and happy things in my life, that it sometimes feels a little emotionally draining to constantly have to talk about things that hurt.

Sometimes I just don’t want to feel hurt.

And thankfully, I’m not. In fact, I’ve been feeling really great lately! Things are going well and I have no real complaints. The Boy Child has been healthy and The Girl Child has been happy as can be with a few new friends at school. I know that the emotional pain from the scars her father caused will always linger, but at the moment I literally could not be any happier to see the yearning for her absent father take a back seat to the happiness that she is finding with her friends. The nonprofit is doing well and I am thrilled to see the dedication and hard work of my team spilling over into the women we are helping. And, as you may have noticed from the first paragraph of this blog, there is a special man in my life that I am excited to share with you soon.

But for now, for now I’m just happy. And do I hurt?

I do.

But I probably always will, and that is just not something that I want to focus on today. So because of that, the blog has been a bit quiet.

And I’m really, really, sorry. I can promise you that I’m not leaving you, that I will keep you all along for the journey, but please understand that this is also part of my journey. I’m walking that line right now between my past and my future, and I’m learning how to balance them both in the way that is the healthiest for me; which sometimes means that I just need to step out of the trauma head space for a while so that I can see the sunlight shining down around me and my future.

The demons aren’t gone, the pain is still there, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m just coming up for air at the moment while I’m learning how to be more than trauma, just like I’ve learned to be more than pain.

I am more than pain, and I am more than trauma, and if I want to really accept that, then I need to live that.

So yes, I will be meeting the family of the guy I’m seeing, but it will not be in a restaurant where the person that I am will be overshadowed by the stories of my past, because I am more than my past. I’m choosing to be more than my past, and that is what I want other people — including all of you — to see.

I want to live in the present and in order to do that, sometimes I need to turn around and stop looking at my past.

In life we will always have things that haunt us, follow us, and claw away at our souls while begging for attention. We will have things that to others, appear to define us, but it is us who gets to decide what defines who we are.

I’m looking forward to the future and everything else that is going to define who I am.

I cannot ignore my DNA just like I cannot undue the past that I have lived, but I don’t have to focus all of my attention on the things that hurt me.

If I want to find things that don’t hurt, then I need to be willing to turn my head and look for them, because constantly looking at my past is not allowing me to look forward to my future.

You are your present, and your present is based on your outlook.

If you want to view your spilled Starbucks and traffic jam on your way to work as the defining factors that ruined your day, then so be it, but it wasn’t the coffee and traffic that ruined your day, it was your acceptance that nothing else good was going to happen, because something bad already did.

But if you choose instead, to focus on everything that went right, well then your day just got a whole hell of a lot better.

In life things will go wrong and sometimes those things will hurt us. We can’t ignore those things, and we must — and should — deal with them, but when we choose to focus all our attention on the things that hurt us most, we stop allowing ourselves to look for anything that will make us feel better.

If you want to be happy, spend more time looking at the things that make you happy.

It really is as simple as that.

I’m not going anywhere, it has just been slow around here because I’m taking a little bit of time to focus on the things that make me happy.


Photo Credits:

(Black and white) Girl covering face

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  • peter
    January 25, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I have no idea how you are able to get through all that goes on in your life. You amaze me. I know you have a limited amount of money, but have you tried any of the software that allows you to speak into a mic and have it type the text for you? That could be helpful during the Times that your hands and fingers are bothering you more than usual. Even with everything it's so great that you're able to stay as positive as you are. You're very inspirational. I'm glad you've been so happy lately. I'll continue to pray for you and your family.

  • Anonymous
    January 25, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I've just spent the last 18 months in intensive therapy mostly due to the fact that my husband, the absolutely love of my life and father of my child, is an alcoholic. And not a cutesy TV sitcom wrapped up in a bow in 25 minutes kind of way….but in a very serious life defining kind of way.I spent several sessions crying to my therapist about how tired I was of talking about it. I was emotionally exhausted. I wanted to live in the present and enjoy the small moments of serenity we had. In fact, we are taking a 5 month hiatus. The reason is so that after the break we can continue our work together but focusing on something else. I felt like I couldn't move onto another important thing in my life unless I quit feeling like I'm shackled to the trauma that is having an alcoholic husband. I didn't want to be held hostage to it anymore. And it will never go away – it will always be a part of my life. But I wanted it to be a part of my life in a way that didn't feel so heavy.Your post completely resonated with me. Thanks for sharing.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 26, 2016 at 9:23 am

      That sounds like a really tough position to be in. I’m so happy that you are getting help, and I hope that the path goes as smoothly as it can for you.

      You can do this! It may not be clear where the road is leading, but you can, and will, find the place where you are supposed to be. Keep your head up, look for the sun, and you will find things that make you happy 🙂


  • Steven Theiss
    January 25, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks for letting us know why things have been quiet here for a while. Take time for yourself and focus on the things you need to focus on to be as healthy and happy as you can be. We'll still be here however long that takes!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 26, 2016 at 9:21 am

      You guys are the best!!

  • Carey H
    January 25, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Sweetheart, you do what you need to do to see your happiness. Remember that your writing, and this blog, don't have to be just about your past or your trauma and pain. When you're ready to come back to writing here, show us your happy. 🙂

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 26, 2016 at 9:28 am

      I will most definitely be sticking around 🙂 It may just be in a bit of a lighter tone! I would miss you guys way too much 🙂

  • Facebook
    January 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Thank you! Thank you for talking about your pain. Thank you for the perspective to finding happiness in what makes you happy and not allowing the things that make you unhappy or hurt you to steal the joy. So many of these things I needed to read today.

  • Facebook
    January 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    I read your blog and your articles that you share elsewhere and they all touch me in some way. It sounds like you are happier and have found a man who accepts you for you. I don't know you, but after reading your stories and this one today, It makes me happier knowing you are on a better path. I hate seeing women in the same predicament. My life isn't as rough as yours, but my past isn't one I like to talk to about either. Not one bit of it. I've tried online dating and going on dates, but then I get, “tell me about your life”, “how was it growing up”, “why did you move to Utah”, “where is your son's dad”, “how come you don't put yourself out there”. I've also felt that I'm not good enough for any great guy and I've always been the type that didn't meet a boyfriend's family, because I knew they wouldn't like me; an ex even told me his mother told him, that I wasn't good enough for him. I realize I'm the only one holding myself back, not just for my own insecurities, but for the safety of my son. Being single and taking care of my son seems to work the best. Anyway, I don't want to type a novel! But thanks for sharing your experiences whenever you can!! You're helping other women by showing them they aren't alone and we can all get through life no matter what.

  • nichole jenkins
    January 25, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Most of us completely get that you may need rest? You are so busy with everything thou do. How could you not want/ need that. Looking at things that are happy is very important to healing after all you have been through.:) like others have said, just take the time you need to.As for the pain. I love warm, actually hot baths. I am played with horrible migraines that leave me incapacitated and warm/hour baths with lavender oil helps calm me. Costorcondritis sucks!! I have had it a few times myself. You are not alone, you are loved, you are important. You need to hear those words too!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 26, 2016 at 9:02 am

      Oh my gosh, the costochondritis. The first time I got it, I literally thought I was dying. Like seriously, “this is the end” type pain. I simply couldn’t fathom how much pain something like that can cause! I’ll have to try the lavender oil bath, it sounds devine!

      And thank you for all your sweet words of understanding and encouragement. I am so blessed to have all of you here with me 🙂

  • Facebook
    January 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    You are a wonderful example on looking at life half full instead of half empty.

  • the luckiest mommy of the universe
    January 26, 2016 at 12:39 am

    My children and I all have EDS. I feel your pain.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 26, 2016 at 6:39 am

      It isn’t much fun is it?

      *Gentle hugs*

  • Natalie
    January 27, 2016 at 2:06 am

    You can use the microphone icon next to your space bar if you are still writing this from your cell phone and Google Docs has that feature built in too!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      January 26, 2016 at 9:26 am

      I have looked into that software and unfortunately it seems like the ones with the good reviews cost an arm and a leg! I love the microphone feature, but I feel like I then have to go back and edit so much that it ends up taking the same amount of time if I were to have just typed it. Maybe I need to learn to speak clearer lol. ENUNCIATE!

      Thank you both for your suggestions!!! You guys are awesome!

  • nichole jenkins
    January 27, 2016 at 7:36 am

    I was 14 the first time I got costocobdritis. It started out as an uncomfortable chest ache but thr time P.E. hit I thought I was dying and my mom rushed to the er.Lavender oil and Epsom salts are amazing in a really warm bath. Sometimes I add lemongrass too.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:33 am

      I’ll have to keep that in mind, thank you! And yes, it does feel like dying!! Or at least what I might assume that feels like!

  • labyorkie
    January 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    I live with constant pain. I'm on disability. My body and I are like two separate entities; I can't control it. I try to push through the pain and I wind up exhausted for days after. Genetics isn't great – I love my nose and nails, I could do without the chronic intractable migraines.I understand that feeling – how would I meet the family of a man? I'm not working, I didn't have kids because the medications I have to take cause birth defects, I have to cancel plans at the last minute because my body once again betrayed me.You – you've overcome (and continue to overcome) so very much. Rather than thinking of items on the red side of the ledger, look at your accomplishments. There are so many. Daily ones. Larger ones. And, you know what matters to the loved ones of a good man? That you make him happy. That you've done the best with your circumstances. That you've learned from less-informed decisions. Sometimes a person is good because their family encouraged love and empathy.I can't pretend to fathom all you've been through. But,every day, you wake up, you do your best. As I've written on Yahoo under your newest post – I wish you all the best; happiness, good health.It can be hard to have to be brave, to push forward to the next day. I've learned that, sometimes, you just have to take it minute by minute until it gets a little bit better.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:42 am

      Thank you so much for your amazing words of encouragement! And look at you, any man’s family would be blessed to meet someone with a heart as kind of yours.

      Here’s to wishing you a pain free day and lots of happiness.


  • Giampiero Serra
    January 27, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Regarding the first part of the blog post, I'll like to say STOP! Just stop judging your self and let that family judge you for who you really are because if you don't you'll always deprive your self of any happiness. Happiness comes from accomplishments and acceptance, so let them accept you. And if they don't its their loss, but we all know they will. There's definitely going to be an initial shock, its just our nature but let it happen and you'll be rewarded for it. Also remember your blogs name “Its Not My (Your) Shame to Bear”, so don't be a shame of you are. I for once just heard of this story, and after reading a bit I'm confident you're an amazing person. Just let other people come to the same realization by knowing who you are and what you've been through.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:43 am

      Thank you Giampiero, that’s a great reminder, thank you for sharing that with me 🙂


  • peter
    January 29, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I have to admit I have that problem using the microphone thing, too. Probably 95% of the time it does a great job. The other 5% I'm wondering how it came up with what it writes because it sounds nothing like what I said. Haha And editing it's certainly not fun on a cell phone. Maybe some awesome fan can buy that software for you. ? I wish I could but missing work due to snow cramps the bank account. Keep up the great work!

  • Anonymous
    January 31, 2016 at 7:26 am

    the various pains you suffer and that you describe sound like they might be related to a chronic deficiency of vitamin B complex (vitamins B1, B6, and B12 )…which ccan be caused by the very stressful day to day living that you describe……In my experience, I have suffered pains that DO NOT go away with the various ONLY PAIN KILLER medications that the doctors prescribed…….BUT when I take vitamin B complex…. IN ADDITION to the pain killler medication….THEN THE PAIN GOES AWAY…….(I dont know why doctors prescribe only the pain killer)Finally I decides to take 2 or 3 pills of vitamin B complex pills every week as prevention…..and the pains went away for good ! ! ! ….you can buy them at GNC and such stores without prescription……. MAY GOD BLESS YOU ! ! !

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:44 am

      Thank you for your concern. I do take a vit B supplement, and have my blood panels run regularly, but unfortunately no amount of vit B can fix my broken DNA 🙂

  • Jim F
    January 31, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    You always amaze me, you really do! I'm so happy to see you looking forward and looking at the good in life to make you happy even with all you're faced with everyday! You're showing your wisdom now by doing all you can to make your life better. This is truly wonderful and I'm very happy for you!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:44 am

      Thank you Jim!! Thank makes me feel pretty good!

  • Anonymous
    February 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    As a sister, I would be more then happy to sit across the table from you if my brother brought you home.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:45 am

      Awwwww, bless your heart!


  • afairytale84
    February 3, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Take your time and take care of yourself. If that means it's quiet around here, then so be it. Focus on yourself and your kids.And I hear you on the “I don't want to meet the family” bit. Or rather, the “I don't want the family to meet me.” I'm the same way. My brain constantly goes into all the reasons the family is going to think I'm no good for their son/brother/nephew/whatever he is. I've got health issues, I've got scars, I'm short, I'm a bit overweight, I have practically no money, my job is probably going to disappear (as in, be non-existent) in the next couple of years, the majority of my extended family are drug addicts, I'm awkward in large social situations, I don't have very many friends, and on and on and on.I wish it was easier for women (and I assume men have similar issues in some regards) to believe in themselves and see their worth and value.If you were dating my little brother (he's 27, so probably a bit young for you, but we're talking hypotheticals here…), I'd totally welcome you to the family. You're incredibly strong, funny, smart, and creative. Those are all great qualities in a person. Anyone who wouldn't want you for you isn't worth your time.*hugs*

    • NotMyShametoBear
      February 8, 2016 at 2:46 am

      You have always been one of my best allies. Thank you 🙂

      You have an AMAZING personality and an AWESOME heart, and anyone who knows you in real life is a fool if they can’t see that.


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