Thursday, August 30, 2012

ED Talks #17: Wrestling with the Lord--by Justin

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

When I think back on the times I have come unto Christ most directly, some of the most significant times have been while I was suffering. Perhaps I am like the poor Zoramites who needed to be compelled to be humble, but regardless of what it took to bring me here, I am glad that I have come to Jesus.

I joined the wrestling team when I was in 8th grade to prove to the coach that I was as tough as my older brothers who were football stars. I pinned my first opponent in 13 seconds and continued to be a great wrestler thereafter. When I went to high school, wrestling became much more intense. We actually needed to weigh-in at each match, and practice was physically grueling. Wrestling is a great sport. It requires strength and skill from every part of your mind and body. A wrestling match is like playing chess with your mind, while running a mile with your legs and lungs, and lifting weights with your arms.  I love the sport, but I had a bad attitude about it at the time. I was there to win and was motivated by fear: Fear of my coaches, fear of not making weight, fear of losing.  I dreaded practice every day and tournaments were terrifying. In order to maintain my weight I only ate the bare minimum of the healthiest food. Each season I quickly developed an obsession with food: weighing myself multiple times a day and binging after tournaments.

As many of you know, eating disorders have suffocating effects on your body, mind and emotions. For three months of each year I was hungry, sad and cold. I would walk slowly between classes with my sweatshirt hood shadowing my face. I can remember sitting naked on the lockerroom scale picking up pieces of fruit one at a time to see how much lunch I could eat. I became introverted and prefered to be alone. My soul ached as I haunted an earthly hell.
I am the one third from the right in the back row.

The miracle of these experiences is that during these seasons of pain, I found solace in Christ. I can only credit His Grace and the loving influence of my family that I turned to the Lord instead of bitterness or despair. My own efforts to live had failed; my body and spirit were completely powerless. I relied on God for each step and each thought. I prayed constantly every day. “God, please! Just help me survive this class period.” “Dear God, give me the strength to run the last 17 laps.” “Thank thee for this delicious apple. Please bless it to give me the strength that I need.”

God was my constant companion. He gave me the strength to talk kindly to others who were exasperatingly oblivious to the pain inside me. He helped me to do my homework when I just wanted to curl up and sleep away the world. Mostly he listened and loved.

I still hurt for a long time. It was only towards the end of my third year that I started to have some fun at wrestling practice. I  am not angry that God didn’t make it easier for me earlier. I’m not angry that God told me to return to wrestling when I prayed and fasted about it after my sophomore year.

Suffering can be beautiful. It is never something that we should seek or revel in, but when it comes–if we turn to God–the cathartic power of pain can purify and enlighten us. I love the words of Paul the Apostle,
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

There have been other times in my life when pain has brought me closer to the Lord. I’ve spent months weighed down by guilt for sin. I’ve spent years of rejection from an unrequited love. I continually pled with God to take away the pain, but instead he used it to heal me.

I’ve often heard friends pose the classic question: “If there is a loving God, why is there so much suffering in the world?” I don’t completely understand why we need the suffering, but I do understand that if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t need a loving God.
I love this painting of Jesus. When I look at it, I can feel what He did for me.

I know that God is real. I know that Jesus suffered for me. The prophet Alma prophesied of the Savior “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people And he will take upon him death that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” I have felt that mercy.

Currently I am in a wonderful place. My life is fun, good and easy, which is why I feel comfortable writing about this now. I am not looking forward to whatever hard times may come. But when they do, hopefully I can re-read this post and continue to rely on the Lord.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ED Talks #16: typical skinny ballerina girl--Anonymous

I have struggled with anorexia since I was around 12 years old.
Wow.
I think that is the first time I’ve ever really used that word for myself.
Around the time I started growing was around the time I started to get more serious about my ballet training. I was about to perform my very first Nutcracker. If only I had known then that this production was monumental in setting me on an upward spiral to pursue a career in dance, and monumental in setting me into a downward spiral of unhealthy mentality and physicality.
I remember trying to eat very healthfully around this time, choosing chicken strips over my usual double cheeseburger at McDonald’s (probably equivalent in calories, but it made sense in my na├»ve little brain). I felt better about myself and noticed it helped me focus better on my dancing. I did a small soloist role this year and thought that surely it was because I was starting to look and act like a ballerina.
The next year, I was becoming pro at my eating, and I got an even better part in Nutcracker where I danced a pas de deux as the Snow Queen. I remember my mom calling me at school and me crying in the hallway I was so happy. All my work at dance and all my work eating “healthfully” was paying off. To me this entailed taking not two hours of dance every other night as I was supposed to, but around four hours every night, and eating foods with no fat. No chips, crackers, cake, cookies, rolls, etc. I had Froot Loops for breakfast (because I knew there was only one gram of fat in them) usually a salad or plain baked potato at school, and I tried as often as I could to skip dinner and dessert. The performances went well and I had lost about five pounds during this season. I didn’t notice it. But my doctor did at my check-up. I had lost about five pounds. I had broken 100 lbs that year and had dropped to around 96 lbs at 5’5”. My mom took the blow for me and explained that I was working hard. Made sense to me, so I was off the hook. I stayed pretty thin throughout that year.
The next summer, I went away for the first time to the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer program. I had gotten more lead roles that year and had actually gained some weight. I was about 108 lbs at 5’5”, and I actually felt happy and fine. I had a great summer and learned a lot. I also ate a LOT. The cafeteria was set up buffet style. I always ate pretty healthfully, but I ate a good amount, and always snacked on dried fruit in my room, and discovered vanilla bean frappucinos at Starbucks. I can’t even look at those things now. I think my body was trying to make up for the two years I essentially starved my body that summer.
Directly after my summer program, my family went on vacation for ten days to the East coast. We drove a lot, saw many sites, and, you guessed it, ate a lot. Even on vacation, it would dawn on me that I would have to go home and face the scale. I guessed I had gained about five pounds, which scared me. I got home, stepped on the scale and 117 glared back at me in red numbers. It’s still burned into my head to this day. I haven’t been able to even get up to 115 since, but I have weighed myself every day since then.
I immediately began to see cellulite I had never noticed. I didn’t even know what that was. My arms looked huge, my legs looked huge. I started to cry. I felt trapped inside this huge body that wasn’t mine.
And so began the worst five years.
I knew I had the ability to lose weight. In fact, I was good at it. I started right away.
It went slowly, but it happened. I stopped eating set meals. I only ate things under 100 calories. Lots of fat free yogurt. Lots of apples. I still eat this for lunch almost every day I’m dancing. Brings me peace of mind, even though it doesn’t bring much energy. Work in progress…
By the time Nutcracker rolled around again, I had gotten my dream role, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the star of the show. I worked harder than I ever had before. I had gotten down to 106 lbs and was that weight every day of the performances. Except one night, we went to Chilli’s. I tried so hard not to eat too much. I shared all of my food with friends. I woke up to 109 and had a terrible show. All in my head…
By the end of that year, I had continued to lose weight. Eating only a banana for breakfast or a yogurt. I had gotten another lead role in a performance in May and one in June. I was taking every class, and doing double rehearsals. My mom told me I needed to drop a show, but I was determined to show her I could do it. I did. By the days of my last shows, I was 92 lbs. I was so proud of myself. I didn’t look at what I was doing as something bad at all. My dad barely spoke to me he was so worried about me.
I went back to PNB that summer fully confident I’d get moved up a class and they would love me because I wasn’t as big as last year. I got called into the school director’s office certain that I was indeed getting moved up. Boy was I wrong. I was told I was WAY too thin and that I MUST gain weight.  I thought she was insane. But that day I had to meet with the psychologist and the nutritionist. It was bogus to me. The nutritionist checked my weight as 98 lbs and I knew it was because I decided to have eggs and fruit for breakfast that day. And too much water. I thought I was stupid for doing that and barely paid attention the whole meeting because I was so preoccupied with the fact that they knew my weight was much more that it should be. 98 was a lot, and they didn’t think so. The other girls were probably my same weight, right? I completely missed the fact that she gave me a meal plan saying I couldn’t eat anything low fat or fat free (I though, yeah right.) And that she had calculated my body fat as 4.9%. I was actually emaciated. I gained only about four lbs in those five weeks, and still had to meet with the nutritionist every day.  
The next few years my weight stayed about the same, and I stayed happy. I hovered in the 96-98 lb range. It was starting to catch up though. I didn’t realize that friends started to disappear. I didn’t realize that my heart started to beat really hard in my chest. I still hadn’t had my period. I had no boobs at all. I got out of breath easily, and getting through class was a struggle. What had used to grant me so many great things was starting to become a problem, and I was noticing it, yet I denied it.
My junior, senior, and the next year, I moved on my own to New York City to train with one of the top ballet schools. I knew the girls there were notorious for being very thin, so I made sure I was skinny enough to get in. I did and, and with a full scholarship for the summer. My method was finally starting to work again. When I was officially asked to stay for the year, I proudly put a lower weight on my info and handed it in. I had put 110 on my original documents and I felt confident that because they liked me and skinny girls I could put 105 on my new info for next year. I showed up and bam right away, I was back to the nutritionist and now a nurse who would take my vital signs and weight. I have met with this nurse for the past three years. I spent my entire last year with her thinking I was 120 lbs. I most usually have been 98. I’m 5’8”. Ankle weights and lots of water before weigh ins. It is not something I am happy about. I was so afraid I would get kicked out if the school knew my real weight. I almost wasn’t invited back last year. I gained enough to get back in, and lost it all during the year. I ate egg whites, fruit and yogurt, and veggie salad with no dressing every single day. With this I also lost my opportunity to dance with my dream company. I lost my opportunity to dance ballets I prayed I would get to dance. I have finally learned that taking care of my body and dancing well go hand in hand. And more importantly, eating and living go hand in hand. I’ve blacked out, starved myself through a week, and been completely frail, pale and lifeless for far too long.
Right now you probably are thinking, “Oh, a typical skinny ballerina girl.” See, that’s what I’ve always thought too. To be honest, the ballet world has taken a complete 180 degree turn for the better. If a dancer becomes too thin, it poses an immediate red flag that she will not be able to withstand hours of rigorous rehearsal. Not only does she stand the chance of losing the job she has worked years for, but also her health, and almost most definitely her menstrual cycle. I still have not had mine. I am 19. It scares me and stares me in the face every single day. I am trying hard to make it happen. I have finally reached this professional level. My directors have expressed that I must not get too thin because they know I have the potential to do so.
There has never been an underlying reason for why I have put myself through what I have put myself through. I have thought it over for hours, days, and a few years now, but I’ve never been able to come up with a single experience or single reason why I am the way I am. I guess it’s a combination of personality type, genetics, and recurring reasons that make sense in my brain to keep not feeding the flame.
This summer I have gained 12 pounds. It is so scary to say that out loud when I don’t even tell anyone else. For the first time, I like it. For the first time, I’m embracing being over 100 lbs. Heck, I am embracing being 110 pounds. It’s weird to see little curves coming where there used to be bones. I still have a way to go, and I have to keep gaining until I start my period.  It’s time. There are still things I hate to eat. There are still days where I only eat about 500 calories. There are days where I binge. I’m still trying to find the balance of being able to fuel my body enough to give me great energy to get through all my rehearsals. And the trick will be to do this without eating too much to make me gain weight, and not starving myself so I lose weight and then want to keep going so I can see how thin I can get. I’m worrying about finding the balance of still looking okay in a leotard and tights and being healthy. I guess it’s my next adventure. I just hope it doesn’t take me seven years to figure out.

Monday, August 27, 2012

P.S. #6: Postpartum Depression: An Honest Account --by Jamie

I've never been crazy about kids. Am I evil? Nope. Is there something wrong with me or my hormones? Nope. Am I as much of a woman as you are? Yep. Am I a good person, following God's commandments as best as I can? Yep. I just have a different personality that I'm honest about. I never liked babysitting, and I never liked cooing over others' newborns. I love science, math, computers, languages, reading, and writing. Nevertheless, I kept riding the Mormon conveyor belt and fully expected to have three or four kids. I really didn't think about it; everybody told me that I was going to be a great mom someday. (And to be fair to them and myself, I am a great mother). I was a model to-be Mormon mommy in those days. I had the mission and a temple marriage all checked off my list. Next was a baby, as I was taught so very often. I stayed on this one-size-fits-all divinely appointed path until the birth of my son. I prepared for my son's birth, reading books, exercising, taking prenatal classes, the works. Despite my really wanting to, I felt none of the magical glow or good feelings that other women seem to express or have during pregnancy. I was surprised that none of these feelings came to me. My husband and I prayed and felt that what was right for me was to go for as long as possible "natural," but remain open to medication. I was humble, I was as ready as I'd ever be for this baby.

But I was blindsided by the pain. My son was 10 pounds 9 ounces and I have a very sensitive body. It was torture. My son tore me in two places coming out, even with a separate episiotomy, which I didn't want but had to have after 19 hours of labor. We don't talk about that part in Young Women's, do we? There were no angels and no rainbows present at my birth. An earlier writer on this blog stated that you can't go through childbirth and not believe in God. I beg to differ. We can't project blanket statements like that onto other women. There are so many different types of women in the world (which is a good thing, as President Faust said—"The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world"). All these generalizations and implicit expectations do is foster misunderstanding and confusion for those who didn't have that same experience, as well as strengthen harmful gender stereotypes. The heavens were very, very silent on that day for me, when I felt I needed heaven the most. I felt no rush of endorphins, no oxytoxin relief, no spiritual experience. I was simply relieved it was over and that on top of everything else, I didn't have to have a C-section. I wouldn't have been emotionally prepared for that after all that I been through. My doctor said that all that walking around earlier had probably got my son down far enough that I didn't have to have a C-section. I kept seeking reasons to justify why I had so much pain.

Right after the birth someone mentioned that next time it would be easier. Easier? I'm left broken and gasping and you're already talking about the next output? The next production? But wait, there was more fun in store: I then descended into the black hole of postpartum depression. I am normally a cheerful person—I laugh a lot, I'm not a gloomy gus, I enjoy life and try to roll with the punches. But after my son's birth, nothing could bring me joy, not even the fact that I had a new, breathing human being next to me. I blamed myself for lots of things. I cried when my baby cried, and even when he didn't cry. I wanted to hide in the house all day. I felt that the world would fall apart any minute. The anxiety, which I couldn't seem to ease with scriptures and prayer or anything else, was palpable, and yet it was so hard for me to see that I needed extra help. I was also in a great deal of pain recovering from having a baby explode out of my downward parts, so that didn't help things either. Additionally, I felt no bonding during breastfeeding, just additional extreme, constant pain. They don't talk about that either in Young Women's. Breastfeeding can be excruciatingly painful and at times impossible for some women, through no fault of their own. It was a very dark time for me, in what was "suppose to be" a very beautiful and holy time. I had been deceived by all those lessons about angels and rainbows, despite others' good intentions. Reality hit me hard.

A person I know once said that depression is a trick of the mind and you just have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps—get a hold of yourself, shake it off, and be more positive and righteous. This is nonsense. It's as bad as Republican Todd Akin saying that there are more legitimate and less legitimate rapes and that a woman's body can fend off evil sperm with her special liquids. It's just not looking at life as it really is. And I think that the gospel of Christ is all about searching for truth, even though the answers might be the opposite of what you want to hear. 

Postpartum depression is very common—CDC puts it anywhere from 11% to 20% of women—and they don't even count the unreported cases. Women, because of our culture, are ashamed to say that they had a less than transcendent experience with their babies. We're supposed to suck it up, talk about trials and sacrifice, and cry and scream in agony or terror alone or just with a close friend. In the LDS church, sometimes we are afraid to hear anything negative, and we try and hush up people "in case they drive the Spirit away." I wish I had more listeners and less judgers. I was fortunate enough to have my son's doctor say, during my son's two-week checkup, "Um, you shouldn't be a wreck like this. I'm positive that you have postpartum depression." I cried even harder when she mentioned anti-depressant medication. I was afraid of that stuff! There was a serious stigma attached! I tried for another full week to do all the other alternatives—made sure I ate right (although I was doing that already), exercised as best as I could, prayed a lot, and other things. Still, darkness. I am so glad that I "gave in" to my doctor, although we still associate "giving in" with weakness, not common sense. My doctor put me on a low dose of anti-depressant, which I was on for 8 months, and since sugar and lack of sleep seemed to exacerbate those dark feelings, I tried to regulate my eating and sleeping habits (which weren't at all abnormal in the first place). Sugar and lack of sleep still can send me spiraling down temporarily, but I'm happy to say that I have made a full physical recovery, something that in the moment I never felt was possible. The dark cloud slowly lifted with the medication, I slowly took less as less of it (as directed), and I felt that I could finally love my son. I know it sounds strange to say, but the chemicals in our bodies affect our outlook on life a lot more than we give them credit for sometimes. And that's okay. We need to be okay with the bodies that we were given.

Some people told me that how I had given birth was "wrong," and that's why I had suffered so much. I should have done and y. How could they say that? They're not me, they don't live in my body, they didn't have my circumstances, and I have a completely separate and different spirit than they do. I prayed just as much as they would have and weighed my options just as they would have. Sometimes it seems that when we don't fit someone's Angels and Rainbows paradigm, they seek justification for what went "wrong." We in the Church have a problem with seeking reasons. I submit that sometimes there isn't a reason for your suffering other than the fact that we live in a cruel, fallen, pain-filled, mortal world. Our bodies are less than perfect. Much less than perfect, and again, that's okay. The things that we suffer, by their oppositional nature, also teach us joy, but this world is really hard for some of us (and not because we're less worthy). I believe that many other women who live outside the Utah Bubble or even the American Bubble would agree with me. As my physics teacher used to say, "Life sucks and then you die." It's very comforting, in a way, to not expect angels and rainbows all the time. We can gain comfort from the fact that "all experiences shall be for our good" eventually, although that sure doesn't help in the meantime.

As women we also have an issue with the quantity of arrows in our quiver. We live by the reasoning that if a woman is a good mother, she should be a good mother to as many children as possible, sometimes regardless of whether she can emotionally, mentally, or physically handle them. Just because she can bear a child doesn't mean she should, and that is not a heretical statement. She reasons with herself that a child that she doesn't bear will end up with a horrible single mother in a slum in Detroit. Children become badges of righteousness instead of prayerfully considered stewardships. As a culture, women are expected to give up their desires, their hobbies, their passions, their talents (that don't have to do with children or home), and their sacrifice of themselves will be greatly rewarded. I have a problem with this type of sacrifice. To me, in many cases, it seems more like masochism. Our current concept of feminine sacrifice needs to be tempered by the Second Great Commandment: "Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself." Women understand the first part but trip over the second part, particularly when it comes to children. I think there would be many happier older women if they didn't base their entire lives around their children, instead making a space to love themselves, to seek after their personal desires, to continue learning and growing in areas not related to children or homemaking at all. This is not selfish. It is written right there in Matthew 22:39. God wants us to be balanced! What that balance entails is up to that individual woman and God. We categorize happiness and say that a woman can have no greater joy than her children (I've heard it quite frequently over the years). Well, what if that isn't exactly true? What if that's oneof many joys, equally joyful, that God grants us? And those other joys are equally valuable to pursue in many cases?

Women who have had postpartum depression have a 50% likelihood of getting again; despite this, there still seems to be this frantic need to know if we can push our bodies to do that thing once again, despite what we know might happen. Women also have miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage, abusing their bodies in pursuit of what they think will make them the most happy for all eternity. Could we be a little off in this thinking? If you know what you want in life is children, then go for it; I fully support you. Just make sure that you really want those children, for the right reasons, and that it's not just the conveyor belt talking.

In any case, I would like to state politely and firmly that I am done talking about quantity. I can be happy and fully satisfied with what I have right now. Do you judge me for it? Consider me a liberal sinner, because what woman would not want as many children as possible? (I hope not.) Or are you happy that I have found peace and actual confirmation from God on the subject? (I hope so.) I am calling a cease-fire on the questions about the reproductive capacity of my womb. I can live in primipara peace. I can enjoy the beautiful son I now have. I can enjoy my other talents, seek my other desires beyond home and family. I respectfully add to President David O. McKay's quotation: No other success can compensate for failure in the home . . . and women, I'm not talking about you "failing" to produce more babies if you don't want to.Seek God's will for you, which may be separate from society's/church culture's conveyor belt for women. Seek to be happy, even if that means being different. Women are that they might have joy too, y'know.Postpartum depression is real. I have experienced it. It's hard. Postpartum psychosis is ever harder, I hear. It is good to have an understanding of these things so that we can help our sisters be honest and work through it. They need your understanding more than your pity.

Some PPD resources: 
Postpartum Progress: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/
Postpartum Living: http://www.postpartum-living.com/

Sunday, August 26, 2012

P.S. #5: Postpartum Body--by Audra


I don't think anything prepared me for what my body would look like after five kids. After my first child I had very unrealistic expectations about my body just going back to it's pre-baby self.  Thanks, Hollywood. I didn't realize how uncomfortable I would feel knowing that my body just couldn't possibly look the same. I had stretch marks now,and layers of skin that hadn't existed before. My hips had spread and my body shape had physically changed permanently. I was shocked at how many people would tell me I would get my body back,and that this was just temporary. My problem with those comments was that I didn't feel accepted until I didn't look like I had had a child. A pregnant woman is considered beautiful, but a postpartum body is something that a lot of people seem to think is an unacceptable body type. I felt like I couldn't think I was attractive until I didn't have that extra skin hanging off me and my hips were smaller.  I did loose most of my baby weight after my second child, but my body didn't look like my 19 year old body, how could it?  I had accepted that I had battle scars of mommy hood and that I should never be ashamed at what my body had done for me and my children. I felt strong and powerful after my second child, mostly because of all the working out I did,and when I found myself attractive others noticed, even though my body would never look like a teenage body again, I felt like a beautiful woman and that was good enough for me. I had 3 other children after my second child and lets just say time and my love of Twinkies while pregnant has lead to a lot of weight gain, and I am trying to get my self back on track after baby number five. But, I am not doing it to be a certain size or feel attractive to others, I am doing it for me.

Working out is like therapy for me. I cry when I work out. I know that sounds crazy and insane, but I literally feel my bad emotions and feelings leave my body. I feel it being replaced by power and confidence. I know that I am keeping myself healthy and being a good example to my children. I hope I can teach my sons the beauty in a woman who has had children. I hope they learn that their wives bodies will change, but they changed for a wonderful gift that she has given to you, a baby, and that means more than being a size 2.  I hope they treasure their wives and realized how fearfully and wonderfully made we all are. My husband's love for me seems to have grown through our many children and my changing body. I feel he doesn't just love what I use to look like, he loves what I look like at every stage because he knows how much I have sacraficed for our children, he appreciates that. And that makes me realize that he does love me completely. 

I think we as women tend to think if we don't look perfect that our husbands wont love us anymore, that's just not true. That being said, I know I am not in a healthy state of my body right now and it takes the time to tell me daily, with my aches and pains. But, I know I will get my "body back" as they say. Not my 19 year old body, because, well I don't have a time machine and I would get my stretch marks, wide hips, and extra skin, over and over again if it means I can have my children. But I can have my "strong, fearfully and wonderfully made" body back, and I can live with that, because I am a woman. A woman who has birthed five beautiful children, and that's better than anything to me!

Friday, August 24, 2012

P.S. #4: Pregnancy and Birth--by Audra

Being able to carry babies is amazing. That being said, for me it was full of a lot of unpleasant things. Throwing up, stretch marks, constant pain, aching joints,and little to no sleep. Your skin, hair, and attitude change. Everything smells, everything...SMELLS!! I would constantly have cravings. I was constantly hungry. I gained 70 pounds with my first child, 50 with my second, 60 with my third, 20 with my fourth, and 35 with my fifth. That's a lot of weight to loose and gain constantly, and it takes a toll on a woman, and there is only one reason I would subject my body to such torture...birthing a baby.

Having a baby and actually going through labor is amazing. IT HURTS. There is no getting around that. I try to explain to girls who ask me what birth feels like, and it's hard to explain. Some women do not have bad contractions, some women pop children out like it's an everyday activity. I am not one of those women, just because I have had five children doesn't mean it gets easier. I tend to tell those girls who ask me, that it feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife that's on fire in your "special girl parts", that about sums it up to me, and I have had epidurals with all my children. You women who do it naturally are amazing, I can't imagine birth without drugs. And yes I am one of those women who yell relentlessly at their husband and cry and scream, but I have always had the flare for the dramatic, oh well. I have had five kids and each of my labors have been unique, I have come close to death with number 4, been in terrible pain with number 3 and 5, felt almost nothing with 1 and experienced true fear with 2 and 5.

So, why do I keep doing it?

  Because I have never felt closer to heaven then when I hold my newborn children in my arms. All the pain and suffering instantly becomes worth it. I have a lot of birth stories, and the great thing about it, is that I feel the same every time I hold them, close to my Heavenly Father. I believe there is a God and there is a heaven mostly because of my experiences with my children. There is a quiet peace and serenity that falls over you when your child is born. My husband and I were in this weird state of pure happiness, joy, and love every time a child has been born to us. I imagine that is what heaven feels like. You feel the love you have for your spouse become more bonded and more deep when a child is born to you. You have become a co- creator with God,and made a body for one of His spirits, and that is an incredible feeling. You also get to meet someone that you would take care of and die for instantly, its very surreal. I love giving birth for one simple fact,  a child of God becomes my child too. What an honor as a woman to be given a child to teach and love for the rest of eternity. That's why I love giving birth, it's one day you will never forget. I don't remember the pain, or the sacrifice, I just remember the love.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

P.S. #3: Miscarriage--by Audra

I am currently 27 years old and have been married for 8 years, within those 8 years I have had 5 children. I'll just give you guys a minute to calculate that yes indeed, I was married at 19. I never really had body issues before I had children, in fact I was a pretty confident in my body and how it looked. I got pregnant with my first child on my honeymoon(I know TMI), but it was very important to me and my husband to have children right away. I came from a fairly small family. I had one brother and a down syndrome aunt who lived with us, who was more like a sister to me. We had a small family because my mother was never able to birth or carry children, so my brother and I were adopted. My small family made me want to experience a large family and pregnancy very quickly, thus, we started trying immediately.

 When I found out I was pregnant, I have never been more excited in my life. We couldn't believe our first baby would be born in nine short months. We went out to dinner and bought baby booties for our new little bundle. A month and a half after finding out I was pregnant I got a terrible fever, my husband gave me a blessing that I would be well again. After the blessing my fever broke, but I felt like something was off. Two weeks later, I started bleeding, I had heard that spotting was normal, until I got out of my car and realized there was blood all over my pants and down my legs. I rushed to my doctor, crying the whole way, my husband was in shock and kept trying to reassure me that everything was OK. When I went to the doctor for my first ultrasound they found no heartbeat and told me the baby had died. I sobbed openly in front of the nurses, and whoever was on the other side of the curtain in the doctor's office. They doctor tried to tell me how normal miscarriage was and that I wasn't the first woman to have one. In a word...he was pretty rude.I lost my first child when I was about 8 weeks pregnant. It was devastating...  I bawled the whole way home. I couldn't bear to tell my mother, " I tried but the words just wouldn't come out, my husband grabbed the phone and told her through tears that we had lost the baby. I heard my mom say, "Oh my heart...", let's just say I felt like I had let her down. My husband couldn't tell his mom, as soon as she answered the phone he couldn't control his sobs. I grabbed the phone from him and quickly blurted out that I was miscarrying. She started crying also and told us to call when we were ready.

I choose to pass the baby at home instead of getting a d&c done at the hospital. I thought it would give me closure if I could see the baby. All night I experienced labor, I would cry and writhe in bed, the pain was more unbearable because I knew what would be at the end of it, nothing... my husband and I cried openly that night as I passed the baby on my own. I thought my abilities to have children were slipping through my fingers. I cried and cried for days. Growing up in a home where my mother couldn't have children, had a large effect on me and my desire to have children. Thinking that I possibly couldn't put me into a deep depression, I hardly ate, every time I saw a pregnant woman I would cry secretly at home filled with jealousy.  My husband would constantly come home to see me crying on the couch, in the kitchen, in our bedroom, wondering what had triggered it that day! I prayed and begged God for another chance. He filled my heart with peace and I knew that I would get through this, but I would never forget. It was a lot to go through in only 3 months as a newlywed. The only thing that comforted me was knowing we could try again, and if I had another miscarriage I would move on to the road of adoption. Little did I know what the Lord had in store for me...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

P.S. #2--by Marlee

After I found out I was pregnant, I was obsessed with birth stories. I probably read or heard over 100. I would talk about it constantly with my husband, and though he listened patiently to my ideal birth scenario and showed the appropriate amount of shock or disgust at what I had read or heard about that day, he always seemed to be a few steps removed from the situation. Because, well, he was. I was the pregnant one. I was the one who lost 15 pounds throwing up daily during my first trimester. I was the one who suffered from gallstone attacks as my expanding uterus eventually put too much pressure on that particular organ. I was the one that could feel my baby girl get the hiccups and do the can-can daily. And I was the one who was going to have this baby.

I became particularly fixated on “what I wish I’d known before labor and delivery” stories. I read about emergency C-sections, terrible constipation, 4th degree tearing, incompetent doctors, breastfeeding woes and everything in between. My sister had told me that she was completely unprepared for the horror of a post-birth body and I was determined to be ultra prepared.
I think there is a time in every woman’s pregnancy – at least in their first – when they come to the realization that somehow or another this baby is going to come out of them. It seems stupid, but if you think about it, pretty much all the choices I had made up to this point were fairly reversible. Even my marriage – I could just walk away if I really wanted to. But when you are 9 months pregnant, you are all in. Whether you choose to give up the baby or keep it, there is no getting off the labor and delivery train. And I think that’s why it becomes an obsession. The inevitable mystery of YOUR labor and YOUR baby’s birth.

You can read about Ivy Jane’s birth here (link to http://marleeisme.blogspot.com/2012/03/ivy-jane-bangerter.html) if you want to. It was a pretty easy and pleasant experience, and I don’t feel that sharing it again here would be particularly helpful to blog readers or cathartic for me. The message that I really wanted to share is that pregnancy makes you feel and act like a crazy person sometimes. But you are totally justified. Your body is a time bomb and you have no idea when it will go off and what kind of carnage you will leave in your wake. Let yourself spend hours reading, thinking, talking, writing, sorting, folding, buying, and whatever else your heart desires.  That pretty much sums up my list of “what I wish I’d known.” :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

P.S. #1: Miracle of Life--by Natalie

I have always had such a roller coaster relationship with my body. I have always known and felt it was a gift to my spirit, enabling me to do so many things; it was also a gift I felt that I misused and shouldn't be trusted with. At any moment, if someone had asked what I would like to change about my appearance, I would have a long list ready to go. Ironically, now that my body has gone through pregnancy and childbirth and has so many more flaws than it used to have, I feel more comfortable about my body. I feel as though the flaws are battle scars telling a story unique to me, and shouldn't be down played because images in the media describe beauty as something else.

My body, at first, rejected pregnancy. I resented my body for it. It was denying me what I wanted most- to be a mother- so I began denying it food. In a wave of emotions and post pregnancy hormones, I lost about ten pounds very quickly. The only thing that people noticed was that I "looked great". I didn't feel great. I exercised as much as I could, trying to keep my body lean and my spirits high. It helped a little but not much. The next positive pregnancy test came, and with it stress and anxiety. I wanted this little body to grow so badly. My husband and I both did. I decided to take things easy- I eliminated stressful things from my life and for the first time in my life, I gave up my body for a higher purpose. I sacrificed my body so that another body could be made. It stretched and changed and grew bigger everyday. I remember when I was about 7 months along I didn't want any pictures taken of me. I thought people would think I had gained too much weight. I wish I had pictures of that time so badly. I was beautiful, my sweet husband told me, but I didn't believe it. But still, as my body grew bigger, my thoughts of what other people thought I looked like began to grow smaller in my mind.

Pregnancy is a selfless act, but childbirth is the most rewarding and selfless thing you can do. It is my personal belief that you can not go through child birth and not believe in a God. There was an order in the chaos. As harsh pains pulsed through my body, it knew what to do. My spirit was in panic and anxiousness, but my body knew what to do. My body, which had rejected motherhood before, welcomed it and pushed it along. It was made to bring me my Jack, just like I was made to be his mother. When my body finally pushed him out, and he lay on my chest and looked up at me, I knew what this universe was made for. I knew my purpose. I knew how sacred bodies are, and I grieved anyone who didn't understand that.

I wish that I can constantly remember that feeling, but I don't always. I exercise with weight loss in mind, not happiness. I watch what I eat and wear shape wear around my loose skin because I want people to notice how much my body has changed. Of course I want to be healthy and use my body to my fullest potential, but my postpartum brain is still trying to let go of that pre- pregnancy mind set of looking good. Loving my body is still a struggle, even after it gave me my son. Pregnancy has given me a much better perspective, one that I hope will continue to improve and positively affect my children.

I am grateful for my body. I am grateful for my scars. And stretch marks. Above all else, I am grateful for my Jack.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

P.S.--Postpartum Stories

Having never given birth, know that I claim no authority or expertise on the subject.  What I'm hoping for is to get a surplus of stories by women who ARE experts on the matter.  What makes an expert?  As far as this blog is concerned, if you have been pregnant/given birth/lived to tell, you are an expert.

Most of us haven't been in a delivery room, or at the side of a home birth.  Every story is unique and different, and yet there is much that is transferable, woman-to-woman.  Mother-to-mother.

Where do the majority of us (even those who have had personal experience) receive our narrative on birth?  Where we receive most narratives (though I think blogs are helping in someway to offer diversity in perspective).  Thanks, Hollywood.

There's the scene with the screaming woman in a hospital gown, being rushed in a wheelchair by her group of girlfriendsies...there may or may not be a dad in the picture, and if he's there, he's most likely being yelled at, blamed for the immediate excruciating pain the woman is in.  There are varieties on this scene, but it often ends with the dust settling, the smoke clearing, the happy mother holding her new little joy.  Her angel fresh from Heaven.  And that's all well and good, but then the scene ends, and all-too-often, the movie ends.

We don't hear about her postpartum depression, the changes in her body, her relationship with her husband, the scars birth leaves, the monotony, responsibility, and sleepless nights being a mom of an infant brings.  I guess these topics don't make for a solid blockbuster screenplay?

So, veterans, war-heroes, experts, mothers...tell me.  Tell us.  What does hollywood leave out?  What would you like a woman pre-her first pregnancy to know?  What would you like your fellow mothers to know?  What would you tell soon-to-be fathers?  What would you share with women who will never be mothers?  What is wonderful and what is wrenching?  Give us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.  Give us YOUR truth.

Monday, August 13, 2012

ED Talks #15: I still prefer to eat alone

So, at this point you've read (or maybe you haven't...that's okay too) about how bulimia started for me, and what it was like to be in the thick of it.

Some of you are probably wondering how someone who compulsively binged and purged for nine years stopped throwing up.  The short answer is that I found something I wanted to do more than I wanted to continue this way of living.   And then I discovered how much I missed living.  Allow me to explain.

I'd imagine for some folks the best way to stop an addiction is slowing down, and acting out less and less.  That wasn't possible for me.  I was purging like a pro the day before I stopped forever.

I had always wanted to serve a mission for the LDS church, but I knew that I needed to get some things in order first, and this was one of them.  My 21st birthday (when girls can serve missions) came and went and I didn't really bring up the possibility to anyone.  I spent a crazy summer living in Ireland and returned to BYU that Septemeber

One day, sitting in my Russian class, I experienced the strongest impression that I was to serve a mission.  People receive revelation in many different ways.  For me, it's always a thought that hits me strong and all of the sudden nothing else in the world makes sense and the choice is obvious and I can fight it, I guess, but why would I?

Then it was settled.  I was going on a mission.  Great.  It was a Monday and I would talk to my bishop (the local leader of the unit I attended) that Sunday.  Six days without purging--world record for Dana.  I was proud to report it, and my bishop was proud of me as well.  He moved my recommendation on to the Stake President (a leader over a larger population, who ultimately decided whether and when I submitted my mission papers, or application)

James E. Kearl.  President Kearl.  His name proceeded him, though I didn't know it at the time.  I never took ECON 110 and had no notion of the beast that was Professor Kearl.  I went into his office bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  We went through the interview.  I told him about my history of bulimia but that I was doing tremendously well and I had it under control.  He asked how long it had been since I purged last.

"Two weeks!" I exclaimed proudly.

"Oh.  Yeah.  That won't do.  You're not turning in any papers until you've been clean for six months."

Six months.  SIX MONTHS.  WHO DID HE THINK HE WAS???  I had resisted purging double any record of the past nine years, and it wasn't good enough for this man?  I had to wait six stupid months just to turn in the stupid papers?  I immediately began sobbing.

"Oh pull yourself together." He shoved a tissue box across his desk.  "I'll see you in a month and we'll go from there."

I left fuming.  "I hate that man," is what I said under my breath as I walked to the parking lot.  I also muttered something along the lines of "I'll show him."  I wonder if that was his plan all along.

So two weeks turned into a month.  It was hard, but for the first time I was determined, and there was something I wanted.  The purging stopped first, but the binging took a little longer.  I remember over-eating and telling myself to "walk it off" or "wait it out."  It was awful, feeling the consequences of my binges.  Feeling full.  Sick.  Dying for the release.

I didn't just feel them.  I began to see them.  I gained weight.  Divine Comedy fans published videos and pictures on facebook.  I tried not to look.  I was determined.  The first month or so was just muscling my way through it.  Sheer grit.

And then, something switched.  I remember distinctly the morning sitting in church, and my mind was flooded with light and the words "You're done.  You will never purge again"

"Yeah, sure." I said incredulously.

...

"Really?"

"Really."

When you've been living in darkness for so long, you forget what light is--what it looks like, feels like, tastes like.  But when light comes back into your life you remember quickly.  And why would you ever live in darkness again?  I had forgotten what it was like to live.  But I began to remember.  I began to wake up.

A life without binging and purging.  Oh, the possibilities!  With every passing week, with every passing day life became better, richer.  Feeling returned to my fingers, my senses, my heart.  I listened and I spoke in a way that felt novel and right.

I lived for my meetings with President Kearl.

"Well?" He'd ask, arms folded accross his chest, one eyebrow raised.

"Not once." I'd say, face blank, matching his coolness.

"Really?" He'd ask, both eyebrows now raised.

"Yup."

"I'm impressed."

"Yup."

There were still rough nights.  There were still the pictures of me on facebook I had to look at and the moments I stepped on a scale.  I would break down and in those moments, feeling trapped inside my body, unable to control the way she was dealing with this huge change.  All I could do was wait.  For how long, I didn't know.  For what, I didn't know.

Finally the day came when President Kearl told me that he would let me turn in my papers, four and a half months from our first visit.  It was obvious to him that I was winning.

"I'll be honest," he said "I didn't think you could do it."

"I know."

"I'm incredibly proud of you," he said, smiling for the very first time.  In that moment, he understood me, and I understood him and why he was in my life.  "You will be a wonderful missionary with a unique capacity to show others hope.  Good luck, Sister Fleming."

I went on my mission, which, if one is really over the compulsive behavior is a GREAT place to be post-eating disorder.  There were plenty of stresses and I had my share of emotional break-downs and bouts of perfectionism and depression.  But I never felt bad about my body.  Ever.  I would look in the mirror just long enough to brush my hair or dab on some mascara if there was time, and then I was out the door to save the world.  I loved so many people and they loved me.  Their reasons for loving me had nothing to do with how I looked, but rather how I loved.

It was during this time in New Jersey that I began thanking God in prayer for all of the incredible things my body could do.  This changed me, and I became grateful for the basic capacity and functions of my body.  It became a wonder to me.  It became a wonderful gift that I would be devastated to lose.

My weight fluctuated on my mission but by the time 18 months were spent, I had a net gain to add onto what was gained when the purging ceased.  I was the happiest and heaviest I had ever been over the past ten and a half years.  At the SAME TIME.  Unreal.

I returned from full-time missionary work to civilian life, and over the next six months, 35 pounds just kind of fell off.  I don't know why.  There was no concerted effort for anything aside from general health.  My weight has hovered around there for the past two years as I have navigated finding balance, nutrition, and sustainability in my eating and in my exercise.

There were residual struggles to be made.  I went on depression medication for a little over a year after my mission to deal with emotional problems that the eating disorder left behind.  Loving my body and having confidence are still battles I fight (the media isn't letting up any time soon, boys and girls).  But I'm proud to be fighting, and not losing.

I went to one of my best friend's wedding reception in Spokane about a month ago.  They were serving ice cream.  I took my bowl and went into the house while everyone was outside.  Ice cream still feels deviant, and I still prefer to eat alone.

I haven't arrived yet, but I've come a long way.

If you are reading this and you struggle with an eating disorder, I want you to know that healing is not a guarantee, but it IS possible.  I promise you that you are NOT your eating disorder.  I also promise you that there is life beyond your eating disorder, and that it is so much better than you remember.  I'm not perfect, but I am fighting an important battle.  I want to help you to feel free and strong and beautiful.  Let me know how I can help.  And then, when you have your strength, will you help me fight?  Will you help me heal and empower others?  We have a lot of work to do.

President Kearl was right.  I have hope to offer you.  Hope that comes from experience.  Because I know what it is like to feel entirely hopeless.  I know what it feels like to move through despair.

I can't fight this battle alone though.  Who's with me?




Sunday, August 12, 2012

seeing--by annie dillard

"On the other hand, many newly sighted people speak well of the world, and teach us how dull is our own vision. To one patient, a human hand, unrecognized, is 'something bright and then holes.' Shown a bunch of grapes, a boy calls out, 'It is dark, blue and shiny....It isn't smooth, it has bumps and hollows.' A little girl visits a garden. 'She is greatly astonished, and can scarcely be persuaded to answer, stands speechless in front of a tree, which she only names on taking hold of it, and then as "the tree with the lights in it." ' Some delight in their sight and give themselves over to the visual world. Of a patient just after her bandages were removed, her doctor writes, 'The first things to attract her attention were her own hands; she looked at them very closely, moved them repeatedly to and fro, bent and stretched the fingers, and seemed greatly astonished at the sight.' One girl was eager to tell her blind friend that 'men do not really look like trees at all,' and astounded to discover that her every visitor had a different face."

"Finally, a twenty-two-old girl was dazzled by the world's brightness and kept her eyes shut for two weeks. When at the end of that time she opened her eyes again, she did not recognize any objects, but, 'the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeatedly exclaimed: 'Oh God! How beautiful!' "

-annie dillard from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Allergic to Babies (PUPPPS) -- by Caitlin Carroll

Since Dana began this blog some months ago, I've been contemplating posts in my mind, half-heartedly composing them as I lay in bed at night and occasionally typing some words devoid of much meaning. Although I love feminism and bodies (the female variety, especially) and I loathe objectification and eating disorders and all that, I could not decide on an angle for my own personal Embodyed post. 

The thing is, I don't really have body issues. Like most teenage girls, I too struggled for some years with an eating disorder but mine wasn't about my already-too-skinny body, but more about my attention-starved-middle-child-teenage-diva self. I never put my body to the brink of disaster or had any striking revelations about quitting, I kind of just did it and then grew out of it like nail polish and beauty pageants.

Although I've been struggling trying to find a way to put into words how much I love my body without trying to seem superior to the other posters, destiny (or God/Goddess, whatever strikes your fancy) practically handed a great post down from the heavens. You see, I love me some baby-making. Not the act (ok, so I like that plenty) but the actual process... I'm a connoisseur of pregnancy, an aficionado of birth, a specialist of lactation. I love making babies with my own, super powerful and awesome female body. And if you've seen my adorable kids, you realize I'm pretty dang good at it to boot. 

Until the past few weeks, that is. When the itching started. And the rashes. And the raw, scaly skin. It started on my breasts. My wonderful, slightly-saggy but oh-so-baby-nourishing breasts, covered with a horrible, red, itchy rash. Then, it spread to my one endearing stretch mark on my soft belly, my one emblem I carry that beholds the fact that once I held two precious darlings in my womb. Before a few days passed, I was covered -- back, thighs, arms, neck. Itch. Itch. Itch. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. As I quickly ruled things out: thrush? allergic reaction? heat rash? bacterial infection? my dear friend and expert at all things maternal, Charla, pointed me to postpartum PUPPPS (a dumb name in my opinion, it sounds like I'm adopting from the animal shelter). I self-diagnosed myself, because I hate paying doctors to diagnose me with things that I can Google for free. 

PUPPPS, or Pruritic Uticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, essentially is like being allergic to pregnancy (ME! Allergic to pregnancy! Who would've thunk it?) Most women develop it while they are pregnant, usually with a first pregnancy and 70% of the time carrying a male child. It's the rare few of us who get it postpartum. It can last from a few weeks to until you stop breastfeeding your child in some women. Most of the time it runs its course in a few months, and it seems like steroid shots can help it clear up faster. I'm opting not to do a round of steroids, simply because I am breastfeeding my tiny girl and I know that the amount that would get to her is minimal, but not worth it in my opinion. Compared to what I've seen online, my case is pretty mild (thusfar) and I'm able to sleep and go about my day with little disruption besides the occasional itchy breakdown, helped by cold baths and creams. There are some natural remedies, like dandelion root and stinging nettles tea, which supposedly offer relief (also: emu oil?? Odd). For now, I'm gritting my teeth and bearing it and seeing how long it is going to play out. The first few days were horrible, but my body seems to be used to the idea of itching now and is calming things down. 

Although physically I seem to be handling it, emotionally I am crying a little inside at the thought that my body has failed me. All the while boasting of my amazing feminine body, and then it goes and breaks down on me. But then again, when I sat down and really thought about it, it's amazing our motherly bodies don't break down more often. I mean, COME ON, we are growing tiny humans in there! People! We are growing PEOPLE. In our BODIES. Like, holy heck, I can make a human out of microscopic cells, a man child who can jump and climb and run and pitch the most ridiculous temper tantrums and a tiny daughter who can hold her head up and smile the most charming smile and look into your soul with her deep blue eyes. That's pretty miraculous, complicated stuff that goes down in the female body. And sometimes, it just wants to revolt. In my case, of all the million things it could have been, it was a little rash. And that's ok.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

According to the Flesh--Anonymous


“The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 82)

It’s no small task to place my empty thoughts into proper context with the historic struggles of humanity to live (let alone comfortably) within their own skin. I won’t try. Suffice it to say that we are born into bodies of flesh and blood and bone. We are, in varying degrees, accepting of our state of being in this probationary period. Our bodies and our opinions on our bodies might be represented as a string twisted into an impossible knot. Have you ever seen a ball of necklaces and jewelry found spun together? That’s the image I’d like to use here. We live in the locus of this intersected mass. What does one do with a ball of jewelry? It’s useless unless it’s properly dispersed. One could melt it all down, I suppose, if one knew that all of the jewelry were pure. Otherwise you’d waste it all for its impurities. What do we do with a ball of jewelry? We release it, piece by piece, until we can utilize or discard its individual properties. It’s my intention to illustrate how we might best work out this knotty body issue. We’ve got to behold the knot in its entirety, then assess which end to tug on, and then loose the tension of all of that strained matter.

Some of us merely tolerate our clay tabernacles. Some cherish them. Some are ambivalent and, thus, unfortunately unaware. I am of the opinion that everybody is always, constantly, trying very hard to do something. Whether it be our best or our worst, we are predisposed to always be at work. I also hold the opinion that we are endowed with the Godly attribute of continuance and progression. It’s the law of natural selection: we are programmed to survive and to become better, that our progeny might survive. It stands to reason, then, that as we approach the knotty conundrum of our bodies, we would want to work it out so thoroughly as to not be beset by it to the point that we expire. So we set about working at the knot, picking at loose ends, digging at embedded loops, testing the flex and flow of the interlocking weave. We are trying very hard, of course, to work it out. But we pull at loose ends that bind the knot tighter. We finagle loops that become stuck in traction. We stare at the knot until it grows larger than us. We work very hard at accomplishing nothing. And we become so discouraged that we sometimes seek to destroy the knot.

American culture – that great bodiless monstrosity for which we are both caretakers and victims – has the tendency to sequester issues of bodies (from objectification to vindication) into a distinctly feminine sphere. I am having ethical problems making that broad of a statement, but as it is the basic fundamental building block to much of our discussions today, I feel it’s a necessary evil. I want to bring this up here rather quickly because it’s important to note that issues of bodies are a universal concern. Brigham Young said: “Our bodies are all important to us, though they may be old and withered, emaciated with toil, pain, and sickness, and our limbs bent with rheumatism, all uniting to hasten dissolution, for death is sown in our mortal bodies. The food and drink we partake of are contaminated with the seeds of death, yet we partake of them to extend our lives until our allotted work is finished, when our tabernacles, in a state of ripeness, are sown in the earth to produce immortal fruit” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 87). Our bodies are fundamental to us all and it’s a fallacy to assume that any issue concerning the body is mutually exclusive to a gender or sex. Issues might be sexed or gendered, but that certainly doesn’t mean an issue is only applicable to one sex or gender.

As an aside: Jesus Christ even dealt with issues of the body. In Alma 7, the prophet Alma is teaching a group of people who have never before heard of Jesus Christ or his gospel. While explaining who Jesus Christ is, he discusses, in broad strokes, Christ’s earthly life. One of the things he stresses is that Christ “will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Jesus Christ, redeemer of the world, the Christ, divinity, needs to learn how to succor his people according to the flesh.

And so we are, females and males, all struggling with a knot of bodily functions, perceptions, proclivities, and emotions while here on Earth. It may be a comfort to know, however, that the problematic question of the body is not eternal. Brigham Young continues: “Yet, if we live our holy religion and let the spirit reign, it will not become dull and stupid, but as the body approaches dissolution the spirit takes a firmer hold on that enduring substance behind the veil, drawing from the depths of that eternal Fountain of Light sparkling gems of intelligence which surround the frail and sinking tabernacle with a halo of immortal wisdom” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 87). Brigham Young here is saying that as we release our relentless grip on the knot, as we prepare to leave behind a lifetime of hard work on a temporary residence, we will find our spirits strengthened and enhanced in order to best meet the afterlife.

Our LDS theology enlightens us to a liberating truth: “After the body and spirit are separated by death, what, pertaining to this earth, shall we receive first? The body; that is the first object of a divine affection beyond the grave. We first come in possession of the body. The spirit has overcome the body, and the body is made subject in every respect to that divine principle God has planted in the person. The spirit within is pure and holy, and, by and by, will have the privilege of coming and taking the body again… [W]hen we are prepared to receive our bodies, they are the first earthly objects that bear divinity personified in the capacity of the [person]. Only the body dies; the spirit is looking forth” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 571). Bodies are a divine gift. They are the very first thing restored to us in the afterlife. They are the precursor to eternal life, and they are the sine qua non of immortality. They are evidence, here on Earth, of divinity in the making.

Our spirits overcome our bodies – a rather bellicose sounding word (to my ears), but one that denotes ownership and control. “The body is made subject” is a beautiful concept. As we struggle to deal with bifurcation of the self, between soul and body, we must realize that acknowledging the Otherness of our own bodies is a pathway towards eternal progression. When we embrace and live eternal truths, we make the body subject. In the eternities, we will acknowledge and treat the body as a subject, not an object. We’ll live forever without self-objectification. It’s a fascinating bit of doctrine, one that reveals a Heavenly Father intimately connected and concerned with the needs of His children. How large is the knot? It is not larger than this life

We will dwell in the eternities in the same flesh we either hate or love today. We must not take for granted the doctrine that our bodies and spirits are separate. Brigham Young states: “There is life in the material of the fleshly tabernacle, independent of the spirit given of God to undergo this probation” (Discourses, p. 566). We are us, you see, and not the physical matter which composes us. “There is life in all matter, throughout the vast extent of all the eternities; it is in the rock, the sand, the dust, in water, air, the gases, and in short, in every description and organization of matter, whether it be solid, liquid, or gaseous, particle operating with particle” (ibid). Basically, our bodies are about as inconsequential, elementally and physically, as a rock. We aren’t made, physically, of special stuff. We are carbon and oxygen. We are star stuff. But our spirits were breathed into the dust, and thus we became. How large is the knot? Not larger than us.

So now that we have the knot somewhat in our sights, we may accurately grasp it and turn it over. We may examine all of the lines going in and coming out. We begin to understand its properties and the complex relationships between each metal linkage. And we may begin to pull and finagle with greater insight and experience than before. Where once we were exhausted from pulling and plucking at the unmovable few strands within our scope, we will now begin to truly know and understand the knot. We will begin to extract a strand or two and test them to see if they’re pure, if they’re what they purport to be. Often enough we’ll find that the strands which come away first and easiest are the impure and knock-off bits of jewelry. What we learn from so-called American culture that sounds as though it could honestly be our own opinions and divine truth, but turns out to be false and ratty. Claire’s quality truth. Does one buy Tiffany’s out of a gumball machine for a quarter? Then why do we continue to purchase our eternal wisdom from temporal gumball machines? Why do we allow ourselves to buy into spiritual and mental junk? It is understandable for one plucking at resistant strands of an unveiled knot. It is regressive for one who fully comprehends the size and nature of their own personal knot.

If we worked our entire lives at paring down this knot, culling out the ratty nickel and aluminum fakes, until there was simply truth left, we would still have a knot. Once we had whittled away the overall size of it, we’d still have a ball of near pure gold alloys. A solid ball of 14 karat gold necklaces, studded with jewels, earrings, brooches, and rings; a mass of infinite value. Our bodies and our opinions about our bodies are simply that: beauty twisted into a problem. If our bodies are a divine gift to our inherently divine souls, then how can we be so twisted up in them? I posit that the knots that we have, while not eternal, are temporal. They will not go away in this lifetime. Even those un-beset by issues of body image, eating disorders, self-esteem, self-mutilation, self-alienation, self-hatred, or any of the other myriad sicknesses that crush us in our lives; even those who do not face these first-hand (although certainly everyone on this Earth experiences them if some on this Earth do) have to stare at the fact that they will die. That their body will cease to exist. And, in conjunction with that fact, their body will wither continually.

If we dug out every single extraneous strand of jewelry from our personal knots, we would get down to an impossible knot at the heart of it all. In order to live, we must die. That is an insoluble knot. The very chain we are working at loosing is fused together and will not untie itself from itself. Logic would dictate that this is an unusable piece of jewelry. We have worked for a very long time at liberating something useless. We have lived for the hope of having some rest from the continued tension contained within our bodies and minds. And here we find ourselves unable to solve the most basic fundamental part that started this mess.

But, again: “… as the body approaches dissolution the spirit takes a firmer hold on that enduring substance behind the veil, drawing from the depths of that eternal Fountain of Light sparkling gems of intelligence which surround the frail and sinking tabernacle with a halo of immortal wisdom” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 571). We cannot loose the bands of death, or life, alone. Our minds are not suited to it. Nor are our bodies. The Lord created us with internal paradoxes which power and motivate us toward the end, sort of like nuclear fission. The reward in the eternities is not an answer to our questions, but a sublime transcendence from the question itself. When we are reunited with our bodies, the knot at the center of us will cease to have relevance. Our theology is strikingly postmodern, don’t you think?

I apologize here for an imperfectly written essay. I apologize also for the extent to which I’ve dragged this metaphor. It was irresponsible. However, in order to fit the dictum of “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”, I had to establish what I know. How much I care is based on a lifetime of my own personal issues with my body. It’s also based on watching the person I love most in this world struggle against an eating disorder that, reportedly, only 30 – 40% of people ever recover from. It’s from trying to learn how to create a stress-free meal environment. From asking daily or weekly how they’ve been doing. From waking up to this person crying in my arms as they struggle to get prepared to go to their first therapy session. It’s from years of slapping myself on the wrist for simply trying to tell them they’re wrong about how they feel. It’s from anxiety over whether or not an eating disorder is part of a person, whether or not I have to love an eating disorder as well as the person with it. It’s from feeling as though I’m always on the outside of something extremely personal and important to the person I love. It’s from how much I don’t know how to help and from how little I do know how to help. It’s from watching this person intentionally and maliciously hurt themself and the only really comprehendible piece of the experience is the pain they are so obviously going through. It’s from only comprehending the impact of pain on the body of the soul I wish to live eternally with.

I don’t know if my remarks will actually help anyone loose their own personal knots. It was helpful for me to dig through my own feelings on the subject, regardless. I hope that, at least, this post will help others find solace in their spirituality. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ brings us liberation not only after death, but also in life as we seek to loosen the ever-tightening mass of tension between our shoulders. God bless y’all.