Genevieve Angelique

Love, Books, & More


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Invisible Scars

Advisory: This post contains sensitive material and may be considered offensive in nature.

13 years old: I was standing outside my locker wearing a new pair of jeans. A popular boy stopped and stared at me. He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering on my backside. He said I looked really good and that I should wear tighter clothes all the time.

A knife was pulled out. The invisible cut made. I did my best to stitch it.

16 years old: I was at my boyfriend’s house. His older brother asked me about my personal hygiene. How did I clean my private area? I knew what the”tuna smell” was, right? He shared an explicit joke. I didn’t laugh.

A new knife. A new scar.

20 years old: I was working. A group of men asked if I had ambitions to work in pornography (because I shared the first name of a famous porn star). I didn’t know who this girl was or even what they were referring to. They were “sure” I was playing dumb. It wasn’t until they filled in the details that the all-too familiar shock and shame hit me. I was called many unsavory things. I reported them, and they were taken care of, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty and humiliated.

I tried sewing the cut, but my hand shook. The finished result was sloppy. It kept bleeding.

23 years old: The room was crowded. I had lost my friends. A group of guys pushed past. One of them stopped and faced me. He slid his hand down my waist and forced it under my belt. He began to worm his fingers down until a friend interceded.

Every time I touch THAT scar, I feel like vomiting. My body shakes. A surge of fear surrounds me. Again, the world is dark.

I look around and wonder who else has done this to a female, whether she is 13 or 63 years old? Who else would rather keep these scars covered–believing disfigurements such as these don’t hold a place in the process of democracy? Or that invisible wounds are too insignificant to be used in discrediting people from power?

Because the thing is, my scars have not healed. Last week, the invisible purple seams ripped wide open. Blood gushed.

And despite my best efforts, I can’t get the bleeding to stop.

I bring this up because most of my beloveds do not know the pain I privately endure (with more cuts and scars than aforementioned). I’m asking them to listen with their hearts and place themselves in my position. Or if need be, imagine their daughter, sister, friend, wife, or mother as having gone through what I have . . .

I am also asking this: if you have never been the victim of sexual assault or harassment, please, think about how your support of sexual perpetrators affect those who have been. Even sharing (one) victim’s support of a sexual perpetrator (via media) can cause another victim’s world to collapse on itself.

For while I cannot speak for all victims, I believe there are others like me. And if this is true, then so is this:

We wear our hidden scars under smiles and quiet words, because we still feel shame and fear. We do not know who to trust. And because of this, we do not know how or when to share our stories and truths. We feel judged if we say, “Enough is enough. I will not support a person who cuts women with invisible knives–someone who violates the spiritual temple that is a female’s body and the emotional world that is a female’s heart.”

For, you see, invisible scars like these can only begin to heal when others take away the knife.

And I am one of those brave enough to do so.


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X MARKS THE SPOT: How I Healed My Body

map

For 15 years I suffered from moderate to severe stomach problems: bloating, acid reflux, IBS(D), nausea, and vomiting.

Over time, my symptoms worsened. I saw lots of doctors and specialists–all of whom said I was perfectly healthy (on paper). I was told to take Imodium for the rest of my life, spend more time on stress-management activities, and avoid fatty and greasy foods.

Eventually, my symptoms expanded from my GI to other body systems. I developed an autoimmune blood disorder that makes me more susceptible to bleeding, bruising, & slow healing, a skin condition called perioral dermatitis that looks much like acne (but isn’t), and muscle spasms in my fingers, legs, and shoulders.

Despite trying a gamut of dermatologist-prescribed creams and pills, my dermatitis melted into an angry red patch around my nose, mouth, and chin. I was embarrassed to show my face in public, and I dreaded face-to-face conversations. All the reclusive tendencies I had adopted as a young acne-ridden-teen returned.

I searched for treatments for perioral dermatitis online. There were lots of other people who suffered from this skin ailment, and they touted natural alternatives such as apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and probiotics. I tried them all. Nothing worked.

Finally I considered the thing I never, ever, wanted to do. What I had been putting off for so long (um, yeah, an entire decade) because I was afraid it might work, and then I’d be forced to stick with it forever. Live with it forever.

Seriously. Ten years of ignoring, denying, refusing something that could possibly change my life. What murky waters could be so terrifying?

The unchartered territory of a restricted diet.

I was desperate.

So instead of dipping my toes into the water, I jumped all in. I went gluten, dairy, and sugar free for a week.

The results spoke for themselves.

My dermatitis cleared up significantly (but not completely), and my GI improved drastically (but not entirely). Even my twitching quieted down.

I was elated. It was like stumbling across a piece of pirate gold.CotBPAztecGoldMedallionmakesthecallMy body was reacting to food! Well, of course it was. Still . . .

Was this an adventure I wanted to navigate through? Was the treasure worth the countless storms ahead? Were my symptoms that problematic?

It was my vanity that made up my mind. My desire for clear skin set me on course for an island I had never heard of and a treasure as mythological as the Black Pearl.

I traded in my food to control my dermatitis.

Over the course of two years, I tried many diets. First the anti-Candida diet, then the SCD diet, finally the Paleo diet. Many times I felt like I was making progress, like I was finding tiny pieces of a torn map. But ultimately, my symptoms (skin, IBS, spasms) would flare up again. I felt like I couldn’t eat anything. I suspected not just specific foods but quantity of those particular foods. I’d have cauliflower one day and be fine. The next time, I’d be having problems. It was confusing, even for my doctors who I kept revisiting and the natural-minded practitioners I tried.

At one point, I drove six hours to see a holistic chiropractor who diagnoses food intolerances through muscle testing. I left his office with more foods to avoid and a paper bag containing over $200 in supplements. A couple days later, my husband had to rush home, because I was sure my body was shutting down.

All of my energy that been sucked out of me. I was sweating buckets in an air conditioned room and crying uncontrollably. I tried to stand, but my world was spinning and a headache seared across my forehead.

By the time he arrived, I could barely talk. I felt catatonic. He was as confused as I was until he looked up the new supplement I had taken for the first time. He read the herb Bugleweed can lower blood sugar and can be dangerous to diabetics (which I’m not, BTW). He gave me some food. My blood sugar raised and I stopped sweating. I could focus on what was happening again. It was a day-long recovery, but there weren’t any long-lasting effects.

In the end I was thankful. Because I had made a mistake: the chiropractor had directed me to take a whole dropper of the liquid supplement. I had misread it and only taken one drop. What would have happened if I had taken 10+ times more than what I had that morning?

It was a sobering experience. A warning. There are pirates (even well meaning Jack Sparrows) who think they are helping you, but are in fact, only delaying and/or endangering your health.

Jack Sparrow

The worst pirate was the one reflected in the mirror. After asking my general doctor for a dietician referral (and being told there wasn’t anyone in the network who dealt with food stuff like mine) I decided to go solo. Being on one restricted diet after another took its toll. My body protested. I was fatigued and weighed the same as I had in middle school (which to my astonishment many people complimented me on, but that’s another soap box). I lost a lot of muscle and suffered from mild depression. My anxiety, which I developed around the age of 9, became more pronounced. I knew I needed a diverse and balanced diet (i.e. I needed carbs!!!), but so many foods seemed to make me react in one way or another. Even eating a small amount of grains made my muscles spasm for 24-48 hours.

I was in the midst of a terrible storm. 

At this point, I turned to God for healing. I needed a supernatural helper. Something greater than my doctors or my own understanding.

The rain and wind settled.

For some reason, I gave up the last fruit I had been eating daily (apples sautéed in honey). And poof!

Within 24 hours, all the anxiety and depression I had been dealing with disappeared. It was like magic. But how could that be? I had struggled with anxiety for so long. It seemed too good to be true.

Except it stuck. I never picked up another apple (or piece of fruit) and my anxiety never returned. That’s right. 20+ years of anxiety had vanished. I had discovered another gold coin. And a handful of torn pieces. I was getting closer to the treasure, I just knew it.

Eight more months passed before God sent the rest of the map to me. Just after I was referred to Mayo by my general practitioner and gastrologist, I was told by two people (on the same day) to try the Low FODMAP diet first.

The low what diet? 

The Low FODMAP diet. It’s an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides And Polyols.”

Basically there are a ton of foods out there that contain fermentable carbohydrates that some people react to. Like me!!! You can learn more about it from where it was developed, at Monash University. But COLLEEN FRANCIOLI does a great job explaining it too, here.

When I first looked at the list of Safe and Unsafe Foods on a Low FODMAP Diet, the map magically pieced itself together. All the bizarre foods that sometimes gave me problems and sometimes didn’t (depending usually on how much I was eating in one sitting) was there. Staring back at me.

Low FODMAP diet list

After looking at it a bit longer, I realized I had also been inadvertently eating foods I thought were safe but weren’t. Like onions, garlic, and broccoli!!!

Once I knew what to avoid, my life changed.

I began to heal.

After nine(ish) months, I could reintroduce gluten free grains without experiencing muscle spasms. And now . . . a year and a half later, I can also eat white flour in moderation. You see, it wasn’t gluten I was reacting to, but the fructans found in gluten-containing foods like wheat. I still can’t eat whole-grain wheat as it possesses too many fructans but being able to eat white bread really expands one’s options.

I have to read labels all the time. High-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and honey are added to products (that don’t need it!) like nobody’s business. In fact, most packaged breads contain them (sigh).

I’m now following my own tailored Low FODMAP diet. After experimenting with all the F-O-D-M-A-Ps in different quantities (as recommended by the doctors behind the diet), I’ve come to the conclusion that fructose is my pirate kryptonite. I am extremely–and I mean extremely–sensitive to fructose.

Jack Sparrow Scared Silly

Most fruit, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup make me react within a half hour. I can get away with a little lemon or lime or a small portion of a very ripe banana (which once ripe, contains more glucose than fructose). But I can’t eat regular white sugar (like some Low FODMAPPers) because it is half fructose, half glucose, and that is just too much fructose for me. Are you confused? I’m sorry if you are. It is rather complicated to an outsider. I was baffled for a while too. But now, I’m good.

Because being in control of my body is worth the dietary sacrifices.

I’ve gained all my weight back and muscle. Tomorrow I will be running my second 10K. And while I sometimes cheat with foods I shouldn’t (especially with dark chocolate), I finally know how to keep my IBS, muscle spasms, and dermatitis under control (as long as I also avoid the sun and dogs–which I’m naturally allergic to, of course!).

I found the X on my treasure map. And I’m running my fingers through a chest of gold coins. I’ve reclaimed my health and I feel better than I have in 15 years.

What’s next for me?

Well, I’m looking at the horizon, and I see a few distant ships out there. Others who are caught in storms, or confused at the torn map they’re holding, or excited at a gold coin they just acquired.

I want to help them.

First, I want to tell them, they’re not alone and there is hope.

Second, if it turns out they have a sensitivity to high FODMAP containing foods (hopefully discovered under the direct supervision of a doctor and/or registered dietitian), they don’t have to give up on every single food they love.

Especially, if they’re like me and have a terrible sweet tooth . . .

Because I’ve set sail and have a few Low FODMAP recipes to share with the masses. They’re exactly what Low FODMAPPers like me need to stay healthy, but they’ll also work for those who are sensitive to gluten and dairy. And they’re to be enjoyed by all–be them pirate or not.

Savvy?

black_pearl

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health professional. These experiences are my own and are not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise advise others. When starting a new diet, please consult your doctor first.


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Kindergarten Rule #101

Colbie-Caillat_I-Try

I’m in line at the movie store, waiting to check-out. A boy I really like is teasing me. It’s ok. We’re picking out a date night movie.

Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who like you, pick on you.

Well, this one must really like me, because he squeezes the soft baby fat underneath my chin. And then, to make sure I understand how much he digs me, pokes my waist and asks me how much I weigh.

In that moment, I become too pudgy for comfort.

I’m sixteen and a size 6.

I realize I want to be smaller.

. . .

I’m sitting in the library with a girlfriend, studying for an upcoming test. My friend has a wispy, ballerina look to her.

“You’re so healthy,” I say, commenting on the fruit she always eats.

She looks me dead in the eyes. “I used to just throw up, but the last time I did, my whole face became covered in blood vessels.”

I try to imagine what that must have felt like. To pull your face from the toilet and look in the mirror–only to see your secret screaming at you.

My friend is 21 years old and a size 4.

She still wants to be smaller.

 . . .

I’m at church after service, talking to friends.

I’ve been sick for six months. I’ve lost 15 pounds and have no energy. Every day is a struggle.

Someone comes up and comments on my new size.

I know exactly where this is going. I explain the food intolerances I’ve been struggling with and how it’s affected my weight.

“Well, you look amazing!” this person says, encouragingly.

I smile, but I want to cry. People think I look my best when I’m at my worst.

I’m 32 years old and a size 2.

I don’t want to be this small.

 . . .

What is this obsession with being skinny? And why do girls (and guys) think this is healthy? I look at my daughter, now in kindergarten, and hope she always embraces her sparkling beauty.

Because her heart is gold. Her mind is silver. And her spirit is diamond.

Today she sees herself as a beautiful princess, with powers to match Elsa and a voice to bring down American Idol, but how will she see herself in ten years, when she’s sixteen?

My own perception of weight and beauty became warped in an instant–that one fateful night in the movie store. In hindsight, it’s easy to see I should have stood up for myself or dropped that boy right then and there. But I didn’t realize his behavior wasn’t ok. That my weight wasn’t his business.

And sadly, I didn’t figure out how easily my self-concept could be manipulated.

Within weeks of movie night, I was eating like a bird and pushing myself to exercise as hard as I could. Some people thought I had become extra health-conscious, and I tried to embrace that lie. I was only being heathy, I told myself. But when you spend two hours in soccer practice only to go home and eat an apple for dinner–well, you are being anything but healthy.

Thank goodness for brave friends who told me I was getting too skinny. That I was looking–gross. The intervention worked and soon I wasn’t so thin. Then, after fat-grabber-boy and I stopped watching movies together, guess what happened? I gained even more weight back. Hmm.

I was lucky when I started dating Adam. He looked at me like I was the most beautiful girl in the world. And I felt like it when I was near him.

Then I made an incredibly smart decision. I married the boy who made me feel beautiful.

My hubby of ten years is awesome. He’s kind and smart, makes great weekend breakfasts, and lets me drag him to Nutcracker ballets. Not sure if him marrying me was the smartest decision. But seriously, one of the best gifts he has ever given me is this: he has never, ever, commented about my weight or made me feel self-conscious about my figure or size or anything “beauty related.” Well, except for that brown shawl of mine. He hated that thing . . .

I know. He’s amazing.

Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who like you, pick on you.

Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who love you for you, don’t pick on you.

And how’s this for romantic? A week after my daughter was born, I stumbled out of the nursery disheveled and sleep deprived. I was up 30 “baby love” pounds and still looked about 6 months pregnant (and yes, people kept congratulating me on being pregnant 3 months after my baby was born). I didn’t feel comfortable in my stretched-out, red-stitched, jiggle-hanging skin. But after pushing 3.5 hours and having an emergency c-section, I wasn’t starting an exercise program anytime soon.

“You know,” Adam began as I slumped on the couch, “you don’t have to lose any weight. I think you’re gorgeous right now.”

Do I have to say it again? Yes. I really do. My husband’s amazing.

He was my knight-in-shining-armor when I was 14, and he still is today.

Popular media and culture has completely twisted our perception on what a beautiful healthy woman looks like. Hint: if you can’t eat to feel satisfied, have to exercise like a crazy person, spend over ten minutes putting on make up and doing your hair, and have to wear the “right” clothes–then you’re not letting your healthy beauty shine through.

Before you yell at me for being a complete hypocrite (“We’ve seen your fancy blog picture. Don’t tell us you’re too holy to wear makeup or do your hair or . . .”)

{Sigh}

You’re right. Full disclosure: I too need to fight this delusion.

Fact: I tend to put on my best clothes and take extra care with my makeup when I’m not feeling beautiful or confident. I take extra care with my looks when I’m feeling the most vulnerable about who I am and whether or not I’m good enough to do this, or be that, or fit in with them.

And this is not what I want for my daughter. I want her to throw on clothes and not worry about her hair or face. I especially don’t want her to worry about her weight. Of course, I want her to be healthy. I want her to eat her veggies and fruits, exercise, and have fun while doing it. But I never want her to think she has to lose another 10+ pounds because she thinks she will be more loved by a boy or by friends or by society.

I want her to know beauty and worth is not determined by her weight. Her size. Her shape.

And I hope she doesn’t chase all the extra beauty add-ons: the makeup, nails, clothes, and hair. I want her to spend ten minutes getting ready and take those extra 30 minutes (she could be using to beautify herself) to read a book, or clean her room, or take a run. Even better, I want her to take those thirty minutes, multiply it by 365 days a year, and multiply that again by 30 years and do something amazing with her extra 5,475 hours (or 228 days)–like paint a masterpiece.

I want her to understand her beauty will never be good enough until she feels good about herself.

So, to my beautiful daughter now in kindergarten, I say–

Eat your cookie. Cut your hair. Wear sweats. And feel beautiful. Because there’s a new playground rule hitting the blacktop:

Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who like you, pick on you.

Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who love you for you, don’t pick on you.

Kindergarten rule #101: Girls who love themselves, are always beautiful. No matter what.