Tattoos And Trauma: How Body Art Helped Me Overcome An Abusive Past

Trigger warning: physical and sexual abuse.

The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was 16 years old. My “boyfriend” forced me into a compromising position. He gave me an ultimatum: give him a blowjob or get out.

I was first diagnosed with mental illness when I was 17 years old, after years of cutting and self-injury. After a precarious suicide attempt.

I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old. I gave up my driver’s permit, trading the thin piece of cardstock for a state-issued ID and some ink. And I was physically abused when I was 19 years old. My boyfriend struck me in the face during a fight over a banana.

He gave me a bloody nose and blackened my eye.

And while this was the first time, it wouldn’t be the last time. I collected bruises like my friends collected Beanie Babies or cards. Every day was a different wound. A different battle. A different scar. 

The good news is, eventually things got better. I’m 36 and haven’t been beaten, pushed, kicked, or struck in some time; however, the wounds remained (and, in many ways, still remain) — at least until I turned to body modification. Until I realized the healing that I found in tattoos and body art. 

“Trauma experts encourage us to work from the body out in the course of recovery and healing — to attend to the sensations, senses, and images that carry the imprint of trauma,” Suzanne Phillips, a psychologist and adjunct professor of clinical psychology at Long Island University, tells PsychCentral. “The tattoo’s use of the body to register a traumatic event is a powerful re-doing. It starts at the body’s barrier of protection, the skin, and uses it as a canvas to bear witness, express, release and unlock the viscerally felt impact of trauma.” And this was the case with me.

The first time I was tattooed, I felt empowered. Like I was reclaiming a piece of myself. Of my voice. The second time I knew it wasn’t a fluke. The act transformed me. I felt whole — and healed — and since then I’ve used tattoos to overcome grief, trauma, sadness, and loss. My tattoos aren’t just a part of my story, they are the story. They are pictures of pain and triumph. Of battles won. 

Of course, I am not alone. Many people use tattoos as a means of catharsis for various reasons. Kelli, whose last name is being withheld at her request, told Scary Mommy she used body art to overcome a “difficult crossroads” in her life. 

“Everything was crumbling around me, and my religion and culture were the only things there for me during that trying time — hence why I got a shamrock with a trinity knot.” 

Caitlin Papiner, a childcare provider and educator, admits she used tattoos as a way to stop injuring herself and engaging in self-harm.  

“[Cutting] was a way for me to bring an instant calm to a chaotic emotional overload. When my anger and anxiety would become too much to handle — when my adrenaline was skyrocketing at an insane pace — the ONLY way to drop those levels were to cut and then instantly take a nap. But then I found tattooing and the second I felt that needle, I was instantly calm. It felt like I could finally breathe.”

And Samantha Robinson, a mother of three, shared a similar story.

“I tattooed my left forearm to cover scars from my past. I used to cut as a way to cope from sexual assault in my teenage years. As I got older and found better ways to cope I was embarrassed by the scars. My tattoo brought beauty from pain and reminds me of everything I have overcome. It made me confident again.”

That said, tattoos still get a bad rap. Many associate the art form with deviant, criminal, or sexualized behaviors — hence the terms “prison art” and “tramp stamp.” The notion that tattoos and body modification can be used to heal is also widely debated. Some believe it is a form of social masochism. However, tattoos can be cathartic for many of us, particularly for those (like me) overcoming trauma. In fact, “therapeutic tattoos” represent a powerful pathway to healing and body reclamation.

“In its visibility and in the bearer’s wish to let it be seen, a tattoo can undo the shame so often associated with trauma, war, victimization, and the intergenerational legacy of hidden trauma,” Phillips writes. “Choosing to publically… [share things which are] often hidden, they [tattooed individuals] turn horror to honor and shame to a shout about survival and a mandate to ‘Never Forget.’”

As for me, tattoos have helped me cover physical wounds, bringing new light and life to myself and my body. They have helped me overcome invisible scars. The act of tattooing has actually helped me heal, feeling comfortable in the hands of others. I’ve allowed men (and women) to touch my body in a safe, controlled, and intimate way. What’s more, tattoos have given me a renewed sense of self. Body art has helped me feel more secure in my skin. For me, body art has been transformative, in more ways than one.

Does that mean tattoos are right for everyone? No. Of course not. Tattoos are personal, as is trauma. But there is potential pushed with ink. Power. Tattooing can be motivational, inspirational, and full of healing and hope.

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‘New Year, New You’? How About, ‘New Year, CTFD Everybody’

My social media timelines and podcast commercial breaks have all been bursting with ads hocking products to help me reinvent myself in the coming year. They’re trying to inspire me to “improve” myself or “start fresh.” The ads cover anything from weight loss to fitness to business development to general daily motivation to be hella productive. Because New Year’s resolutions!

LOL, not this year, Satan.

Sure, I did put on some weight, and I am pretty annoyed that 3/4ths of the clothes in my closet don’t fit, but you better believe I’m not pressuring myself to lose that weight in dramatic, goal-oriented fashion. My freelance work slowed down too, and with it my productivity, but I have no plans to dive headfirst into “reinvigorating my career,” either. I’ve put in a considerable amount of effort this year not to collapse in a heap of despair, and I have no plans to adjust this level of effort.

Can we maybe cool it on the “New Year, New You” stuff going into 2021? In fact, can we just throw it all in the garbage and light it on fire along with the rest of this godforsaken year? I’m all set with my current level of just-barely-scraping-along, thanks, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.

2021 does not need to be the year for reinventing ourselves. It’s not the time to pressure yourself to suddenly start working out six days per week or begin a strict juicing regimen or commit to a minimalist lifestyle or swear you’ll clean every day.

We’ve made it through COVID, civil unrest, and one of the most tumultuous election years we’ve ever seen. Many of us have lost loved ones or jobs. Our kids may be struggling with distance learning, stuck at college, or unable to find work. We’re still covering our faces every time we go out in public. Many in marginalized groups are enduring ongoing trauma from processing the civil unrest that erupted across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Many of us campaigned our butts off trying to get progressive candidates into political office. We are exhausted on so many, many levels. Now is not the time for a fucking diet.

And that’s all besides the fact that, even in a normal year, people don’t generally keep their New Year’s resolutions. By February, people who were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about their lofty resolutions have sunk into an abyss of failure and self-flagellation. Can we just maybe skip all of that this year?

To be fair, if you’re truly excited about a new exercise program or reorganizing your house or starting an ambitious new business venture, go for it. Shoot for the moon! Who is anyone to tell you not to chase your ambitions? But that’s the thing — it’s your dream, something you actually want to do and not an obligatory plan set up because the concept of “New Year, New Year” compelled you to buy in. No one should feel pressured to cave in to making a resolution in any year, but we’re all especially exempt going into 2021.

2020 was a year when so many sacrificed dollars so they could stay home and avoid potentially spreading this horrible virus. When many others kept going to work anyway because they didn’t have a choice, but they wore masks for 12 or more hours per day, suffering through the discomfort because they knew it was the right thing to do to protect their fellow community members. When we struggled alongside our kids to maintain a modicum of mental health despite losing our usual social support systems. When we marched in streets and wrote our senators and knocked on doors (while wearing masks). When we said goodbye to loved ones via Facetime or Zoom. When we homeschooled multiple kids on an iffy WiFi connection while working full-time. Our kids’ lost their extracurricular activities. We gave up vacations, concerts, weddings, sporting events. We miss our grandparents.

We have given up so much this year. And so now is not the time to pressure yourself to somehow be more or better.

I propose we make 2021 a year for recovering and deep breathing. Instead of ringing in 2021 with a bunch of resolutions we probably wouldn’t keep anyway, let’s ring it in with kindness — kindness to ourselves, and kindness to those around us with whom we have shared so many struggles. We don’t have to go into the coming year with a bang as if shot out of a rocket, ready to achieve. After the year we’ve had, it’s perfectly acceptable to trudge slowly into 2021 with fuzzy slippers, unkempt hair, 15 extra pounds, and a giant mug of hot chocolate.

There will be time to goal-set and achieve. Hopefully, with multiple vaccines on the way, and with Trump exiting the White House, we are nearing the end of some of this awfulness and can begin to start making plans for the future with some confidence that our plans have a reasonable expectation of actually coming to fruition.

But, for now, for this New Year, let’s throw out all the pressure that normally comes with the first of January. Instead, let’s all resolve to take a deep, cleansing breath.

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Miss Me With The ‘Lose That Quarantine Weight’ Bullsh*t

Listen, I’m going to get right into it: the year of 2020 can go down in the books for many of us as being the absolute worst of all the years. For some reason, we thought it was going to be litty titty, our best year yet, and we would finally get a span of 365 days where we’d feel whole, get rid of toxic shit in our lives, and put ourselves first.

None of that happened. Not even a little bit. We didn’t even get the year off the ground before our entire lives were changed and we had to adjust in ways we never thought we would. 

As parents, we are teaching our kids and working from home. We are disinfecting everything, masking up, and not able to see loved ones during the holidays. Nothing feels normal or right, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

To say it’s been a struggle is an understatement. To say we all need comfort however we can find it is obvious. And to criticize ourselves for putting on weight during a global pandemic is sickening.

Think about it: we’ve all had a lot taken away from us, and the one thing we’ve been able to do is cook, bake, and eat with our immediate families. We don’t need to punish ourselves for it, and we absolutely don’t need anyone trying to tell us the thing to do to lose the quarantine weight.

Of all the years, this isn’t the time to @ anyone with your crap about losing the fluffiness they’ve put on.

Don’t slide into people’s DMs and try to sell your weight loss supplements.

Keep your fucking MLM bullshit to yourself and don’t use this year as an excuse to build your brand, feed off of anyone feeling bad about their size, and sell more weight loss tea along with all the other fuckery that can dupe people into thinking they need to look a certain way.

There are people who have gained weight in 2020 and literally don’t care.

There are people who have lost weight and feel amazing because they finally had time to exercise and meal plan like they’ve always wanted to.

There are people who have run their first 5k.

There are people who haven’t worked out since March because they don’t want to go to a gym.

And guess what? In the grand scheme of things, none of this shit matters, so long as you are doing what feels right to you.

We have all lost enough this year; weight doesn’t need to be thrown into the mix.

We have all had a lot of comforts taken away from us like job security, seeing our people, sending kids to school full time, and being able to go to a concert or party. 

Some have cancelled their wedding or postponed a funeral.

Do we really need to take something else away from ourselves?


What we need to do is not look at a weight loss ad or read a message from someone we went to high school with about a weight loss supplement, and feel less than.

We need to enjoy ourselves. Maybe that looks like making a pie and digging in with a spoon by ourselves after the kids go to bed, or maybe that looks like starting to walk every day.

We need to recognize that we are all managing our stress the best way we can, we are home more, and there are a lot less options out there to keep us occupied. Eating is fun. It’s nostalgic. It’s comforting, and the tastes and smells can take us to places we haven’t been in a long time.

To take a shitty year and be targeted for gaining weight is only doing us a disservice.

Instead, we need to stand tall and realize our bodies are amazing as they are. I mean, look at what they’ve gotten us through. How many times did you think you weren’t going to make it through this year? But look — you’re doing it.

I know for me, the only way I’ve been able to keep my mood up is by baking with my kids. First it was bread, then it was brownies, then it was going out for ice cream every day we could this summer. It fed our souls, and it kept me from going to a bad place many times.

2020 has robbed us of a lot. I’ll be damned if it’s going to rob me of my melty grilled cheese sandwiches and the opportunity to eat a brownie over the sink when I need a pick-me-up. I’m not giving that up for anyone’s weight loss teas that taste like dirt and emptiness … nor am I going to feel like gaining weight during a really fucking stressful time is something to be corrected.

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You’re Getting Coal In Your Stocking This Year, You Selfish Jerks

I don’t know about you all but I’m feeling all sorts of ragey lately.

And I’m sure a lot of other writers might skirt around this, but ya know what? Screw it. I’m just gonna come out and say it. I’m that ragey.

Ragey because we are quickly nearing 200,000 new cases a DAY in this country and people I know are getting put on ventilators. Meanwhile, I often go into full-on panic mode because I can’t keep this from imploding into a massive dumpster fire. You know, because it takes ALL of us to put the flames out.

Ragey because my family—and many other military families—might not get to go home for Christmas this year because people won’t just cool their jets for five seconds, wear a mask, and stop throwing freakin’ high school homecoming parties.

Ragey because our current elected government officials aren’t doing their damn jobs. They aren’t doing diddly squat to try and get our hospitals and doctors and overloaded health care systems more PPE and resources to fight COVID, nothing to make testing more streamlined, accessible, and efficient, zilch to help keep small businesses open, or even huge companies from laying off or furloughing thousands more employees.

If You're Feeling Ragey AF Right Now, You Are Not Alone
Courtesy of Emily Solberg

This isn’t about politics—I honestly don’t care what party you support, BOTH sides are complicit—this is about Americans who are currently homeless, jobless, and hungry, and NEED HELP NOW.

Ragey because rather than come together and figure out bipartisan solutions to all of this, we would rather just point fingers and squabble over ships that have already sailed and milk that has already been spilled.

Ragey because I can’t even pick up a newspaper anymore because I am so disgusted and appalled by the headlines.

Ragey because some people would rather believe that scientists, scholars, economists, doctors, statisticians, historians, and journalists must have been spending their entire lives trying to deceive them, rather than accept the truth.

Ragey, and also helpless and despondent, because I tried to make my voice heard, and I honestly feel like it fell on deaf ears.

Doesn’t anyone care about anyone else anymore?

Is that what we’ve come to? A nation of self-serving, apathetic, squabbling children?

Get your sh*t together, America.

It’s looking like coal in your stocking this year.

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‘LOL’ Pumas Are Here And Your Kids Are Going To Want Some

Puma has joined forces with L.O.L. Surprise and launched an entire collection around the popular toys

If you are a parent with youngish children you are all too familiar with L.O.L. Surprise!, an insanely popular collection of dolls, dollhouses, play sets, pets, scooters – -literally everything imaginable — that launched in 2016. Now, just in time for the holidays, the L.O.L. franchise has joined forces with Puma to launch a collaborative collection of shoes and apparel your little L.O.L. fan is going to flip out over. We have to admit, we are majorly crushing over it.

The exclusive Puma X L.O.L. Surprise collection launched on Friday at Kids Foot Locker and Puma stores nationwide. Per a press release fan favorites, Diva and Queen Bee, are “the two fashionable characters are the muses behind the collection.”


“Introducing the PUMA x L.O.L. SURPRISE! collection, featuring L.O.L. Surprise™ fan favorites, M.C. Swag and Queen Bee,” Puma announced on their website. “This kids’ collection was made to stand out, featuring bright kicks and bold apparel for the biggest personalities out there. With fun graphic prints, pops of color, and signature added details, this collection is ready to play.”


The brand posted a totally on point video of the collection, featuring a bunch of truly sassy, stylish and downright hip little people dancing around and looking cool as cucumbers rocking the collection. In another video posted earlier, actress Tahani Anderson shows off the pieces of the collection.

For example, Diva is featured in the PUMA®Future Rider x Diva sneaker, “with her signature pink bow and a playful black-and-white cheetah print, along with light green accents and pink glitter highlights throughout.” Queen Bee fans will be pleased with the PUMA®Cali Sport x Queen Beesneaker, “which includes a striking metallic gold accent color with a pop of pink against a black and white design.”


The collection also includes a bunch of  bold graphic T-shirts and leggings, decorated in the splashy, bright and signature colors of the L.O.L. Surprise!™ brand as well as graphics of  Diva and Queen Bee.

The PUMA®x L.O.L. Surprise!™ collection ranges in price from $22 to $75. To give you an idea about pricing, a pair of leggings or t-shirt will run you in the mid-twenties, while the sneakers cost anywhere from $55 to $75 depending on style and size. Pieces can be ordered online or shopped for in stores at Puma or any of the Foot Locker family stores, including Kids Foot Locker, Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Footaction and Eastbay.


Unfortunately, the line is only available in toddler to junior sizes, so adult fans are out of luck. However, you can live vicariously through your little ones by ponying up this holiday season.

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I’m Not Adventurous And I’m Done Apologizing For It

I went to the grocery store and bought a pine scented candle and couldn’t wait to get home and light it. It was the highlight of my day, and I don’t care if that makes me look like I need to go on more adventures and have more life experiences.

I’m a 45-year-old woman and I know myself by now — I’m happiest when I’m doing something simple, eating something simple, and in the company of people who get my love of fast food without any dipping sauces. I’m a ketchup girl through and through.

I’m the one who will show up to your gathering with onion dip made out of Lipton soup mix and sour cream, because I love that over any fancy little appetizer that takes hours and a million dollars to make.

I’m not here to be fancy, and I have no problem watching a cheesy rom-com over a documentary. Going to bed early and falling asleep to the Lifetime Channel is a happening Friday night for me. I decorate my home with Amazon and Target finds, and I don’t feel the need to keep up with anyone as far as trips, kids’ summer vacations, or the latest electronics.

I’ve always been this way — excited about making a banana smoothie with a new blender, looking forward all week to ordering pizza on Friday night, changing my sheets to flannel in the winter. 

People have laughed at me and made fun of me (in the most loving way) for it. I’ve never longed to travel far and wide. I don’t crave adventure. I will never bungee jump, dive on a cliff into pink waters, or snorkel. I love my routines and I don’t have the slightest desire to learn another language.

There was a long time in my life when I felt self conscious for being so simple. It seemed like everyone around me wanted more, and I was happy to stop at the grocery store on the way home and try a new recipe. 

Simple things delight me. They fill my soul. I have no desire to glow up my life in order to feel like I’m doing more. And I’m done apologizing for it.

You can keep your fruit-tini whatever the hell it is because I’m not a big drinker. Give me a Diet Coke and I’m just as happy as my sisters sipping on homemade mojitos or expensive champagne or drinks with cucumber and lavender squeezed into them.

A trip to Target does count as “me” time. I don’t need a day at the spa or to go have a whole weekend getaway to feel refreshed. I mean, those things are wonderful; don’t get me wrong. But I love taking a drive by myself, not being on anyone else’s time, and staring at the Christmas ornaments.

I’m not into fancy restaurants. I hate small plates, and everyone that knows me doesn’t even suggest I accompany them to such nonsense. I want to be fed and see all my food at the same time. I like free refills. I don’t care how well the pea shoots are displayed with that sliver of raw beef and a brown drizzle that resembles baby poo; pass me a burger with a large fry. Load it up with bacon and cheddar. I don’t care if it’s been aged for ten years in the cellar that also grows rare rose buds. Keep the pine nuts off my pizza. The only topping I want is extra cheese. Maybe some pepperoni if I need some meat. But I want no part of having root veggies, fruit, or aioli on my ‘za. 

I buy my clothes from the establishment that has things I like. Sometimes that’s at Walmart and other times I’ll take a spin around Nordstrom. I don’t care about the label on the top if the top looks good on me.

I’m a no-name hoarder. Do you know how much money you can save when there isn’t a Nabisco or Kraft on the box? It’s a shit ton — I don’t care if it embarrasses my kiddos. 

Fancy trips and all-inclusive resorts aren’t my thing. Sure, they’re fun and all, but I’m happy at a Hampton Inn with a hot tub, a fluffy towel, and a big television. I don’t need room service, chocolates under the pillow, or Eggs Benedict waiting at my door. I’d rather go to the drive-thru and pop off on a sausage egg and cheese any day.

I pass on the pricy manicures because I adore my press-ons. And guess what? You can do them at home watching your rom-com while eating your off-brand ice cream and have a hell of a good time.

I don’t use expensive products on my hair. I adore my Pantene. Also, I color it myself out of a box dye from the grocery store and feel just as good as I do when I go to the salon.

My dream day is to have a morning romp (quickies are my fav, let’s not get elaborate), go for a run, and listen to a crass podcast, then hit up a diner where the grease tastes delicious. After that, napping and mindless television are in order.

To some, I’m boring. I don’t care.

Other people have called me low-maintenance. That’s not the way to describe me either. I adore all the things you aren’t “supposed” to like such as The Golden Arches, soda in the morning versus fancy coffee, television that may make me lose a few IQ points, and cheap leggings. 

All the messages like “live your best life” and “do the thing you are afraid to do” give us this sense we are supposed to be on fire at every turn. We are supposed to try new things all the time and we are downright boring and wrong for wanting to hit a chain pizza joint instead of trying the new place that serves sweet potato and ricotta pizza.

Sure, that’s all fine and good if being adventurous makes you happy, but for me, I’ll take the simple, non-trendy, never-glamorous things in life and be just fine. I mean, when Wendy’s came out with their pretzel bun, I went straight away to try it and the happiness I got from that trip lasted. It made me happier than that time I spent forty dollars on the fancy potato-and-endive thing at a new restaurant that opened in the city near me.

I’ve canceled plans so I could stay in my pajamas and move furniture around. And I’d rather chow down on some nachos with my girlfriends at our favorite Mexican place than go to a club or hike a mountain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to binge watch Dawson’s Creek on my weekend without my kiddos and order my extra cheese pizza. 

The post I’m Not Adventurous And I’m Done Apologizing For It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m Married To A Celebrity — Here’s What Our Life Is Like

Most people have a preconceived idea about what it means to be a Hollywood celebrity, but I can tell you it’s not what you think. I know because I am married to one.

Now before you go rolling your eyes and passing out the judgment, know that I am not writing this to complain in any way. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I married my husband, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just want to set the record straight about the image people have let everyone know that “celebrities” are real people too.

Honestly, my husband is not an A-level celebrity, but he has a long resume and has earned credible recognition in his field of work. People recognize his face and voice on a regular basis. And people would be surprised to know that for the most part, we live a regular, boring life in the suburbs like most of you.

My husband is the simplest, most humble person I have ever met. He prefers a home cooked meal over a fancy restaurant, his favorite place is snuggled up in his own bed, and his favorite thing to do is work out in the garage by himself. The way he sees it he is just a guy with a job that he loves that happens to be in the public eye.

But this is not your typical 9-to-5 job with set hours, benefits and paid vacation time. This is a roller coaster of a career that is completely unpredictable and full of rejection. There is no telling when or where or for how long the next job will be. And there is no way to determine when it will come up. He can get a phone call and have to hop on a plane within the next 24 hours and we just have to go with it. Or there can be no work for months and months at a time.

Emma McIntyre/Getty

Fortunately and unfortunately, my husband is away from home a lot. He travels a lot and even when he is working locally the days are very long, often 14+ hours. And he usually doesn’t know what time his call time will be till the day before. He doesn’t get to request certain days off, or to be finished by a certain time, and there are no sick days. When he is working, his schedule is completely dependent on the production schedule and we just have to work with it.

We try really hard to not go more than a couple of weeks without seeing each other. If I can, I will travel to where he is, or he tries to come home for a few days whenever he’s able. But that is not always up to us. We have gone as long as six weeks without seeing each. Productions are all over the country and also international. He could be filming in Canada one week and have to hop on a plane to North Carolina the next, and I’m lucky if he’s able to make it home over the weekend.

From time to time I get to travel with him, which was tons of fun before kids, but not so much since having kids. My first born traveled a ton of places and has been on more planes than most adults, and my youngest already has a stamp on his passport. But having kids in school and activities makes all of us traveling together nearly impossible. And family vacations are usually a last minute, weekend trip.

As his wife, I always have to be prepared and plan for things as if he won’t be here. It can be a challenge to transition from him being home full time to not being here at all for weeks at a time. But not always having him around makes me very aware of how much I appreciate how active he is as a husband and a father when he is home.

With him being gone so much, that means the majority of the day-to-day parenting lands on me, and that can be a little overwhelming at times. It also sometimes means my career has to take a back seat. So when he is away for a long time I have to remind myself that he hates it just as much as I do.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty

I don’t have maids and nannies helping me around the house. Yes I do the cooking, yes I do the cleaning (in my Nicki Minaj voice …I couldn’t help myself). The way our house functions is pretty normal. There is always a mess somewhere, you can find unfolded laundry in at least two rooms, and someone is always yelling or crying. When school is in session, I feel like a taxi driver for my kids, and the “witching hour” between dinner and bedtime is usually total chaos.

The thing I like the least is when people judge me because they think they know me. They make certain assumptions about me, my husband, and our lifestyle. These people are usually complete strangers and rarely get under my skin. But with a quick internet search I can find a treasure trove of internet trolls judging my marriage, parenting skills, and life choices.

Are there perks? Yes, of course. For one, my husband gets to make a living and support our family doing something he loves. We live a simple, comfortable life and our children are happy and well adjusted. And although we are mostly homebodies, some of these “Hollywood” events can be quite fun. I love to have a reason to get out of my mom uniform and put on some makeup and something fancy and go somewhere to have adult conversations with “fancy” people.

For the most part, we can go out and about and live a regular, uninterrupted life. However, it’s not uncommon to run into people that recognize him and ask for pictures or an autograph. And I always find it funny how people will try to catch me off to the side and whisper to ask me if he is who they think he is. But once people get past the celebrity and get to know us, they are surprised to find out we are just regular, everyday people.

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I Was Raised In An Orthodox Religion: Here’s How I Learned To Rethink Modesty

Being raised in an orthodox religion, I was taught from a very young age that my body was a temple and it was my responsibility to keep it covered up. I knew the word “modesty” by the time I was six years old. And what exactly did that mean? Modesty meant that my hemlines touched my kneecap, maybe just the top of it if I was feeling a bit rebellious. My shoulders were always covered, nothing low-cut, nothing too-tight. Modesty was a measurement of outward commitment to my religious beliefs. Furthermore, it was my responsibility to make sure that men and boys did not have impure thoughts.

After experiencing a faith transition as an adult, I found myself sorting, shedding, and scraping some of my beliefs, but modesty was one that I still was not able to categorize in a nice, neat little pile of keep, save, or donate. It didn’t fit anywhere on the shelf. I couldn’t hang it in my closet of mishmash.

I am still working on examining, pushing past, accepting and letting go of some unhealthy conditioning of orthodoxy that exists within. A pattern of thoughts race through my mind each time I put on a dress that is a little shorter than I had become accustomed to.

Will they think my dress is immodest?

Will they think it shows too much of my legs?

Will they think I make bad decisions?

Will they think less of me?

Am I less of a person?

Am I unworthy?

The thought of what I was inadvertently exemplifying to my kids with these thought patterns has kept me up at night. The thought that my girls could grow to think these things about themselves was painful and heart-wrenching. The thought that my boys could grow up judging a girl’s worth on what she wore was just as painful and heart-wrenching. I became determined to break the cycle of the modesty trap.

Examining why modesty was so tied in my mind to my inherent worth as a person has been a journey. A long, rough path. This is an effect of purity culture, which is heavily present in many orthodox religious communities. More importantly, I found myself asking: What can I do to move past the teachings that equate my individual worth with how my body is covered or not covered? How can I model and teach a healthy view of modesty?

And soon, new pattern became scripted in my mind.

I am not my legs.

I am not my hemline.

I am not my calves.

I am not the tightness of my dress.

Or where it grazes my thigh.

I am me. A whole person. Not what I wear. Not how I look. Not how I dress.

I am me, who feels great about how she presents herself to the world.

And suddenly, I found my own meaning of modesty that I could comfortably pack into my closet of mishmash.

So, this year, I look back and acknowledge; I never would have worn a dress that fell on my mid-thigh, a dress that showed my legs, with heels that accented my calves, especially not for family photos.

And this year …

… I did.

The post I Was Raised In An Orthodox Religion: Here’s How I Learned To Rethink Modesty appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Let’s Discuss The Smiley Face Killer

Trigger warning: violence

There is no denying science (unless you live in Donald Trump Land, of course). Fact, logic, and common sense have a place in our daily lives. Recently, I listened to a podcast called Crime Junkie — specifically, its 13th episode, “Conspiracy: The Smiley Face Killer.” Like other crime podcasts I’ve listened to, this one held my attention as Criminal, Serial and Embedded did.

The story explores some 40-plus unsolved murders of young white and Asian men with the same cause of death: drowning. The men were all drugged with gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB — also known as the “date rape drug”) and found along with the murderer’s “calling card”: a smiley face nearby.

Serial killers typically have a clear pattern. The FBI reports, “serial murder is defined by the FBI as two or more killings separated by a span of time. A majority of serial killings are sexually motivated. Serial murders are relatively rare. Fewer than one percent of homicides during a given year are committed by serial killers.”

When we think of serial killers, most of us think about Ted Bundy who killed women in the ’70s in multiple states; he was caught and confessed. Or Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed and confessed to killing 17 people, some of whom he kept in his freezer (all of his victims were killed in the Milwaukee area where he lived). Then there is Samuel Little, who confessed to killing 93 people across 16 states over the span of 35 years.

My point is this: just because every single detail within these 40 murders is not identical, that does not change the fact that this is the work of a serial killer — science, common sense, and all of these other serial killers have given us enough bodies to see the patterns left behind by the Smiley Face Killer. With the serial killers above, they’ve been caught, confessed, and we have their face to associate with the murders, some solved and some unsolved (e.g., the victims’ bodies were never found). If you’re like me, and you’ve watched enough episodes of Criminal Minds, you know enough to know that anything is possible in the mind of a killer, especially a serial killer. 

What we don’t have with the Smiley Face Killer is a solid suspect, only theories.

The killings happened between 2005-2017, all with the same, eerily similar details: college-aged white or Asian men, found drowned in a body of water, drunk and with GHB in their system, and smiley face graffiti found at most of the murder sites — either new or old — near their bodies. In the case of the Smiley Face Killer, Rolling Stone magazine contributor Nile Cappello took a closer look and noted, “According to a 2015 report by the Center for Disease Control, the two leading causes of death for white males under the age of 44 are accidents and suicide, respectively. A fact sheet by the CDC shows that men ages 18-34 are most likely to binge-drink, that binge-drinking is twice as common among men as it is among women, and that its risks include unintentional injuries.” This is why investigators often didn’t look further than “accidental drowning” as an explanation for these deaths. What this point leaves out, however, is the presence of GHB in the victims’ systems.

In their book, Case Studies in Drowning Forensics, NYPD detective, Kevin Gannon (who investigated the cases in early 2005) and professor of criminal justice Dr. Lee Gilbertson take the cases of six of the men, and deep dive into the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Reporter Bruce Vielmetti for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states, “Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte believe hundreds of college-aged men found drowned around the country since 1997 were victims of homicides orchestrated by a group that left smiley face symbols near where the men went into the water, mostly rivers.” A group — not just one single murderer.

By the time the podcast ended, I was left confused — puzzled, really — as to how one could think these murders are a conspiracy. What I do not believe is that these murders were done by a group of serial killers, The Smiley Face Serial Killers, a cell of men who were coordinated enough to orchestrate the murders of these men. I do believe the victims’ families need justice, their murders need to be solved, and that there is only one person responsible for their deaths — not many. But whether you agree with my assessment or not, there’s one question that remains … and that question is, who?

The post Let’s Discuss The Smiley Face Killer appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How To Know If You’re ‘Trauma-Bonded’ In Your Relationship

You’ve probably never heard of trauma bonding, which usually occurs in the context of domestic violence. One partner, usually a narcissist, puts the other through a cycle of high highs and low lows, resulting in an ugly, abusive relationship that keeps the other person bonded to them. Trauma bonding usually starts with a bang: with total infatuation, with a whirlwind relationship. The narcissist showers the other person with love and affection.

And then it slams to a halt.

Suddenly the same person who showered you with love and attention is distant, cold, and abusive. You’re baffled, confused, and hurt. But then that same love and infatuation returns! It’s a brutal cycle, “a bond that forms due to intense, emotional experiences,” says Thought Catalog. Because of that intermittent reinforcement, the traumatized person keeps returning, hoping for a return to that first phase of love and attention. The narcissist doles it out intermittently, explains Psychology Today.

The Complex PTSD Foundation says that this intermittent reinforcement creates “a strong hormonal and chemical bond.” As Blessing Manifesting says on Instagram, “Healthy relationships give you a steady supply of dopamine. Trauma bonding withholds it, then gives it a sharp increase.” These chemical reinforcements make trauma-bonded relationships so hard to leave, even when the abused is staring their own abuse in the face.

Signs Of Trauma Bonding

Here are some signs that your relationship is based on trauma bonding, rather than a healthy give-and-take:

This person reminds you of some toxic relationship you’ve had in the past. The Complex PTSD Foundation points out that people involved in trauma bonding often have traumatic relationships in their pasts. If you had “attachment trauma” as a child, you’ll tend to act out the same pattern as an adult, seeking subconsciously to heal your own childhood wound: if I can only make it work with them, then I will be worthy of mom/dad’s love. 

You know the person is manipulating you, but you can’t let go. Thought Catalog says that intellectually, you may know you’re being mistreated; you may know this person is manipulative and even narcissistic; you may even be able to label their behavior as abusive. However, when you get it together to leave, they reel you back in with more affection and love. It’s this intermittent cycle again that makes trauma bonding so hard to break. It doesn’t make you weak. It means you’re bonded on a chemical and hormonal level, and that bond is reinforced through childhood wounds.

You justify behavior you know is wrong—and often blame yourself for it. You’ll find yourself saying things like, If I had done the dishes, he wouldn’t have to rage at me like this. Anyway, he had a bad childhood. The Complex PTSD Foundation says this is a major sign of trauma bonding: because you want that affection again, you’re willing to excuse behavior that would send you begging a friend, sibling, or child to leave a relationship. Because of your own trauma wound from your childhood, you may have learned to associate being loved with being compliant, and if you weren’t compliant, you were “bad,” says Psych Central. Therefore, you stuff down your anger and resentment at your partner’s abuse, the way you did with your parents’ abuse, in order to continue to get love and affection.

How To Let Go And Get Help

It’s very, very hard to sever trauma-bonded relationships, because of the nature of trauma bonding. When you start to leave, you’re immediately drawn back. The system of rewards and punishments, doled out without rhyme or reason, keeps you hoping for the reward. No matter how debased you are, there’s always a hope for the return to that infatuation phase when the abuser will shower you with love.

But you are being abused. 

The first step: therapy, therapy, therapy. Can’t afford therapy? 7Cups, an online therapy service, offers free volunteer “listeners” 24/7. They aren’t certified, but they’re an outside ear that may give you some perspective on your relationship. But you need more than a listener—that’s a stopgap. You need a real therapist who can look you in the eye and help you make a plan to get out.

Everything from the Complex PTSD Association to TalkSpace to Psychology Today recommends going no-contact. If kids are involved and you can’t go no-contact, keep it minimal. You need time to recover and heal and break the cycle. If you go back, you are not weak. You are not a failure. You can pick up and try again. Trauma bonding is very, very difficult to break, and while that’s not an excuse for returning, it doesn’t make you a bad person if you do cave to those hormones and chemicals and have to repeat the cycle of leaving again. Just take what you learned and do it again. 

Psychology Today recommends developing a support network of people (you know, all those people who were telling you to leave the abusive relationship in the first place). They need to help you stay away from your abuser and support you as you make new goals and move forward in your life. Remember how your abuser was your whole world? You need new people to fill it.

You also need to “challenge yourself to do new things,” says the Complex PTSD Association. You need not only new people, but new things to fill the void your abuser has left. Take a class, start a new hobby… this will help you begin a new identity away from that person, and help to distract you from the loss of that relationship.

Letting Go Is Hard.

It’s difficult to extricate yourself from a trauma bond, and it’s important that you don’t blame yourself for falling into the trap of trauma bonding. It comes from a complex interplay between past abuse and the need for validation, between hormones and chemicals of all kinds.

With the help of friends and a good therapist, you don’t need to be involved in this abuse anymore. It will be hard. It will take a long time. But you can break free.

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