Let Her Speak: Women and Pornography

The following was sent to me by a very brave woman. I thank her immensely for her candor, courage and willingness to share her story to help other women who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. May she be greatly blessed and always know how loved she is.

I was twelve and browsing on a website my sister showed me.  A harmless website, she thought, just little quizzes, “What Superhero are you?” “What planet are you most like?” One day, I clicked on a link and my life changed.  There were stories on the website too.  Many of them were harmless stories, but several of them were hard-core erotica.  The first one I clicked was a fairly tame story, but soon I was into some very depraved stuff.  I soon found other websites, easier to navigate, more stories.  I didn’t admit to myself that I had a problem or that it was a sin for two years.  By that point, I was reading and watching porn almost every day.

My addiction to pornography led to other problems, even before I admitted it was a problem.  I had such strong feelings of self-hatred that I frequently cut myself and periodically stopped eating.  After I admitted I had a porn problem, the cutting temporarily got worse.  I thought I was disgusting  and horrible and cut to make myself feel better.  Then I would feel horrible for cutting and eventually cut again to punish myself for being horrible.  It makes no sense, but if there is one thing I’ve learned its that I, like every other human, am not always rational.

Recovery is an ongoing process.  I am both blessed and cursed with a wonderful memory and porn is designed to stick in your head.  The images and words still come back to me, generally when I least expect it.  Confession is a weekly must and I make it to daily Mass as often as possible.  Every night I make an examination of conscience paying close attention to the slightest lack of purity.  I ask St. Joseph’s intercession daily for purity and try to pray the Rosary every day.  Every night I read the Bible and a chapter or two of some spiritual book.  And most of all, I have patience with myself.  When I fall, I remember how far I’ve come and how much God loves me.  Then I rush off to Confession to try again.

Before A Man Can Tell You

As women, we are very vulnerable to what we hear. Sure, it’s nice to hear that you are beautiful, but true confidence is believing it in your heart. You need to get comfortable in who God created you to be, before you would even believe what a man told you anyway.

Nothing compares to the beauty, the confidence, the Truth and the joy of knowing that you are created with a purpose, created by a loving Father, and that you are beautiful because you have His hand print on your soul.

You are a daughter of God and you are beautiful, because He created you. God doesn’t create ugly, it would go against His very nature. He can only create beautiful and that’s what you are.

So you see my dear readers, there is an inner beauty about a woman who believes in her inherent dignity as a daughter of God. She is capable of anything she puts her mind to. There is a gentle beauty in her strength, courage and determination, for she perseveres despite pain, loss and suffering. There is beauty in a woman who falls and then rises, again and again. There is immense beauty in a woman who loves.

A woman who embraces the beauty of her feminine genius is a strong woman. She feels deeply, yet is sensitive and compassionate to those who suffer, she feels their pain. She loves passionately, has a gentle spirit and giving heart. A strong woman finds her peace and joy in the Father. A strong woman who embraces the beauty of her femininity is a gift to this world.

You are beautiful.

You are valuable.

You are enough.

   You are made in His Image.

She took the leap and built her wings on the way down: Life after an eating disorder

Today was an awesome day!! I was live on Relevant Radio for an hour which was a beautiful opportunity to showcase Made in His Image! I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity! You can go to their website and listen to my interview if you would like. Below is a question I am asked frequently, so I wanted to address it today on our blog.

Is a full recovery possible? 

I think it depends on what you mean by recovery. Here is my thought process.

The word recovery means restoration or return to health from sickness. What if you were in a car accident in which you broke your left leg? Your leg would be put in a cast and you would walk with crutches. When your leg healed, the doctor would remove the cast and you would proceed with various physical therapy exercises. At first, it would be painfully to apply pressure to your left leg and you would unconsciously use your right leg to support a majority of your body weight when walking. As you process in physically therapy and your bones heal, it will become easier to apply equal weight to both legs. Eventually, it will feel normal again. So does this mean you are fully recovered? In my opinion, no, and here is my logic behind it.

As your left leg heals, scar tissue will also form, which can easily prevent range of motion, among other variables. Even if you were to get the scar tissue surgically removed, it will still be different from your right leg. So what does that all mean? It means that your leg is in remission, it is as normal as it can be. You might not be able to turn it a certain way or bend it as usual.

Life after an eating disorder is a life in remission. Yes, you can be recovered, but you could always slip again. Just the same way a patient with cancer can always get cancer again. No doctor can tell a cancer patient that they are not going to have cancer again. Now I don’t want this to discourage you, so please read on. I can tell you from experience that I have gone weeks and months without thinking about my past habits in regards to food. But, I still have my memory and sometimes I do think about where I have been and where I am today, which is only natural.

I want to clarify what I mean about being in remission in regards to eating disorders. Everyone has certain tendencies and ways in which they cope when stress, sadness, loneliness, grief and change. In relation to eating disorders, some people over eat and some under eat when these emotions arise, both are disordered. As you go through recovery you learn how to deal with stress in a proper manner, a manner that will not incapacitate you from carrying out everyday tasks. Also, unlike cancer, you make the choice if you are going to relapse again or not. As you go through recovery, you will learn the correct way to act when stress occurs and you are left with the choice to either act upon what you learned or your impulses. To live in recovery requires on act of the will, but the more you make the right choice the less you will think about it. For example, I don’t give it a second thought to have dinner and then a bowl of ice cream. In the past, I would make a conscious effort to sit down and eat a bowl of ice cream after dinner, it was more like a chore than a treat. Of course if you are just starting out on your recovery process, focus just on eating dinner.

If you want to be free, if you want to be normal again, eat out with your friends without worrying or wondering if you will go home to over eat, than turn to God. He is the One who can help you control your tendencies and habits. Surrender to Him and I guarantee you it will be okay. It takes courage and strength to do this and if you don’t feel as if you have the courage, then ask for it, because it’s yours for the asking.

MIHI exists to help you recover, please email or call us today. We want to help YOU!

To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often. – John Henry Newman

Wait What, God Designed Sex?

People magazine can put a half-naked woman on the cover of their magazines and claim she wins the most beautiful woman of the year award. Made in His Image says NO, that’s not true beauty. Modesty reveals a woman’s inner beauty for the world to see, while preserving her body for her husband in the holy sacrament of marriage. Our culture has lost this sense of sacredness for the human body and the marital embrace. Yes, you heard right! God Himself designed sex for a husband and wife to bring forth new life into this world, a sacred act reserved for marriage.

There is an exceeding amount of over sexualized behavior and immodesty in our culture. What this world needs is for women to stand up and embrace the beauty of the feminine genius, challenge men to be men of virtue and call society to a higher standard. A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies…charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31.

A woman is a mystery, and this is the way God designed her. And when a woman conducts herself in accordance with the way in which God created her, she reflects this beauty and appeal in a unique way.

At the core of every woman is the natural desire for respect. No woman desires to be mistreated, but in reality, when a woman dresses immodestly she is inviting disrespect upon herself. When she dresses in a revealing way, she is inviting others to notice her body, and possibly lust after what they see. But, when a woman dresses modestly she is protecting herself from being used, while concealing the beautiful mystery of her body. A man told me that women would be shocked if they were to enter the head of the average man in a crowded room of immodestly dressed women.

Women, who are the crowning of God’s creation play a unique role in reversing this tragedy. How? By embracing the strengths, essence and authentic value of womanhood. In his letter to women, Pope John Paul II refers to these unique characteristics of women as the feminine genius. What an exceedingly beautiful task we have been given!

In fact, woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man, since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests and emphases and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment. – Blessed John Paul II

Let’s Do the Darn Thing

One day it came to me, what would happen if I put all of the energy that I use to keep my eating disorder alive towards recovery? Actually, scratch that, what would happen if I just used a fraction of that energy to channel towards getting better? I would be a changed person, I’m sure of it. But ouch, that would be really hard work! On the flip side, I can’t live like this forever right? I mean let’s be real, I’m miserable. I’m destroying relationships, slowing killing myself and disrespecting the body God gave me to care for. I’m stronger than this. 

I need to change. Alright, let’s do this. Let’s do the darn thing. Let’s recover. 

What about you? Have you ever approached the thought of recovery like that?

Do you know what?

You are strong! Do you know how much physical exertion it takes to exercise without any fuel in your system? How many hours a day you spend on planning how you will avoid meals with friends and what you will and will not eat? The hours you obsess over counting calories? The relationships your eating disorder has severed? The amount of money you have wasted on binge foods, laxatives, etc? The amount of time you have put into keeping your eating disorder a secret?

The above list is not meant to discourage you, on the contrary, it is written to empower you. I want to challenge you to take just a fraction of that energy and channel it towards a positive change.YOU CAN DO IT!!! Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t about being perfect. It’s about making smart daily choices, even if you don’t feel like doing them, because those choices will turn into a habit, which will cultivate a lifestyle change. And this takes time, so please be patient with yourself.

Remember, the scale can’t measure your strength, beauty, courage, determination, perseverance, joy, love, gentleness, compassion, athletic ability and purpose. So you see, your validation of beauty and sense of acceptance, is not the width of your waist or the number you see on the scale.

It’s in your worth as a daughter of God.

Let’s Be Real…Dating Can Be Hard.

Our society tries to make women believe that dating is supposed to be like the TV show Sex and the City. Well let me tell you something, that is a lie from the pit of hell. That’s not dating, that’s glorified objectification and impurity at its finest. An authentic man doesn’t taint a woman’s purity. An authentic man stands up to heroically protect it, and vice versa. That show and countless others is the direct opposite of this beautiful truth.

One woman told me, But he’s so cute, and those eyes…oh, I just know I can change him. That’s a huge red flag, not his eyes, but the fact that you think you could change him. My advice to you, never enter into a relationship thinking you are a going to change a man. It will not work. Instead, focus on striving to become the best version of you and let him seek the Lord to pursue and win your heart. The Blessed Mother is holding your hand and the hand of the one you have a vocation with and when the time is right, she will join your hands together. Until then, trust in God’s beautiful plan for you and continually strive to be the best version of yourself.

Another woman asked me what my dating experiences are like as a survivor of abuse. I will be very honest with you, it has been challenging. But I have grown so much through the process and continue to discover more about myself and others as I date. My doctor once told me that the man I marry will be generously blessed by God Himself, with compassion, gentleness, patience and the ability to make me feel protected and safe. The same is true for you, and you will learn as you date what type of man complements your personality. For example, one time a guy told me that my desire to feel safe and protected was ridiculous, he didn’t know how to reassure me and the list goes on a mile long. On the contrary, just recently, I was definitely testing a man to see what his responses would be and asked, Well what if I ask you 50 times if you’re going to make me feel safe? He said, When you’re with me, I hope you will just feel safe so you won’t even need to ask. But if you’d like to then I’ll answer you 51 times with a smile. And the answer will always be, absolutely. 

That is the type of man you need to wait for. That is the type of man you should date.

“Each sex has its strengths; each sex has its weaknesses. According to God’s admirable plan, the husband is to help his wife overcome these weaknesses so that all the treasures of her femininity will come to full bloom, and vice versa. Men become ‘themselves’ thanks to the love of their wives. And wives are transformed by their husband’s strength and courage.” – Alice Von Hildebrand

My Love, My Cross, My Joy: Marriage following Abuse

This evening, I’m very honored to welcome my dear friend Faith Hakesley to MIHI’s blog. Faith, a survivor of sexual abuse, wrote for the National Catholic Register about her experiences several months ago and this evening Faith will address a very sensitive topic for survivors: Marriage Following Abuse.

As the founder and president of MIHI, I would like to sincerely thank Faith for her candor, courage and perseverance. Her faith, and choice to see beauty, despite her suffering is extraordinary. The things that most people complain about are unparalleled to what this woman has overcome, through the grace of God.

This is a repost from Jan. 2011 due to the emails MIHI has been receiving.

By Faith Hakesley

Following months of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest when I was fifteen, marriage and children were gifts I felt totally undeserving of. “Why would anyone want to marry me now?” were the words frequently haunting my traumatized mind. In our society, women who have been abused or raped are often seen as “damaged goods” and it takes a rare and special man to be willing to “deal with” and share the repercussions a survivor experiences. God blessed me with one of those rare and special men, however, and, even though it is not easy by any stretch, we have built a strong relationship of incredible love and unity.

“You are my love, you are my cross, you are my joy.” These were the words spoken by the officiant at my husband’s (Alex) and my wedding three and a half years ago. The priest held up a crucifix as he spoke these powerful words. Some people might just shrug these words off. To my husband and I, however, these are the words that we have learned to live by in our marriage. My crosses have become his crosses, my joys his joys, and my love his love (and vice versa).

The road is difficult and different for each family but it is possible to overcome trauma. I was fortunate enough to have come to terms with and gotten help for the traumas I had experienced before marrying. When Alex’s and my long-time friendship blossomed into something more, I was at a point in my own recovery that I was able to help him understand what I was going through, and he was able to support me in my recovery. With the help of therapy and the loving support of my family, Alex and I developed our own boundaries so that I could continue to heal without him feeling as though he could somehow fix it all. We have worked hard, both individually and as a couple, to create a relationship of honesty, communication, and complete faith and trust in God.

A male survivor of clergy sexual abuse gave my husband some great advice several years ago. “If she’s having a bad day, don’t assume that it’s because of memories of the abuse. She still has feelings and, if you want to help her, validate that she can feel human again and it’s okay for her to be upset about other things.” The abuse is a big part of my history & has certainly made me who I am today, but it’s not all I am. Guys can have a hard time reading women and (let’s face it) we can be mind-boggling puzzles sometimes!

I have learned to be open and honest with my husband about my feelings. I’ll say “I’m having bad memories today” referring to the sexual abuse or “I’m having a Matt day” if I’m missing my brother who passed away ten years ago. Sometimes it’s just, “I feel angry today but I don’t know why.” When I struggle with thoughts of, “I’m such a burden…,” Alex laughs, rolls his eyes and says, “Faith, I married you…I love you and I will always be here for you so get over it!”

My husband has created a safe place for me although he has had to embark on his own journey in order to better understand me and my experiences. He has attended some therapy with me in the past, done his own research on trauma, and has learned to ask questions. If he is ever struggling with a question or concern, he will discuss the issue with me but, if I just don’t have the emotional energy to talk about something, he will go to my parents. He has cried with me, screamed with me, thrown stuffed animals with me, and prayed with me. Alex carries me when I need to be carried but also pushes me when I need to be pushed. He is my “lion” and stands up for me when necessary. He even has stood up to me when I have criticized myself!

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past, I have a very skewed perception of my body. Although naturally frustrating for him at times, he is there to reassure me that I am beautiful. He supports me in prayer and during times when I don’t “feel” my faith. It takes a very special man being graced by God to be able to put his own emotions and needs aside in the moment and put you first! Yet, even if I experience a flashback in the midst of an intimate moment, Alex will hold me and say, “Faith, it’s okay…nothing can hurt you…I’m here with you and you’re safe. Come back to the present. Come back to me.” He has grown to be especially sensitive to my fears of intimacy and, in the past, has sometimes been hesitant to touch me for fear of upsetting me.

Alex has gone through his own struggles to accept the rape. I will never forget the conversation we had some years ago during which I told him all the details of the abuse. It was a difficult conversation, allowing myself to be vulnerable to a man once again but it was an important step in rebuilding the trust that I had lost when the abuse took place. Alex has never blamed me, but he did spend a lot of time being angry about “why” it happened. He went through many of the same struggles as I did – he blamed God, he blamed other people, and he looked for answers that just didn’t exist. Over time, I was able to help him as were my parents, my therapist, and the good God above I believe gave him the graces to move forward. We have both experienced resentment of having to “deal” with everything that has come our way, but we choose to let that anger make us stronger.

Our son, Matthew, (born last year) puts life into perspective for us both. I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom and sometimes long hours alone with an active and precocious toddler can play havoc on the mind. However, I work hard to prevent any negativity on my part to affect him. Over time, I’ve learned to put my thoughts into words through prayer, writing, exercise, or music and I call on these wonderful things everyday. For a long time, I was surviving for me, then for my husband and I, but now I survive for our son too!

If you have ever experienced abuse, don’t look for someone who’s going to carry you all the time. Rather, look for someone who can both carry you when you need carrying and who can push you when you need pushing! Choose someone who is willing to become a part of your journey and someone who is willing to take on a part of your burden. My husband chose to be a part of my life and that includes my past, present, and future experiences no matter how negative they may be. In the end, a strong relationship is based on hard work – the harder you work, the stronger you will both be! Our marriage is far from perfect, but as long as you both pursue healing and strive to move forward, God will be present amidst your joys and love and, when there are crosses, He will carry you both.