blog · Change · death · depression · domestic violence · Mental Health · self care · sexual abuse · shame · suicide · trauma

Poodle Science: Accepting Who We Are

Hey Everyone, after a year long hiatus, I am back. I’ll be sharing stories, tips, and other useful information that will hopefully leave you a bit better off than when you started reading this blog. So, on with the show.

Diet Culture

Did you know that the diet industry is a $70 billion, that’s billion with a B, industry? Did you also know that 95% of diets fail? I’ll let that sink in for a second!

People spend more than $70 billion in a year on a product that will fail more than 95% of the time! Would you buy a car that wouldn’t work 95% of the time, a house that had a 95% chance of collapsing into a pile of rubble, or buy clothes that had a 95% chance of falling apart on the first wear? Of course not! Yet that’s what millions of people in America do each and every single day when they go on a diet. They’ll spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on something that will ultimately fail them.

Poodle Science

When I begin treatment with clients who have an eating disorder, like Anorexia; Binge Eating Disorders; or Bulimia, one of things I introduce to clients is Poodle Science. I was introduced to this concept by Tianna Smith, a a wonderful dietitian based in California. For the non-dog lovers out there, a Bullmastiff is a HUGE dog that usually weighs 100 pounds or more while a Chihuahua is a small dog that usually weighs around 6-7 pounds. Because of genetics, it would not matter what kind of diet or exercise you did with a Bullmastiff, it would NEVER weigh anywhere close to the 6-7 pounds of Chihauhua. Not only that, that Bullmastiff would probably be pretty miserable from the lack of food and constant exercise. And yet, it would never come close to having the bodily figure of a Chihuahua.

When I work with my clients in therapy, I talk to them about Poodle Science because the same concept applies to humans. We have a biological blueprint based on our genetics that determines the shape and size of our body. Some people will naturally be 100 pounds while others will naturally be 150 pounds or more. Like the Bullmastiff and the Chihuahua, it’s an impossible fight for a 150-pound person to try and get down to 100 pounds. All you will do is fail, be miserable, and in some cases do incredible harm to your body.

Accepting Your Biological Blueprint

After explaining Poodle Science to my clients, I then work with them in therapy to help them accept that they are beautifully unique individuals no matter the shape or size that their genetics have given them. By accepting their biological blueprint and working with me on techniques like Intuitive Eating, my clients begin to lead happier and healthier lives! So, the next time you see or hear the diet culture in the media, brush it aside and be proud of the beautiful body you have!

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blog · Change · death · depression · domestic violence · Mental Health · self care · sexual abuse · shame · suicide · trauma

I Escaped With My Life

It has been eight years….

….eight years since I packed all my bags, scoured the room for my keys, and made my way down the stairs and into the foyer, much against the loud opinions of the people around me. I pushed aside the man who stood in my way, the one who told me I’d never be okay out there on my own, the one who told me everyone I know and love is dangerous and that I need to be careful. As he stood in front of the door telling me I couldn’t go, I felt myself flooding with rage. As tired as I was, as hurt as I was, as sick as I was, I mustered up every ounce of strength I had and looked him directly in the eyes:

“LET. ME. GO” I said coldly. There were no hysterics in my voice, just a rage simmering beneath the surface which I knew he could sense. 

“You want to leave? Fine, GO. GET OUT,” he said as he quickly stepped aside and opened the door for me, hoping I would collapse back into his arms and tell him I needed him. But I didn’t do that this time.

Instead I pressed forward until I was outside in the hot, sticky July air. I don’t remember the walk from the front door to my car, but I do remember putting my key into the ignition and turning on my little Mazda. I drove away as fast as I could, but not before taking one last glance back at my rearview mirror to see if he was following me. 

He wasn’t. In fact, his door was already shut and the house sat quietly on the block, pretending as if it hadn’t just housed a horribly abused woman for six months. 

Eight years feels like so long ago and very recent all at the same time. I wish I could tell 21 year old Alyssa that she’s going to do great things in this world. But this time eight years ago, I left the home of an abusive, violent man and felt like my only option was death. 

I’ll never be able to go back in time and tell my 21 year old self that in just 6 days, a puppy will be born who will find her way into my arms come September and will save my life. Nor will I be able to go back and tell younger Alyssa that she’s going to graduate college and get her Master’s degree. I wish she knew that in the next 6 years she would start her own business that would grow, seemingly overnight, into a success that is beyond her wildest dreams. 

I never would have imagined all of this for myself. Quite frankly, at 21 years old, I didn’t see myself surviving long enough to turn 22. 

There are parts of this period in my life that I still cannot speak about. And this time of year, the flashbacks are always more intense, the body memories are also ever-so-present. To be honest, I have no clue why he let me go that day; and what I want you to know is that my escaping has nothing to do with who I am as a person. It’s not about me being “strong minded” or anything like that. SO MANY VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DO NOT ESCAPE OR DO NOT SURVIVE. And there is no telling which of us will escape with our lives and which of us won’t. I feel so lucky that I made it out with my life. And while I am always thankful for my fur babies and husband coming into my life, today is definitely one of those days where I appreciate this beautiful family of mine just a little bit extra. 

blog · child abuse · Mental Health · sexual abuse · trauma

The Predator

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Abigail Pesta’s book, The Girls, a book about the USA gymnasts who took down sexual predator Larry Nassar back in 2018. If you are not familiar with the case, Larry Nassar was a highly esteemed doctor at Michigan State University. He also served as the doctor for the USA gymnastics national team, where under the guise of treating young gymnasts, he spent decades sexually abusing them. Larry had convinced his victims that his “treatment,” which included digital penetration, was medically necessary for their recovery. 

As Larry’s heinous crimes continued to escalate, he would often abuse children while their parents were sitting in the same room, using his body to shield the parents from seeing what was happening. He worked double-time to develop sincere relationships with the girls and their parents….so much so that they came to view Larry as a friend, a confidant, and a trusted doctor. 

After Larry was convicted in 2018, the presiding judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, gave each of the survivors the chance to speak about their abuse and how it affected them. One by one, the women rose up and spoke their truth about the ways in which Larry’s abuse ruined their families, their psychological wellbeing, their ability to form healthy relationships, and so much more.

The victims blamed themselves for never speaking up, for trusting an esteemed doctor who appeared to have their best interest at heart. Parents of the victims also blamed themselves, finding it inconceivable that their child could have been assaulted while they were sitting in the very same room.

Let me crystal clear about this: There is absolutely no blame to be shared among the victims or their families.

The fault lies entirely with the abuser himself, as well as the other adults who were aware the abuse was happening and chose to do nothing.

What? Others knew and did nothing?

That’s right. NOTHING. There were so many people who did not believe the girls when they tried to ask for help. They explained away Larry’s actions, which left the girls feeling more confused than ever. For decades, people were able to pretend as if this horrific abuse was not happening.

But it was. And the sad, disturbing fact of the matter is that there are many more predators out there, just like him. Abigail Pesta’s narrative about this particular scandal is such an important read for everyone because it shows how even the most vicious of wolves can be dressed in sheep’s clothing. This is what makes abuse so confusing, this is why some people cannot see it coming, and this (among a million other reasons) is why victims should never be blamed or asked “Why didn’t you speak up?”

Predators are often the ones who work their way into your hearts, gain your trust, build a sense of safety around you, and then shatter your sense of safety by violating you. It leaves you feeling so confused that you don’t speak up. You don’t say anything. Because you spent so much time believing that this person could be trusted that you continue to believe he or she didn’t mean to abuse you – that the violation was just a mistake, or a slip-up. You tell yourself whatever it takes to keep up with the belief in your mind that this person is good for you and has your best interest at heart. To think anything less than that is too much to bear.

Time goes on, this person continues to build trust with you, and then just like that, there comes another violation, another boundary crossed. But at this point, you feel that it is too late. If you speak out now, people won’t believe you because they will question why you didn’t speak up earlier or why you continued to be in contact with a person if you knew he or she was sexually abusing you. So you sink into the shame and guilt, blaming yourself for getting into this mess in the first place. 

Before you know it, you have lost all sense of self worth. You continue to find yourself in dangerous situations because you think, after all this time, that you deserve the abuse that you got. You find yourself wondering if your life is worth living, since your body, mind, and soul, no longer feel like your own. 

So many people don’t understand nearly enough about this type of abuse, which is why I highly recommend reading The Girls. It is a devastating, sobering, and extremely important book that is helping other survivors of abuse to realize that it’s okay to speak their truth.

I feel it in my bones – the world is changing. The silence of all of the disbelieved, disregarded survivors is becoming louder. For so long, victims of sexual abuse have been told:

-You shouldn’t talk about that unless you’re REALLY sure it happened. You could ruin that person’s life. 
-Are you positive you remember it that way? 
-Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten so drunk. 
-Maybe you’re confusing this memory with something else? 
-Well maybe he/she was just being really friendly? 
-Did that really happen? That’s a serious accusation. Are you just doing this for attention? 

No more. No more. NO MORE. We are finding our voices.

Can you hear us? If you don’t, you will soon. We’re just getting started.

-To the army of survivors who rose up to take down Larry Nassar: I have the utmost respect for all of you.
-To the judge who gave those survivors a voice in that courtroom – I hope you know that you broke the mold and changed the world, especially the worlds of the victims. 
-And to the ones out there who still suffer in silence, to the ones who are not ready to speak, to the ones who are not quite sure yet or cannot find the right words to say what happened – there is so much hope. You are so much more than the abuse you endured and you can reclaim what taken from you. 

Speak up. Seek help. Find support. And know that you are believed.