Gaslighting from afar

Have you ever been hurt by someone physically or emotionally and then awake the next day to them pretending or denying it ever happened? Have you found yourself questioning your own reality? It makes you feel crazy when someone can blatantly deny they’ve hurt you. Welcome to the horrible world of gaslighting. And if any of this sounds familiar, I’m so sorry you are dealing with this too. 

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation in which someone makes you question your own reality. It happens when an abuser tries to control a victim by twisting their sense of reality, aka, doing something horrible to you and then telling you that was not the way it happened.

Gaslighting red flags

Being a victim of gaslighting has been my entire world the past 5 years. And if I was to look back at the entire course of my 17-year relationship, I could probably find signs of it along, which was then exacerbated by substance abuse and mental illness. I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells. And when we had a fight, which became more often than not, he would completely disregard my feelings, and find a way to make me feel guilty, as though I was somehow to blame. He was always playing the victim in all aspects of his life. 

When I finally worked up the courage to leave 5 months ago with my boys for good, I thought I was finally breaking free from the hurt, from the constant manipulation. I thought I was finally breaking the cycle. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and he is still finding ways indirectly to hurt us.

Even without contact, he is still finding ways to try and manipulate me. From harassing those that have helped me and my boys in our times of need, to slandering my name to family and friends, the distance between us somehow hasn’t ended the hurt. It amazes me, that even though his family has seen firsthand his violence, his sickness, that they are still not only enabling him but believing his lies. Lies that are not only hurting me, but substantially affecting the financial future of their grandchildren. 

It has been a hard month and so many of the bad choices he’s made are directly impacting the life of me and my boys. It’s disturbing how even though you are the victim you still can be left feeling like you are the one being punished. It wasn’t until I was chatting with a dear friend of mine who has also been a victim of abuse that I realized that his family is gaslighting me too. My friend made a significant point, that he was probably brought up with parents that used this manipulation and that is probably where he learned it. 

That right there was another reminder of how important it is that I got my boys away from him, the reason why I’m fighting with all my power to not let him near us until he gets the help he needs. Another friend keeps reminding me, I’m in the HARD part right now. Leaving is only the first step. Now is when the real healing begins. I’m trying to allow myself to be angry, but I’m also trying really hard to let go of those things I can’t control. One of my best friends gave me a necessary kick in the butt and said to me,

“Just keep looking forward Ashleigh. There are a lot of what if’s, just focus your energy on moving forward. He has not ruined you.” 

And that is exactly what I’m going to continue to try and do. They can continue to try and beat me down, I will overcome. I know the truth. 

  

Finding peace through outdoor fitness in New England

My youngest was up before the rest of the house the other morning (pretty much always is) and I stepped outside with my coffee, quickly realizing it was cooler outside the house than in. We’ve been in the middle of what seems like a forever heatwave here, and although I’m very well accustomed to hot, humid weather from living in FL, I am not used to not having a cool house to seek comfort in. It’s been so uncomfortable in the house, which has made it difficult to do my inside workouts. 

I asked my toddler if he wanted to go for a run, and he shouted, “YES!”. It made me chuckle because he is not a fan of sitting in the stroller, he’d much rather be running himself, so I knew he wasn’t quite realizing what that meant for him. So, I made him some breakfast to go, laced up the running sneakers, grabbed my all-time favorite baby purchase ever, my BOB stroller and took off for a run. 

Running with my boy

I had forgotten how much I loved running, how mentally it does something different to me than my other workouts. I used to run with my oldest all the time when he was little. I even created a free mommy meet up walk/run group that met twice a week. Running with my oldest became one of my favorite times of the day. But with my second, well everything just became so much more difficult. Something about running that morning, despite the sticky weather, was extremely freeing. Listening to good music, moving my body, being in the fresh air, it almost brought tears to my eyes. It’s amazing when you’re going through some hard times how a simple rush of adrenaline can make all your emotions come pouring out. Pushing that stroller along was so liberating, and as I ran faster and faster, I began to feel stronger and more like myself than I have in weeks. 

The past two years have been such a roller coaster. I’ve stayed somewhat consistent with my fitness routine, but not as nearly as strict as I would have liked. I’ve realized through so much reflection these past 5 months, that I haven’t put my own happiness, my own health first in so long. When your mom, that alone makes that so much more difficult, but when you’re married to someone who is suffering from illness, and not taking care of himself, you spend so much time and energy wanting to get them help. 

Today, I’m recommitting to making my fitness, and wellness journey a number one. It’s time that I start putting myself first. It’s amazing how much stronger internally I feel when I’m pushing my body to do hard things. As much as I miss my home, my friends, and my normal life, I’m choosing to get back to my roots and make some goals to do the things I once loved so much when I lived in New England…. running hills, biking, hiking, and my all-time old favorite, skiing. I am looking forward to pushing my body in new ways over the course of the next year and am certain mentally it will make me stronger too. 

Adventures at East Boston Camps

When my boys and I moved to New England a few months ago, it was a huge change for all of us. I was born and raised here but have been living in Florida since 2005. My now 7-year-old, has grown up living on the water, fishing off the dock, and exploring Florida’s water life. We live to be outdoors, and as a mom of two very active little boys, our days go so much more smoothly if we spend a lot of time outside. 

Exploring East Boston Camps

East Boston Camps is 286 acres of trails, ponds and camp buildings located within the Stony Brook Conservation Land. I remember going to East Boston Camps as a kid with my dad. These are some of my fondest memories with him and after losing him several years ago. It’s been nice to share these moments with my own kids. It’s amazing how the place hasn’t changed in all these years. Even the camp buildings are the originals. When we were kids my brother spent a week of overnight camp here in elementary school. Unfortunately, his class didn’t behave and ruined it for the younger generations ;-). Just looking at the dock’s memories came flooding in of my dad and I swimming across the pond, biking the trails and jumping into the water to cool off on those hot summer days. I’ve loved re-exploring it all through the eyes of my boys. 

My family home, that I’m now living in with my mom, is only 5 minutes from this little outdoor oasis. You could literally spend hours here hiking different trails, fishing, swimming, creature hunting, exploring the campgrounds and sighting trains. Seriously, a little boy’s dream place! It has quickly become a go to weekly spot for us. Everyday we go we always see something new, from the biggest frog I’ve ever seen, to more snakes than I’d care to say. It’s always an adventure and has become our happy place. My oldest even had the privilege of doing a week of camp here this summer and he had a blast, hiking, fishing and swimming. 

If you’re local, and you’ve never been, I encourage you to put some sneakers and bug spray on, pack some snacks and sandwiches and get out there and explore. Something about being out in nature, with my boys, has brought me so much peace during a difficult time. 

Black Raspberry, the Narwhal of the Berry Family

Is it a Blackberry, Raspberry, or Black Raspberry? Do you know the difference? 

A few weeks ago, we had dear friends visit. Our sons have been buddies since they were 3 and us mommas became great friends through their friendship. We were so excited when they told us they were coming to visit us! The boys were out back exploring, looking for bugs when they ran in to tell us they discovered a berry bush. Berries are my boy’s absolute favorite thing, so berries on a bush in the backyard? Well, it doesn’t get much better than that. I grew up in this house and I remember picking berries next door as a child, but I don’t remember ever having any berry trees in our yard. 

black raspberry or wild raspberry

The boys told us that they thought it was a blackberry and a raspberry bush, and that’s exactly what it looked like. But the blackberries were much smaller than the blackberries you find in the store, and much less harry too. My friend did a little research and it turned out it wasn’t either of those, but a black raspberry. Did you know there was such a thing? In all my 39 years of life I did not know that there was a black raspberry, but that makes more sense out the loveable back raspberry ice-cream.

I started doing some research on our newfound berry bush and it turns out that black raspberries are rather rare and is like the narwhal of the berry world. Wow, that makes me feel like we have quite the little gem in our backyard, lol. They are also sometimes referred to a bear’s eye blackberry, black cap, black cap raspberry, and my favorite scotch cap. The taste is very similar to the French liquor, Chambord.

My son has been loving watching what looks like a raspberry turn to a black raspberry, anxiously waiting each day for this precious fruit to be ready to pick. Sadly, we went out to pick some yesterday and it appeared that an animal beat us to it. I hope there are more to come.

If you’re outside exploring your backyard and come across a berry bush, here’s how to tell if it’s a blackberry or black raspberry. Black berries are larger, have hair, and have a little bit of whole on the bottom. Black raspberries are pretty much identical to raspberries but black! But they taste much sweeter.

If you live in New England, I encourage you to get outside and hunt for these wild bushes. Summer is the season! Happy berry hunting 🙂

The Legal Headaches of Divorce

When you’re thinking about getting a divorce, you think about the emotional turmoil it’s going to cause you, and the lifestyle changes for you and your kids, but you don’t realize the amount of time and stress you will spend on legal documents. Not to mention the crazy amount of money every text, email, phone call, and documents ends up costing you.

I just finished once again working through another deadline. I feel like I’m constantly buried in paperwork, scrambling to find the time with two little kids to fill out yet another document.  I swear, going through a divorce, even with having a lawyer is like having a full time job. Granted, my situation is a lot more complicated than some, but it’s so unbelievably stressful going through all this. Not to mention all the time on Google you spend trying to understand all legal verbiage. I think by the time I’m done, I will have learned enough to be a paralegal, lol. 

I feel incredibly blessed to have an amazing brother and mother that are helping me with my legal fees. There is no way I could have gotten a lawyer without their help. My ex has left me and my boys with nothing. My heart breaks for all the women out there that are living in similar shoes, that stayed far too long in a horrible situation due to financial reasons. 

It’s so scary and difficult to leave when you’ve been financially abused and a stay at home mom for so long. There should be more financial resources available for women out there needing legal representation. Perhaps there is, and I’m just not aware. I’ve connected with so many others walking similar paths to mine over the past couple years and it maddens me how hard society has made it for women and moms feeling scared and trapped to start over. 

Change needs to happen. These issues need to be talked about more. Victims of abuse need to have more avenues of help. 

For all you women out there giong through this with me right now, I feel for you. For all you women out there trying to come up with a plan to get out….I feel for you. You are not alone in this, even though I know it feels that way. 

If you are going through divorce, a victim of abuse, or have lived with someone who suffers from mental illness, I would love to collaborate with you to let your voice be heard. I know it’s scary to share your story, but if you are suffering from any kind of abuse, I guarantee someone else out there needs to hear it. We can make the post anonymous. Too often are we silenced in an abusive relationship. Let me help you state your truth.

Taking off my Wedding Rings 

It is such a weird feeling to take off something that has been a part of your hand for almost 8 years. And to be honest, it took me weeks after I left to finally take them off. I felt naked without my rings, some days I still do. I still remember the day I finally got engaged, I had been patiently waiting for 8 years for my now ex to put a ring on it. It was a week before Christmas. We always celebrated our Christmas a week early as we traveled to see family the actual week of Christmas. And there in the bottom of my stocking was a little black box. And when I opened it, I thought all my dreams had finally come true.  I remember that moment all so clearly, as well as the day we stood up and said, “I DO.” 

wedding rings

I pulled them out for the first time in 3 months today. They’ve been sitting in a box, in my nightstand drawer, and the tears immediately started pouring out. 

What to do with them… Sell them? I desperately need the money.  Keep them in a box? That makes me feel like I’m not moving on. Turn them into something else? Not sure what I would turn them into. Wear my wedding band on the other hand as a statement ring? I purchased the band myself. He didn’t think I needed one that fancy. RED FLAG. 

For now, I’m putting them back in the box, and reminding myself it’s ok to give my heart some more time. One moment, one day at a time. 

My Toddler’s First Lovey

It’s been a week guys. Let’s be honest, it’s been 4 and then some months. To say my kids have had to go through some serious changes is an understatement. 

I’m overwhelmed, completely drained, and I’ve been really struggling with short naps and early morning waking’s for my 20 month old. I’m a Babywise mom. I thrive on schedules. It helps keep me sane, something my ex and I always fought about. But don’t we all do better with a routine? I know when I have some sort of consistent routine, my mind feels so much more calm, and I’ve always been a firm believer that kids thrive on that too! My first born was so so easy. Yes he came 6 weeks early and was only 3 lbs, but, he was the HAPPIEST baby, and the easiest baby to sleep train once he weighed enough. I read the Babywise book and thought wow, this book is ingenious. It worked just like it said! I followed the book to a T and within weeks my oldest was sleeping through the night and napping like a champ.

Fast forward 5 and ½ years later to my second born, and well let’s just say I’ve been pondering pretty much every day what I’m doing wrong. Re-adjusting wake windows, getting the room that much darker, turning up the sound machine…it’s a constant guessing game. Don’t get me wrong, my son, after lots of babywise conversations, following all the sleep training Instagram accounts, and lots of hard work, has been “sleeping through the night” since he was probably 6 months old. But those first 5 months …they were rough, and I was doing it all alone. Not only were we having LONG nights but he was a chronic 40 minute napper for about 10 months. 

Finally things seemed to click and I thought I had it figured out, it was such an awesome feeling. Sleep, it’s an amazing thing, right?! We had about 4 months of a blissful 2 hour nap schedule, and sleeping until almost 7am. I felt like a new woman. And then our entire lives were uprooted and his sleep became a puzzle once again. I try to remind myself that he still is a pretty great sleeper. He has independent sleep skills, and he sleeps 10-12 hours at night. But, we’ve been two months into transitioning to 1 nap and have gone from having 2 one hour and a half naps, to 1 at max hour and 15 minute nap, most days it’s much less than that, and that’s a huge chunk of mommy time! Today he was up at 5, and only took a 30 minute nap, and I’m left once again thinking… I must be missing something. 

I love my baby boy. But, right now, going through all the changes, coping with all the emotions, the legal battle, wearing all the hats… I’m finding it extremely hard to find time to breathe and do all the million things that need to be done.

So tonight, I’m trying something new…again. I brought out Monkey George at bedtime. My oldest loved his Monkey George. I asked my youngest if he wanted to take the monkey to bed with him. It was the cutest thing. He looked at his new found friend, gave him the sweetest hug and kiss, looked at his bed and then at me and said, “Monkey bed?” I started laughing, because it was at that moment, I realized that he was thinking the monkey was taking his place in bed and he was getting to stay up. After a quick chuckle, another hug and kiss, I quickly put him in bed with his new friend, and told him, monkey can sleep with you tonight. Cuddle and give him love. I kissed him goodnight and walked away watching him lay in awe of his new bedtime companion laying next to him.

Will this help tonight? Will he sleep past 5? We shall see…but his sweet face laying there with his friend, priceless. 

Accepting Divorce

DIVORCE. The seven-letter word I never thought would become my story. When I was a little girl I dreamed of meeting that forever man, creating a family together, chasing our dreams as a united team.

When you’re growing up you always think of these big life dreams. Having a family, building a home, going through life together. This was always my dream. All I ever thought I wanted in life was to get married, become a mom and have a family.

I can’t tell you the amount of times over the past five years I thought about divorce, finding myself thinking, this can’t be how it’s supposed to be. But accepting that reality, accepting that the man I fell in love with was no longer that same man, was an entire different story. I asked myself hundreds of times… Is it harder to stay? Or is it harder to leave? And still, it took a life alternating night for me and my sons to finally say ENOUGH.

For the past five years I’ve been trying to help someone that clearly doesn’t want help and for the first time in 17 years I’m choosing me. I’m choosing to put my own mental health first. And it’s hard. It was hard to stay, and it’s been hard to leave.

It’s easy to look from the outside in and judge someone’s situation. It’s easy to look at someone’s life when you’re not living in their shoes and ask yourself why they are still there. Everyone’s story is their own. Everyone’s journey to divorce or deciding to stay is their own. If you’re finding yourself asking, should I stay or should I go, know you’re not alone. It’s only your choice to make, your choice to say when enough is enough.

You’re not alone. 

Survival Tips for Raising Boys

I grew up with two older brothers so when life blessed me with two boys I thought I knew what I was getting into. Being a single mom to two very active boys is quite the adventure and keeps me on my toes all day long. Looking back there are some things that would have been helpful to have known. So if you are about to be a boy mom, or recently had a boy, here you go! 

  1. Forget about the toys. Seriously. Invest in a nugget, or some soft padded mats. I promise you, it doesn’t matter how many toys you have, all they want to do is climb on things, jump on things, and wrestle. At least this is the case with mine. 
  2. Teach them how to use Lysol wipes in the bathroom, and make sure you stock up on wipes now in case of another pandemic. It doesn’t matter how much practice you give them in potty manners, your bathroom will consistently smell like pee. I think I could give my oldest a toilet the size of a pond and he’d still miss it. 
  3. Watch your head. It is only a matter of time before you get hit in the head by a toy, or a shoe while driving. 
  4. Get outside every day, as much as possible. If it’s raining, send them out in rain boots and let them play in puddles. On days we spend more time outside, mentally we are all in a much better place. 
  5. It’s ok to let them play with nerf guns. We all want to raise sweet loving boys. But, even if you don’t buy them toy guns or swords, they will turn everything they can find into a pretend weapon. It will be ok, boys can be kind and sweet and still have nerf gun fights. 
  6. Fart jokes become the norm, embrace it and have fun with it. Look up the song, “Momma tooted.” And then either thank me or hate me for it 😉
  7. Always have coffee and wine on hand. 
  8. Find yourself some mom friends that also are raising boys. I promise you, it makes all the difference. Nothing gives me more laughs than looking back at some text threads with my fellow boy moms. 
  9. Let them cry, let them have their big feelings. Talk to them. Let them feel safe opening up. Boys need to know that it’s ok for men to feel the big feelings, it doesn’t make them weak. 
  10. There is no such thing as personal space. The bathroom with the door locked is your new place of brief solitude. 

Finally, and this one is the most important one. Boys love their mommies. Hug them a million times a day and more. The days are long and trying, but their hugs, slobbery kisses, and giggles make every single moment worth it. As crazy as they drive you daily, they also have a way of making you feel like the prettiest, most special woman on the planet. I always wanted a little girl. But I have to tell you, now having two fun loving little boys, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

raising boys

Finding Strength through Fitness

This morning I had to be prepared to do something really hard. Something that I never imagined I would ever have to do. I can’t talk about it quite yet, but what I can talk about is what I did this morning to help me mentally prepare. I (attempted) to get up this morning before the kids and took 30 minutes to workout. My 25 minute Tabata workout may have been interrupted 10 times, but somehow it still reminded me that I’m stronger than I think.   

For the past 7 years, my life has felt like one constant roller coaster. Beginning with giving birth to a 3lb baby, to shortly after losing my dad, followed by years of marriage problems, abuse, multiple separations, another 3 lb baby, ending up in the ICU after giving birth, and now divorce. The only thing that has stayed somewhat consistent in my life through it all has been my fitness journey. It has been by no means perfect. There have been weeks, sometimes more I’ve gone without working out, but for the most part I’ve chosen to prioritize my physical and mental health. The reason why? It keeps me sane. It helps me find inner strength when every other aspect in my life seems to be spiraling out of control. It makes me a better version of myself, which makes me a better mom. 

I’ve loved helping other moms on their wellness journey. I had a coaching biz for three years and it brought me so much joy. I miss it. I feel the need to help other moms realize that it’s ok to take time to focus on themselves. It’s so hard being a mom when you’re constantly taking care of everyone else to find time for YOU. Your mental and physical health are so important. You are most likely the rock of your family, and a happy healthy mom is a happier team. 

There came a time in my life a couple of years ago when I no longer felt like I could be an inspiration for other moms. I was spending so much time focusing on trying to fix my marriage, helping my spouse, that without even realizing it, I began to lose myself along the way. Looking back, I realize I gave up going after some major life goals to focus on someone else. And now it’s time to change all that. I’m not sure where a fitness business fits into my new journey yet. What I do know is that wellness and helping others is something I’m extremely passionate about. 

So for now, you’ll find me committing to pressing play 30 minutes a day, 4-6 days a week.  Sometimes it will be with kids crawling all over me, or fighting in the background, in my current home gym..aka, my moms office/guest room. 

And I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my plans.

AB