Hasta later, 2018! Welcome new year, new beginnings, and ONE resolution!

Hey, all! Hope you are having a fulfilling holiday season. As 2018 wraps up, I thought I’d do the same with a reflective piece, then I’m spending the rest of the day working on my newest teen novel, a contemporary (realistic) fiction story.

My ONE resolution for the new year is to complete my work in progress–partner with a new agent & get my book-baby on submission!

2018: Personal Stuff: I lost 92 pounds
The Physical/Emotional/Mental Stuff–and isn’t it all that, pretty much???

My physical/mental/emotional transformation actually began before 2018 started, and if I had to trace a seed that was planted, it was when I co-wrote a book called Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD. The book came out on 12/14/2018, but I began writing it with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko in summer of 2016. One of the storylines in it is of a woman named Felicia, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse/sexual assault, who has coped with her pain through Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I’ll let you read the book to get Felicia’s full story, but suffice it to say that I came to realize how much I’d relapsed as I wrote Felicia’s experience of BED, her trepidation about being honest about it: her revelation–real, honest, authentic exposure of how she was using food as a drug, and experience of Dr. Matt (the character based on Dr. Jaremko) recommending Leora Fulvio’s book, Reclaiming Youself From Binge Eating Disorder, (which I read along with Felicia), I had to face harsh truths that I’d been lying to myself again, because it felt so awful and shameful to admit it: I had slipped, fallen, slid, and now actively wallowed in a puddle of my binge foods on my back, like a tortoise trying to right itself on its shell.
I have body dysmorphia, so what I see in the mirror is not necessarily reflective of reality, so I didn’t realize how big I had gotten until I saw pics of myself.

When I was in eating disorder relapse, what I saw in the mirror depended on how much shame I was feeling about how I ate the day before. (I know, I know…. they call it mental illness for a reason, mmkay? That’s one area of my life I am no more ashamed of than if I had some other disease like epilepsy or something like that. Nothing to be ashamed of.)
I won’t rewrite my entire post, When I Made Up My Mind, that started this journey, but you can go read it if you want.

I had gastric sleeve surgery on my 52nd birthday in early March, but I began in October 2017 to eat the way I learned I would need to eat after I had the sleeve, which is an emphasis on “protein & produce.” The 2 “P’s.” That’s the key. Other “keys” I learned in the education program prior to having the surgery included:  10 & 10– which means– at every meal, try to get at least 10 grams of protein and LESS than 10 grams of sugar. Other “number-y” tools include: 30 & 30: don’t drink anything 30 minutes prior to or after eating (although I’m not a really good adherent on this one–but I try, I try!), and:

64: minimum # ounces of fluid intake per day ( I usually get much more than that; more like 140 or so).

80: minimum # of protein grams per day (I usually get over 100, which is good, because it helps with not losing as much hair as one otherwise might. Rapid weight loss means you lose strands of hair at a greater rate than you normally would. I have really fine hair anyway but I think the hair loss is slowing to normal now. For awhile it was, “Holy cow!”–but still nothing like other people have had. Plus I take a biotin supplement every day.)

Some surgeons recommend a certain # of carbs per day, but mine does not.

Which brings us to another slew of numbers– what I take every day so I do not become malnourished:
3:   Three calcium supplements per day (chewable, with Vitamin D)….
2: Two chewable multivitamins per day….
1: One meltable B12 supplement per day
1: One meltable Biotin.

I’m always asked how many calories I eat per day. At the beginning, most people can’t get in more than 400 calories a day, then it’s about 700, and now I take in between 1000-1200 calories a day. From what I understand, the very low count at the start is in part due to the swelling of the stomach, which is only 15% of what it once was. It’s now the shape of a skinny banana. Some people fear “stretching their pouch” and I’ve read conflicting things about this– but if one follows the rules and pays attention to “full signals,” it’s supposed to keep its small size. (No carbonation allowed– I actually gave up Diet Coke, y’all! My last Diet Coke was 12/23/2017– and I was so addicted to it that I guess I remember that date like an alcoholic remembers giving up booze… I also have not had caffeine since January 2018. Giving up tea was NOT easy but I drink a lot of Crystal Light Green Tea which is caffeine free.)
On a day where I eat more, it might be like 1280 calories a day–and that would be a day when I work out plus clean my whole house or do a lot of other physical stuff.  The breakdown between protein/carbs/fat percentages usually works out to about 40 protein/30 carbs/30 fat, but it can vary and some days the carb intake is a little higher, but that’s unusual.

I track my daily food, liquid, & exercise on an app called Baritastic. I don’t worry about liquid intake tracking being precise like I did at the start, though, because I drink water throughout the day and am careful to stay hydrated.

I work out 6 days a week, starting out with 15-17 minutes on an elliptical (I try to go up on the resistance by 1 point per week, because I am working on strengthening my hip muscles to help support a partially torn tendon I have–the pain from that was also a motivator for losing weight because I realized I was in so much pain when I walked that I was waddling). Then I move to the stationery recumbent bike for 45 minutes (that’s my writing time, too– I have a “surf shelf” that attaches to the dashboard of the bike that I strap my laptop onto.) I take Sundays off, usually don’t get out of my pajamas, and write all day as much as possible, anything I want to write (including blog posts like this one), but usually I work on my current manuscript. I LOVE SUNDAYS!!!

When I’m working (I am a teacher), I get up to work out at 4 A.M. Mon-Fri. so I have time to feed our menagerie & give them their medications, drink a protein shake (I take all my meds/vitamins with it, because I take meds for stuff unrelated to being a bariatric patient), and generally wake up enough to get started on the elliptical no later than 5:10 A.M.
There are days I do not want to exercise, but usually I wake up looking forward to the “me” time–the “writing time”–because it touches a part of my soul that nothing else does. It’s very, very satisfying to know that I’ve made progress on my manuscript + done something positive for my hip recovery + started out my day by activating endorphins that help me cope with a stressful job.

All this work–this tracking, exercising, food choices, mindfulness, and perseverance are paying off.  I’ve lost 92 pounds at this writing, gone from a size 18 to a 5, gone down one shoe size, and I no longer limp/waddle, I don’t have sleep apnea anymore, I work out daily (well…6 days a week)  to become stronger and stronger, and, most important of all–even more than all those other things: when I wake up in the morning, I don’t immediately feel self-hatred because of the way I treated myself the day before. For me, being free of self-loathing is worth maintaining eating disorder recovery, and it is a daily–sometimes by the hour or minute–deliberate choice of being sane, rather than falling into the pit of relapse.

2018: Professional Stuff: a hella-hard decision

I separated from my agent and decided to seek representation elsewhere when I complete this manuscript.

BUT: 2018:  Professional Stuff: hella-cool

My most recent published book, co-written with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko, Trauma Recovery: Sessions with Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD, released in December 2018, and the reviews for it are nothing short of gratifying. Matt has done a great job in interviews on top-10 podcasts; the professional endorsements we’ve received are strongly positive, and readers are receiving the message(s) we meant to convey when we wrote the book. SO. COOL!!!!

2018: More deeply in love with my husband than ever

My husband is an immeasurable blessing, my best friend, fountain of unconditional love and support, and amazing partner and father to our children. We’ve been together for 38 years and he is my soulmate.

2018: Ch-ch-changes and growing and evolving children–and always, always, ALWAYS, fierce love for each other

This year saw one daughter meeting her love, another daughter beginning the process of figuring out who she is and what she wants for herself and in a love, and another daughter seeking adventure through travel for her job.

As I write this, one daughter and her love are rising from a night of sleep after driving from our house in Texas to Ohio, as they head to her love’s family’s holiday gathering; another daughter hit the road 4 hours ago, to head back to North Carolina, and another daughter in Colorado but due home to Texas for a late Christmas with us in 11 days (I’m counting….) before she heads off to Reno for the next assignment.

But no matter how far apart we are, we have a connection of unconditional love and support  that time and space cannot weaken. We have each other’s backs fiercely, and that means when someone treats one of us badly, that person done effed up with all of us.
Example: I am incredibly thankful that I can send my husband & kids a group text about one of the craptastic things that happened to me the past few months, and I get answers that include, “I’m so sorry you have to deal with that…” to “OMG! That is such a violation of [censored so as to not reveal details]!” to “I wish I was closer ’cause I’d key [redacted]’s car….”  to “What a —-.” (Censored).
At the same time, we tell each other the truth and address problems when they come up. I value that authenticity so much.

2018 and beyond: A note for Americans

Our country needs every citizen to take note of what’s going on and fight for what America  is meant to be: a democracy, not an autocracy, with results of an election determined by the voters, not a foreign country.
Please be informed and aware of what’s going on in America. Please go beyond partisan news sources to learn more about what you’re reading on Facebook, seeing on cable news channels, and hearing from family and friends. Verify stuff before you share it on Facebook. If you google something you read and you cannot find it on scholarly/non-partisan news sites in addition to the site it came from, please think twice before sharing it. Here’s a resource that you could find helpful. 


Fear, Shame, and the Light of Truth: Disclosing Past Sexual Assault

By Matt E. Jaremko, Ph.D. and Beth Fehlbaum

Our book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt,  features a fictional character named Felicia who experienced attempted sexual assault at age 14. For two decades she lived in constant fear and avoidance, developing unhealthy habits along the way. She finally seeks treatment after 20 years because attempts to avoid the constant day-to-day pain of a past event had taken control of her life. Along the way, Felicia tried her best to hide the details of her abusive history because that’s what the shame of sexual assault does to people. It makes them hide the truth. Her story of recovery is outlined in detail as she begins to get support for authentically facing the trauma of the past. The bravery we wrote into Felicia’s story seems to be mirrored in the actual headlines of today as a woman courageously faces decades old demons from her own past. The unfolding story of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of attempt rape by a man nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States is an all-too-common narrative in current society.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Twenty percent of woman have been sexually assaulted. They live with the crushing aftermath, often feeling powerless to do anything about their constant symptoms. Felicia is a fictional character in our book, but her story of finally seeking treatment and growing confidence in her ability to overcome the past illustrates a need to authentically confront the power and insensitivity of abusive men. The trauma of sexual assault stays with the victim, 24/7, even when they have “well-adjusted” lives. It rears its head sporadically but usually triggered by direct or oblique contact with the perpetrator. Are we to react accusatorily to these victims? No, we should try to hear them and help them.

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

When Beth, a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse, speaks to groups about the

Photo by Ian Dooley on Unsplash.com

effect of being sexually abused, she compares it the perpetrator pouring a five-gallon bucket of paint labeled “Shame” over his victim. Every day upon awakening, the onset of awareness brings with it anxiety and dread, even when the victim can’t quite put her finger on why she’s feeling that way. Shame coats, infuses every cell in her body, from the top of her head to the soles of her feet, as well as every inch of her existence. AND: it doesn’t matter how long ago the assault occurred. As long as the secret is kept and help is not sought, the paint never dries, the bucket never empties. Rest assured, there’s always more where that came from.

Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

With regard to questions about Ford’s delayed reporting of the sexual assault (both as a teen and later as an adult), psychologist Anne Meltzer told The Washington Post, “The vast majority of sexual abuse victims delay disclosing what happened. It’s one of the most common features of child sex abuse. Most victims of child sexual abuse fear retaliation, that they won’t be believed or that their family may be angry. There are often very intense feelings of shame, guilt and humiliation. Statistically, teenagers are less likely than younger children to tell authorities about an assault. Particularly concerned with how others view them, teenagers often feel like ‘damaged goods.’”

Christine Blasey Ford came forward to tell her story in spite of her certainty that she would be annihilated because she sees an already powerful man on the verge of being 1 of 9 of the most powerful people in our nation. In our book, Felicia told her secret because she saw her perpetrator, a powerful man in her family, on the verge of inflicting her young cousins with the scars she bears. These are heroic women who experienced assault at the hands of another, and finally were brave enough to tell and seek help to overcome it: a journey in need of a guide, for sure. And when they saw others at risk, they spoke up even when the threat of loss for themselves was great.

Believe survivors. The Light of Truth shines where once there was shame. They should be heard, not silenced. Believed, not doubted.

For more information on how one recovers from this kind of trauma, consider pre-ordering Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt . You can find out more about the authors and the book on our website, drmattbook.com, and blog, drmattbookblog.com



My newest book: an opportunity to share hope and resilience with trauma survivors

Something I’m thankful for: my writing partner and the book we wrote together. I’m sharing the cover with you. It’s the first time it’s been posted publicly.
My co-author, Matt, and I really like this cover because of the light coming into the group therapy circle: providing the light of hope in the face of the indescribable darkness that is being “stuck” in mental illness and desperation.

I think it was spring of 2016 that Matt Jaremko and I discussed writing a book to help trauma survivors. It took us a bit to find our writing groove in terms of both how we could best communicate what we wanted to say that would extend hope and model the power of resilience for traumatized people, AND for us to find the most efficient way for us to write together without becoming frustrated…we initially tried using Google Docs, and, never having co-written with anyone else, I didn’t realize we couldn’t be in the document at the same time. So I was working and Matt was, too, and the page was jumping all over the place…it was not fun. So we dispensed with that pretty quickly and moved to Word and Track Changes, which is the industry standard for working with editors.
Once we found our way to work together by exchanging the manuscript (“The book is now in your hands. I will not touch it until you send the manuscript back to me”), our book began to take shape in a meaningful, rewarding way. Matt and I have such a strong respect for each others’ strengths and abilities. He is, without a doubt, one of the two smartest, most compassionate and caring men I know, with the other being my husband, Daniel. Not coincidentally, these 2 men also comprised my primary support system when I was broken.

I rank our book, “Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims With PTSD,” as one of my “heart” books. What this means, for you non-writer types, is that this book is one of the most personally meaningful to me. It is defining. It IS to come full circle. While I love all 4 of the YA fiction novels I’ve written, 3 of them: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the most precious to me because I wrote them while in recovery when I was working with Matt Jaremko, many years ago. They are the arc of Ashley, a teen girl who is entering recovery after being abused by her stepdad and neglected by her mom through deliberate indifference. Ashley’s biggest hurdle is facing the truth about her life–about her worth as a person, in spite of being discarded by the person who should have loved her most. She is removed from her stepdad & mom’s home & placed with her father, David, who she does not know at all.
Ashley is a frightened victim at the outset, a person beginning to realize her value in the middle, and a strong survivor capable of advocating for herself at the conclusion. That’s why the books are called Courage (1), Hope (2), and Truth (3). They are set in the small E. Texas town of Patience, and the girl’s therapist is Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. Guess who he’s modeled after?

When Matt and I decided to take 2 of my characters–Ashley and Dr. Matt– and place them in a group setting in order to facilitate the combination of fiction and teaching about resilience, we took Ashley, aged her from 15/16 to 19, and made her a member of Dr. Matt’s Thursday evening Therapy Group for Victims, Survivors, and Righteously Indignant Angry Folks. Then we imagined the other members:
Hunter, age 32, who woke on the ground in the dark after a rain-wrapped tornado destroyed his mobile home, critically injuring his toddler daughter;
Felicia, age 34, who, at age 14, was nearly raped by her brother’s friend; 20 years later, she is still haunted by it, but needs to come to realize an even darker truth about her youth;
Ben, age 20, who saw combat horrors in the Middle East and returned home a fundamentally different person;
Patty, age 47, who lost control of her car, with her husband being killed when they hit a semi-truck;
Jake, age 30, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who responded to a hate crime-shooting at a local church’s Wednesday night prayer service. The son of a preacher, Jake lost his faith as a result of what he saw.
Darrell, age 35, who served time in prison for armed robbery. When he was released, he entered therapy to seek solutions for the frequent rages that overtook his decision-making abilities. Through his work with Dr. Matt, Darrell learned new ways of interacting with others. He joined the Black Lives Matter movement and discovered his passion for making a difference through teaching young African-Americans about non-violent protest.
Betty, age 40. Her family-of-origin abandoned her when she began coming to terms with the sexual abuse perpetrated on her from a young age. Betty worked with Dr. Matt and gradually found the strength to rebuild her life. She entered college as a non-traditional student and became a bilingual education teacher, where she puts her native Spanish to work.

We wrapped our manuscript in July, began seeking a publisher in late summer, and by October–and this is remarkably fast to find a publishing “home”–we were offered a publishing contract with a “Mind-Body-Soul” imprint, Ayni Books, and our book will come out in late spring/early summer 2018. The book will have international distribution and be available in both print and e-book.

We began sharing the manuscript with others, asking for blurbs, and we were blown out of the water by what our readers said. Check ’em out.

We invite you to read the Prologue: The Internal Dialogue of a New Patient Being Sick and Tired of Being Afraid and Stuck.

I wrote this Prologue from the memory of where I was when I entered treatment to recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse. At that time, I was 38 years old, the mother of 3 teen girls, and I broke. I could no longer pretend that the stuff I’d gone through as a child and young adult, and in many ways continued to endure as an adult, were not killing me. The pretending was killing me. I was slowly killing myself through binge eating. Efforts to deal with the never-ending anxiety I lived with night and day were futile. Prior to working with Matt, I never stuck with therapy once I was nudged toward being authentic and honest with myself and others about how broken I was. I “clicked” with him and, after Daniel, Matt is the first man I ever truly trusted. Until that time, my understanding of men was that they would abuse me once I began to let my guard down.

This prologue is thoughts of the person prior to entering a therapist’s building when the choice at that time is either get better or die. These are exactly what it was like to be in my head at that time.
Facing the truth about one’s life is a soul-searing experience. For me, the journey to REAL, and WHOLE, was much like the process of birthing a child. It was exhausting, but without a doubt, learning to be resilient and authentic was the most gratifying experience of my life.
This is what we hope will be the result for those who read our book.

Please help us spread the word about our Facebook page. “Like”/”Follow” us, and you won’t miss out on the journey.

My newest book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt will release in summer, 2018!

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

I am beyond thrilled to tell you that Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, a creative non-fiction book written by Dr. Matt E. Jaremko and me, has found a publisher, Ayni Books. Our book should release in early summer, 2018.
The best way to describe it to you is to borrow from our book proposal:

“This book is a starting place for hurting people who are seeking healing, either on their own or in partnership with a therapist or other helping person. Dr. Matt E. Jaremko maximizes readers’ understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by explaining its origins in easy-to-understand language and offering insight into the process of reclaiming a life from trauma. Beth Fehlbaum shares her insight from the perspective of a person who experienced trauma, was once scared to death about going into therapy, and is now recovered.

Most powerfully, Dr. Jaremko and Beth created characters: a psychologist, Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews, and his ongoing therapy group, to illustrate how recovery can and does happen. The situations these characters survive; their struggles and triumphs of reclaiming their lives, and their potential for thriving are all realistic. We reassure people who are terrified of trying therapy by providing them with a “fly on the wall” perspective of observing the recovery process.”

Read more about Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, here.

Those of you who have read (and have affection for) The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, and Truth), likely recognize “Dr. Matt”’s name, and you will be pleased to know that Ashley is in Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt! She’s now 19 and about to leave for college. I hope you’re as pleased with Ash’s progress as I am.

Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

Watch this space for the latest and greatest as we move forward in the publication of a book that Matt and I hope will have a far-reaching positive effect for traumatized individuals by providing a light in the darkness: hope.

I encourage you to subscribe to our blog site, “Hope for Post-Traumatic Growth,”  and check out our website, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, too!