From Giving Up to Triumph

Written by Jenn Sadai

My story starts with a less than perfect childhood that led to a far from perfect romance. I was 17 when I met my first boyfriend. We both made a lot of mistakes throughout our teenage years and we’re committed to creating a better future together.

He was an absolute sweetheart for the first two years until his own life started to spiral out of control. His best friend shot himself, and than his girlfriend. A close cousin committed suicide and then two years later, after finally reconnecting with his father, his dad overdosed while in rehab. He went from a troubled teen trying to be a better man to a broken soul angry with the world.

The man I wanted to marry, who I lived with at the time, completely fell apart. He turned to hard core drugs, became verbally abusive at first, then physically abusive. I loved him more than anyone and felt it was my responsibility to put his life back together. I tried to get him help. I was patient and understanding. Nothing seemed to work and the abuse only got worse.

He started stealing from me, and cheated on me, although I didn’t find out until after I finally left him. Then another one of his friends died suddenly. The abuse went from squeezing my arm or throwing things at me, to trying to smother me in my sleep. After a drunk and possibly drug induced evening with friends, celebrating that very friend’s life, he jumped on top of me when I was still somewhat awake and put a pillow over my face. It took me a minute to realize he was trying to kill me.

I’m proud to say I fought him off. I kneed him where it counts and was able to push him off of me. I kicked and screamed at him until I forced him outside our bedroom. I shut the door and moved our dresser in front of it, so he couldn’t get back inside the room. I cried until the sun came up.

I’m not proud to admit the next part, but the truth must be told. I stayed with him another three months. I tried to lay down the law and insisted that I wouldn’t put up with any more, but I did. I was miserable, constantly smoking marijuana to escape my reality, and depressed to the extent I contemplated suicide.

It was actually my ex who finally set me free. The morning after another ugly, physical fight, he had a moment of clarity. He told me I needed to leave him before he ended up killing me. He was right, but I needed him to be the one who released me from being responsible for his wellbeing.

A few months after leaving him, something “wonderful” happened. I lost 50lbs in 6 weeks. I gained about 50lbs in the last few years of our relationship because I was trying to eat my problems, and I weighed close to 200lbs. My weight played a big role in my low self-esteem.

Now, all of sudden, I was single and skinny! My ex had made me feel horrible about my weight and I suddenly had this awesome body that I could rub in his face. He wanted me back, but I was finally starting to see that the relationship was too toxic to trust again.

Regaining my self-esteem and self-worth was a long process.

Although the physical shape of my body appeared to have improved, I was far from healthy. I wasn’t sleeping, my heart would race out of control for no reason, and I felt spun. I talked fast, walked fast, and my eyes looked like an anime cartoon bulging from my face. My mom could tell something was wrong and kept pushing me to see a doctor. I didn’t have a doctor at the time, so I ignored it for months.

I didn’t want some doctor fixing my miracle weight loss. I know it’s vain, but it took losing chunks of my hair, before I finally went to a doctor. I had a noticeable bald spot and despite the massive chest pains I was ignoring, the hair loss was enough to force me to see a doctor for the first time in years.

I had hyperthyroidism, and because I ignored it for nearly six months, it escalated to Graves disease. The specialist said my case was the worst he’d seen. I was 24 years old, wasting away to almost skeleton status, and suddenly at risk of heart failure.

Wake up call! Well, it was a wakeup call, but I hit snooze for the next few years. I took the medication, was in remission, and slowly put my life back together. I found a better job, met a patient man, and was happily married three years later. I say happily married because my husband is a keeper, but I still wasn’t the happy person you see today. I gained back all the weight I lost when I was sick and was almost 200lbs again. My insecurities were constantly getting the better of me and I went from a toxic romantic relationship to being a victim of a workplace bully. I put up with it because I still didn’t realize I deserved better.

Everything started to change just before I turned 30. A close friend was showing off her marathon medal and it inspired me. She was beaming with pride, and I wanted that same feeling. Of course, I was an overweight smoker at the time and didn’t think it was possible. Fortunately, my friend believed in me more than I believed in myself and she helped me train.

I finished my first half marathon in 2009. I’ve finished two full marathons since and I’m planning my 6th half marathon for this October. Each time I cross the finish line, my confidence goes through the roof and I start feeling like I could do anything. I was finally feeling good about myself.

Fast forward to June of 2012. I was healthy and confident, but stuck in a chaotic job that consumed me. I was Food & Beverage manager of a golf course and working 60-70 hours a week. I hadn’t had a day off in two weeks and booked off Sunday for a cousin’s baby shower. Due to all the hours I was working and the crazy weekend/holiday schedule, I barely saw my extended family.

So, when my boss asked me on Saturday night to work the Sunday afternoon, I was furious. He was still able to guilt me into it, with an agreement that I could leave before noon so I could still make my cousin’s shower. He kept me until after one o’clock. When I got to the shower, my sister-in-law was standing out front waiting for me. That day changed everything forever. An uncle I was close to, was diagnosed with leukemia. He was only 50 years old and in amazing physical condition prior to the cancer.

I rushed to the hospital to see him. I fussed over him, but that selfless man kept asking about me. I vented about work when he asked “Why are you a Food & Beverage manager, when you were meant to be a writer?”

I quit my job the next day and started writing. Five years and four books later and I’m living the life I deserve. I’m facing my fears and embracing challenges.

There’s a quote in my first book that I repeat to myself often.

“Once I realized my life was valuable, I started to treat it that way.”

I make better decisions now in regards to my health, career, and the relationships in my life. Sometimes I’m still overly nice, but I won’t tolerate anyone treating me like shit. I also no longer let the crap that happens in life get me down. Everyone faces challenges. It’s how we respond that matters.

When my ex’s life fell apart, he went down with it and tried to take me down as well. When my uncle’s was at death’s door, he used it to inspire the best in me. That’s the way I want to be. I have the ability to turn my tragedies into triumphs and carry on my uncle’s legacy.

I’m now a strong survivor who’s using her story to help others. I’m braver than I ever imagined. I even had the guts to put my dimply thighs on a book cover. My ex used to call me Cottage Cheese Thighs and I’ve turned his destructive insult into something powerful. I’m fighting back against the ridiculous standard of how a woman should look. My weight no longer affects my self-esteem. I haven’t been on a scale in 15 months and I couldn’t care less about my physical shell.

I am so much more than thick thighs! I’m an author and an advocate who’s empowering women. I’m doing what I love thanks to the encouragement of a good friend and the advice from my loving uncle.  I wanted to give up on life 15 years ago, and now I’m using my story to inspire others not to give up.

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