Moving On Without Moving Out


When I was 23 years old, I fell apart. It was inevitable. I had spent years eating less and less while running more and more. I whittled myself down to 95 pounds. My period stopped. My boobs disappeared. My loved ones voiced concern. My doctor urged me to make a change.

This is raw and honest. But, I believe that experiences are worth much more when we share them with each other. So, I share a piece of my story with you.

First, my cat. A while back, we had a black cat named “Bear”. She was the most darling, low maintenance pet ever (God rest her kitty soul.) She was also a free spirit. So, we set up her up with food and water in the garage, along with a hole in the garage door for her to pass through. It was a great system.

One Christmas, we took a week long road trip up the coast and left Bear at home unattended. She had plenty of food and water to last the week and we left the door from the garage to the house open so Bear could sleep inside. We had done this several times before and it always worked out fine. No big deal.

When we returned home from our trip, we found our house covered in cat piss. (I hate that word, but “pee” does not convey the nastiness that was sprayed all over the house.) I smelled it as soon as we pulled into the garage – my cat piss radar has always been right on. There was not a clean place in the house. The piss was everywhere, mostly on vertical surfaces – doors, walls, cabinets, curtains, my closet, our bed, the side of the couch, our fireplace, the toilet, and on and on.

Isaac was claiming Bear’s innocence (she was not in the habit of going pee in the house) as I searched her out with a wild rage in my eyes. I shed a few tears and threw (more than one) adult tantrum. Our wonderfully clean and fuss-free house was ruined. It took us hours to clean up and still days to rid the house from the stench. Even a week later I was finding sneaky piss spots in random places.

As it turned out, Bear was not the cat to blame. A few weeks after the initial incident, I came home from work to find some punk cat in the house. And the nasty animal was pissing on the wall by my kitchen! I screamed in serious horror as I watched the cat dash into the garage and through the cat door. We shut Bear’s door forever and the skank cat never stepped foot in my house again.

Let me tell you, having a random cat spray my house and personal belongings is one of my worst nightmares. It was horrible. I felt violated and disgusted and mad. I wanted to run away from my own home. I certainly considered selling the house, leaving everything (including my cat) behind and starting over somewhere clean.

The thought of living in such a mess was overwhelming.

So, here I was, 23 years old and very unhealthy. Despite warning signs and the urging of my loved ones, I didn’t see it. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle and still had a ways to go. The eating/exercise obsession was a symptom of deeply rooted issues, of course. My entire being (mind, body, soul) was in a very delicate place. I was ready to break.

And break I did. It all started with an injury to my leg during a harmless game with a group of Jr. High kids. Overnight, my running habit was put to rest. Somehow, running/working out several times per day kept my appetite down and I could get by on the smallest amounts of food (& Diet Coke). Without multiple daily workouts, the house of cards did not stand a chance. From a deep place inside, I began to unravel.

The anxiety and subsequent depression were debilitating. I struggled to be in public and found even brief conversations absolutely exhausting. I cried constantly and without real cause. I could barely maintain my part time serving job. Within the span of a year, I gained 40 pounds. From the inside out, I felt totally unrecognizable. I was a mess.

(Aside: during that same timeframe, Isaac and I were engaged and got married. Talk about a wild ride. I’ll have to tell that story sometime.)

My mind and body felt entirely out of my control. I didn’t know how to recover. I didn’t even know what to aim for. Although I could finally recognize how unhealthy my lifestyle was, the anxious/depressed/sick/unhappy state was so dark and unlivable I could barely stand it. I felt paralyzed.

On a daily basis, I begged God to let me start over.

And I longed to jump ship. To start fresh. To sleep the shittiness off and wakeup with a new mind and body.

I felt too disgusted, vulnerable, needy, ugly, fat, unattractive and worthless to think straight.

I wanted to sell the place and move somewhere new. Anywhere. My “self” was too overwhelming to deal with.

I can recall that emotional year vividly. I remember meeting people and feeling traumatized by who I was at the time. I felt ashamed and embarrassed to be such a mess on the inside and out… especially in my new role and fiancé and wife.

Some events, like my wedding day, are like movies playing over and over in my head. With regret, I watch myself. With sadness, I see my pain.

It was hard. Sometimes, even the memories still are.

It’s been almost 10 years since I unravelled. And yet, I am not without shadows of anxiety, depression and obsession with food/exercise/my body. It was my struggle then, it is now and likely always will be.

There are times that it’s not much of a battle and I cruise through days unfazed by my issues. But, other times can be scary and overwhelming. It requires consistent work to manage my emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes it feels too big.

The past few weeks, it has been more difficult than usual. It’s prompted me to revisit my journey and identify the progress I have made. Because I have made huge progress.

I have not moved out, but I have moved on.

Moving on without moving out is the challenge.

Because it’s terribly hard to live in a place that’s under construction. Because it feels hopeless to be in need of restoration. Because shame and devastation are paralyzing.

And yet, we live in the construction zones of our own lives. It’s messy, raw and uncomfortable. But, we must still choose to work on ourselves.

Because we are worth restoration. Because we are not alone. Because we have a life worth living and a story worth telling.



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  • Reply
    08/03/2014 at 10:00 pm

    Natalie, I respect you so much for telling your story and being real. I know that telling our stories can be so healing for us and others so thank you for sharing. Praying for you friend.

  • Reply
    Aida Mejia
    08/03/2014 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you for your honesty.
    You are gifted at writing. Keep it up. I know it speaks to me and to others.

    • Reply
      08/04/2014 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you Aida. It’s fun to stay connected, even in this remote way.

  • Reply
    Alana Pucci
    08/03/2014 at 10:52 pm

    I’m so glad you found the courage to share your story. I love it when women empower other women with the truth of our struggles. It feels like it gives our issues less power over us. We are all works in progress and it’s truly awesome when we remember to encourage each other. Kudos miss Natalie 😊

    • Reply
      08/04/2014 at 10:37 pm

      Amen! PS. Thanks for being such a great sis to my cousin. xo

  • Reply
    08/03/2014 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you for being so vulnerable friend! Love you and your story!

  • Reply
    Kristen Howerton
    08/04/2014 at 12:34 am

    Wow, Natalie, this was so well written it brought tears to my eyes. I remember how absolutely stunning you looked on your wedding day . . . I appreciate that you are sharing your journey because it’s such a reminder that outward appearances do not always tell the whole story.

    • Reply
      08/04/2014 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you Kristen. As I recall, you enjoyed Planet 80’s (our wedding band) with the best of them. Or at least, some candid reception pics lead me to believe so. I’ll have to dig those up.

  • Reply
    Cori Cook
    08/04/2014 at 6:48 am

    Natalie- you are courageous, brave, and beautiful. I love you so much and love your willingness to share these struggles. I love you dearly.

  • Reply
    08/04/2014 at 7:45 am

    I can’t help but think that there is a parallel here- it’s like your house with the punk cat…you love your house, made it your own, take care of it, yet one day some ridiculous cat sneaks it and starts trashing it. I feel like our Creator must feel the same way about us…creating us, loving us, taking pride in His creation, wanting so much for us and yet these things that were never intended for us sneak in. They destroy our self worth, our ability to cope, our view of ourself. I believe our “home owner” has the ability to come in and destroy those “punk cats” in out lives to make our bodies, minds and spirits livable again. I also believe the the “nasty cats” that piss all over our lives (our self worth) want us to feel alone in that place of desperation-like we will never be clean and loveable again. If it can keep us there, they have something to “pee” on. Not anymore, girl!!!! Bringing things like this to light and speaking about them to whoever will read is part of your story, part of your the healing. And also, part of an area that someone else may need healing in, too. You are an inspiration. You have a beautiful gift to share with others. Your tenderness and ability to share something that is a part of your story is amazing. I can’t help it….I fully believe we encounter trials for a reason and a higher purpose-to discover how strong yet how weak we are and our need for the higher power, the one who intricately created us and loves us with love beyond what we could ever love. And also-to help others. To feel compassion and not just empathy. You are beautifully amazing and inspiring! THANK YOU!

    • Reply
      08/04/2014 at 10:44 pm

      Wow. Thank you for the insight and kind words. I agree – our story is about much more than us. It has the power to give hope, inspire, motivate and encourage the world around us. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Sarah Anderson
    08/04/2014 at 9:31 am

    Oh amazing Natalie! I had no idea. Thank you so much for sharing, we may not all share the exact struggle but we all are a mess some how. We are so good at hiding it. Thank you for being so honest, it is refreshing to hear we are not all perfect inside or out.
    Oh love you so much!!

    • Reply
      08/04/2014 at 10:45 pm

      That’s right – We are all a mess in some way. May we never pretend that we aren’t. xo

  • Reply
    08/04/2014 at 10:24 am

    Bravo, Natalie! You are a warrior. I also thought you looked stunning on your wedding day, and that you are beautiful inside and out, every time I see you.

  • Reply
    Melissa Anastasi
    08/04/2014 at 11:05 am


    What a brave story. Thank you for sharing, because you know that many other people have a similar story… and this may bring comfort to them. Thank you for your raw honesty, and choosing to use the word “piss” because it really does enhance the story. 🙂 God bless you on your journey. You are a treasure.

  • Reply
    08/04/2014 at 3:06 pm

    We all have a punk cat in our life and most of the time fight it with armour that seems unbreakable, when inside speaks another tale. Thank you for sharing and remember you’re a strong lady, who lets no punk cat get the better of her!

  • Reply
    08/04/2014 at 8:56 pm

    Oh my, it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one trying to recover myself to health and vibrancy. I have painful wedding day memories of myself too. Often I feel like I’m trying to outrun/outsmart my feelings and it’s exhausting. Thanks for sharing yourself so candidly. You are inspiring. Keep writing please.

  • Reply
    08/04/2014 at 11:51 pm

    Reading this, you, at that point in your life, remind me very much of my youngest sister and her struggle with anxiety and her quest to be in control of all aspects of her life. Thank you for posting your story and sharing your journey.

    • Reply
      08/05/2014 at 8:46 pm

      I’ll hope for healing on her behalf. Thank you for reading.

  • Reply
    Rae Lynn Lott
    08/05/2014 at 1:45 pm

    Nate, wow. Thanks so much for your vulnerability and honesty! It is funny, there have been many days when I have read your blog and thought, “dang. She’s got it all together.” If only I could work out like her, or look like her, or eat like her, be a super-mom like her…you know how that road goes. We all have our own demons and things that we struggle with. It makes us human, it makes us real. Thanks for becoming more real to me through your post. Though it is always more difficult to “hear” what others say about us, please know that when people look at you they see someone who is beautiful, confident, and inspiring inside and out.

    • Reply
      08/05/2014 at 8:49 pm

      I agree, this is humanity. I’m so blessed to have people to share my demons with. Really. And, I miss seeing you!

  • Reply
    08/05/2014 at 1:54 pm


    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can definitely relate… when I was in college I felt a strong need to be good at something so I chose being skinny. I ran way too much on too little food. My weight dropped. I was sad and felt trapped. I started to lose my hair eventually. It was awful. Even though I eventually got back to a healthy weight, I struggled for years after with my body image and could not imagine a day would come when I didn’t think about my next meal, feel guilty about what I just ate, compare myself to every other girl I saw, or cease being aware of my body every minute of every day. I can remember many times that should have been carefree and fun, but I was miserable.

    Several things helped… therapy, sharing my struggle, a book called ‘Intuitive Eating’, and eventually CrossFit, where being skinny wasn’t the goal, but being strong and fast was (which can become an obsession in and of itself… I’m also aware), but working out became fun and not something I had to do to burn calories. I certainly still have my days and I am fully aware that I am capable of falling back into old habits, but where I am now seemed so impossible 6 years ago. There is hope and you definitely aren’t alone.


    • Reply
      08/05/2014 at 8:52 pm

      Lindsay, thank you for your honesty and understanding. I hear you on all accounts. I have found tremendous freedom in seeing my body as functional – pregnancy really helped that process too. The appearance aint worth a dime if you can’t perform… and the performing is just too much fun to forgo. Running with friends, kicking ass at bootcamp, playing around in yoga. It has really given me a new lens in which to view myself.
      Thank you for your encouragement.

  • Reply
    Courtney Harrell
    08/06/2014 at 7:04 pm

    Wow, thank you for sharing more of your story and journey Natalie. This is so raw and vulnerable, something our society struggles to embrace. Aren’t we all just a mess about one thing or another…its refreshing to see you drop your walls and in turn encourage other women to drop theirs. Was great seeing you Sunday, wish we could have talked more 🙂 XO

    • Reply
      08/08/2014 at 1:11 pm

      thank you Courtney. It feels so good to drop the walls. xo Natalie

  • Reply
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    08/08/2014 at 3:36 pm

    You are soooooo my favorite blogger! So many great things have already been said here. Rock on, sister.

    • Reply
      08/08/2014 at 10:39 pm

      I’m smiling and blushing! Seriously! Wish we could go for a run together and get our girls together to play. Maybe one day! xo

  • Reply
    Carolyn Converse
    08/10/2014 at 11:39 am

    Thank you Natalie – I have always thought of you as the perfect young lady. One who never makes mistakes or goes through hell. I remember worrying about you when you were so thin. Would love to hear the rest of the story and how you resolved what was going on in your life that made you think you had to loose weight. The picture suggest to me that you ended up being hospitalized and you went through some “stuff” and resolved some problems that you were going through. Love you and wish I could hold you in my arms and that you would know how much I care and wish you would not have had to go through those experiences. The good thing is that those experiences make us better people. Ones who know how to help others and meet our own challenges better. Love you – Grandma Carolyn

    • Reply
      08/11/2014 at 8:40 am

      Hi! Thanks for reading. You’re right – we’re generally better for experiences and absolutely able to relate, empathize and support those around us in a deeper way. Next time we’re together, we can talk more about my journey. I’m in a much better place and have been for years. With the support of some doctors (and my awesome husband) I moved out of those behaviors and patterns. No hospitalization. Thanks for the kind words. xo

  • Reply
    Brenda Carrillo
    08/10/2014 at 12:15 pm

    Natalie, I had no idea! You have always been a beautiful person in my eyes, inside and out!. Why is it always easier to hide the hurt? In my mind it’s, “who wants to hear what crap is bothering me?” A marriage of, if it’s not good news, I don’t want to hear it, took it’s toll.
    Getting past that is going to be a journey, but I have someone now, who wants to know the good and the bad. Talking to dogs is also good therapy! They listen, Don’t judge, and still give kisses. I admire you, and it sounds like you have an amazing husband/support partner. Thanks for that blog, it really hit home for me. It has me wanting to start taking better care of me. I will encourage my self every day. Thank-you. Love you!

    • Reply
      08/11/2014 at 8:49 am

      Hi Brenda, I agree. It’s seems easier (in the short term) to hide. So thankful that you have Cathy & Taylor for daily love. And that you’re in a great relationship that encourages you to be you. xo

  • Reply
    08/19/2014 at 7:47 am

    Natalie, I wanted to take a moment and make a comment, which is something I don’t often do. I acknowledge that what you’ve written here is honest, truthful and authentic and that puts one in a very vulnerable place.
    Well, I’ve returned twice now to this post. And I will likely return again.
    Your words are comforting to me. Your story is soothing to my anxieties of “being the only one”. Your success so far is inspirational to all of us to keep fighting.
    Leonard Cohen once wrote – Ring the bells that stills ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That is how the light gets in….
    Be proud of all you’ve made from that beautiful crack! (snicker..crack…..ok, I couldn’t just be all sappy and let that one go!)

    • Reply
      08/19/2014 at 11:59 pm

      Catherine, thank you for taking the time to chime in here. We are rarely “the only one” and I’m honored to remind you of that. The crack thing – I love the image of light shining through the imperfect/damaged areas. (And snickered with you.) xo

  • Reply
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    08/23/2014 at 12:13 am

    This story, your story, is so valuable and I’m really glad you shared it. I think it means even more because I was lucky enough to meet you and see how wonderful you are in person too. Thanks for reminding me I’m never alone.

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