This is an incredible story, with an ending you won’t wont to miss (and everything in between). Julie takes you through raising her two siblings while having children of her own, how she met the love of her life, some of her first sexual feelings and how those related to her life later, her encounter and battle with postpartum OCD, engaging in sex therapy, speaking to and inspiring other women and WHY she titled her story YELLOW. Thank you for sharing your challenges, your strengths and your voice Julie. We think you’re amazing.
By: Julie Brinton
So as way of an introduction my name is Julie. I’m married to a wonderful man that does the dishes, mops the floors, deals with the kids when I’ve had it up to here, and just loves and supports me like no other human being on this planet. I am one lucky girl! We have three children ages 12, 8, 7, and we raised my brother and sister through their teenage years. So technically I think I can say that we have 5 kids. My brother still lives with us and is 22 years old. My sister is 20 and was married in March of this year. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the gospel! I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I struggle to know who my Heavenly Father is and how to have a relationship with him. I think being a member of this church at times has caused me to feel very alone in my trials. My different struggles have helped me gain an understanding of the atonement and I always knew that I was never truly alone because of Jesus Christ, but I definitely felt like I was the only one going through these difficult circumstances. I was always told to not talk about my problems. Well that really hasn’t worked out for me so much. I have learned that there is a healing power through sharing my experiences, not only for myself, but for those that hear my story as well. Mine is a story of overcoming shame, depression, anxiety, family drama, postpartum OCD, and relationship struggles. All of these things have gotten me to where I’m at today as I seek to find out who I really am. It’s a process, it’s scary, and it’s a journey that I’m happy to share with you.
I think I came out of the womb shaming myself. I can remember being very young, like 4 or 5, and just feeling like I’m not good enough. At the age of 6 I had a sexual experience that was rather enjoyable. Just me and the neighbor boy, who was also my age, just messing around and having fun. It only happened once, but that experience stuck with me. The older I got the more shame I felt over having these sexual feelings. I believed that I was a bad person with unrighteous thoughts and feelings. This lasted clear up to the day I got married.
If there was an LDS version of Jerry Springer my family would so be on that show. Despite never feeling good enough I felt safe in my “good Mormon family”. I’m the oldest of 8 kids. We went to church every Sunday. Life appeared to be just like it should be. When I was 16 my parents told me that my dad had cheated on my mom while he was the Bishop. Without that outside image to hold me up life became pretty hard. I struggled with major depression. Nothing really mattered anymore. Around this same time I met my husband. We knew we were meant to be. At the age of 16 we were in love. We both struggled in our quest for joy and so we were constantly doing things to make each other happy. I feel so blessed to have had my husband be a part of my life at this time. It saved us both. My husband went on a mission to Spain. I wanted to go with him, but that’s not really allowed, so I stayed home and worked and did some schooling. My parents had stayed together and my dad had repented. Life was coming together.
After two long years my husband returned home from his mission and we were married two weeks later. Just kidding. It was actually 9 months. I don’t know what took him so long! We got pregnant two months later. Oh man! I didn’t know what the word nauseated meant till then. It was bad. Remember all those sexual thoughts and feelings before marriage? Yeah those pretty much shut off the day we got married. Probably the whole “you want what you can’t have” syndrome, but still it was a new thing that as newlyweds we were still trying to figure out. Add on top of that throwing up all the time and never feeling well and sex became nonexistent.
Something else was going on at the same time. My mom started skipping church and hanging out a lot with a certain friend she had met. We didn’t live very far from my family and ended up being in the same ward together, so I was pretty aware of what was going on. It appeared on the outside that my mom was having an affair with another woman, but that couldn’t be right. We were Mormon. Families. Together. Forever. This doesn’t happen to good Mormon families. Two months after delivering my beautiful healthy baby boy my mom admitted to having an affair with another woman. She declared herself to be a lesbian and that she no longer wanted to be married to my dad or be a member of the church. So what was supposed to be a really happy time for me and my husband starting our own little family suddenly became overshadowed by what was happening in my family. I shut off my feelings, put up the walls, and went into survival mode.
My Dad was given sole custody of the remaining 7 kids. We did our best to help out. After about 3 years only the 3 youngest siblings remained in the home with my dad. It was evident that my Dad had other things going on with himself and he was not taking care of my brothers and sister age 11 to 15 at the time. We were able to convince him to let them go. So that’s the short story of how my brother and sister came to live with us. I didn’t have room for everybody so the other brother went to live with my husband’s parents. It was a big sense of relief just knowing that the kids were safe and being taken care of. During this time I had also given birth to my second beautiful baby boy. Actually he was kind of funny looking, but we loved him anyways.
When my sweet baby was 3 months old I got pregnant with my daughter! Surprise! She arrived 5 days before her brothers first birthday. It was really hard having babies so close together! At the same time life was calming down. I had teenagers to help with kids and chores and there wasn’t that constant worry over whether or not my siblings were okay. Then one day I woke up, when my daughter was about 9 months old, with an overwhelming fear that I was going to kill my children. What the heck!? Where did that come from I asked myself. I decided that maybe I was experiencing some form of postpartum depression and that it would just go away. I felt too much shame over the thoughts and felt like it would be best if I just kept it to myself. After all that we had just been through with my family I desperately wanted a break from all of that and to just be a happy family. So I told no one. The thoughts increased. They were accompanied with horrific violent images in my mind. What kind of mother has these thoughts about her own children? Especially in the LDS religion where motherhood is on this pedestal and should be the most amazing wonderful thing. It was far from it for me. I could hardly stand to be around my children out of fear that I would hurt them.
This went on for 18 months. It slowly started to feel like it was getting better and then I got pregnant. Not planned at all. I cried every day in the shower for weeks. At 10 weeks along I miscarried. There was a sense of relief, but then the thoughts and images picked up again. I knew that I could not do it anymore. I told my Dr. I told my husband. I didn’t tell them everything because it was too ugly. I said what I had to so that I could start taking medication. I prayed that the meds would make it go away, but they didn’t. I started seeing a therapist. I was with him for 18 months. He didn’t know anything about perinatal mood disorders. I still felt really alone, but it was helpful to at least talk to someone about the thoughts and images. I got to a place where I felt like it was time to start trying to have a baby. I got permission from my Dr. and after 7 months of trying we were able to get pregnant. I was really excited this time around. I went to the Dr. when I was 7 weeks along for an early ultrasound and found out that I was going to have another miscarriage. Damn. Can I say that? Mormon’s shouldn’t swear, but dammit I wanted to have that baby.
Really scary stuff started happening to me. The thoughts and images that used to be in my mind started playing outside of my body. I was still in reality and I knew that what I was seeing wasn’t real, but still so so scary. I knew that I had to get a new therapist. I found someone in my area that specialized in perinatal mood disorders. I was diagnosed with Postpartum OCD. It was so helpful to understand what I had and that other women had experienced the same type of things. I wasn’t alone anymore! Things only went up from there. Yes there were bumps in the road and setbacks, but I didn’t let them defeat me. I started volunteering for a warmline in my state. Moms that feel like they are experiencing postpartum depression can call this number and talk to someone like me to get support and find out about resources that are available to them. I have been able to speak at trainings about my experience. It has been healing for me to share my story and to help other women know that they aren’t alone.
So why is the title of my story yellow? I am a very visual person. I have a hard time identifying my feelings, but I do see a color with my emotions. So I figured out a rating scale of 1 through 10 to help me figure out what I’m feeling. Yellow is my happy color and is #1 on the scale. Black is not happy and is #10. There are a range of colors in between. I wanted to share some photos with you of things that I have done along the way to help me in my journey.
When working with my postpartum therapist I wanted something that I could look at to show me that I had a bond with my children. On those bad days when I had convinced myself that I was a horrible mother and that my kids didn’t deserve me I had something visual to look at that showed the love that we have for each other.
I made this collage as my safe place. It hangs in my room and reminds me of the things that helped me get to a better place. These are words and pictures of things that represent happiness to me, and when I’m having a bad day this helps me to center myself.
So before I share the last picture I just want to finish up with my story. Now that all my siblings are adults, and now that I’m done having children and the ones I have are totally awesome and getting so grown up, my husband and I are finally able to work on us as a couple. There has been a lot of hurt and frustration about what went on during the first 12 years of our marriage. I was a mess and didn’t even realize how much I had neglected my husband in all of it. We have been in therapy together for over a year now. Specifically sex therapy, but it usually isn’t about the sex. It’s learning to communicate, and trust, and be there for each other. I want sex to be an important part of our marriage. I want to enjoy it and have it be something that brings us closer together. I want to feel like I did before we got married without all the shame. About a year ago I took a big leap and decided to do a boudoir photo shoot as a way to embrace my sexuality, and it worked. It was a great experience for me. It was tastefully done and is something that I have to share with just my husband, and maybe a few of my closest girlfriends 😉 but really I had such a strong feeling of empowerment, and it’s just a great reminder to me that I can do hard things. We can all do hard things, and I think by sharing our stories with make it just a little bit easier for everyone. Hello YELLOW!
#HERstory. YOURstory. OURstory.