Health & Wellness

Stored in the Body


Body7When was the first time you remember not wanting to be in your body?”

My counselor sits across from me in an armchair, her eyes steady.

I fall still on the couch, becoming very aware of the movement of my chest as I breathe. My mind casts back and I instantly know the time, the memories I could share. Silent, I feel the words in my mouth and decide if I’m going to tell her.

It’s only a moment’s pause because I’ve been seeing Ellen for a while now and I’m comfortable with her. The pause is for me to cradle painful memories in my hand and hold them out to her, hoping that maybe I can share them and feel nothing, even as they prickle on my palm.

“When I was 11,” My voice is steady and factual. She knows this story already, we’ve talked about it in another context. “When everything happened with Cara.”

Body4That’s usually how I reference it. For a long time I didn’t know what to call it. When they warned us about “bad touch” in school, they showed videos of strange, unfamiliar men. When it happened to others in my family, to friends I knew, it was an older man, a relative. What is it when it’s your niece, female and five years younger? What is it when it’s not their sex organs on you, or vice versa, but you still feel violated?

I didn’t have words, for a long time, for staying awake until I knew the other person was asleep. Knowing that as soon as she thinks I’m asleep, she’s going to climb onto my bed and try to put her hands in my underwear. It’s not safe until I’m sure she’s asleep and not going to try anything. I didn’t have words for the way my stomach would hurt when she would try to spy on me changing clothes, getting out of the shower. For being pinned down by someone just heavy enough, sitting on my chest just right, that I can’t throw her off as she mashes her lips onto mine and tries to force her tongue past my clenched teeth.

What is it when she’s female, younger and smaller than you? When you’re the oldest of all the kids and the most responsible?

Ellen gave me the words “sexual assault.” She gave me something to put those memories in, a context from which to view them.

Body8We’re talking about this because Ellen has helped me with a lot that I’ve struggled with – I can go past the first date now, without panicking. I can have sex. I’m a lot better about giving myself permission to go for it – to try something new and be ok if I fail, or the experience isn’t what I hoped. None of the changes happened over night, but overall I’m in a much better place than when I first sat on that couch and started talking to Ellen.

Despite all that growth though, I still have not been able to do one thing I’ve longed for – to shrink.

I’m 300 pounds and I’ve been there for about seven years, with no end in sight. My body is my shield. It keeps people out. It’s easy to be invisible. It feels safer. And if my shield is also a cage, well, there are prices to being safe. I’ve spent my adult life trying to figure out how to unlock that door while also holding it shut.

I’m almost 30, a long way from 11, but the lessons learned as a child cannot be unlearned, unfelt. Coping mechanisms become habit, habit becomes practice, and what you practice becomes who you are.

I’m trying something new with a new counselor (though I still see Ellen once every 4-6 weeks for perspective and what I jokingly call “maintenance”). Amanda uses brain integration therapy, emotional freedom technique, and other things that seem very “alternative” and hokey, except they’ve been helping me.

Body1We use affirmations a lot. “I can easily make healthy choices,” “I am safe in a healthy body,” “I can easily breathe in uncomfortable situations,” and many more. It can feel silly, but after a few sessions I’ve found myself thinking, “I can easily make healthy choices” and bypassing the frozen pizza aisle at the grocery store.

I find myself rolling the idea of “safe” and “healthy” a lot in my head. Sometimes old memories that I haven’t thought about in years will pop up, like being 13, riding the bus home and a boy loudly talking about how my tits bounced when I ran. I make slow shifts and past experiences and old fears surface and stretch.

I’m learning to breathe through the discomfort and uncertainty. I’ve done a lot of work already with Ellen, and I know I’m capable of more than I believe.

I breathe through the fears of my 11 and 13 years old self. I repeat, “I am safe in a healthy body,” to Amanda. I imagine putting down the shield and opening the cage that I don’t need anymore.

I breathe in. I get knocked down and lay there, feeling the ground.

I breathe out, and get back up.

❤ Sunshine


Many thanks to my good friend Lorelai for being willing to take photos of me in my underwear. We can cross that one off the list.


Monogamish, Part 2

This post is a continuation of Mahina’s journey with non-monogamy that began in Monogamish, Part 1. Thank you again to Mahina for sharing her story.

-Sunshine ❤

Diving in to Monogamish

Once Caz and I had the all clear from both our significant others, there were a lot of things going on in my head. A big one was that I’d had this fantasy of being with two guys and I wanted to make that a reality, which both Hoshi and Caz were on board with. In order for that to happen, I felt like I needed to sleep with Caz first, on my own. I didn’t want my first time sleeping with someone other than my husband to be during the threesome, which was already going to be a lot on its own. It would have been too many firsts at once.

fall in loveI remember talking to Hoshi about spending the night at Caz’s for the first time and on my way out the door he gave me a big hug, told me to have fun, and said, “When you fall in love with Caz, it’s ok. It’s ok for these feelings to develop and it’s ok for that to happen.”

I was pretty convinced that that wasn’t going to happen. I was going into with the mindset that this was just friends with benefits – it was just sex. We were going to have fun, but there weren’t going to be any stronger feelings.

Caz and I were already really good friends at that point, so there wasn’t much dating/get-to-know-you type activities that needed to happen in order to take that next step. We went out to dinner before we went to his place, but pretty much as soon as we got back to his place, we jumped into bed. We ended up spending the weekend together. I went over Friday night and didn’t go home until Sunday.

I was nervous as hell to have sex with Caz, as I’d only been with Hoshi up to this point. Despite my nerves, I ended up having a lot of fun and the weekend went by in a snap. I felt much more comfortable to jump to the next big thing, which was to fulfill a long-time fantasy of both Hoshi and I and have a threesome.

Going Home After the First Weekend

I went home to Hoshi and felt super sheepish. He gave me a hug, asked me how it was, and I told him everything.

There were some things that happened that Hoshi didn’t approve of, so we talked about that. One of them was a straight up mistake on my part. We’d agreed beforehand that Caz would wear a condom. We’d all been tested, but it was one of things Hoshi was adamant about – which was totally understandable and not an unreasonable request.

In the middle of things with Caz, we were having difficulties with the condom falling off and being a general pain. Neither of us were used to using condoms since we were both in long term relationships, so halfway through we were like “Fuck this,” because it was easier to go without.

Hoshi was understandably upset about that. He talked to me about it and then he talked directly to Caz about it, letting us both know that there were things that happened that he wasn’t ok with and it was very important to him that they didn’t happen again.

let him down.pngIt was a hard conversation for me to have because I felt like I’d let him down. I had permission to do this thing, but I had these limitations, and I’d broken them. I felt awful and like I’d betrayed his trust. I don’t know if I didn’t realize how big of deal it was for Hoshi, or if I willfully forgot, but either way it was a mistake on my part.

Hoshi wanted reassurances from both of us that it wouldn’t happen again, which both Caz and I willingly gave. Caz also felt badly about what had happened and apologized for it.

Hoshi is pretty good about processing things and moving on, so after he talked to us both, he was good with everything continuing.

Three’s a Party

When I originally told Caz about my feelings of attraction for him, we were on a group trip and ended up having a long drive with just the two of us, so we time to talk about everything, like past history. He’d had threesomes before and “guest starred” for couples, and he was comfortable jumping into that with Hoshi and me.

His experience with non-monogamy was primarily sexual, with not a lot of emotional intimacy.

Right before anything sexual happened between the three of us, we had a conversation about expectations of what would happen that night. I didn’t end up having to say much because I’d already had those conversations with each of them, separately. It was more of Hoshi and Caz talking it over me – literally over my head as I was sitting between them.

no worriesIn the beginning when we were making out, I felt like I had to make sure both of them felt included. For example, if I was kissing one of them, I’d immediately spin around and kiss the other one. I didn’t want either one of them to feel excluded. It was a process figuring out how to be with two people – the mechanics of it. Eventually, I was able to get over that mental hiccup when I realized they were both fine including themselves when and where they wanted and I didn’t need to worry about managing that.

Both Caz and Hoshi established that neither one was interested in anything sexual happening with the other. They’re both straight but they’re very comfortable with their sexuality. So they were both like, “Yeah, you know I don’t have any interest in going down on you, but if we end up in a cuddle pile and our legs are touching, it’s not that big of a deal.”

It was hands down the best sex I’ve ever had. And it’s because all three of us were so comfortable with each other.

The Morning After

Hoshi and I have a post sex check in that we do when we try something new, or just in general to see how we felt about things in the moment. I did the same thing with Caz and I think he was a little taken aback. I don’t think that conversation happened with the other group sex situations he’d been involved in.

I told Caz I wanted to talk to him and he was worried there was something wrong. I told him, “I just wanted to make sure you had a good time – what was your favorite part, what was one thing you liked, one thing you’d change?” He was very confused but it was a good conversation to have.

That ended up being our only threesome together, mostly due to timing and everyone’s schedule. I did end up spending more time with Caz on my own and we spent several more nights together, in addition to spending time together as friends like we’d done before.

More Than Friends

deadlineAfter two weeks or so, I became acutely aware of the deadline of Caz’s girlfriend coming back. When we were together, I found myself thinking, “This could be the last time.” It was something I thought about a lot. When I started having those thoughts, that’s when I realized I didn’t want this to stop. I started realizing I had quite a lot of emotional attachment to Caz that I wasn’t expecting to have.

Caz and I were together at one point and I realized, “This is probably going to be the last time, for real.” I brought it up to Caz, “This could be the last time we sleep together.” He got really quiet and I got really quiet. We were silent for a few minutes and I looked at him and said, “I don’t want this to stop.” He looked back at me and said, “I kinda don’t want this to stop either.” It was a mutual realization that even if there weren’t deeper feelings there, it was something we were both enjoying and something we were wanting to continue.

Time’s Up

Caz’s girlfriend returned from her month away. Caz and I were hanging out and I asked how his girlfriend was doing with everything, how he was doing with everything. That’s when it started to become clear to me that his girlfriend didn’t feel ok with everything that happened – she didn’t want to hang out with me anymore, for example.

told you soAs Caz and I went back to a non-sexual, platonic friend relationship, I began to wrestle with these deeper feelings that I hadn’t expected to happen. I had a hard time understanding where they were coming from, what they meant, or what to do with them. About a week after our sexual relationship ended, I started crying one night and said to Hoshi, “I think I love Caz.”

Hoshi patted me on the back and said, “I told you so.”

This story will continue in Monogamish, Part 3.


What is vulnerability to you?

I shared a survey with my friends recently, asking:

  • For me, vulnerability is…
  • Vulnerability feels like…
  • I feel vulnerable when…

I got 13 responses, primarily female, ages 24-65. A small pool, and not at all representative of a larger population, except perhaps the one I surround myself with.

“For me, vulnerability is…”

  • Loss of control of my feelings
  • Exposure
  • Sharing personal details, making stronger bonds
  • Putting yourself out there without knowing how they’ll react to it
  • Brutal honesty
  • Scary
  • Being open with people. I’m usually closed off and reserved unless I really know someone.
  • Being open to the chance of being hurt
  • A sense of feeling hopeless (when the ego takes over)
  • a state of mind in which you feel exposed
  • being subject to outside influences and opinions, negative or positive

“Vulnerability feels like…”

  • I’m crazy
  • Loss of control. Drowning well no one help.
  • Connecting with someone deeply
  • Bravery
  • Open to judgement
  • Depending on the situation like you are helpless and it is scary.
  • Uncertainty
  • No control
  • Scary. Makes me anxious.
  • Being exposed
  • Insecure, hopeless
  • Scary yet somehow liberating, knowing that everything is “out.”
  • Being uncomfortable in your own skin. Like who you are might not be good enough. A call to change. Change is usually uncomfortable whether good or bad.

“I feel vulnerable when…”

  • I’m not in control
  • I hurt.
  • Tell them things about myself I typically don’t share with just anyone
  • I let people look or listen to stuff I have created.
  • I am truly honest with how I feel
  • My health was bad and I had to rely on other people for things I normally did. Also, when I meet new people or I am in a situation I haven’t experienced before.
  • Sharing personal aspirations and failures/losses
  • I’m around people I don’t know
  • In crowded places. With a lot of people around. Any public speaking. Expressing my feelings/needs/wants, even with those I’m closest too, including my husband and family members.
  • I’m honest about uncomfortable feelings
  • I’m uncomfortable with myself or when i put myself out there and get rejected. When my feelings get hurt.
  • I make mistakes or face criticism.
  • I am in situations where I feel everyone around me knows more than me whether work or social. When the way I look or think doesn’t match other people’s appearance or opinions. When I am asked to change.

You can see the common threads throughout the responses. I would summarize it as:

  • For me, vulnerability is the scary feeling of being open, letting go of control, and being truly seen. 
  • Vulnerability feels like an uncomfortable, uncertain place where I am open to connection or rejection. 
  • I feel vulnerable when I am out of my comfort zone or when I share an important part of myself.

I’ll leave you with this (from Brené Brown of course!):

Vulnerability Quote_Brene Brown


Monogamish, Part 1

The following is the beginning of Mahina’s story about her marriage, being monogamish, and her experiences with secondary relationships as a married woman. We’re anticipating at least two more parts to this series, if not more. This post is a combination of Mahina’s written reflections and conversations between her and myself. Names have been changed to protect privacy but everything else is a true account. Thank you so much to Mahina for being willing to share an intimate look at her experience and for being the first story shared on this blog.

– Sunshine ❤

Monogamish & Me

I am a woman in her late 20’s in a monogamish relationship with my husband, Hoshi*. We’re primarily monogamous and neither one of us identifies as polyamorous. Monogamish is more of a relationship dynamic for us than an orientation, as monogamy/polyamory is for some people.

Monogamish, to me, means that there is a primary relationship that is the foundation of our lives. Secondary romantic or sexual relationships may happen outside of the marriage but the primary relationship is still the core focus and priority.

For Hoshi and I, a secondary relationship can be anywhere along the relationship spectrum: friends with benefits to full on romantic relationships. The important thing for us is an open line of communication before any secondary relationships take place.

The Beginning

Hoshi and I met in 2005. I was 18 and had moved across the country for college. He was 23 and going to the same college for his second bachelor’s degree. We both got invited to a movie watching party in the dorm I lived in and became part of the same friends group. We spent a lot of time together but there wasn’t any romantic interest (that I was aware of anyway).

He asked me out for the first time on Halloween. I turned him down and told him that I wasn’t really interested in anything at the moment. I’d spent the first two months of college getting my bearings and was finally feeling like I had found solid ground. I didn’t want to do anything that would shake that loose.

I wasn’t able to go home for Thanksgiving that year, so Hoshi invited me to his parents’. After a weekend of flirting, we ended up making out in the living room and about a week later, after another impromptu makeout session in his dorm room, we were dating.

During this same time, I was hashing out some feelings I had for a guy I’d dated the summer in between high school and college. We kept in contact after I left and he’d made comments about wanting to hook up when I went home for Christmas break. I was a virgin at this point and decided that I wanted him to be my first time.

Monogamish 2I talked about all of this with Hoshi – how much I missed homeguy; all the thoughts I was having about sleeping with someone for the first time; everything. Hoshi never berated me for being interested in someone else while we were in the very beginning stages of our relationship and never shamed me for my feelings. He was only supportive and offered advice. He was just very open and easy to communicate with and I was able to talk to him about these feelings I was having, even though they were about a guy that wasn’t him.

Before Christmas, we made out a bunch but I wasn’t feeling comfortable doing more than that. Hoshi never pressured me into doing anything I didn’t want to do. I remember giving him a hand job for the first time and being completely grossed out at the end result. When he looked over and saw my face, he wasn’t offended – he just laughed.

The night before I flew home for Christmas, he gave me my first orgasm (ever) and told me he loved me. It took me until I hugged him goodbye at the airport, but I told him I loved him too. When I got back home, I fully realized that I didn’t want to sleep with homeguy – what I wanted was Hoshi.

After Christmas break, Hoshi and I started getting serious. He had surprised me with a vibrator for Christmas and we spent mostly every night together and (eventually) we had sex for the first time. I was nervous as hell but I was so comfortable with him and knew that it was something I wanted.I don’t have a horror story about my first time – it was good. I got off and had fun, despite my nervousness.

I knew at about 8 months – I was still 19 at this point – into our relationship that I wanted to marry him. There wasn’t one moment where I went “Hey, I want to marry this guy,” instead it was an overall feeling that this is who I wanted to be with long-term and who I wanted to spend my life with. Another year and a half went by and he hadn’t asked me, so I asked him. Four years after we first said, “I love you,” we were married.

Open and Honest Communication

Monogamish 1Beyond the previously mentioned conflicting emotions I had at the beginning of our relationship, Hoshi and I stayed monogamous for a very long time (about 8 years). We always had open and honest communication though, and the topic of sleeping with other people had come up a lot. We always talked about it as a fantasy – threesomes, group sex, if either of us would enjoy cuckolding, what it would be like to share a submissive. I remember asking, almost as a joke, shortly after we got engaged “What happens if we get married and I find someone else I want to sleep with?” and the response was always “We’d have to talk about it.” I think that established open and honest communication made the initial conversation easier. We both knew we could talk about anything with the other person, even if it was a hard conversation to have.

Becoming Monogamish in Practice

I had a male friend, Caz*, who I’d known for years but had fallen out of contact with. Three years into Hoshi and I’s marriage – 7 years since we’d been together – this friend and I reconnected and started spending more time in the same social circles. I realized that I had a real attraction to him. I’ve always been more of a flirty and friendly person, but this was more than that. I was thinking about when he wasn’t around – there was this connection and interest. I didn’t know what to do with these feelings since I hadn’t felt that way about anyone but Hoshi. I brought it up to my husband and told him that I was having these feelings and I’m wasn’t sure what to do about them.

Even in that initial conversation, I knew these new feelings towards Caz hadn’t diminished my feelings for Hoshi. He was the one who actually brought up the potential of having a friends-with-benefits type of relationship with Caz. I said “That might be something that I’d be interested in, but I don’t think he’d be interested.” Caz had a long term girlfriend and they were pretty committed. I didn’t want to cause any strife between them. Caz and I were also pretty good friends and I didn’t want to do anything that would mess up our friendship either.

It was nice to have the conversation and the approval from Hoshi to do something about it if I decided that’s what I wanted to do, but I was still thinking about it as a hypothetical.

Monogamish 3After some time to think things through, I brought it up to Caz and eventually, his girlfriend. A couple of months later she left town and ended up giving us the go ahead for Caz and I to explore things for the month she was gone.

So everyone was on board and then it came down to me actually exploring things and being intimate with another person for the first time. Becoming actively non-monogamous was fun and exciting and terrifying all at once.

*Names have been changed

This story continues in Monogamish, Part 2.


The First Post

Make the leap

For me, new beginnings are always a rush of excitement and anxiety. Starting this blog is no different.

The idea for this blog sprung from a conversation between Mahina and myself. She was frustrated by the writing of someone else that she felt was a misrepresentation of healthy non-monogamy.

“You should start a blog!”

“How about this…YOU start a blog and I can guest on it.”

“Challenge accepted.”

That’s summarizing our conversation – but it’s pretty close! I liked the idea of a blog that more than just my writing. Something that shared the stories and experiences of other people: Mahina’s journey with non-monogamy being one example.

We met up on a Friday evening and started brainstorming ideas for a blog name, post ideas, and people who would be interesting to talk to. After much searching of Pinterest for inspiration and throwing names back and forth we decided on Wholehearted Living. The name is inspired by Brené Brown’s work on the relationship between vulnerability and courage, and living a wholehearted life.

My hope for this blog is that it’s a space for sharing people’s experiences and stories in a way that is authentic and resonates with others.

The first story we’ll be sharing is Mahina’s experience with non-monogamy. ❤