My Story

Danica Trebel


I was always that girl who never quite fit in. Maybe it was because I was taught from a very young age my best was never good enough so I strived to remain unnoticed. I mean, after all…who would want to be friends with someone who had no “voice”? Who’s ideas were so far “out there”? Who couldn’t make a decision because, well, why should she…it would be wrong anyway? Who had a lot of talents and skills but was never encouraged to master any of them, again reinforcing her core belief that her best will never be good enough?

Since I had what I felt were only people who tolerated me because they felt sorry for me but desperately wanted to label them friends, I spent my childhood through adulthood trying to be valuable by people-pleasing and being perfect since I was already silently suffering from the fear of being further rejected because of my mere existence. If I couldn’t be friends with people, maybe they would like me if I could help them! Maybe if I took their troubles off their shoulders and carried them as my own I would FINALLY be of at least SOME value to SOMEONE.

True to form I went looking for — and trying to buy — love in all the wrong places. Eating disorders became my whole reason for living. “All the girls in the magazines are getting attention. All the cheerleaders are popular. Maybe if I’m at least skinny like they are, someone will like me.”

It was instinctive that if I wanted to have what other people have I have to do what those people do, and so began the “diets.”

At 13 I began following all the fads so I could be just like the supermodels. People noticed them. People talked about them. People “loved” them.

I wanted to know what it felt like to be noticed, talked about (in a positive way rather than having all my faults flaunted), loved.

Restricting food became an obsession. AT LAST I found something of my own that no one could take away from me or say I wasn’t good enough at. In fact, the more weight I lost, the more people would “notice” me: “Danica, you’re so skinny!” “Girl, you’re losing so much weight!”

Even the first loves of my life (my parents) would comment on my “habits” and appearance — my external — but still never noticed the internal — the me that was literally dying to be accepted, noticed, cherished, treasured…wanted.

Time went on. High school ended. College didn’t happen. Life just kept passing me by day after day. I was literally going through the motions of survival — doing what I had to do to make it through another lonely day. Every job was a means to a get-the-bills-paid end, building someone else’s empire while my dreams were becoming more about death and non-existence, about ending the pain of having to be alive.

And then I met a “man”! An older man even. And he paid attention to me. He even kind of liked me. He was the comfort of the home I had just moved 500 miles away from in that he made every decision for me and I had someone I could cater to, losing myself in his life so he could see my value through my works and smothering dedication.

…but if he were going to keep liking me I had to “be like him” because there’s no way once he got to know me he would keep liking me. None. Hell No! His habits became my habits. His like became my likes. His world became my life.

…and yet again my best proved not good enough.

My 10 year relationship with anorexia became stagnant and so began my deep and sexy love affair with bulimia.

Still going through the motions of life as I was taught it should be — “get married, have kids, work to stay broke, be miserable and wait to die” — my relationship with bulimia was the only thing that was thriving. I became a master in the art of lying: I lied about my happiness; I lied about my health; I lied about my ability to function; I lied about my ability to parent; I hid my affair with food which led me to become a master of manipulation.

It was no easy feat raising two young sons as a single married person AND trying to maintain my overtime, unpaid position as a bulimic. It was like I was desperate for attention but at the same time was doing everything I could to disappear. The mental game was excruciating. The marriage failed. The suicide attempts unsuccessful.

It wasn’t until one day my boys and I were at a pool that “ish” got real. We were the only folks there. No lifeguard. No friends. No one but the three of us.

I was in a bulimic hangover/stupor laying in a chair on one side of the water, and they were on the other side doing whatever. They were 6 and 4 — too young to be unattended.

At one point they yelled across the pool, “Mommy! Come play with us!! Pleeaaassseeee!!” I waved them off and went back to fading in and out of consciousness.

As I phased back into the present, it was at that moment I realized I wasn’t even worthy of being a babysitter let alone a parent. I started to look at life through their eyes and see the potential damage I had already done and became TERRIFIED at the thought of being the reason their lives would turn out to be the same living hell mine had been — or even worse…worse.

The discussions were had and the decision was made that the boys would live with their financially stable dad while I went to try to get my life right. I knew I was setting myself up for more shame and guilt and comments like “What kind of mother would leave her children??” but it was the only thing I could do to set my boys up for success. If my legacy was to be any different than the generations before me, then I had to make some drastic changes. Being a presence yet not being present with my sons was not teaching them the life skills they’d need to be able to be effective and amazing adults. And that was not an option.

Fast forward six years and countless detours, lessons and survivor stories later my older son was getting ready to start high school. He would start dating if he hadn’t already, and he would more than likely pick who he’d date based on the memory of his mom (if he had one) or he’d try to fill the void of not having a mom around for so many years. Not to mention he’d be unknowingly setting an example for his watchful younger brother to follow.

None of those options were okay.

So back to Raleigh, NC I went.

This time I went back with one goal in mind: to be the example of the kind of woman I would want my sons to marry…one day. When they’re 100. And I’d still be 29.

The whole six years I’d been gone I’d been searching for anything external I could get my hands on to help “cure” me. I was still searching for anything that resembled the concept of love I’d had before life stopped making sense, and since I’d learned that God was judgmental and punishing for imperfections I’d even given up on Him to come to my rescue.

Nothing was helping. Oh, there were many band-aids that covered the wounds, but even band-aids loose their “sticky” after a while and fall off.

I had learned countless new skills while I was off touring North Carolina, but none of them were related to parenting. So when I went back to hang with my boys, I was 100% winging it.

I unconsiously/consicously (whatever you want to call it) began just being present with my older son. He was going through not only physical changes as a teenager but also some major life events that rocked his world as he knew it…not to mention this “mom” he’d heard of for a while but didn't know much about coming back into his life.

It was during this one life upheaving he found himself in that I started listening. I was listening to how people around him were telling him how to feel, how to behave, how to think and how to react. They were stealing his voice, his decision-making skills, his identity.

Somehow he and I ended up talking. He’d talk. I’d listen. We’d discuss. He’d listen. He’d ask questions. He’d process. And he’d make the right decision. Every single time.

He was eager to learn how to do life. It was already confusing enough for him. All these grown ups telling him he should already know how to do life and how he should act — like he’d done it before. Just because we had, we expected him to know what we know even though he couldn’t possibly.

He began to trust me. The more we talked and applied what we were discussion the more our trust in each other deepened. I trusted he would make the right decisions based on the information he had, and he trusted if a mess was made we’d clean it up together. Period.

So we talked. About everything. And any time I did something that had anything to do with him, I’d make sure he knew what I was saying so I would be representing HIS perspective and not just mine. I wanted him to know HE MATTERED. I NEEDED him to know he has a voice. Looking back I was probably doing it more for me than for him, but whatever. It paid off.

One thing I was very diligent with when it came to my fellas was honesty. We all agreed that there is only one rule in life: Speak your truth with love and respect. Even if it was hard, we’d find a way to communicate our truths.

Unlike most parents, I WANTED to be my boys’ friend. I wanted them to come talk to me about stuff I knew their peers had no business talking about. Lord, I sure as heck didn’t want my 13 year old son getting advice about sex from another 13 year old who was out there being reckless because he had no one to talk to. Not an option.

So we came up with a plan to make sure the lines between friend and Mom wouldn’t get blurred.

I had two “hats”: I had a Mom hat, and I had a friend hat. Any time I’d respond as a mom, I’d let them know by telling them I was putting on the Mom hat. Right after that, though, I’d announce my wardrobe change and be like, “Dude! That is sooo cool!” or whatever response I’d want to say if I were “allowed” to be his friend.

We made our own rules that worked for us. And…they worked for us.

When my older gem was 16 he sat across from me one day and I was like, “Dude. I’m wearing both hats right now. I see you. You don’t drink. You don’t smoke. You don’t date. You don’t want to have sex. All your friends are doing it. What aren’t you?”

He looked at me straight in the face and said, “Mom, I don’t have a void to fill. I’ve been given the opportunity to be confident in myself by making decisions for myself, and why would I want to deal with all that drama?”

“Well, all righty then!” was all I could say.

Fast forward a few more years and my older son is in college and my younger son in about to graduate high school. (Keep in mind the miracle this is in and of itself since I'm still only 29!)

Neither one of these young men want to drink or do drugs. Neither one of my sons is disrespectful of girls or wants to date just to “fill a void.” Both of them know the career paths they want to take, but they also know they’re not locked into them because they “have” to be.

These young men have the freedom to live the lives they were created to live all because of the power of communication and relationships.

And it was because of them that my journey to unlearn the me I was taught to be is almost complete.

...and why I'm so passionate about sharing what I've learned and KNOW to be true with as many people as I possibly can. Peace in the midst of chaos is entirely possible, and freedom from an an identity that was never yours is literally a click away. Isn't it time you live Original?!