♪ Memories…light the corners of my mind ♪

I’ve had a strong long-term memory my whole life. My short-term isn’t too shabby either but it’s second to my long-term. I’ve had friends who are amazed & envious at the details I remember. But believe me, it’s a double-edged sword.

There is no “forgive & forget” for me. I can forgive, yes, but it’s rare that I forget. I think this is why it’s so hard for me to trust others. I remember all the vicious things that were said. I remember the heart-wrenching pain. I remember the malicious intent behind their actions. I remember it all.

With each painful encounter, I find myself slowly stepping back to protect myself. I know it isn’t fair. I wish I wasn’t wired like this but it is what it is. This other person admitted they fucked up, apologized, & want to move on with their life. But it’s not that easy for me. I mean, I remember fights with childhood friends from 30 years ago. The stupid, asinine, petty bullshit that happens? Got it. The embarrassing giggle in front of a crush? Uh huh. Failing an audition? Check. I think this is why I struggle so much mentally. There is no “clean slate” with me. There will always be some sort of residual.

But every cloud has its silver lining, right?

I remember my 3rd birthday party in Alaska. I remember the butterflies I felt when an old crush winked at me. I remember nailing triple pirouettes in class when others were struggling with doubles. I remember being chosen for Capture the Flag because I’m competitive & I’m here to win. I remember the first time I watched Willy Wonka & being completely mesmerized. I remember scoring a goal when I played soccer. So yes. There are some good memories as well.

I also have memories where I’m unsure of the other person’s true intent. I remember the first day of high school & being scared I would be alone yet again. One of my fellow cheerleader friends, Jenni, introduced me to some of her friends & said, “This is SC. She’s awesome.” That made my heart swell. Finally, acceptance. She also pointed out her boyfriend at the time & made it clear that he was hers. I’m not sure why when I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. I just wanted a friend. I was tired of being lonely. I never fully trusted her after that. I couldn’t tell if she was proud that as a cheerleader she was dating a football player or if she was marking her territory. My God, just pee on him. It’ll be easier. 😉 The following year, she & her family moved out of state. She pulled me aside & through her tears, asked me to “watch over her boyfriend for her.” Umm sure? I don’t know what the means but alright. I remember he & I would joke about it later throughout the rest of high school. It is ridiculous, I know.

So maybe she did trust me? That was 20 years ago & it still boggles my mind. And maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe I should just let things be as they are. But I can’t. I remember it all & it’s all so fresh in my mind.

 

Laughter

I have no idea who those kids are but, my God! They are adorable!

I went to a friend’s house today for her birthday. There were around 10-12 of us around a table playing a game. Everyone got along really well & were sharing laughs. I only knew the host & hostess but I could feel the love in the room. They were all here for the hostess & honestly cared for her. She’s gone through some really rough obstacles but you’d never know it. She powers on with grace & dignity. I have a lot of respect for her.

So here we are, celebrating her & her life. I couldn’t help but feel the amount of acceptance in the room. As an introvert, I’m quietly observing. I occasionally will make a joke or two but I’m more there for support & to “feel out the room.” I’m easily finding my fellow introverts in the midst of the loud laughter of the extroverts. 😉 No judgment. Just an observation. A couple of these total strangers would engage me in little comments & jokes which is great for my self-esteem. They didn’t judge me but accepted me as I am. They were being polite whereas I felt visible & important.

Even though I didn’t know these people from Adam, we were all laughing together. It reminded me of being in another country (YEARS ago) & connecting with the local kids through laughter. Laughter is a universal language. We all want to be happy & have a great time. I quietly reminded myself that I’m in a safe place with safe people. Put aside your insecurities & worries. Relax in the presence of someone new & laugh.

Love

“We all want to be loved, yeah
We all want just a little respect
We all want to be loved
Tell me what’s wrong with that” – dc Talk

This quote has been playing in my head for a while now. The older I get, the more I find this statement is really accurate. Everything boils down to love & respect. You need or want one or the other (or both). I’ve mentally gone through every heartache I could remember. I either felt unloved or disrespected. As you know, it’s a terrible feeling. You feel empty, worthless, invisible. As if your feelings aren’t validated. It’s a deep abyss that no one should have to face.

For the past few years, I’ve made it my mission to show love & respect to everyone I meet. I try to live my life simply – love God & love others. Of course, I have days where I’m less than stellar but that’s just part of being human. I had decided I didn’t want anyone to come across me & feel unimportant. I have vivid memories of being dismissed by others even when I was a little girl. Whether intentional or not, the damage was done. Again, no one should feel that way.

Knowing my heart in this matter, you can imagine how much pain I feel when others hurt me, verbally or emotionally. I’ve been called everything in the book. You’d think I’d brush it off but that’s not who I am. I take criticism very personally. I’ve spent countless hours reaching out to others, trying to heal my wounds, & understand theirs. I’ve had metaphorical & literal doors slammed in my face. I don’t understand it. What have I done wrong? It’s taking me a while to learn that there are situations where I haven’t done anything wrong. There are just some people out there who are cold, bitter, & vindictive. Let them stew in their poison & don’t stop loving others. I’m learning to shift my attention on those who deserve it, which is really anybody else. Put my energy to good use, right?

Regardless of age, I want anyone who approaches me to feel comfortable being themselves. I love when a young student tells me about their day in kindergarten. Or a total stranger saying, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this but I feel like you’re safe.” Or an elderly & handicapped couple thanks me for opening the door for them when everyone else pushed by them. There are little opportunities every day to show love & respect to others. It doesn’t have to be a grand, orchestrated ordeal. Even something small, like a Facebook message or a post-it note on your coworker’s desk, can make someone’s day.

CHALLENGE:

Give someone a genuine compliment. Watch what happens. Like a flower in the sun, you keep shining love on them & they’ll bloom. 🙂

Finding your outlet

A friend sent me a message this morning.

“I want to cut today.”

I know what that means. This isn’t a passing thought. This means the blade is in one hand & the phone is in the other. She’s taking a chance & reaching out. You have to understand this important detail. Those who reach out are at their wit’s end. Take it as seriously as they do. Brushing them off proves the lie they’ve told themselves – no one cares. They are drowning in a sea of these lies. They need you to tell the truth. Be their life preserver.

I asked her what was going on & she shared a bit of her story. I told her when I feel like cutting, I like to use gel pens instead & draw whatever wherever I feel like cutting. So instead of slicing into my arm, I’ll use my glitter gel pens & doodle a little instead. My expression of the fine arts is strictly dance. I do make a wicked stick figure but that’s about it. 🙂 So I’ll draw little shapes or happy faces or something that’ll make me smile. Feeling the cool tip of the pen glide across my arm works for me. I don’t really know the psychological reasons for it; I just know it helps me. It doesn’t take away the darkness but I do get the “release” from cutting without actually cutting.

It’s hard to describe, but from what I understand, “fellow cutters” get it. They get the pressure whether it’s internal or external. They get the cornered feeling. They get the release they feel seeing & feeling the blade against the skin. They get the sting you feel in the shower when the water hits it. They get hiding their scars out of shame but secretly hoping somebody notices just to pay attention to you. It’s a fucked up catch-22 but it’s the sad, quiet truth.

They. Get. It.

For those of you who know me personally, I realized confessing this can seem like a lot. The few who know were flabbergasted when I told them. “You?! But you seem so happy! What do you have to be upset about?” Yeah, that’s kinda how it works. Everything can be right on the outside but not in your head. You learn to fake it & hide it all inside until it overflows into deadly ways.

Which brings me to my whole point of today’s post…

You need an outlet. NEED. Make it as important as your daily water intake & getting enough rest at night. Sometimes, I use my gel pens & color a geometric picture. Other times, I use them to write notes to loved ones. They are one of my favorite & easiest outlets to use.

And, yes, there are days when it’s not enough. It happens. I need something stronger. I’m learning to turn away from food & alcohol and to find other productive outlets. So I dance, I work out, I watch a funny movie, I do a puzzle, I text a friend, I play a silly game on my phone, etc. I do something other than what my mind is screaming at me to do.

You have to make YOU a priority. This has been one of the biggest struggles for me. I’m used to serving others & pushing my needs aside. After all, I’m fine. I’m doing okay. I’ll get through this. I can make it on my own. Blah, blah, blah. There’s no shame in asking for help. There’s no shame if you fail. Anyone who shames you needs to be out of your life. Don’t be afraid to speak up. There are more of us out here than you realize. Like you, we’ve gotten really good at hiding it. But you know what? I’m done hiding. I will proudly hold your hand as you go through this. You are not alone.

Regardless of your expression of self-harm, I’m proud of you. You’re still here. The demons in your head got loud & they still couldn’t take you out. You’re a badass & an inspiration to us all!

Just promise me one thing. Please. Try to find your outlet. Find what works for you. And in the meantime, I’m here for you if you need to talk. We’ll walk through the darkness together.

Side Note: I’m not a doctor by any means. Please see one or a therapist if you need serious help. Sometimes, just talking it out doesn’t work & you need a professional. Go to one. Love yourself enough to take that flying leap. They will catch you & you won’t fall.

Happy

I realized something wonderful today.

I’ve been trying to consciously make good decisions. To be honest, I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded. I’m a work in process & it’s been a long process at that.

But something felt different this morning. I woke up smiling. I felt hopeful. Even on my good days, I didn’t feel that. Mostly, I felt numb. I would wake up & be instantly bombarded by my inner to do list. I would feel overwhelmed & useless.

But today? Today, I opened my eyes, looked towards my window, & smiled. I took notice of the sun delicately dancing on the leaves. I listened to the birds sing their cheerful song as they greeted the morning. I felt calm & in control which is something I haven’t felt in a long time. And most importantly, I felt happy.

My complicated relationship with food

Oy. Where to even start?

Around my sophomore or junior year in high school, my dad had some job change (I’m still not sure of the details) & I believe that’s when it all changed for me. Money was beyond tight. I went to a private high school & did my best to hide my shame & jealousy from my friends. They were all wearing Tommy Hilfiger & Lucky (it was the late 90s, after all 😉 ). They were hot, trendy, popular. I wanted to be like them.

For lunch, they would eat healthy frozen meals, a hot lunch, or if they had a cold lunch, it was full to the top of name brand snacks. I would have a small juice box, a plain, cold, cheese sandwich, & maybe an apple or a cookie. It’s just the way it was. I knew my parents were struggling & it hurt me. I couldn’t help. Our dinners were cheap. There were many times I wouldn’t eat that much because I was tired of eating the same meal three times a week. I made sure I never complained about it & did my best to be grateful. It broke my heart to know things were bad. I could see the pain in my parents’ eyes. To escape, I would pour myself into other activities to get my mind off of it. Namely, dance, weightlifting, extra cardio, & cheerleading. I also would do push ups, sit ups, & 100 crunches every night before I went to bed. I did a minimum of 2 – 2.5 hours of something athletic every day.

My sophomore year, I dropped a lot of weight. I was never a big girl to begin with. I was always slender & had a healthy “normal” weight on my 5’5″ frame. But that year, I toned up like a motherfucker. 🙂 Realistically, I probably only dropped 15 lbs but I was ripped. I remember I had to roll my cheerleading skirt because it would fall straight down off my hips & I would trip over it. Part of this was because I wasn’t eating that much. Like I said, I was tired of the same ol’, same ol’ dinner at home. You know what I had for lunch & I never really ate breakfast which is true even til today. Another part was the beginning of some mental disorders so I was focused on being athletic. If I kept my body moving, I wouldn’t have time to get lost in my mind. At the time I didn’t realize this but I can clearly see it now. Besides, I seemed to gain the attention I wanted from others. Girls were jealous & boys seemed interested. For the first time, I felt wanted. In my mind, it worked.

During this time, I also had another unhealthy influence via family & friends. That’s a post for another day. For now, let me offer this advice: NEVER tell a loved one to lose weight regardless of their size. You are not their doctor. You don’t know their mind. You don’t know how it affects them nor how long it’ll stick with them. I have vivid memories of loved ones telling me at 110 lbs that I needed to lose weight. It’s fucked up. Don’t do it.

Fast forward to college.

I’m on my own & realizing I don’t have to eat the same meal every other day. I can also drink my problems away. I think I was drunk most days of the week. Sometimes I would go to parties but I had no qualms against drinking at home (or “pre-gaming” as it were). I worked in a bar & the bartender & I would always be buzzed throughout our shifts together. On the outside, I’m sure I just looked like everything was peachy keen & I was living the high life. On the inside, I was down the rabbit hole. Just like every other college student, I was burning the candle at both ends. I was taking at least 21 credits a semester, working 40 hours a week, & eating & drinking whatever I could find. I’ve always loved fruits & vegetables but during this time, I rarely ate healthily. To be really honest, these years are kind of a blur to me. The little bit I can remember is very painful. I think it’s my mind trying to protect me.

So, obviously, I started to gain weight. Yippee. I would try random diets. I would lose the weight & then gain it back with some more. This cycle went on for years. And by “years,” I mean until now when I told myself that I’m done. What makes this season of my life different? My perspective has changed. I can’t really describe it. It’s like a switch has gone off in my brain. I’m done with the mind games I’m playing against myself. For the first time in 20 years, I’m finally starting to feel like I’m worth it. I deserve to be happy & healthy. I deserve to have a killer body again. And you know what? Fuck the naysayers.

To say my relationship with food is “complicated” is an understatement. We’ve been on-again, off-again for far too long. 🙂 I believe I’m at this point in my life where I’m just tired of how shitty I feel. I love to eat clean & how great my body feels from it. I love to work out until I’m dripping with sweat. So why don’t I? Well, there are mental walls & I’m working on it. But realizing this unhealthy pattern & being determined to stop is like a sledgehammer on that wall. I can see through to the other side now & I plan on beating the shit out of that wall.

Side Note: Thank you for taking the time to read this. This post was particularly painful to write out. Like alcohol on an open wound, it hurts but I understand it’s part of the healing process. 

Restoring my bridge

For the first time in 20 years, I feel like I finally know what I want out of my life. It’s heartbreaking to realize it took me THIS LONG. But then again, some people in their 60s & 70s still don’t know what they want out of life.

Oddly enough, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time. I honestly look at it as good, real world experience. All the chaos, drama, problems, & difficulties I went through have molded me into this strong woman you’re reading about today. Even if I don’t feel strong, I know that I’ve gained not only strength but also wisdom, compassion, & patience. God knows how long I’ve been working hard at how I handle those negative situations. I’ve been backstabbed, lied to, dropped, & attacked in more ways than I care to admit. I’m trying to not let it harden my heart. It’s easy for me to create a barrier & hide away.  But you can only do that for so long. Because, my friend, it’s dangerous & self-destructive. And yes, I’m speaking from experience.

I was in a very dark place for years & years. Only a small handful of people know about this time & even smaller know the intimate details. While I’m not one to open up completely all at once, I promise you over time you will know my story. For now, just know that it’s taking me a long time to get to this point. I’m finally seeing some healthy changes in my mind, in my spirit, in my soul, & in my body. I want to use this momentum for good.

I feel like I’m standing at the end of a bridge & there’s this huge gap to the other side. My bridge is broken but it’s mine. For years, I’ve walked away from the gap, saying, “I can’t do this!” Sometimes, I’ve fallen down & cried. Sometimes, I’ve pulled up parts of the bridge myself. I’ve been jealous of others who effortlessly skip down their bridge. I’ve been angry at those who walk on their bridge & scoff at me in my pain. Why couldn’t my path have been as easy as theirs? During the dark storms, I curled up on my bridge & let the rain pour down on me. When the lightning temporarily lit up my sky, I would scratch my name into my bridge. It was in shambles but it was my home. No one could take it away from me nor could they save me from the hell I was in. They were safe under their shelter on the other side. I couldn’t get to mine.

But I now stand here with new pieces & tools. I know it will take time to restore but, for the first time, I’m fixing my bridge for good. I will reach that other side. I still have days when the storm comes & I’m paralyzed under its weight. But I will get back up. I will make it.

Stripping down to my foundation

It’s really hit me lately how loud everything is. The media, our friends, our mentors. And I’m sure they all mean well, but to me, it’s a bunch of noise. I’m learning to pull back & go back to the basics. I’m pulling away all the fluff, ripping apart the years of doctrine I’ve been taught, & staring at my bare foundation. It’s not pretty, but for the first time, I feel like it’s truly mine. I can build it as I see fit. And in a weird way, I’m not scared. You think I would be and I’m actually surprised I’m not. But stepping out I’m making my life as I want is exhilarating.

Exhausted

I am completely worn out. I’ve been around people all day & I’m spent. It’s about 2300 & I’m about to go to bed. I don’t do that. I’m usually the one that’s up until 0130 or so with her mind whirling around & around with no end in sight. But tonight, I can’t think straight. My mind is in a fog. My head feels like it’s in a vise. My body feels like I was smacked around by a 2×4. So when I tell you it’s exhausting to be “on” all the time, I don’t mean that lightly. Some days, it takes everything in me to continue on in front of others & act sociable & polite. And there are several reasons for that which we’ll get into later. But for now? I’m going to bed.

♪ Dream a little dream… ♪

I had a GREAT dream last night (read: sarcasm). I woke up feeling shitty & defeated.

I dreamt I was back in high school. For some reason, my graduating class had to redo our senior year. So here were a bunch of 33, 34, 35 year olds taking classes again.

One of my high school best friends had her locker next to mine. She showed me her schedule. She was in all AP classes & acted like it was no big deal. In reality, she was an average student but we were always in competition with each other. I felt threatened & stupid. For some reason, I couldn’t get into any of them. The first day hadn’t started yet & I already felt behind & defeated, which is how I felt back then.

I went to my first class (it was English) & sat in the back. I couldn’t read what the teacher was writing on the board & I was annoyed at myself for not having my glasses. I had to borrow a notebook & a pen from my best friend. To say I was ill-prepared would be an understatement. It was like a mental leg sweep. My anxiety was crazy high.

I sat next to my high school crush. I was trying to be cute & flirty with him. I’m not sure it worked lol. I think he felt pity for me. We had to break up into partners & he turned away towards some other girl. That stung a little but it was expected.

English finally ended & I went to my next class, unsure of what had happened. Everyone seemed so sure & confident. I was holding back tears & shuffling to my next class. Again, true to form.

Suddenly, it was lunch. I decided to quickly go to the office & see about changing my schedule. There were a lot of people & I got pushed aside. My boss was in charge & she was clearly overwhelmed. She told me to deal with it & just move on (she wouldn’t do that in real life). Lunch was over & had to go to my next class. I was hungry & out of time. I had wasted my time. I just wanted this day to end.

My next class was some kind of science class. It was like the bastard child of biology & chemistry. No one knew what was going on but the teacher. Another best friend from high school came to me crying. She had just gotten news that her mom had died of cancer. This sociopath of a teacher refused to let her leave the room. I had had enough. I angrily cried & spoke up on her behalf. Teacher couldn’t care less & kicked me out. I called him something like a “fucking worthless excuse for a teacher” & I  “pitied his wife couldn’t be with a real man.” I stormed out, went to my locker, & cried. I wouldn’t graduate with my friends & I didn’t know what this meant to my future. At least, I had my pride & I did what I felt was right.

Then I woke up.