I struggle often to figure out what I’m doing here. What’s the point? I know that I have a lot to say sometimes, and my typical medium is Facebook where it’s very easy for lengthy posts to be glossed over, or annoy people, or what-have-you. It’s easy for me to say it’s just a creative outlet, or an outlet, period. Sometimes it’s a diary. Sometimes it’s advice. Sometimes it’s just junk I find funny. What is the point? Do I want to be well-known, cause if I’m completely honest, it does bring me a tiny surge of joy when I see that something I’ve written has had a lot of views. Do I think I’m somehow like this magical well-spring of knowledge, or that I’m just kick-ass awesome? Maybe. A little.
I sometimes spend a lot of my time on Facebook chatting with people who are having difficulties that I’ve lived with, lived through, survived. I tell them how I handled things. I make recommendations. I push them to get help. Sometimes I just listen and agree, that yes, that really sucks balls.
I came across this:
There are a lot of really terrible, senseless things that I went through in life. Very early on, and for a very long time. And there’s literally no reason they should have happened. Things that were done to me should never be done to any person, let alone a child. The ways that I had to live aren’t compatible with proper growth. I know that I didn’t have it the terribly worst, but I definitely didn’t have it the best.
A person can’t develop normally in those environments and situations. No, instead you learn coping mechanisms, ways to survive, ways to get through. You learn coping mechanisms that work in the middle of crisis, but in real life, in normal life, they hinder you, and you have to unlearn them. Unlearning them is hard, because they are so ingrained in who you are, you hold on tight to them because they were your life preserver out in the middle of that ocean, in the storm, where you were drowning. You needed them. They saved you.
I have had to unlearn a lot of things, things that saved me for a long time. Some things I am still trying to let go of. Some things are so deeply ingrained in me that it’s hard for me to distinguish them from who I am as a person. It feels like cutting off a limb, a diseased limb, really. It used to help you, now it hurts you, it’s part of you, but it’s gotta go. And it’s not easy to let go.
The truth is that I cling to the ability to help other people. It makes me happy to help, yes, absolutely. It makes me happy to make a difference. But most people don’t realize how much helping them helps me.
It’s the silver lining. It’s the good I can pull from the bad. It’s the one thing that makes it all worthwhile, the fact that I can understand, I can help, I can relate, sympathize, listen, advise, lend a hand, give. If not for that, there would be no point to any of it. It would be nothing but pain for no reason, unfair, something I didn’t deserve. Something that nobody deserves, and nothing more than that.
The truth of it all is that sometimes you just need someone who knows what you’re going through. Sometimes, especially when you’re really hurting, you need someone to show you that you’re not alone, you’re not the only one, you can make it through. Sometimes you just need someone to vent to who doesn’t feel burdened by it, who understands and listens.
I’m a pretty open book. I own my past, my struggles, my choices, my mistakes and my victories. I like to measure success not by where a person ends up, but by how far they had to go to get there. Everything in my life up until now is what’s made me who I am, I can’t regret that. I would never, ever, ever want to relive any of it, but leaving it in the past – I can’t regret it. I’ve come a long way.
I realize that perhaps that’s part of what this blog is all about for me. That maybe someone might see something I write and identify with it. They might see how I made it through. They might be encouraged. Or, it might help someone understand someone else in their life better. But maybe, one way or another, it will help, that’s my hope.
I have lived through abuse, severe bullying, poverty, and neglect. I’ve been handed numerous diagnoses with regards to mental health. I’ve been suicidal, I’ve self-harmed, I’ve lived with an eating disorder. I know what it feels like to feel crazy. I know what it’s like to have physical issues and be dismissed by doctors so many times that you begin to question what you know about your own body. I’ve had a rocky marriage that, at times, probably should have ended. There’s a lot. Just, a lot.
Life leaves its marks. I married young looking for the security, the stability that I never had growing up. I don’t recommend this to anyone, ever. I was engaged at 17, married at 20. My husband and I had to grow up together. When you marry an adult, as an adult, you know full well who you’re getting. When you marry the guy you’ve been with since you were 16, you don’t know. You assume you’ll both grow up, you think you see the trajectory, you see where you’re both headed. You don’t actually see where you’re headed. You don’t know where your partner will end up, who they’ll be, whether you’ll still be compatible.
I’m not sorry that I married who I married, and we are still together nearly 22 years later, but it was a rough ride for a long time. It wasn’t easy. I had both my kids by 25. People talk about their wild, partying 20’s… I spent my 20’s as a wife and mother to small children, still poor, working my ass off just to get by. I love my husband and we have fought tooth and nail to be in the relatively healthy relationship we are in now.
I battled through my 20’s. I battled with the after-effects of the way I grew up, I battled with myself, my husband, my mind, my sense of self. Because of my immense fear of feeling helpless again, I became a control freak. My husband didn’t have to, or wasn’t able to grow up because I was the one in charge. Always. And then I resented him for not growing up. I didn’t realize at the time that my constant need for control was not the panacea to all of my trauma – it was simply an extension of it. It was one of those crippling coping mechanisms. I wanted so badly to be strong, to be all-powerful, the master of my fate. Instead it made me more and more anxious, as the things I couldn’t control, that nobody can control, piled up and just made me panic. Not being in control made me feel helpless again, made me panicky, made me unbearable.
I had so much anger inside. It was beyond anger, it was a burning rage. Sometimes all I wanted to do was scream as loud as I could as if that would get it all out, let it out, stop it from poisoning me. I used to have recurring dreams where someone was saying something I thought was terrible, and I was so offended that I wanted to scream, just guttural, defiant screams, and I when I would open my mouth, nothing would come out. I would wake up with my throat sore from trying so hard to scream.
Sometimes, in real, waking life, I did scream. And still, the anger and the hurt didn’t magically expel with those screams. Sometimes I raged. Sometimes I said hateful, hurtful things. Sometimes I would still hurt myself, physically, because at the time it felt like relief. Pain on the outside instead of the inside. Something to distract me. Sometimes when I felt flat, nothing, it helped me just to feel. I remember going to a doctor with gashes all over my arms and when I had to change into a gown with no sleeves, she looked at me and asked, rather sardonically, whether I had a new cat. I looked down, saw what she saw, and mumbled “yes.” I didn’t have a new cat. I just didn’t want to explain, didn’t want yet another person to think I was crazy, that all my physical problems were in my head because I was likely certifiable. I was 26. She was a cardiologist that I was seeing because of an arrhythmia, because my grandmother died at 47 from heart disease, my mother had a triple bypass at 39, and I was scared about anything concerning my heart. One doctor had already asked me whether I was “preoccupied with my mothers health issues.” Because once they saw I had mental illness, that was all I had to them.
So, a survival guide? Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Rest when you’re tired, and then get up and go again. Take pride in your accomplishments, but work on your flaws. Don’t stagnate. Hang in if that’s all you can do, but keep trying to grow.
In my mid-late 20’s my husband and I had reached a point where we fought so badly the neighbours called the police. The kids were scared. My 4-year-old son would see police car driving down the street, patrolling, and he was always certain it was coming to our house, even though everything was calm. We agreed that if there was one more fight, we would separate. There was one more fight. Police came, and asked each of us if we wanted to press charges against the other. We both declined. But they gave us information for anger management, and we took it. It was our breaking point, something was going to change one way or the other.
We separated for one month. Our oldest son was just starting kindergarten and was quite distraught. He kept coming to me crying, saying, “Why can’t you just say sorry to daddy and he’ll come back?” I didn’t know how to answer. I couldn’t explain that we separated for the kids, for their well-being, so that they didn’t need to see the fighting anymore. It was our relationship’s rock bottom, we had been together 11 years and spent most of those years fighting worse and worse.
We went to the anger management. It was geared toward men, but they held separate sessions for the wives/partners for two reasons: 1, so that the men couldn’t twist what they learned to be further abusive, so that the women knew what they were really taught; and 2, because many of us had our own toxic anger issues. I was one of those. It was eating me up inside, unresolved anger is just poison to the soul. I needed to learn to manage my anger every bit as much as he did, because I was not a victim, I was an active participant in every fight, and I had to acknowledge that.
When I learned to manage my anger, I learned to chill the fuck out in general. I learned to let go. I slowly unwound that anxious cycle of controlling everything, of panicking when I couldn’t control something, gripping on harder and harder to what I could control. I learned to start leaving things up to my husband to do and not stepping in if they weren’t done, or if they weren’t done my way. I stopped resenting him and started communicating, divvying up tasks for the household and kids so that it felt fair, so that I wasn’t the martyr anymore. We slowly learned to communicate in a healthier way.
In my late 20’s, after a decade of not taking meds for my bipolar disorder (cause everyone I knew without a medical degree told me I didn’t need them), I broke down and sought help. I couldn’t sleep, could barely function, couldn’t take care of my children properly, I was hallucinating, and everyone and everything irritated me. I couldn’t be a wife/mother/daughter/friend. I couldn’t be anything for anyone. So long story short, I got back on the meds. It was life-changing. I’ve always described it as waking up from a nightmare. I felt like myself again for the first time in 10 years.
Then I spent a lot of time examining myself. My hangups, my anxieties, my flaws… but also my kindness, my humour, my capability. All of it, the good, bad and ugly. Everything that makes up me. I realized that I couldn’t remember most of my life before my 20’s. I tried hard (and still try hard) to flesh out the scant memories I can find. I know my brain has done this to protect me, but I feel such a sense of loss because the good got locked up with the bad. It’s all there, somewhere in my mind, locked in a box that I can’t currently open very much.
I learned to love myself, not in an egotistical way, but in the same way I would love a friend – imperfections and all. I am learning that it’s okay to ask for help and it doesn’t make me weak, or somebody’s charity case. I’m learning that I’m worth it. It’s taken me nearly 4 decades, but I’m getting there. I stand back from time to time still, and ask myself what I can work on now.
I started looking in the mirror and imagining that the person I saw was my friend, how would I see her? Would I think she’s pretty? Would I tell her that her nose is wrong, her jaw is too short, her eyes are too small? Would I tell her she’s too fat because of the 20 pounds of baby weight she couldn’t lose? And I would decide, no. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t care about those things, I wouldn’t focus on those things. I’d admire her blue eyes, her nice eyebrows, her youthful skin, her high cheekbones, her beautiful hair. I’d think she looks thin enough. I’d think I’d love her more for the essence of who she is than what she looks like, anyway. And it changed my perspective a lot, over time, the more I did it – I learned to be comfortable in my own skin.
I suppose that’s that. Honestly, if anyone reads this and is struggling with something that I’ve talked about briefly, let me know if you want me to talk more about it because I can certainly flesh out anything that’s here into another post.
Know that I am truly doing it as much for me as for you, because I have to find that silver lining, and that silver lining is knowing that I can be there for others.
Never let yourself be defeated, you are never alone, no matter what you’re dealing with.