Sunday Afternoon

I know that my heart is light and eyes are calm
I know my fingers are gentle and my spine is delicate
I know that when I want to be,
I am in no way fragile or small.
I know that I am a gentle force.

And even though I know these things
I still wonder why.

Why I’m never the one you call at 2 am
While looking at the ceiling, feeling sad but not knowing why.

I still wonder

Why I’m not the one you stare at
While my eyes are not looking.
Why my gentle fingers are not intertwined with yours
Or why my spine is not the one you trace
On a Sunday afternoon before falling asleep.

I know that someday I will be this person,
Not to you, but to someone.

I know this someone will look at me
The way I wish you would now.

I know that I will be everything.

I know this.

I know these things.

And even though I know these things
I still wonder why
You do not.

I Want You To Live

I don’t even like kids. They’re sticky and loud. Plus, if anyone deserves to be yelling in the frozen pizza isle at Wal-Mart, it’s me.

Regardless, I know that one day when I’m ready, I’m going to have one or two that I will really love. One of those might be a daughter, and I want her to know that life sucks. Life is, at times, the actual worst.

There are going to be a lot of times where you’re gonna hate it, it’s going to be ugly, you won’t like what you see on the news, what you see at school or on the streets. There are going to be days where you don’t like what you see in the mirror, where you wake up with a headache from crying all night, and there are going to be days where you wonder why it’s worth it.

And to you I want to say this; it just is.

I don’t think I could ever bring someone into this world knowing it wasn’t worth it. I’m still basically a kid myself, but when I’m ready, and when I’m sure, you’ll be here, and it will be worth it. There are some things I want you to know.

First of all, nobody cares. I went through the first 19 years of my life always wondering what people thought about me, what they thought about my clothes, my ideas, my music taste, my hair, my crooked teeth, and everything else. I worried that I had to change things about myself to make people like me. I liked that mustard-yellow turtle neck I found at goodwill, but I didn’t buy it because it was too “out there”. I liked my pink and yellow plaid converse that I threw away sophomore year of high school because they didn’t match with anything. I thought everything was so important. Everything was being watched and critiqued. I thought everyone cared, but they didn’t. I didn’t realize this until about halfway through my 4th semester of college. I found that I didn’t care about what shoes that girl was wearing, or how that other girl wore green parachute pants to class. I admired them for the very fact that they wore them with the confidence they had.

This isn’t just about clothes. I realized that I had not been myself. I didn’t know who I was and it wasn’t making me happy. I changed my standards, my values, my feelings, all for other people. I wanted to be like-able and cool. I was so quiet and reserved because I didn’t want people to judge me. I regret this. Please know that you don’t have to be quiet. You don’t have to hide parts of yourself that others may not like, because hiding them will make you not like yourself. Wear that turtle neck, don’t throw away those converse, and please stop caring so much, the people around you don’t care about these silly things as much as you think they do.

The second thing I want you to know is that you’re worth so much more than you think you are. You are the bees knees, my friend. There will be times when you look at the people around you, and think to yourself, they have everything I don’t. I wish I could be more like them. I wish I had what they had. Stop it. You are incredible. While those people may have things you don’t, you also have things they don’t. Every single person you meet on this earth will have characteristics or gifts that you admire, but never envy them, because you have your own. You won’t look like everyone else. Nobody looks like everyone else. You will have a different face, different body, a different sense of humor, personality, different everything, and that is okay. There are so many times where I wish someone could have told me this. It’s such a simple concept, but so difficult to understand at times. I was so insecure. I was angry at myself for having crooked teeth, I was angry because my hair was shorter than most girls’, I wanted to be funny and flirty and confident. I was so angry because I wanted these things that others had. Looking back, I know that if I had the confidence I have now, I would have been happier. I wouldn’t have starved myself to look a certain way. I wouldn’t have hated myself for the way I looked. I would have been patient. After braces and learning how to fix my hair, I gained some of that confidence. That didn’t solve everything, but learning to love myself began with being comfortable in my skin.

I had to fake a lot of confidence at the beginning. I had to pin down that voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, and tell it to leave me alone. I began to realize that I wasn’t hiding those negative feelings, I was simply letting the positive ones be louder. You will need to remind yourself more often than you’d like that you are enough. You are more than enough. Knowing me, I probably strategically planned your existence, so you are definitely not worthless. Your Father in Heaven has also strategically planned your existence. He knew you, and you Him. He knew that you would be sent to this earth, and He gave you to me with a purpose. He misses and loves you, and will trust me everyday to remind you of that. Know everyday that you are worth more than you could ever know. You may not be like everyone else, but you are you. And that is enough.

Third, I want you to be kind. Being kind, truly, genuinely kind, takes guts. There will be people, events, experiences and ideas that will make you think being kind is not worth the trouble, but you will have to be patient. Someone who knows that this world is not perfect, and the people around them are not perfect, but shows kindness is something rare that this world needs more of. Do not underestimate how powerful this can be. There are people all around you, at school, on the sidewalks, sitting next to you on the train, living next door to you, teaching you, learning with you, that you will never fully know. They will be struggling with things you will never fully understand, so be kind. To everyone you see, meet, love, and learn about, be kind. They will see something in you that they haven’t seen in anyone before, because it is rare for someone to be kind even when they know not everyone will be kind in return. I haven’t mastered this yet, so I can’t tell you that I know everything, but I have experienced the kindness in others that has shaped most of who I am, and who I want to be. I have learned to be patient with others, and to be something the world needs more of, something that I want you to be.

There will be people who take advantage of this. They will see that kindness and take it as passiveness, naivety, and weakness. They will expect you to tolerate things that you shouldn’t, to accept things you don’t want to, and to put your feelings on the back burner. But being kind is not a weakness, so don’t let it be. Don’t let yourself become surrounded by negativity simply because you are a nice person. Be strong, and if you need to let people go who take advantage of that kindness, then let go.

Fourth, you can do anything. This world is too big for you to be what a fraction of this population thinks you should. There are so many different places to go, things to see, people to meet, and things to love. Find those things you love and be good at them. You can be and do anything. Be who you are, and who you’ve grown to be, but become part of something that adds to it. I want you to know that success comes in so many forms, so don’t let others tell you differently. Success is how happy you are with your situation, not the approval that comes from others. If you truly desire to become an art teacher, and you love it and put more of yourself into it than anything else, do it. If you put everything you have into running a fortune 500 company, do it. If you feel that being a mother and caretaker is what makes you successful, do it. Do not think you have to be one thing, either. I’m not only talking about a career, but don’t stop learning and growing because you have found something that makes you happy. The only thing you can take with you when you leave this earth is the knowledge you have gained, so acquire as much as you can.

You are growing up in a world that can be so cruel, one that will judge your decisions as if they know who you are, but you are the only one who knows you. There are still people who doubt women, who doubt your strengths and abilities, who have preconceived ideas of who you are, so prove them wrong. Be proud that you are a woman, because you have capabilities that are more powerful and important than some will lead you to believe. While you do this, support those around you who share this goal. You are not the only one on this earth with the worth and potential I described earlier. Help and support those who have no voice, and empathize with those who do not have the same privileges as you. Listen to and understand your brothers and sisters on this earth to help them be successful too. You can be anything, but make sure one of the things you decide to become is an ally, a friend. Someone with integrity.

The fifth and final thing I want you to know, is that you need to live. Although there are billions of people who share that same worth and potential, you are still so important. Do not shape your decisions around others. Do not let the actions of other people dictate how you feel or think. Do not build your life around other people. Build your life around yourself, and allow others to build with you. You are so much more than 1 out of 7 billion, so much more than a friend, an ally, you are so much more than just my daughter. Build your life around that. Let yourself feel everything, do not think that you have to hide what you feel because it’s not right, or because it’s not what people want to see. If you feel something, feel it like you’re meant to. Experience this world in all the good it has to offer. There are terrible things that happen, negativity, people who hurt others and you will see and experience things that will make watching unbearable, but remember to live for the good. Just because there is darkness does not mean there is no light. Do not rush through life to get to the next best thing. Every minute and the minute ahead of that is the next best thing. Go to that football game, to that dance, and dress up for spirit day because it might seem stupid but in that moment it’s something to help you get through it. It is so small, but it’s so much better than the negativity you will see. Go on that hike even though no one wants to go with you, go see that movie by yourself, ask that cute boy in your apartment complex out on a date, eat that fricken cupcake, dump that boy that doesn’t call you back, stop being friends with those people who do nothing but talk about others, learn to play that instrument you’ve always wanted to, go to that zumba class even though you dance like a white dad at a barbecue, raise your hand if you know the answer, join the intramural bubble soccer team, say yes to things that might scare you. This life is not meant to be optional. Yes, you get to make these decisions and choose how you live it, but you still have to live it.

Do not be afraid to jump into that pool. Yes, the water might be cold for a second, but it will feel better once you’re in there. The shock comes from the transition, not the pool. We fear things in life because we anticipate the shock of transitioning. That fear is so temporary. You don’t fear the actual pool, you fear the change. You fear the shock. Let the shock happen. It will be quick, and you will feel so much better after.

I am going to make mistakes, I am not going to know absolutely everything, but don’t let that define you. I will teach you all I can, and I will do everything I can to make sure you know your potential, but don’t rely on me to help you define exactly who you are. You belong to you, and you belong to God and no one else. Live with that knowledge. Live with kindness and confidence and courage, but please just live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Family Favorite

I was the good one. I followed the rules, kept quiet, did well in school. I was the peacemaker. I made sure I chose the right side, and I was never angry. I was always told I was calm, cool, and collected. I advocated for everyone to respect and cherish their parents, no matter the mistakes they made. Everything I did, I did it for them.

I began to hate it. I hated when I was mocked for being “perfect”. I hated the way others knew the truth but I was too stubborn trying to keep the peace. I hate that I denied the way I felt, and what I thought about myself was always based on the actions of others. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore.

I began to realize how imperfect I wanted to be. I didn’t have the desire to cause trouble. I didn’t want to be selfish, rude, or loud, I just wanted to stop pretending everything was alright.

The more I thought about the things I have experienced, the more I realized how much I had kept inside, and the more I realized how okay I wasn’t. From then on, I became reluctant to accept the decisions my family made. I loved them, but it angered me that I had to put up with it so often.

After my first year of school, I went back home. I loved being home, but I started to recognize patterns of enabling, guilt-tripping, and ignorance. I left for school early that summer because I knew if I stayed longer, I would get upset and say something I wasn’t supposed to. It was like I was a bottle of pop that had been rolling around in the back of the trunk, waiting to be opened. I decided not to open that bottle.

And then that December happened. While on my way home for Christmas, there was yet another conflict. I became upset, angry, sad, I felt everything all at once and I drove back to school because I was sick of putting up with it. After a phone call and a few guilt-trips, I made my way back “home”. Once again, what happened was swept under a rug. I overreacted, the way I felt was wrong, and I needed to support my family.

I went through the rest of my sophomore year of college not knowing who I was, or what I stood for. I made decisions I would never usually make, and surrounded myself with an attitude and with people who I never would have before. I had no idea what I was turning into. I was nothing like the person I was when I began school, and part of me missed that person.

It wasn’t until after that year of school, while I was at home that I realized who I wanted to be. Well, everything I didn’t want to be.

The way conflicts were handled in my home enabled them to happen again. The ones I love became the ones I tried to avoid. Nothing phased them, and if it did, it only lasted for the night. The next day, it was supposed to be okay, and we’d forget what had happened the day before. It was unhealthy in a way that it did nothing. There was no solution, because after a day or two, the problem no longer existed. Maybe they could see the problem,  but even if they did they were too scared to say it out loud. I was tired of being scared, so I began to pay attention. I was tired of ignoring the bad. It physically made me ache to hide it.

Once again, I was in the constant loop of other people making decisions that impacted me more than they could know. I realized during this time that I was almost not allowed to feel. Because when I did, it wasn’t right. I realized that this is why I stayed neutral. I stayed calm, and I swept it under the rug. When I felt, and when I refused to accept the things that were happening, I was disrupting the cycle. The conflicts lasted more than one night, because I refused to forget them.

I became the problem child.

I became so tired. I was exhausted. I no longer wanted to be the perfect daughter that hid evidence of wrong-doings. I no longer wanted to be quiet. I no longer wanted to keep the peace, because there was little peace to keep.

I was angry, moody, loud, and I overreacted. I punched holes in my door, and I yelled. There was a moment where I became so angry, I threw a bottle of vodka at the bookshelf in my mother’s room. I reacted to everything because if I didn’t, it would go unnoticed. And yet, I still felt guilty for it. In my family’s eyes, I was selfish, spoiled, irate. They were shocked. They didn’t like it. At first, I didn’t know why I was so angry all the time, and I felt guilty. I apologized for it. I was even told that rather than throwing the bottle at the bookshelf, I threw it at my mother. They made me feel as if nothing I said was valid. Nothing I said was true. That bottle never came close to my mother, and I knew it, but once again I felt guilt. I questioned everything. I felt like I was the one causing the problems.

After one event that I will never forget, I finally understood.

I had bottled everything up. I had lived my life following every rule, obeying every command, sweeping every little bit of anger, resentment, wrong-doing, and conflict right under the rug where I stood every day. The bottle was not just opened, but all of its contents were spilled, staining the rug where I hid everything.

How I lived was not normal. How my family lived was not normal. I loved them so deeply and maybe that’s why this frustrated me so much. I loved them and they saw that I hurt but they didn’t like the way that I hurt. They didn’t like that I couldn’t let it go. They didn’t like that it hurt me. I understood that I was a grown adult, but they didn’t understand that I was still their child.

So I left and I never went back.

And this is why I write about it. Because even still, after seven months, no explanation is good enough. No reason is a good enough excuse. They still don’t understand why I ached, why I hurt or why I was angry. They still don’t understand that my life is not meant to revolve around them. That’s not what we are here for, the ones we love so deeply and intensely, are not always the ones we are meant to hold on to. If we are lucky enough, we get to keep these people near us, but that’s not always the case. I wish so badly that I could, but I don’t think I can.

And there are so many days and nights where I fight that homesickness. Where I’m one button away from apologizing to my mother. Where I want to get in my car and go “home”. There are days where I think that I should have kept pretending to be the perfect daughter, that maybe I did deserve to feel that guilt.

But, there are even more days where I can breathe. Where I don’t have to choose sides, and where I can feel so much all at once. There is no bottle or rug. I am in an open space that I have the potential to fill with all of my anger, my sadness, my conflict, my wrong-doings, and every bit of feeling that I have. And although this room is crowded, and I keep filling it, nothing is hidden. Nothing is trapped or collecting dust or housing spiders. These things can breathe and so can I.

And no, I don’t have everything figured out. I don’t know the answer to everything. But I know that right now I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. I know that I am not being selfish for wanting to breathe. Although I love my parents, my mother who came back for me and my step-father who raised the bar so high, they still don’t understand, and I’m not sure if they ever will. I left. And I don’t think I will ever go back, because that is not my home.

I am my home. The space filled with everything that makes me is my home. I wish so badly that they could understand. That they could see how badly I was hurt. How I ached. That I don’t hang onto these things on purpose, or to cause guilt, that I don’t hang on at all. Theses things are permanently attached, because they made me. The things that have happened, everything followed me. When these things happened, as much as I tried to stop it, I was suddenly that twelve-year-old girl again, left, confused. And I think that no matter how old I become, these things will continue to be part of who I am and shape who I have yet to become.

I hate it. I hate knowing that the decisions of others have such an effect on me, but that’s just how it is. No amount of counseling, time, laughter, crying, or forgetting works. It never does. I don’t think it ever will.

I miss them. I miss the fun times when there was nothing to hide. When I did forget. I miss the smell of my mother’s baby lotion, and my stepfather’s hugs. I miss when I could look them in the eyes honestly.

But I miss me more. I’ve never had a chance to be the home that I needed, but I knew that I eventually could. I missed someone I never met, but I knew them deeply. I knew their desires, needs, and fears, and I missed them. I missed myself so much.

Maybe that is selfish. Maybe everything I swept under that rug should’ve stayed. Maybe I have absolutely no clue what happiness means. These things could all be true, but if they were I don’t think I’d mind. I am nowhere near being a perfect daughter, but I can’t remember the last time it felt so good to admit to having flaws. Because in my eyes, in the room filled with the things that make me a home, I am not selfish. I am not self-absorbed, self-righteous, or naive. I am homesick.

Not the kind that makes me miss the tiny blue house in the middle of nowhere, but the kind that hurts my chest when I think about losing myself again. I miss myself so badly, and I just want them to understand. The love I have for them will never go away, but the love I have for myself has grown. I don’t think I will ever go back, but I have found a home within myself.  As clustered and crowded and as messy as it may be, it is my home. I built it, and I’ve rebuilt it over and over again. I sometimes miss the homes that weren’t really mine, but I’ve missed me so much more, and I think I’ve almost found her.

The Power of Vulnerability

Weakness. Naivety. Exposure. Powerlessness. Frailty.

These are the synonyms used for the most powerful characteristic we can have.

Vulnerability, by definition, is the quality or state of having little resistance to some outside agent. It means becoming exposed to the elements, at risk, susceptible.

Despite the negative connotations this definition and synonyms have, vulnerability is the single most difficult trait we can obtain. Even while I was pondering the subject of this TED Talk, I had trouble coming up with arguable reasons as to why this trait is anything but weakness. How can I make it seem like being a wimp is cool? How do I explain this? I’m going to try.

When we think of vulnerability, we think of fear, embarrassment, and not being sure of what is to come. We as human adults are doing our best to avoid these things. We are too old to be scared, we are too mature to get embarrassed, and too detail oriented to jump into something when we don’t know the outcome. But numbing ourselves from experiencing these comes with a price; we no longer have the opportunity to experience the authentic kind of happiness the world has to offer.

I want everyone in this room to close their eyes.

Now, think back to when you were a little kid. When were you the happiest? How did it feel to experience that inconsequential joy? If this is not the memory you are thinking of, I want you to bring up a time when you were absolutely disgusting. When you were in the dirt, making mud pies, trying to catch frogs with unknown diseases in the pond, picking bugs off of plants to hold in your hands or your pockets. If you can’t think of anything then I guess I was just a gross kid. Okay. Open your eyes.

Why was it so easy, so necessary and unquestionable to do these things? This is off topic but have you noticed that kids are absolute sociopaths? They have the ability to do anything they want and feel no fear or remorse. It’s actually frightening. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that doing these things was so easy, because we were vulnerable. We didn’t think about the consequences, we hadn’t learned everything yet. Everything was new and exciting, and we just wanted to experience it. We didn’t get embarrassed unless someone told us we should be. We didn’t fear everything unless someone told us that we should.

We’ve become like this because of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is, by definition, a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired; a response that is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone. For example, Jim Halpert ringing a bell and offering Dwight Shrute a mint. Then one day he rings the bell and Dwight expects the mint but nothing happens.

Everything from our speech to emotional responses are simply patterns of stimulus and response. As children when we fell, our parents ran up to us and said “oh no, poor baby”, and who knows, it might not have even hurt, but we learned to mimic and reciprocate those same emotional responses because we associate falling with negative emotions. When we did something stupid, which I did plenty of when I was a kid, we didn’t know it was stupid unless someone pointed it out. We were born vulnerable, raw beings, but over time that has changed because of what we’ve learned from other people.

Now, here we are. 

I’m going to bring it back to fear and the unknown. We’re too old to get scared, too detail oriented to jump into things where the outcome is unknown. But really, we’re more scared than we ever have been. We’ve learned throughout our lives to be scared of all the “bad things”. We’ve learned that it’s dangerous to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is weakness. It’s frailty. It’s powerlessness.

But do we really have power if we don’t allow ourselves to feel everything we’re supposed to? Is it really strength if we’re too scared to try something new just because we don’t know what will happen?

About seven months ago, there was an incident and long story short I ended up in the hospital. That night in the ICU, I remember feeling just about everything. It was then that I realized, that I promised myself, that I would always feel everything. That I would simply live. I didn’t realize, however, that doing so would be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I had to strip myself completely of everything that I have ever learned about happiness. I had to turn myself inside out and allow myself to be really seen. I had to become raw. I had to become vulnerable.

I’m nowhere near close to being an expert, but I like to think I have a pretty decent idea of what that entails.

The first thing is shame. Forget about it. In order to really live and grow and learn we need to learn to shut out shame. Shame is the feeling that comes along with thoughts of inadequacy. It’s what we feel when we think we don’t deserve love. Shame restricts ourselves from freely expressing our emotions, or our thoughts, because just maybe we shouldn’t be feeling that way.

The second thing is conquering the unknown. We need to throw out the idea that we shouldn’t do things just because we’re not sure how it will turn out. No, I don’t mean we should all jump off buildings or touch fences with signs that say “high voltage” just to see. I’m talking about the things that you think about doing but skip out because you don’t want to get embarrassed or because it might not even matter. I’m talking about asking out that guy in the library, even though he might say no (this has totally never happened to me ever haha). Go bridge jumping with your roommates even though you’re pretty sure you’re scared of heights. Apply for that job in that dream city even though the thought of moving your entire life somewhere you’ve never been scares the crap out of you. Be the first one to say I love you. Unless it’s only the first date, that’s not courageous, that’s insane. Do the things that you might look back on one day and think I’m glad I did that. Vulnerability strips us from the ability to ignore these opportunities.

The third and last thing is to throw everything you’ve learned from other people about being happy out the window. Seeing other people react to the their circumstances isn’t how you should react. Everything you’ve seen up until this point, has been the emotional response of those around you. This has led some of us to think “Is that what happiness is supposed to look like?” “Is it weird that not doing certain things still makes me happy?” “Am I doing this all wrong?” The answer to all of these questions, is no. We’ve been conditioned to think that certain things are going to make our lives better, that we’re supposed to have certain things or qualities, but that just isn’t true. Everyone is so different, and no specific combination of circumstances, career choices, or experiences is tailored to fit more than one person. So throw that all away. Get rid of it.

Get rid of the things that make you put that shield over your emotions. In order to be vulnerable, you must surround yourself with people who won’t take advantage of that.

I’m going to rewind back to seven months ago. In that hospital bed, in the dark, connected to different machines with wires stuck all over my body, all I wanted to do was be happy. It has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. Realizing that people I love so deeply are not good for me was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Stripping myself of everything I thought I was supposed to feel was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Making myself seen, actually, completely seen in the most raw sense has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m nowhere near finished.

Vulnerability takes guts. It means throwing away pride. It means shaking the idea that reacting and feeling different than others is strange or not okay. Vulnerability is becoming the most raw versions of ourselves. It’s being seen, actually, truly, seen.

Thank you.

 

 

Precipice

The overwhelming sensation I get from looking up never fails to surprise me. I’ve felt it so many times before, but when I tilt my head back and see a never ending structure heading straight for the sun, I feel it all over again. When I was a child, tall things fascinated me. I remember how my dreams were full of buildings, mountains, any and all structures that seemed to continue upward forever. I don’t know how to describe the feeling accurately, but I think it feels like that rush you get when an airplane is almost too close to the ground and you can see every detail from the bottom. Seeing these things from far away, or while they are up in the sky doesn’t feel the same way. They are ordinary and just the right size, just how I picture they should be. But when they are close, when I can touch and see everything it is made out of, it brings me that feeling. I feel like I exist. Instead of seeing people and things that pass me by with no distraction, I see something that makes me fear how big this world actually is. It makes me think of how small I actually am, and there is so much space that I have yet to see. When I see these things, I remember that I am nothing. I am not nothing in the sense that I do not matter, but I am nothing in the sense that whatever put me on this earth is so much more-in every meaning and application of the word-than I could ever possibly imagine. There is something powerful in realizing that you are nothing, and that is why I look up.

I Am Not Depressed.

Brush your hair, please. You look like a mess. When was the last time you ate? You say you’re tired but you’ve been in bed for three consecutive days. The sun is shining, the fresh air will make you feel better. Just smile. Get yourself together. Why is it so hard?

This is my internal monologue when a depressive episode hits. I’m aware that laying in bed all day and not brushing my hair isn’t good for me, I know this, but depression has more control sometimes. I can see myself in the mirror. I know I look terrible. I can see the dark circles under my eyes from being so exhausted, and I know the only thing I’ve “eaten” in three days is water from a dusty cup on my night stand. It has become so routine, inconvenient, and just downright annoying that when it hits I’ll get mad at myself and say “I get it, you’re depressed. Can’t we just skip this part?”

But, I am not depressed.

Saying that I am something that I cannot control would be lying. I feel like saying that I am depressed would imply that I am in a constant state of being miserable and not knowing why. I’m not like that, though. Most of the time, I’m a very happy person. I like to laugh, tell jokes, make other people smile, and anything else that sounds cheesy. I just happen to lack the ability to inhibit enough serotonin to keep me like that 365 days out of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, depression is very serious. An episode that lasts for a week can take 3 weeks to recover. It takes so much out of a person. You could be laying in bed for a week straight and still be exhausted. It can make you feel like you don’t deserve the good things that you do have, because even when those things are good, you’re too numb to enjoy them. Depression makes you feel lazy. You know you need to go outside and get the mail, run that errand, do your homework, or feed yourself, but your body has no desire to move. You are frozen and everything feels like it’s flying past you, but you can’t catch up. So what’s the point of trying? Every single person you see could tell you how great you are, but the depression won’t let you believe it. And you know what the worst part about this is? It’s nobody’s fault. It isn’t the guy who didn’t text you back, your mom, your dead-beat dad, the pile of homework you never finished, and it’s not you either. You can’t point any fingers and it drives you crazy because you can’t cut it out.

I think the worst part, for me, is that I feel the need to apologize for it. I can tell that my friends are worried about me. I can tell it stresses my roommate out when I cry in my bed for three days. So I apologize. I can tell that when I am quiet and distant my friends think I don’t like them, and I feel terrible. I feel the need to apologize because I know how it effects other people, and not just me.

But, still. I am not depressed. I am simply a person that struggles with depression. When I was first diagnosed, it was weird. I knew I’d been feeling like absolute crap for the past 5 years, but depression? Doesn’t that seem a little excessive? Can’t I just go fly a kite or pet a dog and be fine? It offends me to this day that my brain has the guts to think it can control my emotions like that.

I began to feel like I was less of a person after I was diagnosed. I felt like I had this label on my forehead that said “handle with care” or “fragile” or “hey I’m depressed and might start crying for no tangible reason at all”. I felt like I was broken, and that not only me, but everyone who knew me would no longer see me as the person I was. For a while, I would think about how it might’ve been easier to keep pretending like the depression wasn’t there. How if I didn’t go to the doctor, I could pretend I was a complete and stable human being. After a while, I got used to it. It was like solving a mystery, every time I suffered an episode or had to cope with my anxiety, I knew what was happening and why. I finally had an answer, and it took me a while but I eventually realized that being diagnosed was the best thing to ever happen to me.

I don’t tell people right away that I struggle with this. It usually isn’t the best first date ice-breaker. I can always tell when I am comfortable enough with someone to trust them with this information about myself. Over the years it has gotten easier to talk about. I don’t talk about it for attention, nor am I writing about it to get you to feel bad for me. If you feel bad for me at this point in your reading, stop it. Seriously, chill out. I talk about it because it is something I know people need to hear.

I am not depressed.

I am not a broken person. I am not fragile, and I do not need to be seen in a different light. I have depression, and like so many people in this world who have it, I go on. Thanks to generic zoloft and some groovy coping mechanisms, I am a better version of myself than I could ever dream of being. When I was 16 and hating myself because I thought I wasn’t good enough, I never would have thought that I would grow up to be this. I am my own person who might have some bad days and that is okay. I know it’s okay because I have depression, and I cannot control it and no matter how hard I try those bad days still come.

It took me a long time to realize that I was a real person. Not in the twilight zone kinda way, but in a I-am-actually-worthy-of-feeling-like-a-validated-member-of-society kinda way, you know? It didn’t happen over night. I didn’t have some eat-pray-love experience that changed my perspective on life. It was definitely not as glamorous as Julia Roberts makes it look. It was ugly. It was crying in the library bathroom because I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’ll never make it past my first year of college. It was falling asleep next to the toilet bowl because the different medications I had to test made me sick and kept me up all night. It was calling someone I loved when I was going through hell and him telling me I used my depression as an excuse. It was realizing that I didn’t have to hang on to people that hurt me just because I loved them. It was losing friends. It was losing myself for a little while. But I got myself back.

It was only until recently that I found myself again. Ugh, I hate that. “Find myself.” I sound like I just got back from backpacking in Europe with a guy named Chad. But, for a while there, I was gone. I felt empty and unreal and lost. I became angry and cynical, and could only find the negativity and cruelty in the world. I found the good eventually. Not only did I find the good in the world that was given to me, but I found the good that was in the person I was. I didn’t have to start over, I didn’t have to remake myself or begin again, I just had to realize that I was so much more than I thought I was.

I am not depressed. I have depression. I am a living, breathing person who struggles sometimes. I am a friend, a daughter, a writer, a photographer, a painter, a (bad) dancer, a student, a co-worker, a comedian, a dog enthusiast, and I am all of these things because these are the things I love. These are the things that I have become over so many years, and what is most important is that I have become a real person, and I can recognize that I do love myself because I chose to become these things. We are not what we cannot control, we are what we love and what we do, teach, learn, grow into and what we are on this earth to become.

I feel the things that are good in this scary world that was given to me, and I am not depressed. I am a real person and I am here.

 

 

 

 

October

i fell in love with someone i barely knew.
and i know how strange it is
and i’ve tried to tell myself that i did not love them
but for some insane and terrifying reason
too much of me cared for too much of them to believe it

he was calm and cool and everything he said was warm.
i met him once and suddenly i was comfortable.
i didn’t care that my glasses were dirty, or that my hair wasn’t brushed.
he saw me.
he saw who i actually was
we sat on the couch and ate breakfast at 3 am.
i looked at him when he laughed at the low budget horror movie on the screen.
i looked at him when he sang along to an overplayed pop song on the radio.

i had been with him for less than 48 hours and i loved him.
not the kind of love where i would die without him,
or the kind that made me want to get on one knee and ask him to marry me,
but i fell in love with how he felt.
i fell in love with the way he laughed at crappy netflix movies,
and the way he liked his coffee black.

he didn’t try so hard to love life, but you could tell he loved it. oh god he loved it.
he didn’t have to say it.
for such a long time i couldn’t figure out how
to love a life or a world that was so cruel,
but meeting him made me wonder how i’ve been living the way i have for so long.

i told him things about myself that no one else knew.
i told him how sometimes i stare at my ceiling and wonder what it would be like if i never woke up.
i told him about how my father left, and how empty and unwanted i’ve felt since.
i told him how i hated feeling that way because the only thing i’ve ever wanted
was to be my own person, and the fact that the decisions of some other person
affected me so much tortured my mind.

and when i saw him feel, i finally realized
that i was so much more than i thought i was.
and it is not because i was validated by
a boy i’d known for a day that i finally realized this,
but it was seeing how he felt about the world that was given to him.

and now i can let these things go.
suddenly for the first time in my life, i felt like i belonged to no one else but me.
i was so much more than someones daughter that they did not love.
i was more than an obligation to a distant friend that felt they had to text once a week.
i was so much more than the girl who fell in love with a boy she barely knew.

so, no.

i did not fall in love with this person because they paid me the attention i wasn’t used to.
i did not fall in love with this person because they laughed at my jokes or held my hand.
i did not fall in love with this person because of the color of their eyes, or the way they looked in mine.

i fell in love with this person because they were’t just a person.

i fell in love with this person because they felt so much all at once
for a world and life i wanted so desperately to leave.

i fell in love with this person because
they showed me that the world is just too big to find only the bad and cruel.
too much of me cared for too much of the only thing that made sense in such a long time.

it was not a romantic love.
he was a feeling.

and i know that i will never see him again,
i will never hold his hand or watch a bad horror movie,
or laugh at his laugh again.
and i know that he did not love me,
and my presence was not as significant as his.
and this is okay, because i did not love him in a way that he could replicate.

i know these things.
and still i can’t help but think of him when the sun warms my shoulders.
i can’t help but think of him when i feel
the genuine love from a stranger in passing who wanted to tell me hello.
i think of him when the world is good.

and there are people that i meet that i will care for and love,
but i can’t help but think of the fact that no one else
can make me feel and see the same things he did.

the people that we love
are the ones who show us that staying on this planet
is worth the torture of staring at the ceiling in middle of the night.

so, yes.
i fell in love with someone my mind barely knew.

and i just don’t think i will ever know a love just like that one.