learning how to be me: an ongoing journey

I’ve been ultimately terrible at blogging lately for a number of reasons. The most glaring one is that anxiety and depression due to unemployment have made it hard for me to do anything other than sit around or sleep. But also, I’ve been settling into life post-move, and adjusting to sharing a space, and, oh yeah…a lot of writing (aka my catharsis). I had another entry focused on how I was feeling lately, but since May is mental health month, I thought it was finally time to talk about things I’ve been hesitant to say out loud because, well…sometimes you do things and sometimes things change and then you forget you had done things because you’ve made enough progress. I guess my point is that everyone struggles, no one is perfect, and we all have demons under the surface, right?

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bless tumblr for always giving me posts that sum up my feelings

I wrote a post awhile ago about finally accepting help and facing my fears by taking medication to combat my anxiety (which included accepting I HAD a problem that required medication). And honestly? It’s been a huge, huge help for me to know that when I’m spiraling out of control, I have that little white pill that I can take. In the past few months, I’ve also been steadily attending therapy each week. Unlike my earlier (read: years ago) visits, I’m not sitting there refusing to talk — I’m actively expressing my feelings, trying to accept the bad parts of myself, trying to be okay with them. But there’s something I haven’t talked about openly, and that’s self-harm. So, in the spirit of mental health month, I am writing this post.

In my junior year of high school, we were forced to take these sex ed classes and keep a journal where they’d make us write about our thoughts on the topics we had learned about, and we’d get graded on our responses. Kind of like an interactive exercise to also prove we understood the material, I guess. At the end of the school year, we were told we could write an “extra” entry if we wanted, aka a topic that that we hadn’t had a chance to discuss in class. So, I wrote about not feeling good about myself, about wanting to “rebel” (hey, seventeen or eighteen year old me thought it was GREAT to be rebellious, hence the belly button ring). I remember being nervous as all hell to hand it in, and when I got it back, there was a nice long handwritten response in my journal. Essentially, it boiled down to, “this is your cry for attention.” And maybe it was, at the time. Maybe I wanted attention for hurting and didn’t know who else to turn to, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell my parents that I sat in my room and clawed at my arms with my fingernails. The teacher questioned things I wrote (“if you don’t want to be like everyone else, why do you want to ‘rebel?'” is a line I remember quite clearly, despite the fact I don’t know where this diary is and haven’t seen it for years…it’s probably in my parents house somewhere.) But ultimately, I remember feeling hurt and embarrassed.

In college, I traded the notion of self-harm for other non-healthy habits — cigarette smoking, pot smoking, alcohol. The quintessential “rebellion” things, if you will. None of those stuck, and I guess the good thing about it is that I never got into anything that became too detrimental to my health (except well, okay. Alcohol and I are still on a bit of a rocky road when it comes to my anxiety but I think I try to pretend it’s not a huge issue.) I also traded fingernails for nail clippers and scissors. It helped, in a way, to see those marks on my skin, to feel the pain when I was upset. I don’t know when things changed and I can’t even say I “grew out of it” because there are still times when emotionally, things become too much. In a few recent instances, the thought and intent has been there, because I’ve been so low that I haven’t known what else to do. But I know that compared to where I was a few years ago, I’ve made progress, and that’s due to everything from friends to improvements in my personal life to comics to people who have, unknowingly, provided me with strength and inspiration to get through my worst days. And I’d rather have a string of bad days where I’m lying on the couch upset, rather than feeling like the only way I can make myself feel better is to act out.

I’ve sat on this post for awhile because I wasn’t happy with it. Not because I was afraid to say these things, but because for awhile, my brain went right back to that teacher who scoffed at my thoughts, however serious or not serious they really were at seventeen. I’m not the “normal” case of a person going through this, and I hate that society (and the Internet) has made it so easy for us invalidate our personal struggles, because no one except you ever knows the extent of what you’re going through. I thought this post should be longer, I thought that I should explain myself more fully, I thought that it should be written better — I’m a perfectionist at heart in everything but in my writing most of all, because from an early age, writing has always been the one thing I’ve been good at when I haven’t excelled at other things in life. (Maybe this is why I put so much emphasis on writing in fandom — it’s not so much the validation that bothers my brain, but the throughline of “if something isn’t inherently liked enough, it means you’re not good enough.”)

But the month will soon be over and I’ve sat on this long enough, so it’s time to put it out into the world, and let the light in.

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