No More Hiding

How do you hide?

I’ve had a lot of practice hiding. When I was a kid, I wore shirts far too large for me because I felt like I was fat. When I was 12 years old, 5′ 7″, and 149 lbs, I remember my dad looking me over. I was in jeans and a patterned blue and white short-sleeved button up. I’m sure whatever he said was meant to be positive, but I felt exposed and fat and ugly. I spent that school year wearing a ratty XXL denim shirt over my regular clothes.

Then I was thirteen and on a softball team. I came into my curves young, and I thought that made me fat. There’s a team photo where I’m standing in the back on the end and you can see that I have massive hips.

Then came fourteen, birth control for hormone regulation, persistent illness, weight gain, and the first manifestations of bipolar. I’m not convinced the birth control didn’t set off a chain reaction within my body. Even though I quit it after a few months, my body was never the same again. I spent a solid year in a black and white sports jacket because it hid my waistline and my hips.

I lost weight and gained it back. I’ve stayed in the range of 190-210 since age 16. I met a boy with whom the sun rose and set. He held my hand, made me feel wanted, made me feel adored. My self-image shifted a little bit. I wore dresses without wearing that jacket, which was a huge accomplishment.

That only lasted a few years. Life constantly changes, and we weren’t immune. Eventually he didn’t want to hold my hand anymore, didn’t like it when I danced or skipped or played in public. I embarrassed him sober, so I didn’t mind when he got drunk.

He loved me when he was drunk, and he would laugh and dance and sing and tell jokes, so I didn’t mind him drinking even when it got to borderline alcoholism. He loved me when he was drunk in a way that he didn’t when he was sober, and I was selfish. I needed to be loved. I went back to hating my body when he was sober.

It’s been sixteen months since we split, nine months since we agreed to never see each other again, and six months since we last had any contact whatsoever. I’m recovering, which this time last year seemed impossible. I was utterly destroyed from inside out.

The road to recovery has only a little bit to do with the actual loss of him. The real healing is starting to take place because of someone else’s relationship. This healing is something I needed long before I ever met my ex.

My good friend is getting married later this year, and we’ve been trying on bridesmaid dresses. The last time I wore a bridesmaid’s gown, I was in a wedding where it was important to look as thin as you can. This time is completely different because this friend comes from a culture where “thin” is an absurd concept. One of the other bridesmaids told me, “I don’t know why you’d want to get rid of [your ass]. I see women trying to get implants to get what you’ve got, and you’ve got it naturally. It makes me sick to see these girls thinking they’re so fat when there’s other girls who pay to get that.”

Well, that’s certainly a different perspective.

The bride and the bridesmaid have both been instrumental in helping me accept my body. I had another friend awhile back say I was nearly perfectly proportioned for that elusive hourglass shape. Slowly, I’m starting to gain confidence in my body.

That’s not to say I don’t need to drop a few pounds to get to a healthy weight–I absolutely need to adjust my diet to something a bit healthier than Sour Patch Kids and Starbucks. The point is I’m not hiding anymore.

The bride showed me a picture from our last excursion that she considered “regal.” Along with not hiding my body, I’m learning not to hide my personality. I’ve been made fun of for my laugh, for the jokes I like, for the childish fun I like to have, for the fact I like to dance regardless of the music situation. . . .

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The dress was a size 18 or 20. Turns out I wear a 14.

Recovering from this relationship has been so much more than I anticipated. I expected to come out the other side stronger than I was at the beginning, but I didn’t know what that really meant. I thought it would mean not pining after my ex, a goal I’ve finally achieved. Learning to appreciate the way my body is built, learning to own my strengths and weaknesses, learning to enjoy the moment because making concrete plans for the future is a waste of time — these are things I didn’t anticipate.

In therapy today, I talked for an hour about work and boys and at the end, my therapist said, “Are you sure you need to come back?” It was kind of bizarre realizing I might be at a point that I’m actually stable enough to go about life without sitting behind closed doors with a professional listener.

The fact is, I’m okay. I really am okay, at least for now. I have my sights set on what I can control right now, and my hopes set on what possibilities might lie ahead. Being that I’m extremely relationship-oriented, I’ve tried not to focus on that aspect of my life in case I get distracted.

(Of course, that meant the Universe immediately directed me to someone who has that personality my ex had when he was drunk. The difference is, this guy is sober, plus he has the same kind of laugh I do and he loves the same type of jokes. All the personality quirks I’ve been degraded for, he has.)

All I can do right now is live my life as I want to, do the kind of work I love and write the kind of stories I like. Maybe one day he and I will cross paths. Maybe I’ll cross paths with someone even better. I’m finally genuinely open to the Universe if it wants to set me on the proper course.

I’m not hiding anymore.

Holding Emotions

I saw the most beautiful, kind, inspiring woman hold back tears and words today when I spoke to her. I wish I had asked if they were happy or sad tears.

If they were sad, all I want to do now is tell her that I survive day in and day out by telling myself I am okay. Hurt and fear and grief and love and happiness and passion are all emotions that are okay; therefore I am okay.

I hope she is, too.

I Politely Decline Your Definition of “Impossible”

Things are going wrong right now, so very, very wrong. I don’t know how to stop them from continuing, but something has to happen. Everyone seems to be at a loss. Some people seemed to be resigned to accepting the black cloud over our heads. “It is what it is.”

If you’ve read very many of my posts, you know that I don’t believe in that phrase. I’ve even suggested to have people fired for using it. Apparently HR does’t seem to consider that a valid violation of department policy.

(98% of that is a joke. I have not actually suggested this to HR, though I have brought it up in a few management meetings.)

If you want something to get better, you cannot give into defeatism. Today, I sat curled up in a chair in the office, with my emotions written all over my face. My manager told me to stop looking so depressed.

I don’t do politics. I do results. All one has to do is look at the United States government to see that the two rarely go hand-in-hand. How do I do both without sacrificing my soul in the process?

I’ve been told this is an impossible fight. I like those odds.

They’ll Use It Against You

I sometimes forget that there’s a stigma associated with depression and anxiety and bipolar disorder. I’m open about it, and I’m not ashamed. A few weeks ago, I had a pretty bad anxiety attack when I was teaching. During their lunch break, I went to my office, turned out the lights, crawled under my desk, and pulled my chair in so no one could see me if they walked in. I sat like that for 20 or 30 minutes. I admitted it later to my colleague, and was informed that I shouldn’t tell anyone. It could be used against me.

This kind of stuff requires an open forum. I have no doubt that a considerable number of people in my life are on anti-depressants, or drink wine to fall asleep and a sleeping pill to stay there. I have no doubt, but that isn’t something one brings up in casual conversation. It’s impolite. People might look at you like you’re crazy. It’s something you don’t say on a first date, or in a job interview. No one will look at my resume and say, “You’ve done pretty well considering your mental state.”

I wonder what would happen if I put “Bipolar” on the skills part of my resume. Interviews have always been nerve-wracking, yet fun, for me. I wonder how people would look at me, how the interview questions would change. Or, if I brought it up in the strengths and weaknesses portion: “Well, one of my strengths is my anxiety attacks–I normally channel that energy into something hyper-productive, like doing a month’s worth of stats.” “One of my weaknesses is my depression. I tend to come into work dressed in a hoodie and jeans, hiding a teddy bear in my backpack. I’ll still work–I’ll find something to do–but it will be somewhat obvious that I could barely get out of bed and cried on the drive into the office.”

If you can’t tell, today’s been one of those days. I’m grateful that it’s my day off and I was able to spend it curled up in my bed. The past few weeks have been great–stressful, but in a normal, “My-Job-Is-Seriously-Insane” way. Plus, I’m writing a short story that’s taking way more time than I thought it would.

But then there’s today. There will always be days like today, and that’s okay. I am learning how to handle the bad thoughts and the anxiety, even if it means I have to pull off to the side of the road while I’m driving to wait for it to level out. Even if it means going to an old place of comfort, or wearing an old sweater, or enjoying some serious retail therapy (my winter wardrobe is going to be classy and work-appropriate).

I don’t want to hide these flaws from people. This is part of who I am. I understand that some of it is good and some of it is bad. I understand that some of it isn’t “normal,” but “normal” stopped being my goal years ago.

Now, I’m just working on the bold and fearless part. We’ll see what happens.

Out of the Hole!

Yay! So I’ve been all nutty about trying to detach from work, not get overwhelmed, etc., etc., etc. Well, I finally downloaded my secret weapon onto my computer (it’s a specific album, which I have listened to approximately 97 times [we’re talking literally]), and suddenly–detached! In fact, not just detached, but completely sunken into my favorite fiction.

I’ve written for years and years, and this one particular story is my favorite. Yesterday, I added 2500, getting me out of the hole where I’d been stuck for over a year. Today, I added 3600 words, totaling a net accomplishment of exiting Chapter Five and entering Chapter Nine. I’m elated. Beyond any other progress I’ve made this year, in my job, in my personal life, this is a crowning achievement for me.

Sometimes, when I haven’t written in awhile, I wonder if writing is really where my passion lies. I wonder if I’m just romanticizing the memory of finishing my first manuscript. I didn’t make any progress on the novel last year, and 2014 went down as a terrible year for me. Today, this feeling, this high from writing 3 1/2 measly chapters of a draft of the first book of a long series, beats all of the great moments I’ve had this year.

I am grateful that I’m able to achieve this feeling, this moment. Without my mom or my therapist or encouragement from you guys, I would still be a mess. Chances are I still am a mess, but right now I’m a happy mess. When I talk about wanting life-work-school balance, this is “life.” This is absolutely the life part. As much as I want to get back on my feet relationship-wise, men can wait if it means I get this back.