In which we do a little more explaining about types of comments and state of mind
Wow, folks. What a whirlwind the last week has been. In the best way. The comments and stories shared with me after I posted Chapters 7, 8 & 9 have lifted me in a way I forgot was possible. I was terrified to hit publish that morning, but boy, am I glad I did.
Sharing stories is such a profound way to connect with others. I heard everything from, “Me, too,” to “I didn’t realize we had so much in common,” to “I wish I would’ve gotten to know you better,” to “I would have been devastated if you had succeeded.” Some people didn’t want to share the specifics of their stories, but still messaged me to tell me they’ve felt that way sometimes and are glad they’re not alone. Others sent me heart-cracking, detailed accounts of their experiences. As I have said before, I am humbled and honored to hear every single one of them.
Other responses were, “Things weren’t as bad as you thought they were,” and “I don’t remember you like that”. Both these statements are true. Sort of.
20/20 hindsight clearly shows things were not that bad from the exterior. I had all the materials on the checklist to be a functional human teenager, even more so than most:
- Parents who were still married – check
- Roof over my head – check
- My own bedroom and bathroom – check
- Food on the table – check
- Attended private college prep school – check
- Car at my disposal – check
- Athletically inclined – check
- Loving family and friends – check
- White skin – check
- A pager! – check
I was privileged and should have been thankful for all that I had, gosh darn it!
And, honestly, I’m glad you don’t remember me as a depressive, abused, slutty person with suicidal tendencies. I can’t say I want to be remembered like that. But, I also actively worked to make sure I wasn’t perceived that way. While I want to make it very clear that as a teenager (and young adult in my 20s-to-early 30s), I did not have true self-awareness to know how and why I did and felt things at that time, I did know what would get me made fun of, what would draw attention to me in ways I did not want it drawn. So there was a balancing act to portray myself in a certain way. Perhaps if I had the self-awareness and real confidence I have now, those roads would have remained untraveled for me. But back then, I felt the loneliness, shame, and scarcity (read: I am not enough) deep within my core, whether or not I could put a name to the feelings.
As a writer, portraying an event in vivid detail is part of my job. It’s a high compliment to the writing when I get messages of concern and disbelief, but it is detracting to be told things weren’t that bad. As we do not yet have the technology for one to get inside another’s mind, body, and soul, and physically feel what it was like, I do my best through the writing to describe it. However, unless one has been through similar experiences, one simply does not know.
Even today, as I write this in the glow of the Christmas tree from the comfort of my living room of the house I own, listening to my two boisterous boys play downstairs while I snuggle with my animals on the couch, surrounded by all the things that are mile-markers of success, I feel grief and loneliness. It’s a low simmer right now, just down below the surface, reminding me of its presence without bubbling up and overflowing. Having a checklist of things that should make one “happy” does not ensure a perfect life. I am so fucking grateful for everything – good and bad – and practicing gratitude has made my life on this Earth a much more pleasant one. But I can have all the things and still be sad. I can have all the things and still have days where I just can’t see the forest for the trees. And/both.
Sharing my stories of abuse, harassment, assault (we’ll get there), and attempted death by suicide makes people uncomfortable. And I am glad for that. I am glad because it isn’t until we get uncomfortable – and sit with that uncomfortable-ness – that we begin a journey of understanding. It wasn’t until I sat long enough with those feelings of shame and vulnerability that I was able to realize: Oh. They will not kill me afterall. I can handle the truth – MY TRUTH. I can deal with it. Some times take longer than other times, but now I am a practiced chef, so when it starts to boil again, cascading over the sides in a seemingly never-ending waterfall, I have the utensils I need to manage it. I know I will make it through. Even if sucks while I’m in it. (For a fun, quick, high-level illustration of this feeling, please watch this.)
So, thank you for thinking I had it all together. That I was this confident, I-do-what-I-want gal who chased life with wanton abandon. I always wanted to be that kind of person.
Now, I finally, authentically, am.