Here Comes the Sun

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Five years ago, I was in the last stages of preparing for my wedding. I was excited and nervous, but ready for the next step. I was marrying someone that my family actually liked, that I had fun with, and that I believed in.

Five years ago, I was also a wreck.

For the couple days leading up to my wedding day, any little word or action was strong enough to cause tears and panic. I remember in the hours before the ceremony began, my eyes were in a constant state of overflowing.

As most brides will tell you, most of the actual wedding was a blur. For the most part, everything went smoothly, and we were surrounded by people that we loved dearly. Everything I had pictured during the months of planning worked out, and the setting was gorgeous. At the end of the ceremony, we walked out of the church to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” because I wanted to really capture the hopeful feeling we had for the future.

We made it three years.

Many people who have to deal with the pain of divorce find it difficult to remember the good times during their marriage, myself included. Far too often, I focus on the bad: losing who I was and the activities that made me feel alive, the emotional detachment, his inability to understand hurting me in the worst of ways. I write terrible poems about those times (poetry is definitely not one of my strengths) because there has to be a way to express that pain without hurting others. Despite all of that, I’ve been trying to reflect on the good this week: the smiles, the laughter, the ability to relax, just having someone around all the time. Because despite all of the ugly and sometimes nightmarish memories, no relationship is without sparks of good.

I never saw myself as someone getting married, let alone divorced. Yet here I am, 26 and almost two years divorced. Most of the time, I try to just forget that part of my life, but it was the majority of my early 20s. It shaped me and still haunts me. It taught me what to look for and what to avoid. I learned how to protect and stand up for myself, even when 90% of the people in my life wanted me to go in an opposite direction. It forced me to become far more independent and to stop settling.

So now, I think I’m finally able to embrace my past as a married woman, my present as a divorcee trying to take on life completely independent, and my unpredictable and unknown future.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Caribbean Sea- March 2015
Caribbean Sea- March 2015

Shards of a Story

September is National Suicide Awareness Month.

I’ve written about my depression many times before. I write about it partially as an encouragement and to help remind others that depression and other mental health struggles aren’t things to be ashamed of, but should be talked about. They’re some of the hardest kinds of battles because you often feel like there’s no way to win. However, I also write about my struggles for very selfish reasons…I write because it helps me remember I’m not alone either.

There’s a huge difference in allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your writing and vulnerable in your everyday life. I tend to find it much easier to be completely open in my writing, partially because I don’t see the responses to my thoughts. However, with the more people I know in person who tell me they read my blog, I’ve gotten intimidated. I’ve let my blog-writing take a back seat. I’ve been far too concerned with their thoughts on my writing. I’ve muffled my voice, but I’ve got to stop. I need to start writing my thoughts again, no matter how they might make me look to my outer circles.

I mention that it’s suicide awareness month because this issue is one closest to my heart. It’s something I haven’t really talked about much because there is such a negative stigma that surrounds most of the mental health world. This hits so close to home, and for the longest time, I was too ashamed to tell anybody even a fraction of what was going on in my mind.

The first time I ever encountered suicide, I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. A girl I went to church with, a girl who was no older than 9, killed herself. I don’t remember many of the details, and I don’t even remember how my parents explained it, but I do remember how after it happened and people learned of what happened, it was never really addressed again. It wasn’t to be talked about.

The first time I hurt myself was maybe a year later. I don’t remember wanting to hurt myself because I felt sad or angry or even really emotional at all. What I do remember is wondering how much it would take to feel pain and if anyone would ever notice. I still have the scars on my left knee. Nobody ever mentioned it.

Things started to get worse in high school. Thoughts of just feeling invisible, of believing that even if I did die, nobody would really miss me, were constant whispers in the back of my mind. It started to feel like those thoughts had always been there, so I was never really concerned about them. When you’re in the depths of something like that, the emptiness and worthlessness seems completely normal. You can’t recall feeling another way.

Toward the end of my marriage was when my mental health took a complete nosedive. I suffered through a miscarriage, both parents being diagnosed with cancer, and I can just remember feeling like if I talked to anyone, if I brought up the stress and pain I was struggling with, I would just become a burden to that person. I didn’t have enough faith that I could mean enough to another human being to actually let them know how badly I was struggling. I had to drop classes, I couldn’t fathom holding a job, and I had gained so much weight that I stayed on the couch in the same sweats and tshirt for days at a time. It’s still incredibly difficult for me to admit this now, but I felt like death was the only way out. The only way to escape the constant hell I was living in.

Thankfully, my thoughts had gotten so dark that they even began to startle me. Most days, I just lived as my life was still running in a completely logical path, but the days that were so foggy that I couldn’t remember what I had done the hour before…those days shocked me into trying to find some sort of help.

I still don’t know how, but I found the perfect therapist on the first try. Granted, I cried through most of our sessions for the first few months, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t encounter a feeling a guilt tied to the crying. I felt like I could talk to someone and have my thoughts, my issues, my struggles actually matter. I started to heal, and with that, I started to really write.

Writing has probably been the best wellness practice for me. Being able to read back a few months and see how my thoughts twist and turn from healthy to dangerous and back to healthy is a difficult thing, but also a gift. In my darker moments, I’m able to find those bits of writing where I’m feeling completely inspired to move forward with life. Some of those excerpts are almost disgustingly chipper.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t have an answer to what is most likely going to be a life-long struggle for me. What I do have is growth. I have encouragement. I have the knowledge that this daily mental fight is not one that is as isolating as my brain wants me to believe. Thanks to this awareness month and other people willing to be open and vulnerable with their struggles, I’m able to be willing to accept my story and look forward to even more healing and growth. I’m able to know that talking about it, being able to discuss struggles with others is the first step in healing. It’s time we learn that sharing both the wins and losses in our battles with mental health issues not only helps ourselves, but the people around us as well.

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014
Niederrad, Germany- October 2014

listening to: We Fall by Emile Haynie

A Break

I’ve found myself reaching a point of wanting to give up writing on a blog because I’ve started to compare my writing to that of others again. My words aren’t fancy or detailed, I border on being too frank and honest, and I feel like I’m pathetically whiney most of the time. I’m overly critical. I know this. I battle this on a regular basis. I’ve been racking my brain for a way to change this, to get back to a point of really liking what I’m writing and being proud of it.

I think this all stems from a bigger issue. It comes from a place of being too self-conscious, of not being able to really be aware my talents and gifts, of viewing myself as unlovable. Three months ago, I wrote about being the type of person that hides herself away, that makes it difficult for people to connect with beyond a surface level. It’s not that I don’t connect with others- I just don’t think others will be able to handle the trouble and pain I drag along with me in the most self-inflicted forms of baggage that I avoid letting anyone in to help me work through it.

I think this move will be good for me in more than one way. Even though my financial stress will be higher, not living with my parents anymore will be a giant relief. Out of all the things I’ve attempted in the past several years, trying to maintain a civil relationship with them has (shamefully) been the most difficult. There are enough issues there to fill up several books alone, but we do so much better when there is distance between us. What I’m most looking forward to, however, is really focusing on myself.

I realize this is terribly cliche, horribly overdone, and disgustingly cheesy, but I’ve been contemplating a complete separation from the idea of dating or relationships. A quick backstory: I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 17. I didn’t even have many dates to dances…in fact, I got asked to exactly one dance before I entered the dating world. None of that is bad, but the fact that I was so disappointed, so heartbroken- that I placed so much value on the opposite gender’s lack of interest in me- that is the part I don’t like. When I finally had a guy in my life that was interested in me, I didn’t really stop to think about if he was the type of person I really wanted to be with. I just went with it. I settled into the mediocracy of it all.

From that day in August of 2006 until last November, I hadn’t gone longer than a few months without some sort of love interest in my life. Most of them weren’t worth the effort. We didn’t click or even really appreciate each other, we just kept each other from being lonely. That’s a huge stretch of my life of simply avoiding loneliness…eight years. Arguably some of the most important years in life for figuring out who you are and what you want from life. In that time, I can say with certainty that I was only with one person who even slightly understood the underlying thoughts driving my actions, who was able to get through the surface, get to know the real person underneath, and actually be supportive of that person.

I’ve had crushes since last November. I’ve been so interested in this one person that it’s torn me up inside. I’ve gotten my hopes up, those same hopes obliterated, and my emotions all tangled up that I haven’t been able to decipher up from down and good from bad. The most irritating part? I’ve taken all the blame. I’ve just viewed it all as something I’ve been doing wrong, that I’m not good enough. It’s a terrible way to think. Really, there is no blame to be placed. There is no wrong person in this situation. It’s just that there are feelings that aren’t reciprocated and nothing will change that.

I think accepting that fact is a good first step in beginning to appreciate myself. In stopping the blame and degrading attitude I have toward myself. It’s so self-destructive. If healing is going to continue, if I’m going to finally be able to be proud of who I am and what I’m doing with my life, the self-destructive behavior has to take a permanent vacation. I’m not giving myself a specific time frame for this break from the idea of relationships and dating, but I am making a very specific declaration for myself to end all ideas of being with another person until I can fully be content and joyful with who I am, what I’m doing, and where I’m going in life.

Alaska - August 2014
Alaska – August 2014

listening to: Bon Iver, Hozier

Back Again

I’m moving soon. I realize I’ve declared an intention of moving before and not followed through with it, but this is a move that is 100% for me and nobody else. It’s a move to reflect the changing of life seasons, a move of growth, and a move of necessity.

In 2006, I visited Fayetteville, Arkansas for the first time on a campus tour during Thanksgiving break. I think I fell in love with the town just in the drive up there. There are all sorts of winding road for the last hour of the drive, and during that time of year, all the hills are covered in red, orange, and yellow trees. For a girl who had been stuck in Texas for five years, the idea of living somewhere where seasons existed was a dream. The University of Arkansas was the only school I even applied to when it came to college, mostly because I’ve got a major stubborn streak and was determined to only go there for school.

Fayetteville was a town I chose just for me. It’s the town where I first began to come into my own. I experienced so many firsts, both good and bad, but every first is interwoven with growth. I think there are some places that are somehow tailored to fit a person’s personality, and Fayetteville is one of those towns for me.

After my divorce, I moved back to Texas for a month before spending most of 2014 in Germany. I remember crying as I drove away from Fayetteville, not because of the divorce or some of the broken relationships tied into that, but because I was leaving a place that truly felt like home. I’ve visited a few times since then, and that strange combination of peace and excitement washes over me during every drive up there.

I’ve now been back in Tyler for ten long months. Ten months of adjusting. Ten months of struggle. Ten months of fighting that depression-monster again. However, it’s also been ten months of learning who I am. Ten months of finding what truly makes me heart happy. Ten months of growing into the person I want to be. It’s been a strange ten months, but I think that it’s a chapter in my life that needs to end as soon as possible. It’s necessary for the growth of the character, but you struggle through every word.

I’m taking control of my story. In just about two months, I’ll be moving back to Fayetteville. This week, I started back to school in the form of one online class, and in the spring, I’ll be back to going to school full time. It’s going to be a struggle. I’ve never been very good with going to class or studying or even really staying disciplined enough to complete many things, but I’ve got a long-term goal this time. I got accepted into the English department, studying a combination of creative writing and journalism, which is a perfect fit for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to translate that degree into a job in the editing/writing/publishing industry back in Frankfurt in a couple years.

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement. I’m scared of so many things. I’m scared that I won’t do as well in my classes as I hope. I’m worried that school will wear on my psyche again. More than anything, I’m terrified that the depression that has been consistently lurking in the semi-shadows these past few months will step out and try to take over my life again. However, I think that this is the best time in my life to do this, to take these chances. I’ve got nothing tying me down, no reason to keep me where I am. In any case, moving back to Fayetteville is a temporary step in the grand process of moving back to Germany. And anything that can allow me to live in Germany for more of a full-time experience has to be worth the effort.

Old Main at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas - May 2015
Old Main at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas – May 2015

Goodbye, 25.

Goodbye to insecurities.

Hello to recognizing the good in you.

Goodbye to feeling inadequate.

Hello to cultivating strengths.

Goodbye to dreading singlehood.

Hello to embracing a life wholly yours.

Goodbye to that gut-wrenching sense of heartbreak.

Hello to knowing it was meant to be for the moment, nothing more.

Goodbye to resentment and anger.

Hello to a renewed sense of patience and an attempt at better understanding.

Goodbye to misplaced trust.

Hello to learning to separate vulnerability in writing and vulnerability in everyday life.

Goodbye to a stormy past.

Hello to an unknown future full of chances.

Goodbye, 25. You’ve been a wild ride.

Hello, 26. We’ve got adventures ahead of us.

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014
Niederrad, Germany- October 2014