Reflections

“There’s a beautiful melancholy that settles over the river and village as the weather matures from summer. The air holds a bit of chill and even the birds’ singing is subdued.

This is my favorite time of year. I feel it perfectly captures the time in my life that I had the most struggle. I used to love autumn for the colors that blanket the trees everywhere, but now it’s that moment right before the change – the trees still as green as they can possibly be, telling the world that there may be a dead period approaching, but they are still full of life and will be back for another year of green beauty. In a way, the yellows, oranges, and reds are their final goodbye to us for the year. That last love letter that tells of beauty coming in the next year.

I am overwhelmed by places that get to experience all four seasons. The lucky spots on earth that have snow in winter, are covered in blooms in spring, have sunny weather in summer without too much heat, and have the fiery colors in fall to cover the earth. If I found a place like this, I don’t think I’d ever move away. Of course, every season has a time and place, and change is part of our natural process. Loving every season for what it brings to the world is necessary, but the beauty of fall is unattainable elsewhere.”                   -personal journal from September 4, 2014

I’m in the middle of a mental leave of health from work. Being in this period is part unfamiliarity and part undesirable old friend. When I first started truly struggling with depression a few years ago, I was unable to hold down a job. Every little thing overwhelmed me and I would go days without moving off of the couch. I’ve very lucky to have found a job that understands the importance of mental health, but the idea of returning to a place that I’ve been absent from is intimidating.

The good parts that come out of this are time, mentally regrouping, and most importantly, writing. Life had been keeping me so busy that I couldn’t balance work, a personal life, and my projects. It’s probably just a self-organization issue, to be honest, but part of my mental health recovery is learning coping mechanisms and how to better schedule my life. Perhaps this is just an opportunity for growth.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to refocus my writing efforts. I started a project last year that I’ve shared a bit about on here, and making it ready to publish has moved high up on my priority list. So much of the writing comes from a personal place, and I’ve jotted down bits and pieces of this book scattered throughout various journals. I went back a bit too far in my journaling and discovered a few pieces of reflection written while I was still living in Germany (the italicized quote at the beginning being one of those reflections). I was struck by how the cycles in my mental health seem to repeat themselves, but at the same time evolve cycle to cycle. Each time, I learn a bit more about how my brain works and how to overcome the darker moments.

I’ve been repeating “every season has a time and place, and change is part of our natural process” over and over in my mind the past couple of hours. It’s so fitting that I’ve found that bit of writing in a time such as this. It’s a pleasant reminder that this is hard, even paralyzing at times, but a new season will be coming soon. A new season full of hope and growth, of maturation and clarity. This is a shadowy part of life, but it will soon give way to a new part, and I’ll soon be able to make sense of it all again.

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Potter’s Marsh, Anchorage, AK – August 2014

 

Speaking Up

“I’m going to rape you and f*ck you up, b*tch”

That was written in my seventh grade yearbook by the boy who had a locker next to mine. All year, he had pestered me in what I’m now sure was his interpretation of giving me “manly attention”. At one point about halfway through the year, he came up behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and laughed when I asked him to stop. When he wrote that lovely note in my yearbook, I instantly painted over it with whiteout because I was terrified of getting in trouble.

The part of this whole story that disgusts me more than anything else is the fact that I was convinced that I would be the one getting in trouble for having bad words written in my yearbook. By the early age of twelve, I was afraid that someone would say that I had done something to egg him on and that I just shouldn’t associate myself with a person who used what my parents deemed unacceptable language.

When I told someone very close to me (a person who I thought wanted to protect and comfort me above all else) about the circumstances surrounding losing my virginity during my freshman year of college, the first question I was asked was “had you been drinking?” When I told that same person about the abuse that pushed me toward my divorce, the first question asked was the same: “was alcohol involved?”

This is the culture that so many young girls are raised in today. This fear that they won’t be taken seriously, or worse, that they’ll be the one blamed when something happens to them. That they’ll be told they brought it on themselves. It isn’t just the super-mysoginistic men that run the disgusting so-called “pick-up artist” websites, either. For me, it was a family member that should be first and foremost concerned with my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. And that is unacceptable.

I was an innocent middle schooler that wore mostly t-shirts, jeans, and limited too. I was a young college student who thought I had expressed my intentions clearly when I stated I wanted to stay a virgin until I got married. Finally, I was a wife who believed I had married a man who would uphold his promise to protect and respect me. Throughout all of that, I was a woman who was encouraged to believe that somehow, my actions were the cause of the hurt brought upon me. That if I had acted more appropriately, those things wouldn’t have happened. Not once did the phrase “it’s not your fault” ever get mentioned. Not a single thing was stated to help me realize that the person that committed those actions was solely responsible.

Victim blaming has been running rampant for longer than I’ve been alive. Saying that someone brought on sexual harassment or even rape because of how they act or how they dress is completely unacceptable, and only encourages victims to keep quiet in order to avoid adding insult to injury. The only person who is to blame is the person who commits that action. It’s time to start making sure that the victims of any sort of sexual harassment know that if something happens to them, they no longer have to fear not being taken seriously.

Frankfurt skyline- Frankfurt, Germany, August 2014
Frankfurt skyline- Frankfurt, Germany, August 2014

Healing

Part of my plan for this first year of living in Fayetteville is to really learn to take time for myself, so I’ve been going through this meditation journal for just about two weeks. I found it through the world of instagram (the same way I’ve found many of my favorite current poets), and  the premise behind it is just so wonderful. There is one question per day that is different, but then there is a list of the same things to think about every day: daily intentions, what you’re thankful for, things to enjoy and accomplish for the day, and then a couple things to work on. I’ve been able to use it as a daily way to mentally check on myself- to see how my mood shifts from day to day, and to find common themes in my thinking.

One of the questions I really struggled with was how to know when you’ve really healed from something. I written about brain bruises before when tied into depression, which I think is still a great analogy for the reason why it’s so much easier to fall back into that place after thinking you’ve fully recovered.

Yesterday, I was watching one of my girly drama shows during some down time, and one of the characters compared the end of a relationship to a broken bone: it can take a long time to heal, and the pain does eventually go away, but there’s a certain ache that comes back when it rains. I love that because it’s so accurate. It’s so spot on, it’s almost scary.

I thought I was healed from my last heartbreak. I thought I had fully recovered. But that communication opened back up recently, and I allowed myself to become vulnerable again. However, that trust and vulnerability got shut down, and again, the pain was intense. It was a sharp stab that caused all the emotions from a year ago to come boiling to the surface again. Even writing about it now brings the hurt back again.

This is where I come back to the idea of healing. The pain was just as strong as last year. The tears fell just as hard. However, it didn’t last as long. I was able to gather my thoughts and emotions back together more quickly. I didn’t feel as obliterated. I think that’s where the evidence of healing can be found. It’s not the lack of feeling that pain or sadness anymore, it’s the ability to acknowledge the issue and still remain a fully-functioning being. It’s not placing blame anymore, just accepting that there was a major loss. It’s being able to realize that while you may or may not feel that strongly about someone again, the answer will never be found in turning off those emotions and refusing to care about the repercussions of your actions.

So yes, I’ve healed. But I’m still healing. Part of the beauty of the human experience is the constant healing from hurts that life hurls our way.

Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas - April 2015
Bluebonnets at Black Rock Park, Texas – April 2015

listening to: Animal Collective

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

Weakness or Strength

I’ve been starting a lot of posts lately without finishing them. One of the main themes I’ve been trying to figure out how to begin addressing again is depression. Mostly, my depression and how there can be periods of breakthrough, relief, and healing, but it isn’t something I believe I’ll completely be over.

I used to think that depression was something that made a person weak. I was so determined to appear strong, to appear like I had my life together, that I refused to accept that depression might be the cause of my panic attacks, sobbing at the slightest provocation, and the general emptiness I felt in life. This went on for years. It’s only after I finally faced the fact that I was living with depression did I realize that being willing to admit that and begin the journey toward a fulfilling life again was something that made a person strong. So strong. Stronger than anyone can realize without being in that same position.

I think the most frustrating thing about living with depression as a constant ghost is facing the fact that it can come back with a vengeance. This is where I’ve been the past few months. There have been glimmers of hope, moments of knowing that being in this depressive state isn’t a permanent curse. I am always so hard on myself. I expect so much more. I hold myself to the standard that I should only struggle with a certain issue once in life before growing and becoming better. But I’ve found myself retreating into my shell and feeling angry, worthless, and empty again.

I’ve caught myself thinking “You’re so much better than this. Stop being that weak excuse of a human. Stop wallowing. Stop being worthless. Stop.” The thoughts come much more often that I’m willing to count. I’ve viewed it as a weakness.

However, I’ve realized that this is an incredible double standard. Reflecting over conversations I’ve had with a couple close friends who truly understand the feeling of hopelessness that comes with true depression, I’ve marveled over how strong they are. How impressed I’ve been that they have felt the same way that I have, and continue to fight every day for the side of hope and healing. How extraordinary they are as humans. It’s made me wonder why I can see their bravery and strength, but only my shortcomings.

This fall into the pit of depression has been different than previous ones. I think it’s mostly been brought on by the fact that I am nowhere where I want to be in terms of my career, geographical location, or physical appearance. However, I’ve been trying to remind myself that I’ve made so much progress in the past few years. I’ve come so far. My depression doesn’t make me weak.

Living in spite of my depression makes me strong.

Frankfurt HBF, Frankfurt, Germany - September 2014
Frankfurt HBF, Frankfurt, Germany – September 2014

listening to: Florence + The Machine