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

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

Moving On

It’s almost time for my birthday again. Last year, I wrote a post chock full of lessons I believed that I had learned. I mean, I had learned them to a short degree, but as with all things, lessons don’t ever end when you think they will.

It’s been a strange year. For the past several years, each year seems to present an entirely new set of issues or changes that are greater than the last. This year was no exception. I moved back from Germany, encountered my most severe heartbreak, moved back in with my parents, and met most of my biological family…and those were just the big moments of the year. So many little experiences have been scattered in between the big ones that there’s no way to keep track of them all.

If there’s been one major theme or lesson from the past year, it’s been “move on and learn what you and you alone want from life”. I took a huge leap moving to another country during year twenty-four, but it was an experience I had always wanted for myself. Moving back to the town I went to high school in, a town that I never had a single desire to live in ever again, was another huge leap, but it was almost more of a desperate flailing into something because I had no other option at the time. I have no hesitation in saying that it’s been a rough year (my parents will probably be first to agree). I’ve lived at home and had to rely on other to drive me around because I’m carless for the first time in my life.

I realize this probably sounds like a entire post of complaints, but I’m coming around to the other side soon, promise. Because of the difficulties, I’ve again been reminded how resilient I can be if necessary. I’ve been inspired more than ever to dig deep and make something of myself. I think there’s something to be said for hitting rock bottom, looking around, and getting smacked in the face with reality. This life, this empty existence in Tyler, TX with so many people who are content to live the day to day life with no direction in life, is not what I want. I want so much more than that. I want to live an exciting life filled with stories of experiences that actually mean something to the development of a person.

In regards to that severe heartbreak mentioned before: I’m so thankful that it happened. It’s funny…this exact time last year, I was down to single-digit days counting down to my trip to Alaska. I spent twelve days with a guy that I’ve known for most of my life (had a crush on for several years) and who I had spent the previous five months skyping with almost every single day. There was love there. He got me, understood the pain of being in an abusive relationship, and was just so good. However, I don’t think either one of us were healed from those abuses, and instead clung to each other as a salve and distraction instead of really dealing with the pain. For me, it was insecurities. For him, distrust. It ended abruptly, and I spiraled downward for quite some time.

That was eight months ago. Since then, as cheesy as it is, I’ve really been able to focus on who I am and what I want without having to think of another person. I love that kind of solitude. I love making decisions that are selfish. I get such a guilty conscience when making decisions if they involve someone else because I’m always so afraid that I’m not doing what they want. Being able to make plans solely for myself is such a foreign concept to me, but it’s incredible.

Meeting my birth family came at the perfect time. A time where I’m already focusing on getting to know myself. I feel like it was just so appropriate getting to see the family that I could have grown up with and seeing who I could have been in a different life. Honestly, it wasn’t all that different from the person I’ve started to become now, which was a great encouragement. The thoughts in my head, the desire in my heart..they make up who I am and aren’t just products of my surroundings. The contrast between the two families in my life couldn’t be more opposite. I’m going toward what I want despite of what I am immersed in.

So what’s next? I’ve got a week of being twenty-five left. A week where I’m solidly in my mid-twenties, where I’ve only lived a quarter of a century. I’m not sure what the next year will hold yet. I know an outline of what I want to happen: I want to feel more in control of my life, more put together. I want to finally create a foundation that I can build a solid life off of. Traveling and living overseas is still the final goal, but getting there is going to take more work that I’ve previously wanted to admit.

Cheers to twenty-five: the year that forced me to work hard.

Schooner Zodiac in in Bellingham, Washington - June 2015
Schooner Zodiac in in Bellingham, Washington – June 2015

listening to: eastmountainsouth

Love and Writing

One of my favorite quotes lately is one that I discovered reading Donald Miller’s newest book, Scary Close: “Being afraid to love and being paralyzed at the keyboard both involve a fear of being known, a fear of making mistakes, a fear of being found lacking.”

I’ve been working through this idea of writing a collection of short stories based on some character descriptions I did a couple months ago. However, as I delve deeper and deeper into these different story threads, the harder I find it to continue. The paragraphs I originally did were all based on people I know and have come to love, but I’ve been wanting to take those characters and fictionalize them a bit more to create more interesting narratives. However, their stories are already interesting. The struggles and the triumphs that I’ve seen them go through are incredible, so I’ve found myself writing much more truth than fiction.

I’m an observer. Even if I can’t claim to be talented at much else, I know that I’m good at reading the emotions in a room and understanding the back stories that shape people. That’s partially why I’ve come to love writing so much…because I can use that skill. However, in stories, not everybody can have a favorable role. There has to be conflict, there has to be struggle, there have to be antagonists. And this is where I’ve hit a wall. I want to write as exposed and vulnerable as possible, but the people that will read these stories first are the ones who inspired the characters, and it worries me to think about the fact that some of them might not appreciate the path I want to take those characters down.

Most of all, sometimes I fear that writing a character that is inspired by some of my life experiences might paint a too-real picture of myself, and the people who really understand how to read between the lines might decide I’m too much, too complicated, and filled with too many issues to really invest time in anymore.

It seems like I’ve been struggling with this thought process more this week than I have in some time. Wednesday night, it hit a boiling point. It was one of those moments that I actually verbalized the reasons behind why I don’t think I’ll ever find someone who can actually stick with me through all the bad, why I absolutely do not want to have children, and basically just word-vomited all of my insecurities out to two people (one being a complete stranger, and the other being a person who I used to exhaust myself wanting to impress). The more that I’ve reflected over those hours of excruciating emotional pain, the more I’ve realized that it’s not as much of an issue of trusting somebody else to love me, but it’s the worry that I’ve lost the ability to wholeheartedly care for someone the way that I want to. The worry that there will always be fears to hold me back, and the idea that I could cause someone even a fraction of the pain that shoots through my heart and soul.

The more I read the quote at the beginning of this post, the more it resonates with me. It is a fear of being known. It is a fear of making mistakes. It is a fear of not measuring up. It’s a debilitating fear.

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

listening to: eastmountainsouth