3, 2, 1… #MeToo

I gave an interview a couple of days ago.

On camera.

Scared shitless and shaking, anxiety riding me like a cowboy strapped to an 8-second bull.

But I did it.

One of the local TV stations had posted to Facebook on Monday that they were looking for people willing to share their stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault, all in light of Alyssa Milano’s viral Twitter #metoo, where women and men could come forward about their experiences.

I messaged them about my story that night, and didn’t think much more about it.

Tuesday morning rolled around, & I received a message back, from a reporter at the studio, wanting to know if I’d be willing to talk, on camera about my experience, to possibly help others.

Before I could psyche myself out of it, I said yes.

It was awkward, and uncomfortable, being in front of the camera, and talking about it brought my anxiety back full force, & I’ve been having major issues with it ever since.

Especially since my mom caught just the tail end of the interview on the news…and texted me, wondering what it was for…

When I told her why I’d done it, all she said was “Got ya,” and immediately changed the subject.

Because to this day, we still don’t discuss it.

Another reason for my anxiety to flare.

I hate how I looked on camera, as though I was almost ready to burst into tears… I wasn’t, it was just my nerves were so taut, I was strung so tight I was surprised I didn’t make snapping noises when I walked.

But I did it.

I finally spoke publicly about my assault. 

And that counts for something.

#metoo

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You never write, You never call…

I haven’t written here for a while, I know. I could make excuses, I could apologize and squirm and fall to my internet knees…

But I won’t.

Yeah, I’ve had things to do. Yeah, I’ve been working on writing my book, which means I haven’t really had the urge to write here too. Yeah, blah, blah, blah…

Truth is? I haven’t really felt all that inspired to write here, either. I’ve been a little under the weather, & in a depression.

My head is kind of a dark place right now, & I haven’t really felt like sharing.

What I really want to do is curl up in the center of my bed, pull the covers up, & stay there for the next few days…but

There are bills to pay, & guess who earns the checks ’round here? 

So, every morning, instead of curling back into myself like I want to, I crawl out into the world & do what I have to to survive.

I ain’t got time for this, I got shit to do.

But, I so badly want to stay in the dark…

The Woman in the Mirror 

I’ve had self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember.

When I was very little, I had no worries. I was a total tomboy, who didn’t care what other people thought of me. I was happier dressed in clothes I could climb trees & get muddy in. And often did just those very things. I climbed up & down a cliff behind our house on a daily basis, snagging my hair on tree branches, and chewed my nails down to the quick, making my mom lament of me ever being a “girly girl”. 

She has often told stories about how she would wait until we were literally on our way out the door for church to get me in my dress, or I’d get something on it.
But, little girls grow up, and as they do, they eventually start to care about how others see them.

I was no different.

By the time I hit 6th grade, I cared about how I was perceived by my peers, as well as by adults. 

Alas, also by this time, we’d moved from Iowa, where I had friends, to a small town in North Dakota, where… not only did I know no one, but I was a complete outsider.

I was, and still am, a nerd. I read a lot, was good at school, & got good grades.  I wasn’t a troublemaker. I’m not good at sports (my nickname in volleyball was “jello-wrists”, no joke) except for horseback riding, and our small town lived for its sports. I wasn’t considered pretty enough to garner the “pretty new girl” attention, & I didn’t have the “right” last name. 

All of these things pretty much signed my social death warrant there.

In high school, at 5’7″, 125-130lbs, I was considered the “fat girl”.

I smiled here because I knew it was almost over. 

My saving grace through high school, was that my best friend had faith in me. She was a total extrovert, who moved to our town when we were in the 8th grade. She was good at sports, & was/is gorgeous & skinny. And she believed in my writing.

She sort of adopted me, & pulled me out of my shell, got me to leave our small town, & we went on adventures to other towns where we fit in much better, & made our own fun.

Even with that, I still stood in the shadows. I was always – “Oh, you’re S’s friend, right?” 

*sigh* yes, I’m her friend. 

I did make some friends of my own, separate from her, we did each gave our own groups that we’d hang out with, occasionally. And I did have boyfriends from those other towns that had no connection to her.

But I never felt as though I was enough.

Every relationship I’ve had has ended with me feeling as though I wasn’t enough for the other person. I always felt as though I was lacking, somehow, because of how things ended. Every. Single. One.

I’ve never really, truly, felt good enough.
And that includes my writing.

I’ve had certain friends tell me for years that I should write a book. That my words are worth more, that they have value.

I’ve always kind of just pooh-poohed the notion, telling them that I write my blog for me, to get the words out of my head.

After all, friends & family are supposed to say nice things to you, right? They’re supposed to back you up no matter what, right? Even if it’s trash?

Nephew… You live too far away to smack me on the back of the head right now, so sit back down.

I love you.

And I’m not done talking yet.

Because right now, I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.

I’m terrified – and exhilarated – and about ready to puke – all at the same time.

Because… I’m taking a leap of faith, & I’m going to try to build a pair of wings on my way down.

A little over a week ago, someone that I’ve admired & respected from a distance for a long time, but who has had zero idea that I existed, contacted me. 

We started talking, & in the course of becoming friends, I introduced this person to my blog. They liked my writing, & started telling me that I should write a book. 

I told them to talk to my Nephew, because it sounded like an echo.

My self-esteem still needs work – I know this.

I still look for acceptance & approval from others on my work, whether it’s my writing, my crafts, my remodeling I’m doing on my house. I’m never sure that what I’m doing is good enough, and I flounder in indecision about the choices I make unless I get feedback from people I trust.

I don’t know if it’s just a Gemini thing, or just a Jen thing… 

Even today, when I spoke to one of my coworkers about the possibility of me writing a book, she called me crazy. And I immediately started to doubt myself.

It’s easier to believe the bad stuff.

The woman in the mirror every morning looks at me with bleary, disbelieving eyes.

The woman in the mirror at night usually tells me it’ll be better tomorrow.

I’m hoping there’s a bad ass bitch hanging around somewhere in the background who’ll kick both their asses, smash the mirror, & yank me up by my collar one of these days.

Till then… I’ll be shoveling sand.

Race

My extra dose of anxiety meds this evening slides down my throat as my pulse races once again.

Panic waits nearby, always hovering, crackling on the edges of my nerves.

For the last few weeks…things have been, bad, in regards to my anxiety.

I’ve been trying to deal… and for the most part, have kept the panic attacks at bay for now. But it’s just a matter of time.

I know it’ll happen, just not when.

So, I prepare.

I use the exercise to wear myself out every night, pushing myself to exhaustion. 

It’s not just to keep the dreams away.

If I’m worn to a nub, there’s no adrenaline to push through my system…and no fuel for the panic to feed off of.

And this time…I know why my nerves are frayed.

The rejection from the last one started the spiral.

But – it was spiked by E. 

He refuses to leave me alone, even though I’ve told him I’m finished. That I’m moving on with my life without him. I told him that I was through being manipulated, used, left behind. And that he needed to leave me alone from here on out.

He’s refusing to hear me.

Multiple attempts to call, at least on two occasions, he tried to call me – and when I rejected his “private number” and “unknown caller” calls, he rang back immediately – 12 times each day.

I’ve blocked his number, email, texts, etc., but when you make your # “private”? It rings through anyway… It’s stalking. Harassment. Meant to intimidate and manipulate.

I refuse to answer.

But…it reminds me that he will not stop.

Not until he gets what he thinks he wants.

And that makes my anxiety shoot up.

It makes me want to – at the same time – run for the hills and hide… And face him down and smash his face, force him to leave me alone.

I’m so sick of people trying to tell me who they think I should be, what I should do, what I should think, or feel.

I know who I am.

I know my own feelings.

I know what’s right for me.

And I’ll be damned if I’ll ever fucking apologize for any of that, ever again. 

Yes, there’s more than one reason for that last statement, and no E isn’t the only reason. I’m not ready to go into the rest of it, just yet. 

I’m pissed off, anxious, depressed, lonely and fed up. All at the same time.

It’s not easy trying to deal with all of this, but I will. I talk to the Beloved Nephew, but he’s not here…he’s states away, so I ride this wave alone.  So I deal – On my own, because that’s just the way it works. I don’t ask for help until I’m bleeding out. 

You should know this by now.

Shadow #FamChallenge

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and High-Functioning Depression.

This has cast a large and looming Shadow over a good portion of my life, and it’s not something that a lot of people understand.

GAD isn’t just feeling anxious over stressful things in your life…it’s feeling stressed all the time about everything. It’s a sense of dread, of tight anticipation that something bad is coming, right around the corner, every second of every day. 

It’s illogical and it’s irrational. 

It’s a chemical imbalance that requires meds, balanced nutrition & exercise to mitigate & treat – but there is no “cure”. No magic pill, & no ultimate therapy that makes it go away forever.

And it’s not something you can “fix” by saying “Just don’t worry about it, it’ll all work out. Let it go, why don’t you?” 

I take my meds, & get along pretty well most of the time, anymore, as far as that’s concerned. I still have panic attacks every now and again, but they’re fewer and farther between now, since I started taking better control of my meds & managing my stress in other ways with music, exercise, reading, writing, & my other coping techniques.

My depression, on the other hand…

It’s a sneaky bastard.

High functioning depression is hard to spot in a lot of cases, because the people who live with it are just that good at hiding it.

Here are some of the warning signs that go along with HFD:

1.Difficulty experiencing joy: I know how this will probably sound…but…while I can be happy from time to time, laughing & smiling, going on about my day, I can’t remember the last time I Experienced Joy. True moments where I actually let go of myself and just relished in the joy of a moment? Nope, couldn’t say – it’s been that long. It’s always tinged with the dread of “knowing” that it’s not real.

2. Relentless criticality — of self and others: For me, this is moreso about being self-critical. I know that I do a lot of self a deprecating humor. This is not always healthy. 

3. Constant self-doubt: Yep. 

4. Diminished energy: Mass yep. I’m tired all the time. I try to push through it, because I have to…but there are days I – just crash.

5. Irritability or excessive anger: I try to keep this in check, but yes. I know this is there. There is a well of anger inside of me, that, sometimes, spills to the surface.

6. Small things feel like huge things: And they build up…

7. Feelings of guilt and worry over the past and the future: oh god, remembering things I did from years ago, overanalyzing conversations inside my head, rereading texts and emails to catch “hidden” meanings & subtext…

8. Relying on your coping strategies more and more: I constantly shift my strategies to try to find something that will work, because after a while…they stop working.

9. Generalized sadness: It doesn’t ever go away completely. Not ever.

10. Seeking perfection: In myself, not so much in others. I am my own worst critic in many ways, I know this. 

11. Inability to rest and slow down: My brain never stops. Even in my sleep, obviously, because I’ve been dealing with insomnia for years now. I can fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep, waking 3 and 4 times a night, often from nightmares. And “crash days” don’t seem to garner much in the way of recuperation, it’s more just getting to a point where I can cling by my fingernails again for the next few days.

If you met me for the first time on the street, you’d probably never guess these things about me. 

That’s the nature of High Functioning Depression. “High” being the operative word there, because I do get out of bed every day, go to work, make small talk, handle my life…for the most part…

The depression just sits in the shadow, patient, waiting…

Until I’m alone, usually on the weekends, or at night, when I’m really tired but can’t sleep. 

When my defenses are down.

GAD AND HFD are companions, they mesh well together, and can get so tangled up in each other that they often get misdiagnosed. And the stigma that goes with them is not fun, either.

My ex used to call people with mental disorders like GAD & Depression “weak-minded”.

There’s more than one reason why we’re divorced.

But it’not a weakness of the mind.

It’s a chemical imbalance. And in me, it’s a combination of chemical imbalances & past traumas that cause my issues. I take meds for the one. I work through the other.

Blogging is a help with that.

But the Shadow of GAD and HFD still holds steady over my head, & I know it’s something I’ll live with my whole life. 

As long as I have to sit in the Shadow… maybe I can start trying to think of it as Shade instead…

And at least welcome the fact that it keeps me out of the direct, and damaging UV rays that cause skin cancer?

Well, hell…it’s a theory…

The Road to Bitterness

I used to work for a very sad, lonely, bitter woman. You could almost taste anger in the air around you when she walked into the building, and the days were always longer and more difficult when she hung around the office. She didn’t come around a lot, thank goodness, as she had more than one business she ran, & preferred to spend most of her time at the other place.

While I worked for her, I knew some of her story…how she’d lost her husband to cancer the year I graduated high school, and that this was the reason she was so isolated from others. 

But, I could never really wrap my mind around how much his death had affected her, & how she’d let it change her so.

Not until this year’s changes in my own life started affecting me.

You see…

I finally figured out, that when M lost her husband, her whole life came to a screeching halt. 

Because she couldn’t bear to let it move forward. 

He was her everything. He was her balance, her other side to her life’s coin. She was the saver, the conservative, the grounded, down-to-earth realist…while he was the spender, the dreamer, the up-in-the-clouds risk-taker. He lifted her up from the doldrums, and she brought him back to reality.  They worked together, really, really well, but apart, they spun out of control in opposite directions.

And once he was gone…she ground to a halt. And resented that the world around her kept spinning.

She took it as a personal attack, a total offensive affront, that life didn’t just stop out of respect for his death.

As the years kept flowing past, she refused to acknowledge the truth, & held fast. Hoarding things, trying to fill the hole he left behind with stuff, even though it never worked, she kept at it, & still tries to this day, clinging to the past. Bitter & angry, isolated from the people who would’ve helped her move through her loss.

But she didn’t want to.

Without her Balance, she lost her Passion, her Reason to move forward with the rest of the world.

And so, she moved into Bitterness, and remains there to this day.

My story is different than hers, in that I haven’t lost my life-partner to death.

But, I have lost some of the same Balance…some of my Passion…and my Reason to move forward every day. 

My family, my children, have all scattered  into the winds to live their own lives. Natural, and expected, true, and I knew this day was coming. My caretaking days have always been numbered. Children are not meant to live with their parents for their whole lives.  They are, however, meant to grow up, become independent, move out, seek lives of their own, & leave their parents behind.

This, is right, and good, and natural.

However, this also means that I need to search for a new Balance. A new Passion. A new Reason to get out of bed, to move forward with the world…

Or I risk becoming like M…

I can feel the bitterness seeping into me, some days…

I can sense myself becoming short with others, isolating myself from the world, because I can’t bear to witness their happiness, as I sit outside it, alone, and chafed with the cold of that loneliness.

I’m not angry, yet, that they’re happy…truly, I’m not.

But I envy what I do not have, & I can envision a future where I could hate them for it…if I allowed myself to take that road.

This…

This – terrifies me. That I could become such a hateful thing. 

This is not who I am.

I am a woman who loves.

I am a woman who is a Caretaker.

It has always been one of the deepest purposes of my life. To help others. To take care of those I love.

And to contemplate the possibility that I could actually become so bitter towards others for simply being happy ?

I can’t let this happen.

This – is why I need to leave this place.

I need a fresh start.

All I have here anymore is my job.

And, even though I still love what I do…

It’s not enough.

It’s not enough to get me out of bed every morning, because my job is not my Passion.  It’s not my Balance. And it’s not my Reason.

It’s not enough to keep me from the Bitterness…

And that’s frightening.

This is why I’m making my plan. My one-year plan is to save enough money so that I can move. I will sell the house in which I currently live, & I am going to move to another part of the country for that fresh start. 

I know that it will be scary, starting over at my age. At 47, it’s not always easy to start afresh with the job market, but I have skills that I can take with me to, hopefully, help with that. I have worked in my market for 17 years, & have earned the respect of lenders & realtors alike for my work ethic & skills. And, if I have to start somewhere else at ground level, so be it. I’m humble enough to know that “dirt don’t hurt”.

I just have to get there…

And that means getting off the Road to Bitterness, and on to the Road of Acceptance.

I accept that this is where I am right now.

I accept that my life has changed.

And I accept that I will continue to change every day from here on out because I will it. 

I do NOT accept bitterness.

I do NOT accept stagnation.

I have to continue to free myself from the things which are holding me down, or my wings will never lift me off the ground.  

Fearless #FamChallenge

Beloved Nephew and I are doing a writing challenge for a little while, to get the creative forces moving. This is my first installment.

*******************†********************

I’ve found myself wishing lately that I could live my life fearlessly, as I used to be able to…

To not have to worry about things constantly, to feel the constriction of anxiety wrapping itself around my chest and throat.

To be able to simply get up and go when I want to, where I want to, without fretting about how I’m going to get there, is it going to be crowded and dangerous, will I get lost, what if something does happen, then what?

I used to be able to live like that.

I sit here, shaking my head and ruefully laughing under my breath, remembering how crazy it seems now…

On a whim, I would pack up my daughters, toss overnight bags in my car, and we would drive 12 hours to Iowa.

Yes, on a whim.

We would make pit stops at the various “scenic stops” along the way, play, take pictures, get out of the car for a few minutes, chase each other around like hooligans…then back into the car, and down the road we’d go.

We always stayed with family at the other end, even if it was on a couch, or in a sleeping bag on the floor, but it didn’t matter to me, or to the girls, we all loved the away time, & getting to see Gramma, the aunts, uncles & cousins.

Visiting, I called it.

Escaping…is a little more accurate.

Luckily, gas was much cheaper back then, & my girls were happy little travelers, loving our “road trips”.  They ate healthy food from relatives with as much gusto as the junk food from gas stations. And would help clean up any mess they made with our stay before we left again.

Irresponsible, some would call it.

Free-spirited, others would say.

Young…is the terminology I use.

But, I’m not so young, anymore.

Still… I live alone now… And my weekends belong to just me once again. 

Maybe I need to “plan” a Fearless Weekend… And get the Hell out of Dodge.

Get in my pickup, pack an overnight bag, and drive…somewhere…other than here.

Hmm…

*wanders off humming to self and grinning from ear to ear*