I used to have anxiety about my anxiety. My mind would just keep going in circles thinking about my life. Why didn’t I do that? Why am I doing this? Did I make the best choice? I was working, talking to people, being social and moving forward but my mind was elsewhere. I felt like it was trying to make sense of things so it could get me to a destination but I had no idea where it was going. Should I follow my thoughts to a destination unknown? Or should I drown those thoughts out with distractions and alcohol? I choose the latter. I remember the first time I went to a night club when I had my fake ID. I felt like I had entered nirvana. The music, the dancing, the drinking, the complete letting go of everything and just being in the moment. The attentive gaze of beautiful boys and having the power over them to say yes or no. This was a drug to me. I was someone magical and worry free even if it was just for a night. This was my escape. My upbringing had been a mixture of abuse and overwhelming adoration from my mother. Sometimes she would treat me like I didn’t exist and that I was plotting against her, other times she would lavish me with attention and say that I was capable of anything I set my mind to. I tried to remember the good things she said as I made my way into the world. But my mind would spin in circles when I was alone trying to sort through the mixed messages. I wanted to be someone better, less complicated, less damaged, and more beautiful. The night club became the place where I could be this person, but the next day would always come of course, and the morning light would reveal the truth. I was just me, with a whole lot of pain to sift through and make sense of. Other girls my age looked clean and confident and would talk about their love for their families. I would listen in quiet jealousy as they smiled serenely and moved forward with grace. I felt awkward, dirty and confused as I fumbled through my life, just waiting for those moments when I could escape and get away from myself. I was always drawn to the imperfect, the raw, the gritty and lopsided things in life. These things I could relate to, and find my place in. If something was too perfect or too calm it would increase my anxiety as I compared it to my volatile emotions and my spinning thoughts in my head. There was no peace. There was no relaxing. There was no plan or direction. At the end of the day I would write in my journal all the things that didn’t make sense to me, which was a lot, and I would promise to do better the next day and then pass out from sheer exhaustion. About 4 years ago, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown if I had to keep the thoughts in my head at bay for another day. I had to express these thoughts, these emotions, my truth that I had held inside for my whole life. I had built my life around a fantasy, a fantasy I created so that no one knew how alone I really was. But my fantasy became my nightmare. I was breaking, and I had 2 choices. I could go further into the fantasy and use more potent distractions or I could come clean and stop lying to myself and everyone else. I decided to come clean. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t. When I first starting telling people about my truth, it was like I wasn’t saying it out loud. People looked right through me, like I didn’t say anything. I would repeat it, “I was sexually abused as a child, and tormented by my mother and I had to find my own way or be destroyed’. Nothing. People would change the subject, look away, pat me on the back and move on. This is not the reaction I had expected. I thought people would hug me, and cry and feel sorry for me. No, that didn’t happen. What was I doing wrong? Was I actually saying the words? Did they understand me? Even my therapist looked right through me. ‘You seem so normal’, she would say as she smiled in confusion, almost in disbelief of what I was telling her. What she didn’t realize is that looking normal was a lot of work, and it was destroying me. I would walk out of her office and feel even more confused and alone. I realized it was up to me. It was all up to me, once again. I had found the strength to leave my family and start a new life and did it by hiding my past. Now it was up to me to honor the person that I was. The person who held it all in so she could fit in to society. So she could hold down a job, make friends, and have boyfriends. I was not a bad person, I was just trying to survive. I never let anyone get too close, in case they found out my truth. No one, including me , wanted to see what I considered to be the dark side of me. But that side was always there, and finally I had so stop running from it. I had to stop being split into 2 people, I had to integrate my past into my current life. I had to fuse the 2 parts of me together in major surgery, and the surgery had to be done with no anesthesia. I had to feel every bit of pain, I had to cry every tear, I had to experience my past through the eyes of that person in me that I was running from. I had to stop all of my distractions including drinking alcohol. So one day after many failed attempts I did it. I stopped cold. I just stopped drinking and trying to distract myself. It didn’t feel good. I was a lump of flesh, I was a tired old woman, I was a bag of bones with nothing inside. I felt nothing. I wanted nothing. I was nothing. I had to go back there to rebuild. Being in that place was excruciatingly painful. But I stayed. And stayed. Until slowly I started coming alive. And when I did I felt like I was seeing the world for the first time. I started noticing how beautiful the trees were, how miraculous young children were in play, how the sand at the beach felt under my feet, and how much good there was in the world. When I was hiding, I was sarcastic, critical, and selfish. But in coming out of hiding, I started to feel grateful and appreciate the quiet things. I slowly realized that the only person who really had to listen and care about me, was me. I was looking to others to do this for me. I was looking to others to appreciate me and show me my value. But I had to find my value by myself. I had to appreciate the young woman who set out on her own so that she could be emotionally free of a toxic situation. And however she did it was ok, as long as she did it. I had to stop judging her so harshly and thinking that she could have done better. She did what she needed to do to save me. She had spirit, she had determination, she was smart and resourceful. It took me so long to see that and appreciate and love her. And I would have never seen it if I didn’t stop running from her. I am her. I am my past. There is no distraction that can take that away. Even today I feel the pull of wanting to run, but now I take that feeling as a sign that I need to slow down and honor where I have been. Honor myself. Believe in myself. Other people are not always going to love or believe in me. But I have come to realize that nothing is as hurtful as me not loving and believing in myself.
My husband and I moved to Portland Oregon over 20 years ago with our 3 month old daughter. We were living in San Francisco and both working full time, but after we had our baby we wanted a different lifestyle. We had often talked about moving out of the fast pace lifestyle of the Bay […]
I feel like when I write I use one side of me, and when I create art I use the other. They are in many ways opposing sides. When I am drawing I could be in the middle of a construction site and the noise wouldn’t bother me. When I am writing I need complete […]