Sustaining Survival.

Growing up poor, you need two things in order to sustain your survival.  You need to have food and love.  You need to have food, in order to nourish your body and love, to nourish your soul.  If you have those two things, you are able to at least survive.  You may not flourish but you can survive.

When I was growing up, I was poor.  I am not talking “I didn’t have the latest Nikes” poor.  I mean, “waiting on my government cheese” poor.  I can’t say I always had the two elements of survival at the same time however.  It often seemed I would have one or the other.  There were many nights, the song of my stomach was my bedtime lullaby.  I often clung to the neighborhood parents for the love I was so desperate seeking.

I grew up knowing in the succession of the love my family had to hand out, I was the crust of bread.  Crust of bread…not that warm crusty bread Grandma just pulled from the oven…no, the stale Wonderbread kind that is just starting to mold that Mom tells you is fine if you “just pull off the crust.”  That’s where I fell in line.  I grew up knowing I was a mistake.  I was often told, “I could have….If I didn’t have you” or “I gave up….if I didn’t have you.”  I was too loud, too fat, too old, too, too, too…

So what happens when you grow up?  Well for me, my love became sacred.  I love those around me deeply it is often painful.  Their hurts are my hurts.  Their joys are my joys.  I love with every inch of who I am.  Yet, I never say I love you lightly.  When I do it is because you are a part of who I am.  If I tell someone I love them and they don’t tell me they love me back, right or wrong…my heart breaks.  No matter where I am in life, I am still just a poor broken girl.  Never loved back.

Advertisements

Down The Rabbit Hole

I crawled out of bed in my short robe with my hair tied up as my girlfriend sat in my bed watching me load laundry into a basket.  She was getting to see something I let very few people see (and it wasn’t just the cellulite on my butt that was poking out.)  I turned to look at her and said…”This is my depression…this is what it looks like.”  With that sentence, I waved my arm around my bedroom, motioning to the heaps of laundry and stacks of dvds just sitting…waiting for someone to take care of them.  She nodded her head.  After several years of friendship, I knew she wouldn’t judge me and it was safe safe to let her into that space.  You see…when I start falling down the rabbit hole, the whole world can think I am holding it together but behind the bedroom door a different story is told.

Depression and anxiety…when you say them together you think they could be wonder heros like Batman and Robin or something like that.  I find that most who deal with one of these conditions are a wonder…when you deal with both you’re a fucking hero.  I had anxiety growing up.  I think it was a result of some of the situations and conditions I had to deal with as a child and teenager.  I found as I aged it tended to get worse.  It wasn’t always an overwhelming worry but more of a cement truck that would randomly decide to stop and back up on my chest slowly crushing me with all of its force.  I would scream for help begging to be released from the crushing weight but it would only be in my head.  Sometimes, my heart would be beating so hard I wouldn’t know why nobody else could hear it.  Everyone would be asking me to do something and their worlds would whirl around and nothing would make sense…I would do everything I could to get everything done with a smile on my face but every ounce of me just knew I was failing…and letting everyone down…because…that.is.what.I.do.

….and DEPRESSION…I am a happy person.  My nickname is Sunshine for fuck’s sake.  I never had depression growing up.   I was the girl who made everyone happy.  I had jokes. I would just get sad every once in awhile.  It is normal to lock yourself in the bathroom so nobody sees you cry.  Nobody wants to see the happy girl cry.  Sunshine can’t have storms.  Every time I would go to the doctor and fill out the depression screening, I was “fine.”  The more fine I was on the outside side…the more my body was screaming to be saved on the inside.

And one day, like Alice I fell down the rabbit’s hole.  I was the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and Queen of Hearts rolled into one.  I learned quickly what it is like to feel like in a sea of darkness struggling to find any glimpse of light.  The only thing I’ve ever found I am really good at is being a Mom.  I’m not the fastest or smartest or prettiest girl.  I will never make a million dollars or be famous.  I am a good cook and can make you laugh but…I am a GREAT mom.  That being said my body is not built to have babies.  No matter how much I want them.  12 years ago today, at 1:14 pm my sweet daughter Elizabeth was born into Heaven.  My pregnancy tried to take both of our lives and the hospital thought mine was more important.  My placenta had ruptured and there was no way to save us both.

For the following 4 months, I was sad but there were no storms for this Sunshine.  Then one day it got dark…and that darkness stayed.  It stayed for a long time.  People didn’t notice because I still was happy and I still cracked jokes.  Inside I was dying.  This is when I learned what my depression looks like.  My depression looks like lack of self care.  I stop painting my nails…because really…who cares if my hands and feet look nice?  I mean, I like it but I feel like shit anyway and it’s just one more thing to do.  My pretty simple makeup routine goes to just mascara and lip gloss…to just lip gloss.  10 more minutes sleep.  If I don’t get my haircut, I can just wear a ponytail.  I stop doing laundry for myself…as long as I have yoga pants and some sweatshirts to hide in.

I went from being joyous and outgoing to just wanting to fade away.  The world still saw a happy me but inside I was dead.  People would ask how I was doing…or if they hadn’t seen me in a long time how my baby was and I would politely smile and say I was fine or tell them there had been complications.  Inside I felt like a rotting tree…shriveling with each question.  I was sure the decay from any question would be the one that would take me to the ground.

Life started to seep back into my roots though. I had some rebirth.  There was a Spring.  The time came when I began to feel things and I wasn’t begging for sleep to come.  However,  anxiety and depression have attached themselves to me like those 5 extra pounds we always say we are going to lose after Christmas.  We are going to live a long life together.  We struggle with each other.  We fight.  We cry.  We are the bitchy roommates who leave nasty notes about leaving the cap off of the toothpaste.  The month of May, I always really hate them.  Nevertheless, I know we are going to spend our lives together.

The thing I have learned is I don’t have to always let them win.  I can fight back.  I can try to do everything I can to keep control of my life.  Right now, I am doing that by finding joy in the little things.  I am getting some laundry done.  I’m making sure I get to the doctor’s for the things I need to.  Find happiness where you can…chat up your baristas, snap silly pictures, go for a drive, visit a waterfall…find peace wherever you can…AND BE OKAY WITH IT.

#NOFILTER

Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik…and the million other social medias outlets.  They give us a space to create the person we want to be…in some cases, they let us be the person we are without others knowing it is the person we are on the inside.  We are able to sharpen our wit, let out our tenderness, filter our pictures so we are the beautiful girl we want to be.  Strangers fall in love with the person they see online.  The filters make us beautiful and charming.  We say the right things because our inner fear isn’t imposed behind a keyboard.  Our history isn’t staring at us through the screen.

What happens when real life comes along?  What happens when a screen isn’t in front of you and you can’t hit delete when the words come out wrong…when you can’t apply a filter to soften the features you aren’t so fond of?  What happens when your #ANXIETY becomes real life anxiety?  Why is it those things are beautiful and intriguing online and #NOFILTER is something everyone wants to claim but when faced with it in reality it becomes the most terrifying thing ever?

My last year of teaching my professional goal was to learn how to filter what I was saying and be more professional in my demeanor.   I tend to have a soft spot for calling a bullshitter a bullshiter and pulling no punches.  I have found that doesn’t always work well in the business world.  Expecting things to be above the table and out in open or #NOFILTER are not “business tactics.”  People expect a softer more tip toe approach.  We say we want truth however I have learned we only want truth when truth is advantageous to us.  We don’t want truth when it is going to upset us, when it isn’t what we want to hear, it is going to hurt us or goes against our beliefs.  We want #PARTIALFILTER.  This is in everything…business, family, love, health…you name it.

We boast about our #NOFILTER when it comes to beauty.  We are told to be natural…but throw on that corset and clinch it tight.  You know what would look great with that?  Thigh highs and heels…don’t forget red lipstick.  You can’t just wear red lipstick…you need to have cat eyes. Now, let me take a picture, turn your face, let’s adjust the lighting, sit up straight, put your hand in front of your tummy roll…no, of course your stretch marks are sexy…they just don’t look right in this picture.  Everything is perfect in this picture.  You don’t need a filter.  Of course there is a little cellulite but we can airbrush it…there still #NOFILTER.  Do you have on your most natural smile?

Tell me about you…I want to know everything.  Tell me your favorite movie…what makes you smile…what do you want to do in 20 years?  Don’t cry.  I don’t want to hear about the times you had nowhere to live or those men that hurt you.  I don’t want to know the bad parts.  I don’t want to know about the parts of you that don’t sparkle.  I want to know why you are Sunshine.  Tell me what makes you Sunshine when you are built of storms.  I don’t want to see your#NOFILTER.

 

Batman, Spiderman, Captain America…All the best superheros wear a mask.  It seems as if I have a different mask for everything I have to do.  Does that make me a superhero or just not able to show the world what is behind the masks.  It seems as most often one mask is on top of another in order to give the world what it really needs.

When my masks start coming off, my charisma becomes less, I get vulnerable and it seems as if that isn’t who the world really wants to see.  They want the persona that I have created in order to keep “the girl under the mask safe.”  The irony with masks is that the superheros don’t wear them to keep themselves safe…They don’t need anyone to protect them…they wear masks to keep you safe.  If you knew who they were underneath, it might cause you to take a look at your own fragility.

The thing about a superhero, is even with all of their strength and ability to hold everyone’s shit together when everyone is falling apart, they wear their mask so they can fall apart with nobody seeing.  Their mask is for your safety.  When you can’t see their vulnerability…YOU feel strong.  Everyone likes what they see until there is no more masks.

That Circled Red Date

How do you celebrate days that hurt?  We are told holidays are supposed to be joyous and time for celebration.  We are given days on a calendar that we are supposed to circle with a red marker and automatically be happy and look forward to.  We look at each other and say, “Happy (insert holiday here.”  The magical Happy Memory Fairy sprinkles their glittery shit around and everyone giggles and happy dances and good moments are made.  That’s what happens…right?

Except, this is the real world and not some Rom-Com.  In the real world, real people see that red marker and around those holidays and feel pain and anxiety.  The memories aren’t always good.  They remember the loss that came around that holiday and the people who won’t be there to celebrate it or maybe the ones who weren’t ever there. Every “Happy ________” comes with a fake smile and some suppressed tears as the knife in the heart twists one more time.

Mother’s Day…Hell, the whole fucking month of May is shitty in my eyes.  I hate it.  I hate every damn day of May.  It doesn’t matter how hard I try to find good things, I have an overwhelming depression that just takes over.  I don’t even realize it is happening.  Spring was my favorite season…once upon a time.  Once upon a time before I knew how much my heart could hurt.  Spring always signified newness.  The Earth was being reborn.  Flowers were growing.  The buds on the trees showed me we once again could come alive after being dormant after what seemed like forever.  Yet, now without my knowledge it is almost like the darkest storms of Spring take over my heart with no promise of the tomorrow it truly offers.

When I was little and you would ask me what I wanted to be, my answer would always be “a mom.”  I wanted to be a mom.  More than anything I wanted babies.  I wanted 4.  A big brother, two girls and a little brother.  I wanted to be the best mom in the world.  I would love those babies more than anything.  Even though I was the most “developed” of my friends (and sisters) I got my period after them.  Then it was weird.  I found out I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and it was going to be hard to have kids but I didn’t care.  I was having them.  Lots and Lots of babies!  I had my son MJ when I was 20.  He was a miracle birth to say the least and left me highly damaged but the second I saw him.  I knew I was right.  I was born to be a mom.  From that moment on, my life became about being a just his mom.  Until this very breath, he is my heart and soul.

We were told kids after MJ weren’t likely but I wasn’t giving up.  One year turned into two years turned into three and my hopes started to diminish.  By the time MJ was five I was resolved that he was going to be an only child from us but we had talked greatly about adoption.  I had been sick for sometime only to find out I was pregnant.  Nothing could describe my surprise or my elation.  I went back to the if you want something bad enough…in time, you’ll get it.  My pregnancy was horrible.  My whole pregnancy with Elizabeth, I felt overprotective of her.  My heart knew I would never bring her home from the hospital.  My heart knew her big brother would never kiss her face.  My heart knew she was never really mine.  Yet, I loved her fiercely and deeply.

May 25th, 2005, I woke up in the morning after the worst sleep.  I have never experienced pain like I was.  My heart and soul knew this was the day.  I had been bleeding for weeks and even though the doctor’s said it was okay, I knew it wasn’t.  I sat on my living room floor crying.  I begged God not to take my baby.  I begged please let me keep her.  MJ sat in my lap, I will never forget him asking me, “Mama, why can’t we keep my sister?  Am I a bad brother?”  I drove my husband and myself to the hospital (I have control problems.)  I was in surgery right away.  My placenta had ruptured.  There was no way to save my sweet girl.  It was too late.  I was never able to hold my girl.  Never able hold her hands, kiss her cheeks or tell her I love her.  Saving me was more important to the doctors.  I don’t know if they know in that they are slowly killing me.

So Mother’s Day hurts my soul.  12 years ago, I was the happiest Mother on Earth with a beautiful son carrying my daughter just waiting to love her Earthbound body.  This Mother’s Day.  I grieve.  I grieve for my son who wants nothing more than to be a big brother.  I grieve for the tears I keep hidden until everyone sleeps.  I grieve for the toxic mother I have walked away from.  I grieve for the empty arms I have.  I grieve for the mothers who have lost, who can’t, who long…This Mother’s Day…I grieve for the red marker.

The Dirty Laundry Is Talking…

“You are the strongest woman I have ever met!”  I don’t know how you do it!”  “I could never handle all of that!”  These are things I have heard many times.  I don’t say this in ANY sort of bragging manner.  Often times when I hear things like this my insides cringe.  I want to scream back something like, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?!?” People see how you handle things from the outside and their perception is skewed…at best.  I will give people that.  On the outside, I can make it look like I have my shit together.  The whole house could be burning down and I will make sure your eggs aren’t over poached before I save all the valuables, call the fire department, get the kids out, grab Great Grandma’s afghan, reapply my favorite MAC lipstick and put the dogs on their leashes and head out of the door all while not breaking a sweat.  Inside, my head is swirling and I am a shit show every minute of everyday.

Shit Show.png

Currently, it is 3:17 am.  I can’t sleep so I got up to do some laundry.  As I was getting putting my dirty laundry in I was replaying some of the conversations I have been having lately (if you have any form of anxiety…you know that’s what you do.) All the sudden, my dirty laundry spoke to me…seriously, it was funky.  Mostly because it was my 17 year old son’s.  No really. My dirty laundry aired my dirty laundry.  I have been saying the same things to people lately.  “I’m sorry you met me right now.”  “I’m sorry you (re)came into my life right now.”  “This isn’t the person I normally am.”

I was talking to my cousin about this and he said, “What like a person who has been beat to shit by life for the last several years and needs some support?”  Those words rang deep to me.  I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ASK OR ACCEPT HELP.  I don’t know how to show my fear on the outside.  I’ve realized suddenly, my inner chaos that I deal with on the inside, people are seeing and I am embarrassed.  People are seeing what I see.  They are seeing that girl I have been ashamed of all of my life.  I’ve needed to say outloud that I am scared.  I am scared that I might need someone to help me carry all the burdens.  I may not be able to quite the chaos this time by myself.  Typing these words are making me cry.  My fingers are hardly able to move.  This might be the most terrifying thing I have ever written.

Not letting anyone see what I am feeling on the inside has become a HUGE coping mechanism for me.  When nobody can see the chaos they are less likely to leave the mess.  Everybody leaves when they think I’m Superwoman…who is going to stay  when they see what the inside looks like?

Chaos

A Trail of Hearts

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She loved with all of her heart. For her heart was big.  People would come and they would tell her she was sweet or she was funny.  Sometimes, they would tell her she was cute.  So she would break of a piece of that giant heart for she knew hers was extra big and made for sharing.  The people would gladly take the pieces.  Yet, the people would always leave…sometimes very slowly and sometimes they would scuttle off in a jif.  In return, they would leave a piece of their pain for the little girl to absorb where she had given her heart.  As the girl aged, she came to expect nothing more than the pain in return for that is what she had been conditioned to.  However, she had heard whispers of a great healer called “Forgiveness”and it is on a search for the great healer she went on a journey.

My life has been a scattered array of people in and out.  People telling me they would never leave and certainly never hurt me yet it often seems that I end up with a lump in my throat asking where everyone is.  I’ve come to a place where I have learned to shelter myself from letting anyone really get to close as a matter of self preservation.  I can’t let my heart scar if you can’t get to it with a knife.  However, I’m questioning if I am really able to experience any kind of life at all that way.  Instead, I am trying to teach myself to learn how to forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t easy.  People think forgiveness and forgetting have to coincide in one bundle.  I’ve found so rarely that they do.  What I am finding is the the hardest part to forgiveness is allowing myself to feel the emotions that hurt me in the first place and actually dealing with the moments instead of just leaving them lay dead.  I can’t forgive someone if I don’t deal with the shit that’s there.  Fear, pain, rejection…things I don’t deal with well.  Usually, when I need to forgive someone, they have inflicted one of things on me.  That means I need to deal with it.  I can’t ignore it anymore.  Those emotions and pains are going to come out.  It is going to be real and it is going to be raw.

The more I age, I try not to put myself in any situation where those things are going to happen.  Almost all of my life I have dealt with rejection.  I’ve known I was never really wanted.  That being said, I try to never put myself in a position where that is the case.  I try to only be in positions where I have the upper hand so letting myself be vulnerable is one of the most scary things I can do.  I choose not to let my guard down that way I can’t get hurt…Is that the best way to life my life though?  Closed off and not allowing myself to feel?  What am I missing in the meantime?

Recently, I had to deal with death of one of the people who was sexually agressive to me as a child.  It was sort of a numbing experience.  A friend of mine told me it was really okay for me to hate him and I responded that I didn’t hate him.  I had no good feelings toward him and no good memories when he was in my life but not hate.  I felt really sorry for him.  I know of others that he sexually assaulted.  I feel sad for them.  I wish I could have protected them.  Although I was a child, I feel like I was responsible.  I pray it didn’t continue.  I love his family and I feel sad for them because they knew he was sick too.  I haven’t been able to forgive him or myself.  Yet, I don’t hate him.  I’m relieved he isn’t here though to hurt anyone else.  I wish for no one else to deal with these memories.

Is there a way to forgive without dealing with the memories and the pain or is that like painting with a brush?  Sometimes, the journey is so long and exhausting I wonder if it is even worth it but I can’t just keep breaking off pieces of my heart for everyone who comes along…there isn’t too much left.