I’ll be posting a lot this month, as I plan on continuing to write my “normal” posts, while also writing extra posts focused on #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth. (Is it proper form to use hashtags in blogs? I still have SO much to learn!)
Anyway – on with the show.
I grew up, like a lot of people, feeling disconnected and like I didn’t belong. I had a way of living and feeling deeply that didn’t seem to match “normal”, especially normal for my family. I was too sensitive and too emotional. I felt things SO deeply and completely that life hurt, a lot of the time. My happy was SO happy that it annoyed the people around me and my sad SO sad that people had to laugh because I made them uncomfortable.
So I learned to hide a lot of my feelings, at least until they burst out of me without my permission. Hiding those feelings was a lot of effort though, and required a facade that took a lot of energy to maintain. I became an introvert pretending to be an extrovert.
It cost me so much to pretend to be what I thought was “normal”, that I needed to be alone a lot of the time, just so I wouldn’t be exhausted from all of that pretending. Being around people cost me SO much. I also had a lot of personal and mental health issues, and really didn’t believe I mattered or was worth much.
So I spent hours each day, alone in my room, reading. Reading to escape. Reading to live in a world where people were more like me. Often, reading books much too mature for my age, like Stephen King novels when I was in 4th and 5th and 6th grade. By middle and high school, I had moved on to Romance Novels.
OH, I loved romance novels, especially if they were set in Scotland. I didn’t really like the sex parts. I usually skimmed over those pretty quickly – they made me VERY uncomfortable. The rest though, the adventure, the “no NOT you…wait, YES, it IS you”, the life and death drama and ultimate, epic, “happily ever afters”. THAT was what life was really about, right?
The Epic Romance
I read those stories for the deep, heart wrenching connection that the characters would have as a reward after their struggles. The people in those books seemed to feel as deeply as I did. They were full of strong, rebellious women and epic, masculine men who felt deep emotions beneath their cool, gruff exteriors. I fantasized about these epic love stories, and decided that I didn’t want anything less than THAT. That epic love story that spans time and space. DESTINY.
When I met the man that matched those stories, I married him. I had found someone who also wanted that epic love story. That felt deeply, underneath his cool, gruff exterior. That made me the center of his universe. We both believed we had found our “happily ever after”, and we lived in that fantasy for many, many years.
With him, I finally mattered, I was finally “worth it”. All of my deep feelings were not only OK, but part of what he loved about me. I felt seen, and loved, and appreciated…cherished, even.
The problem was that I placed all of my value on how he felt about me. HE made me worth something, HE made me matter, made me important. Finally I was enough. I had my epic love story that spanned time and space. My soul mate. He was my “one and only”, and I was his.
So, Maybe Not “Happily Ever After” After All
I was his one and only…until I wasn’t. He discovered recently that I am not, in fact, the only thing he needs in life to make him happy. In fact, he has been unhappy for a long, long time, in part because he kept trying to deny what he wanted and needed in his life in order to maintain the fantasy we had created together. He didn’t even realize he was doing it – he just knew he was deeply unhappy and couldn’t figure out why.
He had the love of his life, what more could he need? He had everything he had told himself would fulfill his life and make him happy. Finally, after 20+ years of marriage, he has finally allowed himself to accept who he is and what he needs – even though it means we have to let go of our fantasy.
While he is still figuring this stuff out for himself, it has become abundantly clear to me that he may need many…not a “one and only”. Regardless of what he eventually learns about himself, his happiness lies AWAY from me for a while. Maybe forever, maybe not – I cannot tell the future.
The present, however, is breaking me open. My heart is rent and my guts are all over the floor. I feel deeply, and I always have…so I feel this pain DEEPLY. My “mean brain” (i.e. my brain when it is acting through depression) is using this to prove all of its worst fears to me.
My brain is saying, “See, I told you! This is PROOF, I was right all along: I am not enough, not worth fighting for, NOT an epic love story that spans time and space.”
My mind wants to accept the premise that clearly I’m poison – I chase everyone away. He is happier and healthier now than he has ever been, and he had to leave me to find that happiness and that health. So clearly, the math adds up – I am toxic and to be avoided at all costs.
Sometimes, I Feel As If I Won’t Survive It
When my brain is being mean, I’m not sure I’ll make it. Yet, there is a quiet voice inside, waiting patiently for me to get through the pain. That voice has started whispering about writing my OWN epic love story. Not with some fictional man that will MAKE me matter and make me important, but with myself.
Last night, I lay in bed allowing my brain to prove to me all of the worst things I believed about myself, my whole life. I knew I could divert that thinking – I have the tools – yet I chose not to because I felt like I deserved to feel that bad. Depression and mixed up thinking go hand in hand. Sometimes, no matter how logical one part of my mind can be, another part of me simply disagrees, and refuses to allow me to help myself.
Eventually, Though, I Came Back To Myself
After stewing in the toxic soup my brain was serving up for a while, things finally became silent. In the aftermath of my emotional storm, the quiet voice inside me asked me if I was worth ME fighting for me. If I was enough for ME. If I had an epic love for myself. My sad and pathetic answer was “No”.
That really hit me hard. Why the hell not!?! No one else in all of human existence knows me as well as I know myself. No one else can possibly LOVE me as much as I can love myself. It is no one’s job to make me feel important, to make me feel that I matter, to make me “enough”. The only living being to whom I should matter to “more than life itself”…is ME.
So I am setting out to write my own epic love story…with myself. No more looking to others to make me feel as if I matter. No more judging my worth and importance on the judgment of someone who is NOT me. In fact, I’ve spent so much time in my 50+ years on this planet trying to be what someone else wants me to be, that I’m not even sure I know myself. I certainly haven’t celebrated or fought for myself, especially not in any kind of “epic” way.
I Do Matter, I Am Enough…In Fact, I’m Pretty Fucking Awesome
I get out of people’s way at the grocery store because I feel like they have more of a right to that space than I do. Why? They are bones and muscle and organs and fat, just as I am. They feel things and do things and eat things and have to poop…just like I do. What makes them matter more than me TO ME??? Why does that stranger’s place in the world hold more value for me than my own???
Well, NO MORE my friends. This is the beginning of MY love story. I choose ME. I will be my own hero. I will fight for me and show me my worth. I will matter to ME, and I will value my own existence. If I don’t like how I’m being, I will change until I DO like it…for me. I will be what I want me to be, not morph into what someone else wants or needs me to be.
Losing the “love of my life” is arguably the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and I feel things deeply.
How deeply I feel things is just one of many things I love about myself. You know what else makes me a great match for me? I’m funny – I mean, I really GET me and my sense of humor! I’m smart, and thoughtful…and I like ALL of the same movies that I like!!!
I have a good brain, even as it ages and changes. I care deeply about people, and animals, and plants, and the earth. Did I mention trees? I really, really love trees. And squirrels running up and around trees.
I believe strongly in justice, and the truth. I try to be honest without being cruel. I genuinely want the best for others, especially the people that I love…even if what is best for them might mean that I have to feel some pain for a while. I am compassionate and understanding, and people can talk to me about their problems and know that they are accepted and loved for who they are.
I also get snarky and annoyed and sometimes judgmental in a kind of “people can be SO stupid” way that is usually directed at someone not holding their child’s hand as they cross the street or stuff like that. Lots of things pull that part of me out of me, but I’m kinda funny when I’m like that…and I actually like that part of me, too.
I am a human being falling in love with myself for the first time. I hope. I mean, on paper, I seem like the perfect match for myself, right?
Also…why does it feel so weird to write “out loud” about the things we like about ourselves?? Please put some stuff that YOU like about YOU in the comments – don’t leave me hanging out here all alone!
I would love to see you through your own loving eyes.