I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve. Except when it comes to my blog. I’ve hardly worn my blog on my sleeve. Or is it, I’ve hardly worn my heart on my blog? Either way, compared to who I really am, this blog has been a tame pussy cat. Especially of late.
I was bullied for it while growing up. I was bullied for it while grown up. I didn’t always have a name for it, but that’s what it was; bullying. By those closest to me. My best friends, and over the years I had many, in and out of my life, telling me how awful people thought I was. That nobody liked me. Boys would rather kill themselves than ever go out with me. That everything I said and did was annoying. It would be easy to blame them, to make a victim of myself, but I let people talk to me that way just as much as they thought they could do it and get away with it.
Boys didn’t stick around. The same thing that likely drew them to me in the first place was the same thing which likely drew them away. People want you to be yourself, but not too much of yourself.
I suffer from depression, although I don’t let it define me anymore. I may not always feel it, sometimes not for months at a time, but it still does linger, an invisible army waiting in their Trojan horse to unleash fire and brimstone before I even have a chance to say, ‘Look at the pretty pony!’
Instead of understanding, people often move away. In my formative years I was told I was overly sensitive, by teachers, by friends, and genuinely believed the hurtful words the people I trusted said. I remember the day in 7th grade when the most popular girl in school called me ‘A little worm’ when I asked to borrow her pencil in front of the class. That lingered for a long time.
It would be easy for you to say, ‘Just get over it!’, but it doesn’t always work that way. Wouldn’t life be grand if it always worked that way? If we could all always ‘Just get over it!’
When I was 18 I started going to therapy, against my will, mind you. The therapist nodded off to sleep while I was talking. She did, however, leave me with one useful piece of information: “Therapy won’t work until you want to be here.” I’ve never forgotten that. You should never forget that.
About 8 years ago, just as I was graduating from college, my ‘sensitivity’ got to the point that it could no longer be ignored. I was ‘ready to be there.’ I sought help, and found out there was, in fact, something wrong with me, but not in the way I had grown up believing. It was chemical. It made sense. They put me on pills. They didn’t actually talk to me about what brought me there in the first place. I became a zombie.
No more heart on my sleeve. Just a catatonic’s dribble.
It took a number of years for me to wake up. I went away for a week and ran out of pills. The ensuing withdrawal I experienced from missing two days made me realize just how intense and detrimental this stuff really was. I wanted to come off them, but most people I saw preferred the approach of writing prescriptions over doing the work. It’s like you’re bleeding to death and someone says, ‘Here’s a band aid.’ It wasn’t easy to find someone to take me seriously, but everything changed when I finally did. It’s amazing what someone willing to listen to you can do.
I did the dirty work. The slogging back in time to the root of my issues. The challenge of recognizing the triggers to stop the invisible army in its place. I came off the medication. I lost the 20 pounds I had gained from being on the medication. I was who I was meant to be. Heart firmly back on sleeve.
I lost a lot of friends, a lot of loves, a lot of time from hating myself. I pushed away a lot of friends, a lot of loves, a lot of time from pitying myself.
The thing about the invisible army is that it is resilient. No matter how resilient you think you are, it’s always there lurking in the shadows with another round of ammo.
I’ve worked extremely hard over the years to keep the invisible army at bay. Let me emphasize that: incredibly hard. I know my triggers, and I know what to do when I feel an invasion looming. I’ve learned how to care for myself, eating the right foods and doing the right moves that keep me peaceful most of the time. I let the emotions flow through me when I feel them flying south, instead of trying to force them back into the sunshine before they’re ready. It’s been 5 years since I was on any medication, and every day I work my butt off to make sure I never have to welcome those demons into my temple again. I can not emphasize enough that it takes work; although doctors will tell you this pretty little pill here will make your problems go away, there is truly no such thing as a quick fix.
But I still don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. Not really.
In a social media world of ‘Be Authentic!’ which really reads more like ‘Be Authentic! But only if it’s positive!’, and ‘No Bad Vibes!’, I’ve been so afraid to be who I really am, to let my freak flag fly, so to speak. You see, the trouble with being ‘too sensitive’ (but really depressed), especially when it’s literally a lifelong reality, is that the lies others told you become the lies you tell yourself. And no matter how much of that inner good work you might do, they still like to hang around in your head, as though there were some comfy sofa with free Netflix up there, except the only movies they want to watch are the replays of your personal horror films.
The funny thing is, by trying to keep my heart in my pocket, I’m in a sense no better off than when I was taking pills. The days I feel most alive are the days I let it out. The posts I share on social media which feel the most authentic are the ones where my heart is front and center, not the ones about green juice (although those serve their purpose as well). I’ve been so afraid of losing friends that, ironically, I’ve made very few in recent years. So painfully aware that people may not want to be around me if I get too serious, if I don’t give them the shiny happy version of myself at all times.
I don’t even believe these lies anymore, but they’ve become a reflex. A sort of sick comfort zone. An excuse. Last night, just when I thought I was flying high and feeling strong, the invisible army directed a blow straight to the jugular. It waited for the exact moment when I least expected an attack, and made its move. My everlasting Achilles’ heal.
As the axes were swung, and grenades went off in my brain, I was conscious of how needless this battle was. ‘I don’t even share your views anymore, commander!’ I thought. But like a pedestrian watching a car wreck, I just sat there and observed. And then I woke up.
What’s the point of living if you can’t be yourself, if you can’t live wholeheartedly, whatever that means for you? Just because the invisible army strikes less frequently doesn’t mean I’m living in prosperity and peace the rest of my days. I want to help people to live their most impassioned life possible, but how can I do that if I don’t walk my own talk every single day? ‘Some of the time’ simply isn’t enough. I’ve got so much to give – you’ve got so much to give – and it’s time to stop making excuses and falling back on the lies. Something has been lost along the way, but I’m starting to get my groove back.
There is a project I’ve been working on, but have kept letting my own baggage get in the way. Always tripping over my own suitcase. But I think I am now realizing that the key to ‘success’ will be in being truly authentic in spite of what people expect; in spite of the fact that it hasn’t always worked out for me the way I wanted it to. I think of the Dr. Seuss quote, ‘Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’
I wanted to write this for anyone who needs to know that it gets better (pardon the cliché), and that being yourself is ALWAYS enough. I know what it is to feel so low you can’t possibly imagine going forward, and then feel so high you can’t possibly imagine going back down. I know what it is to feel so numb that you can barely breathe, and then to feel so deeply that every fibre of your being is more alive than the aurora borealis. What I am trying to say is life won’t always be happy, but it won’t always be sad. We always have a choice in what we tell ourselves. We always have a choice to be ourselves, or not. Sometimes the invisible army thinks they’ve got the stronghold over you, but you choose how long the battle lasts. And remember, things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows right after a war. There’s still smoke coming up from the ground, and foundations destroyed, and wounded warriors bloodied along the field. But you decide when the fighting stops, and you decide when the rebuilding begins. It’s hard work, and not for the lazy or the faint of heart, but neither is living in a propaganda filled warzone.
You’ll be seeing a lot more of these types of pieces on here, perhaps not always so intense, but perhaps so. I know the stories in my head won’t just disappear, and they may always be there to some extent. But to keep living in fear is not the way forward. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone. To keep my heart hidden will do me no good. As Jack London once said, in one of my most favorite quotes of all time, “I’d rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.’ Amen.