Writing for My Life

I’ve spoken with you, dear reader, before about my work with those who are actively suicidal and struggle with self-harm of various forms. I’ve spoken about my one battle with self-mutilation. This post is concerning my bout with self-hatred. Low self-esteem can rear its ugly head in a majority of teens across our world, but for many, it’s so pervasive that a person is abusive towards themselves on a soul level.

I can remember filling multiple college-ruled pages with a single written phrase: “I hate you”. What prompted this? Various things: mistakes, getting yelled at, being rejected by a friend, loneliness. Ruminating this type of inner dialogue caused a death-like atmosphere in my heart. Like I had scorched an entire landscape of fresh, fertile soil with a persistent fire. I felt no good thing deserved to take root in me. I told myself that no good thing could take root in me.

I was a believer in Jesus Christ here. I was a leader among younger teens. I prayed for others to feel the love of God. But inside, I was dead. Aware and in agreement that God’s Love brought life, yet I was still lifeless.

When I arrived at college, I’d been writing for about 6 years. I carried around notebooks full of my words; clutched to my chest. Unbeknownst to me, I was carrying around pages full of seeds. Potential. I had even taken on a pseudonym for my writing role: “I.Am.Spoken.Word.” It was the name I used to identify my desires as a writer. While hiding behind a computer screen, I’d slowly become accustomed to others reading my poetry from the comfort of their dorm rooms. Inside, however, there was disconnect still evident in my heart.

It wasn’t until I started performing/reading that I felt life stir inside. After getting a few on campus open mics under my belt (shout out to my husband for the much needed push), I built a reputation. One particular friend of mine would see me on campus and would declare (without fail) LOUDLY “Speak Life!!!!!”. This went on throughout my entire undergraduate career.

Now, I can look back on this process, and see that where I once used words to speak death and ill will over myself, I now take words to call out life. My words carry the potential to spring up newness where there is stagnation and barrenness. I’m drawn to writing for those who feel cast out, counted out, and broken. Not as the one who provides a silver lining, but the one who can encourage, uplift, and call out our most ingrained sense of resiliency and vulnerability.

I write for my life because I have been given life.

Advertisements

Let Me Explain…

I don’t want to get into the habit of speaking vaguely about what’s going on in life. I feel it’s in poor taste to flood my social media with my problems, but here…this is truly my domain. Plus, I’m working on finding the balance between full disclosure and full responsibility for my words. I want to be a speaker of life and not just a venter of life. On a more exciting, but related, note I’ve figured out the topic of my next book, and I will definitely need this balance. (Trust me. You’ll see.)

So.

In the past 4 months, things have not only been confusing…but also disappointing.

— went from two working vehicles to no working vehicles

— went from sleeping normally to getting 1-3 hours a night (and not because of my kids)

— went from having an opportunity to fulfill a dream to teach on the collegiate level to not being able to

— seeing the possibility of only having to work 1 job, but now still needing to keep up with 2 jobs (technically 3)

— went from having a secure place to stay to being told we had to move in 2-3 months

— on the continual pursuit of my LPC credential to being stuck in residency because I cannot afford to register for/take the exam

— being convinced of the possibility to be homeowners, only to have that opportunity removed

I know these things aren’t as dire as sickness or homelessness, but these things all happened within the same 3 month span. My head is still spinning. I am absolutely fine most days, but then I have a brief relapse of disappointment, anger, and sadness. I trust that things will work out, because they always do and I have been in much worse circumstances.

But, this post is simply to explain that I am actively working on things beneath the surface. I laugh and encourage. Seek to be loving and inspirational. But this post is to explain that a lot of what I write comes from a place that does not have everything figured out. And many times I will write or post something encouraging because I am in need of convincing myself. I know there is life in words and I believe that I am just as much a recipient as anyone else.

I cry, curse,  and doubt like anyone else.

And oh, this past season has had much of these things.

I don’t really have a silver lining today, only to ask that you, reader, will join me in the “continuing on” part. Continue on with me and make a decision today to not stay postured in the hard stuff.

Anxiety Manifested

I still remember getting my first pimple. It was on the right side of my forehead; large, painful, and it left a scar behind. The whole experience was traumatizing.

I had barely begun unpacking the concept of a self-image when this tiny protuberance manifested itself on to my face. And despite how normal I saw it was to be in middle school and have acne, it made me want to hide in a shell that I’d only emerged from 2 seconds earlier.  I was already naturally self-conscious, being a teen, but somehow I felt that my apprehension was more severe. I always wanted to hide myself and being around my peers made my chest literally hurt.

I was labeled as “shy”, but no one knew the chaos that was going on inside my head. It was odd, I wasn’t severely bullied; rather often ignored. But I knew that since I wasn’t particularly known for being pretty, or funny, or really smart, or talented in sports or cosmetics, that I’d better not speak up to draw ANY sort of attention. Because the roast that would ensue would be unparalleled. I felt trapped by the looming possibility that I would indefinitely embarrass myself, so I trapped myself in the social purgatory that I dwelled in until about 11th grade.

That sort of anxiety never let up, and the energy I collected needed to be funneled somewhere. So, I took to self-mutilation. No, I didn’t cut or burn myself. Rather, I picked at my acne profusely. It gave me relief when I scarred myself in this way. I used to wear my bangs/hair in my face to cover the scabs on my forehead, and I remember my mom scolding me whenever she caught me in the act.

Eventually, by the time I started sophomore year of college, the scars on my cheeks and forehead were slowly starting to fade.1923330_520938837788_8251_n

Fast forward 10-11 years. My fight with anxiety has led to many victories and set-backs. But the battles became tougher & scarier. It wasn’t my social life/self-esteem that I was fighting over, but now I fought to trust God with the lives of my children, my finances, and my marriage. The stakes are much higher now. Sometimes I am victorious! But I have not won them all.

IMG_7390

I took this photo today.

I got a little “smarter” regarding how I allowed my fight with anxiety to manifest itself. Instead of picking at my forehead and face, it’s shifted to underneath my chin. These scars are older, I am happy to report, but I recently disclosed to a client of mine that the fight doesn’t just go away because you undergo treatment for a mental illness/condition.

You become more armed to engage in the fight. And you aren’t as afraid to share your scars. I see these marks every time I look into the mirror, but rather than feeling ashamed, I feel empowered.

Empowered to continue to fight and to be victorious.

…And It’s Okay

If we’re going to use the technical definition, I haven’t been popular at any point of my life. I have just the right amount of social awkwardness & introversion that I’m forever stuck in the outskirts of every social group I’ve ever been in. Moments that I have the spotlight snatched by the throat are brief. I think I prefer it that way….

But spending lots of time on the outer circle gives you plenty of time to think and observe. I’ve been considering the following:

1. Social Insecurity isn’t just a struggle among teenagers.

We all remember what it was like spending every waking moment thinking about how to climb the social ladder as a teen. At least I did. We all had this inner longing to be accepted, but settled for a sense of belonging. It may come down to semantics, because they do hinge on one another.

Sadly, many of us realized that belonging comes at an unjust price. It’s a familiar ghost that often follows us into adulthood. Even for the most secure of us. We are faced with the occasional decision of whether we are going to be ourselves or fit in.

2. Pettiness stops being funny/admirable when you hit 30.

I remember when I stopped laughing hard at my “petty friends”. Granted, the #thanksgivingclapbacks are pretty brilliant.

3. The older you get, the harder it is to maintain relationships like you did in college.

I remember talking to my friends in between classes everyday. Going out every Friday and Saturday. Sitting with each other at church services. The only things usually standing between me and my social life were massive papers and part-time jobs. Now…I not only have a husband and two kids, but (technically) 3 jobs, a nonprofit, and a host of monthly volunteer opportunities. Life has never been this busy. I would love to keep up the same level of social life as before, but I’m confused that I will still get “You prioritize what you care about” shade. Sometimes I end up falling asleep before I can text my friends back, if I can be honest. My closest friends either 1)Are just as busy and/or 2)Understand that I’m busy and love me anyway.

4. I have some pretty driven, dynamic, gifted friends.

Okay, this one is more of bragging moment rather than a mere observation. If you simply followed my friends on their social media, you’d see that I’m connected with undiscovered artists, dancers, writers, musicians, orators, entrepreneurs, helpers, philanthropists, and dynamic personalities. Having them in my life and witnessing their visions to change the world unfold gives me hope.

I’m super okay with being on the outskirts because of the view I have.

Three Reasons Why I’m Not [Yet] a Great Writer

Three reasons why I am not yet a great writer:

One.

Because I am not honest.

I would like to use obscenities sometimes, but I choose not to because I am a Christian. It’s not that I would like to be vulgar; I simply feel that there are times when expletives are necessary…

…like when it took me almost three hours to put my son to sleep. While tiptoeing out of his room, I step on a squeeky toy that I’d begged my daughter 12 times to pick up earlier, which wakes my son up.

or

..like when I put my last $15 into my gas tank, hurry into my car to get to work, and it does not start.

I would think a “shit”, at the very least, is applicable here.

But I would rather be proper than be honest.

Two.

I am afraid.

Of being too….something… Too black. Too feminist. Too religious. Too typical. Too universal. Too tolerant. Too much.

Or even not enough of these things.

I’m afraid that it only took 18 years to write myself into a permanent circle; with no more depth or height in my words. Only monotony. Around and around.

Passing by the same street corners; going down the same avenues that I’ve always gone and never daring to venture down scenic routes.

I know for certain that there are undiscovered dark corners on the outskirts of my pages, but I am afraid of finding if there are other worlds there or simply a cliff. I am afraid of losing myself. And I’m afraid of finding myself.

And three.

This one is more insidious than the other two combined: I care too much about what you will think once I’ve said my peace. I’ll show a tiny bit of bravery here and talk about my book that I released this summer…

I’ve sold 10 copies total. And it took 5 months to sell 10 copies. 1 of them was purchased by me (which I eventually gave away) and another copy my mother bought. I’m afraid I care too much about this. Even now, you are reading these words and may feel pity for me. It’s not my intention, but I see there may be something meaningful, but hidden, lodged in between this book and my next one. And I wish to reveal and pry it loose. At this point, I feel that my words just may be currently unimpactful, at the end of the day. Good, in theory, and even welcomed, but lacking what’s necessary to draw a reader’s eye and appetite.

It is these reasons, among others, why I feel like I’m not yet a great writer.

Trekking Through Madness.

“I have traveled through madness to find me.” – Danny Alexander

 

I’ve spent countless moments giving off a bit of my light, but mainly in secret. My biggest nightmare has never been to give a public speech or being the center of attention. (Although those things are terrifying…) I’m most afraid of being perceived as faking it. Being disingenuous. That I’d be characterized as a phony.

Someone would assume that the things I truly love, the passions and beliefs I carry, I may not be as passionate about as I claim. Or that my abilities and skills probably won’t match what others perceived. It’s funny because the price I’m paying for coming out of hiding; for being me out in the open, is that now I’m looking over my shoulder. Aware that others are, in fact, watching. And they are constantly drawing conclusions about what they see or don’t see. It makes me paranoid, honestly.

I know that the right answer is to not give a single care about what others think. But you must understand something about me: I care. And I cannot help it.

One of the struggles attached with being a self-declared empath (google that one) is that I’m aware of others without trying to be. I can feel variations of others comfort levels, hear depths within the inflections of someone’s voice, feel tension the second I walk into a room. While navigating through this, I often gather that what I’m picking up is directed at me. Ha. Insecurity is poison for an empath.

Beyond wanting to be liked (which is what we all want if we’re honest), I desire to be helpful. Effective. I want people to leave my presence with more good things than they came with. I understand it’s not all on me, or about me, and I often do not have the power to make things happen 100% of the time. But I’m aware that a tiny bit of my own madness can find a way to attach itself to others…..if I’m not careful.

So…

cover_2

I just self-published my first collection of poetry. It took me much longer than I’d like to admit, but I did it. Something concrete that I created is public. Open to be consumed and critiqued. Interpreted.

I hope people are inspired. I hope people understand me more. I hope to help others put their books out. I hope this is just the beginning.

I feel clean. Like I’ve made a lengthy confession about my first 31 years. Now that this is done, I can move on, and write more honestly. Clearer. Some of the poems in this book represent a trek from mindsets that I don’t even hold anymore. Battle wounds that are simply scars.

Wow.

It’s done.

If you’re interested, find the book here:

For James