Cupcakes, Castaways and Conundrums

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I make jokes about being an old lady because I read the news so much.When we tuned our TV, I got excited at the prospect of watching news reports (even though they’re biased). I scan Facebook news for ideas then go off in search of the actual articles. It’s become both a frustration and a fascination.

I came across this article (which you can read here) about a 16 year old girl who set herself on fire in order to stop herself from further being raped by ISIL. TW: rape. I could hardly make it through this article myself. It is not something I recommend for casual readers.

And while I read it (because I can’t fight my battles if I live in ignorance) I didn’t struggle to understand the girl. I remember there was a class a few semesters ago where we had to read The Joys of Motherhood and the main character attempted suicide (I’m working on an article about suicide-it’s coming soon) because her child died. The woman later fought with a fellow wife about the way she was living. The second wife left the household and became a prostitute so that her daughter would have a better life than she did. Anyway, long story short, I had to “argue” a class full of people who were quick to judge the second wife.

I sat there, red faced and somewhat surprised at myself as I defended her choice to be a prostitute. “She’s doing what she thinks is best”, I said, “I can’t think of a single parent who wouldn’t whatever it took to ensure that their child’s needs were completely met. She knew that her daughter wouldn’t get an education if she stayed, and she wasn’t making enough money pawning wares so she decided that her life would be spent making the most out of the only thing she had to her name: herself. You don’t have to agree with her choices, you just have to understand that she chose unselfishly for the love of her daughter.”

The class looked at me like a was an alien-and trust me, I almost felt like one. My face was red because I was passionate-not because I was embarrassed. And something similar happened when I was reading about this poor girl (and there are others in the article). I certainly felt upset-how could you not? But I wasn’t upset at the girl’s choice. There is one sentence I’d like to highlight-just in case the article is too much for readers.

“So she doused herself in gasoline and lit a match, knowing that if she survived that the militants would no longer find her desirable.”

I look back at the posts I made on Facebook years ago (thanks to the timeline feature) and shake my head sometimes. I was raised in the church, according to the idea that because of the fact that I was born a woman I was to remain silent and completely ashamed of my body-because it was a source of sin just because it was biologically female. Now obviously not all churches are like that, and my parents are much more awesome than that line of thinking. But to have my identity wrapped up in a religious doctrine that shamed me for existing gave me a worldview that was very close minded and very enslaving.

I used to be very pro-life, for example, because a human being is a human being. I used to be under the understanding that I was influenced by the devil for dating other girls. I used to think that there was something wrong with me because I hated myself.

And then I woke up.

I no longer believe that modesty is something that happens because a woman shouldn’t be seen or heard. I believe that modesty is a choice-and empowerment isn’t linked to it.

I no longer believe that one person can force another into decisions without their consent-because each person should have the right to do to their body what they want-and that means having sex, not having sex, tattoos or no, piercings or no, abortions or no. I believe that it’s not my place to take control of someone else’s body-that’s metaphorical and psychological assault-and that’s NEVER okay.

I no longer believe that there’s anything wrong with love, as long as all involved are there because of the same reasons and have respect for the other people-and consent is a vital part of that. Gender isn’t. I believe that love is love-and if you’re lucky enough to find someone you love and who loves you back, you can change the world.

I no longer believe that there’s anything innately wrong with anyone. It is the choices we make that make us who we are-not the choices of our ancestors or progeny. And we were not born as mistakes because of our sexes, our abilities (or disabilities), our skin colors, our orientations, our differences. I believe that life is precious-and that most DEFINITELY includes people who are different than I am, because we are all different, but we are all human.

You don’t have to agree with someone’s decisions. You don’t even have to like them. But before you judge them, you need to understand why they were made in the first place.

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I Get It.

I woke up this morning and had one of those moments where you examine things really quickly (almost like a recap for a television show) and come away more informed. It was definitely not something I do often, or even planned, but the thing that came out of it is a nugget of truth I will carry with me.

People want to speak and be heard-not just listened to.

I reflected on the various interactions I have and am privy to seeing/ hearing. I mean, I can tell you that one of the things which makes me upset the quickest is being asked a question to which the answer isn’t going to be paid attention. It’ll happen subtly at first and then all of a sudden the questions are robotic and I understand that I’ve been ignored. That’s what I mean by hearing vs. listening. I can listen  to music-but until I understand the lyrics, the deeper meaning, I’m not actually hearing it. Active listening, I’ve heard it called.

People want to be heard and believed.

Here’s another little piece which plays off of the first truth. We all have that one thing we wish we could tell other people without fear of judgment (or worse). Maybe it’s something like you ate the last donut. Maybe it’s more like you have a mental health condition. Maybe you were the victim of a crime. Or maybe you just feel too stressed, too hurt, too tired to carry on. No one speaks up about their story because they don’t feel like anyone will believe them. And it very rarely matters what exactly their story is-it’s that they don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with their audience.

Do you know why?

Think with me, if you will, about a child who won’t eat what is on their plate. Do you know a pretty typical response form the parent? “There are starving kids in Africa who would love to have what you don’t want. You’re being wasteful.” And the thing is, it is that mindset that carries into adult life. We trivialize the suffering and experiences of others for the sake of making it seem “not that bad”.  Struggling with depression? “You just need to pick yourself up-it could always be worse.” Struggling with trauma? “You’re exaggerating. It’s not like you were X.”

Can you blame anyone for not speaking up? How many of us have felt more than a little dejected because someone just didn’t get it?

I talked about feeling the need to keep talking, but the thing is, I think what I needed to know more than just “keep making a statement” was that I feel it so strongly because these fundamental needs aren’t being met.

When I talk about my troubles, my passions, my thoughts, I am frequently met by vacant stares and “Mmm.” Or head bobs. I want to speak and see change in people’s hearts and minds. I don’t want to know about how lucky I am-because I already know. I don’t want to hear about how I’m overzealous or over-emotional or “in excess” in someway. You are trivializing my experiences.

So what do we do?

We change.

We hear.

We believe.

We accept.

We love.

Bi-Squared

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Look at all those labels. And all for just one person. Each one a reminder of my place, of the fact that I belong in a category. Each one fitting me neatly, each one coming with a list of things that are expected of me. Some require more than others, some come with some extra baggage that doesn’t quite meet my personal hopes. (I’m looking at you, little “millennial” label!)

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Uh-oh. It’s like trying to put a star in the circle hole. It’s “okay” if you’re one or the other, but be a part of too many minorities and suddenly it can feel like everyone has an issue with your existence.

I’ve “been” bipolar for the better part of a decade. The same, I suppose, could be said for being bisexual. I like to think I’m more of a sapiosexual, someone attracted to intelligence, but I love anyone who loves me-irrespective of gender. I got married comparatively young (I was 21) and up popped the naysayers. “If you were really bisexual, you wouldn’t have married hetero. You’d have married a woman.” and “You probably just said you were bisexual for attention. You’re either straight or gay. No in-between.”

That’s pretty close to the same thing people said to me when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I got the usual “cry for attention” argument, the “making it up” comments and the “you need to just get over it” statements. It begins to feel pretty oppressive if you add both of those together, like no one wants to look at you like a complex person but a complex problem.

Looking back at my dating history, I realized that a lot of the reasons I sabotaged my relationships had more to do with the way my disorder made me than it did who I was, or who I was with. I would start a relationship with someone in a manic state and the world would come crashing down as I slipped into depression. Each relationship came with the hope that whoever I was with-regardless of gender-would be able to help me when I couldn’t help myself. I married my husband because he was the one person who looked at me and saw more than a list of symptoms and problems. He saw me as a person worthy of love and respect. It didn’t matter what category I placed myself in (or how many), but that I chose to love him for him, and not for reasons my disorder placed at the top of the list.

No matter how I (or anyone, for that matter) choose to live my life, I will always be met with criticisms. Choosing to go “off meds”, back to counseling, not have kids, and more have all come with a slew of questions that came with good intentions, but were ultimately incredibly condescending and a little rude. As someone used to it by now, I just shrug it off with a respectful attempt to educate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything heartfelt to say about it!

I watch the way the world seems to come at people who are different with fear and contempt. Being bipolar is hard for a plethora of reasons, but I’ve never felt scared of the way other people would view me. Being bisexual isn’t hard (unless you make it that way), but it’s definitely easy to feel judged or inferior with things like religious freedom laws and anti-LGBT protests. Being bi-squared (what I call myself for being both bi-polar and bi-sexual), puts me in an awkwardly precarious place because a lot of people just assume that I’m messed up in the head, so my orientation is just the product of my brain being defective.

The thing is, I’m a human being-the same as you. And I wasn’t meant to fit neatly into a category, or even several of them. I’m pretty sure the only way to live life to the fullest is to just be myself-the messy, zany, passionate me that means I may fit into some categories neatly, some not so much and some not at all. Most of all though, I get to pick those categories for myself, same as you. When we learn to respect those choices, and even value someone for having the ability to choose, that’s what makes the metaphorical world go round.

Unconventional Letter

Dear Michelle,

Thank you.

Thank you for never giving up. And I know there were times you thought you had to, that there was no other choice. I remember all those nights spent alone, crying in the bathroom, hoping to end your pain with a razor blade. I remember the long days spent not eating, drinking only a cup of coffee in the morning because you felt like you might fall asleep in the middle of calculus if not, then rushing home to see if you’d lost more weight. I remember all of this, but most of all I remember how even though there were times you wanted to, you didn’t choose to die and instead, you chose to live.

Thank you for learning to open up again. After you graduated from high school, you tried to close yourself off, masking your feelings with words like “exhausted”, “the flu” and “allergies”. You kept everyone at arm’s length until you couldn’t take it anymore and you decided to make friends. I know that was hard for you, but I promise it’s paid off.  You’re about to find out that you actually love coffee dates with friends and trying new things.

Thank you for going off meds-even at the disapproval of your then boyfriend. He didn’t know you, you didn’t stay with him, and you really had to choose your own life for your own reasons. I know at that point, you didn’t even understand fully your diagnosis. I’m so proud of you for making your own way. I know in the future you’ll contemplate going back on medicine, and it’ll be hard, but if you don’t want to do something, don’t let the fear of consequences force you to make a decision.

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Thank you for walking away from the poisonous relationships you tried so hard to save. You thought that if you just tried harder, loved more deeply, that you could fix them. But they weren’t the ones who needed fixing, and abusive relationships aren’t worth your time. Or effort. I’m so sorry you had to learn that the hard way. But you got past it with some ice cream and art. That was the first time you thought that you might be okay with being alone instead of being with someone who told you that you were always to blame, and that everything he did was to show you that you deserved no one better. You may have been brokenhearted, and it felt like your whole world was dying, but you left. You’re so brave.

Speaking of bravery, there will come a time in your life that you’ll wake up and be paralyzed with the fear of driving. We’ll work through it, and it will be hard for a long time, but please don’t give up. Living in the past, living with the memories of what “could have” happened is only going to hurt us in the long run. Yeah, this is one of those corny “hello, younger me” letters that we swore we’d never write, but I have so many things to thank you for.

Thanks for taking a chance and going out with that boy from high school that you thought was “too short”. You’ll drive each other crazy, but you have a strong marriage, and a lot of really hilarious dating stories that will get you through any disagreements you might have. You even got a dog (he acts more like a cat, and you’ll learn to love him). That boy will learn how to understand your moods, and even help you get through them.

Thank you for working so hard during your mood swings. No one requests to have bipolar disorder, but you’ve done remarkable things with it. You laid the foundation for such great things to happen for your future. But don’t think for a minute that it’s shameful to change your major when you get to college. It’s gonna drive you mad and you’ll feel so completely used up, but you’ll see that the greatest thing is going to happen once you walk through all the open doors. You’ll continue to struggle with food, but honestly, you’re going to love yourself more at the heaviest weight than you ever did when you struggled with your eating disorders. Just don’t go too far in the other direction, okay? Eating too much is bad too. Food isn’t a drug, it’s not meant to protect you from life.

I know that you know life is hard. But thanks for going back into counseling. In hindsight, you probably didn’t have to hide it, because you’re about to become exceptionally vocal about mental health and women’s rights. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t defective, and you most definitely aren’t finished. We have so much work ahead of us, and it’s all thanks to you.

You stuck it out when the world grew dark, when our mind waged wars against us and our heart got so heavy it might burst. You fought each and every day for life to be better, waiting for the day it all meant something. You kept going, even when everything screamed at you to just stop. I know my battles, our battles, don’t end with this little note. We have a whole life to live yet! And I know I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now. Thank you, baby girl. Thank you with my whole heart.

You got this, Shells. You don’t need anybody else’s approval, just go for it. You’re about to take your first step in an amazing adventure and you’ll be so surprised where it leads you. I know I am.

The sun will rise again, and so will you.

All my love,

M.

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

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Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

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I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.

Bullseye

I woke up this morning and could just smell the injustices of the world. You know, it just hung like smog around the earth. And I knew I had to do something about it. What did I want to do? Blog? Eventually. Protest? Protest what? Spend my money where my alliances lign up? Yes indeedy. I decided I was gonna don the robe of justice and bring my voice to the masses.

I went to Target today. I’ve been there, but never bought anything from the store before. I “dressed up for justice”.. I did my hair, my makeup, put on my nicest clothes, grabbed my “power” heels, my husband and my wallet and drove to the store. Did I need anything from Target? Not necessarily. But what I needed was to make sure that I supported a business who supports equality.

Now I must add some comments about my attire, because the choices were very deliberate. I decided I was gonna rock the body I so seldom ply truly love. I was proud of the way I looked. What you may not be able to see are the three rings I am wearing. One is my engagement ring/wedding band combo. That one is very obvious as to why I should wear it (and he’s the one who took the first photo). One is a moonstone, which represents femininity and one is just a piece of costume jewelry that I love and use only on special occasions-with this being a holiday and all, I thought it was a good enough reason. On one of my wrists I am wearing a blue and pink bracelet and the other I am wearing a rainbow one. Obviously the rainbow one is for gay support, but the other one is for bisexuality support. I have many friends who are L/G and I belong to the “bi” category. I chose a black and white striped dress because a white and black flag is the one used by straight allies. As I have said, I do not fit in the “straight” category, but I am an ally and I’m not transgender or transsexual, so I thought it was fitting. And grey leggings because grey is the color for asexuallity, which brings us almost completely to all the letters of LGBTQIA. And the heels? Those are my “I’m gonna sue you” heels. My eyes have teal eyeliner, because that is the color for sexual assault awareness. All in all, this is my first day of dressing up for what I believe in, and it marks the start of my career in human rights.

I needed to know what it felt like to look business professional for something I truly believe in, because that is going to be the rest of my life. I’m adding pictures as proof that I actually went there-and bought stuff, because words are just words, you know?

 
The model looks like she’s resting on my head. And I’m pretty impressed with the amount of frizz that is absent from my hair!


There’s the frizz! In the mirror! But ultimately, I took this picture in the bathroom aisle because that’s what this is all about (and I really didn’t have to pee). I’m really pretty pleased with my selfie game here. Classy.

You know, I posted a status on my Facebook page about how I was going to go to Target today and if that offended anybody, they should unfriend me. I’m a big girl, it won’t hurt my feelings to lose “friends” whom I do not agree with on issues of human rights. It honestly should not come as a surprise that I support bathroom equality. Because it’s all about human equality. I do not identify as transgender nor do Iidentify as a transsexual. But I identify as a human being. And the thing is, statistically speaking, trans people are the ones getting attacked and sexually assaulted, not doing the attacking. And you know what else? If parents were worried about their kids being in situations which might be dangerous, why aren’t the parents going to the facilities with their children? My parents did up until I was old enough to know that I could use the restroom without help, and with the understanding that if something happened, I’d scream like murder (I’d say I was about 8, maybe 10).

The thing is, people are afraid of what they don’t understand. And that’s not how we should live. This blog is my stance. So to all you Chrsitians and Catholics who say that you love like Jesus did and then immediately cry for the persecution of transgender and transsexual individuals, you are the problem. Jesus didn’t only love the people just like him. He just loved. The end. No qualifiers, no categories. And you’re doing Christianity wrong if you love any other way but unconditionally. And you know what, that goes for all religions, including having no religion at all. If you’re for equality, for safety, for love, for humanity, for the future, for living to the fullest and you are anti this topic, you’re not living your life to the fullest capacity. You are, in fact, holding everyone else back. I know, I’m a radical millennial (I was born in 1992. I call myself everything but a millennial, but whatever.) and I haven’t “experienced” life yet. But you know what, I don’t need 40 or 50 or 70 years of life to know that there are good people and bad people in the world and that chances are, you’re only assuming that someone belongs in a certain category because you don’t understand it. Do I know what it’s like to be a trans individual? Nope. But I have friends who do. And I treat them like human beings. Period. Because that’s what they are.

I can only hope that if one of my future children identifies as a member of the trans community, that they know how much I love them as a person, not as a prescribed way of being. And I wish this “issue” were more personal for people. Because until you have seen and heard and been a part of the life of someone who is trans, you really don’t understand what the “big deal” is. And that is half the problem.


Forgive the mess! This is my favorite selfie of the day.

So thank you Target, for allowing me to enter your store, for placing store representatives who smiled at me and asked me if I found everything okay. Thank you for supplying products to a less than straight pagan woman in Ohio and her husband. Thanks for letting me wander around and take some selfies. Thanks for having the products that I was wanting to pick up and for putting those discount stickers on stuff.

But more than that, thank you. Thank you, Target. Thank you for serving the people of our fair country to the best of your inclusive ability. Thank you for ensuring that customers and patrons feel that they are protected and appreciated enough that they can be themselves. Thank you for remembering that we are all human in the end and that there is inherent good in the people of our human race. Thank you for embracing the things that make us all unique-even when there are so many who do not understand. Thank you for opening your hearts when others would have you open the door to bigotry and fear. Thank you for ensuring that the bullseye symbol which you have chosen as your brand does not stand for the way in which you “target” people different from you, but for the way it encircles all walks of life in one unified stance. And lastly, thank you for not giving in. I can only imagine what trans people feel when they see the hatred and fear coming from their fellow humans and I am so glad that you have provided a light in the darkness.

Your Own Reflection

It’s so easy for people to brush off the emotions of others. Why is that? It’s so easy to brush everything off onto the “bigger” piles of “patriarchy”, “cultural appropriation” and “differences” that we forget that everyone is just as much of a person as we are. Why is it that we are so willing to refuse the courtesy we desire to others who desire it too? I’ll tell you.

We never learned how to take others seriously, let alone take ourselves seriously.

Something you learn as a sufferer of depression is that you can never really know someone. That there is a metaphorical, semi-tangible wall that is built in between each and every person, so that eventually it’s like we’re all trapped in these impermeable bubbles of self. And the only things that can get through these bubbles are negatively charged thoughts and actions: judgment, violence, anger, shame, worthlessness. But soon enough, all those things push out whatever is left in your bubble, until you are filled with negativity yourself. You breathe it in, like the pollution it is and you become trapped. Imagine then, if you will, everyone being like that.

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If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I think the glass is reflective. If you look hard enough at someone, you will almost always see pain. And who’s to say that that isn’t an externalized projection into an internalized emotion?

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In my Facebook news this week, Jim Carrey gave a $200 tip to a waitress. And a state of emergency was issued by the leadership of the Attawapiskat after 11 members of their tribe committed suicide IN THE SAME DAY. An interracial couple was evicted in Mississippi simply for being an interracial couple. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan persists. And I know, you’re thinking, Michelle, what does Jim Carrey have to do with this type of news? Jim is one of millions who suffers from depression. His girlfriend died from it less than a year ago.

We may never know what goes on in the minds of others, unless we take the time to get to know them, their stories. I’ve been “preaching” for months about love, equality, human rights. We all believe some fundamental lie about ourselves-that there is something to be proud of by doing things alone. That we are inherently “less than” if we ask for help, if we reach out. I’m here to put an end to that line of thought.

unhappyYou are not flawed. You are you, and that is enough. Do you hear me? You are not some horrid, wretched creature pulled up from the depths. You are a fierce warrior, battle hardened and brave. You don’t have to do this alone. You never did. There are others there, just beyond, who understand, who have lived that same thing. And they are fighting to find others like them too. All you have to do is reach out.

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I wish there were more words, better ones, that allowed me to express these facts. But the thing is, as I have said on my Facebook page, it is quite easy to take Disney lyrics and make them more philosophical when applied to today’s climate. Just look:

 

I’ll take my leave with this one final picture.

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