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.

Thank you card

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.

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Once Upon A Time

It was a slightly overcast day, but with enough sun to count as sunny. I woke up, smiled a bit, and headed to school and my then job as a tutor for the school. It was the end of April, and I was looking forward to the end of the semester. Ben, working in the same department, saw me as I walked in. I asked him what was on his mind, and we began to talk about the same topic that we’d been casually mentioning for ages: marriage. I thought we could just do a courthouse run when we went to get our marriage certificate, but the courthouse hadn’t offered them, and so we were still looking for a solution. I pulled the number up for the courthouse of the municipal we were in for classes (which was the next district over, and therefore a possibility). The judge DID perform marriages-by appointment only!

When would we like to be married?

I wanted May Day-a religious holiday about fertility and thusly good luck.

They only did Friday’s.

May second? Booked.

May ninth?

That was fine. We were scheduled for 9AM. Perfect.


The date was two weeks away, with plenty of time to break the news to our families that we were being completely serious (they’d known we would for about a year, but until we had something concrete it was always just up in the air.) We’d tried a December wedding, but it hadn’t panned out.

Fast forward to the Friday before our wedding-Friday, May 2 at 4:56PM. The Judge had been overbooked! And he wouldn’t even able to do our wedding!! No appointments available before our marriage certificate expired. Thank you.

It was the end of the business week before we were finished with our conversation. I could call no official until Monday, and that might be too late. So I began to try every minister, high priest, high priestess, pastor and anyone I had an email address for in the closest three counties. Most, as I had assumed, needed more notice. One had asked if we could drive forty miles to their Sabbat that same night, where they would love to do so, with less than an hour to get there-we passed, but I would have loved to!

Ben had been calling people with the same fervor, and emailing his professors (who are well known to be better connected than college students!) and lo and behold-one of his professors was ordained! Was he free on Friday the 9th? Yes! Would he be willing to do so? Yes! Perfect!

It wasa sunny Friday, the flowers were all blooming in the trees and it seemed like the perfect day for happiness. My parents and siblings, Ben’s dad, Ben’s best friend (and his parents) and a couple lost stragglers came to the classroom. My dad stopped off and bought pizza for everybody before we got there. In walked the professor, complete with a stole and robes, a brief case, and a guitar case. I’d never had Dr. Emens, but he seemed a nice enough fellow, and he was certainly doing us a kindness.

We had a traditional wedding, complete with prayers, vows that were based in a religion I had left, and the exchanging of rings. Then, at the very end, Dr. Evens sat down and asked if he could play a song for us. He chose “Good Riddance (Time of Our Lives)” by Green Day. We paid him, signed the things we needed to and then headed to our honeymoon-weekend (where we watched three seasons of Game of Thrones and the owner of the place we stayed picked wild flowers-which I dried (because they were my wedding bouquet).

It may not have been traditional, it may not have been the big and fancy wedding that everyone always thinks about, but it was unique, it was prophetic and it was the start of a wonderful marriage. And it was all completed at 4:30PM Friday, May 9, 2014.

Now, two years later, it is rainy (which I love!) and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my huge cup of coffee, thinking about that day. I remember that I sat there thinking that I wasn’t nervous at all, that I knew I was making the decision that I’d made in my head a long time before.

There are some things you didn’t get with that version of the story.

I was 21 (and had been so for 5 months exactly). Ben was 20 (and had been so for a week under 5 months). I was asked within five minutes of getting married if I was going to have kids/when I was going to have kids/if I was already pregnant. 

Ben told my dad (and I later adopted the same reasoning for the people who asked why we got married so young:

I didn’t want to start our lives separately and have to make room for the other person. I want to start from absolutely nothing more than love and build a life together. I want to start out together poor and watch as our riches grow.

I’d always told people that when you know you love someone, you shouldn’t feel like age should stop you from spending your life together.

I chose to hyphenate my name because at the time I thought I wanted to go into academics and that way, if I published any papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me. I may not be directly going into academia, but I don’t regret splitting my name. Because it gives me an identity all my own. I use either name as I please, both for formal occasions and I am content.

So happy anniversary, my love. It’s been an interesting, epic, bizarrely perfect two years and I look forward to collecting more with you.

Mental Health Month!

I know I’m a little late. I had a lot on my mind, and it’s taken a while to get beyond my thoughts.

I’m not switching gears, per se, in topics, but I’m returning my focus onto a topic which will always hold a place in my heart. It is the one which gave me a start, and it’s the one that will always remind me of some fundamental life truths. And I guess that’s what I’ll be looking at today.

My “go-to” quote for each and every day is:

“The sun will rise again and so will I.”

It’s just 9 words, but in those 9 words, I find a delightful amount of peace and strength. I’ve used it to give hope to a few people, I have lived by those words as long as I can remember.

Your track record for getting through bad days so far has been 100%

That one is a newer one in my round of repeated sentences, but I think it’s one of my favorites. It’s one of those things that you know, but hadn’t put into words. I like it because it’s a gentle reminder that no matter how bad “it” seems, I can do it.

Just chuck it in the “fuck it” bucket and move on.

I use that one for humor. I take a lot of things pretty seriously and sometimes I have to remind myself to just let it go.

No great mind has existed without a touch of madness.

That one comes from Aristotle. It makes me feel like I have a greater purpose.

It can’t rain all the time.

That one’s from The Crow. I like to think it’s metaphorical, because I love the rain.

You’re a hurricane. But don’t forget to breathe or else you’ll drown in your own storm.

This one speaks to me, simply because I let everything affect me. I’m working on it, but it’s hard.

To quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet act III scene III line 87: “No!”

I love this one for two reasons. One, I deeply enjoy Shakespeare’s works. Two, I think as a young person, as a woman, as an individual with a mental illness, I find it hard (for whatever reason) to say no. It’s like the scene in 27 Dresses when Katherine Heigl is learning how to say no and she accidentally gives away her drink.

I know this wasn’t a super-serious-passionate-rant-about-troublesome-facts. But sometimes it’s important to appreciate life’s little moments.

Thankfulness, Day 25

It’s exactly a month until Christmas. Mind you, the only reason I really celebrate is because it’s my mom’s birthday and she’s very into all that. But it’s a good reminder that there aren’t too many days left in the year. I have a grand total of 2 weeks left of classes and work before winter break and everything is wrapping up (well, sort of). In the next 36 days, there are 3 birthdays, 3 holidays, 2 weeks of classes and finals, and preparations for the standardized new year. 

All of that really puts into perspective how time passes. Just a couple days ago, I was talking with my husband about how time is just blazing by, without paying us any mind. This year, we’ve been together five years. We got married last year, and are approaching our 2 year wedding anniversary. But it all feels like we’re just wandering around like our high school selves.

Today, I wanted to do a segment on my husband, and I think that with all of the end of the year thoughts, it’s a good idea to do so.

We met in marching band. At the time, I was playing flute and he was a trumpet. (He’s always been a trumpet, but I like to switch it up.) I made jokes about him being too short for me to go out with. Eventually, though, his persistance paid off and we started dating my junior year in high school. We did all sorts of things together: band, prom, graduations, you name it. We split up twice and by the third time, we’d managed to figure out the rhythm in our lives. We got an apartment, left it, got married and then got a new apartment in the big city. But I want to share my favorite memory.

The Day of No Pictures.

We called the judge and set up the appointment. Yay! We were going to be married. Two college kids broke and in love, trying to get that one last piece of paper that signified we’d done everything right to claim each other forever. May 2, a Friday, at 4:55PM, the secretary called and told us that we would be unable to get married the next week because an error had been made in the books, that he was busy. Oh no! With all businesses closed and no one to perform a marriage, we began to email every single person we knew, many we didn’t, trying to find an officiant for the next week.

By Monday, we had such a person. He’s a political science professor at the college we attend. The week went by, time passing as it always seems to do, and Friday arrived. I put on my dress (which came from Victoria’s Secret) and did some makeup, putting my hair in a band. My family and I went to the university where I met up with Ben and we ate some pizza from Little Caesar’s. We got married in a classroom where I took History of Art. The professor brought a guitar and played Good Riddance by Green Day, said the words and it was done. We were married.

We had a weekend stay in Hocking Hills right after our ceremony. We were finished at 330, but we stopped at the store, picked up food and three seasons of Game of Thrones and arrived sometime around 9. We spent the entire weekend holed up, watching Game of Thrones. When we came back, our pictures did too. And much to my dismay, not one of them turned out. There were blurry images, images of our families, but none of them seemed to have been clear shots. (There was ONE, but it was of my behind and so it doesn’t count).

I spent a lot of time moping about not having pictures. What happened when I got alzheimer’s or dementia and couldn’t remember we’d gotten married, and all I had was a blurry picture of two people? My husband was great about letting me believe we could have a vow renewal and take pictures then. But then one day, I remembered all the memories in band, all the ones that had led us to where we are and how many of those I don’t have pictures for. It’s time I stop living through a camera and make memories for the sake of making memories.

My husband is my paladin, the one who stands strong when I can’t. He pushes me to be better, he reminds me that I have a purpose. He knows my order when I want coffee or Chipotle or Subway. And he’s the only person I want to be with. We don’t have everything in life that we wanted, we don’t have every luxury known to man. But what we have is each other, and I think that puts us a step ahead.