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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It’s Not Enough

I woke up this morning expecting the news of the day to be pretty standard: celebrity gossip, political drama and some updates about some orders I placed. What I did not expect to see was violence and death. It breaks my heart each time someone has let anger twist their thoughts and hearts to the point of lashing out against someone else. Here in the states there have been muggings, violent deaths (caused by Islamaphobia) and more awful things within the last month or so. 

People have been murdered for being different and suddenly I don’t see where assumption stops and reality begins. It’s so easy to disassociate from other countries which are not your own simply for the fact that they seem so distant. We come to associate certain countries with generalizations like “good” and “bad”, “peaceful” and “hateful”. We come to see places as desolate war-torn wastelands instead of places where people are suffering at the hands of a few tyrannical radicals. It’s easy to brush aside the dangers of war, the tragedies across the sea with a simple “Wow, that’s really sad. I hope that doesn’t happen anywhere else.” 

  

But what you’re really saying is: I hope that doesn’t happen to me. To my loved ones. To my commute home, my vacation plans, my place of work. What you’re really saying is that you aren’t part of the problem, so you can’t really be part of the solution. You’re a good person, you say. You care about others.

But that isn’t enough.

                                            

If one person is loud enough, with their anger, their hatred, then their actions need to be met with one thousand times the response in love. If one person can take away lives in the blink of an eye, then one hundred times more people must save a life. 

In the news today, there was much talk of Belgium and Brussels. Bombings. Pain and death. But where was the same coverage, the same source of mourning globally for Turkey, who just a few days prior had a bombing as well? We become so convinced that there are bad countries filled with bad people that we forget that they are just the same as you and I: countries full of people who suffer, who mourn, who are unfairly generalized and stereotyped because of a few people who don’t even represent the majority.

It’s important to feel outraged. To feel angry at the actions of someone who felt the need to puncture a hole in the lives of millions.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                

If one person is forceful enough to take an entire country by storm, forcing them into masses of fear and xenophobia, millions more must open their arms and deny their biases. If one person is able to take their own lives in such a manner that innocent bystanders have no choice but to also end, then everyone who is left behind must find it in themselves to stand up for the future, to fight hatred with hope, to battle fear with peace. Hitting the “like” button, the “retweet” button or even the “reblog” button isn’t enough. Those things were never meant to replace the caring, face-to-face actions of things like donating blood, donating food, working in a food pantry, volunteering to teach English as a second language, offering to share your culture with others and have them share back. Technology was supposed to bring people together.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                  

How Beautiful is the Rain

In a post that got deleted before it was published, I talked about how I was tired of the concrete jungles, the greys of the world and how I needed a chance to reconnect to the earth, to feel the grass in my toes and to find a balance in my soul. I grew solemn, the chance of that happening becoming increasingly apparent that I would have to wait. And I resolved myself to the fact that I would take a trip to a park or something. I knew I had to find a way out.

Sometimes you find a quote in your life that really impacts you-even if you don’t know it yet. For me, that quote came from the movie V for Vendetta. Evey had just come out of her captivity  and walked out on to the balcony with the line:

God is in the rain.

And when the thunder rolled in to my little apartment, the clouds growing darker and the skies hiding from the sun, I realized that my moment had come. I took the dog out quickly, before the thunder became too much and then I left him inside with my husband and ran outside. The lightning struck, the thunder rolled and the rain began to pour in waves. And the smile on my face could not have been any bigger. Now I am completely aware of the dangers of being outside in a storm, but I have danced with the lightning for years, and I do not believe that the thunder beings will hurt me. That’s a personal belief-not delusions.

rain.gif

I realized that Evey was right. God is in the rain. And as I stood there, getting soaked through, I talked to him (and her). I asked and they answered. I thanked them for bringing me happiness, for finding a way to make me understand that I wasn’t alone. That I had the strength within me to battle my demons, to make a new start and to find my hope-wherever I put it.

For whatever reason, it became unacceptable for adults to dance in the puddles. There was an age when it was no longer what “ladies” do. But I have to be honest, each time the rain pours down, I feel myself being cleansed of all of the negativity and the anguish and the stress that I felt and being made new. And the thing is, I know to others I look silly. I look like I’m immature and irresponsible and wacky. But the way I see it, the only one who can decide if I’m being silly is me. And if dancing in the rain is how I communicate with my gods, then no one can take that away from me.

Rain

This past week has been rough. I’ve been dealing with some things that shall remain private, and it’s put some stress on my husband who has had to endure late night talks into the wee hours of the dawn and the constant need for help. He’s been a real hero about it and with his help, I rise stronger each time. So by the time the rain fell, I knew that it was sent for me.

I called and they heard me.

What an Effing Nightmare

I’m fat is the stupidest sentence on the whole damn planet. I am not a blob of blubber, just as I am not strep throat or bipolar. I have those things (except for strep-I have had but do not currently). Anywho, I have spent over a decade telling myself this stupid sentence. If you notice, I have no pictures of myself on this blog, I have maybe 3 selfies on Instagram and overall, I really don’t do photographs. But why? Because I’m still trying to figure out how to define myself according to rules which are not that sentence.

  (This picture drives me crazy. At least we’re active, dammit.)

 I have fat. Mostly a lot of it. It’s kind of a big deal. And I hate it. I’ve been weaning myself off of soda (Dr. Pepper is my weakness), and I added a small but intense workout to my daily routine. It’s planks, wall sits and low cardio. And I have chosen to be open and honest about it. Not because I want you all to laugh at me, but because I have a message that others need to hear.

  (These aren’t me, but I think they’re a pretty solid representation of the parts that I keep hidden.)

 I decided I’d had enough of being fluffy. I want to look healthy, not like I do now. I feel embarrassed, and it’s a great source of sadness. I made myself this way, but I also didn’t. I was put on the birth control that allows for 3 periods a year because mine were really painful. And while I was on that birth control, I gained 80 pounds. That’s 4 times more than I gained from mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. I stress ate and that didn’t help at all. But after that, I continued to be large and in charge. Only I wasn’t in charge. I was out of control.

  But what is it that I ate? Salads mostly. And coffee, soda, pizza, spaghetti. My calorie intake was between 1300 and 1600 per day, over half of that was drinks. I ordered low fat coffee from Starbucks if I chose to get anything other than tea. Even now, I eat maybe twice a day, I drink coffee like it’s going out of stock and I drink water, between 2 and 3 bottles a day (unless it’s a hard day and then only 1-which is bad, I know). My calorie intake recently has been between 1400 and 1650, with most of it being creamer and dinner. My breakfast is usually peanut butter toast. Is it super healthy? No. But I should not be obese.

Did that word startle you? It did me too. But it isn’t a death sentence unless you make it so. Which is where we find me this past week. I decided I was far too stressed and I was going to try to get into a regular workout routine. And so far, I’m doing great. But it’s because I know the shitty parts have to end sometime.

  (This is a plank. It’s also called pain.)

 It started out just feeling tired. I felt like my body was at the point of sheer exhaustion. Then came the nausea, the light headedness and the muscle pain. The latter I had expected but the first two I hadn’t. This came on slow and then got worse the more days that passed. Fast forward to today (Okay fine. Today is day 3, but I’m trying darn it!) and I feel like I can only keep water down. Food turns my stomach, I feel really icky on the inside and my muscles are aware that I mean business. And it was in that line of thought that I recalled watching several seasons of The Biggest Loser a few years back. A lot of the people were really sick while they were beginning their workout routines. I remember watching an episode where the woman had to keep stopping to puke because her body was detoxing.

  I brought this up to my husband and he reminded me that I hate eating fast food and that I always get salads and I should be fine. But the thoughts persisted. He asked if I wanted him to work out with me and I said:

No. It’s embarrassing.

He then asked why it was embarrassing that I was making myself into a better me. I shook my head and got down to business. 

  But really. Why is it that I felt like it was embarrassing that I struggle? I’m doing something. I’m trying, which is more than I can say for the old me. It’s really hard. I feel sick, my tummy hurts (because I’ve been doing abs) and I feel all around like a big ball of crap. But I’m already more dedicated than I was in the past, because I’m pushing through the pain and working out anyway. And yes, I still feel a little embarrassed that I can only hold a wall sit for a minute and a half before it feels like someone is sawing off my thighs or that I can only hold a plank for 30 seconds before my flabby arms buckle from stress. But you know what? I’m doing something about it. And maybe today I will go for 2 minutes straight, or learn how to use an elliptical. And the fact that I’m still trying is worth more than the pain.

  

Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I want people to take away from this, more than anything is that it’s hard. Change always is. And we can sit around waiting for life to correct the travesties it has enacted upon us or we can get up and kick it in the face. I really hate working out. I hate running, I hate lifting, I hate all of it. But I’m not doing all this because I really want to look at the number on the scale and smile. I am, we are so much more than a number. I want to look myself in the eyes in the mirror and be attracted to myself. I want to learn how to take myself out on dates, and have the confidence to walk into the mall and get my hair done or my nails (am I even that person?!) without feeling like everyone is staring at me because my stomach is round. I want you to take away that this sucks worse than anything I’ve ever purposefully done to myself, but I turn my music up that much louder and scream over how much it hurts. Because if I want to be around to see all my reams come true, or to survive the zombie apocalypse, I’m going to need to practice my roar.

  

(I would like to thank Google for always having the pictures I need to make my point.)