The White Bow Dilemma

I have a "thing" about blog posts. I have to be able to wrap up the end of each post with a nice, clean, white bow, or I can't write it. No matter what the content, no matter how real I'm attempting to be, I will always try to end it with a note ofhope- it's my default optimist nature, or maybe its the part of me that refuses to accept help or look like I don't have it all together. Either way, its there.  And if I'm being honest with you, Reader, which is exactly what I'm trying to do, it's why I haven't written anything in three months. The way my days have been going and the things that have been tumbling around in my head haven't lent themselves in any way to a clean ending. But I want to open my heart to you today because I know my ride on the Struggle Bus isn't unique, and if the last 10 months have taught me anything, it's that sharing your story and looking someone in the eye and saying, "me too" is one of the most beautifully transformative experiences one can have. So, climb up in this seat next to me on the Hot Mess Express and let's talk.

One thing I've learned about myself is that I need my days to be structured with a set routine in order to be successful and to avoid slipping into a passive lifestyle. Work has always been something I can count on to keep busy, and while I love most of the things I do, lately it's gotten out of hand. My Monday-Friday schedule for the last 10 months has looked like this: Nanny from 8-5:30, work on #fireworkpeople stuff from 6-9pm, be on call for the shelter from 10:30pm-7:30am. It has been in a word, exhausting. I'm not telling you this to humble brag about how much I do because I'm actually pretty ashamed I allowed things to get this way.  I've allowed my work of advocating and taking care of others, fostering community, and trying to make everyone else's lives better take the place of addressing insecurities, heartbreaks, and things in my own life I've needed to deal with. The thing about these kinds of codependent behaviors is that eventually you run out of steam and all that's left is the hurt you tried so hard to cover up and replace with other people. As a result of this lifestyle, my body is all out of whack, I'm stressed out, overwhelmed, and on medication for anxiety.

Let's talk about anxiety for a minute. This was the hardest thing for me to come to terms with. I'm not a stranger to mental illness. I grew up surrounded by it, I studied it extensively in and out of school, I volunteered in psych hospitals, and I've recently had a ton of online friends openly share their struggles with me. I've lived my adult life with the knowledge that mental health isn't a "bad mood", it's a chemical imbalance that affects how information, emotions, and thoughts are handled in the brain. People with depression can't just "stop being sad." People with anxiety understand how irrational their fears are and telling them to "get over it" is a slap in the face. Both of these things are like telling a fire to not burn you; it's hurtful, ignorant and unhelpful. I believe if we talked about our own struggles more in an, "I get it, me too" or even a "help me to understand so I can be there for you" kind of way, that the stigma surrounding mental health would be much less shaming and people would get the help they needed.

But, even as I sit here and type these words this isn't how I handled it. I labeled my anxiety as overwork and overwhelm for six months because "anxiety" felt like a shame filled betrayal to everything I had convinced myself I was. I didn't want to admit that weekends spent in bed wasn't just because I had a long week. I couldn't admit to myself that every time my phone buzzed that my eyes would fill with tears and my chest would constrict because I just couldn't take one more thing wasn't just being stressed, it was because my mind and body would flood with anxiety. My hair was falling out in clumps, my body never stopped shaking, and I felt like I was having tiny heart attacks daily. I had closed myself off for fear my friends in my real life would call me out on my absence because I was ashamed that I was crumbling. I hated that I could only last a year doing these things that I love while others have been doing them for decades. I felt like I had failed, that I was inadequate, weak in my struggling. I used the past tense of these things because I know that it's not forever even if it's my reality still in this minute. Anxiety for me is like having all my deepest insecurities, biggest fears, and most difficult struggles whispered into the ears of every person in the room before I walk in. It's feeling like every pair of eyes that meet mine know more than I want them to, and judge me as harshly as I judge me. 

So, now I'm here deleting sentences telling you that my life will be rosy and peaceful again come August as I've stepped down from my role in #fireworkpeople and will be moving into a great apartment with great girls, thus eliminating the causes of my anxiety, I'm hit again with the White Bow Dilemma. I don't know that everything in me will stop swirling and settle into normalcy again with a zip code change. I have a lot of work to do in my heart and can't just hope that my issues will stay behind at the shelter. I can't tie this up with a clean white bow because that's not the truth. Leaving #fireworkpeople was messy and heartbreaking, but I left with the realization that the community I helped foster and the women I grew with deserve to know that their bravery in vulnerability and courage to welcome me into their lives and share with me had a powerful impact. Life lived authentically means untying the white bow, and allowing the messy to be messy. Leaving something I loved with all my heart was hard, but I know that #fireworkpeople was holding space until I got right here, messy but at peace, ready to really live the message that I had spoken into so many others. I don't have it all together, I rarely know what I'm doing, and vulnerability will probably always cause me to cringe harder than anything else, and that's okay. Because I know I'm not alone in this and neither are you.