Monday, February 18, 2013

Loving Yourself

Late night post again. I really should just write these the night before and then schedule them to be published in the morning, but how much forethought does that require? A lot. Too much for me. And so here is your 11 pm post again.

I was in a group therapy session for anxiety on Friday and at the end of our two hours we were doing relaxation exercises. We were supposed to visualize a relaxing place, and then visualize ourselves into it, but I couldn't think of anything. Every pretty place I could conjure had some memory of my family associated with it, so visualizing them was just making me more and more panicky. Obviously, the anxiety therapy wasn't working.

Then I remembered a beach where I spent a lot of time with my family when I was little, and visualized myself on the beach as a little kid. I was this small, stringy girl with hair so blonde it looked bleached. I had a perpetual smile and was covered in bruises and scrapes from running around and crashing into things and falling down, like most kids. I could be loud and extroverted with my family, but was quiet and shy at school, and felt responsible for absolutely everything (kind of like the little girl and the butterfly effect in Beasts of the Southern Wild) (and wait, I still feel that way) (even though she learned the valuable lesson that she doesn't directly cause every bad thing in the world, and is a lovely, good person even though bad things have happened to her) (end parenthesis). Back to the therapy session--we were then supposed to cover ourselves with something symbolizing peace. I thought of blue paint. I pictured adult me sitting down in the sand and covering smiley, hyper, white blonde-haired, sunburned young me with deep blue paint. And then I smiled and ran all over the beach getting drops of blue paint on everything.

I've learned that sometimes it helps to picture yourself as a little kid. As adults, we tend to blame ourselves for things. We feel okay criticizing and hating ourselves. But it's hard to hate a little kid. Or, at least, it should be. And I've found that seeing myself as a kid made me want to be less hard on myself.

Part of this is because my parents keep telling me how much I've changed. A favorite expression of theirs for a while was that I'd become a robot who had replaced their daughter. I tried to talk to my dad about this over Christmas break. I only stayed at home for three days, and when he was driving me around in a blizzard so I could run errands, I tried to tell him how uncomfortable I'd been feeling at his house, that I'd cried myself to sleep every night, that I was feeling highly suicidal, that I'd had to leave the house on Christmas night and go to my boyfriend's, where I spent several hours crying because Christmas was so miserable. I told him that I felt incredibly anxious whenever I went home, even though everyone was very nice to my face, and his response was, "Why do you feel that way? We've been so nice to you and aren't trying to make you feel uncomfortable. We want you to be comfortable at home." And I said I was grateful that they'd been nice to me and that it wasn't necessarily the things they did that made me anxious. It was more the way I am. I tried to remind him of how I'd been as a kid--I would wake him up crying because I was so scared our house was going to catch on fire and he'd have to come tell me that our house had smoke detectors, that we'd call the fire department, and that everything would be okay. In the home videos we watched on Christmas, I was the awkward older sister lingering in the background cleaning up wrapping paper from my brother's birthday party and following the baby around to make sure she was happy. I was telling him that nothing had changed in my personality-wise, and that I just wanted everyone to be comfortable and happy. He said, "Well, those were good things that you did in those home videos," implying a contrast between how I acted then and how I act now.

My parents tell me that they've seen a shift in my behavior when I started taking anti-depressants. This is probably true, as this is what should happen when you start taking anti-depressants. I became a lot more vocal about my opinions. I let myself get annoyed about the dumb things people would say in classes, and I complained about them to other people and tried to make responses in class. I became more empowered and vocal. I said more things that I wanted to say. Of course, there were some weird side effects too, and I don't remember a lot of what was going on in that weird adjustment period where I was taking these new medications. For some reason, my parents interpreted this change in my behavior as me becoming a robot. What they fail to understand is that I'm still the same little kid who was scared to talk about things and who wanted to be happy and make sure that everyone else was happy. I'm tired of being seen as someone completely disconnected from my past--sure, I've changed, but so has everyone, and some parts of us just stay the same, no matter what.

I think my parents think that I told them I was bisexual just to shock them. That's what my bishop thinks. And I can see how that looks true--it's not like I needed to tell them. I'm in a committed relationship with a man, and bisexuals are known as the invisible sexuality--we can blend in with whichever sexual orientation depending on who we're dating at the time. But I'm a confessional person ( you may have gathered from my lengthy posts) (sorry), and a huge part of me wants my parents' approval. I wanted to tell them what I knew they thought was the worst possible thing in the world to them and still be able to feel like they loved me. And I didn't feel that at all. I got cut off entirely, I got yelled at, I got told I was on a speeding train to self-destruction and that my parents were moving out of the way before I took them down to hell with me. I got told I was the Laman and Lemuel of the family (a reference you'll understand if you are or were raised Mormon) and, in that same earlier discussion, my told told me that both suicidality and bisexuality are mentalities of the world and I need to "get over them." Because I can definitely control both of them. Obviously.

I guess I'm learning what not to do to your depressed, suicidal child. I guess I'm learning that it's important to see the adults around you for the vulnerable children they once were and that some part of them will always be. I'm learning to have more compassion for people and to be less judgmental (though I very much doubt that I'm succeeding on that particular front). And I'm trying to learn to stand up for myself and do what I think is right for me, regardless of what others, even my parents, think. And that's empowering.

Sorry for the lateness and the rambling. These are just the things I've been thinking about this weekend. I hope you all have a lovely day off tomorrow! Enjoy those dead presidents, or whatever. I'm sure I've posted this poem before, but it's one of my favorites, and everyone should print it out and hang it up on their wall for all those times when you feel lonely and shitty and down.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


  1. You and your sexy, sexy poetry. Mm.

    My parents would have lost me if they'd treated me like yours have treated you. I'm sorry.

  2. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate it! My brother wrote me a message earlier today telling me that I had somehow offended both God and your words mean a lot to me :D

  3. Sure, you've changed, you're smarter and better (and maybe happier?) than you were before. I liked you when I met you, and I like you even more now! I don't really know what to say about anything, but this post was pretty and a little sad and I liked it.

  4. Alex, you're the best D : And so is that sad cat.