The Damage of Insecurities

When I was younger, I never felt like I was enough. I was told that I was too fat, too mentally unstable, too dramatic, not ambitious enough. I was even compared to the neighbors’ children. I knew that I was loved, but I always felt like there was more expected from me, and when I would succeed there was still a higher expectation from me. I think feeling that way for the majority of my childhood has brought on a level of insecurity that I am now attempting to battle as an adult. 

I am not a skinny girl. The only time that I have ever been “skinny” was when I was first diagnosed with type one diabetes, and I remained “thin” for a few years after that. I can acknowledge that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I use food as an emotional crutch, and I can easily say that I sometimes binge. I had a family member who was hyper-fixated on food, and there were always little comments made about my eating and exercising habits. While one could say that their concern was out of the goodness of their heart, it always felt like they would have rathered me to look like them rather than myself, and that was beyond hurtful and damaging. Sometimes I look at myself and I think that I am disgusting, revolting, hideous, and I just want to hide in my bed and not be seen by anyone. Then I think about how I need to limit my calorie count and exercise for hours every day, and I spend hours researching herbal remedies to help suppress my appetite and detox my body, and then I think “why can’t I just have a healthy relationship with my physical body?” When it comes to my physical being, I am either confident with what I look like or I wish that I could be a completely different person. I know we all experience some sort of body dysmorphia, but I can’t help but wonder what my insecurities and relationship with food would look like if I had a different experience growing up. 

Who I am as a person is someone who I have consistently worked on. There are a few memories that I have from growing up that have stuck with me. I remember one time I was in an argument with a parent while one of my grandparents was over, and that grandparent made some comment to my parent and they replied “I have tried to change her but she is already like her blank*.” The moment that comment left their lips I felt immediately not good enough. The person that my parent compared me to was someone that they despised, someone who they wished was completely different, and it made me doubt myself. They wanted to change me. They voluntarily admitted that they made an active effort to change me, who wouldn’t question who they were as a result? Another time where someone close to me made me doubt myself was when I was told that I would never be a success. I would never graduate from college, and essentially, I was going to be a loser. They were right about one thing, I didn’t graduate from college, but that was a choice that I had made when I discovered that there was more to life than working a 8-5 job. I figured out how to live life differently, and although I have zero regrets, the intent with their comment was made out of hostility. To insinuate that I would never be what society’s definition of success is and that I would never amount to anything caused some damage, and once again, made me question myself and what I am capable of. 

To say that I wasn’t loved by my parents would be disrespectful to them as well as untrue because I know that they have loved me for my entire life. The way that my parents showed their love was through providing, and as much as I appreciate and love them for that, who I have become today is who I chose to be, and not who they raised me to be. It would be fair to say that there has been problematic behaviors from both of my mom and dad, as well as extending family, that has affected me into my adult life. There were two people in my life who always brought me comfort, who always made me see my worth and the value that I bring to this world, and I am forever grateful to those two people. My grandma and my aunt were always the ones that I felt the safest around, and I am forever grateful for them, because otherwise I would have had a very lonely childhood. 

Due to the fact that I never felt like I got the love that I was looking for from my parents growing up, I know I have developed an insecurity with the people who are now in my life as an adult. For example, my best friend. I am constantly worried that I am not being a good enough friend to her, or that I am not doing enough for our friendship. Sometimes I worry that her relationships with other people hold more value to her than her relationship with me, and I worry that one day our friendship will end because of that. I know it stems from fear that I am not good enough, and this insecurity is one that I hate the most. I know that she and I have an incredibly special bond that is really hard to come by. We have been friends for well over a decade at this point, and we are family. But I am scared that one day she won’t be there anymore. I feel like it’s an internal battle. I know that we have a solid friendship. I know that we can have open conversations about literally anything and everything will be okay. I have trust in our friendship, and yet I need validation that everything is okay. I am even that way with my husband. If I feel even a slight shift in his energy I immediately think that I am not good enough for him and he wants to leave. I think that something is wrong and that he is no longer happy. Even after he tells me that everything is okay, I still worry. I honestly think that it stems from my best friend and my husband being the first healthy relationships that I have ever had, other than my grandma and my aunt, and I am terrified of losing that. This is something that I recognize is INCREDIBLY unhealthy, and as much as I hate to admit, on the verge of approaching codependency, and I need to learn that I can’t hold so much doubt and fear within my relationships with people. Although I feel like I am the type of person that may need more validation than the “average” person, it is unfair for me to expect those around me to provide that. 

The person that I am today is someone who I have made an active effort to evolve into. There are things about myself that I need to tweak, but that is why we are here. We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, and to say that I have learned a lot would be an understatement. Of course all of my shortcomings are not my parents fault. I take a lot of responsibility for my faults and flaws. I sometimes wish that my childhood was different, but there is nothing that I can do about my past other than use it to positively influence my present and future. Insecurities are little demons that we all have to battle, and hopefully one day mine will be a part of my past.

*Omitting name due to privacy.

Mastering the Art of Loneliness

I am a conundrum. 

There are so many aspects of myself that I question. 

Here are some examples: 

I am bisexual with a preference for women, yet here I am in a healthy, loving, committed eleven-year relationship with a man who I love more than a hobbit loves The Shire and food.

I love my family, and yet I don’t speak with them much at all.

I enjoy writing, and yet I am lacking inspiration.

But my personal favorite: 

I thrive in my alone time, yet I am starting to drown in the Lake of Loneliness. 

For years I swore off allowing others into my life, and for the most part, I still do this to this very day.

I have told myself day in and day out that my husband and my best friends were all that I needed, but then there are glitches in the matrix where I realize that I am actually lonely. 

I crave friends. 

I crave interactions.

I crave developing and maintaining relationships with others. 

And yet here I am, twenty-seven with a husband and two friends who are my family. 

The issue remains: “Am I actually lonely or do I want what others have?”

I think it is a little bit of both.

I am a difficult pill to swallow.

I am highly opinionated.

I can be clingy.

I have a million ideas and I want each one to come alive.

I don’t sugar coat things.

I ask the questions that most people don’t want to answer.

See the problem with knowing that you aren’t really likeable is knowing that you aren’t really likeable. 

My issue is that it is hard for me to put on a mask. 

Some people can hide everything that they are feeling and thinking with ease, but I just can’t do that.

I don’t like confrontation, but I also don’t like bullshit. 

As the kids used to put it: I am not fake. 

You get what you get with me. 

I also am not the type of person that trusts someone right off of the bat.

Some may say that this is a coping mechanism due to previous trauma.

Like I am building a wall against my fragile soul to protect myself from getting hurt.

But I just think it is being smart. 

I am being cautious, sure. 

But I am just being smart.

So here we are.

Faults and flaws filled to the rim. 

And I am confused by my emotions.

Do I want more friends or is this another glitch?

I think I want more friends.

I think I am done with mediocre friends though.

I don’t want acquaintances. 

I don’t want friends that I meet up for coffee with to say hi for an hour once every other month. 

No.

I want relationships.

I want a friendship where we can sit on one of our couches and have deep conversations about the world.

I want a friendship where I can trust and rely on them and vice versa.

I want a friendship where we can feel safe around each other.

Where it feels like that friendship was destined.

Like you are soulmates in the friend realm. 

I have had relationships like this, and they are beautiful.

Your life becomes a little bit better than before.

You start to smile a little more often.

But more times than not, they dwindle away.

I am over that.

I want something that lasts.

I want a true friendship. 

I have mastered the art of loneliness.

Now I want to conquer the world of relationships. 

The Monster That Hid Behind the Mask

***GRAPHIC CONTENT ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE AT RISK FOR A TRIGGER. PLEASE MOVE FORWARD WITH CAUTION.***

I close my eyes and I can visualize you perfectly. The way that you would smirk. The way that your hair fell to the side. The way that you would grab your stomach while you laughed. The way that you smelled. The way that I could feel your energy whenever I was near you. 

You had this way of making every girl fall in love with you, which was remarkable because you were never that attractive. You weren’t physically or emotionally desirable, and yet, I wanted you. I wanted to know what it would feel like to hear you say “I love you.” I wanted to feel that static that one would feel when you held hands with someone you cared about. I wanted to feel the electricity that would build up between our lips as you kissed me. 

You used to make me feel so incredibly special. I met you before I was even a teenager, and I know that the moment you saw me was the moment that I became your next target. What I thought was love was manipulation, and what I thought was good intent ended up having ulterior motives. 

I was vulnerable with you. I cried in front of you. You comforted me when I needed comfort. What I thought was safety was actually me falling into the hands of a monster. 

You see, as I grew older, I realized that those moments of sincerity were moments of secrecy. You knew what you wanted and went for it under the disguise of someone who cared. The older I have become I have realized that what I thought was you being genuine was you training me and molding me to be your next victim. You always wanted something of mine that was never meant to be yours, and you were willing to do whatever it took it take it. 

So you used your best weapons against me. I was no match against your manipulation. I was not prepared to mentally handle what was about to happen. I was too naive to decipher your words that ended up being lies. 

I was never a person to you. I was always just a body. 

Someone hurt me before you did. And I went to you after it happened. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to find out that someone got to me before you did. Oh, how it must have angered you. You had been working on me for years, and you expected something for your efforts. 

So you decided to take your reward because you must have felt by this time it was now or never. You did things leading up to the event, testing me to see what I was willing to do. Seeing where my comfort was. I was emotionally driven by your lies, but I was nowhere near ready to take things where you wanted them to go. So you took that upon yourself. 

When I close my eyes I can feel you. I can feel your face less than an inch away from mine. I can feel your breath. I can feel my body go ice cold. I can feel my body wanting to run, but unable to move. I can feel that feeling that I felt in my stomach like I was about to be sick. I can feel the fear. The terror. I can feel your hand going up my leg in an effort to touch me. I can taste your finger going into my mouth, and I can hear you say “suck.” I can feel you grab me to touch you. I can feel and remember everything as if it were happening right now. I hate you for that. 

People assault people because they like the control. They like the game. He manipulated and trained me for years to be his puppet, and sadly, he won the game. 

I still dream of him. I still wake up with drenched in sweat. I still wake up filled to the brim with panic. 

Sometimes he slips into my mind and I just freeze. I can feel my body go ice cold. And there is nothing that I can do about it except just try to get through it. 

I am trying my best to release the grip that you have had on me for all of these years. Oh, how I have been trying. 

I hate you for what you did and who you are, but I take comfort in knowing that karma exists. Whether it is in this lifetime or the next, you will suffer as I have, and that brings a smile to my face.

Acceptance.

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There are going to be parts of you that others wish didn’t exist. 

I have spent most of my life being internally pleased with who I am. I am a complicated soul with many flaws and faults, but my positives, oh my positives, they know how to shine. 

One thing that I didn’t think would be so problematic, especially in the world that we live in today, was me announcing my sexuality. 

I would like to get one thing straight (haha, not me.) I didn’t tell everyone that I was bisexual for anyone but for myself. 

I have walked around for the majority of my life gasping for air. I had this secret, this secret that I was so ashamed of. It was this internal war where I was battling this small, minute part of who I am because I grew up in a time where being interested in the same sex was “wrong” or “disgusting” or “against the will of God.” I would have these thoughts that would literally keep me up at night in regards to my sexuality. 

“Could I actually see myself in a relationship with a woman? No that’s weird.”

“All I have ever had are boyfriends so maybe I am just straight.”

I would imagine myself living a life with a woman as my partner and I would also talk myself out of ever wanting something like that. As much as I supported the LGTBQ+ community and wanted everyone to thrive in it I couldn’t allow myself to fully accept the notion that I was apart of that community as well. 

Then one night I had an epiphany. I was bi and I had no reason to not accept that. Did it make me out to be a monster? No. Do I deserve to go to Hell? Well, first of all, I don’t believe in a Hell, but secondly, even if I did I know that I do not deserve to be punished for all of eternity just because of my sexual orientation. 

When I started telling people, and when I wrote my “Hi, I’m Bi” piece, the moment that I published it felt like the cleanest air that has ever existed entered my body. I felt lighter. I felt like I could breathe. It was magical. Sure, it is just one small part of me, but it is still a part of me. I wasn’t afraid of how people would react, I was excited that I no longer had to ignore that part of myself anymore. It took a lot of energy to pretend that that part of me didn’t exist. 

I thought that in today’s world acceptance would be a non-issue. If I could go back in time I would laugh at myself and just say “just you wait, you dumb bitch.” Has everyone supported me? HA. Fuck no. The people who I thought would text me or call me to tell me that they were proud of me or that they loved didn’t bother to bring it up. With that being said, the people who did support me REALLY supported me. I had people who I hadn’t heard from in ages tell me that they were proud of me. I had people reach out and tell me that they will always love me no matter what. I had friends tell me that it doesn’t matter, I am still the same Brookana that I have always been.

See, here is the thing. You are going to make choices and live out decisions that people who you are involved with don’t agree with. I have had someone tell me that I should have never shared my bi-sexuality publicly because there wasn’t a point. But that is the thing. There was a point, and that point was to help me. That point was to show other people like me that you don’t have to keep secrets if you don’t want to. If you want to breathe, then breathe. 

I am bi-sexual.

I am moderately tattooed and pierced.

I am opinionated. 

My religion is Wicca and I practice witchcraft.

I never finished college.

I write for a living.

I am going to attempt to open my own business.

I have been with my partner for eleven years and we have been married for four. We are both each other’s first true relationship.

I have five animals in a house that isn’t very large. 

We are actively trying for kids. 

I am sarcastic.

I don’t enjoy surrounding myself with people constantly because I get emotionally drained quickly.

I am an empath. 

I have 1,000 ideas and I want to enact every single one. 

There are so many little parts of me that a lot of people don’t understand, and that’s okay. Truthfully, the world doesn’t need to accept you. You need to accept you.

Feel.

What does it feel like to have a mental illness? 

Every person has a different experience, but here is mine.

Mental illness is a type of monster that wants nothing more than to isolate you, torture you, belittle you, and test you.

Mental illness will make you doubt yourself more than anyone else ever could, causing your own self worth to diminish with every word spoken from your mind. 

Mental illness will keep you up at night. You think about every single thing that has ever happened to you, you think about and play out scenarios that never even happened, and you question every choice that you have ever made.

Mental illness will make you feel like you are in a world of euphoria, where you have never-ending energy and you can take on anything that comes your way. If you wanted to, you could save the world with your love, positivity, and energy. You can spend hours exercising, deep cleaning, calling and texting all of your friends and family, and not feel anything but extraordinary. You could quite literally do anything and everything, and you try to because you feel so good. But then, you crash. You spend eighteen hours in bed sleeping despite your partner trying to wake you up. You ignore phone calls and texts because you don’t have it in you to speak to another soul. When you do wake up, you’re a shell of a human being that just does the bare minimum to keep your body alive because at that moment your spirit is gone. This can last for as little as a day, or even months. You never know. 

Mental illness is either eating too little or too much. 

Mental illness is watching videos at four in the morning on “at home stick and poke tattoos” and considering buying the equipment yourself because you could “easily do that!”

Mental illness is wanting to tell your friends and family that you are sinking into a low but you’re too afraid to tell them because they go through this with you all of the time. Also, they sometimes throw your mental illness in your face when they are displeased with you.

Mental illness is staring at the scars on your body that you gave yourself and hoping with everything that you have that you won’t pick up that blade again.

Mental illness is knowing what is happening to you but not having any control over it.

Mental illness is taking medication and having a therapist because life would be awful without those things. 

Mental illness is relying on animals to bring you a glimmer of happiness and a sense of calm. 

Mental illness is living past memories so vividly that you have to remind yourself that those memories are in the past and you are safe right now.

Mental illness is constantly having to listen to people tell you to “grow up” or “deal with it” or “snap out of it.” 

Mental illness is sobbing in the shower or on the floor of your bedroom because you can’t stop thinking of the worst. 

Mental illness is a curse. It’s a sickness that eats away at you. It is always there, taunting you in the background just so you know that it is still there and can hurt you at any time. 

If you know someone with mental illness, please take it seriously. Ask them what they need. Make them tea, put on their favorite movie, give them their favorite book, make them their favorite food. Do whatever you can to make them feel loved and cared for and valued because when they are in a low they can’t see how incredible they are. The pain is unbearable, and even a tiny bit of effort and love from the people around them could quite literally save their life.

Hi, I’m Bi

Hi, I’m bi. I never, ever would have thought it a million years that I would be telling everyone about this side of me that I have hid for the majority of my life. And let me just say when I say the majority of my life, I mean it. I have known that I was into both men and women since I was in kindergarten, and ever since I came to this realization I have been having an internal war within myself. 

I felt dirty, I felt wrong, and I felt like it was shameful. I am a millennial, but for the better portion of my life I grew up in a world that looked at gay people with disgust. The world that we live in now is so different from what I grew up in. Being gay wasn’t “normal.” People couldn’t live their truth freely without opening themselves up to discrimination and hate. Because of the world that I grew up in I was terrified of coming clean about this small portion of who I was. I didn’t want my friends and family to look at me differently. I didn’t want anyone to look at me in terror and question me. I didn’t want people to think that I was different from the Brookana that they have always known. So I just did what I could to hide it. I tried to camouflage it by becoming an “ally” for the community of people that I was a part of. I was never homophobic to anyone with the exception of myself. 

Things started changing for me when I became more comfortable with myself. I have been in a relationship with a man for eleven years, and he is wonderful. But I have realized that just because I am in love with a man doesn’t mean that I am automatically “straight.” I am still bi, and I always will be bi. 

I told my husband, (boyfriend at the time,) that I was bi about fiveish years ago. He was the first person that I flatout told, and at first, he did not take it well. I think it surprised him but also made him feel uncomfortable that I was also attracted to women. After a while he got used to it and we never really talked about it again. My best friend was the second person to find out. She always kind of knew that I was curious, but she never really knew that I was actually bi until a couple of years ago. I am so lucky to have my husband and my best friend. I was terrified telling them about this side to myself, but they have been incredible. Especially my best friend. I was mostly worried about her finding out because I didn’t know how it would affect our relationship, but I should have given her more credit because our relationship is exactly the same. 

I started toying with the idea of becoming more free about it when someone that I love so incredibly much let it be known about their extreme homophobia. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I figured that now would be the time to put things in perspective. I asked them if I was into women if it would make them see me any differently or if they would stop loving me and they said no. Then I told them that I have kissed a girl before and he never knew but he has always loved me the same. It is a part of who I am, but a small part, and apparently their views are starting to change. Not too long after that conversation they asked me in front of another person if I was bi and I just froze. I lied and said that I was fluid. I was too scared. 

But now here I am. Telling my family and the rest of my friends the truth. Hi, my name is Brookana, and I am bi.

Salem: Part Three

As of recently, I have been experiencing an internal dilemma that I had never really felt before. The idea of being codependent and not being my own person has always been a fear of mine, but I started wondering why I stopped doing things that I have always wanted to do. I realized that if I didn’t have someone to experience certain things with then it wouldn’t be worth experiencing, and that is when I came to the conclusion that I was giving myself an injustice. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to go somewhere or do something but my husband or my best friend didn’t want to experience it with me, so I would just drop it and move on. Suddenly I realized that I have been unaware and oblivious to the fact that one of my biggest fears was coming true. I was allowing others to be in control of my happiness, and that left a pit in my stomach and soul. 

I need to come clean about something. For years I have been allowing my fear and my 

comfortability control what I do with my life. It started when I lived in Dallas. I was virtually alone the majority of the time, and I became used to that feeling. The only time I would ever leave my apartment was for work or doctor appointments, and it became so bad that the idea of going grocery shopping alone would give me an anxiety attack. Even if I needed something I would purposely try to hold off going to get it until the weekend so that my husband could go with me. I don’t think I was approaching agoraphobia or anything, I just think that I had severe social anxiety and it prevented me from doing anything alone. I still have issues with that, but it is not nearly as bad as it once had been. 

My mindset was preventing me from living the life that I so desperately desired. Doing things on my own was never really something that I accepted as a possibility. So for all this time when I could have been doing things to give my life purpose, I just have been easily dropping them when others didn’t want to do them with me. Thinking about that mindset now actually makes me kind of sick to my stomach. How could I have ever been so reliant on other people for experiences or happiness? How could I have ever thought that that was normal or okay? 

All it took was one moment for my mind to switch. It was just one teeny-tiny little moment where I thought: “What the fuck am I doing?” That singular moment in time is the moment that is responsible for changing my life. I realized that I was no longer going to accept that I can only follow through with my dreams and goals if I had someone by my side. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, I am now at a point in my life where I will no longer be placing my well-being in the hands of others. Just because I am in a marriage doesn’t mean that I am living our life. No. I am living my life and he just happens to be a great part of that. Even when it comes to my best friend. I love doing things with her, but there are things that I want to do that she doesn’t and vice versa. I will always want to experience and go through things with both my husband and my best friend, but there comes a time where you stop caring if others want to do things with you. And that time has come. I am open and ready to start living my life the way that I want to live it. I am going to do things even if others don’t want to do them or if they don’t understand them. Living your life with people can be great, but living your life for you is exhilarating. And that is one of the first lessons that Salem has taught me. 

When I had that moment of clarity I didn’t just want to think about it. I wanted to live it. I wanted to dive in and I wanted to dive deep. I wanted to push myself to test what I was capable of. Something that I always talk about is traveling, but I have never been in the financial position to be able to do it. Plus, all of the places that I wanted to experience my husband didn’t, so that put a damper on things. With that being said, things have changed. I have some money now, not a lot but enough for a small trip. And I no longer care if my husband wants to do something with me or not. If something is possible for me to do then I am going to do it. So I thought what better way to push myself than going on a trip, somewhat far away, alone, to a place that I have always wanted to go to that nobody else I knew would be interested in. That’s where Salem came into play. 

Although I wasn’t going to be in Salem for long, I still wanted to make sure that it would be okay with my husband. If I am going to be honest, I already knew that despite what he said that I was going to go, but I also wanted to have that respect for him and let him know what I was thinking. He was okay with me going, which made me happy, so I booked my ticket and hotel and planned my little heart away like the type a personality that I am. 

I am not going to lie to you guys. I was super excited all the way up to the morning of my departure. Then when my stepdad picked me up to take me to the airport I started feeling doubt. I was worried about leaving my furbabies and leaving my husband and all of that fun stuff. Luckily, that worry was short-lived. The moment I felt the plane take off all of my excitement and eagerness came rushing back, and I was so ready for this adventure. When I landed in Boston and made my way to Salem my mind was in a whirlwind. I just couldn’t believe that I actually did this. I couldn’t believe that I actually traveled to a place that I have never been to before by myself. Then that disbelief turned into something that I very rarely feel about myself. I became proud of myself and this step that I had taken. I don’t really feel like anyone should have to justify why they might be proud of something that they have accomplished whether it is a big or small thing. Accomplishing any sort of dream or goal is something one should feel pride in. So I feel like some people might think “You went on a trip by yourself. Big whoop.” But for me, this was huge. The only time that I have ever traveled alone was when I would go back and forth from Dallas to Chicago, and even then I still did stuff with people every day. With Salem, I was in charge of making all of my own decisions, getting to the places that I wanted to see, feeding myself, etc. Everything was all on me. At first, I thought that the notion of me being solely responsible for myself would be terrifying, but it was actually the complete opposite. 

I have never felt more liberated in my entire life. Being completely on my own gave me a sense of freedom and happiness that I never have experienced before. Every moment was intoxicating, and I craved it. I woke up each morning eager for the day to begin, and that is something that I don’t really ever feel. It is such a crazy feeling that not too long ago I couldn’t even go to Target alone without experiencing severe anxiety, and now here I was all alone on the other side of the country. I was talking with strangers and making new friends. I was appreciating the history and background of the beautiful city that I was in. I was self-reflecting and figuring out what self-love really meant. I truly was thriving. I was able to get to know someone a lot better. Someone who I have known for twenty-six years. Me. 

When you put yourself in a small bubble of what you think you are capable of you are doing the worst thing possible for yourself. Because of my assumptions about myself I have missed out on so much living. I have bypassed opportunities and possibilities that would have given me purpose and brought me joy. It is sad to me to know that the feeling that I felt in Salem could have been a feeling that I have felt all along, but I have decided that instead of dwelling on what could have been I am going to focus on what I am going to do about it.

I am going to make a list for myself, and I want to do everything possible to make these things happen. Salem was a dream of mine for so long and I was able to do that, so the way that I see it is that Salem was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I have realized that I am self-sufficient and capable of being the person that I want to be, and I am going to do everything in my power to continue this path of independence.

It is funny how when you have a significant other you think you have to live your life with them. I thought that for so long, and it couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I have figured out that I have dreams and goals for my marriage, but more importantly, I have them for myself. And to me, it is more important to accomplish your own individual goals and dreams rather than the ones that you share with your partner. I know that that might sound selfish, but if you think about it, is it really? If you are longing to do things for yourself that your partner doesn’t want to do then you most likely will expect to see good ole’ Uncle Resentment knocking on your door, and everyone knows we try to avoid him as much as possible. I don’t want to look at my husband one day with hatred because I never was able to live my life the way that I wanted to. What kind of partner can I be to him if I was unhappy with my life and my choices? I feel like in order to be a good enough partner to him I need to be good to myself. So I regret to inform my loved ones, including my husband, that they have all been pushed down on my priority list because I have finally placed myself at the top. 

I do have one bit of bad news that has resulted from my first ever solo trip. As much clarity as I have found, I have also found equal amounts of confusion. I am questioning if I made the right decision by getting married and being in a committed relationship so young. I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and I never had that alone time to really learn about myself. I went from relying on my family to relying on my husband, and I never learned that I am capable of being on my own. I feel like I am needing more time for self-discovery. I am yearning for it. I miss Salem, but I miss my alone time more. This scares my husband. He thinks that I have one foot out the door. But this is not what this is. I am leaving. But I am not leaving him. I am leaving the old version of me. I am leaving that girl that was scared and dependant on others. I am leaving the girl who easily gave up on her goals and dreams. I am leaving the girl who put literally everyone else’s happiness before her own. I feel reinvented. I feel like for once in my life I am in charge of myself. I feel incredible. One of my biggest takeaways from Salem is that I can take care of myself both emotionally and physically. I can live a life alone and still feel tremendously happy and fulfilled. I don’t need my husband, my best friend or my family. If everyone was out of my life I would be fine. 

That statement is not a bad thing. I have learned that the people who are in your life shouldn’t be in your life because you need them. They should be there because you want them there. And believe me when I say, I want them all to still have a part in my life because they do bring me so much joy. But it is refreshing to know that I don’t need others to still have a beautiful and magical life. I am capable of providing that for myself. And I have never felt so empowered.

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You Don’t Know What Is Possible Until You Try

Growing up, my Mema would always tell me that I should publish a book when I was older. I was very fortunate when my parents divorced because I would spend a lot of time at my grandparent’s house, and every night Mema would read me story after story until my eyelids felt heavy and my busy mind was feeling at peace. Mema would also tell me stories that she would come up with herself, as well as stories about where our ancestors came from. I soaked up every story like a sponge, and I am convinced that Mema’s gift for storytelling was passed down to me. 

I have always been quite imaginative. When I was young I was obsessed with American Girl dolls and Barbies, and the elaborate backgrounds that I would give each doll would often leave the adults in my life in awe. Someone, although I can’t remember who at this exact moment, recently told me that they would listen in on my play sessions because they were fascinated with the stories that I would put my dolls through. I could come up with stories in an instant, and they would be full of depth. My favorite time of year was when we could participate in Young Authors, which was where we were given a blank book that we could write down stories in as well as illustrate them ourselves. That made me feel so alive. Coming up with a pretend world with pretend people and bringing it all to life brought me so much joy and elation, and it also made me feel really proud of myself.

As I became older I learned of different ways to write down stories. One of my fondest memories was in third grade when we started to learn how to write an essay, and I remember writing a nonfiction essay about my aunt’s wedding. Apparently, I did well because my teacher read it aloud for all of my classmates to hear, and you could imagine how elated I was during that moment. My teacher loved what I had to say so much that she wanted everyone else to hear it, and that is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Although I am typically a humble human being, I do love when others enjoy my pieces. I always have loved it, and I always will love it. When someone loves and enjoys one of my pieces, it is one of the biggest compliments that you could ever give me. It brings more value to my life than platinum. 

As I got older, I never strayed away from writing. I would always type out little stories here and there, I would make an attempt at poetry every now and again, or I would just journal. In high school, I participated in journalism for three years, and although it was different than what I was used to it gave me life during a time where I felt like I wasn’t living at all. It gave me purpose, it taught me about deadlines, and it still gave me that feeling of happiness whenever I would see one of my articles in the school paper. It was magic for me. It was an outlet, and it showed me what gave me passion. Journalism was the best part of high school for me, and I will always be grateful for that. 

Once I graduated high school I went on to college, where I changed my major more times than I can count. At first, I wanted to go into journalism, but I was told it was a dying career and that I should avoid doing that at all costs. Then I wanted to go into education, but after speaking with a middle school teacher during my observational hours, she told me to run for the hills. I realized that education wasn’t for me, so I moved on to the next thing. My parents really wanted me to have a career in something that would pay well, but more importantly, would provide excellent health care. Being a type one diabetic is not cheap, and I need the best insurance plan in order to afford my doctor’s visits and medications. So for years I took classes and went into programs for different healthcare fields, and I was unhappy with every single one. It got to the point where I was spending all of this money on school and books and I finally just stopped going to school. I didn’t want to continue with school until I figured out what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In the back of my mind, I always think about going into a field that will pay me well and offer good benefits, but at the end of the day, nothing was going to give me that happiness that I desired. That is until I realized that there was something that I could do that I could love and be proud of. 

I love writing. I always have loved it, and I always will. I love having thoughts and writing them down, and reading it back feeling totally captivated. I revel at that moment when my family and friends read my pieces and enjoy them. Every time I press publish on my blog, that spark that keeps me alive gets a little bit bigger. I love creating and sharing, and I love connecting with others when I write something that they might relate to. What I am doing now is what I should have been doing all along, and although I can’t get the time back that I wasted trying to figure out what I should do I can embrace the fact that I have finally figured it out and I am doing it now.

You see, a big life lesson that I have learned is that you can hear and accept what people have to say to you when you are given advice, but you are the only one who knows what is truly best for you. Had I stuck on the path that I had originally taken, I would have not wasted all of that time in between. I always had that gut feeling that I would find my way back to storytelling, and it brings me so much happiness that I have found my way back to my passion. To me, hating my job and my life is too steep of a price to pay for having loads of money in my bank account. I am not oblivious to the fact that money is essential to living, but if you are willing to work at it, then following your dream can be possible. You don’t know what is possible until you try. This whole story leads down to one thing: Follow your instinct. Follow your passion. Follow whatever keeps giving your spark life.

Personal Boundaries

I have this tendency to love with everything that I have. When I genuinely and sincerely care about someone I will halt my life if they need me, I will make sure that they feel fully supported by me, and I will do anything within my power to help them smile and enjoy their life. When I love I love hard, and that has never been an issue for me until recently. 

I am starting to come to terms with a new life lesson that I am still trying to learn. As much as you might care about someone, there always is that chance that they really don’t care about you at all. And that, my friends, can be difficult to accept. 

I consider myself to be an intelligent being. I consider myself to be very intuitive, and I also feel like I could be considered empathetic. Although I don’t crave a lot of relationships with others, these traits allow me to still be good with other people. I can sit there and listen for hours to someone venting and seeking out advice, I can be a shoulder to cry on when someone is seeking out sympathy, and I can usually understand why someone may feel a certain way. I am just really good with people which is incredibly ironic since I am such an introvert at heart. The thing that I don’t understand about myself is that there are a select couple of people in my life that I am willing to do anything for even though I know that they really want nothing to do with me. Well, let’s clarify that. They don’t want anything to do with me unless it is convenient for them. And I have known this for a very, very, VERY long time, but I still hold on to that hope that one day our relationship could evolve into something that I have wanted it to be. So I keep being there for these people, I keep giving them everything that I have to ensure that they know that they matter to me, and each time that happens I am met with the same feeling that I always feel at the end: disappointment. 

Albert Einstein may have had a point with this one. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

I hate myself for this. I am a smart person, and I know that each time I am there for these people nothing will come from it, and yet I still have this need for it to be the way I have always envisioned it to be. I have always wanted a solid friendship, I have wanted trust and that feeling where I could go to them for anything. I have just wanted a friend. I have started to become resentful, which is dumb because I was the one who set myself up for disappointment. I have shown these people that they could take advantage of me because no matter what I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they don’t have to inquire about me because I will always be there for them in the end. They know that they can ask me for literally anything and I will give it to them in the end. I have taught them that. My grasp on hope for this relationship took over my common sense and my intelligence, and now I am left looking like the village fool. 

So what now? Do I keep repeating this cycle? I have spoken to my therapist multiple times about this issue and we have come up with a new challenge for myself: setting up my personal boundaries. I can still care about these people, but I am no longer going to go out of my way to be there for them. I have learned that letting go of the relationship that I have wanted for so long is not an actual loss because it never existed to begin with. If they call me because they need help with something I am allowed to say no. I can say no to whatever I want because at the end of the day they want nothing to do with me unless they need me, and that isn’t a relationship, that is one person allowing another person to take advantage of them. 

Having hope can be a beautiful thing, but holding on to hope when you know nothing will ever change can be incredibly damaging. You are allowed to have boundaries, so don’t let anyone, whether it is yourself or others, tell you otherwise.

The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.