Monthly Archives: March 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Image Credit: It’s an Able & Game card. Never had the pleasure of looking through the most awesome cards ever? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Click on the pic to browse their Etsy shop. Then come back and read my post.    

It’s my 23rd birthday today. Hurrah! Last year I turned 22 on the 22nd, and that was pretty cool, but this year I feel HAPPY on my HAPPY BIRTHDAY and that is even more exciting, because it hasn’t happened for a long time.

For years (like, over a decade), I have approached birthdays with trepidation because they signalled that yet another year had passed and I still wasn’t ‘enough’. I wasn’t thin enough, good enough, happy enough, smart enough. And I’d have to pretend to be happy, but I really wasn’t, and the Negative Voice would be turned up to 11, shouting things like, ‘You suck! Why are you still here? You don’t deserve to live!’ and people would be taking photos and I was supposed to be smiling and URGH. It sucked.

In 2009, I was so strung out by the depression and constantly pretending to be happy that, about two weeks prior to my 20th birthday, I attempted suicide. I was in a coma for about a week and when I woke up I was completely freaked out. This wasn’t the plan! I was supposed to be dead! Except I wasn’t. I was alive and none of the problems had gone away, in fact a lot of things got worse during that time. I had to hand over independence and control to CATT teams, psychs, my parents. I had to live in a body that was retching from the assault of a serious chemical overdose. I had to be vulnerable to people who had previously only seen my ‘happy mask’. And I had to face facts: something in me wanted to live, something in me had reached out for help. I was going to be in this life for the long haul.

So I decided to embrace that idea. Yes, I would struggle. Yes, my body is never going to be at my ideal weight (a hard thing to achieve when ‘ideal weight’ translates to ‘dead’). Yup, I would probably never measure up to the Negative Voice’s expectations. But I would live, and I would try my best at it, and that would be enough. I would be enough.

The three years since have been…hard. Like trying to reprogram myself. Learning how to live in and with my body, rather than trying to destroy it. Learning to ask for help, and then accept that help. The whole time, I have been impatient, constantly thinking, ‘When will I feel better? When will I wake up each day and not feel suicidal?’. The answer seems to be- Some days. Not always, but some days will be wonderful, and those ones will help you live through the others. If somebody had told me that three years ago, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to cope with the idea of life being a complicated/ wonderful/ awful mix. It was all or nothing back then. I’ve had to live through it to realise it’s possible to live in shades of grey (with the occasional rainbow), and that it’s worth it.

So this year, instead of looking back over twelve months and seeing all the things I haven’t done, I can reflect on all that I have. And that feels ABSOLUTELY FUCKING WONDERFUL. To the point where I am smiling. Happy to eat out in public with my family (!). Humbled by all the well-wishing messages from my friends. And so, so glad that I didn’t give in that day three years ago. It feels good to be alive.

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Beautiful You #10: Positive Memories

That’s a photo of me, when I was 9. I was happy. This means: I was happy and peaceful in my body in the past. Logical continuation: I can feel that way in the future. YAY

Whoops, I fell off the blogging and Beautiful You track for a bit there. Back again! This practice asks tricky questions: What do you appreciate most about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it? If so, who was there and how did they react? So, maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding blogging for a while!

What do you appreciate most about yourself? 

Urgh. Initial thought: NOTHING. I find it really hard to think of positives about me. Negatives? How long have ya got? I could go on all day. BUT that wasn’t the question, was it? Luckily I have some good external appraisals to draw on, and if I can let myself believe them, even just for a second, it’s a good start.

In November 2010, I did a week-long training course about facilitating ‘social circus’ workshops  (click the link for info). It was a great week of learning- not just skills/ activities, but learning about how I work alone and with others. At the end, we each got a sheet of paper where all the other participants had written a line or two about us, what they thought we did well etc. The most common words on mine were ‘I appreciate your openness, honesty and willingness to share’ and ‘You communicate really well’ and ‘You have great ideas’. As somebody who spent most of childhood/ adolescence scared and very ‘closed’, and is now finally coming into my true (open) self in my 20s, it was really great to have external validation that it’s OK to be honest and ‘out there’.

What are you most confident about? 

Note to ED/ Negative Voice, currently raging in my head: there is a difference between feeling confident and being ‘up yourself’. Even for me. Yes, really. We clear? Good.

I write and speak well- I’m a good communicator. Again, it often takes external validation for me to believe this, but the evidence is there: published work, awards, scholarships, jobs. When I speak, people generally listen and engage. When I write grant or scholarship applications, I’m usually successful. When I facilitate anti-homophobia workshops in schools, young people speak openly and appreciate having a space to do it in.

Side note: once you’ve spent time openly talking about sex and gender with 15 year olds- who can spot bullshit a mile away, and will let you know it- every other public speaking engagement is dead easy.

I’m passionate, I’ll speak up and I’ll fight for change. This causes my Negative Voice the most grief and it’s true that there’s still an undercurrent of ‘shut up, don’t make a fuss, be a good girl’ running through my head. Well, too bad. Spent way too long giving  into that shit and guess where it got me? Into bulimia and constant thoughts of suicide. It’s much healthier- and usually more fun/ productive/ satisfying- to let those natural leadership and advocacy tendencies run free.   

I’m confident in my academic abilities. I’m a nerd. Out and proud. Sometimes it can be difficult to see where ‘academic enjoyment’ ends and ‘obsessive, perfectionistic personality’ kicks in but that’s just something to live with. I was pretty bored at high school, but too shy to be public about it. Now I’m in a uni course that I absolutely LOVE, there’s no pressure to be ‘cool’ and I can pursue High Distinctions (mostly) without worrying what everyone else thinks of me. Sometimes I even get paid for it (in scholarships and grants)! It’s blissful.

What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it?

My positive childhood memories are mostly physical ones- swimming, running, circus tricks. Having a mastery of my body, doing skills over and over until I nailed them, feeling like I was flying, free. I don’t remember how it felt beyond ‘good’ but I remember vividly when it stopped feeling natural and easy- when I was about 10 or 11. Puberty beginning, my body changing, getting heavier. People commenting on my shape. Sexual comments way before I was ready for them. It was a massive kick in the guts: you’re not good enough anymore. You take up too much space. Too big, too much. And so I fell back onto things that others praised me for: being quiet, being ‘good’, putting up with abuse and not telling anybody the secrets of home, doing well academically. Trying as hard as possible to fade into the background.

It’s taken me much longer than usual to write this post, but I’m glad to have done it. Sometimes I have to write things out before I realise them, or believe them. Yes, there are positive things about me. Yes, I am confident. Yes, there was a time when my body felt good, and I’m slowly rediscovering that. Suck it up, Negative Voice. This is my truth and I like it.

I highly recommend other people having a go at these questions. I know you are reading, lurkers- I see you in the stats! So write it out. Draw it. Dance it. Own it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

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Convince Me I’m Here For The Living

Sometimes songs say it better…

Rosie Burgess- Digging

It’s about time I got to remembering all that’s to come and all that’s been

‘Cos my skin holds its secrets deep within and I won’t ever know if I don’t get to digging

I took this freedom like no price was paid

But the proof of my existence shows the highest wage

Poured into the doing hands and heads combined to throw their weight behind

The moment that would break these chains

 

So stand me up straight and pat me into shape

Convince me I’m here for the living

So stand me up straight and pat me into shape

Convince me I’m here for the living

Convince me I’m here for the living

 

It’s about time we all got to talking

Your tales of the past are as true for the future

And the lessons you’ve learned can be learned anew

It’s about time we were hearing from you

 

So stand me up straight and pat me into shape

Convince me I’m here for the living

So stand me up straight and pat me into shape

Convince me I’m here for the living

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