Marching to a different drum

Who am I?
Who is this person inside my skull?
driving me to go go go?
No time to rest No time to think No time to cry
An endless flurry of activity
to what end?
Another day
Gone.
And for what?
The dishes are done
The dog’s been walked
Every chore complete.
But it doesn’t stop
Every day the person beats
Pounds the drum faster
faster faster
Do
Accomplish
Perform
Keep going Don’t look back.
This.
This is how you earn your worth.
Maybe one day
It will be enough.

-© Jennifer Horton 1/26/13

Sometimes life feels so heavy.

Funny that I’ve been feeling it so much more lately and then found the above poem dated roughly a year ago when I was flipping back through my journal.

Maybe life really does repeat itself.

But does it have to?

I’ve been trying to think lately what my life would be like, what I would be like if I just let go of all the baggage. Forgot about my history, my past, all my formed opinions and beliefs. What would the world look like to me if I were able to start fresh every day? I imagine it would look markedly different. I recall reading about a man who’d been a smoker for almost his entire life. One day he had some sort of accident and lost all of his memory. Afterward, he never smoked again. He’d simply forgotten that that was part of who he was. I often wish something similar would happen to me. How wonderful it would be to wake up one morning and not have an eating disorder! To be free of all the worries and compulsions that drive me each day. Ah! It sounds lovely!

But, alas, we are a product of our histories. In some sense, I suppose that’s good — if we didn’t learn from our pasts, shaping our presents and futures based on past experiences, we would likely put ourselves in danger — burning ourselves on the stove,for instance — or make WAY more mistakes than we already do. Nevertheless, I think our histories can also constrain us. Many of us, myself included, carefully construct our personas based on the feedback we get from others growing up. By the time we’re old enough — and hopefully wise enough — to learn who we REALLY are — it can be difficult to tear that person down and start fresh. It’s one thing to tentatively go out into the world and experiment with things when you’re a child, but how does one go about the process in her 30s, 40s or 50s? Is it too late to start over?

I certainly hope not. Because I so desperately want to.

I’m addicted to I play this game on my iPhone called Jewel Mania in which you have to achieve certain goals within a specific time frame or number of moves. Often times, when the time is almost up or I’m almost out of moves and I’m not even close to the goal, I feel like just throwing up my hands — I mean, why bother if it’s clear I won’t be able to make it? The other night, I found myself thinking the same thing in terms of my life (I get kind of melancholy at night…). There’s SO much I want to do and accomplish in my lifetime, yet here I am roughly a third of the way through (if I’m lucky) and I’ve barely even begun. I feel like so much of my time has been spent on nothing. Seriously. NOTHING. But in this game, I don’t get another chance. This is it. I can’t wait out the last 30 seconds and look forward to a fresh start tomorrow. Today is all I have.

I wish I could say that motivates me to stand up, shake off the chains and start my life fresh as soon as I stand up from this keyboard. But it won’t. Save for a few deviations, I’ll go about my day much like usual. As battered and constrictive as it is, I still rely on my armor to some degree. I’m shedding pieces bit by bit, but taking it off all at once before I’m ready could destroy me. So I wait. And I try to be patient. And I do my best. And I try to love myself through the process.

Me. No apologies.

It’s funny. As soon as I think I’ve learned something, it slips from my fingers. After writing my last post, I felt like I was on top of the world: Confidence? Yeah, I got it. Shame? Ha! What’s that?

What a difference a day makes.

It’s not exactly that the feelings and thoughts have entirely evaporated, they’re just ephemeral. (Does that word work here? We’re going to say yes because I’ve always wanted to use it…)

The challenge for me is other people. It’s one thing to feel self assured and brave when I’m in my home by myself, but when I step outside it’s another story. When I try out my tentative confidence in the light of day it tends to get whisked away with the wind. If someone looks at me funny, I take it as a sign that I was completely off base. “See?” the voice says, “You really ARE fucked up. Everyone knows it and you need to just crawl back in your cave where you belong.” I tend not to argue with this voice.

Sometimes I think life would be so much easier if everyone would just stop acting. If we could all agree to just stop pretending and let our fucked-upness shine in all its glory, maybe then I wouldn’t feel like such a freak. As it is, I feel like I’m the only one who struggles. Especially since my struggle is written all over my body because it happens to manifest in the form of an eating disorder. I find myself at least wishing I had picked something more easy to hide. Except I wasn’t given a choice.

Anyway, my therapist assures me that other people have these same insecurities and fears about themselves that I have about myself. And then there’s that quote admonishing us to “be kind, for everyone is fighting their own battle.”

I suspect perhaps it’s possible, but I have my doubts. I mean, that totally put together lady I see downtown? What’s her problem? That super hot guy from high school? What could he possibly have struggled with? And my therapist, for that matter – what could her deal be? I just am not convinced that I’m in the minority.

So I guess that’s where I am right now. Flirting with the possibility that perhaps I’m not quite any more fucked up than the next person. That maybe, just maybe, I’m not quite the freak I’ve told myself I am for the last fifteen or so years. I’d like to believe it, I really would, but right now it feels a little akin to suddenly believing that I’m not, in fact a girl, and contrary to what I’ve been told, the earth is indeed flat.

I suppose the best I can do right now is to at least entertain the idea and to cut myself some slack. If nothing else, it at least feels like some kind of weight has been lifted to air my dirty laundry for anyone who accidentally happens upon this blog to see. I’m tired of feeling like I have to hide – like I have to keep the fact that I struggle a secret – that I should be ashamed that I struggle. I don’t want to hide anymore. I don’t think ANYONE should feel like they have to hide for fear of being judged. It’s sad that we acquire that fear as we get older, but such is the nature of society – people who don’t fit a certain mold tend to be criticized. My one wish for this world is for everyone to simply feel safe being herself. I can feel myself stepping up onto a fairly large soapbox now, so I’m going to stop, but perhaps you can help me to achieve this dream – be yourself today – no apologies. And if you have children, teach them to live that way too.

Confession

Confession: I’m fucked up.

 Or at least I’ve believed this for the better part of my thirty some years.

 As a young child, I went out of my way to help my parents out, basking in the resulting praise. I was the good girl. The one who could always be counted on.

 In middle and high school, I was a great actress – performing different roles depending on the situation I found myself in. I had friends only because I seemed able to intuit how to give everyone exactly what they wanted. I would gauge others’ moods and personalities, and base my dialogue and stage presence accordingly. Inside, I was empty.

 Surely there was a time when I felt okay with who I was – a time when I wasn’t afraid of what others would think if I didn’t pretend. I vaguely remember such a time, but it’s long ago and far away. I have no idea what changed. I don’t know what happened to make me feel like I couldn’t just be myself anymore. Along the way, some other things happened. Around the age of twelve, I developed anorexia. At first, it was great: here was one thing that was MINE. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else. It was my choice and it made me feel GREAT. Somehow having this “amazing” ability to deny myself basic nurturance felt like a great accomplishment. Rational or not, I finally felt good about myself for something. Starvation gave me some kind of bizarre, incredible high that I had never experienced before.

 Before long, however, it lost its magic. Yet I still hang on.

 Over the years this eating disorder has served different functions – a way to control a scary and uncontrollable world, a way to distract myself from painful emotions, a way to numb out when the difficulties of growing up seemed too much to bear.

 Ironically, now it’s just one more thing that makes me feel fucked up. Contrary to the popularly spouted belief that everyone with anorexia thinks they are fat and are on a deadly pursuit of thinness at all costs, I happen to see myself very clearly, thank you very much. My eyes work fine, and my mirror is not distorted.  I realize that I am underweight, that I’m not healthy. And I hate what I see.

 So why don’t I “just eat”?

 Good fucking question.

 I wish it were so easy. But anorexia is a DISEASE, people. It’s not a fad, and it’s not “just” an obsession with wanting to be thin. For some it may be, but for the vast majority of sufferers, there’s a lot more going on. It manifests in different ways for different people, and telling someone with an eating disorder to “just eat” and wondering why they’re not “over it” already is like telling someone with leukemia to just quit multiplying their white blood cells so profusely.

And yet… And yet…

 Here I sit, hating myself.

 Hating myself because while I’ve watched people around me recover from their eating disorders left and right, while I’m still struggling. I see them looking good, living their lives, having fun. And not to be selfish or anything, but why not me? WHY NOT ME DAMMIT? What the hell is so wrong with fucked up me that after 20 years of therapy and treatment I’m still fighting?

 This is the question I ask myself.

 And again, ironically, I think the very fact that I keep asking myself this question is part of the reason why I’m still struggling. Hating myself does nothing to motivate me to change. It just makes me feel shittier. You can’t hate yourself into changing. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried SO many things to try to “improve” and become a “better” version of myself. I practically have a fucking internal checklist of things I feel like I have to do every day in order to be “good enough.”

 The funny thing is, there are times when I think I’m awesome. I mean, I’m funny, I’m incredibly thoughtful, I’m smart, I’m a good listener, kind, caring, . . .

 And yet… And yet…

 I hate myself.

 I hate what I look like, I hate that I struggle, I hate that there are times I’m so debilitated by my anxiety and depression that I can’t just suck it up and “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I hate it all.

 And I think it’s time I stop hating.

 That’s what this blog is going to be about.

 I had this huge epiphany today that right now, I’m enough. I have everything I need. There is nowhere I need to “get to.” No state of perfection I must reach. I have all that I need right here. I. AM. ENOUGH.

 Just thinking these thoughts and letting them sink in lifted the cloud of depression that’s been following me around the last few days.

 Granted, I still have a lot of work to do. I still think I’m pretty fucking ugly, and I carry a lot of shame around because of my ongoing struggle with an eating disorder. But I’m fucking tired of it. I’m fucking tired of waiting to live my life until I’m all “fixed.” If I wait that long, I’ll NEVER live. I don’t want to hide anymore. I don’t want to wait. I had plans to write a book one day when I’m “recovered,” and feel like I actually have something to be proud of. But you know what? Fuck that. I’m going to start writing right now. I have a story to share whether I’ve achieved that imaginary nirvana or not. I have worth just as I am and my story is valuable just as IT is. And the fact that I’m fighting  — I feel like a liar as I type this, but fake it till you make it, right? –- is more than enough to be proud of. Warriors fight. At least I haven’t thrown up the white flag.

 So there it is. This is me, world. I’m fucked up. I have an eating disorder. I struggle with both anxiety and depression. I’m not perfect, and I don’t think I ever will be.

 But

 I. AM. ENOUGH.