There in My Name

The name assigned to me
Meant to define me
Determines more than I’d think

Whether or not I am proud
To be who I am
My name claims me to be
Someone of importance or disregard

Claim thy name or deny they father
But we’ll assume to know the message
That will accompany me
Wherever I find myself

So how can a name, then, set me free?
What does she mean to me?

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Grown Through Dirt To Blossom

(moved from Technically, I Write)

The only two positive things to come out of my five years of constant exposure to mental abuse, are my ability to love myself without makeup and my ability to demand more from myself.

No Makeup, No Problems

While everyone in middle school started experimenting with makeup, dating, or new types of freedom, I was at home, dutifully, doing homework or being alone. I made dinner when my mom was at work for four days, I gave my step-father his insulin injections, and I avoided looking too sexy or too attractive. I even avoided shaving my legs, because he would ask to watch while I did so. I avoided being feminine, because I didn’t want to give him anymore reason to look at me.

Throughout this time, I learned to love myself for what I looked like, because I wasn’t going to risk wearing makeup or anything pretty just to attract someone else. It forced me to rely less on physical attraction, and more on intellectual attraction, which in turn changed how I became attracted to others. I mean, don’t get me wrong, now that I’m not living in that situation, I occasionally wear mascara, pretty dresses, and accentuate the girls. And I definitely notice the physically attractive features of those around me, but a hottie (hotty?) with intellect for days? Uh, yes please!

And all of this does not negate the large order of issues I acquired in turn. But when I sit with my therapist, attempting to claw my way into a healthier state of mind, or when I attempt to categorize a healthy versus unhealthy relationship, knowing that I look for genuinely kind people helps me see that I’m not stuck at home alone anymore, that I do deserve to be happy, that I have accomplished much for my 24 years, and that my marriage is far healthier than anyone – including myself – could have imagined me having. Which leads me to my next piece of gratefulness: demanding better for myself.

Keep Up, or Move Aside

When I first realized that my then-boyfriend and I (now husband) were getting serious, I told him that I had some big things planned for myself. I was going to college, I was going to move out of my hometown as soon as possible, and I was going to make sure I never had to live like my parents had. I told him that, if we were going to continue to date, he had to go to college. I didn’t care what he wanted to study, he just had to go, because I knew what I wanted for myself. That was during our first two months of dating, and we married three years later. Getting ready to celebrate seven years of being together, it looks like I didn’t scare him away.

And I did go on to do great things. We got our Associate’s degree at our hometown community college, we moved to start at a 4-year university together, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in June 2014, and now I’ll be graduating with my Master’s degree in July 2015 (4 months to go, AH!)

All of these aspirations, my need to leave my hometown, were born before my step-dad passed away. He made me hate being trapped in such a tiny town. He made me hate feeling alone, and secluded. I wanted to get as far away as possible, and I knew that only education would get me where I wanted to be. My dad – my real dad – had told me when I was younger that I needed an education to thrive, that it would free and empower me. He was right, and I thank the sky above that he hammered it into my tiny skull. If he hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known how to escape, and I probably would have fallen into the addictions I saw many others with a similar past take to.

But I demanded more. I demanded education, pursued it vehemently, and told the one person I care about the most in this world that even he would not hold me back. It was scary to tell the boy I was madly in love with that I would leave him of I felt like he held me back in anyway, and I am so grateful – everyday – that he never made me make that choice.

But I didn’t just demand more of myself, I also demanded more of those around me. My friends, my husband, and all of the relationships I still have today. I have cut ties with some family and some friends, but all to ensure that I am no longer surrounded by ugliness, and no longer trapped by unhealthy relationships. Because no matter how a person is related or connected to you, you deserve only goodness. This is not to say that I haven’t overreacted at times, pushing people away because my young stubborn mind could not differentiate. But the best relationships, the ones with open communication and honesty have persevered, and are stronger in spite of the hard times.

None of this would have been possible, if I hadn’t experienced a life I never wanted. If I hadn’t lived the bad, I would not have looked for the obtainable good.

So thank you. Screw you, but thank you abuser. “You have, no power here!”

Dealing with Existential Depression (Really, Really long)

A few moments ago, I read this article about Existential depression in gifted individuals by James T. Webb. Ignore the gifted individuals wording: I do not self-identify as gifted, nor think it an appropriate description for myself.

Never before have I so clearly understood my thoughts. I did not know that this was a thing. Growing up, I wish I had known that I was not alone in feeling like this. But at least I know now. Recently, I started to recognize more and more that I keep myself busy wondering who I am, what I am supposed to do, and why I am here. When people ask me what I do as a hobby, I haven’t been able to answer anything besides: a lot of thinking, and a lot of Netflix. Lately, I have been doing more of the latter because I lost my job, and I’m trying to ignore the thinking. But when I go to bed, when it’s time to shut my brain off, my thoughts come back because they are no longer distracted by TV.

So I got artsy. I got notecards and wrote: Who I am, Why I do, What I do, and How I do it (one card for each). I drew my response, wrote where I lacked artistic talent, and found the same answer I always see: I want to help people. But as someone who wants to get a job, and wants to be done with their education for awhile (I’m about to finish my 18th year of school, with no breaks in between) I am losing the most essential part of my being.

I used to work two to three jobs, at any given time, because I like to keep busy. I’ll overwork myself, and leave no time for thinking if possible. But in December, the worst thing that has happened in my young life occurred: a job contract ended early. Logically, I recognize that I was the 6th or 7th person to be let go by that particular manager; I also recognize that the job was going to end in a few months anyways; I wasn’t happy in that job; and I also know that I did not want to stay on at Amazon, because their was a disconnected culture fit. But it upset my balance. I’m an extroverted thinker. I love people. I love helping people, being around people, and talking to people. So much so, that in elementary school, I was constantly being told to stop talking: even if I did know where the conversation was, or if I was helping someone else understand the teacher.

But back to where the existential depression comes in. When I was let go, I knew my reasons for not wanting to work there, but the manager gave me no reason for my ended contract (maybe she told my recruiter, but he didn’t tell me either). I know that I got lazy towards the end, and maybe that was it? But I was still caught up on my projects, no need to work 50 hours when you can work 40 and still get everything done. Maybe it was because I asked to work from home so that my hourly paycheck wouldn’t be negatively affected when I had to commute, by bus, after a doctor’s appointment: but I cancelled that appointment so I could work. Maybe I asked for too much, too soon; but I thought it was okay because I followed the example of those working around me. Those are logical reasons, but I still don’t know for sure, and it drives me insane.

Who am I? I’m not a busy bee – anymore – and so now I try to find hobbies I enjoy. I don’t want to draw, I don’t want to play video games, I don’t know what to do with myself because I feel like, since I’m not working, everything I do is a waste of time.

What do I do? I used to write. But maybe I’m not actually good at writing. Maybe it was something I told myself, and maybe I had a big ego and not an actual skill? I want to help people, but I don’t know what kind of job wants someone who just wants to help people. I could do customer service, but maybe all of my past experience is negligible, and I should pretend that I’ve only gone to school, and never had a job: even though I’m 24 and have been working for 10 years. Maybe everything I have done in the past doesn’t actually matter? But I’ll count my education because I’m doing pretty good there.

Do you see where this is all going? Yea, me too: nowhere. It is a useless conversation. Except, when I searched for “dealing with an existential crisis” at 4AM on a (technically) Tuesday, and found the article I mentioned in the first sentence.

So… why I am I typing all of this out for you to read? Well, because I like to share even when it’s not welcome. That’s also why this is in a blog I know next to no one actually reads. I get a weird sense of inclusion typing this where someone/anyone could find it. But all of this reared its head when I started applying for a job that I really, really want. It’s a Research job, where I get to read people’s opinions, and fix things based on those opinions, and other relevant research. That.sounds.awesome. That’s like, a dream job. I love reading constructive feedback, I love fixing things, and I love that the fixing makes other people happy/enjoy an experience more thoroughly. I want to work for the company because they treat their employees to a challenge everyday, but they also see them as people who have lives and families at home. The whole job starts with a rigorous interview process where you get to talk to people all day for like two days, and you get to nerd out on what you know and love to do. Then, if you get the job, you get to go nerd out with them everyday, and help people in the process. Research, man. Awesome.

But how do I say that to them? Do they actually care? And, what if I’m not the one? I have no control over it. Applications, resumes, cover letters; the whole process is completely luck of the draw. You can never really predict how one person’s day will lead to their reading your resume and cover letter. You can only control so much, but with the ambiguous design of cover letters, and the specific preferences of those reading them, you can never really control whether or not you are someone they even glance at. Even if you are open and honest, what if they just think you’re saying what they want to hear? So then, what is an honest person to do when they would never lie to an employer, because they only applied because ….

gah.

Self-doubt, and depression, don’t mix. So, this is how I’m dealing with it.

I obviously think this job is worth it. I wouldn’t worry so damn much if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t have already written about 5-6 (maybe 8) drafts of my cover letter if I didn’t think it was important. I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed at 4AM to write this long ass blog if I didn’t care about the job. It is scary, it is out of my control, and that is how I’m dealing with this depression. I am taking those negative emotions, interpreting them for fear of not having control, and I am realizing that that is the exact reason to apply. That is the exact reason this job matters. Maybe this doesn’t make any sense to some people, but I hope it makes sense to someone else; otherwise, I probably am just crazy. And if that’s the case, well, then nothing I do really matters: ha! Ironic discontent.

If you care enough to rewrite a letter in your head, if you spend so much mental energy trying to convince yourself you’re not worth it, the job is worth it. I never worked this hard to find a job anywhere else. The last time I worried this much about an application letter, I was applying to the only graduate school I wanted to get into: and I did it. It’s worth it, every time. Embrace the fear, get a good mentor to review your work because you will probably make grammatical errors as you word-vomit your final draft, and submit the damn application. You can do it. You deserve to do it. Follow you dreams! And get help for your self-doubt as soon as you can afford it, because no one deserves to feel worthless.

It Could Have Been Worse

What I want people to know about my depression is that I never wanted it, and I can say with absolute positivity that I never will.

I work hard to not use it as a crutch, and sometimes when it takes over, I feel guilty that I can’t control it: and that makes me feel worse. Sometimes I lay in my bed and wish that I had never been born, because that would make things much easier than me committing suicide; in fact, the only reason I don’t consider suicide an option is because I would never want to leave people I love to deal with such a terrible tragedy.

I also want people to know that I avoid talking about what I’m feeling inside because I don’t want them to feel guilty, overburdened, or to stop talking to me; because I know that dealing with someone else’s depression as a third party can be hard and uncomfortable.

Sometimes I avoid talking to people at all because I don’t want them to get annoyed, feel like they have to say they’re sorry, or even feel like they need to have an answer at all for what I’m feeling.

I also need people to know that saying things like, “You’ll get past this”, “this will be short lived”, or, “just keep yourself busy” only further persuade my already darkened mind that this is something I can control, and so I must not be doing something right if I still feel this way.

Most people don’t know why I’m like this, because I hide it. I don’t want people to know that I’m weak because – out of the genuine kindness of their hearts – they think their condolences can make it go away; but they really can’t.

I used to suppress all of this darkness because – at a certain time in my life where it was true – I knew I could have it a lot worse. My step dad could have actually been walking in on me as I got out of the shower instead of just threatening it; he could have been doing more than just watching me sleep in my bra and panties; he could have been sneaking into my room while I slept; he could have actually slapped me like he threatened to do; he could have actually punched me like he had threatened to do: it could have been worse.

I could have been abandoned by my family, instead of taken in, when I didn’t want to be an ocean away from my mother after my parents’ divorced; I could have been raped instead of molested by my babysitter when I was 4-years-old: it could have been worse.

That was my mantra growing up: it could have been worse, it could be worse right now. But it isn’t, it wasn’t; and yet, it’s still bad.

The worst part is that, now that I’m happy, my flight or fight mind doesn’t know how to settle down. Now that I’m not working full-time and “keeping busy”, now that I can see how far I’ve come, now that I can actually stop suppressing everything: it has gotten worse. I see who I do and don’t have in my life. I see that I have not developed any healthy, nurturing relationships (and worse, that I am afraid to do so). I see that I quickly develop unhealthy relationships with people, simply because I am looking for someone to take care of me; and I see myself pushing my husband away from that because I don’t want him to have to be that person. He shouldn’t have to fill the role of my father or mother; nor should he because: gross. Which means that I am back to hiding things from myself, but that’s hard to do when I’m home alone or just alone for most of my days now.

I avoid reaching out to friends who are happy because I don’t want to drag them down with me. I told a few friends yesterday that I am depressed and I feel like apologizing, taking it all back, and pretending like I never said anything. I avoid reaching out to my in-laws because they’ve had their children, watched them grow, and now it’s their turn to relax. They don’t need to be brought into all of my troubles because there’s so much they don’t need to know about me. But I guess – with this – it’s too late for all of that.

I also need people to know that my parents did the best they could with what they had been given from their parents, and their situations. Neither of them grew up in a home where they felt loved; they too grew up in fight or flight, they never figured out how to live without it turned on at all times. As someone who has done even a small amount of reading about it, it’s so difficult for people like us to find a drama-free life, because we don’t know how to survive.

I need people to know that I am working really hard to stay in college when all I want to do right now is quit and hide away in a part-time job where I don’t have to think about it all. About life being difficult, about life outside of just surviving. It’s hard to be happy because it makes you weak, in a way, and makes you think: wow, it was bad, and now I’m suffering. It is hard to find healthy, nurturing relationships with people who tell you that you’ll get get past it, because it really doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

I fight, everyday, to be happy. And it could be worse, and it once was worse than this, but now I’m dealing with the scars left by my childhood. The scars of abandonment, uncertainty, abuse, and manipulation.

But above all else, I want people to know that I am not the only person dealing with this kind of in-life, afterlife. But the therapist that was the most help for me costs $65/visit. She was phenomenal, and I could tell from just one meeting that I would have made a lot of progress with her, but I can’t afford it. She doesn’t accept insurance, and even that has a $2000 deductible for me to meet before I get any help. Without a full-time job, and while I’m trying to manage paying for school and living expenses, I just can’t afford to go to her. And I’ve tried other, affordable options in the past, but “free” means limited, and limited means I have to find a new person probably once a year; or “free” means possibly not as good, or possibly not as willing. And right now, nothing is worse than someone who doesn’t care about me as more than a way to write off some volunteer hours.

I am trying everyday to be happy, I fight everyday to move past it, I try everyday to stay busy; but sometimes I get really tired, and it is on those days where I sleep until I cannot physically sleep anymore, and so I watch Netflix. But, hey, it could be worse.

Rediscovering My True North

Somewhere between high school and now, I lost my once greatest attribute: living in spite. I once lived my life happily in spite of the sometimes terrible things I endured growing up; I made decisions in spite of what I was told I was capable of doing; I planned adventures in spite of how little money I had.

What happened? Sadly, I think it was a physiological change of aging mentally. I used to laugh more often, be carefree more often, and work much less with better productivity. I think part of my working harder came from a guilt that I wasn’t gaining fast enough in some metaphysical race that no one but people in suits or industry can attend. I bought into the lie that working faster meant working harder, that the product was more important than the process, and that my true self was less important than my perceived self.

Then I was faced with the terribly common existential issue of, who am I; really? Well, I found out who I am not pretty easily. I am not someone who does well when working in a non-transparent work environment. I do not prefer following along with decisions made in whispers or behind closed doors, without room for question. I am not someone who can work in an environment where education is seen as a waste of time, rather than an investment. I am not happy with sacrificing my family for a job that may not want me in 5 years, let alone 6 months, because my family is forever.

My true self values truth, openness, kindness, dedication, loyalty, and most importantly: kinship. Brothers and sisters that love each other may argue or fight, but they always stand up for each other. I want that. I want everyone to urge me to be the best version of me, in a way that emphasizes my strengths and contributions to the team. I want people to accept me holistically, even though I am what my mom calls a “tender heart” (aka, someone that cries when they see a dead pigeon in the middle of the road without hope, even though birds terrify me; or cries because sometimes life isn’t fair to those who deserve the most a break).

I also know that, my life wasn’t the best, but it made me absolutely me. I also know that it could have been worse. Sometimes, though, my finding the silver lining has been frowned upon, and that made it easy to be complacent and lazy. Which leads me to my next point: I work hard. I work hard, everyday, to not fall victim to my past. I have been lazy, but I’m working to help myself by finding the good in everyone and everything. I believe that everyone has good in them, and everyone deserves love.

Through this, I have rediscovered why I want to help people. I want people to feel empowered. I want people to pursue happiness. I want to inspire others find the greatness inside themselves. I am working on how to do those things, and I think it’s going to start with falling back in love with myself, someone I have not loved for awhile now. I cannot love others, and help them find their worth, if I do not show them that I myself am capable the same feat.

Forced Work-Life Balance

It will be far too easy for me to get sucked into the routine of work, home, work, home, work… home… work…. work…. work.

I am realizing more and more that I need to work for a company that allows for me to have a home life, especially while my husband is in school. I will never spend time on pet projects, I will dread getting up in the morning, and I will hate working if I am forced to be in at 8AM and home by 6PM every day, Monday through Friday.

I do not mind working hard, in fact – and you can ask anyone – that I enjoy being very busy: always have, always will.

But I need my boss to tell me it’s okay to take a week off once in awhile; I need my boss to tell me I can work from home, if only just to spend a little extra time with my animals; I need my boss to understand that I will sometimes work from home to resemble spending time with my husband when he is home.

What I do not need, is to not be trusted. I do not need to feel forced into putting in overtime, simply because everyone else is. I do not care what everyone else is doing. As long as I am meeting and exceeding expectations, and that can happen in a normal 40-hour week, then I should feel free to go home when I am good and ready. Do not give me less work because you think I am far too overwhelmed, just give me your desired priority.

Do not assume I am incapable, before giving me a chance to prove my competence. Further, do not assume – for you know what that does – that I am living my life in hopes of pleasing only my work life; because I am not. We all know about the cat in the cradle (whatever that means), we know about mommies and daddies that never have time for their kids; but most of all, we know what it does to marriages and families when the mommies, daddies, etc. are forced to stay at work because the company will manage to fall apart without us there, like a puppy left home for the first time.

Do not force your unhappy balance on me, if you are not ready to make me unhappy. You preach good leadership, but the captain does not spend time poking holes in the already flooded boat, they spend time making sure the crew will survive, and give themselves the last, or no, life jacket at all.

A Little Disappointed

I can’t say that I woke up completely happy
Or that I wasn’t a little confused

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared
Or that I wasn’t a little excited

I am confident that I have no idea what I want
From my present or my future self

I know that there is nothing in this world
That will prepare me for potential disappointment

There are so many options, they say
But I can’t say I want any but the one I have

There are so few who understand
But I know those who do are strong

I can’t say I was calm or decisive
When I paced around my room

I can say I know that, either way,
I would have been a little disappointed.