A reader of my blog told me recently that he hoped I never met anyone and fell in love, because if I did, that would be the end of my blog – seeing as my blog was essentially an online journal of my trainwreck dating life. He liked my blog, he didn’t want it to end.
A few months ago, somebody suggesting that I was on the brink of finding happiness would have been laughable. I was a devoted cat-less cat-lady with a pronounced appreciation for stuffed animals. Happiness was not in my future.
From 2010 to 2014, I had 3 major depressive episodes, one of which lasted over a year.
As my third depression hit me in August 2014, I sought help. My therapist asked me if I’d seen Brené Brown’s Ted Talk about the power of vulnerability. I had, but I couldn’t be vulnerable, it was impossible. I listed endless reasons, anecdotes and stories that supported that my world-view that if anyone truly saw me for who I am, they’d be disappointed. That prospect was intolerably painful. My shame dictated that I must hide my true self from everyone; the alternative was unbearable. He smiled, and told me to buckle up, because we were going to work at embracing vulnerability. It was going to suck, and take a long time, but we’d get there.
Everyone should watch Brené Brown’s Ted Talk, the long 20-minute length notwithstanding. She is a funny, talented speaker, and the content of this video changed my life.
For all of you too lazy to watch it, here is the transcript. Just read it. Or better yet, watch it. DO IT.
I started this blog in July 2014, just 3 weeks before that last depression hit. My early posts are polished stories of funny, embarrassing things I’d done. I remember how scary I found writing those, and how important it was to be perceived as funny, while I was so unhappy. My therapist approved of my writing: he thought putting myself “out there” was a habit that I should develop. If I was comfortable sharing the carefully packaged stories, I’d grow comfortable sharing more of myself. The important thing was that I shared anything, rather than lock myself away.
15 months later, this blog has allowed me to peel away some protective armour, and voice my raw emotions and flaws. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. People can relate to my trainwreck dating stories, insecurities and anxiety. Friends, family and strangers have all reached out to me to say “YES. I’ve felt this way too.” The me that I used to keep hidden away, for fear of being seen, truly seen and found inadequate is the same me that people respond and relate to.
In my “real” life, I’ve noticed a shift too. I’m grounded by connections with coworkers, friends, teammates: my life is a rich tapestry of people I’ve shared an emotion with. I’ve shown my failings to these people, and they love/like/tolerate me anyhow. Or they don’t, and I am ok with that. It isn’t an automatic reflection on my self. Similarly, their flaws are no longer something to be judged: rather, something deserving sympathy. We all have our crosses to bear – we are all in this struggle together.
When I was starting out in boxing 3 years ago, my coach took me aside and asked me why I was so afraid. When I answered that getting punched in the head was scary, he brushed that aside. He wanted to know my everyday body language was one of someone scared of getting hurt: my shoulders bowed, hesitation in my movements, easily startled, anxiety in my forehead. He said my demeanour only got worse when I stepped into the ring, and I was a danger to myself because I wasn’t paying attention to my opponent, as I was too busy fighting my internal demons.
I started to cry, then. Despite my best efforts to keep my insecurities private, here was a man who had seen past my persona. It was only a matter of time before he saw me for the broken failure that I was.
I contrast that with my posts from this summer:
- June 2015: I discuss my battle with depression, twice. (Moments of Truth; Putting the Happy back into Happy Birthday)
- July 2015: A post about grieving my mother, 3 years on (Clair de Lune). The 2 part series on my disastrous attempt at sexting – a manifesto about being vanilla, if there ever was one (Note to Self: Sexting is a Bad Idea and Follow-Up to Sexting).
- August 2015: I own up to vanity, and the importance of shoes and fancy dresses to deal with insecurities at weddings and fears of remaining perpetually single (Why the Shoe Matters).
- September 2015: I sang in front of 400 coworkers (I am not Beyoncé). I acknowledge my body image issues (The Struggle is Real). I acknowledge how volatile and raw my emotions are as I work through therapy (All of the Blankets).
- October 2015: I stop trying to mold myself into a version that would be acceptable to a boy (How to kill my Crush). I convince a band at an Irish Pub to let me sing one song with them on a crowded Friday night (I Might Be Beyoncé After All).
- November 2015: I refuse to be peer-pressured into sleeping with a guy, because goddammit I am vanilla, and I will wait for a guy who can accept that (The Accidental Chastity Belt). I am a total drama queen at the gym and have been teased about it ever since (How to Lose All Credibility at a Boxing Gym). On a whim, I spent an evening with Strawberry, a dude I’d only had a few minutes interaction with at Halloween (Strawberry Saga). I ask a hottie out, to the Opera no less, and then freak out before the goodnight kiss (Opera and Chill). I go to supper at the Opera guy’s place, working through a helluva lot of doubts about the setting being too intimate, and discover that he doesn’t fit my preconceptions about beautiful (presumed douchebaggy) men (When Opera Leads to Supper).
So here I am. I’m happy. Maybe, just maybe, vulnerability ain’t so bad – look at all I have lived through in the past 6 months. I’m no longer ashamed: I am who I am, and I can’t wait to see where life takes me.
Coach calls this being an Amazon. Brené Brown calls it self-worthiness. Therapist calls it compassion for oneself and acceptance. I call it being alive.
It feels so good to alive again.