Wednesday, March 11, 2015
I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Why in the hell are you sharing these things? These are things that should take place in private conversations with your closest friends!" Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe someone else will be helped by these very public admissions. Whether they have OCD, anxiety, depression or just struggle to live their full, authentic life, maybe this will help them.
Regardless, it's helping me. There is power in vulnerability. I didn't know that until recently. But the more of myself I bare, the stronger I feel. If people don't like it, or want to avoid these things, that's a-ok with me. But it's not ok with me to continue keeping all these things to myself. They've lived in shameful dark places inside me for a very long time. And I've had enough of that. I've spent the past three years in therapy working my ass off to be able to share these things. So here I am.
In addition to the above, it's also easier for me to write than to speak. Particularly to people's faces. I have pretty intense social anxiety. And I'm an intense introvert. Which is often confusing to people. They always say "HA! No way are you an introvert. You're always the life of the party! You're a professor!" Those are sorta true statements. But until recently I've never had anyone know me well enough to know that the life of the party persona is a total farce. My best friend said something to me like "You transform into this different person in groups. It's weird. It's like I don't know you when there are more people than just me and you." (She said it much kinder and flowery, because that's who she is, but I'm not so flowery so that's my paraphrasing). She was really the first one to a) notice and b) comment and c) ask me to explain. Not in a judgy way. But in a curious way. She asked me to put words and thoughts into a behavior I'd been performing my whole life. Damn her :) And thank her. I love her. She continues to inspire and push me. So I thought about it. Consciously. For the first time ever. Named it. Described it. And only then did things start to feel any better. Not great, but better.
People make me anxious. All people. I can get used to people, duh, I have friends. But I actually have very few close friends who know "the real me." Lots of people think they know me. And they do. They just know a very small slice of me. Very few, lucky, determined souls get to see all of me (and even then, it's like pulling back the layers of an onion. There's lots to unravel and reveal). So I get a lot of practice with acting and presentation. Who I am in public is a very carefully crafted version of me. It's fucking exhausting. People who get to see me in sweatpants, crazy morning hair or nearly comatose when I come home from a day of performing (some people call this "a normal day") and need a lot of time to unwind and recoup some of my energy know the real me. The less guarded me (I'd like to say unguarded...but if I'm being real, that doesn't happen as often as I'd like).
"The real me" scares even me a lot of the time. I don't expect people who are not me to understand or like the real me. I've been wounded by many people in this lifetime that I thought loved me for me, but I later found out that they only loved some parts of me, not all of me. The real me has been made fun of and bullied for many of the things that I do that make up me. And those little jabs and jokes and comments have built up troughs full of shame. Whether it's noticing the array of lovely facial tics I have, the fact that I feel SO MANY FEELINGS SO VERY MUCH ALL THE TIME and they therefore label me a drama queen or high maintenance, or jesus can I just let something go every once in a while? Those things have made me want to hide so much of me for so long. Who I am, in real life, under the facade and acting, has always been too much for most people. Over time I've learned what is likable, palatable and funny and quirky rather than annoying, depressing or just too much. This constant hiding is making my life hard. Sometimes unbearable. And it's taken 3 years of intense therapy to say...
No more hiding.
This is me. All of me. Take me or leave me. And if you leave me, that's ok. Less people to make me anxious! I have found love and friendship and self compassion and value in my life again. A lot of it from therapy. A lot of it from my closest friends. A lot of it from an unconditionally loving partner who has never once asked me to change. Being surrounded by people who seek to understand me, and at the very least, not shame me even when they can't understand.
My dad has severe anxiety. I lived with him my entire childhood through adolescence. I saw what it was like to live a life shaped by fear. I saw what it was like to have someone so wonderfully passionate about life let their anxieties make their world very small. When I was younger I vowed to myself to do things that make me scared, because if I didn't, my life would be made small by anxiety and fear. So I continually do things that make me afraid. This is why I'm a professor. It would have been much easier to be researcher. I wouldn't have to talk to many people (cause you know I'd do all internet-based research). But every fucking day I push through my anxiety and introversion so I can stand up in front of students and help change their lives. It's exhausting, sometimes it's terrifying, but it's also the most rewarding thing I do. If I had chosen to live a small, fear-based life I might be like my dad. My dad has a degree in education and he's never taught. He works at an insurance company and talks to as few people as possible. It works for him. It would not work for me.
Writing these blog posts have been terrifying. And for a long time I lost my way. I was brave in some areas but let my life be ruled by fear in some major ways. I'm regaining that tenacity. This is scary, which means I MUST do this. This is what I've always done. I took a break for a while. I was hiding behind all this scary shit. I have funny stories too. Funny and hilarious stories. Once I clear out the backlog of scary hiding pieces I've held on to for so long I'll get back to lighter, funnier things. But I will strive to keep balance. Funny can't be appreciated as much if you haven't faced the dark. So stay tuned. There will be more. Some happy. Some not. That's my life. And I'm sharing it with you.