Wednesday, September 11, 2013

speak your mind...even if your voice shakes {maggie.kuhn}


What images come to mind when you hear{read} that word?  With it being the anniversary of 9/11, perhaps its images of first responders who fearlessly entered into the burning twin towers with the goal of rescuing those trapped hundreds of feet in the sky.  Perhaps you picture members of the armed forces, who face immeasurable dangers as they protect the freedoms on which our country was built.  Maybe you picture someone battling an illness, and are awed by their courage as they face not only their treatment but the uncertainty of its effectiveness.

But a stay at home mom donning yoga pants, a messy bun, day-old mascara smudges, and an extra large coconut mocha latte?  Hardly.

However, after my post last week, the word courage became associated with what I had written.  Not by me, but from the various friends, family, and random readers who reached out with words of support, similar experiences, and communication of love and admiration.

It was pretty humbling to think that my words reached the number they did {albeit a small number...but still}.  When I sat down to write that day, I knew my friends and family would find an element of surprise in my words, considering the way in which I masked my inner battles.  I didn't know what the response would be, but I knew is that I had words--a story--to share because I was tired of succumbing to feelings shame.

When my doctor first said the words 'depression and anxiety', I was pelted with a barrage of feelings.  But overall, I felt guilt.  I mean, really.  I knew my original intentions for making the appointment; as I had sneaking suspicions that I'd be hearing those words.  But when I actually *heard* them?  The brick wall I'd built around my mind and heart and soul began to fill with graffiti.

You've got to be overreacting.  Your life isn't *that bad*.  Just 'snap out' of it.  What could you possibly be depressed about?  People are going to think you're being dramatic.

When I looked at that graffiti, the penmanship used to deface my protective barrier looked familiar.  On second glance, I recognized that I was the one filling my wall with such words.  Words of guilt, words of disbelief, words of shame.  I was feeling flawed in some way.  Labeled as something that didn't seem to fit my otherwise open, chatty, friendly persona.

Feeling confused, misrepresented, and seeking a less-intense response from my doctor, I began to back pedal a bit; telling her that maybe I just needed to 'get over it'.  Woman's intuition, a dedicated and genuine bedside manner, or just perhaps the ability to see through my sudden 'change of heart'; my doctor and I engaged in a visceral conversation that helped me acknowledge her words and concern as truth and my {current} reality.

I recall the look of concern in my doctor's eyes during the latter part of my visit whenever I feel overwhelmed.  This woman, essentially a stranger, began breaking through my brick wall; first removing those bricks marred by negative, shameful, hateful words.  She bore holes through the structure, weakening its integrity so that as I began to rest on the other side of her 'diagnosis', that wall may begin to crumble.  I left her office feeling an odd blend of confusion, validation, frustration {how did I allow myself to get into this space?}, and, oddly enough, renewal.

Each morning I arise from bed, set my intention for the day {or morning, or next hour}, and begin to fall into my morning routine.  Life-giving coffee brews from my Keurig, breakfasts are served to sleepy-eyed munchkins, and my medication is swallowed with a large glass of water.  Some mornings I recognize that along with the pill, I am swallowing my guilt, my disappointment, my shame.  Every so often, I discover that Issac Newton sure knew what he was talking about when he said "what goes up must come down" {although, in my case...what goes in, must come out}.

The guilt, the disappointment, the shame...finds its way out.  Those gaps in my brick wall have become spaces through which negativity flows; streaming into my heart and mind like a flash flood, rendering me exhausted and empty and useless for long periods of time.  This past weekend was one of those times.  Visions {dreams, really} of crawling into the comforts of a giant fluffy bed and sitting still and numb and empty filled my head as I made valiant efforts to participate in life.  With the support of my understanding, yet concerned husband and the intuitive nature of my young children, I was able to have spans of time that were low-key and required nothing more than just being.

It's funny.  After writing on Friday, I felt free.  Even in the vulnerability of sharing such personal information in a public forum, I felt a sense of calm and peace.  I felt that now that it was 'out there', I would be able to find sanctity in my writing once again.  I began writing this blog on the premise that I would share stories.  Honest, real, genuine stories from whatever space in which my mind rested when I wrote.  However, as the symptoms of anxiety and depression began to take up residence in my body, I felt too overwhelmed and too shamed to write from a completely vulnerable and open space.  So, I withdrew a bit.  I kept up an appearance here, a comment or two there, and maintained a level of Facebook posts that kept those people {what like 5 of you out there?} who actually read/look at what I've posted under the impression that things were sailing along upon the generic choppy seas to which every mom is akin.

In the meantime, my insides have been drowning in the floods.  I've thrown my pill down my gullet each day as a means of a lifesaving technique.  Some days it reaches my outstretched hands, while some days it bypasses me completely and feels like its been washed away by the raging waters.  But those days, the latter ones, are becoming fewer and farther between.  Perhaps that's why this weekend threw me for such a loop.  The *high* I felt Friday after breaking down the brick wall and sharing my story with so many became null and void by the fall that followed the next two days.  I was grateful I still had my bricks laying around, because I found myself mixing mortar, arranging them neatly, and retreating inside the safety of stable{ish} walls.

Today I still feel like hiding.  My yoga pants are still on, my hair an unwashed, messy bun atop my head, and mascara smudges from a lackadaisical effort to wash my face still remain.  I am in the middle of a phone tag-sort of game with my doctor and insurance company in an attempt to approve the prescription for my medication.  Up until now, I've been using the sample packages provided to me by my doctor.  I've finally figured out which dose is the proper amount for my body, and am ready to continue on that dose for a few months to allow opportunity for a valid assessment of its effectiveness.  So, my desire to ignore phone calls and avoid conversation with anyone {other than my 2 year old, who keeps things *just interesting enough* to stay on this side of a major withdrawal} is being disrupted by logistics and regulations.  Frustrating, yes...but I'm viewing it as the 'thing' that is going to keep me participating, keep me fighting for what it is that my body and mind currently need.

So, rather than retreat into the corner of my couch, I took up residence in front of my laptop.  I opened a blank blog post.  I stared.  I typed.  I deleted.  I stared some more.  I had the words, but did I have the courage?

Apparently, many of my readers think I do.  Their comments and messages are filled with kindhearted sentiment; giving me solace in knowing that my words were taken as they truly were meant to be: genuine.  honest.  real.

At the time, did I think I was showing courage by writing?  Not really.  The word I gravitated toward is vulnerability.  Dr. Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors/research professors says in her book Daring Greatly that "vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences".  I have an adoration for the human experience.  Even in my introverted times, I find myself drawn to reading books and stories that inspire connection, exploration of passions, and the introspection of emotions.

Glennon Doyle Melton states in one of her three defining mantras, "We Belong to Each Other".  I believe that...but my fear before writing last Friday was the reality that not everyone does.  Writing something like *that*...something so...definitive yet not completely's scary.  Backlash, judgement, shame, exposure.  I worried about what others would think, what they would say, how they would respond.  I was suffocating in those fears, and they *almost* kept me from sharing, from {momentarily} tearing down my wall.

But, today I was scrolling back through my highlights from one of my recent reads, Daring Greatly, I came across these two passages:
Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.  ~Dr. Brene Brown
and this 
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage{!}.  Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness. ~Dr. Brene Brown

And suddenly I realized that my audience, those kind souls who reached out to show support and concern, just might have been right.  I showed courage.  While I might not be running into a burning building or facing enemy forces overseas, I am battling an illness.  I am receiving treatment {albeit in the form a small, easy-to-swallow pill}, but am uncertain of its effectiveness.  My badge of courage is by no means comparable to those who risk and give their lives while saving lives, but I'm still wearing it.  I'm not worried about those who will judge, for Albert Camus wrote in his novel, The Fall, "people hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves".  Earl Nightingale has said, "when you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself".    The judgement I feared was replaced with feelings of compassion, empathy, concern, and camaraderie.

The cloak of vulnerability is one I wear every time I write.  Sometimes it is gossamer; it makes my writing light and easy, like when I share funny stories from my tales in the trenches of mommyhood.  Other times, like now, like what I have been experiencing for the past few months, that cloak is more like chainmail.  Heavy, burdensome, limiting my mobility.  But with the recognition that I am capable of demonstrating a bit of courage as I share my story, some of those metal links are removed, the burden becomes lessened, and the flood waters inside begin to flow free from my fingertips.  I become free{er}.

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