The Kobe tragedy is still sticking with me even days later. It's not because I grew up watching that Lakers team. It's not because I was the Shaq to my point-guard's Kobe in middle school basketball. It's not because of Kobe's complicated persona. It's not because it's been plastered all over social media. It's sticking with me because of the universal truth it reveals about humanity: we are all one breath away from a tragedy.
Though a helicopter ride is out of most of our realms of perspective, the underlying purpose of their being on the helicopter transcends all walks of life. That helicopter ride is our commute to work. That helicopter ride is our "quick" trip to the store. That helicopter ride is our "be right there."
I can almost guarantee Kobe, Gigi, and the rest of the victims had plans for supper that night. It's those plans that shake me to my core because those are the ones we take for granted. It's gut-wrenching to think of who Gigi and Alyssa Altobelli could have become in their adult lives. But, for me, it's almost more agonizing to think about who they'd be today, just 4 days later. Would they be planning their next haircuts? Would they be dreading their mom's lasagna for the night? Would they be complaining about their English essay? It's "easy" to mourn a brilliant future that was cut too short because of tragedy. However, I'd imagine the survivors who are left picking up the pieces of a tragedy miss the day to day aspects the most - the singing together to favorite songs in the car, the helping with homework, the everybody sitting around the table for dinner, the "how was school today," even the little squabbles that eventually become inside jokes as children get bigger.
That helicopter ride, though grand to us, set in motion a new, more painful, normal for so many different people, and yet, it likely began in such a mundane way. There might have been a, "Hey, honey, can you grab some frozen peas for dinner tonight?" There might have been a quick rush out of the house without a kiss because they were running late. There might have been an, "I'll see you later tonight. Don't forget to pick up the dog from the groomer." Most tragedies begin the same way - unremarkable.
The Kobe tragedy is sticking with me because it reminds me that I, and my loved ones, were given a gift today and every minute we get after. Immediately after a tragedy like this, we all tend to take stock of our blessings, and we spend a period of time being extraordinarily grateful. Inevitably, though, I will again get irritated because no one can put their socks in the hamper. I'll get frustrated because we eat the same 5 dinners on rotation. I'll become overwhelmed rushing from work, to dance, to all the responsibilities of home. However, I think the Kobe tragedy is going to change one major way I look at my life. It is going to be a reminder that every, "I'll see you later," states a promise that none of us are sure we can keep. And every, "How was your day," is a gift I've been given with the people I love, and I'm going to make sure I'm mentally present every time I and the people I care about are around to answer it.
*Note: This post, though spurred by the death of Kobe Bryant, is not implying anything about the accusations against him. I have been working hard to process through some of what I have seen on social media, and this post reflects MY experiences in MY situation. I do not want to use someone's death as a platform for my feelings, and I certainly do not feel that it's my place to discuss what transpired in his life.*
How do we measure someone's legacy in life? How much are the "good" moments worth? How much are the "bad" moments worth? How many "good" things does someone have to do to wipe away the "bad" things they do? How do these ratios change when it's your own legacy you're speaking about?
Social media is a wild thing. Social media allows news to break in an instant. It allows you to follow your favorite celebrities. It allows you to share photos and experiences with family members across the country. It allows you to "investigate" potential dates before you meet them. It allows you to "research" what your best friend from high school is doing now. *Trigger* It also lets you see what your assaulter is up to these days. Mine, he's got a family. He has a beautiful daughter and a beautiful wife, and it appears, by all intents and purposes, that he is contributing positively to society.
For almost a decade, I harbored so much hatred in my heart. Why does he get to have a family? Why does he get to be successful? Why am I the one who had to change the course of my life because of the residual effects he had on me? Why does it appear that everything is going right for him when he planted so. much. pain. in my life? Those questions burned in my brain and heart for years. I wish I could tell you what changed. Maybe, it was having kids of my own. However, the pain doesn't burn as hot anymore, and it has allowed me to see the situation with some clarity I so desperately needed. I have to be honest; this might not sit well with some people. However, it's my truth, and I hope that telling it might reach someone who needs it:
I want my assaulter to be a good father and husband. I want him to positively impact the world. I want his daughter to adore him. I want his wife to be faithful. I want his career to be one that positively impacts the world. I want him to be fulfilled.
I want him to be happy.
Why do I want this? I wouldn't want my legacy to be based on decisions I made at the age of 18. I wouldn't want my legacy as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a professional to be permanently tarnished by a lack of judgment, though severe, that occurred before the complete development of my frontal lobe.
That doesn't mean I've forgotten about what he's done to me. That doesn't mean that "it's no big deal." Heck, that doesn't even mean that it still doesn't bring me to tears some time. My ability to let him have a new legacy doesn't necessarily speak to his success. Rather, it speaks to my hard work and determination to heal enough to give grace. So by letting him have a legacy that isn't defined by his actions as a young adult, I am actually letting myself begin a new legacy of my own that isn't defined by his actions. He is somebody's father. He is somebody's co-worker. He is somebody's husband. He is somebody's son. Acknowledging him for who he is now doesn't negate what he did. It doesn't mean that my life is worth less. It means that I am able to separate his actions from his person and his ability to contribute to the world. It means that I have a hope that people can change their actions. I have a hope that we can give grace in all our journeys. I have a hope that he will raise his daughter in a way that makes her feel loved and respected. And through that hope, I find true healing.
*Note: Again, this is MY experience. I am aware that there are simply bad people in the world, and I am, by no means, implying that you have to feel the way that I do to have fully achieved healing or forgiveness.*
I am an introvert. I've shared it before, but I like to remind people because I don't give off "introvert" vibes. Friendly reminder: Just because someone is an introvert, it does not mean that they can't be social. It simply means they recharge and generate their energy from inside themselves as opposed to generating their energy from social situations.
Interestingly enough, both of my jobs require me to work and engage with people all day. I don't dislike working with people; it's just imperative that I make sure I schedule small moments to myself throughout the day to avoid burnout. The other strategy I've used to help me get through the most social days is to let people inspire me. We are moving so quickly all day every day. We are always moving to the next appointment, finishing the next assignment, and hustling to and from all of our expectations. On the busiest of days, it can become really hard to see the beauty of life because of the pace at which it's moving.
I think the best way for me to describe what I mean is by providing an actual example. There is no better microcosm for life than a night as a server. I'll have 4 tables. One table needs refills, the next table needs their orders taken, one table asked for extra ranch, and the other needs a high chair. A server's shift looks just like those nights when I have to get dinner ready, get Evyn to dance, get everyone bathed, pack preschool lunch, and set out clothes for tomorrow all within a 4 hour window. I'm frazzled. I'm always frazzled, and I inevitably forget things and mess up. When I drop off the refills to the first table, they ask, "Is this your second job?" The easiest thing to do is shoot back a quick, "Yes," and move on to the next 5 tasks I need to do. And honestly, sometimes that's what happens. However, the best nights, even when they're busy, are the nights I have the awareness to know I have an opportunity to engage, and I reply, "This is. I'm a success coach at Rhodes State. I used to be a teacher." Most of the time, they then share with me what they do or an experience they had with Rhodes or educators. I've learned so much about people. People who worked 3 jobs themselves to get through nursing school. People who left abusive relationships to pursue a career and life for themselves. People who hated their teachers. People who used to wait tables themselves. **FUN FACT: This is also really awesome because people are much more forgiving when you forget things if you engage with them as a human** The coolest thing about these experiences is that I take a little bit of every person with me. It sounds corny, but I still remember women who have shared their stories of trauma with me, men who have shared stories about their own wives, and stories from people who were deep in the same grind I currently find myself in. In these small moments, you remember that you're a part of a bigger picture - that your struggles, while valid and difficult, are universal. The people around you are overcoming obstacles and hurdles, and they, like you, want to be successful and loved.
Like I said, I know this all sounds corny. However, as someone who can become so immersed in my own work and struggle that I miss the world happening around me, taking the time to stop and interact with my fellow humans has done wonders for my tendency to burn out. When you realize that people around you have done some pretty cool things, you have a little more faith in humanity. And, by default, you have a little more faith in yourself.
Keep fighting the good fight, friends!
This isn't a blog post about preferred pronouns. Though, that is an extremely important concept that you should familiarize yourself with and start practicing if you are not. Rather, this is about what I overhear on a daily basis. I hear just about everything. I don't necessarily eavesdrop, but my highly sensitive personality coupled with my handful of years teaching have caused me to be hyper-aware of what people are saying and doing on a daily basis. Last night, I was sitting at dance with the other moms waiting for their daughters to get done with their classes. I do this every Tuesday night, and even though I bring my book with me, with so many people around, it's inevitable that I overhear a conversation or two.
I hear the following sentence or variation of these sentences often: "We don't really like her" or "I don't understand her" or "She just doesn't get it." More often than not, I have no idea who this pronoun is referring to because, like I said, I'm not listening to the conversation. I just hear snippets of what they're saying. And, for the record, it's not just the dance building where I hear sentences like this. I hear them from students at work. I hear them in restaurants. Most of the time, it's "she" or "her," but I'm sure I've heard variations that include "he" and "him." And before I sound self-righteous, I'm sure sentences like this have come out of my mouth as well.
Last night, I got to thinking, "I wonder who she is?" Is she a teacher? Is she a friend? Is she a mother-in-law? I wonder what she would have to say if she heard the sentence come from the person saying it? I wonder if she'd be shocked or hurt or unfazed or confused? Then, I REALLY got to thinking, and I wondered, "How many times have I been the she that someone was talking about?" I make mistakes that I'm sure frustrate people, but I rarely do anything with malicious intent to make the lives of the people around me worse. When that thought crossed my mind, I realized something extremely important: most of the time we harbor anger, resentment, or confusion towards people who are simply living life in a way we can't completely understand, and those feelings towards their actions manifest in a way that makes us have ill feelings regarding the person doing them.
What does this mean practically? On a surface level, it's just a structural change in the sentence. Instead of saying, "I don't understand her," we can say, "I don't understand the actions." However, in order for you to see a benefit, you have to change the way you think, and you have to truly commit to looking at the actions instead of the person. Did a teacher reprimand your child in a way you disagree with? Momma bear, I feel you. If I thought there was an injustice done to my child, I would be ON FIRE. However, I've also been a teacher who has been having a bad day and let my emotions take over which caused an interaction with a student to escalate farther than it should have. And guess what? I'm still a decent human, and I would gladly apologize or listen to the other side. When we place our frustrations and anger solely on people and stop there, that anger is empty. She doesn't know you're angry in the dance waiting room. And she would probably gladly explain herself or try to fix the situation if she knew. When we place our frustrations and anger on actions first, analyze those actions, and try to understand those actions, we can move towards a healing that is beneficial to both parties involve. Sure, some people suck. And, if you analyze her actions and motives and she still seems off, then, by all means, feel disgust and hurt. However, empty negativity is contagious and often draws more from you and the person you're talking to than the person you're directing it towards.
I'm going to be honest; I don't talk about my faith often. Faith, to me, is a messy subject. Everyone has faith. You wouldn't have gotten up this morning if you didn't. Some people have faith in God. Some people have faith in themselves. Some people have faith in the universe. Some people have faith in nature. Some people have faith in other gods. You get the picture. But, the common denominator in all of this is "faith." Faith transcends life styles, beliefs, race, gender, class; however, the degree and definition may vary among us.
Psalms 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."
If you're not religious, please don't stop reading yet. I am an English person, so sometimes I think of the Bible in a non-conventional way. I look at it as a book. A book that, like other books, has themes. A book that needs to be explored and analyzed in a way that is not always literal. So, let's look at it like this: if you're religious, let's leave God as God. If you're not religious, let God represent whatever you have faith in.
Regardless of how you feel about "God" being in that sentence, I think the most important part of that verse is "Be still." What does that mean? Do I sit in my chair and stare at my computer and hope someone brings me lunch? (That wasn't that funny was it? Dad joke status.) What does it look like to "be still"? I'm going to be completely transparent and say that I haven't been good at being still. I haven't been still professionally. I want to be where I want to be right now. I haven't been still medically. I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S WRONG. I haven't been still as a mother. I want my son's actions to change immediately.
My best friend sent me some pages from a book she was reading about a woman who struggled with a chronic illness. After one exceptionally bad flare, she decided she wasn't going to worry anymore. She wasn't going to exhaust herself running from doctor to doctor only to hear the same frustrating phrases over and over. She decided to "be still." Her story resonated with me.
Yet, I'm rationally frantic in that I understand that there's a fine line between being still and being negligent. The story worked out for that woman. Eventually, after making peace with her health, she was able to find someone to help her. However, the realist in me thinks about the possibility that you could "be still" while something serious destroys your life.
To continue my Bible quoting, Ecclesiastes 3:7 says, "A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak." I know what you're thinking, "That's cute, Emily. But, you still haven't told me how to know when to be still." I think this verse from Ecclesiastes exposes some truth about timing. I think it's all about "listening." And, in order to listen, we have to be still anyways. Next time you're feeling frantic about a job or your health or your children, stop for a second. Don't open a browser on your phone to search for more jobs or a new doctor or parenting advice. Don't start yelling. Don't start crying. Don't call your mom. Just stop. Stop and listen. Listen to your fear and anxiety. If there is something you can truthfully do to fix it right now, do it. For example, if your child has a splinter, obviously, Google how to remove it safely and effectively and do it. However, if there are more moving parts than a small piece of wood in someone's hand, if there are parts that are out of your control, be still for a bit. Keep working in your current job. Keep consistently punishing and praising your children.
From a practical perspective, being still for a period of time will perform a factory reset. It will bring you back to who you were before you were frantic and anxious. Sometimes the noise is so loud that we can't hear the real problem. Have faith in the process, and be still for a bit.
So, let the record show, this post is not from a high horse. We are currently living minimalistically by force...not by choice. So, don't think that I am laying judging eyes on you if you choose to splurge on new Airpods or another new pair of boots. Keep doing you, boo. Right now, we can't possibly splurge on anything. As a matter of fact, my knee is killing me because I can't bring myself to drop 100 bucks for a new pair of running shoes (that might sound extreme for a non-runner, but when you think of all the miles you put on a pair of shoes, it's really not that much money).
Anyways, I have had some unexpected residual effects from our dramatic decrease in income due to my shift in jobs. We literally make half as much as we did at this point last year. At this point last year, I was planning a spring trip to Disney with my family. We were eating out whenever we pleased. I was buying new clothes when I couldn't decide what to wear. Life was "good." (That doesn't account for the fact that I was so stressed that I was physically ill more often than I wasn't...but that's a discussion for another time.) I cherish our Disney memories, and I miss all those "date nights" with my husband;
HOWEVER, I'm here to say that there is actually freedom in living a minimalist lifestyle. Now, we are, by no means, anywhere near the type of minimalists you might see portrayed in media. Simply put, minimalism refers to living with less. In August, I vowed to go an entire year without buying a single new article of clothing for myself. I initially did this as an environmental act which means you're allowed to thrift. I want to do my part to make a smaller impact on our earth (if that's not your jive, I get it). Now that money is even tighter, I've realized that this vow is also going to be a survival tactic for our family. This past weekend, I went through my closet. I bagged up anything that was too big or too small, and those clothes are going to our local thrift store. I have a few pairs of jeans, a few pairs of dress pants, some dresses, and some leggings. I don't have a ton, but ironically, I'm happier now than I was when my closet was busting at the seams.
There's actually some scientific proof that too much choice stresses us out. Too much to choose from, and we freeze. We make impulsive decisions. We make decisions that aren't sustainable in the long run. It really is a pretty cool concept. Check out this article if you're curious: https://galadarling.com/article/happiness-is-simple-why-too-many-choices-make-us-miserable-5-ways-to-improve-your-life/
Here's what I've learned: when you realize what you really need, you learn exactly why you do what you do every day. In living with less, I've learned that I was running myself ragged for things that really didn't matter as much as I thought they did. Not only that, but living with less stuff means living with less fear. You understand that you will find a way to survive when you're forced to find a way. Last year at this time, I would have vomited if you'd told me my salary would be cut in half. This fear was rooted in the idea that we needed everything we had. We needed 100 dollar cable. We needed a $1,500 vacation. I needed 10 pairs of pants and 50 pairs of shoes. Here's the thing, we didn't. We can survive on thrift clothes. We can survive with Hulu plus. I can listen to Pandora with ads. I'm not afraid anymore because I've learned that we can survive with less...and...more importantly, we can STILL BE HAPPY with less. We will still take a vacation and make memories, and I have a feeling that vacation will be even more meaningful because we will have saved for a year for it.
Like I said, if you've worked hard and have the means, I am not telling you to neglect your family. I do challenge you to take inventory of what you have and what you purchase. Being cognizant of what you buy and use and why you buy it will reveal a lot about who you are and what you do. Chances are, you're stressing yourself out about things that really don't matter as much as you think they do.
Keep fighting the good fight, friends!
Happy New Year, friends! Before I begin, I want to give you permission. If you made resolutions, I give you permission to be excited for them. I give you permission to exert your energy on them. I give you permission to be proud when you see them through or disappointed when you don't. I also give you permission to not make any resolutions at all. I give you permission to "start" your "resolutions" in the middle of March if you'd like. Whatever you choose, I don't give you permission to shame what other people chose to do and not to do. We're all fighting the same fight.
On that note, I got inspired on New Year's Eve. We had this desk right in front of our front door. The desk was a spot of contention in my marriage. I'd clean the desk. I'd organize the bills, coupons, junk mail, and trinkets that would get piled on the desk, I'd feel good for about it for a few days then, inevitably, the junk would end up piled on it again within a week. I'd complain about it, ignore it, get anxious about it, clean it, and repeat the cycle. Guess what I did on New Year's Eve? I got rid of the desk. Yep, you read that right. I organized what was on top. I threw away expired coupons. I found new places for the things we needed and disposed of the things we didn't. I took the printer, the poor printer, that hadn't been used in years down to the basement, and my 2 year old helped me take the legs off the table. I took it out to the trash, and I haven't looked back. The table is gone, and I feel like a whole new woman. (However, to be transparent, I do still have a tiny corner shelf to hold the absolute necessities)
That table was a physical manifestation of my anxiety. It was home to the bills I was avoiding. It was home to the decisions I couldn't make. It was home to the junk that I let pile up in my life and take up space that should be allotted for what's actually important. Now that the table is gone, I have to make daily decisions that will make life easier in the long run. Will we really use that coupon to Lowe's? Nope, throw it away now. Don't let it stack up with the other useless coupons until the space is so crowded that I can't find what I really need. That medical bill that is about to be sent to collections? I can't throw it on the desk now. I have to look at my budget, see what is a reasonable payment, and take action.
I think we all have "desks" in our lives. Maybe, at your home, it's your drawer. Maybe, it's your purse. Maybe, it's a small corner in your mind. You don't have to organize your "desks" because it's a new year. You need to organize your desks because your mind deserves some peace. Find an area of your life that's cluttered - an area that's home to your junk. Clean it out. Purge the things you don't need, so there's space for what matters. Make immediate decisions that will enable you to find peace later.
Keep fighting the good fight!
My kids have been so incredibly sick this winter, and it's really put a damper on the time I can spend blogging. But, that just means that you get the final 2 "things people with anxiety wish you knew during the holidays" at once! Happy holidays! The cool thing about my kids being super sick this last month is that it has distracted me from my "normal" anxiety I feel during the holidays. However, now that we're at Christmas Eve eve, I feel it closing in around me.
#2: We Don't Want to Be This Way
One of the hardest stigmas I've had to battle with my anxiety is the idea that I'm anti-social or stand-offish. People perceive my disengagement as apathy at best or callousness at worst. I want to be careful when I say that I "don't want to be this way" because I have learned to embrace my anxiety and use it to strengthen my psyche and ability to empathize. **It took me YEARS to get here. If your anxiety is still debilitating, don't let that be a statement that frustrates you. You will get there.** I enjoy my anxiety in that it often allows me to see the world as it really is (even though it often causes me to read into situations way more than I need to). However, I do have to address the ideas that 1) we didn't choose to be this way and 2) we don't want to be this way.
When everyone is seemingly able to laugh and ignore the fact that there are tiny pieces of wrapping paper embedded in the carpet, our quirks are exemplified. We ask ourselves, "Why doesn't this bother anyone else?" "Am I crazy?" We don't want to be so distracted by whether or not our child loses the pieces of his brand new toy that we miss the joy in his face as he pretends he's a fireman. We don't want to be so worried about food borne illnesses that we can't enjoy the cookies our niece made. We don't want to be so overstimulated that we have to "go to the car" to "look for some gum." We don't want to, but sometimes we have to. Any guilt you place on us for "missing out" only further perpetuates our idea that we aren't worthy of the experiences everyone is sharing.
#1: We're Still Having Fun
With all this being said, I want you to know one very important fact: We're still having fun. The good news is that most of us are aware of our triggers, and the really lucky ones among us have perfected our self-care techniques. We've started preparing a long time ago to address all the possible hiccups we could face as these next few days approach.
Even if we have a "bad" anxiety day on Christmas, we're still enjoying your company. For some of us, we feel safest with our families. For some of us, we feel most exposed with our families. Regardless of where your loved one stands on that spectrum, they still appreciate the effort and love that goes into preparing for a holiday. The only thing I ask is that you remember that "fun" looks differently for everyone. Some people thrive in chaos - an intense game of charades, drinking, everyone opening presents at the same time. And, some people thrive in the more quiet moments - a private conversation with a loved one they haven't seen in a while, eye contact after someone has opened a thoughtful gift, the drive home when the kids are finally asleep. Be sensitive to the different ways your loved ones thrive. What works for you doesn't work for everyone else, but that doesn't mean they're not sharing in the joy and fun with you!
I will be thinking of all my fellow anxiety warriors as the holiday season comes and goes. I want to add one more caveat to all of these tips: I addressed people with "normal" family situations. I'm also aware some of you are estranged from your family, some of you are geographically far away from your families, some of you are battling through a season of loss, and some of you may be in a season of anxiety that is greater than your will to combat it. If you fall into any of these camps, it's okay to "just survive." It's okay to put your head down and just get through. Fill your own cup if you are able, and if you have any left over, fill the cups of the people who mean the most to you.
Happy holidays, friends!
Alright, friends. I'm taking a break from the "Things People with Anxiety want You to Know During the Holidays" because I'm angry. I'm angry and disappointed. I've been glued to the impeachment hearings just like many of you have. I'm not going to talk about them specifically, but I am going to talk about what has happened to our country over the past 3 years.
Why do we hate each other so much? Seriously.
I am a podcast junkie. One of my favorites is NPR's Hidden Brain. I recently listened to an episode called, "In The Heat Of The Moment" (I'll embed it below). In this episode, it talked about "hot" and "cold" states and how these states interact with our ability to empathize with ourselves and others. For example, the host, Shankar Vedantam, had a colleague who was going to attempt to keep his hand in a cup of ice water for a minute. After about 20 seconds, he pulled his hand out because he couldn't take the cold. However, just a few minutes later, he had already forgotten that pain and was sure he could do it again. Spoiler alert: He still couldn't. Shankar discusses how when we are in "cold" (not directly related to temperature...it's just ironically related to the ice water scenario) states, we cant predict how we will act in "hot" states. And once we're out of those "hot" states, we can't understand why we acted the way we did or even accurately predict how we will react when we are put in a "hot" state again because we have an empathy gap with ourselves and others.
I believe this is what's happening in our country right now. We are struggling to empathize with people who have it worse AND better than us. Yesterday, I worked my primary job from 7:30-4 then I waited tables from 4:30-9:30, and I'll do it again today. My primary job requires a master's, which I have, but it does not pay enough for us to live on. I am, by no means, complaining about my primary job. I love it. I love being able to help people, and I was willing to make financial sacrifices to make it work. I also love waiting tables. I love interacting with people. I love making people happy. BUT, I don't love leaving for work while my kids are still sleeping and coming home after they've gone to bed (just kidding, they're never asleep when I get home, but I do hate only seeing them for about 30 minutes a day). I also don't enjoy how 12-14 hour work days impact my chronic illness and make my body swell and ache for days. I am not asking for a single bit of pity. I chose my career. I chose my degree. What I am asking for is a little bit of empathy.
I have seen so many horrible comments regarding people from my generation. We are "entitled." We are "whiny." We are "lazy." No, we aren't. We're working 2-4 jobs. We're in debt up to our eyeballs because we were manipulated to buy into a broken system. We can't afford houses. We avoid the doctor because we don't have insurance or can't afford our deductible. We aren't whining; we're speaking our truth. I'm going to make a bold statement: No one should have to choose between having a family and getting the skills or education needed to help them attain a job that allows them to share their gifts with the world. Here's another bold statement: No one should have to choose between paying rent/mortgage and going to see the doctor when there is something wrong with them. Maybe, you were able to pay for your college while working a part-time job. We couldn't. Maybe, you have your health. But, some of us don't.
I am not debating forgiving student loans or universal healthcare, but I am urging you to do something a bit difficult today. I want you to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has a life path that doesn't look like yours. And friends in my boat, I still ask you to do the same. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has worked hard to pay off student loans or someone who rarely has to see a doctor. Again, I want no pity. Actually, in the grand scheme of things, I have immense privilege. I'll continue to work as much as I need to provide for my family and pay the bills I have accrued because I am a bit lucky to even have those opportunities. However, I refuse to be disrespected and degraded because I want a world where people can share their gifts with the world and still afford to live.
In a previous blog, I told you the best marriage advice I was given: You can both be tired. Friends, we can all be happy. Maybe, you worked hard for all you have. I'm proud of you. Maybe, you were dealt a really shitty hand. I see you. Maybe, you are currently working towards your dreams. Keep striving! Maybe, you're already there. You're awesome! There's plenty to go around. Empathize, please.
I'm going to need you to do me a favor: read this all the way through before you process it. I'd be ignorant to believe that I wasn't the only person sharing about my mental health journey. It seems as if our society is moving towards more understanding and acceptance of mental illness. I am excited to know that my children might live in a world that is a bit more conducive to the flourishing of everyone. The interesting phenomenon about mental illness is that those of us who battle every day aren't entirely comforted by this movement towards "normalizing" mental health.
#3: Don't Cater to Us
Like I said, I would really like you to read this in its entirety before placing judgment on what I'm saying. When I ask you not cater to my mental illness, I am not asking you to ignore it. You see, one of the most powerful ideas my anxiety chokes me with is this idea that I am a burden. My anxiety makes me feel like I am not enough. My anxiety makes me feel like I am a nuisance to the people who love me. My anxiety tells me that the get-together I'm attending would be better if I would have stayed home. If you've never battled anxiety, you might look at what I just said and reply, "That's silly. You know we love you." The weird aspect of anxiety is that I know that, but my anxiety keeps me from believing it sometimes.
This transitions me to my point: when you cater to me while I'm having an anxiety attack or antisocial moment, you inadvertently perpetuate those illogical conceptions my anxiety is trying to plant in my head. I am NOT saying that you should ignore me, not check in on me, or let me fall so deeply into my own head that I am a danger to myself. What I am saying is that I don't want you to change your plans for me. If it's time to eat and I am sitting alone in a bedroom, go ahead and start eating without me. If I text you, "hey, I'm running late. Go ahead and exchange gifts," please exchange gifts. I am likely alone or running late because I am preparing myself to be the best version of myself that I can be. When you wait for me after I ask you to go ahead, my anxiety is amplified because I then, rightfully, feel like a burden. These thoughts are illogical; I understand that. That's why anxiety is so powerful. You're fighting an enemy that makes no sense, so you can't combat it with logic.
This might sound callous, but I promise it's better for everyone involved. I know you're well-meaning, and I know that you have no intention but to make me feel welcome. However, I'll join the party when I'm ready. I'll laugh and enjoy your company. But, please, don't draw attention to me by changing plans to accommodate my coping mechanisms.