Everyone is talking about “The Holidays” but I won’t. I don’t buy into societal obligations that leave us stressed out and feeling like garbage. NOPE! And, No Thank You!!! I want to talk about our support systems, most importantly starting with ourselves. Yes, you are the biggest and most important part of your support system. It seems like no one talks about that vital component. It’s always addressed in the external. Your friends, family, etcetera. In our quietest moments, in the darkest of times, the one thing we have always is ourselves.
That thought used to make me feel a great sense of unease. It wasn’t until one of the darkest times in my life that I really faced this fear of being alone with my thoughts. I had avoided it for so long, relied on so many coping mechanisms, quite successfully, for so long that I wasn’t sure what would be left to face and that was enough to avoid it. Brains that have experienced the amount of trauma, especially during more formative years such as I have, work extra hard to avoid the scariest bits of both our minds and the world. It doesn’t matter how long ago the trauma happened, it’s all still in there.
It was the day I had filed for my divorce. I had left my husband six months prior but kept putting off that final step, though we’d signed all the documents well before this. I went to the courthouse alone, didn’t see much reason not to, though my husband later wished he could have gone along, that’s just who he is. I had paid Legal Zoom to prepare all of the paperwork since such things make my head spin (like taxes), so I felt prepared. The court clerk was helping someone else before me. As I waited and couldn’t help overhearing how this woman had already filed a restraining order against her husband and was trying to finalize a divorce that seemed to have been dragged out, my heart hurt. I felt fine otherwise, but she began to cry and I wanted to comfort her but who the hell was I to this person, ya know?
Soon it was my turn at the clerk’s window. I handed over my stack of papers and said, “I would like to file for divorce, please.” with the meekest smile that ever crawled across my lips. The clerk began to go through the papers and soon started shouting what seemed to me to be random letters and numbers, getting louder and more insistent with each repetition. I was taken aback and stunned and confused. This was certainly apparent on my face as the clerk became overly flustered. “I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t know what those letters and numbers mean.” I pleaded. Finally, and I mean a good five minutes of this bullshit, she explained that I had in my packet an extra and unnecessary form. Why she couldn’t simply say this from the start I don’t know, but she slid it back to me under the security glass and I tucked it away from her sight. After that, all was done and I was told I’d be contacted for my court date.
I drove home, it was still pretty early in the day, about 10 or 11 am at the latest. I text a couple of friends, I didn’t contact my husband that day. A sinking feeling took hold of me. Then wave after crashing wave of inexplicable sadness. I was so confused and felt abandoned and more alone than ever before in my life. “But why?!?!” I kept thinking and even whimpering to myself in my dim and later dark bedroom. It felt like mental hell, but I couldn’t figure out why and that was the worst of all. Then, finally, hours later, a bff I had known for over twenty years replied to my text from that morning, “Yeah, it just feels like the worst failure ever, even when you know it was the right thing to do. Ride it out.” (They are not the empathetic or compassionate sort. We’ve since lost touch.)
It did feel like the worst failure ever. I had an amicable split and remained close friends. We weren’t happy together, but we didn’t really fight or ever betray or lie to each other. Others thought we had the perfect relationship, and in a lot of ways we did, but I knew better. I left to find an identity for myself outside of any relationship, something I had never in my life had. I felt compelled to leave, it was what I wanted and needed to be happy or to at least seek the happiness I thought the world might hold for me. Yet I couldn’t avoid the feeling of failure. I wasn’t talking to my family at all by this point, but my grandma is always in my heart and mind. Would she understand? (She had passed just a few months before I was married, but we’d been engaged for 3 years, together for 6 before then.) I forced myself to face these demons alone in my room that day and evening. It felt like facing death. (I was not so well versed in the ways of my panic attacks at that time. Now I would have recognized the preceeding symptoms and possibly have been able to prevent the eight hours of crying and hyperventillating.)
After about eight hours (I know how dreadful that sounds and I can assure you it felt worse), something finally gave and I started to feel a sense of why this all was. It was for me! It was my choice, I did this to create the life I wanted. This mattered so much! It felt like a beacon of light from within myself. It felt like a baby step towards the person I wanted to become, my truest self. It felt like a friendly and helping hand, only from within. I put on some music and lay on my bed, wrapped in blankets, still fully clothed from that morning’s outing. I tried to envision the life I wanted to carve out of the world for myself. I pictured dancing, laughing, hugging fellow rad fatties, creating and crafting, touching and moving, all seemed to be in support of myself through the service and support of others. And that realization was a breakthrough. I didn’t leave my room until the following day, but I felt loads better before actually finding solace in sleep.
I spent five years of my teens in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. It had stripped away more than just my identity. It left me physically and mentally destroyed. Escaping was an obsession, but I was mostly obsessed with who would or could save me. In the end, I saved myself, with the support of one of the few friends I had in the world (though when they re-entered my life I barely knew them). They sensed something was very wrong without knowing exactly what. They offered me a place to live twenty miles away from my abuser. While it wasn’t exactly that simple and straightforward, it did truly save my life, they saved my fucking life! We never talked about what was wrong or why I needed to leave, no one wanted to, especially me. They were going through a divorce at the age of eighteen, I was lost and terrified at age nineteen. We became great friends for a time, we had fun and leaned on each other for support. I’ll never forget the first week after I had moved in, we had an epic whipped cream fight after buying a pumpkin pie at the store.
It took me years of self-loathing, both related and completely unrelated to my body and eating disorder issues, some damaging behaviors, and risky encounters before I finally met someone who saw me for me. That was when I met who would later become my husband. We were friends at first, but abuse survivors recognize each other, even unconsciously. We bonded over that shared pain and fell in love when we both split from our relationships. I still love my now ex-husband, but I can’t speak for their feelings for me. I left when I realized that all of the trying in the world on my part wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans if they refused to do anything at all to save our marriage. I had saved myself before, but this time I had to save us both by leaving. It hurt, a fuck ton!
This time I had no more self-loathing, I had healed most of the harm done to me at the hands of others and myself and had very few fucks left to give. I had never lived alone, though. I had found a room for rent about three blocks away from my husband and best friends apartment building. My new roommate was a stranger to me and it took us both a long time to warm up to one another, though we were always kind and accommodating. There were no distractions, though, not even from myself. I was forced to deal with all that I hadn’t until that point. It was hard, and it was powerful. What I had was a better foundation within myself and support system in my friends.
Years later I finally enjoy being alone. I often prefer my own company, and that of my puggo, to general socializing. I have been through another fucked up long-term relationship, an even more fucked up breakup, mental and physical trauma from a couple of terrible jobs, but I have and know myself more than ever! I know what I am capable of and feel quite certain and sure of myself. I have found great strength and inspiration in the works of the Bronte sisters and Luisa May Alcott. The women in their books often had nothing at all but themselves and yet they didn’t die and even when they failed and flailed and struggled through the most desperate of times, they held onto that inner sense of self for strength and persevered.
I now see the world and my own life’s journey very different than even just a year ago. I am beholden to no one but myself (and my ridiculous puggo). Yet I feel more supported and loved and wanted and needed in the world than ever before in my life! I’m broke as shit, have been unemployed for two and a half months and have had to face some severe depressive episodes, but I feel strong. I feel more me. Sometimes I feel the tap on my shoulder of depression or the whisper in my ear of self-loathing and self-harm, but I know that deep down, even if I succumb to those often unavoidable moments and spells, I will pull through and be a better me on the other side of it. I can face these things head on even when I don’t get a toe-hold before they take possession of me for awhile.
Yes, I have friends that make me feel cared for and loved and seen, but what makes that possible is that I am able to do that for myself, too (though not consistently, I’ll confess). It takes a shitload of self-work, self-reflection, and exploration, sitting with feelings that make me want to scream and run and crawl out of my skin, being the most vulnerable with myself and deciding to just fucking own it. I no longer run from my aloneness. I don’t avoid the deeper and darker crevices of my own mind. I sometimes prefer to dig even deeper because I know it will be meaningful and provide perspective and growth that others simply cannot provide. I have to be here for me first, before anyone else, or I won’t survive. And I have been through far too fucking much to hide from all of that again.
I have found incredible strength and inspiration, especially very recently, by those who have found some value in my words and stories here on this blog. I know I don’t write like others, I still struggle with some hidden shame in that, but I love that I am able to help others find their inner light and strength by sharing my own and how I got here, how I keep fighting and trusting in the journey that this life has given me. I cherish each voice and story that reaches me. I see you. I hear you. I feel you. I love you. It is an awe inspiring thing to connect in this way and I thank you ever so much for coming along for the ride.
Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
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