On the Guest List

Being brave isn’t something you do for yourself; it’s what you do for others.

When J told me that he had a fiancée—when he casually mentioned she okayed me coming to the wedding—I knew it wasn’t something I could back out of. Pragmatically, I was fine with the entire situation. I have never been jealous when he tells me about her. I don’t imagine them kissing and burst into tears or become disgusted. I haven’t had those kind of feelings for J since shortly after we broke up. But in the weeks leading up to his day of matrimony, my stomach began to tighten. It was anticipation of what I’d imagine would be an awkward day, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. There would be no dancing or catching a bouquet. This was simply a favor for J.

I systematically wrote out the card and placed a personal check in the slot on the left side. I did this while filling a flask that I knew I would need. The night before I didn’t eat dinner, and I stayed up too late talking to friends.

On a sunny, humid Saturday morning, my friend came to pick me up and escort me to the wedding as his date. We also brought J’s and my old neighbor with us. I had cigarettes, good music, and liquid courage. I could do this just fine.

And guess what? I did.

There was no dramatic outburst at the reception, where I wept in the bathroom stall. I didn’t ignore his new wife or make things uncomfortable. I even had a ten-minute conversation with the bride’s grandfather; he told me about his dialysis while he forced me to eat grapes, because I wouldn’t eat anything else. I smiled big. I schmoozed everyone. Even J’s mom. It was just about all I could take, and then, luckily, it was an acceptable time to leave.

When I got home, I was met with indifference from my boyfriend. He was upset about something unrelated, and without the emotional stronghold I needed, because I had been brave for just a little too long, I crumpled into my pillow and I cried. I cried on my drive to my friends’ house after my boyfriend left to get food. I let my emotions overrun me the second I walked in their door, and when I got home, I bawled again for an immeasurably painful time. Not even my sister’s calming familiarity could soothe me. On the other end of the phone, she reminded me that I’ve always been this way. This emotional. And I knew it was true, but I couldn’t stop the outpouring. I eventually did expunge my tears, because there was nothing left in me, but it wasn’t because I ceased feeling awful inside.

There’s nothing pretty about being brave.

It feels raw and draining to pretend everything is okay and that I am not a human with normal emotions—that even though I haven’t felt romantic love for my ex fiancé in six years, it still wouldn’t rock my entire core to see and hear him say “I do” to someone else.

He and I once had picked out our own venue, standing hand-in-hand blissful that he would get to ride in on a quad, and I could have my barefoot outdoor wedding. I had tried on dresses and asked my sisters and niece to be my bridesmaids. I had the perfect ring, and I was making my guest list.

My braveness the other day was just a symbol of everything I am lacking in my own life: I do not have a husband. I may not ever. I probably will never bear a child from my own womb. J’s old promises to me were now wrapped in my own tissue paper and sitting on a table for a woman I don’t even know to tear open and write me a detached thank you note in a month’s time. And that’s it. That is all I have to show for almost six years of dedication to a man whose wedding I attended on Saturday.

Being brave felt like it was for everyone else, but perhaps it was my own stupidity. I don’t regret that I went, as I know it made J smile that I was there, but that really was the only reason why I went. To support him. He’s never been much for friends, and although we are ex partners, we’ve always been able to be pals. Yet, everyone I’ve spoken to about this past weekend has wondered how I even made it onto the guest list. They told me they would never be able to do what I did.

Does that make me foolish or does that make me brave?

Sometimes I don’t think there’s a difference.

Come At Me, Bro

There’s a couple of things about me everyone who meets me should know: I’m not as innocent as I look, and I sure as hell am stronger than fortified steel when push comes to shove and I have to prove myself or survive.

My week started off great. No complaints whatsoever.

Sunday: Great company, mini-golf, and good conversation. Followed by a delicious dinner and wine Monday night with more flowing conversation.

Tuesday, things began to trail off, as I was asked last-minute to pick up my best friend from the bus station in Hartford that evening. I love her, but she knows my anxieties associated with sudden city-driving requests like this. I did it anyways, and, ultimately, it was fine, even if I parked in the wrong place because I get easily flustered.

Wednesday, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor to take my blood pressure. It’s been six weeks since my last appointment where my blood pressure was at 120/90. I’ve consistently been at 120/70 for years before I re-started birth control. She’s concerned about the sudden change, particularly because blood clots are a risk after thirty.

I quit smoking cigarettes six weeks ago. My appointment had been on a Friday, when the doctor told me smoking was probably raising my blood pressure. The following Tuesday, after Fourth of July weekend, I quit.

I started doing yoga 2-3 times a week in May. I routinely go running, hiking, or walking.

I don’t drink alcohol at all during the week anymore, with a rare exception for a special occasion.

A little over two weeks ago, I began a ketogenic diet, where I’ve cut out carbs and sugars. I’m taking a handful of vitamins suspected to help diminish PMDD symptoms, and I’ve lost about an inch off my waist and a couple of pounds so far. I feel like a million dollars on roller skates. There’s no stopping me…

My doctor charted my blood pressure at 120/82. Still too high, she says. She was going to take me off the birth control that day, but I begged her not to. I told her I felt anxious because the medical assistant’s vitriol about the possibility of me being pregnant (I’m not!) and demanding a pee sample shook me a bit. The birth control I’m on makes my period so light that I basically don’t get it anymore, so my doctor conceded and said, sure, let’s go three more months, but you need to chart your blood pressure multiple times a week and write it down for me. Okay.

I’m just buying time, at this point. If I’ve done everything right and my blood pressure isn’t going back to normal, then the birth control is negatively affecting it. My options are to stop birth control and go back to managing my severe mood swings on my own, try a different birth control, which won’t be as effective with mood stabilization (and could have potential side-effects, since I’ve had horrible luck with nearly every pill I’ve ever tried), take blood pressure medication, and/or go off birth control and try antidepressants.

Ninety-five percent of those options I refuse to do. I’m not going to pump my body with more chemicals that I simply don’t need.

Defeated isn’t even the word. I’ve missed every train, despite my best efforts to make it on time.

After coming home Wednesday, I found out my roommate doesn’t want to renew the lease. We have about a week to sign it and send it back. He waited until now to tell me he wants to move out at the end of September. I’m frustrated that that leaves me no time to either move or find a new roommate, so I am stuck paying over a thousand dollars a month again. This means I will have no life, because I will have no money. I can probably keep going to yoga, but that will be about the only thing I can afford to do if I want to try to save a couple hundred dollars each month.

Thursday was fine. Just fine. I didn’t feel normal, but I didn’t feel awful. All week, I’ve been irritable, having a bit of trouble getting to sleep, and generally pessimistic and down, but nothing like what I would feel without the birth control, in which case, I’d be writing this while crying and between cigarette and whiskey breaks.

I just want things to be easy. I did what I was required to do, life, now you uphold your end.

My doctor, with slight panic in her voice, said to me, “Don’t start smoking again, despite these results. You’re doing so good!” Don’t worry, Doc. Not my intention. My hormones and blood pressure might fucking hate me with the boundless rage of a sixteen year old’s first revenge after being dumped, but I’m not really the quitting type. Well, except for the time I quit doing all those bad things and bread, recently.

So, this is how my week is going to go? Okay.

I am into the weekend now, and the pessimism is subsiding a little.

I had a dream last night that I was eating bread. Years ago, when I had been a vegetarian, I dreamt about eating meat. After quitting cigarettes, I dreamt about smoking for days on end. Last night, it was carbs.

But I’m doing it. Each day. Yesterday, I thought about cheating and grabbing a small fry at McDonald’s in Bloomfield, since I had just stopped at the Jamaican bakery to buy coco bread for a party I’m attending this afternoon. I didn’t. I allow myself minimal cheats during the week, because I am striving hard for my goals.

Some people find it difficult to stick to a routine or diet. I was always one of those people, until I realized that my life depended on it, and the only person I was cheating was me.

My blood pressure might not be impressed by my recent changes, but my mental clarity and my overall physical health are giving me silent applause.

If my week wants to be a little bitch, she can. I’m finally finding the muscle to hold on a little longer, even if it burns every fiber of me in the moment.

Unchartered Territory

In yoga class, my teacher tells us to breathe in our “intention”, and then, exhale and let it go through the mouth.

I imagined a ball of green light filling up my stomach and reaching to my extremities, like the way contained lightning looks inside one of those glass bulbs. I visualized black smoke leaving my lungs and mouth, as I pushed the air and unheathiness out of my body.

My focus lately has been completely that of regaining mental, physical, and emotional health. Along with that process comes spiritual brightening, a sense of reconnectedness with my surroundings, and an overflowing bowl of love that supersedes the compassion I have felt in the past several years.

The last few months, my process has been to chart everything, whether it be literally or mentally:

I have charted weight loss; I evaluate my emotions and insomnia during ovulation to see if the birth control is curbing my PMDD symptoms. Carbs are slowly being reduced from my diet. I bought a bunch of vitamins and supplements and line up pills each afternoon after lunch, as I swallow them down with seltzer. I add up hours of sleep I’m gaining; I keep track of alcohol consumption and have greatly reduced my intake. I am aware of my breath in yoga and keep tabs on my exercise regime. I celebrate each day cigarette-free; Whitening my teeth has become a twice-a-day routine. I regale in numerous hours of solitude and count back from 100 as I drift off to sleep.

I chart my life. My new life.

My new life is structured, balanced, and healthy. It needs to be for now. These promises and habits I’ve allowed myself to receive are saving my life and I can’t take that lightly.

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since I quit smoking cigarettes. It’s hardly been a struggle at all, which is making me wonder why I waited so long? What’s harder is that I am now battling an over-active appetite as well as water retention from taking the pill. The 7 lbs I lost in the last month or more have seeped back into my fat cells. Or maybe I gained muscle? We can pretend that’s what it is.

I don’t think I’ll always be so stringent with my habits, but this is part of cultivating the healthier me who deserves to feel good about herself. I’ve wanted whiter teeth for eons; what’s stopping me? I rapaciously lap up each second of my yoga classes, often on the verge of tears and slipping out small smiles, because I missed peacefulness and inner and physical strength so damn much.

I’m a chronic body obsessor. I have very obsessive-compulsive thinking patterns, and sometimes, behaviors. I think I have body dysmorphic disorder. Have thought so for years. So, I battle these evil thoughts constantly. Most people just don’t know this about me, because although I will blurt out a complaint or ten about my appearance, I don’t seem excessively worried. Inside, I am terrified of my body, all while appreciating it and loving it, too.

It’s a boomerang of feelings, but I do my best to realign my focus more on my physical health than my physical appearance, and I think I am kinda kicking ass at it.

I’ve always been a person who has massive amounts of self-confidence all while hate-shaming my body and worth. Many times I’ve referred to myself as a “self-loathing narcissist”.

Although I have been abused and neglected by men, fucked over by friends, and feel uncomfortable in clothing, I do really love myself. I think it’s rather self-evident in the radical changes I’ve made in the past couple of months without a second thought, because I knew I had to in order to get my PMDD under control and ensure I wouldn’t try to hurt myself again.

I’m almost done with month three of the pill and this week is the time-frame when my emotions usually become overwhelmingly intense and my motivation to move nose-dives. I have become teary-eyed and sensitive a lot over the past several days. I don’t feel incredibly unmotivated, however. I feel sort of sad or wistful, but not in a depths of despair kind of way. I am longing for someone to hold me more than usual; I am nostalgic for lost moments, and the ache that always lurks in the precipice of my darkly-rooted traumas is ever-so-present. It always shows its face during this time of the month. But instead of being anchored to my couch, crying and paralyzed for hours at a time, I am observant of it, processing it, feeling it, letting tears out where needed, and remaining positive.

Birth control didn’t fix my PMDD; it is only helping me while I figure this out.

As I place trembling feet into unchartered territory each day, all of the confident steps I’ve taken to bring equilibrium and salubrity into my life coach me and make every mile a little lighter and easier.

I Was Just As Bad

[some adult language]

I remember it clearly: me, sitting in our old apartment bedroom by the desk; he was on the bed, facing me. The lights were out, but it was afternoon. We were arguing.

J pointedly says to me, “I had all the money saved, but then you acted the way you did, and now the money has been spent.”

In hearing these words, I burst into frantic tears–he was talking about the money for my engagement ring.

That was probably about five or six years ago. Some things you will never forget.

To what he was referring (with my behavior) was something completely fabricated, because J had paranoia issues and was very manipulative with his words out of fear of abandonment. He thought that the next door neighbor and I were bumpin’ uglies, when I was not even remotely interested, nor had I ever been. I only had eyes for J. But because it was so real to him and he felt the magnitude of the indignant righteousness, all of the money put aside to keep his promise to me went to drugs and cigarettes. Maybe a toy for himself or some magazines. I don’t know what he did with his money.

That man knew how to bite hard. The term “mind bullets” accurately fits how he would fight, because he was scathing and unforgiving in his choice of words. But to say that we argued would be misleading. I never fought back.

As part of my healing process over the past three years, I have divulged a lot about his and my relationship that, previously, I kept a secret. I’ve needed to in order to accept that it happened and to realize that I was taken advantage of emotionally. However, I am no saint. Not perfect or all-knowing when it comes to relationships, in the slightest. Part of the reason for our failure was my fault.

I never fought back. I never stood up for myself. I let him whip me over and over with his nastiness and sat there silently, tears leaking from my eyes. Some days, after the pain had been too much and I no longer felt it, I shrugged at him with a straight face and walked out of the room.

I was inactive.

Part of it was because I felt as though no matter what I said, he would twist my words. I felt manipulated. That’s true. Yet, most of it was fear of losing him. What did I have to lose? I was naive and didn’t recognize that I had already lost my integrity and sense of worth. Without excusing him for his behavior, I see the magnetic attraction to someone abusing something that is cowering in the corner. That’s how it works. I never asked for it to begin, but I allowed it to continue.

Sure, I could play the victim role, especially since I experienced emotional abuse from multiple partners–some of the things that have happened in the past year, alone, are enough to garner sympathetic hugs from listeners. Screw that, though, because no one ever gains forward momentum or breaks out of the cycle by the mere recognition of victimhood.

I am an active party in my life.

Shortly after the breakup, J called, harassing and hurting me. Every time I tried to speak up, he would cut me off. I yelled into the phone, “SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” His response was one of glee: “Finally! I have been waiting years for you to say that to me. Good girl. Good for standing up for yourself. You tell me to shut the fuck up. Do it.”

What? Yeah, that’s right. Not that it was ever okay to begin with that he was controlling my emotions, but he respected me the moment I gave it back to him. Things were different after that day.

angry

I finally had a voice. I finally had nothing to lose.

Unfortunately, I had to lose everything with J to find my strength to stand up for myself to him. Sometimes, that’s how a lesson is learned. I was no longer afraid of him, because he wasn’t mine.

Since then, I have the integrity to fight back. I never play dirty, but I communicate, and sometimes, fervently or with anger. I express what I need to, and I don’t worry about the other person pushing me away, because if they do, then that is a demon within themselves. It says nothing about me as an individual.

To gain this personal responsibility, I had to accept that I was part of the problem. I contributed to my own abuse by letting a man destroy my happiness and mental state for five and a half years. I could have left at any point; I could have stood up for myself. I didn’t.

I may not have asked to be abused, but I have a voice and two legs. I can speak up and get out whenever I need to.