self-acceptance

Priming the pump with prompts

I have a resume workshop this morning and a PowerPoint class this afternoon. Yesterday was a church picnic in the park. Very few people showed – which was expected. Still, it was an enjoyable experience after the stress and activity of Saturday. Long story with little purpose. Short version? I helped my ex shop for a mattress for our daughter to have at his place, then helped him to assemble the loft bed he’d ordered for her off of Amazon. Fun times.

Anyway, I’m short on ideas and there wasn’t anything of import to report about Sunday. Also, for some reason, I don’t receive the prompt emails sent out to the participants of The Ultimate Blog Challenge, despite having gone through the website to sign up more than once. So, I turned to the social writing app I’ve gotten prompts from before and saw this “Finish the Story” prompt. Don’t know where I’m going with it. Join me?


I’m afraid you might not like me, when you meet me, she texted him. Three dots appeared on her screen, indicating he was typing. But, then they suddenly disappeared.

“Well, that’s that, I guess.”

She sighed fatalistically and reflected, I’m not any good at this whole dating game thing. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the market. Gah! “On the market.” What a horrible idiom. I’m not for sale . . . except maybe I am marketing myself as “damaged goods” when I tell men what I told him. WHY did I say that to him?

“Well. I don’t want to be accused of false advertising . . .”

There it was again, this language of sales, as if I’m a consumable commodity. Where on earth was this idea that women, even if they weren’t in the sex industry, were for sale?

Even as she asked herself that question, she knew the answer. It’s from the old patriarchal roots when women were considered possessions to be sold or traded in marriage for a bride price paid by the man who became her new owner, her husband.

“Well. I’m no one’s possession. I’m not for sale. I’m not a consumable commodity,” she declared to herself.”

Wow! I use “well” a lot! She chuckled to herself. Just then her phone buzzed.

What do you mean?
Sorry, I got a phone call.

Oh . . . he texted me back.

My selfies don’t really show all of me
and I’m much bigger than they make me look.

That doesn’t matter to me.
Skinny chicks don’t do it for me.

Ugh! Do I REALLY want to go any further with a guy who thinks like that,
“Skinny chicks don’t do it for me.” Seriously?!?!?

Listen. I’m sorry. I just realized, I’m not really ready for this whole dating thing.

What do you mean?
Whatever. You’re too much.

Bye.

Pretty sure I dodged a bullet there. Obviously I have some more work to do with my therapist.

She walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, knowing the answers she sought weren’t going to be found there.


Ah the joys of middle aged dating. It’s not like I’m writing from life experience or anything. 😉

Seriously, though. I’ve been dabbling in the online dating thing off and on for over a year. It’s kind of a nightmare. Especially for a woman of a certain age with low self-esteem and mental illnesses, including Binge Eating Disorder. I have more work to do before I want to deal with taking on the search for a new relationship.

But first, a job. I mean, some of the insecurities I have around dating, aren’t just about dating and trying to be in that kind of relationship with a man.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin and only part of it is the sizist/fatphobic discrimination that’s both insidious and overt in our society. I mean, it is a significant part, this internalized sense of being “less than” because I’m physically “more than.” There’s actual physical discomfort and difficulty with me being as overweight as I am. And still I overeat, choosing the foods that perpetuate the problem. BED is a bitch.

I’m working on it. I’m doing the difficult things of being seen in clothes that are physically comfortable, though not necessarily society approved for someone my size. I’m putting myself “out there” in ways that are uncomfortable because they call attention to me on a larger scale than one on one or in a smaller group . . . or at least I’m willing myself to do that. That’s part of the reasoning behind volunteering to speak and share my story in schools and in the community.

I am not my body. My body is only part of me. I am not the excess fat stored in the body I live in. Just like I am not my diagnoses. I have a bipolar brain that has been structurally altered by trauma and chronic stress. Genetics and hormones play a part in both my brain structure, as well as how my body reacts and is affected by environment, circumstances, and food choices. There is so much more to me than these things.

Factually, I know these things and I’m trying to live and make choices based on these facts, despite how scary it feels and the internal voices leftover from voices from childhood and beyond:

🎶Watch that wiggle, see that jiggle.🎶 Thank you Jell-O for that advertising jingle, twisted by middle school classmates.

“Fatty, fatty 2×4! Can’t fit through the bathroom door.” called out in singsong by kids on the playground. “Whale on the beach!” by the boys at the public pool. Lovely expressions of contempt by my elementary school peers.

“Fat ass!” A verbal gift from a former neighbor in denial about some legitimately serious mental health issues of her own.

That childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” just ain’t true. Words have the power to hurt or heal. Even with the healing, the underlying hurt doesn’t go away, it just isn’t allowed to dictate and define anymore.

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Redirection

Will I make it?

I’m doubting myself these days. Not completely, but, probably enough to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, if I’m not careful.

What am I talking about? Two things:

  1. making a significant life change and
  2. doing the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’ll start with the easiest, first, the UBC. Several years ago, I completed a couple of different 30-31 Day blogging challenges. It was fun, informative, and I “met” a couple of fellow bloggers with whom I still maintain contact.

My life was significantly different then and I was, too. The biggest difference was that I didn’t realize I had a bipolar brain and that the daily blogging I was doing was actually being done during manic or hypomanic episodes. High energy, effortless creativity, extreme motivation, massive productivity, and uncommon self-confidence were all driving affects to my writing, at the time.

I was a stay at home mom, in the midst of depression, chaos, and an increasingly deteriorating relationship I’d been in for the better part of 15 years. I was parenting a bouncy, stubborn, hyper energetic, and increasingly difficult to manage toddler. Writing was my escape and my DIY therapy.

Since that time, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder and PTSD…and medicated to stabilize my moods. I’ve spent five and a half years in therapy, learning how to navigate life with mental illness and to mitigate the effects of a lifetime of trauma.

My relationship completely broke down and now we co-parent, shuffling our child between two households. We also discovered that unstoppable child experiences and interacts with the world while navigating the the Autism Spectrum.

I haven’t been able to write consistently or complete a Blog Challenge in over five years.

The thing that hasn’t changed is my employment status. I’m still not employed. Which brings me to the next significant change I’m in the process of making…or attempting to make: financial independence. I’ve remained dependent on my daughter’s father to pay the bills and provide the basic needs of my household and myself. It’s past time to cut that tie that “binds and gag” (to quote Erma Bombeck). Yes, I’m that old.

It’s officially been seven years since I was last employed. My mental health, or lack there of, played a key role in me leaving the workforce, as did my child’s special needs. I recently turned 50. I’m significantly overweight. I have some physical health issues. All of these facts affect employability. Even though none of them are overt reasons for employers to reject me, every one of those things tap into unconscious prejudice because of societal stigma.

I am taking classes and working on some basic, employer friendly skills certifications. I’m working with an Employment Specialist. I’m continuing therapy. I’m doing what I know I need to do to be job ready. But, I’m terrified.

I know I have the intelligence and skills to obtain a job and do it well…for a time. However, every job I’ve ever left, regardless of reason given, ended due to my mental and emotional health issues. I don’t know if I can do it. I’m scared to try. I’m moving forward anyway.

I joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge this time, to test and challenge myself…and, just maybe, gain a little confidence in myself.

This month, I plan on sharing my journey to getting a job. Hopefully it will be more entertaining and less harrowing than it feels.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Days 8 & 9: Learning to Soar

Day 8 – What’s next?
Day 9 – How would your life be different if you were intentional about ___________?

I sat and considered, “What next?”
I was baffled and confused,
directionless and faltering.
Then, life happened
and I stopped thinking about it.

“Rolling with the punches;”
Taking life “one day at a time;”
Living “step by step,” and
“Putting one foot in front of the other,”
have been my mantras for survival.

Guess what? I have survived…my past, my life.
I’m good at surviving, but I am beyond just that.
I’m past these mantras. They’ve served me well.
They hinder me, now. They’re holding me back.
It’s time to learn new rhythms, new words.

What if I take a risk and choose to do
something more than get by?
What if I “step up and step out” and
“grab for the brass ring;”
“live each day by choice, not by chance?

How will my life be different if I
go beyond being “comfortably numb,”
adopt new mantras to live by, and
develop a, “new attitude?”
How can I affect a “change for the better?”

I can’t do this alone and, thankfully, I’m not.
The source of all life, light, and love resides in me.
What if I “seek first” to “watch, fight, and pray?”
What if I anchor myself throughout each day to
rest, walk, and hear by faith, mindful in each moment?

I will find new purpose, faith, and courage.
I will move through the self-doubt and fear.
I will head in a new direction, gaining
confidence along the way.
I will learn to “soar above the waves.”

©️2019 lem

30 Day Writing Challenge- Days 6 & 7: The Past Informs the Future

2019-05-06-and-07SpeakWriteNow30DayChallenge

Prompts
06: When was the last time you _______________?
07: What will life be like for you in 2025?

The last time I really tried to think ahead to 2025, I was graduating from a high school completion program. That was in 1990 . . . 30 years ago. I had a hard time imagining it then, I have a difficult time imagining it now. I couldn’t really figure out why it was so challenging then. Now, I know why. PTSD and “trauma brain,” plus Bipolar II Disorder . . . none of which I was diagnosed with until I was almost 45 years old. Those diagnoses didn’t happen until five years ago.

I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not scared of that number. I’m looking forward to it, as a matter of fact. After five years of therapy and learning about how these things affect the brain, how and why I’ve done many of the things I’ve done, I feel like I’m finally starting to “grow up.” In a way, I’m like that 20-year-old young woman who thought she could bulldoze her way into a different, better life than she’d had before.

I learned early that the only constant in my life was going to be change. Major change. Epic change. Frequent change. Every six months to three years, my life was turned upside down. New people. New places. New schools. New kids. Even new dads. By the time I was six years old, my mother had been married three times and we had made countless moves between Los Angeles, Abilene, Houston, and Birmingham; California, Texas, and Alabama. We sort of stabilized with the third husband for a few years. However, it turned out that he’d married my mom in order to get to me. We moved three times during their marriage and I lived through a year and a half of grooming and a year and half of emotionally manipulative sexual abuse. So, we moved again . . . and again . . . and again. I wound up attending three schools in sixth grade.

That was when we landed in Oregon. (The state I’ve spent most of my life living in and acclimating to.) More upheaval and life altering changes. My mother’s undiagnosed mental health problems came to a head. She surrendered custody of me to her younger brother; he was only 15 years older than me. Then she moved back to Houston and the Depression killed her. At 12 years old I, essentially, became an orphan. I won’t go into details of the next four years. Suffice it to say, there were several more moves and new powers in charge of my life, until I became the child in charge of adult realities, including being a primary caregiver to my baby cousin.

Then, I met the “love of my life.” Another predator. He was 14 years older than me and a professional, low-level con artist. From 16-19, I lived out of cars, hitchhiked across the country, became a teen mom, and learned how to manipulate people into giving me money and other things he wanted. At 19, I was done. When he couldn’t use me anymore, he nearly killed me in front of our two-year-old son and abandoned us. Since that time, I’ve moved a lot more, parented two more children, lived through an 18-year toxic, some would say abusive, relationship, and much more.

When you’ve lived that kind of life, it’s difficult to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the next 30 years. On top of that are the ongoing mental health issues. The Depression aspect of the Bipolar Disorder has always had a strong hold. Today, even after five years of therapy and med management, a lot of days it’s hard to do the self-care basics…tooth brushing, showering, eating nutritious meals, and so on. I’m functional enough to parent in semi-constructive ways and attend my therapy groups and counseling appointments. Mostly, I’m functional for the benefit of others and not for myself. It’s hard to think about what I want for myself beyond being able to get my kid and I to both take a shower.

I know what kind of life I hope to be living in 2025. I want to be more than functional. I want to be mentally and emotionally stable enough to be financially independent. I want to be disciplined and confident enough to at least put forth the effort to pursue my writing in a professional manner. I want to be in a vocation where I’m helping others navigate their way through life with mental health issues. I want to be a fully engaged parent and grandparent. I want to care enough about me to take care of me.

In order to bring those things to fulfillment, I’m committed to keep doing what I’m doing with my mental health recovery process. That’s all I know how to do, for now.

30 Day Writing Challenge- Days 6 & 7: The Past Informs the Future

Prompts
06: When was the last time you _______________?
07: What will life be like for you in 2025?

The last time I really tried to think ahead to 2025, I was graduating from a high school completion program. That was in 1990 . . . 30 years ago. I had a hard time imagining it then, I have a difficult time imagining it now. I couldn’t really figure out why it was so challenging then. Now, I know why. PTSD and “trauma brain,” plus Bipolar II Disorder . . . none of which I was diagnosed with until I was almost 45 years old. Those diagnoses didn’t happen until five years ago.

I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not scared of that number. I’m looking forward to it, as a matter of fact. After five years of therapy and learning about how these things affect the brain, how and why I’ve done many of the things I’ve done, I feel like I’m finally starting to “grow up.” In a way, I’m like that 20-year-old young woman who thought she could bulldoze her way into a different, better life than she’d had before.

I learned early that the only constant in my life was going to be change. Major change. Epic change. Frequent change. Every six months to three years, my life was turned upside down. New people. New places. New schools. New kids. Even new dads. By the time I was six years old, my mother had been married three times and we had made countless moves between Los Angeles, Abilene, Houston, and Birmingham; California, Texas, and Alabama. We sort of stabilized with the third husband for a few years. However, it turned out that he’d married my mom in order to get to me. We moved three times during their marriage and I lived through a year and a half of grooming and a year and half of emotionally manipulative sexual abuse. So, we moved again . . . and again . . . and again. I wound up attending three schools in sixth grade.

That was when we landed in Oregon. (The state I’ve spent most of my life living in and acclimating to.) More upheaval and life altering changes. My mother’s undiagnosed mental health problems came to a head. She surrendered custody of me to her younger brother; he was only 15 years older than me. Then she moved back to Houston and the Depression killed her. At 12 years old I, essentially, became an orphan. I won’t go into details of the next four years. Suffice it to say, there were several more moves and new powers in charge of my life, until I became the child in charge of adult realities, including being a primary caregiver to my baby cousin.

Then, I met the “love of my life.” Another predator. He was 14 years older than me and a professional, low-level con artist. From 16-19, I lived out of cars, hitchhiked across the country, became a teen mom, and learned how to manipulate people into giving me money and other things he wanted. At 19, I was done. When he couldn’t use me anymore, he nearly killed me in front of our two-year-old son and abandoned us. Since that time, I’ve moved a lot more, parented two more children, lived through an 18-year toxic, some would say abusive, relationship, and much more.

When you’ve lived that kind of life, it’s difficult to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the next 30 years. On top of that are the ongoing mental health issues. The Depression aspect of the Bipolar Disorder has always had a strong hold. Today, even after five years of therapy and med management, a lot of days it’s hard to do the self-care basics…tooth brushing, showering, eating nutritious meals, and so on. I’m functional enough to parent in semi-constructive ways and attend my therapy groups and counseling appointments. Mostly, I’m functional for the benefit of others and not for myself. It’s hard to think about what I want for myself beyond being able to get my kid and I to both take a shower.

I know what kind of life I hope to be living in 2025. I want to be more than functional. I want to be mentally and emotionally stable enough to be financially independent. I want to be disciplined and confident enough to at least put forth the effort to pursue my writing in a professional manner. I want to be in a vocation where I’m helping others navigate their way through life with mental health issues. I want to be a fully engaged parent and grandparent. I want to care enough about me to take care of me.

In order to bring those things to fulfillment, I’m committed to keep doing what I’m doing with my mental health recovery process. That’s all I know how to do, for now.

30 Day Writing Challenge-Day 2: I Am Enough

Today’s prompt: What are you ready to give up or get rid of?

I Am Enough

These words and voices in my head
These critical, self-shaming thoughts
Haunting my days, disturbing my nights
Telling me I’m too weak and not tough

I’ve been told and it’s been said
To stop “shoulding” myself with “oughts”
Quit beating myself up in one-sided fights
Letting go of these things is rough

Let go I must, that I may move ahead
Move forward knowing I’m not ersatz
Release these burdens, soar to eagles’ heights
‘Til the fear and shame fall away as slough

Past time for the old me to be shed
Untangle the twists and knots
Put new dreams and hopes in my sights
I can do this, If I believe I’m enough

©️ 2019 lem

30 Day Writing Challenge- Day 1: Thankful

I’ve decided I’m going to attempt a writing challenge, to “prime the pump.” My creativity and inspiration have lain dormant for awhile. They’re sputtering. A poem or three, a bit of journaling here and there, or . . . nada, nothing. One of my consciously unconscious thinking errors is that I need to be inspired in order to write. Another, is my perfectionistic mindset: everything I write must be well thought out, structured, and formed – relatively error free – the first time I share it. Neither of these are true. However, for me, it’s like exercise: If I can’t go all out each and every time I do it and do it almost daily, then what’s the point? (A MAJOR thinking error.) That’s why I keep getting injured and continue to regain lost weight . . . losing all momentum. Time to challenge that thinking. Ergo, writing challenge.

Today’s prompt: What are you most thankful for?

So many things to be thankful for:
People, places, and events galore,
Too much focus on what came before,
Left me discontent and craving more.

Suffering from all the trauma and pain,
Distorted, shaped, and wired my brain
In ways that made me seem insane.
I believed there was naught to gain.

All my life, I fought like hell,
My mythos becoming a spell
Despairing and despondent I fell,
In sorrowful darkness I came to dwell.

Thinking I had nothing left to lose,
Bitter helplessness did suffuse.
Yet, I still sought the good news,
Slowly changing my views.

In me grew a yearning
To believe what I’m learning.
From melancholy I’m turning.
Hope and faith I’m discerning.

The thing I’m most thankful of
Gives peace like a dove;
Falls like a gift from above;
Is the greatest love.